Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Practice: The Woods are Alive with the Sounds of Nature

photo by Patricia Herlevi
The Sound of Music opens with a nun Maria (Julia Andrews) roaming around an Austrian mountain singing, listening to church bells, and connecting with the natural world.  We would call her enchanted.  Another movie that provides an enchanting blend of nature and music comes to mind, Brother Sun, Sister Moon which chronicles the early life of Saint Francis of Assisi who used songs to connect to nature.  But do we need movies to remind us of the everyday musical sounds that surround us? And do we need these movies to remind us of our musical connection to the natural world?

Take a walk on a park or a street with little car traffic and listen intently to all the sounds that greet your ears.  How do these sounds make you feel? Do they remind you of a childhood event? Are you taken to a pleasant place or do you feel dissonance grinding away at your muscles? Take a walk in a wooded park, where most everyday sounds are drowned out and natural sounds greet you, like the sound of a brook or songbirds chirping. How do these sounds affect you? I'm guessing you feel relaxed, unless you have a phobia to hiking in the woods.

Now, let's take this step one step further, imagine that you are a traditional tribal person and that you perform rituals involving music with or for the natural world.  Imagine that this connection is crucial for safety and good fortune for your tribe, that your work has a shamanic component to it.  I'm thinking specifically of the Saami people at the moment who chant or yoik to a person, place, or thing, usually something natural.  With this yoik, the chanter creates an energy flow between him or herself and the subject of the yoik.  Some tribal rituals use drums to match the heartbeat of the earth and create a trance state for those hosting the ceremony.  In ancient times shepherds fashioned flutes out of eagle and vulture bones which were used to help with herding the sheep.  They also fashioned flutes out of reeds and cedar.

But have we lost touch with our connection to nature and the purposeful use of music that allows us to communicate with the natural world? Have we forgotten the sound of music in a natural setting? And how can we retrieve these practices? Start with hosting a drum circle in wooded park or a beach.  And don't forget to incorporate dance. Learn how to chant energy to animals and nature so that you can build a connection, a bridge.  Sing or play an instruments with birds or whales like David Rothenberg does or record animals, birds, insects and use their sounds in sound healing recordings similar to the late Marjorie de Muynck.  You don't need to be indigenous to combine music with nature.  You just need a willingness to take your life deeper into the realm of enchantment.


  1. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and your kind and thoughtful words.

  2. Great post! I love music and nature, and I hear the vital sounds of music in the bubbling of a brook or the rushing of a river everytime I go camping.


  3. Thank you for stopping by my blog too. Margo, I'm enjoying your relaxing visual of the river rushing by.