Monday, March 28, 2016

The Practice--Voices that Soothe

When I suffer from anxiety attacks or fear in general, I listen to particular vocalists because their voices act like an audio massage. The tone and texture of voices differ for each of us. Some people find male voices more soothing, some find women's voices more soothing; some people enjoy the singular voice while others lift their vibration with vocal harmony.

I find the African and the African-American vocals most soothing, followed by Native American vocals and then women's harmonies. But this all depends on the day and my circumstances as well as, the strength of the negative emotions I wish to relieve. Some times sacred music lifts me higher and other times I find comfort in a nostalgic pop song.

Here's an example of an African song that soothes my anxiety by Samite

When I was going through a particular rough time Native American musicians Mary Youngblood and Joanne Shenandoah came into my life (post 9-11). I recall listening to Youngblood's Under a Raven Moon, for instance However, Youngblood's Dance with the Wind brought me the most powerful relief and this album compared to a collection of adult lullabies for me.

I know many people have found the songs of the Wailin' Jennys healing and one woman said that this particular song helped her heal from a bicycle accident that nearly left her brain dead and unable to ever walk again. When I met this woman she was already well on her way to recovery.

Many people find Corsican harmonies healing. Here's a sample by Jean Paul Poletti's men's choir.

I'll explore vocal music in further posts. Feel free to leave your favorite vocal music that you find healing in the comments below.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Practice--Synchronicity, Music, & Messages

Ever so often, I get a song that I hadn't heard in decades playing on the repeat mode in my brain. I used to complain about these ear worms, especially since they are usually rooted in songs I never actually liked, but that had strong text. Then one day a woman that I met in passing told me to pay attention to the text because it's carrying messages.

So here's the practice. Pay attention to songs that pop into your thoughts, especially after you have prayed or meditated on a situation or asked a question to the Universe. Not only that, pay attention to songs you hear in the background at stores or at least any snippets you might have picked up. You could also encounter these synchronicity messages on YouTube in your feed or someone could mention a song, or a song comes on the radio or plays in the soundtrack for a movie.

Since we're all busy we could forget about these songs during the course of the day. So I recommend carrying a small notebook that you can use as a music diary. This could be the same music diary you use for music consciousness development or a different one. And in this diary, jot down questions you have for the day, the week, and for your life in general. Then when a specific song captures your attention jot down the song's title if you know it and the phrase that gets your attention.Refer to it later when you have some quiet time.

You'll be amazed at how the Universe or God responds to us through songs. Also re-listen to the song if you don't find it offensive. And then play little movies in your thoughts as you listen to the song. This also brings up helpful nuggets of information. Play around with it. You might even find that the annoying ear worms disappears after you discover its message.

Another thing I discovered is that when I recall a song and go listen to it on YouTube with headphones I find that the music production, choice of instruments and nuances in the singer's voice brings me physical and emotional healing. But this depends on the song.

I am the author of the unpublished Whole Music, a book that raises our consciousness through exploring music. If you are a book publisher help me with my life mission by taking a chance on publishing my book.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

21st Century Musical Healer--Conversation with Samite

I'm re-posting this article which also appears in my book, Whole Music. For whatever reason, I woke up thinking about Samite today and the beautiful music he has graced us with.

Add caption
WM From the Heart of the African Bush: Conversation with Samite Mulondo

Other journalists besides me have felt the soothing lullabies of Ugandan multi-instrumentalist Samite Mulondo. The storyteller -musician-humanitarian takes his audiences on journeys to the African bush and also deep into the human heart. Listening to his recordings provide an intimate musical experience and seeing Samite in concert provides a different type of emotional experience that opens eyes, ears and hearts.

I first came across Samite when I was seeking African recordings to review for my former website, Cranky Crow World Music. Tunula Eno landed in my mailbox and as I listened to a beautiful set of songs I traveled through a gamut of emotions, from sweet humor to grief (the CD was dedicated to his wife who died from brain cancer).

A few years later, another Samite CD came my way—his seventh album, Embalasasa, named after a beautiful, yet poisonous lizard. According to Samite, today the poisonous lizard Africans and others face is the AIDS epidemic. The album featured another soulful collection of songs featuring Samite on thumb piano, flutes, percussion and vocals and backed by extraordinary musicians on kit drum, bass and guitar, including Grammy Award winner David Cullen.
Most recently I discovered that Samite would be performing at McIntyre Hall in Mount Vernon, Washington. I had seen the musician in concert when I was residing in Seattle so I jumped at the chance to interview Samite for his upcoming concert in the Valley.

