Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Essay: Intent and Specifics of Classical Music

Not all Beethoven compositions are created equal, ditto for Chopin’s repertoire and fill in the blank with a composer’s name. To say that all of Mozart’s music increases IQ levels is an overstatement and a false assumption. I feel sad for anyone who only listens to Mozart to increase their IQ because then they miss out on the holistic experience of Mozart’s music. And I doubt any of these composers with the exception of Mozart (after he joined his local chapter of the Freemasons), composed with any healing or energetic intentions. Most classical composers during their time, composed for commissions from the church or an elite patron. After music publishing arrived, the composers earned money through publication of their compositions, which in order to earn their keep, had to appeal to music audiences, as well as, amateur and professional musicians.

So we need to keep this in mind when working with music for healing purposes. Classical music goes a long way in healing us from stress, helping us to relax, increase vigor or immune system responses. But in order to reap the harvest, we need to explore classical music, maybe even a specific composer, such as the ever popular Mozart. But if Mozart doesn't do it for you, try Chopin, Debussy, Ravel, Bach, or Hildegard von Bingen.

So this brings me back to purpose and intent. Do we need to know the original intent of the music to employ it for healing purposes? I would guess probably not. However, reading about the composer, the conditions he or she composed under, what illnesses he or she encountered, and the healing modalities around during that composer’s lifetime at least give us insight. Oddly, many composers battled with illnesses and medical conditions, but not because they composed music, but as a side effect to their lifestyle and society. Musicians tend to be overly sensitive and susceptible to stress happening around them. And plenty of stress occurred during the renaissance, classical, and baroque periods of music, not to mention during the 20th century, wars and revolutions come to mind. Music might have acted like a saving grace in the composers’ lives, which either prolonging a plunge into insanity (Schumann) or prolonged a life in the case of Chopin who suffered from a lung ailment. He died young, but survived several bouts prior to dying.

The other aspect to look at which connects to intent is how our bodies actually respond to music/sound. If you aren’t a sound healer or music therapist yourself, you might seek the help of one at some point in your exploration of music. For instance, psychoacoustic practitioners study the effects of sound on the nervous system (and other parts of the body). They study how our bodies rhythms entrain to outside rhythms (sound and music), and what happens to our cells as they align themselves with an outside sound source.

Sound healers take a different approach. While they too focus on the mind and body, they also focus on the soul, and energy as it moves between our chakras. They employ various sound healing tools such as chimes, tuning forks, singing bowls, flutes, gongs, and didgerdoo for starters. They also use voice, harp, and acoustic guitar. Sound healing dovetails perfectly with other energy healing practices such as acupuncture, massage, Reiki and Emotional Freedom Technique.

Music therapists deal mainly with the mind, but the body too in cases of brain and nerve-related illnesses. They work in the psychological field dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, mental illnesses, and physiological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. This is the tip of the iceberg and I encourage you to visit websites of prominent music therapists, sound healers, and psychoacoustic practitioners.

So if you choose to work with classical music to relieve stress, (as an example), I recommend slowed down and simplified music that can be found on recordings by Joshua Leeds and Dr. Andrew Weil (S0unds True label). I also recommend the Through a Dog’s Ear (http://www.throughadogsear.com) series by Joshua Leeds and Lisa Spector which relieves both humans and dogs from stress. Remember that when we carry stress so do our pets. Finally, for starters I recommend Marjorie de Muynck’s Vibrational Healing Music (Sounds True), and the independent classical Indian recording, Sound for Meditation by Deobrat Mishra (www.music-of-benares.com)

Happy healing and music exploration.