The Power of Music
Entertainment isn't the whole story
Here in the West, we think of music as entertainment, or an accompaniment to entertainment. Most of us can't remember life without phonograph records, cassette tapes or Compact Discs and the artists we all have listened to on them. The great majority of radio stations exist to play music, and there is hardly a minute on TV - other than news shows - that doesn't have theme music, background music or commercial music.
But as much as we enjoy different kinds of music, it is all of one purpose: to entertain. We have The Music Business and The Entertainment Business. Why else would we listen to music besides entertainment?
In the past, and in other parts of the world today, there are definitely other reasons. The classical Master Beethoven, for example, was justly famous for being able to evoke specific emotions in his listeners, and wrote pieces that we still listen to today to evoke joy, sadness, loss and return. His piano sonata Les Adieux couldn't be clearer if he had written a short story: two lovers part, they experience their loneliness, but are joyfully reunited in the last movement. The ability of music to evoke emotions is its first and most obvious power, and we shall return to it again.
Physical and mental effects
Some types of music can relax us. After a stressful work day, classical music, certain types of jazz, or our favorite ballad singer can physically relax our bodies and distract our minds from the cares of the day - at least for a while. On the other hand, loud, fast music with a strong beat can exhilarate (or bother) us. In fact, sometimes we may prefer one kind of music or artist, and at other times that's the last thing we want to listen to.
So we have all experienced music's physical and mental effects on us at one time or another. In fact, the mental effect is so strong at times, a few lines from a song can keep running through our minds despite our efforts to ignore them or make them stop.
There are other ways music affects us emotionally. One way can be most clearly demonstrated by movie music. Music signals us when something scary, threatening or ominous is about to happen. If you close your eyes in an action, horror or thriller movie, you can pretty much tell what's happening on the screen by the music alone. The same is true for a romance. Film composers such as John Williams get paid big money for their ability to shift your emotions from moment to moment. Movie theme music - such as Williams' Star Wars theme - can make us practically march out of the theater, our shoulders thrown back, determined to vanquish our own foes. (And sometimes we just hope one will show up right then so we can spring into action.) Our self-confidence has been affected, and it is as much due to the movie music as the movie story and visuals.
So what's going on between us and this music? What is the emotional hook music has on us all about? There is something going on here besides sound waves, the mechanism of the ear, and synapses firing in the brain. Apparently, music and mood are intimately connected in some non-physical way.
Altered states of consciousness
Music has also always had a sacred purpose. Most of our modern religious music is but a faint echo of other powers music has had in the dim past, although some of this ancient power has recently come to light, which is one of the purposes of this site.
Used in certain ways, one of the principal powers of music can be to induce altered states of consciousness (ASC's). These can be anything from a very relaxed state, to a much deeper state, where non-ordinary realities can be experienced. There are many ways to enter such states - meditation and psychotropic plants are but two - but music has always been one of the primary entrance points to these inner states. Nothing is required but the music and the listener. Not all music can do this, but some, such as that on Memories of Home, is capable of inducing them.
What happens in these states? When I have played this music for different groups of people, many have reported that they experienced a mental and emotional excursion or trip that seemed quite real to them. Calling this a dream seemed to be wholly inadequate; the word vision came closer. But experience seems more accurate. These experiences have generally been of a place and time, if you will, that is distinct from ordinary, waking reality. It is not that the music creates these realities or their contents, for they are all distinctly different for each person. Rather, the music opens a kind of inner space in which certain experiences can occur.
If the music itself doesn't create the content, then what or who does? Perhaps the easiest way to express the answer is to acknowledge that we are all much more complex than we are led to believe. Certain kinds of music have the power to pull an inner curtain aside, so to speak, so that we become temporarily aware of parts of ourselves which are usually inaccessible. What is experienced in these moments is rather like a message or a movie from me to me - a non-conscious film clip made conscious through the music.
The expansion of meaning
Modern psychology, from Freud onwards, has contained the notion of the Unconscious - which consists of a collective aspect as well as a personal one. This is usually described as being an amorphous collection of suppressed emotions, feelings, past experiences, archetypes (moving on to Jung) and other flotsam and jetsam over which we seemingly have no control. This is described as being the "location" where our fears and phobias exist, which in some extreme cases forces us to become out of control, when we become neurotically or pathologically ruled by our fears.
The problem with this explanation is meaning. One result of listening to music played in these Mesopotamian tunings is that the experiences people have reported having always meant something to them at the time they were listening to it. If what is non-conscious within ourselves is just flotsam, then a random experience, instead of a pertinent and timely one, would be expected. There seems to be no doubt that these experiences were intelligently, and lovingly, I might add, presented to each listener to make of what they would. These "film clips" are usually presented symbolically, rather than literally, which is the language of our "unconscious." Still, they are presented meaningfully, which implies a purpose, and therefore an intelligence, behind them.
We do not have to look far to find the source of this intelligence. It is only a non-conscious part of ourselves communicating with the conscious part. This non-conscious part has many names: Higher Self, Guardian Angel, Intelligent Self, Inner Self, and so on. It has also been called the link to Creator and the Oneness of all being. But by whatever name we use, denying that it is intelligent is to deny experience. It is the source of our dreams, visions, hunches, intuition and emotions. It is in short only us, but an us that we must define much more broadly than we are accustomed to doing.
The world is just a little more complex, undiscovered and multi-leveled than science has yet uncovered, that's all.
The healing powers of music
Music and sound also have the power to heal body, mind and spirit. One of the experiments we have performed is to measure the auric field (the egg-shaped energy field that surrounds each of us) before and after playing Memories of Home. Pictures of these fields are shown below. The picture on the left was taken before the album was played, and the second was taken of the same subject immediately after the last cut ended.
In fact, a series of several photographs were taken (with special apparatus that is commercially available) while the music was playing, showing progressive changes leading to the photograph on the right. The photographs indicate the emotional state of the a subject.
The photo on the left was taken at the beginning of the session; the person was feeling the stresses of everyday life - traffic, family, job. The mottled colors indicate imbalance, agitation and anxiety; the auric field is broken, the chakras (major energy centers in the body) are uneven and in some cases completely closed down.
The second photo was taken after the person listened to Memories of Home. It shows a smooth, green field which indicates just the opposite: a balanced and relaxed person. The breaks on the auric field have disappeared, and the person exhibited a calmness as depicted by the change in color from red to green. All chakras are now open and balanced.
It was interesting to note that all the other people within earshot of the music also felt calmer and more relaxed when the music ended.