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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Practice--Intentional Music to Relieve Stress

peaceful photo by Patricia Herlevi
With the holidays upon us and the year winding down, most people deal with stress overload. Add to that dealing with holiday crowds in shopping malls, traffic on the highways, and calamities that occur around the planet which I think has to do with all this stress rippling out. So unwind and relax to music.

I'm going to get you started with suggestions from diverse music genres:


I suggest staying away from the wild Romantic Era composers with the exception of Tchaikovsky and listen to his ballets and sacred music (Rachmaninoff also has sacred recordings). For the most part, stick with chamber music such as string quartets, slower Mozart, Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Grieg, Sibelius, Aaron Copeland, and solo harp or cello recordings. Classical holiday music will either bring peace or strife depending on the person so use discernment and listen in to your feelings. Also try Renaissance polyphony such as Anonymous 4 or Stile Antico.

New Age

New Age is a catch-all genre that includes sound healing recordings, Native American flute, sacred chants, atmospheric piano, nature recordings, as well as, brainwave recordings. So if listening to whale songs relaxes you, go for it, followed by R. Carlos Nakai or Mary Youngblood flute recordings.

Indigenous Music

Even though I tossed Native American flute into the New Age category, traditional Native American flute, peyote songs, Native American blues guitar & flute, and harmonized vocals fall into this section. Also try traditional Hawaiian music (such as slack-key guitar), Aborigine didgeridoo, and slower African tribal music.

World Music

This category includes West African kora or even slower West African blues, harp songs (from a variety of cultures), Andes flutes, Nuevo Cancion (New Songs) of South America, Celtic songs (slower songs), Spanish guitar, polyphonic vocal music, traditional songs from Eastern Europe,  and lullabies from diverse cultures.


I recommend slow tempo instrumental jazz, but the jazz ballads could work too. I listen to Madeleine Peyroux when I feel stressed, but I also enjoy Trish Hatley's On the Quiet Side. Try Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain or Kind of Blue. I also recommend the atmospheric jazz recordings produced by the ECM label. If you prefer something more exotic, try Brazilian jazz.

I highly recommend following up with recordings of singing bowls or if you have them available, tuning forks. You can also learn how to tone (YouTube videos and books). Listen to music via headphones (low volume) for best results.

Here's to a relaxing holiday.

If you would like any further suggestions, please contact me or browse the reviews on Whole Music Experience. Also if you don't enjoy spending time on YouTube (those dang commercials), or don't have time to sift through recordings at your library, try the Putumayo compilations, but stay away from the dance music titles.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

From Folk-Rock Diva to Music Consciousness Researcher

Glenn Gould, Wikipedia, musician that changed my life
First, I would like to say even though I had some success as a former folk-rock singer-songwriter, I was never famous. And I'm okay with that given my life journey thus far which immersed me in musical traditions from around the world and awakened my consciousness. How many musicians can say that?

And what I discovered was that every moment of my journey leaves me with no regrets. I followed my heart along the way--from shattered and disturbed to healthy, whole, and complete. In my teens, I fell under the trance of rock music as many teens tend to do. The lure of the rock gods drew me in and I used their songs as catharsis during that time in my life. Then in my 20s and 30s, I followed my own path to rock diva-hood, though I never quite manifested that given the amount of anger flowing through my body, mind, and spirit. But boy, could I belt out my anger when required.

But at some point, after a long-drawn out illness that left me apartment-bound for the most part, and then two forays attending the WOMAD Festival in Redmond, Washington, I finally got that music offered me a journey, not to riches and fame, but to awakening of consciousness. And while I would never call myself enlightened, I am mindful of how my words, actions, and thoughts shape the world and ripple out to others. This is why it disturbs me sometimes to see some of my songs from the past floating around on the internet. Who knew at the time that I wrote those obscure songs that we would someday encounter the worldwide web?

Beethoven, Wikipedia, cathartic music
Some musicians are still striving for fame and fortune, while others have left those ambitions in the dust after discovering sound healing, the work of Masaru Emoto, and others involved in the consciousness movement. But even if musicians had once belted out words of anger and pain on stage and on recordings, that's just where they were at that time. We travel along a spectrum and most of us were not raised in cloistered communities where we gained meditation skills and spiritual wisdom. No, that's something we acquired by first hitting bottom and then allowing the Divine to flow through our consciousness. And some musicians might never reach that point, which to me is more valuable than trappings of the ego.

