What in the world is our government up to now!? While I am glad that there is much research out there about using music for wellness, like many government projects, they may have missed seeing the forest for the trees. The article from the Department of Homeland Security can be found here.
The article describes how Homeland Security is allowing researchers to test the effectiveness of "brain music therapy" on reducing the anxiety in first responders. The concept is interesting, but the implementation is neither traditional music nor music therapy. Somehow, from a method I have yet to find in detail, music has been created from brain waves. The music has been "composed" in both alert and relaxed styles from actual people in those states of being. The research that this project is based on indicated that four weeks of daily listening to brain music decreased the anxiety of patients with insomnia.
You can listen to a sample of the "alert" type of brain music here. The music is not unpleasant, but it is definitely repetitive. The music lacks feeling and direction and does not have a memorable quality. My main concern is that even if there is some effectiveness to the treatment after four weeks of daily listening, I can't believe that anyone would voluntarily listen to this music day after day if they were not part of the research study! I have found that using a client's preferred music is much more effective than forcing people to use music that has been "proven" to be relaxing. Careful selection of relaxing or comforting music within many different musical styles is possible. People are much more likely to continue using music as a tool for relaxation if it is music that they prefer.
One of the interesting findings in one of the research studies about brain music therapy was that anxiety was decreased in patients using their own brain music as well as generic brain music. I can see some good applications for brain music for waiting rooms, office building elevators or schools before final exams, being played as background music! Eat your heart out Muzak!