Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Practice--Use Music to Enhance Daydreams

Many of us were told as children to stop daydreaming. I only pretended to stop. While some people find daydreaming a form of laziness or believe that people who daydream will never amount to anything, daydreaming is a form of creativity. It's how we incubate projects or even solve personal problems.

True, daydreams provide an escape from challenges and harsh situations. And there is the right time and the wrong time to daydream such as we don't daydream while we drive in traffic or perform detailed work. But for us creative types, daydreaming represents a form of brainstorming. When we daydream we expand upon what we believe is possible. Daydreams also show us our heart's desires.

When we combine listening to music with daydreaming we create a powerful conduit for manifestation. However, we need to listen to music that matches frequencies with our desires. So, if our desire would bring us joy, then we listen to joyful music while we engage our imagination. And if we just want to feel relief, then we listen to new age wash music or classical music such as music by Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy, whose music lends itself well to floating off into daydreams. Debussy even composed a song called Reverie. 

When I was a child, one of my favorite activities was to sit on my mother's bed and listen to the radio. This was back when the FM stations on the dial played mostly music and with little commercial interruption--1970s. If I heard music from Brazil or the Caribbean, I imagined sunny places and happy people. And as an adult when I heard music from Latin America, I had more romantic thoughts in mind. In fact, this music lends itself well to visualizing romantic partnership or travel scenarios. I usually listened to love songs.
This brings up my next point. Choose the appropriate music for your intention for daydreaming. Are you looking to escape a stressful situation? Are you searching for a creative spark that comes from listening to music? Or are you wanting to use the music for visualization purposes. Or are you traveling as a passenger and you want to listen to music to pass the time and to match the backdrop of what you see outside your window? First, decide your intention and then this will help you choose the appropriate songs.

Here are a few caveats to watch out for. First, unless you want to revisit your childhood or another time in your life avoid any songs that appeal to nostalgia. The only exception to this rule is if you want to trigger old wounds so you can discover the belief and pattern behind the wounds and then clear the wounds in an appropriate manner using whatever technique works best for you. I would work with an energy healer, sound therapist or music therapist for this type of work.

Second, choose the right song to match the mood you wish to manifest. So, watch out for lyrical content and don't play songs with words you don't want to manifest into things or circumstances in your life. My usual example of this is to not use The Rollingstone's "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" for manifesting your desires. The Universe takes words seriously and so should you when using music for manifestation or for even promoting creativity.

Don't listen to jarring melodies or play the music too loud. This will only jack up your nervous system and set off alarms with the fight or flight responses. And for daydreaming purposes you actually want to relax your mind and body. Playing loud and jarring music sabotages these efforts.

Try to stick with musical washes or instrumental music. Or listen to nature sounds such as whale songs. Now, having said all that, follow your own inner guidance when choosing music to enhance daydreaming. Find a quiet place where no one will disturb you. Also, keep a journal and a pen near by so you can write about the dreams and information that surfaces during your session.

I would like to end with this Psychology Today article, How Music Feeds and Steers Your Imagination. The writer actually covers a lot of ground on the brain and music in this article published in 2009 when music research was still trending.

Imagine where music will take you. It's the best space travel ship around when you sail off to the land of dreams and possibilities.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Practice--Working with Mantras (Sacred and Mundane)

image from Pix a Bay (free images)
Often when we think of mantras, our minds turn to religious chants such as kirtans. We intentionally use mantras with our meditation practice or perhaps, when we feel frightened or alone losing our connection to the Divine, we chant mantras. However, this article is not about the warm fuzzy feelings we experience from sacred words and phrases.

My definition of a mantra is a phrase that we repeat either mindfully or mindlessly. While some mantras are obvious such as the Moola Mantra or the Gayatri Mantra which are sung in Sanskrit, repeated words in everyday songs also act the same way on our brain as sacred mantras. While, a sacred mantra brings us closer to God or our god-self experience, a mundane mantra manifests our everyday life experiences.

As modern-day humans, we surround and cloak ourselves in mundane mantras--ranging from the Rollingstones' "I can't get no satisfaction," to R.E.M.'s "I am superman and I can do anything." Madonna's lyrics manifest, "...like a virgin touched for the very first time," and any lyric that begins with, "I am" unlocks the power of words which are repeated throughout the song, and then throughout the day in the form of ear worms stuck in our brains, like a needle stuck on the groove of a vinyl record.