As far as music fans go, they too have a choice of where to place their conscious focus. Will they allow darker emotions and provocative words to shape their realities or will they awaken and not care if it's hip or not to listen to "new age" music or even classical music? And I'm not saying that all rock or pop songs are the equivalent of junk food, since many pop and rock songs have proven through the test of time to contain messages that save lives and awaken consciousness. I'm thinking of John Lennon's "Imagine" for instance--one of the most powerful rock songs of all time in my opinion.

Songs that help us visualize a more peaceful world can only bring us healing and understanding. Even rock and pop musicians experience spiritual epiphanies but given the nature of their fan base, record company reps, and producers (music industry in general), the messages have a harder time coming across. The music industry exists not to awaken humanity but to reel in a profit like fisherman standing on the side of a river. It's not about raising frequencies, but tuned to the bottom line profit and hopefully, this changes soon.

And like any human, musicians battle with egos. I know I did. I grappled with sound men, fumed at the way other musicians produced my demos, and felt envy for the musicians who "made it" in the business while I toiled away doing virtually everything myself from booking my shows, to hauling my equipment to playing solo since it was impossible at that time to find musicians dedicated to my music. How's that for ego? And in my mid-30s when I left the music business with the exception of writing the occasional music review for a publication, I felt bitter and resentful which took decades to reach a point of forgiveness.

And yet, I wouldn't have it any other way. With Neptune in Scorpio landing on the midheaven of my astrology chart, I was well equipped to handle my darker emotions and I relished the darker emotions of others--that is until I got so sick from all the negative vibrations that surrounded and emanated from me. And now, I'm more happy around tuning forks and singing bowls as well as, becoming a word-watcher. By that I have watched how my words and the messages of others have shaped my reality either to my liking or my detriment. I reclaim my power by wielding words wisely now. You get what you say and you get what you play. It might not return immediately, but eventually when you need your good luck the most, it fails you. It was never about luck, and about the words we use and how we use them.

This is the best I can articulate my journey from getting an on-stage buzz singing my do-it-yourself songs in my 20s and 30s to writing a book that promises to wake up some people's music awareness, Whole Music. And if you have had a similar journey, come and join me on this blog. Follow this blog and let's create a community that takes music into the next frontier. Thank you.

Also see

Vibration in Words and Music

Quantum Music

Talking about Timbre

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Vata-Pitta Experience with Music

Ayurvedic humors, Wikipedia
For those of you familiar with the Ayurvedic medical tradition of India, you will know about the three doshas--Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. You'll probably even have a handle on which dosha(s) fits your body and personality type. But did you know, that your dosha also determines the best type of music for you for healing your unique mind body spirit?

For instance, I'm a Vata-Pitta and during the windy and cold fall months, I experience an imbalance of the Vata energy which rules air and space. This causes me to feel more irritable, shaky and spaced out when the wind is blowing. The cold and dampness brings on a Kapha imbalance which rules water and cold despite my Vata predominance, yet I'm not likely to catch a cold, more likely to suffer from head aches, sore throats, and trembling.

I've tries listening to nostalgic rock songs of my past and while my mind enjoys dancing down memory lane, my nerves scream at me in pain. So right now I'm listening to Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez and the second movement calms my nerves. I've written about balancing the doshas with music earlier on Whole Music Experience and cover this topic in my upcoming book, Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit), but I've barely tapped into the role of European classical music.

Remember that Vata requires warming low-tones that move at a slower pace. I find that chamber music actually works best and so does the second movement of the above piece I mentioned, especially when the guitarist (soloist) plays on the lower register of his guitar and the notes are sustained ringing out over the orchestra as the musicians wait in silence for their cues.

I also recommend turning up the bass and listening to the classical chamber music or slow orchestral pieces on headphones. Although piano music may or may not work for Vata types, unless the pianist plays on the low end more often than not, I find that slower dreamy piano pieces even new age piano pieces calm my nervous system.

Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra, Wikipedia
I suffer Pitta imbalances mainly in the summer when the weather heats up. And oddly, I do listen to more fiery music during that time, but not always leading to greater health. Listening to too much fiery or upbeat music during the hotter days can actually fuel the temper and make it more challenging to calm anger, but it's wonderful to releasing pent up anger. But the antidote for a Pitta imbalance is actually to listen to cooler slowed down tones that stimulates the brain.  I prefer something along the lines of Aaron Copeland's Appalachian Spring or Ferde Grofe's The Grand Canyon Suite, which for some folks brings up memories of visiting the Grand Canyon or summer vacations in the American Southwest.

