Monday, June 2, 2008

In Review--Summer Reading

The Healing Energies of Music (1995 edition)
by Hal A. Lingerman
Quest Books

I recently found The Healing Energies of Music by music therapist Hal A. Lingerman at the library. This book delves into the spiritual and more intuitive aspects of healing with music. While Lingerman does quote some scientific studies in regard to healing with music, and also cites projects with Medical Doctor Bernie S. Siegel, this book focuses on the metaphysical end of music for the most part. And the fact that some of this material was written as early as 1983 is prophetic and currently manifesting.

The author writes in a flowing style and offers stories of people transformed and healed by music, mostly classical music, but world, some new age, and Native American music are also brought into the mix. The book also includes a chapter on women composers and their contribution to music throughout history. Mostly the book provides lists of compositions and the best recordings to hear those famous compositions. And we are also given short glimpses into various composers' lives.

I enjoyed reading this book and even took some of Lingerman's advise and listened to recommended recordings with good results. And oddly enough he found Maurice Ravel's Bolero possibly dangerous because of the total orchestral breakdown at the end of the piece. And the author cited other pieces of Ravel's as healthy. To be honest, I have never been fond of Bolero myself--puts my teeth on edge, even with the repetition of that beautiful passage.

I do not have a web site for this book, try your local bookstore.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

In Review---Himalayan Healing


Deobrat Mishra and David Michael
Himalayan Crossroad

(peaceful melodies featuring sitar and Celtic Harp Purnima Productions and Kind Music

There have been many reports cited that spoke about the healing elements of sitar and Celtic harp. Sitar player (from Benares), Deobrat Mishra and Washington State based multi-instrumentalist David Michael (Celtic harp and zither), put musical therapy theories to the test on their recording, Himalayan Crossroads. The exotic sound of the sitar resonates with the misty atmosphere of the Celtic harp and a listener could easily place themselves in a Celtic country or near the Ganges in India.

The first track, "Fingers of Dawn" acts as an unfolding Alap where the harp and the sitar get to know one another and familiarize themselves with this unusual terrain. A micro-tonal instrument from an eastern tradition melds with instruments hailing from the west where the eight note scale (7 actual notes), rules. With so many fusion projects between eastern and western musicians around these days, it is too easy to take this recording for granted. But we must remember that it is the genius of the composers and a lot of mind bending that creates wholeness from two separate entities.

Not that listeners will lose themselves in such analytical thought while absorbing the heavenly tones that soar off of Himalayan Crossroad. The meditative music on this disc speaks more to the heart than to the brain. The waves of the harp and the edges of the sitar notes, wash over listeners bringing a much needed respite. The musicians describe it on the cover of their CD as, "The elements of North Indian classical music, intertwined with gentle lyrical qualities and Western chordal arrangements, offers an oasis of blissful sound…"

The second track, Forest Path gains more traction allowing each instrument fuller expression, although the pace is still that of a meditative Alap. The pace picks up and mirrors the Jor section of a raga. The third track, Walk of the Elephants, composed by Deobrat, introduces tabla player, Marco Zonka, the third musician of this trio, and the person who conceived the project. In a way, Marco is the linchpin since he has collaborated with both Deobrat and David on past projects and tours (in North America), with the father and son sitar duo, Pandit Shivnath and Deobrat Mishra.

So now we hear the plodding of the elephants feet. Perhaps this is suppose to be a happy moment, but when I think of elephants, these ancient and wise creatures on the verge of extinction, I cannot help but feel melancholic. In this composition though the elephants appear gentle and slow moving as they wind their way to a destination only known by them. The music does not rush along, and the drum beats which mirror the elephants heavy footsteps, plod along with the sitar and harp representing other elements such as a breeze or a flowing stream. It is soothing in that regard.

Track 4, Veil Dancer, also composed by Deobrat is the longest track on the CD, running at 20 minutes and 45 seconds. The beginning sets a meditative mood then Marco's tabla beats unite with the twang of the sitar and shimmering notes of a zither or harp. I can see any of the music on this disc used for meditation, yoga or as healthy background music and a healing arts clinic. I think this music would do well in a hospital setting too because it would relax patients. (The irony of hospital is that it cannot be healing with so much stress and electromagnetic energy, not to mention grief felt by loved ones).

And the beauty of bringing instruments from different parts of the world together is that it allows minds to imagine these beautiful places. It allows the mind to wander to happier thoughts while feeling musical vibrations from other cultures or traditions. A relaxed mind is more likely to create solutions to problems rather than obsess and react to problems in ways that bring more discomfort. Therefore listening to music, such as that which appears on Himalayan Crossroad, can only benefit the listener.

The title track possesses the strongest melodic elements on this recording. The sitar takes on a vocal quality, while the harp sings backup harmony and the tabla keeps gentle time. This is also the most joyful track on the recording, uplifting and gleeful. I highly recommend this recording to anyone serious about healing themselves and their environment.

For more information about Himalayan Crossroad go to kindmusic.ca or purnimaproductions.com