This is not to say that all pop music is mindless as I found in my research that some pop songs are deeply therapeutic even if the musicians had little knowledge of this healing potential when they recorded or performed the songs. And then there is music which just adds more noise to an already chaotic background. We also need to look at psychological manipulation embedded in some music, especially background music in public places and used as commercial jingles to get us to buy products or change our behaviors in ways that don't benefit us.
Closing: Super Music Versus Junk Music
Like many other Americans, I spent my childhood eating junk food and listening to pop music. Both the junk food and commercial music provided quick fixes and temporary comfort followed by agitation and hyperactivity later. While food allergies and sensitivities increase in our society, I developed sensitivities to heavily programmed music without a strong melody, or natural rhythms (in sync with the natural heartbeat). I escaped into the worlds of jazz, classical, folkloric, and indigenous music. However, some pop music, such as the Beatles with strong melodies and interwoven harmonies provides its own type of healing.
In my twenties, I gravitated towards alternative rock. It’s as if I needed to evolve spiritually, physically, and intellectually before I could appreciate music genres from other cultures and traditions. Fortunately, when I was in my late thirties, the WOMAD Festival presented by Peter Gabriel came to Redmond, Washington and left me open to more healing music possibilities. WOMAD accomplished this mission by preserving music traditions, building a community among global musicians and new audiences, and presenting music events in natural settings.
At the same time when I first attended WOMAD USA, I had also started eating whole foods and eliminating all junk food from my diet, a process that would progress through a decade. I found this transition challenging since like others, I experienced an addiction to certain sounds and foods. A comparison between whole foods and holistic music seemed obvious to me at the time. As I ate whole grains and vegetables, I started researching the effects of various types of music on my body. I created a de-facto music lab in my Seattle apartment and I started an elimination process of electronic and most rock music.
Vibration + Intention = Music
One of my favorite food and cooking books at the time was Paul Pitchford’s Healing with Whole Foods, in which the author spoke about “vibrational cooking” while referring to Macrobiotics and Chinese medicine in regard to diet. Pitchford devoted a section of the book to the types of healing that each food (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds), could provide. And in each section, the foods were listed by temperature (cold, cooling, warm, and warming). Later, when I created a workshop for balancing Ayurvedic doshas with music, temperature surfaced again, but this time with different ragas I brought to the workshop.
I focused on ragas because this music connects to a specific season, time of day, or mood. Each dosha represents qualities such as air, space, fire, water, and earth and certain qualities balance each dosha. For instance, a Vata dosha (air and space), grows tense and overly sensitive when out of balance. In the realm of a food diet, warm and heavier foods balance this dosha; slow, soft, and warm music balances this dosha too.
Finding the right raga for each dosha proved challenging, so I also brought in western music (classical and jazz), to help balance doshas. Using the Vata dosha as an example again, a slow cello piece by J.S. Bach would also balance this dosha, especially during the Vata hours of 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.; 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Kapha people benefit from the opposite scenario and balance their dosha by listening to music that begins softly and slowly then picks up speed and intensity. Since Kapha hours fall between 6:00 and 10:00 a.m. (and 6:00 p.m. and 10 p.m.), Kapha people need music that will roll them out of bed, rather than permitting them to hit the snooze button.
Pitta’s with their tendency towards fiery tempers balance their dosha with soft, cooling and intellectually stimulating music. I know one woman with this dosha who prefers listening to harp music upon waking each morning. Harp music varies in complexity. The Pitta hours of the day are 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.
Here Comes Super Music
I imagine that what we call super foods (blue-green algae, gogi berries, quinoa, etc) fall under higher vibration foods, just as a Mozart concerto or an Indian kirtan represent higher frequencies. When eating super foods, less is more and ultimately satisfying while giving the body the energy that it requires. Less is more for high-frequency music, especially when the intention of the composer and performers also carry the high vibration of love.
While super foods provide antioxidants in the form of micronutrients, musical composers built super music through scales, chord progressions, melodies, and rhythms that recharged or relaxed the body. Entrainment and resonance play key roles, along with intentional frequencies when musicians and poets channel Divine Love. Saint Hildegard von Bingen comes to mind as do, ancient Egyptians, Dogon, Indian (subcontinent), and American Indians.
Speaking of ancient music, ancient Egyptians discovered quantum physics, along with the ancient Dogon people. In his book, Healing Sounds Jonathan Goldman mentioned, “In the ancient mystery schools, the priests and magicians were often also musicians. Many great scientists of ancient times (such as Pythagoras), were also versed in esoteric knowledge. Their wisdom stemmed from the understanding of the universe that is now only being qualified in arenas such as quantum physics...”
Ancient and contemporary indigenous people also work with intention and frequency for healing and other purposes. As you have read in the pages of Whole Music, it’s not enough to eat a healthy diet of whole foods and listen to junk music, or to listen to whole music and eat junk food. In order for a healing modality to work at its best, we need to take the wider view of our entire life. A person versed in music consciousness knows that certain chords, rhythms, and text will cause tension in their mind and body, just as a person with a clean diet experiences a headache after indulging in a food they had eliminated from their diet much earlier.