Also try George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue or the French Impressionist composers such as Maurice Ravel or Claude Debussy. Harps and flutes lend themselves to ideal music for Pitta when the music is played at a slow to medium tempo. Try Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun, an excellent choice for Pitta.

If you don't know your dosha type, you can look it up in magazines such as Yoga Journal or any of the new age magazines that delve into Ayurvedic traditions. In general, larger framed people with mellow personalities fall under Kapha, thin nervous types with sensitivities fall under Vata and the more fiery athletic types fall under Pitta. It is more complex than that, but this gives you at least an idea of where to begin.

I haven't covered Kapha in this article, but these folks usually require music that begins slowly and quickly builds up speed. Kaphas need to move more so I recommend dance music and getting off butts and dancing. As far classical music, listen to the works of Astor Piazzolla who combined Argentine tango with classical and jazz sensibilities or the Romantic composers, especially the Russian Romantic composers.

I hope this article is helpful for you. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment which I check often. Thank you for stopping by and exploring music consciousness with me. Each time another person wakes up their music consciousness, the world becomes more peaceful.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Whole Music--Purpose Versus Musical Genre

found on Wikipedia
When I first started researching the healing power of music I thought that only certain genres radiated healing vibrations. I thought this even though evidence came in the form of new age music that left me feeling cold, and rock or pop music that lifted my spirits or raised my energy level so that I could accomplish a task. Yet, there was another ingredient that came along that intrigued me--intent.

It's similar to the person who acts like a saint out in the community but hasn't dealt with their shadows. They wear the right labels, do the right deeds, and hand out hugs like candy to children. But you some times have to wonder about the real intent behind their deeds--is it to collect more kudos, earn recognition with some community honor or award, or are they giving from their heart?

Let's think about how this relates to music because musical genres really are arbitrary--and I tell you this after interviewing hundreds of musical artists and reviewing over a thousand recordings in music journalism career that spanned over 25 years and included radio, online, and print journalism. As a musician, I also collaborated with musicians and I have some musical training under my belt, as they say. And the conclusion that I'm reaching is that the healing power of music begins with the intent of the musician or musicians.

While it's true that certain music lends itself better to relaxing and enjoyment while getting a massage or other type of healing, we have several states of mind required to get us through our lives. And one of those is alertness which new age or Native American flute music isn't going to help much with, even if those types of music lend to a better energy healing or meditation experience. But try driving long distance listening to relaxation music--not a good idea.

And then that brings us to the definition of healing. What are we trying to heal? Are we healing an addiction and what type of addiction and what's the root cause or belief behind the addiction? Are we unblocking anger, getting over grief, or empowering ourselves for a job interview or career change? Many times when we think about healing it revolves around physical or emotional healing, and sometimes soul healing, but even those healing experiences deal with darker emotions and so sometimes we have to at least listen to a sad song briefly to release stuck emotions.

"Playing For Change logo" by Pfc_logo.jpg: Frenciscobcnderivative work: WebHamster (talk) - Pfc_logo.jpg. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons -
This doesn't mean that we don't pay attention to text. Dark text is still dark text and vibrates at a low energy which can also leave us stuck in darkness and despair. So words matter, as does musical contour. The key the music is in matters, the tone, and the performance all matter as we embark on a healing path or offer healing to others. But even more so, the musician's intent matters. Even pop musicians are capable of writing healing songs during a world or personal crisis. Think of the fundraising songs from the 1980s for the famines in African for instance or the musical collectives performing pop songs under the guise of Playing for Change.

Soul music is considered pop music, yet there are roots in the Black Church (African-American church as in gospel music and spirituals), as well as, West Africa, Brazil and other parts of Latin America. And sometimes dance offers healing and we require the right music for the job whether that is the tangos of Astor Piazzolla, salsa of the Puerto Ricans and Cubans, or soul music. I leave out disco tunes since they just provide musical chaos with all those manufactured beats. Disco reminds me too much of drugs, promiscuous sex, and the narcissism of the Me Decade. However, funk tells another story which has solid roots in the African-American and Latin American experience.

Don't get me wrong, I still feel that the music represented on this blog works for healing purposes and on individual levels especially. I'm still concerned about the musical vibrations we send out to the planet and some of the messaging in those songs which I find damaging to the planet. Hatred is never the answer and that is the lowest intent of all as is spreading fear in the world. Purposeful musicians I would hope align themselves with love and peace while staying mindful of their own moods and beliefs. No one is perfect, but we are evolving.

