The beginnings of an answer to this question may lie in a little known, specialised field of music research called “Cognitive Musicology,” which uses software programmes to analyse music according to certain properties and then predict outcomes of listening to the music based on those properties. At times it can sound like science fiction:
Experienced listeners of tonal music expect completions in which the musical forces of gravity, magnetism, and inertia control operations on alphabets in hierarchies of embellishment whose stepwise displacements of auralized traces create simple closed shapes. (Larson, 2004)
It’s hard to understand what Steve Larson, a gifted jazz musician as well as musical software savant, was on about here, but, in simple terms, he is saying that we can employ software to analyse music in terms commonly used to describe physical motion (gravity, inertia) and that the software can listen to the beginning of a piece of music and use those properties to predict the musical sequence that should follow.
Although we are not clever enough to follow Larson in his pursuit of stepwise displacement of auralized traces, our intuition is that we could use software to extract properties from music – as Larson does – and map those properties onto particular motions of the fingers of our BackHug device. Cognitive musicology makes extensive use of artificial intelligence and we envisage using AI to analyse the benefits users receive from treatment integrated with the music they listen to, so we can continually refine the integration. Given the size of the dataset represented by the scores of all the music there is in the world, who knows what we might find?
We totally agree with the common sense, intuitive view that music has benefits for health, even though we will never be able to pretend to explain exactly why that is the case. But by embarking on this project of using software to integrate back therapy with music, we may be able to find a new way for your back to relax.