Now, we are unable to control the soundtracks that surround us. As we go about our days, stopping at this shop to purchase our groceries and the other shop to pick up our shoes from repair, we are not able to control lyrics wafting towards us. However, we can become mindful of the text we hear throughout the day. We can write the text in our journals and then reflect on the manifestations from those messages sent out to the universe via a collective.

As songwriters, authors, and poets, we can choose our words wisely knowing that our words act as mantras for the masses, especially if we reach thousands of ears. And as we play our role as part of a society, yet to awaken spiritually and otherwise, we can add practices to our lives to cleanse our auras and emotional palettes. Keep in mind that all words contain energy, but words grow more powerful when intention is harnessed to them. Using the words "I am" charges all words that follow. So, R.E.M.'s "I am superman" isn't such a bad mantra. Whereas, I wonder what happens to Mick Jaguar as he continues to sing, "I can't get no satisfaction" for the remainder of his life. How's it going for you, Mick? Are you still seeking satisfaction which doesn't come from fame, fortune, and several wives?

Mantras appear in any lyric or poem where we repeat the words multiple times. So if we sing a chorus from a song several times than those phrases act like mantras. Perhaps, we can balance self-defeating mantras by listening more to the sacred ones which do clear our auras and open our chakras. Or you can make your own mantras by singing affirmations. Trish Hatley gives us an example of turning affirmations into mantras for manifestation.

Most important, develop an awareness about the power of words hitched to intentions and musical vibration. If you can do that, you are well on your way to sound healing mastership.  

In closing, please note that it takes more than words to manifest a physical or emotional experience. However, words repeated backed by feelings, emotions, and action, leads to manifestation.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Practice--Deep Listening Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun

Photo by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved
When I was 18 years old, I returned to my parent's house for college spring break and I shuffled through my mother's classical records. I found a recording of Claude Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun. The title intrigued me so I listened to the composition. I immediately fell into a trance.

Musical trances weren't new to me at that time as I had fallen under musical trances as a child numerous times. But I found myself swooning to Claude Debussy's impressionistic music. I followed the different instruments as they rose and descended then hid behind other instruments such as harps, French horns, oboes, and flutes.

Then, years later, I felt a craving for French Impressionist music. I bought recordings of Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy. And again, I swooned when I heard Debussy's prelude. I spent a summer exploring French Impressionist recordings in my music lab that I created in my Seattle apartment. These songs launched my concept of keeping a musical diary and tracking emotional, mental, and physical responses that I experienced when exposed to certain types of music.

So, now, I'm passing on this concept to you. Get out your music diary and track your responses to Claude Debussy's controversial composition. I'm including a YouTube video of the piece. While this video has imagery, I ask you to close your eyes and listen to the rise and fall of the instruments. Then later, you can watch the video and listen to the music.

Answer the following questions in your music diary:

  • What instruments appear in the orchestra?
  • Which instruments are prominent or tend to take the lead?
  • Do you hear more upward or downward scales or are they equal?
  • What is your mood when the instruments move up the scale?
  • What is your mood when the instruments move down the scale?
  • Do you feel resolution at the end of each phrase or anticipation?
  • Do you feel relaxed listening to the piece or slightly anxious?
  • How does the tempo affect you?
  • How does the timbre of the instruments color your emotions and physical sensations?
  • Do you feel that the piece resolves itself at the end or does it leave you hanging?
Next, I want you to research the composer, the historic period in which Debussy composed the prelude. And how this piece of music fits in with the context of classical music. Was this softer piece of music considered radical and a game-changer? (This is for extra credit).

Please leave comments below for your experiences. Thank you for sharing your personal journey with music. If you haven't already please follow this blog. And subscribe to the YouTube channel Whole Music Experience. You can also support this work by making a donation to my Go Fund Me campaign.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Practice--Rhythmic Entrainment (Realigning the Cells in Your Body)

Try this experiment. Next time you hear music coming from a passing car while you're out walking, pay attention to your body's reaction. Pay attention to how your body rearranges itself to match the rhythm and tempo of the song coming from the passing car.

