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.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Raise Your Music Consciousness in 2016

Listen to Tibetan musician Nwang Khechog's recordings
As the frequency on the planet continues to rise and more people discover the connection between sounds and their physical well-being, why not join them? Raise your consciousness through the art of listening to music.

The best way to do this, and I've mentioned it already in numerous posts, is to keep a music diary or journal to track physical, mental, and emotional effects of music. Basically, any notebook or journal will work. Create three columns and write "Physical," "Emotional" and "Mental" at the top of the columns. Then on the left hand side write down the piece of music or genre you heard, location where you heard it, and time of day.

Granted, since we live in a world wallpapered with music and sound frequencies, you're not going to be able to cover every soundbite you hear throughout the day or evening. However, if you are at the grocery store or mall and you notice strong reactions to music playing at that time, make a note of that. And take notes for other energies happening at that time, such as other people's moods, crowds, the attitude of the people who work in that establishment, etc...

A Filetta, Corsican vocal music
But mainly focus on the music that you choose to listen to and the effects you experience. Jot down the types of activities you were performing when listening to that music, if it was in the background. And then write down (in your notes), the types of songs and music that appeals to you at this time.

Some other ways of raising your frequency include working with sound healing tools such as tuning forks, tuned bowls, and sound healing recordings. Now, when you use the tools yourself you have more control over the keys your playing, whereas, when you listen to a recording, you get what you get so choose wisely.

Another option is to find favorite pieces of music or songs on YouTube (provided you're not inundated with commercials, especially loud commercials). I enjoy surfing YouTube because I've discovered artists and recordings not previous known to me. I've also discovered channels that focus just on classical music of a specific era, a particular composer or sub genre, or instruments with particular timbre that I require at a specific time. You can also find sacred chants on YouTube which prove relaxing and uplifting or the sounds of nature, such as whale songs.

Try classical music
Finally, in 2016, join a choir if you enjoy singing and cooperating with others or a drum circle, if you prefer something more rhythmic that doesn't involve the voice. You can also take dance classes, learn to play an instrument or take singing lessons. There is ample scientific proof now that the brain develops not just from listening to music, but actually learning how to play it. Mostly, the research is aimed at early development, but I feel that adults benefit too by learning a music instrument, especially with all the new research on neuroplasty.

Since we're still in the process of launching 2016, now is the best time to develop a music program in your life to lift your frequency. Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Blues or Bliss--Holiday Music & Moods

When I was a child, I couldn't wait to get out the Christmas carol albums and I didn't care if the songs were secular or sacred--I just enjoyed floating off on those prized melodies. But as I grew older and garnered Christmas memories that upset me, I started noticing that holiday music left me feeling more depressed than uplifted.

So last night the thought occurred to me, at least in the US where Christmas music appears like plastered wallpaper in shopping malls and grocery stores, that some people might actually feel ill at ease when hearing the songs. First, they might not enjoy listening to Christian carols if they come from another religious background, or they might harbor bad memories associated with those songs.

Perhaps, it's hard to believe that anyone would associate pain or grief with "Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer" unless they lost a loved one, received a dire medical diagnosis, or experienced some other challenging event around the holidays. Then we must consider the people who work long shifts in shopping malls and retail stores listening to holiday music drone on for three plus weeks. We associate certain songs with specific memories and until we heal the roots of those memories those songs dish out angst and grief.

Yet, some folks still associate the holiday songs with putting up a Christmas tree, baking cookies, or holiday celebrations with relatives not from a dysfunctional family. And we don't want to toss the baby out with the holy bathwater because holiday music triggers depression or angst in some people. But we could be more mindful of it. Does holiday music sell more products? Is this why stores blast Christmas songs during the shopping season? Could they alternate with other types of music such as classical music or light jazz or no music at all?

And for those of you throwing holiday parties for a diverse group, why not invite a harpist or classical guitarist to play live music that doesn't all carry holiday themes or if it does have holiday themes, let them be Celtic or something unfamiliar to your guests? I once attended a holiday party hosted by spiritual teachers and healers that hired a harpist and she ended up being the hit of the party. I would even suggest playing new age music in the background or recordings of singing bowls blended with Native American flute or light jazz. People have been working or shopping all day before they show up at the gathering so relaxing music might just hit the spot. But you could run into the music also relaxing people too much to the point that they turn inward and don't mingle.

