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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

While members of Congress continue to hammer out the details of the health care bill, musician David Was suspects there might be an easier way to lower health care costs: with music. Was says melody and rhythm might be as important to health as diet and exercise.

DAVID WAS: I am by no means a health care pundit, but I do know for certain that listening to the dizzying debate has spiked my blood pressure to dangerous levels. Being a musician by trade, I firmly believe that the health of a nation would improve by leaps and bounds if we would all turn off the news and turn up the Mozart.

And I'm not alone. Academics take this kind of stuff quite seriously, exploring such questions as whether violins could be as effective as Vicodin for controlling pain.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: This is one of Bach's solo violin Partitas. It's an example of what I've come to call my single-player theory of health care. Solo instruments in particular have the capacity to wind their way around your brain cells like silk thread. Again, the eggheads back me up on this stuff. Hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic, have employed harpists to help patients heal. I wonder if harp therapy is reimbursable, or if a pre-existing love of classical music disqualifies one for coverage.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: And apparently, it's not just longhair music that benefits mood and healing. Familiarity is also a key factor. Suzanne Hanser, chairperson of the Music Therapy Department at the Berklee School of Music, says that what counts is the kinds of memories, feelings and associations that a piece of music brings to mind. Now, who knew the iPod could replace the serotonin reuptake inhibitor or that Metallica could heal as well as howl?

(Soundbite of song, ´┐ŻNothing Else Matters´┐Ż)

METALLICA (Rock Band): (Singing) And I know. Yeah.

WAS: It's about time the health care system got around to what department store owners have known for years. If playing the right kind of Muzak can subliminally influence you to buy a food processor, a bit of jazz might persuade us to breathe more deeply or to dilate the blood vessels. And pipe some of that stuff into the halls of Congress. Could a tiny dose of harmony do any harm?

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: David Was is half of the musical duo Was, Not Was.

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