Healing through Flexibility Primers

Devon Hinton

in The Oxford Handbook of Medical Ethnomusicology

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199756261
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:
Healing through Flexibility Primers


This article presents a theory of how certain traditional healers “cure”. This is particularly applicable to music-based healings because music and dance are the most efficacious means of bringing about the therapeutic or healing effect: an increase in psychological flexibility. As demonstrated here, various cultural domains—not only those called healing—may cure by being promoters (or, put another way, “primers”) of the desired quality. This article examines what is meant by the term “psychological flexibility”. It then discusses various somatic correlates of psychological flexibility: how pattern sets (from a Calder sculpture to a jazz performance) may form attentional sets that promote psychological flexibility; how various cultural domains (from dance to religious practices) act as flexibility primers; and how certain healing rituals (particularly music-based healings) promote psychological flexibility through a dense presentation of flexibility primers.

Keywords: music-based healings; psychological flexibility; cultural domains; flexibility primers; healing rituals

Article.  16722 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Ethnomusicology

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