Try listening to a new type of holiday music or genre such as renaissance polyphony or sacred chants from Russia or as I mentioned earlier, Celtic holiday fare. Or if you enjoy the American classics, try listening to alternative versions such as new age, jazz, or classical or even pop (if that lifts your spirits).

So this holiday season stay mindful as ever about the effects of music. You might even journal about how specific holiday songs affect your moods and emotions. Are there any particular songs with painful memories attached to them? And which of the songs have joyful attachments for you? Obviously, either toss the songs with bad memories or take them to your next therapy or energy healing session so you can clear those emotions when listening to those songs. In this way you give the songs a new life and a fresh start.

Incidentally, as I healed my emotional wounds of the past, I found that listening to Christmas music brings me joy again, though I certainly don't want to overdose on it. And I prefer not to hear holiday songs everywhere I go for several weeks. When I was a child, there was less exposure to it and we only brought those albums out when the Christmas tree arrived. And I will mention that in my 20s, I worked retail jobs during the holidays and my ears did grow numb after listening to Christmas songs for an extended period of time.

Happy holidays and may your ears be greeted with sweet music that feeds your soul.

Holiday music reviews from my archives:

Holiday albums 

More holiday albums 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Practice-Change Your Moods with Music

By Patricia Herlevi
Have you ever found yourself in a funk and didn't know how to transform or shift your mood? Finding the right music helps us to release a "negative" mood or shift it. After all, moods and music share vibrations in common. Here are a few suggestions to help you apply music to cathartic experiences.

First thing you must know is to not suppress a mood or layer another mood on top of it. This reminds me of putting a band aid on a gaping wound. Second, know that moods pass and that all humans experience the spectrum of moods. Third, even though a mood doesn't feel good, it serves a purpose and has you tune into your mind-body-spirit so you can see what thoughts, feelings, or behaviors require a shift in consciousness.

I have covered this topic previously on Whole Music Experience so some of these tips and music selections will sound repetitive to some of you. And I would never tell someone not to feel their sadness or anger because some times we must ride through it to reach the opposite bank of an emotional river. If you are grieving a loss, use music to bring you relief but understand that the grieving process is necessary. And in addition to working with music, join a support group or seek professional counseling because these options give you other perspectives, validation and support.

Anger: I know few people who handle anger in a healthy way. We either suppress anger which comes out later as self-sabotage or inappropriate behavior such as road rage or bullying. Or we express our anger with violence. But anger tells us that something or someone violated us and it's our body's way of telling us that someone trespassed beyond our boundaries. Some of us were told as children to repress our anger. "Good girls don't get angry." Want to bet.

Start by listening to Beethoven's 5th Symphony and listen to the entire four movements (it's a short symphony). In the first movement, the hero is called to a quest as fate knocks at the door. The energy is angry and tense similar to receiving bad news of some kind that burns through us. Then the next movement, the hero picks up the gauntlet and rides through his anger by taking action that leads to triumph in the final two movements.

You can also listen to didgeridoo music (solo instrument) which breaks up heavy energy such as anger or clears away fragments. I would listen to the instrumental track for at least 20 minutes and then follow up with singing bowls (either the actual bowls or a recording) for the heart and liver (since we store our anger in our liver).

Grief & Sadness: Start with the saddest or most melancholic songs you know. And allow yourself to sob. Get the sadness up and out. If you're grieving the loss of a relationship, listen to a song such as Carol King's "It's Too Late", which even has the right chord structure to bring the sadness up and out. You can also listen to theme or soundtrack music from a tragic movie. Now this might sound counter intuitive, but you're going to work your way up from sadness and grief to relief and then hope. And depending on the depth of the loss, you'll have to do this each day until you find release from the despair and helplessness and even anger that grips at you.

So maybe you start with Carol King, then you find nostalgic music that resonates with your mood (but stay away from anything that is hateful or revengeful). Some of you would rather listen to classical music or jazz ballads which work as well.

Start with melancholic music then move to Chopin's nocturnes or perhaps a sad Brazilian jazz piece. Then listen to songs that are hopeful such as Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" or Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World." Then end with singing bowls for the heart chakra either the actual bowls or a recording of them. Harp and flute music also brings relief.

Fear & Anxiety: The best antidote I know for fear is humor. So find songs that you know will make you laugh, especially if you sing along with them. For some reason I'm thinking of Weird Al Yankovic, but you can even listen to music from a Broadway musical comedy. I also like children's songs or songs from The Sound of Music or Mary Poppins. You might even sing the Alphabet Song or a Beatles' song if that gets your mind off your fears. Or listen to lullabies or a Chopin nocturne.