I've noticed this with myself. I'm walking on a city street at my own pace and cadence. Then a car passes by with rap music pouring out of the speakers. I notice that my step picks up, my heart races, and I end up walking to the rap rhythms against my will. Alternately, if I'm walking into a shop and a Bach prelude pours from a speaker, I pay attention to my body's rhythms as they slow down and my mind travels from worries of the day to contemplation. Or I stop thinking obsessive thoughts and I remember music history lessons about the Baroque Era--Bach's music.

Right now, I'm listening to Marvin Gaye's greatest hits on YouTube as I type this post. I'm feeling my heart swelling with compassion as I listen to "What's Going On?" I feel my feet tapping to the slow groove of this song and I catch myself singing along during the chorus. Not only that, my mind travels back to the first time I heard this song during my childhood. And then my mind travels to a memory of my good friend telling me about her fondness for Marvin Gaye. Then, I also think about a local musician who once toured with Marvin and sings those old soul tunes--leaving his audience feeling uplifted.

So, what is an anatomy of a song for you? If you hear a familiar song playing in the background of a shop or on Pandora or YouTube, what goes through your mind? What emotions does the song stir beside nostalgia? Do you have good or negative memories attached to the song? Perhaps, a song reminds you of a break up with a lover. Well, that's good music therapy. Sit with that song and allow yourself to feel those emotions so you can release them once and for all. You'll know when you have healed yourself because you'll have no emotional charge when you hear the song in the future.

Other things to focus upon when listening to a song includes the moods conveyed by the chord progression, instrumentation, tempo, timbre, and emotional palette. These are all the things a music reviewer considers when listening to recordings as well. Experiment with different genres of music and different tempos. Listen to instruments you normally don't listen to. If you mainly listen to electronic music then listen to bird songs or acoustic instruments. And if you normally listen to exotic acoustic instruments from around the world listen to new age music played on a synthesizer or sound healing bowls.

Then remember to note your responses in your music diary. You're keeping a music diary, right?

I'm going to get you started. Here is a tango by the great bandoneon player and composer Astor Piazzolla.

Now, here's a Marvin Gaye classic.

And finally, we're going to listen to a Bach prelude from the Goldberg Variations.

Let me know how this experiment works out for you by leaving comments. I love getting comments. And consider donating to my Go Fund Me campaign to produce podcasts for the Whole Music Experience channel on YouTube.  Thank you. And if you haven't already, subscribe to the YouTube channel and this blog.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Practice--Deep Listening

In our sped up world, we don't often take the time to deeply listen to music. I remember taking a music appreciation class at college in 1982 where the professor played a recording of Bach's Fugue in G minor every day for the entire quarter. We learned every nuance of that fugue, even if I didn't seriously listen to Bach' s music several decades later.

So, for this practice get out your headphones and your music diary. Then listen to Kate Bush's "Man with a Child in His Eyes" which I'm including below. But first, I'm going to give you my impression of the song. Usually, when I review music, I review an entire album and I don't meditate on a single song. However, for this exercise, I have listened to this song several times through headphones. I've also heard the song many times in my adult life because I'm a fan of Kate Bush's work.

It's important that you hear the song as opposed to just listening to it with your ears and mind. Listen to the song with your entire body, especially your heart. Do your natural rhythms speed up or slow down. How does the softness of Bush's voice affect you? What about the Impressionistic horns, flute, and strings? Do you feel your spirits rise up when the music moves up the scale? What happens to you when the notes descend down the scale? Listen for tone, timbre, chord structure, and instrumentation. Also, listen to the emotions Bush colors and evokes with her voice. Then record your findings in your music diary.

I'll give you my impression of Kate Bush's song. When I listen to the songs on the album, A Kick Inside, which contains, "A Man with a Child in His Eyes," I experience a nostalgic and wistful, yet melancholic mood. I always get that mixture of emotions with Bush's first three albums. I feel like I'm in another worldly place with the impressionistic strings, French horn, flute, and piano. My spirits uplift when I hear the notes running up the scale and when the notes descend down the scale they put me in a hypnotic trance.

I can also hear Bush's musical influences from classical music. No doubt, with her middle-class English upbringing she would have heard classical music in her home growing up. There are some hints of jazz and folk too, heard in this pop song, as often is the case with English pop music from the 1960s and 1970s. This song was released in 1978. Bush also has an Irish background and she grew up in the countryside, as far as I know.

Now, it's your turn. (And feel free to leave comments).

