cover art for YOUR MUSICAL HEALTH: The efficacy of music as therapy.


YOUR MUSICAL HEALTH: The efficacy of music as therapy.

Season 1, Ep. 26

In this podcast academic and clinical music therapists, musicians and friends Helen Odell-Miller and Penny Rogers discuss their life work – music therapy. They define and outline the varieties of music therapy, discuss their journey from training as musicians to studying music therapy and cognitive psychology (Penny) and psychodynamic psychotherapy (Helen). Penny talks about her clinical work in various settings and Helen her career at the forefront of research into the positive effects of music therapy (ameliorating conditions as varied as agitation in dementia to PTSD). They also talk about how their continuing musical practice in group settings (Helen singing, Penny cello) enriches their day-to-day lives and improves their professional practice.


Helen Odell-Miller OBE, Professor Emeritus, Anglia Ruskin University; Founding Director of Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research; Chair of The Music Therapy Charity; Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts

Penny Rogers, music therapist; Deputy Director, Safeguarding & Public Protection at Devon Partnership NHS Trust; Trustee, British Association for Music Therapy; 'cellist.

Stephen Brown, musician; composer; retired professor of neuropsychiatry

Resources and further reading:

Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy (CIMTR):

British Association for Music Therapy

Royal College of Psychiatrists Introductory Module at E-LEARNING hub:

Some recent research papers:

Thompson, N et al.(2023). Investigating the impact of music therapy on two in-patient psychiatric wards for people living with dementia: retrospective observational study. BJPsych Open, 9(2), e42. doi:10.1192/bjo.2023.20

Odell-Miller, H et al.(2022). The HOMESIDE Music Intervention: A Training Protocol for Family Carers of People Living with Dementia. European Journal of Investigation in Health, Psychology and Education, 12(12), 1812-1832. Doi: 10.3390/ejihpe12120127

Odell-Miller, H., (2021) Embedding Music and Music Therapy in Care Pathways for People with Dementia in the 21st Century—a position paper. Music and Science.

Hsu MH et al.(2015). The impact of music therapy on managing neuropsychiatric symptoms for people with dementia and their carers: a randomised controlled feasibility study. BMC Geriatrics. 15:84 doi:10.1186/s12877-015-0082-4

Music: Opening and closing music to the opera 'Brainland', composed by Stephen Brown

Brainland the opera website:

Sketch by KB.

More episodes

View all episodes

  • 27. The Vital Spark: A pianist's tale.

    Susan Tomes is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning pianist specialising in chamber music as well as solo repertoire. Here she talks to Stephen Brown about her musical origins in Edinburgh, what it was like being the first woman to read music at King’s College Cambridge, how she built her performing career starting from a single room in Crystal Palace, and the transformative influence of working with the violinist Sándor Végh at the Prussia Cove seminars in Cornwall. She talks about sensitivity and reciprocity in ensemble playing, about communicating with audiences and the mysteries of how a musical phrase sometimes sounds exactly right. She has written seven books to date. The latest, "Women and the Piano: A History in 50 Lives" was published in March 2024 by Yale University Press.Participants:Susan Tomes, pianist and writer Brown, composer, cellist and former neuropsychiatrist link for Women and the Piano recording of the Faure Piano Quartets has been reissued by Hyperion and is available here. Extract from Faure Piano Quartets, with permission, reissued by Hyperion and available here. the oepra website: by KB.
  • 25. THE VITAL SPARK: A director's tale.

    This is another in the Vital Spark series exploring facets of creativity with a range of artists and academics. In this conversation Italian director, actor and teacher Chiara D'Anna speaks about her work and creative process, beginning with images, physical and emotional atmosphere before involving words. We discuss her acting in film, particularly with Peter Strickland (Duke of Burgundy and Berberian Sound Studio) and her training and teaching in commedia dell’arte, an Italian tradition of theatre she outlines for us. We talk about her evolving one woman show and the differences in performing in Italian or English, particularly in relation to humour and comic timing. She also speaks about her major upcoming project. co-directing Strauss’ opera Ariadne auf Naxos in Budapest. Participants: Chiara D’Anna, director, actor, teacher and Commedia Dell’Arte specialist. Ken Barrett, artist and writer, retired neuropsychiatrist more on commedia dell'Arte this is Chiara's YouTube channel: Music: Prelude to the opera 'Brainland' composed by Stephen Brown.Sketch by KB.Brainland the opera website: 
  • 24. THE VITAL SPARK: A novelist's tale.

    The Vital Spark’ is an occasional series delving into aspects of creativity. For this podcast Stephen Brown travelled to the far west of Cornwall for a conversation with novelist, screen writer and fellow cellist Patrick Gale. Patrick talks about his unusual childhood, his journey from musician and singer to becoming a successful writer, the life events that help enliven his novels and the research that underpins them. He speaks about his writing process, including the need to leave self behind and inhabit characters. Other aspects of the creative process are also touched upon and good editors get a mention. They discuss the similarity between composing music and writing to commission and, as a case in point, Patrick talks about his recent stage adaptation of his novel ‘Take Nothing With You’ and his hopes for a multipart screen adaptation of ‘A Town Called Winter’. Participants:Patrick Gale, novelist, screenwriter, playwright and musician Stephen Brown, musician, composer and retired neuropsychiatrist. Prelude to the opera 'Brainland' composed by Stephen Brown.Sketch by KB. Brainland the opera website:
  • 23. BRAINWAVES: Hans Berger and the discovery of the EEG.