WME: I read that you emigrated to the U.S. in 1987 and that you started out recording for the Windham Hill label. Were you recording Ugandan or African music for that label or other types of music? Besides recording for this label, how did you get started with music after settling in the U.S.?

Samite Mulondo: I began recording for Shanachie Records when I first came to the US. I recorded two albums with them: Dance My Children, Dance and Pearl Of Africa Reborn. Next, I recorded for Xenophile, a branch of Green Linnet Records. For this label I recorded Silina Misango. Following this, I recorded Stars to Share with Windham Hill Records. I only record my music and it is in Luganda, my native language.

WME: You offer your listeners a great gift with storytelling, multi-instrumental playing and original songs with the essence of Uganda. Does your storytelling and music come from a tradition similar to the West African griot?

SM: No. In Uganda it is different. One member of the family could be a musician and the rest of the family members might be doctors or engineers. In my family, I am the only musician, the rest are accountants, etc.

WME: Speaking of storytelling, I am interested in the films that your music has appeared in and the soundtrack you composed for the Kenyan filmmaker. Please tell me more about these projects.

SM: The filmmaker that I believe you are referring to is the team of Alan Dater and Lisa Merton (Marlboro Productions). They are not Kenyan -- their subject is. The other important film that I was recently a part of (one of my songs is in this film) is War Dance by Fine Films (Sean and Andrea Fine).

WME: Besides musical projects, you also founded a non-profit that uses the healing power of music to heal orphans in African countries. I know you founded this non-profit, Musicians for World Harmony in 2002, but how did it begin? Do you have any heartfelt stories to share in regard to starting this non-profit?

SM: I think this started from way back when I was a refugee in Kenya in the early 1980s and I realized that music could be used to heal the souls that suffer from various traumas.

WME: In visiting your website, I learned that your most recent trip to Uganda involved photographing a baby mountain gorilla. Please tell me more about this recent photographic tour and how the photographs might be featured in your upcoming concerts.

SM: This is the second time that I have visited Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to shoot photographs. Both times I have been fortunate enough to spend time with mountain gorilla families. This last time, yes, there was a baby that was very young and in its mother's arms. My photographs capture the mother cradling her infant just after nursing. There was also a bit older baby - who thought it would be exciting to "play" with me. He didn't like the fact that I was looking him straight in the eyes (to him a challenge), so he hit me in the head with a branch! (Fortunately it was not a very big one). I do use these photographs in my multimedia concerts.

WME: Your music is special to me because it touches my heart on a deep and healing level. You understand the healing power of music and have demonstrated this knowledge on your recordings and your work with the nonprofit. So how do you approach your music in regard to recording and performing? Some musicians pray or meditate beforehand. Do you have a ritual that you perform so that you become a clear channel for healing music?

SM: I do spend some quiet time alone before each concert. I definitely pray to have a good spirit in the hall that I am performing in. I also pray to open people's hearts -- that may open their hearts and minds for me to reach them with my music even though I am singing in a language that they don't understand.

WME: Is there anything else you would like to add about your upcoming concert in Mount Vernon, Washington? Besides storytelling, healing music and humor, what else can the audience members expect?

SM: I will perform with my good friend, David Cullen, a Grammy Award winning guitarist who appears on many of my recordings. I will be performing my multimedia concert so your readers will get a chance to experience some of my Africa.

WME: Please describe the various traditional instruments you play, (flutes, percussion, thumb piano…)

SM: Kalimba (thumb piano), flutes - African and western, and voice.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Neptune Experience--Where Music and Astrology Meet

As some of you might know, I'm not only a music journalist-researcher, I'm also an astrologer. I track the effects that the planet Neptune has on trends revolving around cinema and music. I've found that music plays its biggest role when Neptune is in aspect with other outer planets or several planets are transiting in Pisces.

I would like to give heads up on what I call the Neptune Effect for March 2016 because we will experience a Solar Eclipse in Pisces with a cluster of planets transiting in Pisces. Jupiter is also involved since Saturn transits in Jupiter's sign, Sagittarius and the planet Jupiter transits in Virgo along with the North Node (moon node) which is the opposite sign of Pisces.

So we could witness new therapeutic effects for music used in hospitals, rehab facilities, prisons, hospices and other domains that fall under Neptune and Pisces. I say this because Virgo, Pisces opposite sign represents service, including social work, nursing, and creating healthy daily environments. Virgo would also bring in service animals along with music. This could also refer to healing animals with music and sound.

Since the asteroid Chiron is also transiting in Pisces, we might revisit music from our childhoods which either bring us solace or painful memories depending on the energy attached to the particular songs. Now, normally we would tell each other to avoid music that triggers pain, but if we choose to work with a qualified therapist, we could ride through the pain triggered by the music to reach the other side of it. In other words, release the charge placed on that song so it's no longer a trigger to highly-charged emotions such as fear, anger, or anxiety.

