Noted Composer Brings Fresh Ears to Hospital Noise

Paul Rudy, award-winning composer and music professor at UMKC, is part of a new project assessing sound and patient safety in the operating room. (photo by Aaron Leimkueler)

The ability of music to relax and soothe is well documented. No one explores and exemplifies that more than Paul Rudy, composer and music professor at UMKC.

“His music and sonic art balance conservatory training with shamanic practices, subtle energies, and technology, each of which guide his intuitive performances and compositions, bridging science and spirituality,” according to his profile on discogs.com.

Recipient of the 2008 Kauffman Award for Artistic Excellence and two Global Music Awards in 2012, Rudy has composed and performed scores of works (available online). “At the center of my journey is music for the higher purpose of peace and healing between people and Mother Earth,” he states on Sound Cloud.

For years Rudy has pursued “sound healing” at Harmony Farm, his nature sanctuary near Lawrence, Kansas. He’s directed healing and meditation sessions at the Nelson-Atkins and Kemper Museums, the American Academy in Rome, the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energy and Energy Medicine.

Now he has added hospitals — operating rooms, to be exact — to his sphere of influence.

Rudy and Dr. Gary Sutkin, UMKC professor of surgery and associate dean of women’s health, have teamed up to evaluate how sound affects patient safety. Operating rooms are noisy and there is often miscommunication; Rudy and Sutkin are striving to reduce the noise and risks involved.

“What I know is that we need brains other than those of researchers, surgeons and nurses to study the problem,” says Dr. Sutkin. Rudy brings “fresh ears,” picking up noise disruptions medical teams may not even notice and assessing ways to mitigate them.

One of the disruptions Rudy has noted is the loud and unpleasant grating sound created when the metal stools used in operating rooms are dragged across the floor, drowning out communication.

“How much more pleasant and supportive could the operating room be for patients and staff alike,” he asks,
“if manufacturers of medical machinery considered how their sounds could make a harmonious symphony?”

This “cross-disciplinary” research project, under UMKC’s Surgilab guidance, with generous funding from professor emerita Elizabeth Noble, brings together music and medicine to develop better surgical outcomes.

“Paul brings a wealth of knowledge and creativity,” Dr. Sutkin said. “And, surprisingly, to be honest, a scientific mind that contributes very well with this research.”

Rebecca Smith

Rebecca Smith is an impassioned supporter of local performances of all types, who welcomes the  opportunity to promote them to KC Studio readers.

Leave a Reply