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"The Healing Power of Music"

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"The Healing Power of Music" 
First published in 'Artist's Dialogue'", June 1995; subsequently published in 'The Independent Journal' newspaper of Marin county, CA, July 11, 2002

     Music, essentially, is vibration, a frequency, a wavelength, which humans hear as sound. All life is composed of energy which vibrates at certain frequencies. It is this frequency which determines the nature and well-being of that object. Scientists tell us that the main ingredients of 'solid' objects, ourselves included, is space. This space is energized, made of an intelligence that influences that object's form. If a person knows how to communicate with that space, that intelligence, she can influence and change it. Using conscious attention on these levels in humans, a person can use music to influence their thoughts, emotions, subtle bodies and physical bodies.

     Working with music is working with the life vibration itself, the creating, sustaining, and intelligence aspects. As a transmitter of energy, music and sound can open up psychic gateways and other dimensional realities. Hans Jenny, a Swiss physicist, conducted experiments by introducing sound frequencies into different materials on vibration-sensitive plates. He discovered that certain tones would organize scattered particles on the plates into specific patterns, thus creating unity and form from chaos. There have also been many studies on heightened plant growth by playing classical music to the plants.

     I started realizing the healing power of the voice when I started singing for the warm-down section of a dance class. I first had played percussion for the high-spirited, outward-moving class. When it was time for people to bring their energy back inside themselves and release the tension from their muscles, I spontaneously started singing and making tones for the dancers. We were astounded by the qualities of peace and centeredness that it gave. When I was teaching dance myself, I found that we could sing the tension out of our muscles and our minds.

     Traditional healers from most(if not all) cultures use music as an important part of their healing rituals. Rhythm instruments such as drums and shakers and sometimes voices are used to access inner guidance through trance journeys, where the patient and/or the healer move into non-linear or non-ordinary reality to search for insight or a cure. In some Native American cultures, soul retrievals are undertaken to the trance-inducing rhythm of a straight monotone beat of a drum to bring back parts of a person's soul or psyche which is believed to have been stolen or has left the person due to some trauma. Power animals or allies are also gathered throught the journey which is supported by the drumbeat. Some Brazilian and African religions uphold the belief that other-dimensional forces come to work with the practitioners when specific songs, rhythms, or drums are employed. These forces can be used for healing or for hindering the self or others. Some of these religions are Condomble, Macumba, Santeria, and Vudun. They all rely heavily on their music for their group rituals.

     Music, sound, and chanting are also very important in Tibetan Buddhist healing practices and empowerments. Eastern religious lineages such as those held by Asha Ma, Ammachi, Gurumayi, and Brahmananda Saraswati all use chanting to raise the kundalini force which usually is found dormant at the base of the human spine. The main purpose in raising the kundalini up the subtle channels in the spine to the head and beyond is to purify the body and mind which creates enlightenment. Almost all religions employ music in their services as a way of sending out prayers and to help create a mood of devotion.

     A purpose in any art form is to present an image, a mood, an intelligence, a vibration which evokes a response from the audience. We all have certain favorite kinds of music that excite us, that calm us, that allow us to go more deeply into feelings. Listening to and making music enables us to bypass the linear mind and have direct access with the life current of a more esoteric and of the more real nature which sustains us. It also allows us to more easily access our subconscious and the collective unconscious.

    Psychtherapists and bodyworkers regularly use music to help their clients access stored emotions. Many modern stress-causing diseases are eased when soothing music is used to alleviate the tension in the body. Psychiatric aides practice a technique of matching their breathing rhythm with their agitated patients until there is a synchronistic base. This is called entrainment. Then they gradually slow their own rhythm of breathing. The patient naturally follows the aide's rhythm, slowing down his own breathing pattern, thus calming himself. This same effect can be practiced with music, even just rhythmically, using the pulse as breath. There are also alternative healers called toners or sound healers who make tones or sound with their voices which can initiate change by breaking up congestion in the energy flows, and by producing pure tones which are energy transmissions of a higher order which the client can receive according to her aptitude.

    People can also use sound to see what comes up for themselves---what is locked hidden away inside. My favorite kind of music to engage in is improvisational singing.The human voice has an amazing encyclopedia of frequencies that it can carry and impart. Complete and repeatable songs have come through me that have told stories of how I was feeling before I was consciously aware. I also enjoy singing in syllables or tones which can impart a lot with no words used. Foreign styles can come spontaneously through where I feel that I am tapping into a very large collective unconscious. I learn a lot about different cultures' thinking and views of life by the vibrations in their traditional music (i.e., the pacing, rhythms, rootedness, intellectuality, the moods and feelings which emanate from the scales, etc.)

     As a culture, Americans have been primarily raised on manipulative music through the mediums of television and radio. Advertisers know the power of those jingles! And muzak--what an amazingly effective mind drone. Governments have experimented with low frequency sound as a weapon because they know the debilitating effects it has on life. The air is filled with other EMFs (electromagnetic fields) which affect out body systems constantly, the amount of which depends on each person's sensitivity. This glut of frequencies can really create havoc by impinging on a person's own sound frequency. Scientists now know how to measure the sound of human organs and tissues in the body and are stating how every living organism has a measurable sound.

    One positive use of music is through group activity where it can be utilized to create a focal point upon which community gathers. When done with even neophyte participants and a skilled leader, music can teach about boundaries, respect, and relationship. There are now people like Arthur Hull who are teaching percussion to corporate groups to enhance their business cooperation skills. As a teacher of voice, percussion, and dance, I have seen my students learn many new skills which go beyond musical ones. They have gained self-esteem, with more courage to express themselves and be different, more spontaneity, and have lost judgement about themselves and others. They have understood relationships better and thier placement in the greater scheme of things, have developed more grounding in their bodies, and have experienced the sense of belonging in a supportive community.

    I believe that any art that is done can create change even if no one sees it or hears it. But I especially believe in the power of sound. It carries consciousness with an outer motion. Music can change our reality when done consciously and by people who have expanded visions and the power and the skill to implement them. It is necessary at this point to also have expression of the 'dark side', our cultural and racial shadows, to help bring out the repressed darkness that needs to be transformed if indeed our species is not to self-annihilate soon. Music, as is true with any healing force, needs to come from the wisdom of the whole picture: the power of the dualistic nature of the third-dimensional world mixing with the expanded visions of the higher dimensions. Then we have the means to transform.

     Sound and music will be more and more utilized by institutions and healers as the understanding grows about its amazing properties. Also more live venues of healing music hopefully will be generated. Right now there are few. I feel blessed that I am able to be a part of 2 regular public events of improvised music in Marin county, CA, that are dance oriented, where the focus of the musicians is on creating an energetic healing sound space for themselves and the audience. These are "Dance Alive!", hosted by Alive and Well! Massage school in San Anselmo, and "Spirit Dance" at Spirit House retreat center in Woodacre.

     I have been thrilled to see the results of using healing sound with my clients, students, audiences, and with myself and my fellow musicians. I feel gratified to know that there is an ever-increasing number of people exploring and practicing the healing aspects of music.