Help me celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Whole Music Experience. Follow the YouTube channel and donate to the Whole Music Go Fund Me Campaign to pave the way for the next ten years. I'm only able to do this work with your kind contributions. Thank you.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Whole Music--Junk Music Versus Whole Music

Here is the closing chapter of my book, Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit). I look at the difference between mindful and mindless music. Some music is purely made for entertainment purposes while other music has healing or awakening intentions embedded in it. 

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Whole Music--Interspecies Music

currently unpublished seek publisher
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit). I wrote this chapter based on my fascination with interspecies music. My fascination began when I read one of Masaru Emoto's water crystal books in 2006. If water has consciousness and registered vibrations with words and music, what else was possible?

This is not a Bugs Bunny Cartoon

Those of us brought up with logic-brain thinking and whose parents told us that we have an overactive imagination, will feel at odds with the interspecies music.  On one hand, jamming with animals feels like an enchanted dream come true.  On the other hand, we feel kind of silly taking our instruments to a city park to play duets with songbirds.

However, David Rothenberg who has jammed with whales and cicadas after first exploring wild bird jazz recommends taking our instruments to the animal kingdom.  Why not play music at a zoo?

“It should be mandatory! Some zoos call such activities “enrichment” because they improve the lives of their captive animals,” says Rothenberg in a 2008 interview for Whole Music Experience.

And just like with any musical exchange, we need to follow protocol. “Go quietly, gently, and with respect.  Leave plenty of space.  Don’t just play your own stuff and expect the birds to care.  Get ready to improvise with an open mind and open ear. Leave space for all the sounds of the world around to influence you: the wind on leaves, water, moving clouds, screeching cars, thrumming airplanes.  They are all part of the grand composition that is this world.”

If any of this sounds outlandish or foolish, consider all the master indigenous musicians, maybe even some of your ancestors who sang, whistled, drummed, and danced with animals. Some of those ancestors even shape-shifted into animals to beats played on animal skin drums.  Shepherds often played flutes, or sang to their sheep and probably not just out of loneliness or boredom.  In fact, it is believed by some archaeologists that the first flutes were made and played by ancient shepherds, but what musical interludes were exchanged between bleating sheep and shepherd flute virtuosos, we’ll never know.

Animal Attraction & Other Musical Phenomenon

Saint Francis of Assisi believed that birds sang for the sheer joy of living upon the earth.  However, modern science and biologists would call Francis’ observation anthropomorphizing and provide us with the rational argument that birds sing to attract mates and to defend territory.  I laugh when I make the comparison between these biological birds and teenagers who also play music to attract mates and to defend territory.

Most likely, biologists would suggest that whales don’t sing for pleasure either and that the otherworldly songs of whales simply map out the direction for migration and attracting mates.  But do whales sing lullabies to their offspring, in the way that humans do? Do mammals have special sounds, hums, whistles, or howling that goes beyond biological needs?  Even prehistoric humans had to start somewhere which was probably along the lines of grunts, three-note chants and I would guess overtone singing (throat-singing) since that type of vocalization dates back to ancient times.

In the BBC documentary, Why Do Birds Sing based on David Rothenberg’s book of the same title, the author travels around the world, performing music with birds, and lecturing on the topic.  Meanwhile, prominent ornithologists debate with Rothenberg, making the usual argument that birds sing for biological reasons, nothing more.

However, undeterred Rothenberg continued his interspecies music experiments.  In an updated 2012 e-mail interview, Rothenberg shared his findings.  “We still know next to nothing about the aesthetics of other species, and we need to spend more time with these creatures and their art forms to really figure out what we’re doing.  Scientists are starting to collaborate with musicians, like what I’ve been doing with Ofer Tchernichovski (Psychology Professor at Hunter College who studies the behavior and vocalization of songbirds) and Tina Roeske (a postdoctoral associate at City University of New York who researches vocalization of songbirds).”

Over the years, Rothenberg has jammed with a lyre bird in Australia called George, and white-crested laughing thrush in an aviary, whales, and cicadas.  So I asked the wild bird jazz musician which creatures possess musical talent.

“Humpbacks are by far the most musical, but belugas are fun too.  White-crested laughing thrushes are the most interactive of birds I’ve met, but lyrebirds are pretty amazing too.”

 Excerpt from Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit) by Patricia Herlevi

Copyright with the Library of Congress, All Rights Reserved