If you would like to comment on this topic, feel free. I'm open to dialogue about healing the world through music.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Music Experiment (Swinging Moods)

I'm going to include 5 music videos here from different genres. Please listen to or watch the videos with headphones and keep track of the changing of your moods. If you keep a music diary, then write down your emotions and physical effects to the various tracks.

Be aware of nostalgic memories, mood you began with, attitudes towards certain genres, and it's best to close your eyes while listening, at least one time through the process. Watching the video will dilute the effect of listening to the music.

This exercise is to track moods caused by musical vibration. Notice timbre, chords, scales, contours of the melodies or harmonies. If you're a trained musicians this will be easier, but we can all do it.

First here is a track by the rock band R.E.M who at this time was more folk and acoustic sounding. This is off the band's first EP, Chronic Town.

Second, we're going to listen to the French swing band Paris Combo, a bouncy song called Living Room.

Third, we'll listen to a folk anthem cover performed by the 10,000 Maniacs

Fourth, will listen to a track by Miles Davis off his Kind of Blue album

And finally, we'll listen to a classical piece by Claude Debussy.

Some of the tracks have text which cause us to visualize scenarios while other tracks are instrumental so just use your imagination. However, remember to track your moods.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My Love Affair...with Music

When did my love affair with music begin? Was it while I swam in the waters of my mother's womb when she played old jazz standards and Broadway tunes for me? Was it during my first music class in elementary school? Was it after John Lennon's untimely death when I played Beatles albums back to back and cried quietly in the background? Or was it during my college radio show when I discovered alternative rock and folk-rock music? Or was it the first time I heard one of Astor Piazzolla's tangos sizzle on my stereo?

With a human-to-human love affair we know when we first taste love on the lips of another or see it in the eyes of another as he or she gazes at us from across a room. But what is it about music that has some of us going gaga or giggling behind a veil of indifference? And what is music anyway? It's intangible and we can't hold it in our hands? We can't really embrace something intangible, but our emotions can. I happen to believe that the strongest force on the planet is music. There is nothing more powerful to align us with the Divine or to separate us with a wall of hatred or indifference between us.

Music calls the shots and its frequencies direct our emotions and shapes our moods. When a marching band blasts its way down the streets, a part of us marches along with them. Try not tapping your feet or swaying a bit. When the orchestra launches into a tango suddenly we're all looking around for a dance partner or at the very least, we catch ourselves swooning and thinking sensual thoughts, sometimes against our will.

I have immersed myself in more music traditions than I can name in a blog posts, but let's just say I'm well acquainted with field recordings hailing from places the average person can't even pronounce much less find on a globe. I grew up with the usual pop music, turned to alternative rock in the 1980s and 1990s, and then discovered world, then jazz, then classical, then early music, while landing back in traditional or folkloric music. I've pounded a drum in drum circles, I've attended sound healing circles, and I've joined my voice and other musical talents in jam sessions or played solo mainly.

Astor Piazzolla, Wikipedia
I have no idea what my brain looks like on music, but I would shudder to see what it looks like if I never had the musical training or experiences that I have had. As a journalist then later a music researcher, I'm on board with deep listening skills. I hear the subtleties which is why I enjoy classical music to the extent that I do. I know a lot about music. I hosted and produced radio shows centered on music, interviewed musicians for over 20 years, reviewed over a thousand recordings easily, and became a lifelong learner in regard to musical traditions and musical healing practices. I don't know where I end and music begins.

I've met people in my lifetime who have little to do with music. These people are often suffering from an illness or malaise. But I also know people who suffer from certain brain conditions or hearing conditions, don't enjoy the musical journey. But for everyone else, ask yourself, when did your love affair with music begin? Feel free to leave comments below.

Mindfulness verses Brain-Science & Music

In 2005, I came up with the concept of Power Songs because as a journalist, I noticed the effects of certain music on my daily activities and moods. Then shortly after that, I came up with the concept of keeping a  music diary based on the food elimination diet and food allergy journal. So I'm surprised to find a book published in 2012 that combines brain science with music playlists.

Your Playlist Can Change Your Life by Galina Mindlin, Don Durousseau and Joseph Cardillo (Source Books, 2012), offers an easy and flowing read that revolves around using everyday music to boosts moods, relax the mind, organize the mind, create more dopamine in the brain, and so on. The authors also include exercises which are basically how-to sections on how to change your brain and neurological patterns without side effects (though some of the songs on their playlist have text messaging I wouldn't want floating around in my brain's pathways).