    In this special extended edition of the podcast, we take a deep dive into the life and work of Hans Berger, the German psychiatrist who discovered the EEG a century ago this year, the inspiration for a major character in the opera Brainland. Cornelius Borck is a leading German historian of medicine and science and an expert on Berger and his work. In a wide ranging conversation he describes the scientific backdrop to Berger’s discovery, his early career and personality, how the discovery came about, why it took him 5 years to report his findings and why he was denied the Nobel Prize. We also discuss his eugenic sympathies and relationship with the Nazis, his decline into depression and the post-war mythology that grew up around him. Participants:Cornelius Borck, Professor and Director of the Institute for History of Medicine and Science Studies, Lübeck University, Germany. Ken Barrett, artist, writer and retired neuropsychiatrist. . Cornelius’s book on this subject: Music: Stephen Brown’s depiction of the alpha rhythm of the EEG, from Brainland Act 1, scene 2.Sketch by KB.Brainland the opera website:
  • 22. OBJECTS WITH SOUL: The strange power of puppetry.

    Why do we respond to puppets? That's what this episode explores, with the help of Pia and Ana, academics who approach the question from different perspectives. We discover what is meant by the 'uncanny valley' and how it links puppetry to robots (and zombies!) and discuss if 'concptual blending' might be useful. Does the old notion of 'suspending disbelief' hold water? Ana talks about her project using a viewer's direction of gaze to explore this question in re;ation to puppetry.Participants:Pia Banzhaf, Assistant Professor, Michigan State University, Department of Linguistics , Lanuages and Culture; Center for Integrrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities; Collaborations for Applied puppetry Research. Website: KaleidoscopiaAna Diaz Barriga, Doctoral Candidate, Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Theatre & Drama, Northwestern University. Barrett, artist, writer and retired neuropsychiatrist.'s chapter, 'The Ontology of puppets' is here: about the show Ana has been studying is hereMore about the 'uncanny valley is here: this image illustrates it: Prelude to Brainland, Act 1, composed by Stephen BrownSketch by KB.Brainland the opera:
  • 21. POEMS, CHATBOTS AND EPILEPSY: Understanding and ameliorating life with seizures.

    In this conversation poet and visual artist Andrea Mbarushimana and neurologist/poet Heather Angus-Leppan talk about their project exploring the value of chatbots to help people cope with and better understand their epilepsy. The project began by collecting over 1700 questions about the condition posted by people living with epilepsy. Heather describes how Andrea was integral to the project, facilitating workshops with people living epilepsy. Andrea shares poems written during the project, including two from the perspective of those chatbots! Heather also shares a moving poem about one of her patients.  Participants:Andrea Mbarushimana, poet, visual artist.www.andrea-mbarushimana.comHeather Angus-Leppan, Neurologist, Royal Free Hospital, Professor of Medical Education, University of East London. Barrett, visual artist, writer, former neuropsychiatrist. composed by Stephen Brown: Extract from Act 1 Scene 2 of Brainland.Portrait sketch by KB. Brainland the opera website:
  • 20. FEELING GROOVY: Exploring the brain's response to music.

    Peter Vuust is that rare combintion - a professional musician and composer, and a professor of neuroscience investigating how our brain responds to music. This wide ranging conversation includes why we humans are so attracted and responsive to music, the link between groove and predictive cognition, the Mozart effect, the tingle/chill factor in music, and how to get more out of atonal music. As if that weren’t enough, Peter shares a track of his upcoming album (he can be seen and heard in several bands at the Aarhus Jazz Festival in July). Participants:Peter Vuust, musician, composer, professor of neuroscience and Head of the Department of Music and the Brain at Aarhus University, Denmark. Platman, writer and retired physican.Ken Barrett, artist, writer and retired neuropsychiatrist/psychophysiologist. : 'Homage to Keith', composed by Peter Vuust, played by the Peter Vuust Quartet (2024, with permission).Portrait sketch by KB.Brainland the opera website:
  • 19. OBJECTS WITH SOUL: The strange power of puppetry.

    Those animated objects, puppets, can work powerfully on our emotions and generate empathy, seemingly tapping into some very basic part of our psyche and, perhaps, neurology. Which is the main reason why we are devoting two podcasts to this subject. In this podcast Claudia Orenstein, a leading authority on puppets and physical theatre worldwide discusses the various ways objects are deployed in performance, including their use in ritual, education and entertainment, for adults as well as children. A number of examples are described as she shares her lifelong passion for the subject and there is also an interesting theoretical discussion as to why this and other types of animation have become more popular this century. Next month on the podcast: the psychology and neuropsychology of puppetry. Participants: Claudia Orenstein, Professor of Theatre at Hunter College and Graduate Centre CUNY, USA (who also launched a new journal of puppetry in January). Ken Barrett, visual artist, writer and former neuropsychiatrist. For more about Claudia Orenstein's book Reading the Puppet Stage: is a website for The plastic bag store, which I mentioned in the conversation. Blind Summit’s Paper Story. Bread and Puppet theatre’s website: William Kentridge on Wozzeck Music by Stephen Brown: Prelude to Brainland.Brainland the opera: by KB.