With Saturn in Sagittarius, we will witness or possible experience restrictions placed on music. We might see xenophobia playing out with music between nations or religions such as bans placed on music from a particular country or religious tradition. We could witness restrictions on getting musicians into foreign countries to tour or perform at festivals (this actually occurred when Pluto was transiting in Sagittarius, especially around the events of 9-11). Saturn has a reputation for restricting and constricting freedom. Sagittarius represents law, religion, higher education, and ideology so we can see where this is playing out.

I recall in the late 1980s during Saturn's last transit in Sagittarius when US Senators' wives form a no censorship group and tried to push music labeling laws. Remember those warning stickers slapped onto pop records? Those women forced their ideology and religious morals on the mass population which was a direct reflection of both Saturn (authority) and Sagittarius (laws, religion, morals). We could see more of this type of behavior along with fundamentalist extremism in regard to musicians and music (as we did in Mali in recent years. I believe that Mali's ruler is Sagittarius too).

So the best route through this is to transcend the fear by using music to lift our vibration and focus upon healing ourselves and the planet. But you must remember that when we shed more light on a situation more darkness emerges to eventually allow the light to dissolve it. This means that the current passage we face represents the darkest hour before dawn. Music, dance sound healing, and spirituality do hold the keys to our healing through compassion and understanding. But this does involve us developing greater consciousness around music expression and vibrations.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

21st Century Musical Healers Series--Klaus Miehling

Conversation with German Early Music Specialist Klaus Miehling

After I posted an announcement for music awareness interviews on the Linked In group Music and Emotions, German composer/musicologist/musician (harpsichord and vocals), Klaus Miehling contacted me. I know Klaus briefly from my interaction with this fascinating group where musicians discuss how music affects the brain, nervous system, and ignites our emotions.

Klaus comes from the realm of Early Music, but he also composes music for modern instruments (as well as early music instruments). He did his undergraduate studies at Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in the 1980s and he earned his Doctorate (musicology and art history) at the University of Freiburg, where he currently resides. He is the author of several books and 250 compositions for historic and modern instruments.

Whole Music Experience: With so much awareness now with brain science and music or musical effects on our physical, mental, and emotional bodies, as a musician did you already have awareness of the effects on your own mental processes, emotions and physical body as you immersed yourself in musical studies, research and performances?

KM: I was deeply moved by music, especially baroque music, when I began to study; and already during my adolescence I developed a disgust for pop and rock music because of its aggressiveness. But in those times I didn't really reflect about it. However, it was always important for me to perform music in the way and with the means that the composer intended. Therefore I went to the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis which then, in 1982, was the only place where it was possible to study exclusively ancient music and historical performance practice.

WME: Is there any particular composer or genre that has had the strongest impact on your health and well-being? For instance, many psychoacoustic experts work with Bach or Mozart or Corelli—do you find the works of any of these composers exceptional as far as health impacts?

KM: I don't think that this is linked to certain composers. Personally, I have a special affinity to Rameau since I am 15 years old. But I am afraid that the impact of music on health is not very substantial. Just think about the sufferings and diseases of so much great composers. Much bigger is the impact on personality. The emotions in the music are evoked in the listener and therefore form his character. If you listen e.g. to aggressive music you become aggressive yourself, and if this happens repeatedly, you practice being aggressive and therefore become an aggressive person. This is the way popular music could generate the change of values and the increase of criminality since the 1960's. If our youth would be socialized with classical music instead, the world would become a better place.    

WME: Finally, during the course of your career as science has caught up with the hidden powers of music and even metaphysical concepts, what new discovery has had the strongest impact on you and your work with musical expression or interpretation?

KM:  I wouldn't say it's a new discovery, but during my life, especially since I worked on the impact of popular vs. classical music, I became more and more aware of the importance of sound. Take a piece by, say, Bach, play it with different sounds, and you will have different pieces with different characters: with historical instruments – with modern instruments – with electronic sounds – in a pop version with drums. The composition is the same, but it evokes different feelings.

Klaus Miehling performance/recording 

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in interviews/conversations are of the musician or musical expert interviewed and have no reflection on the mission or beliefs associated with Whole Music Experience. WME is an inclusive blog that considers the music consciousness and effects of several musical genres, including some types of popular music that have proved helpful in music therapy type settings.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Practice--Using Uplifters to Change a Mood

While I went out walking today I wondered what topic I would write about next to build music consciousness. Then I saw the lyrics to Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" written out with colorful chalk on a log. Thus began my brief exploration of happy songs.