While I do understand that including lists with pop music (the late Don Campbell and Daniel Levitin also included rock and pop music references in their books), I prefer using purposeful music where the musicians had set intentions for healing and wholeness in their listeners. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed reading about the latest brain science in such a flowing and easy-to-digest manner. I also enjoyed reading about the patients finding success using music as opposed to drugs in working with brain-related issues. The authors (though it comes off as advertising for their practices), mention Brain Music Therapy where a practitioner records an individual's brainwaves and turns it into songs for the person to use as therapy. This is the next waves of pharma-music (I'm coining this phrase).

My mission has always been to raise awareness of how we listen to and apply music to our daily lives. My approach is to delve into music from around the world and throughout history. I think moving away from pop culture and exploring deeper territory is what's needed here. How well is sound healing going to work on an individual who turns on the radio station after a session and listens to Metallica? I admit I'm a musical snob but I still promote the idea of purposeful music even if we can only start where we are at this point. However, someone who listens to heavier songs can at least try listening to African pop music or more rhythmic jazz. At least I think so.

Still, we now know (even in pop culture) that music lights up areas of our brains. We know that music changes moods and that some moods are healthier than others. But if we're going to change our attitudes too then watching lyrical content which can easily turn into negative or positive mantras (which we know has metaphysical power), is crucial to our well-being.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Returning to the Healing Power of Music (Musician's Role for a New Age)

We've all known someone who experienced music being used in a hospital, hospice, peace vigil, peace rally, or other situation that involves healing. The wisdom of the ancients in regard to music has also returned to us via sound healing practices and music therapy, even in our daily lives. 

However, even knowing that music has a powerful transformational effect on our lives isn't enough unless we use music with intention and purpose. Obviously, we know that when we attend a rock concert or even a jazz concert we do so for entertainment. But often when we attend a world or traditional music concert or festival, the musicians usually educate us about the history, text, and even sometimes the healing properties of songs that they perform. In fact, it was when I delved into global music starting in 2003, that I learned about ancient history of musical uses.

And we can visit the healing of music through several avenues whether that's new age sound healing or academic and scientific music therapy or cultural anthropology focusing upon musical vibration. I have delved into all three as a journalist and now as a music researcher. I hold no academic degrees in music therapy or anthropology, but I do know how my own body reacts to vibration (even though we are all essentially different). Still, we have some truisms such as hateful text is not going to result in healing of any kind. The reason for that is hate is based on fear and dualism which means that we separate ourselves from the Divine or God or Source, whatever name you choose to use.

We live in a vibrational universe. Our thoughts, emotions, feelings and actions all contain vibration or frequencies. And since it is humans that create music for humans (leaving non-humans out of this particular post), our thoughts, feelings, and emotions end up in the final product. This is why it's of importance for musicians to pray or meditate before recording or performing music. The more aware musicians don't move forward without acknowledging their energy and I have run into this several times in interviewing musicians for this blog and for other publications.

The days of the egoist musician are about to end. We are remembering our griot roots whether or not we have African DNA because I'm using griot lightly here and inclusive. The role of the musician for this new age is to report what's happening in the vibrational field and not so much what fearful activities are happening the world which we recognize as illusions anyway. The musician's role these days is to raise their vibration to uplift others through music or organized sound. This does suggests a new type of music education that revolves around certain scales (some ancient), harmonies, text, and metaphysical wisdom.

Many of the music discoveries we made in recent years were either through synchronicity or seemingly through accident or what some people would call coincidence. But beyond all of that, what I believe is happening is that musicians recall their ancient music wisdom either through their DNA lineage such as with a griot or someone of another musical class (think India), or they are recalling what musician roles they performed in previous lifetimes. While practices such as music therapy appear new (or at least deriving from the early 20th Century), they are in fact ancient since the Greeks and Egyptians (and others) knew about the connection between musical vibrations and healing the mind, body, and spirit.

We know that sound healing has ancient roots as we have learned with the work of Jonathan Goldman and his contemporaries. So if you are a musician, it behooves you to study metaphysics and even energy healing. Many of you are already studying or practicing music therapy. BTW, music therapy is rising in popularity and several colleges and universities offer it in their programs. Do a Google search to find out which universities offer programs.

If you enjoy the articles on this blog, please join as a follower. Thank you. Let's get the word out on an important book, Whole Music and build a strong platform for it. This paves the way for publication.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Global Music Consciousness in Science & Metaphysics

Recently, I spoke to a woman on the bus about the rise in popularity of music therapy. I told her about brain and music studies from the last decade. The most remarkable aspect of music as medicine is that it has no side effects and if you find the right music for the condition, miracles happen. So what do we focus upon these days?

