Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Practice--Consciousness vs. Intention

A lesson I've learned over the years researching music revolves around intention verses consciousness.  Of course, a musician or music listener could align consciousness with intention, but usually I witness one or the other.  For instance, promoters of sporting events tend to blast loud rock music to invigorate athletes and rouse the attendees.  However, loud rock music also can cause hearing loss, weaken the immune system (when the body goes into fight or flight) and interrupt the body's natural rhythms.  So in this case, we have intention minus consciousness.

On the other hand, we could have consciousness in the form of music produced for specific purposes such as a sleep aid, a digestion aid or to boost energy, but the person listening to the music doesn't pay attention to the original intention of the music.  So if someone listens to a recording for relaxation while driving a car, he or she might find themselves losing alertness and in a worst case scenario, fall asleep at the wheel.  And while this sounds like a no-brainer, I'm surprised how little intention someone brings to the music they play, as musicians or music lovers.

One more example reveals the intention of store managers to play music in their stores with the intention of keeping customers aroused and in a shopping mood, if not just a mindless state.  While the intention to control moods of the shoppers reaps rewards in the form of shoppers staying in the store longer and buying products that originally had no intention of purchasing, consciousness is often missing by the type of unhealthy music drifting through stores or shopping malls.

Ideally, we need to combine intention with consciousness by stating our purpose for the music we compose, perform or play for ourselves or the public.  Our consciousness grows when we learn music theory as well as, basic psychoacoustic principles such as how music resonates with our bodies and entrains our mind body souls.  We also build our consciousness by remembering that human bodies are actually more fragile than we believe. Blasting music at an event or in a store causes hearing loss which can lead to learning disabilities and other health complications.  Do we want to cause this harm in others?  Altering body rhythms to suit our business or other needs comes off as controlling.  If we want to get people to buy products then use some other form of advertising or carry high quality products at affordable prices rather than manipulate someone's psychological state through sound vibration.

Most societies on earth at the moment have a long way to go in developing music consciousness, practicing pure intention and aligning with a healing purpose.  Unfortunately, starting in the renaissance with music publishing and then later, record companies, we have turned a sacred art into a commodity battling competition in the marketplace.  I would guess that our ancient ancestors when they discovered altered consciousness through the beating of a drum and fashioned the first flutes from eagle and swan bones didn't predict a time in history where music would lose its sacred connection to the earth and heavens.  Sadly, even Gregorian Chant with its sacred origins has become just another product in people's minds, a curious fascination or perhaps in a best case scenario, a healing aid.

What I know is this, if we choose to heal the planet, then we must grow more music conscious while aligning pure intention with a harmonious purpose.  Music has incredible power and when used the wrong way or in the wrong hands, can cause destruction.  Ancient Egyptians harnessed the power of music to build pyramids and other structures.  At least one Greek philosopher made a connection between dissonant music and fall of civilization and if you haven't noticed music has grown increasingly dissonant and chaotic over the centuries.

Steps we can take to developing music consciousness: 

Step One: Start a Music Diary and record every song listened to in the course of a day, or at least the ones most noticed.  Track physical, emotional and mental responses to that particular song.

Step Two: Learn about ancient music when intention and consciousness were still aligned.  Narrow it down to one particular type of music or musical tradition then do the research.

Step Three: Take a hard look at your record collection and weed out any recording that no longer leaves you feeling uplifted or in balance.  Donate or recycle the CDs.  Best Buy recycles CDs or you can donate them to a local library.

Step Four: Write in your diary how your musical choices have evolved over time.  As we grow spiritually and mature into adulthood, our musical tastes change.

Step Five: Find a high vibration music such as Mozart, Gregorian Chant, indigenous music etc to explore.  Listen to recordings that call to you, even from the library shelves.

Step Six: Learn how to use music consciously and intentionally in your daily life.  For instance, some music such as Bach's ensemble music at a medium tempo helps with food digestion.  Chopin's nocturnes work well as sleep aids (not because the music is boring, but because it is deeply relaxing).  Portuguese fados or American blues offer catharsis.

And so on...

I'll be teaching Whole Music workshop at East West Books in Seattle May 10 and 11.  Visit for details or to preregister for the workshop.

German pagan folk I found recently on YouTube: (Faun)