From the beginning of recorded history, music has played a significant role in our wellbeing. The ancients were well aware of the power of music: In Greek mythology, Apollo was revered as the god of both music and medicine, and the great philosopher Plato wrote, “Music is an art imbued with power to penetrate into the very depths of the soul.”
Music offers a direct way to tap into the innate knowledge that resides deep within our cells. It is through music that we experience and harmonize ourselves with the Divine, because music is capable of bridging heaven and earth, and our human mortal-self with our spiritual immortal-self. Simply put, music inspires us in a way that nothing else can. I am sure that everyone, at some point, has had the experience of music piercing through their being, effortlessly opening their heart and soul.
Music nourishes us in so many ways. It relaxes us, energizes us, inspires us, heals us and keeps us well. When we tune in to our surroundings, we realize that music is everywhere. While we may not be listening to a Mozart sonata or a great jazz piece, the universe nonetheless is a symphony of myriad sounds interacting and vibrating together, with demonstrable effects. Thousands of years ago, the ancient Greek philosopher and scientist Pythagoras observed that music and sound have a noticeable influence on the human organism. He demonstrated that a specific sequence of musical sounds could influence behavior and enhance healing, an idea that intrigues researchers today.
The rhythm and harmony on which music is based are also the basis of life, as manifested in the rhythmic cycles of day and night, seasonal changes, and all biological functions. Not only do we listen to sounds and music, we actively relate to them. The innovative music researcher Don Campbell made an astute observation in saying, “You, the listener, determine the final impact: You are an active conductor and participant in the process of orchestrating health.”
Music of many different genres can help to enhance the mind/body connection. From sacred chant to modern jazz, music affects the body on a cellular level. Sacred chants occur throughout history in every major world culture, including Eastern and Western Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Native American, Polynesian, Asian, and Sufi traditions. The power of chant lies in bridging the two worlds of humanity and eternity, allowing one to go to a place within that is organic, flowing, and deeply connected. I have found this to be true on a personal level. Living in an eastern Christian monastery and experiencing the fullness of ritual chanting to our Lord instilled in me forever the power of music, helping me to hear and understand God in a way that mere words alone are incapable of providing. I find the same connection to God when I play jazz bass; I am one with the music, and thus one with God.
Perhaps the greatest gift of music is that it allows us to transcend everyday states of consciousness. In this state of transcendence, we shift into an altered state of consciousness that allows for relaxation, enhancement of the senses, expansiveness, and creativity. Deep healing is often found in the creative-self through music and art, rather than the intellectual thinking-self. I believe that this is because music and art allow us to lose ourselves, and then to truly find ourselves all at the same time. Explorations of our inner spiritual experiences, through music or art, expose us to a place otherwise hidden, a place where we discover “spiritual vitality,” a place that lifts us above ourselves to a level of being we otherwise did not know we could achieve.
Music has inspired, uplifted, and sustained me throughout my life. I’ve discovered that in playing jazz, anything can happen if I remain open and free; that is the place where great art and music and healing occur. Constant innovation is key to the jazz musician, and requires going beyond what one has played before to a place not yet explored. One has to be flexible, adding something new to something old; changing as the conditions under which one is performing change, including what is felt in the moment. This flexibility, openness, creativity, connection, and deep joy are the gifts that music brings to my life.
Infusion – High Rize @ Britt Festival, July 2012