I believe that we will continue with the brain-music science and that will play out in the medical community in larger ways. I doubt pharmaceutical companies will enjoy competing with sound vibration, especially purposeful sound vibration, but with fewer side effects and research to back up the healing power of music, why would we toss out this healing tool? Of course, there is the danger of companies creating formulaic music or musical formulas to heal various ailments which they'll find a way to package and market. If people find that they're getting the right results this is not a bad way to go, however, let's not lose the organic qualities of music and turn it into sound drugs.

We will continue in the metaphysical field to study the magical and frequency aspects of music. Sound vibrations dovetail with manifestation practices. We will continue to chant seed sounds and I see sound healing becoming a household practice in the decades ahead. Tuning forks and singing bowls will no longer be considered too new age for the average person. And any of you working in the sound healing or energy healing fields would do well to teach workshops so that people use these powerful tools in intentional ways for the best effects.

We can also use music or sound vibrations to heal the environment, animals, and work with elements. But save this work for the healing masters since this involves setting powerful intentions and involves elements of shamanism. Meanwhile, keep you eyes on the following musicians and musical healers in the coming years.

Jonathan Goldman, Daniel Levitin (research), Joshua Leeds (psychoacoustic research), R. Carlos Nakai (musician/composer)Christine Stevens and Alesandra Belloni.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Awakening through Music (Hidden Power In Purposeful Music)

Around 2003, I turned away from my freelance gig as a movie reviewer/journalist and I experienced world music pulling me into greater consciousness. And while I was awakening, scientists were exploring music consciousness, musicians explored the music connection with non-humans, and music therapy grew by leaps and bounds bringing healing to prisons, hospitals, hospices, and other situations to heal despair.

Let's revisit some of the profound awakenings we experience in previous years and decades revolving around the healing power of music.

Around 2005, we discovered Masaru Emoto's work with water crystals and human consciousness via music. And around the same time various well-known sound healers were exploring the ancient practices with sound and music. Meanwhile, the connection between quantum physics and music fused with the work of metaphysical teachers and authors such as Greg Braden.

I launched this blog in 2007 and mostly reviewed recordings that I felt played into music consciousness even when reviewing traditional or world music recordings. Purposeful music comes in many forms. While I was writing reviews I came across music projects that bridged cultures such as the Playing for Change in which musicians from around the world all sung the same song but in different locations. Thanks to technology these tracks were overlaid on top of each other in a moving way.

Meanwhile, world music continued to grow as more people attended music festivals such as WOMAD and traditional musicians married technology with traditional instruments thus attracting younger audiences. Thanks the internet and YouTube, we discovered nomadic musicians from the Sahara Desert and built stronger ties with veteran musicians. Music journalism was on the rise and so was an interest in ethnomusicology with such books as Song Catchers arriving on the scene.

Early music in the form of Gregorian and plainsong chants of Hildegard von Bingen captured the awareness of Christians and non-Christians seeking music for relaxation and spiritual peace. Renaissance polyphony choirs grabbed my attention around 2006 when I penned several articles and reviews on the topic, then later included a chapter on this type of song in my book Whole Music.

Finally, for the sake of this blog post (keeping it on the shorter side), several projects revolved around consciousness in regard to nature and music. Concert Pianist Lisa Spector and Sound Therapist-Research Joshua Leeds teamed up with the Through a Dog's Ear book and recordings. The late Marjorie De Muynck blended field recordings from the natural world with sound healing and jazz instruments with her recordings while reminding us of our shamanic roots. David Rothenberg took his musical instruments out into nature and jammed with insects, whales, and birds. And the Saami yoik which represents a chant to a person, place, or thing (usually animals or people) continued to fascinate me and others. And let's not forget the Thai Elephant Orchestra which blew my mind. Who knew elephants could play musical instruments?

We've come along way with music conscious over the past decades. However, I worry that we're falling back asleep and going with the status quo. Please help me to keep us awake in regard to the healing power of music. Pass the word on about this blog and create a buzz for my book, Whole Music. I invite other musical healers to also write and publish more books on the topic. We've made progress so let's not stop now.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Journey into Music Consciousness

When I grew up surrounded by music I had no concept of consciousness. Like many people I meet these days I listened to any type of music that came my way and I melded with it. I understand staying open to diversity, however, not all music leads us on the path to wholeness and healing.

My mother tells me that she played music for my siblings and me while we swam in the womb and then later during our development years. Sitting on my mother's bed, I fell into trances as music from my mother's favorite radio station drifted into the room. But I still didn't know about music consciousness. Information about music and the brain hadn't arrived yet, and no one was thinking of music as a healing balm even if we felt better listening to it while we slept in bed recovering from the flu.