There appears to be two camps when it comes to using happy songs to change a mood. In one camp, you change an angry or sad mood gradually by introducing songs that have slightly more uplifting moods than the previous one and work your way towards happy. The second camp believes that we can choose to be happy now since happiness is just a state of mind controlled by our thoughts. In that case, we can change our mood swiftly by singing or listening to a happy song.

I guess it depends on the individual and the deepness of their particular funk. Meaning, if someone suffers from chronic depression or anger management problems, then it would be the equivalent to plastering a band aid on a gaping wound to expect this person to get happy from a song. They might curse the song and dig deeper into their dark mood.

But for individuals who are suffering from mild disappointment such as losing an opportunity or failing to get a job after a round of interviews, I think this is when they can choose to be happy by thinking different thoughts and listening to songs with bright lyrics. But I will say that even when I suffered from chronic depression, happy songs bounced me out of my despair more often than not.

We need to look at genres too since happy songs come in all shapes and sizes from George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue to McFerrin's "Be Happy," to Louis Armstrong's "It's a Wonderful World," to show tunes, "Put a Happy Smile on Your Face" and "Singing in the Rain." Rock songs that cheer people up include, The Beatles, "Here Comes the Sun," and "Octopus' Garden," and songs by the Go-Go's or Katrina and the Waves, "Walking on Sunshine."

This article is not meant to diagnose medical conditions and only suggests changing moods through happy songs for the average person.

Get started with this tune.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Practice--Eliminating Toxic Music

"Tranquility" by Patricia Herlevi
People have told me that certain music that irritates me might actually be healthy for them. It's true we all have varying musical tastes and different bodies. Some of us have thicker skin than others, but there is some music that is toxic for everyone. Still, how do you know what is right for you?

First, you must pay attention to your body sensations, emotions/feelings/moods when exposure to music or even sound frequencies. I have yet to meet someone who isn't bothered by the noise of airplanes flying overhead, leaf blowers, or power lawn mowers. Most people just shut out these noises and tell themselves that they are part of the modern and urban lifestyles.

Unfortunately, we have little control over music or noise that we encounter throughout the course of our day. However, we can decide what will play in the background or foreground of our homes. We can set the volume to a level that won't cause harm to our hearing or nervous system. We can, if we don't have a household full of teens, control the type of music played in the home and prefer softer to heavier thudding music. But again, some people require more thudding and jarring music to get them going because they tend to be more Kapha, as described in Ayurvedic medicine which is a thicker skin and slower moving energy. Vata dosha is the opposite when we get a thin, wiry nervous person who is easily agitated by noise or other disturbances coming from the environment.

So because we are unique individuals with different body types and mental temperament there are still commonalities that we all share. So watch for the following symptoms:

You feel irritated or agitated 
Have trouble focusing around the music
Feel jumpy or like you could jump out of your skin
Dull headache 
Nervous tension
Foggy mind

Beethoven, Wikipedia
Now, sometimes it's the volume of the music alone that can cause the above symptoms. Other times it's a combination of the volume, environment, and music. Music with a strong beat is not conducive for work that involves concentration and focus. Too loud of music is going to pump up the nervous system and cause agitation if we're expected to sit still in front of a computer. Why would you listen to dance club music while working on a computer, for instance?

Part of the problem is that we don't choose the appropriate music for the activity. And this really only requires common sense and not music research. I have experimented with different types of music and composers within those genres. For example, not all classical music works well for proofreading or doing focused work. For that I prefer silence or slow Baroque or French Impressionist music. But even this music could leave me feeling sleepy by afternoon.

Varying the tempo and type of music to match activities throughout the day works for me. For instance, I might listen to medium tempo classical music for lunch or I might go ethnic and listen to world music that matches the type of food I'm eating at lunch. But then when I get back to work, depending on the project and level of energy or focus required, I choose music or silence with mindfulness and from past experiences with certain songs. Then of course, for meditation I choose new age or Indigenous songs or chants.

Once you have worked with your music diary for a month or several months, you'll know which music works best for any activity. This leads to mindful uses of music. This doesn't mean that we can't also listen to music for pleasure or for dancing or for background for a party we're hosting. And we still have little to no control of the music blasting in grocery stores and malls. But we can depending on the dentist, doctor, or healer, suggest types of music we want playing in the background during certain medical or healing procedures. And this is important because we already know about the healing power of music.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them here. Thank you for stopping by Whole Music Experience and raising your music consciousness. Every mind matters on this journey. I'm the author of the unpublished book, Whole Music.