According to Ted Andrews (Sacred Sounds), the ancient storytellers who employed music to dramatize their stories knew which harmonies created tension and which ones brought peace of mind. For instance, the perfect octave “...elicits a feeling of rest. It is the energy union, the male and female coming into a new wholeness of expression.” Whereas Andrews wrote, a fifth--“will stimulate the feelings of movement and power.”
Musicians can also work with chords and melodies in this manner while using their lyrics for the storytelling text. Think of contemporary music storytellers such as Julie Fowlis of traditional Scottish music and jazzman Gregory Porter, who would have just worked with their instincts to create the right amount of tension and release with their songs.
These musicians are among modern day troubadours who combine reporting events with a magical play upon words. Globally, poets and musicians from every language and culture join in this musical empowerment--power to the people through music. These days, we bring this world of musicians together with projects like Playing for Change, founded by music producer Mark Johnson and videographer Jonathan Walls that brings musicians from across the globe together to perform one song at a time. The music builds community and promotes peace under these circumstances.
However, in the hands of musicians inexperienced with working with intentional sound and words, the results can be devastating. Think of genres of music fueled by anger, racism, sexism, and hatred. The power of words in these cases, create black holes in our cells. Music has throughout history also been used to control, and manipulate through rhythmic entrainment such as in Nazi Germany. In contrast, Ted Andrews (Sacred Sounds), cited that during ancient Egypt, the builders employed a chorus of 12,000 singers and a 600-piece orchestra to assist with the process. Sound, when used intentionally, can build pyramids or divide societies.
As mentioned earlier in this book, Japanese water researcher Masaru Emoto (Hidden Message of Water), discovered that when he played recordings by Mozart, Chopin, and Beethoven to bottles of water, then froze the water and used high-speed photography, perfect water crystals formed. But when Emoto played heavy metal to bottles of water, black holes formed.
During the summer of 2012, I watched the Olympic Games on television and wondered about the state of my cells each time a commercial came on the air with aggressive electric guitars. I certainly wasn’t going to buy the product advertised and was more likely to turn off the TV. While I felt irritated by the screeching guitar, other viewers felt energized and probably ran out and bought the products advertised. It’s a matter of conscious awareness.
Whole Music Ingredients
Since each of us are different physically, emotionally, and mentally, how do we determine what is junk music for us personally? The majority of people I meet, especially outside of metaphysical communities, lack an awareness of psychoacoustic basics (the study of sound on the nervous system), such as rhythmic entrainment, and resonance, or how music affects brainwaves. For these people, I recommend a music detoxification and sound retreat.
Spend at least two days in silence, with just natural sounds. The sounds of birds, crickets, frogs, brooks, and trees dancing in the wind possess healing vibrations, which is why sound- healers record wildlife for their CDs.
If the food elimination diet offers any indication of withdrawal symptoms such as irritation or even tasting the eliminated foods, a music elimination diet will also provide challenges. The person might hear a loop of the same song playing in her thoughts, or the person who normally finds comfort from music might feel depressed and irritable when faced with silence. However, by eliminating music for two or more days, we clean our palettes. Similar to the food elimination diet, we reintroduce music a little at a time while tracking emotional and physical effects of that music.
Raising Music Awareness
My mission is to empower through music; to build music awareness and to inspire music lovers to explore unfamiliar music traditions. A possibility exists that the reason many people feel worn out and in bad health correlates to their music, as well as, food diet. If our thoughts create our reality, then what would happened if we stopped listening to the type of music that creates black holes in our cells or that interferes with our natural rhythms?
Choosing music for our home, our bodies, and our lives, comes down to choosing between living an unconscious life of fear where we allow others to control our state-of-mind, or choosing an empowerment fueled by love vibrations. Just like we choose to eat whole organic foods, we choose whole music to create harmony in our lives.
As we build our music consciousness, we can also choose to visit businesses that create healthy environments with higher frequency music, and we can pass laws against booming car stereos, which is harmful to our well-being. Together we create a healthier sonic environment and a peaceful planet.
Choose your music wisely for your personal use and for your home. Educate the music industry about music consciousness and choose healthy music with your consumer dollars. The entertainment business produces aggressive music because it turns a profit, even if it fuels anger and hatred in youth. The entertainment business, just like the mainstream food business, doesn’t care about low-vibration effects on your body, but you have a choice to support independent musicians and organizations that care about the health of the planet.
We empower ourselves by the music we choose and by doing this, we reawaken a consciousness from ancient times where some cultures forbade children to listen to some types of music deemed only appropriate for adults. What would happen in contemporary times, if we exposed children to global music traditions beginning at birth? All cultures provide lullabies and children’s songs as well as appropriate stories with music. Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf comes to mind.
I remember a saying from the 1960s, “Feed your Head,” and though I realize this saying had to do with psychotropic drug use, we could repurpose the saying to read, “feed your head with whole music” which would allow you to develop greater brain capacity, calm your nervous system, and open your heart. What would Amadeus say about that?
Excerpt from "Whole Music" by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved
Copyright at the Library of Congress