These days we have ample information about the brain and music, hospice care and music, as well as, healing in music. Drummers start drumming circles as a way of building community, celebrating diversity, and allowing us to connect with our primal instincts while healing our root chakras. Most people I would imagine feel safe in the sanctity of a drum circle or in a room of dancing people all connected to the heartbeat of Mother Earth. It's hard to drum and not smile at the same time. Drumming brings relief.

Before I developed self-consciousness, I could walk up to any piano or instrument and play it without worry about whether that sounded good or not. Prior to developing critical skills I saw music as play and I enjoyed it immensely as any young child would. No one told me that I couldn't carry a tune and no one told me back then that I had no sense of rhythm. One of my favorite toys (though it didn't last long) was a set of plastic orchestra instruments. I was around 4 or 5 years of age, learning the difference between a trumpet and a French horn. I also remember some children playing with toy xylophones (I wanted one).

As I grew older, I immersed myself in pop culture and became a trivia expert about pop musicians, but deep down I thought of them as saviors. They articulated the experiences that I had no words for at that time. I suffered from depression and angst and not knowing the Law of Attraction yet, I mistook listening to moody songs as a healing balm. But did this lead me to thinking like a victim? Music consciousness had still not arrived on the scene, nor was I spiritually aware yet.

Then in the midst of my life as a folk rock musician who obsessed over the moody and melancholy music (think the label 4 A.D.), a woman approached me while I was visiting a spiritual shop. She asked me what I did. I told her I was a rock musician and I might of well have pooped on the floor given the expression on her face. "Don't you know that you are spreading negative  vibes in the world?" Was this the same as spreading cooties on a playground? While I was taken back by this lady, and I think I defended myself, I didn't give it much thought and I continued on my life journey towards music consciousness.

Then the late Masaru Emoto came along with his water crystals which he exposed to different types of music. While reviewing one of his books, I felt chills running up and down my spine. Gazing at the exquisite crystals, tears rolled down my face and I had awakened but then what? What do you do when you awaken to music consciousness while everyone else in the proverbial gym snored next to me? I tried shouting the message, but that just caused people to shun me. I tried blogging the message and that reached a few people, but not many. I sneaked in metaphysics into my world music reviews, and then later classical music reviews and that went okay. Then I created this blog and then wrote a scholarly book (not published at this time).

Now, I hear that publishers aren't looking for any books on music consciousness because they claim there is no interest. Is this true? How can we have lost the glistening thread when music is accredited to saving lives, changing lives, building bridges between cultures, giving people spiritual respite and taking people on the journey into the next world (hospice care)? What about all the brain-music science touted on PBS and in books by Oliver Sacks and Daniel Levitin? What about the Mozart Effect, sound healing, and music therapy which continues to attract new practitioners? Are we going to turn our backs before we awaken the planet with music?

If you would like to see the publication of my book Whole Music, join me on Twitter, Google+, Linked In and follow this blog.  Let's start some meaningful dialogues regarding awakening with music.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

21st Century Musical Healer Series--Fred Clarke Alvarez

Fred Clarke Alvarez
Tuning the Andes & Nature as Sound Scape

I met the multimedia artist and sound healer Fred Clarke Alvarez on my Linked In group, Musical Healers. His work with healers, musicians, and teachers from the Andes possesses both a compassionate and adventurous patina. Fred builds instruments that hail to further back than the Incan Empire. They include a variety of flutes, lutes, and percussion instruments that most westerners, at least in pop culture, have never encountered.

Fred's approach is to heal others in a more or less shamanic-conscious way that blends the healing power of sound with frequencies found in the natural world. Prior to venturing into music and sound healing, Fred's background is in photography and film making. I personally believe that visual as well as, musical expression have the power to transform society when used correctly and with conscious intention of healing.

With no further ado, here's my e-mail interview with Fred, who at the time was on route in California. 

Whole Music Exp: In your biography on your website you mention that you started out as a photographer and filmmaker and then you discovered Native Peruvian healers and medicine in 1998. When you discovered this medicine, did you also discover sound healing practices related to it?

Fred Clarke Alvarez: I discovered Wachuma (Echinopsis Pachanoi) native medicine from Peru, when I was in the school. But in 1998, I had my first deep experience, which started to change my life in meaningful ways. After that experience by myself, I decided to go further. I lived in the jungle and Andes. During that time I met and learnt through different healing traditions and healers their sound/music healing practices in different rituals and sessions through chants, flutes, drums, rattles, and shells, among other instruments. After that experience I understood the relation sound as medicine = sound healing. 

