Those who have been subscribers for a long time know that traditionally, I search for videos with music and dance for New Year's Eve. The quest for the exactly the "right" music always took a long time since I was generally looking for the perfect waltz, usually Viennese — though I have never exactly understood how Vienna became the focus for New Year celebrations — and then perhaps a mazurka and polka. In more recent years, I tried to select music from areas of the world that have been in the news during the outgoing year. Usually, of course, this means that people in that country suffered because of famine, economic turmoil, epidemics, or war. I am breaking slightly with tradition this year.
The first video is a performance of Recuerdos de la Alhambra, a soft virtuoso guitar piece influenced by Islamic architecture and perhaps also the sound of water in Alhambra. I personally love this hauntingly beautiful piece of music as well as the astronomy that is frozen into the architecture. Perhaps, as important is the tribute a Spanish composer paid to the legacies of the Moors.
This sets a nice stage for the brief discussion of music therapy that I promised. As some of you know, my mother was a concert pianist (before I was born) but she played me to sleep every night so I was nourished or perhaps more aptly subdued by music, and I truly doubt I could have survived my otherwise difficult childhood were it not for the healing power of music. What is ironic is that in this incarnation, I am merely a consumer of music, not a composer or performer, and this is sometimes a deep source of grief since my love of music is tremendous, but I cannot express myself through music in the way I would like.
When one door will not open, others do, and this lesson has been repeated many times in a way that I can see how brilliantly we plan our incarnations. Truly, this is one of the many gifts of using music in a therapeutic manner. What happens in music therapy is that people become aware of parts of themselves that function outside the normal realms of awareness. An e-mail is not an adequate place to explain this, but let me suggest that the two keys to how and why this happens are probably inspiration and rhythm. These simple words are packed with meaning.
Inspiration is an aspect of divinity and we awaken to it when we are aligned with the transcendent realm. It could be that the space in which inspiration exists is like a universe that is there but unrecognized. In a moment, often a flash, a glimmer of that vast world makes an impression on our psyche and our muses are stirred into action. I am not saying that all music is inspired; art can be facetious or clever or pure. If we are classic in our approach, we would concur with Aristotle that music has the power to uplift or undermine civilization, but it is not considered as art unless it is beautiful.
I believe that sound is very powerful because, as we saw in the water video, it has the power to rearrange molecules. In my now very long career, I have occasionally had professional musicians as clients, and they sometimes listen to music in ways that are so analytical that the fountain of inspiration behind the sounds is obscured. What I have found is that I can use other sounds in therapy, sounds that are not as familiar or subject to the kinds of analysis that a musician makes when preparing for a performance. For example, we can listen to ocean waves or babbling brooks or wind in leaves. We can also listen to whales singing or birds chirping and when our attention is perfect, i.e., we are not distracted by the laundry list of tasks remaining to be done or emotional issues begging to be resolved, we will entrain with the sound. At this moment, parts of ourselves are unlocked and can rise to the surface where we can study them with the neutrality of the observer rather than the volatility of the self that is complicated by judgment and personal bias.
For the same reason that music can bring us into alignment with divine idea, it can also separate us from our source if the music does not stem from the source. For me, this has been a difficult journey because some sounds are truly debilitating and some are entertaining but frivolous and some are ennobling or empowering. Of course, those are just a few words of the thousands one could have chosen. As you know, I am an opera buff, but there are interesting operas, silly operas, boring ones, and great ones. I happen to be more partial to Verdi than to any other composer because Verdi was deliberate, meaning he always had a reason for what he did. He did not just scribble notes, he fitted them to the libretto and the characters and the voice so that we have in Verdi a combination of all the arts. If we believe the researchers of music history, then we can possibly also accept that were it not for Verdi, there never would have been a psychoanalytic movement in our cultural history. I believe that theories like this are easily tested by reference to cultures that only listen to traditional music. Within the context of such cultures, we might have battles between good and evil, as in the Magic Flute example in today's next choice, but we may not probe the issues of prejudice the way Verdi did in La Traviata or triumph over emotions that are devastating or even damning, hints of which could already be found in bel canto, but not as musically integrated as successors who expressed similar conflicts but with more color and depth.
If you care to study this comment in a musical way — one that is also fun — you can listen to this rather amazing whistle rendition of the Vengeance Aria from Magic Flute. Since we cannot really be sure that the Magic Flute is the serious metaphysical opera some claim it to be or an upper end vaudeville opus, the whistling Queen of the Night would probably have amused Mozart, and if not Mozart, surely Schikaneder.
Ironically, the conquest of good over evil should have been found much sooner, at least in Western culture, because, if it is true that European culture is essentially Christian — which may or may not be 100% true — then we have been slow to implement the message of the Piscean Age. In fact, my experience suggests that there can be an enormous schism between knowing words and perhaps the ideas behind them and feeling them. We need to feel, but we cannot always allow ourselves to feel if we fear pain and suffering. Feeling thus has to become safe. Through music, we begin to feel through rhythm, an aspect of the feminine, and ultimately to understand when the melody and rhythm resonate with parts of ourselves. My experience is that the patterns in music have corollaries in our psyches so when we can listen without resisting, we can unlock awareness that has been hidden. Once it becomes conscious, it is permanent and will not vanish.
Rhythm is essential to manifestation since Divine Idea must be organized and calibrated; otherwise, it is overwhelming. Music can support this process since the notes and instruments also require taming. If the tempo is too fast, it may be exciting for a while and then exhausting. If the music is chaotic, it will not feel comfortable and we will therefore resist whatever the music portends to communicate. So, the trick is in the resonance between the music and ourselves — and this will naturally differ from moment to moment as well, of course, as person to person.
Lately, I have been somewhat curious about the difference between a profound musical experience and an ayahuasca experience. What is obvious is that once the hidden becomes visible to the conscious self, there is no going back. This is what makes music therapy so much more powerful and permanent than juicing or herbs or even most kinds of psychotherapy. The reality is that we have — all of us have — dysfunctional patterns. These eventually manifest as conditions requiring treatment. Juice may bring us back into health but it does not necessarily correct the underlying dysfunction in the psyche. However, music therapy can do this and often in a fraction of the time of psychoanalysis. This is not to denigrate any form of psychotherapy, but the pressure on me as well as others who work with life threatening diseases is that we often do not have a window of 20 years to allow for Jungian analysis; we have to push the right buttons quickly to reset the trajectory towards health. Some people purport to do this with magic, by which I mean they can use frequencies or crystals or potions or whatever, but if the psyche is not engaged in realignment, the reset button may have to be repeatedly pushed because the healing does not hold. However once the pattern becomes conscious, the mind has some power to maintain the shifts so that at least one part of the being is healed and will not require further maintenance. This is perhaps the difference between a band-aid and real healing.
Obviously, I want to keep writing and sharing — but I will ease up on the deluge now. This said, I do want to approach the new year with a special kind of intent, the intent to move consciously through the challenges everyone and everything on this beleaguered planet is now facing. If we are calm, observant, and purposeful, we can make this place a paradise. Let's do it.
Meanwhile, it is time to celebrate and here is a tribute to Ukrainians who are struggling at the moment. For others, the music and visuals — red boots and prisyadkas — ought to help blood circulation. Besides, this is all a bit higher up the ladder from the usual "men are from Mars" behaviors!