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Providing musical notations for sounds of human body

Ramya Kannan


“We find MBBS students struggling with auscultation during examinations”

In Europe and Australia, these organ sounds have been notated as per Western music


CHENNAI: Hark, all ye doctors! Lend your patients your ear and hear the music; literally. If things go well, you might even hear the patient's heart sing a sublime Kambhoji; or his stomach rumble an A mritavarshini.

The Indian Public Health Association has commissioned its Tamil Nadu branch to provide musical notations for the sounds of the human body. “The organs in our body have to work in harmonious co-ordination for us to remain healthy,” says S. Elango, IPHA Tamil Nadu Branch president.

“There is a whole range of physiological and pathological sounds, noises and murmurs. The cardiovascular system, respiratory system and gastrointestinal systems produce a lot of sounds,” Dr. Elango explains.

“When they are in harmony, the person is in good health. They can also be irregular, and it is a physician's job to be able to say what is wrong by just listening to the sounds.”

And yes, this does have a fancy name already. Auscultation, or the act of listening to the sounds made by a patient's internal organs, is difficult to teach a student.

“It remains at best an elusive skill now, and we find MBBS students struggling with this during examinations,” Dr. Elango adds.

Already, in Europe and Australia, these organ sounds have been notated as per Western music. The IPHA decided to attempt the same with Carnatic music, in order to see if it becomes easier for the students to grasp auscultation.

According to Dr. Elango, musicians can easily write notes for the normal beating of the heart, and add extra notes to indicate abnormalities.

First phase

That is the first phase of the project.

Once the sounds of the heart have been written down in the language of Carnatic music, the researchers will proceed downwards to respiratory and gastrointestinal systems.

Talks are on to establish a partner with a Chennai-based music school for the project. Preparatory talks have already taken place with music director Yuvan Shankar Raja, Dr. Elango said. Software containing these notations will also be readied.

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