Music to listen to while having chemo

Friday 03 November 2023

Helen Wilson using bio-electricity of plants in chemo drugs to create music

An award-winning composer has created a special piece of music for people to listen to while having chemotherapy. And it is made with natural bio-electricity from plants that are used in chemo drugs.

Helen Anahita Wilson, a current doctoral researcher at School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London and a critically acclaimed pianist and composer, was inspired by her own cancer diagnosis and a visit to the Chelsea Physic Garden.

She said: “Linea naturalis, meaning ‘the natural line,’ is a new project which turns the bio-electrical signals in medicinal, anti-cancer plants into music.

“I had a rough ride during my treatment for HER2+ breast cancer throughout 2020 and 2021, and I started to think about how the experience could be improved.

Learning about the natural sources of some of the chemotherapy drugs helped to demystify the treatment process and helped me come to terms with what was happening.

“Linea naturalis is one of a collection of pieces I’ve written that explores elements of the experience of cancer and its treatment, and how it might be improved.

“As chemotherapy wards can be noisy places which are quite metallic, plastic, and sterile, I thought about ways of connecting back to nature whilst receiving the treatment.

“I thought that if more people understood that many anti-cancer drugs are naturally-derived in some form then that perhaps might take a bit of the fear of them away.

“And then I thought about creating and listening to music that is derived from the same plants that the drugs being administered also come from, so there’s a kind of 'coming-full-circle' motivation for the music that connects people back to nature while in the very unnatural environment of the hospital or cancer centre.”

Headshot of Helen Wilson, composer of 'Linea naturalis'

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 3 November 2023, Helen announced she would like the proceeds from the sales of her track to come to Maggie’s.

The music is available on a Pay What You Wish basis. Helen suggests you listen to Linea naturalis with headphones.

You can .

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Last review: Nov 2023 | Next review: May 2024

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