If this is just a passing fear or anxiety, then music will prove helpful. However, if you have chronic anxiety, get medical attention.

I'm not a music therapist or sound healer. I'm channeling this post and sharing what I've learned from using music to shift my moods (which found roots in depression and anxiety). If you find that you have serious issues with grief, sadness, depression, anxiety, or anger, please seek the help of a qualified music therapist or sound healer. I'm a strong believer in music therapy and engaging with an expert who has studied in this field and who has had success with clients.

Despite that we live in a world ruled by fear and anger, we can find our calm center by listening to the right music for our emotions. It's also a good idea to turn off the news and spend more time exploring musical choices that bring you relief and allow you to shift moods. The more we stay centered in love, the better chance we have of creating peace in the world. Music offers the magic carpet ride that helps us transcend our moods.

Also check out books that explore the brain and music. And check out Jeffrey Thompson's brainwave recordings.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sound Healing--Just What the Doctor Ordered

Long before Don Campbell published his acclaimed book, The Mozart Effect in 1997, sound healing tools and music therapy entered the realm of conventional medicine. In fact, music therapy as we know it today began in the late 18th century and in the US, developed during the 20th century, starting with a discovery that occurred with musicians entertaining wounded soldiers...

While many of us probably have conventional or alternative doctors who haven't embraced sound and music therapies yet, we also know family members, friends, or colleagues who have experienced sound healing or music therapy in the form of adjunct to massage and energy healing or while staying in a hospital and experiencing the healing effects of a trained bedside musician. Some of you have probably used music or seen it used with hospice care as the music prepares the patient to crossover to the other side, peacefully.

And yet, I was surprised during a visit to my local library where I came across an entire shelf with books written by medical professionals touting the healing effects of music and or, sound healing. I picked up two of the books, Scales and Scalpels (Doctors Who Practice The Healing Arts of Music and Medicine) by Lisa Wong, M.D. and Sounds of Healing by Mitchell L. Gaynor, M.D. and of course, I'm fascinated that these open-minded doctors have researched and applied music with their patients. I wish my doctor would do that, but she plays rock music via Pandora in the waiting room that makes my skin crawl.

Dr. Lisa Wong, a pediatrician approaches music by performing in an orchestra completely comprised of musicians who work in the medical profession. In her book, she introduces the doctor-musicians (a  handful of them), and also includes the latest research (the book was published in 2012). She also mentions a favorite musical hero of mine, Jose Abreu who founded the youth orchestras in Venezuela that have prevented at-risk youth from entering a life of crime. So the author reminds us that music heals us on different levels from the mind-body to the societal realm.

Dr. Gaynor, an oncologist who deals mainly with cancer patients, takes a different approach. He brings in the spiritual and sacred realms through toning and working with singing bowls. In his book, the doctor explores shamanism, the practices of Tibetan monks, and Sufis as well as, the seed sounds from India. He even mentions Atlantis which is controversial for those people who don't believe in this lost civilization. What's most surprising, given the research mentioned in the book is that it was written in 1999, two years after Don Campbell published The Mozart Effect, but several years before the neurologists, Oliver Sacks and Daniel Levitin published their treaties on music, brain and science.

If you have a medical condition that doesn't respond well to conventional or even some alternative treatments, I urge you to read the books mentioned here and the other titles mentioned in the bibliographies. Judging from research mentioned in the books, there are several articles published in medical journals worth looking into as well. When we do this, we become informed and then we can make recommendations or suggestions to our doctors (and dentists) to add sound healing and music therapists to their practice. Of course, I'm not aware that medical insurance would cover either, but if the medical doctors learns how to work with singing bowls or toning, they can just add that to the sessions with patients, I'm guessing.

If not, we can always teach ourselves how to use sound healing tools and you can learn toning in a matter of minutes by using toning CDs or watching videos on YouTube. I've been fortunate in that the alternative and energy healers I visited in the past provided me with music for my sessions with them. And one acupuncturist used tuning forks and singing bowls in her practice. Some day this will be common knowledge and we won't give it a second thought. Music heals us and it doesn't take research to convince me. I've experienced the healing power of music personally.

Also see my college term paper on the healing power of music published on World Music Central.