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Musical Motivations

By: Lauren Williamson
Posted: May 30, 2008, from the June 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Spa owners have long known that music can create a pleasant ambiance in the treatment room. Studies show music is inextricably tied to memory and emotion—and that it can even lower blood pressure and help manage pain. Now, spas across the country are taking the therapeutic benefits of music to a new level, bringing sound to the forefront of spa services.

“We’ve always been very good with smell, sight and touch,” says Blake Feeney, spa director at Canyon Ranch’s SpaClub at the Las Vegas Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino, where music plays a key role in the newly expanded space that opened in April. “The last sense that has really been impacted in the industry is hearing. We know what sounds good. But now we know you should listen to these things at this time because of the benefits for healing.”

Canyon Ranch’s Las Vegas site, which will total 134,000 square feet when all renovations are complete in August, is a pilot space for its new approach to music, focusing on creating different “intention zones” throughout the spa. “We want to figure out what kind of intention we want for that space—the ambiance, the energy, the feeling,” Feeney says. “Sound creates the ambiance of a space immediately.”

In the fitness areas, the music is upbeat and energizing, while music in treatment rooms is slow and calming. Clients receive a menu of six pre-selected music channels to choose from prior to treatments, with options that include classical or aboriginal music as well as sounds from nature. However, if a patron prefers music from one of the 10 other stations that service different areas of the spa, it can also be channeled into the treatment room.

Suzanne Hanser, PhD, chair of the music therapy department at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, says this individualized approach to music selection is crucial for creating a truly peaceful experience. “It’s not so much about music that’s marketed as being relaxing,” she says. “It’s more about music that has personal associations.”