WME: You also mention that you rebuilt instruments based on ancient Peruvian instruments. When you say ancient, how far back are you going—the the Incan Empire? What sparked your journey with these instruments?

FCA: I went further. I started to explore with Pre-Incan instruments, from cultures like Nasca, Chavin, Mochica, Chincha, Ischma, Inca, among others. I started to explore making flutes and antaras (pan flutes) with bamboo, bones, and feathers. That spark came to me during my early years working with native medicines and healers in the jungle, as wildlife as well. I experienced the magic and healing power of sound and music working in myself, in my life path. A simple flute took me into another step of the spiral, reaching a new understanding, and consciousness about sound healing and Peruvian ancient healing sound traditions. After that I started my sound-healing path, searching about different Peruvian ancient instruments and healing techniques. Meetings with different native healers, musicologists, archeologists, and sound healers inspired my work and research in deep ways.   

WME: You have four recordings featured on your website. I am especially interested in Paqarina (instrumental with nature sounds) and Willka Una al Agua (a studio album) which you play flutes and on the second album a type of lute. What are the main medicine features of these two albums? (I did find them relaxing).

FCA: Both albums are related and inspired by the water. Paqarina and Willka Unu are in Runasimi language, native tongue of the Andes. Paqarina means a source of life. In the Andean culture it could be a spring, a lake, a river, the ocean--where life can emerge. Willka Unu means sacred (willka) water (unu)-- so both of them are working with the water element as a conductor for healing and connection. I like to work with nature sounds as part of the healing process, so I have recorded from jungle, Andes and coast from Peru, rivers, creeks, ocean, birds, rain, storms, blending them with the ancient instruments. In Willka Unu, the nature sounds goes through jungle, Andes and coast doing the circular dynamic of water from the sky to the ocean, giving an “end” with a poem to the water written and spoken in Runasimi language (mistakenly known as Quechua language). 

In Paqarina I used different nature sounds and instruments as well. I used Nasca pan flutes with the sound of waves, as Nasca people are deeply connected to the ocean, pelican quills flute, eagle bone flute, double flute, among others. The charango is a string instrument from the Andes, inspired by the Spanish guitar. There weren’t string instruments in ancient Peru. This instrument became a profound musical symbol of the Peruvian Andes, which I started to work with in my sound healing sessions and in the next albums. 

WME: You also mention that you co-founded a sustainable intentional community, Chirapa Menta Ecolodge. Is this eco-village based around sound healing and music therapy?

FCA: At the beginning of 2005, I was part of a sustainable intentional community effort, which we were trying to put in practice and learn from nature and each other to live in harmony, respect and consciousness. Years later, two of my dear friends continued living there and created Chirapa Manta Eco lodge, a center for healings arts, ecology, sustainability, intercultural exchange, and healthy nutrition. I will offer this year, probably in OCT/NOV 2015, a workshop about sound healing/sacred connection with nature through meditation, sound of nature, walks, energy work among other activities up there in the high jungle/Tarapoto, in Chirapa Manta Eco Lodge.

WME: With your background in music, energy medicine and visual arts, have you ever combined all of that in a healing practice? And how do you feel about movie soundtrack composers who don’t use music mindfully? I ask this since music has the power not only to sway our emotions (manipulation in some instances), but we entrain to it.

FCA: Not yet. I have started to do some short documentaries about inspiring stories of people who work and keep creating a better ways to live in harmony with nature and ourselves, like animal assistance therapy (dogs, llamas, and horses), ethnomusicology, ancient weaving tradition from Peru, sustainability, healthy food, among others topics. I am using my music as well for editing the video. So my intention to combine video and music as a healing tool is to share and open mind/hearts into a new awareness and consciousness--to inspire. One of the next video projects I have in mind is to talk about sound and its healing approaches through different healers and perspectives.  
About the movie soundtrack composers they are musicians doing “their work”. They don’t have any sound healing background and consciousness about it, something that for me is a waste of energy or ignorance/manipulation that in music schools or in most of the educational pedagogies, don’t see and teach music and sound as a healing tool in itself with awareness and responsibility to use it in “better” ways, understanding the huge power and effects of sound and music on people and our whole environment. A huge part of the music and film industry is using music and sound to persuade and manipulate emotions, “to entertain”, to sell and get more material power. It’s an unfortunate reality, but we are changing and trying to bring that harmony, as nature does, finding harmony between chaos and order.