The Power of Sound.

Via on Aug 14, 2013

 

cassette tapes
Courtesy Craig Sunter from Manchester, UK, via Wikimedia Commons.

Music, to me, is a drug.

My addiction spans the range, (country western notwithstanding). A long-time user, I’m highly aware of how it affects my inner mood and outlook on life.

Since the days my sister and I fought feverishly over half-hour increments of radio station tape time, I’ve been using the power of sound to inspire, relax, move me (to tears, to dance, to think more deeply).

Yet lately, I see that I need to be more discriminating and healthy in my aural choices.

You see, about a decade ago, I met a friend who changed my life forever. This guy, a business man in his 30s at the time, was listening to Aqua, Eiffel 65 and S-Club 7…I mean, all the time!

I, on the other hand, was on a steady diet of Pink Floyd, Aimee Mann and some other depressive grunge alternative stuff. It was a matter-of-fact decision to drown myself in this stuff; yet, as this friend began to comment and elbow me on car rides, I realized how much it was defining who I was and pretty tightly.

Sure, this music was good for my angst-ridden youth, to validate my existence and inner identity struggles. But was I really struggling so much any more? Not really. In fact, this music was keeping me locked in certain feelings long—sometimes years and years—after they were useful.

Indeed, I was in a holding pattern based on the past. Yet this point in my life was really pivotal. I was changing in a lot of ways and suddenly there was this person who asked me, directly, over and over, to reconsider what I was putting in my ears.

It was then that I went on a journey, not all the way over to Barbie World, mind you, but into a deeper appreciation of classical music, an embrace of some more soft, warm, uplifting vibes and downright positive tracks.

My life, at the same time, came into a new phase and type of bloom.

Black and white image of a man taking a hearing test
Courtesy Bundesarchiv, Bild/Raphael Waltraud/ CC-By-SA. Wikimedia Commons.

And what I started to observe is this: Music is, beyond just saying it, a drug. It has short-term effects and it has long-term side effects.

Of course, sometimes I need, very much, to listen to music that depresses me, brings me down and allows me to either cry, sit and think, or just be. I also really enjoy a good wind up or wig-out session at a club once in a while!

But most times, I prefer for it to connect, drive or inspire me to a clear, positive state of mind.

In any case, there is a time when like eating something, I can’t really taste all the flavor anymore…I lost a sense of buzz. At that point, just like eating, I’m merely subjecting myself to something I’ve had enough of just because it’s there (when I could put the rest in a container and eat it later or throw it away if it’s going to spoil).

For extreme instance, when I have gone through a breakup, I designed a breakup playlist of songs. And I binged out on these. I sat in the bath and listened and cried and cried and sobbed. And then, there came a point when I didn’t feel like crying during certain songs. It’s at this point that I was finished with them.

Basta! Done!

They had purged the feelings from me and it was time to move on. What else to do? Keep listening and forcing myself backward?! We all need to admit feelings. Yet just as important is recognizing when feelings have overstayed their welcome and affected us in ways that blend our past too closely with NOW and completely overshadow the future!

Negotiations With the Divine 

Music is from the gods in my opinion—the myriad of angels and muses that hover around the heads of all musicians, DJs, music producers is all but visible to me. I have no doubt, all music is divinely inspired—even Cradle of Filth.

People love it, connect to it, live by it. It’s all divine. And yet, so are we–we have power to choose what we need and when.

But what I’m saying here is that there is an extreme dearth of research into the effects of sound on the human mind. And yet we all know it’s powerful! We have to take a look at what it does to us—does it help us or hold us in a place for a long time that we only need to visit once in a while?

Vajra Guru Mantra, Gold on Navy
Vajra Guru Mantra (powerful Tibetan invocation to enlightened beings) by Christopher J. Fynn via Wikimedia Commons.

Shifting a bit, I’ll say that I’ve been participating in a Mantra program as well and this explores even further the power of sound, tone and Sanskrit verses. At this level, it’s about the raw energy of sonic vibrations and how they shift the energy within.

Anyone will discover the profound effect of sound if you allow yourself to repeat mantras and participate in these exercises regularly.

On a recent training on Pranayama principles, we explored the subtle body and participated not only in daily chanting—of Gayatri and Trayambakam mantras, repeatedly, each morning—but also in the practice of Pranava.

This involves the repeated chanting of the sound of Om. We were guided to practice with care, starting deep at the naval and working the sound up through the throat with the final ‘m’ sound vibrating the hemispheres of the brain.

All I can say about this is: Powerful stuff. There was and still is a noted change in my nervous system.

Good Aural Hygiene

It has been years since I spoke with this business man friend yet as I find myself in the midst of another pivotal point in my life, I am really focused on my mind and thought patterns and how they shape my reality.

That being said, I’m suddenly very conscious of the music I’m listening to now, the lyrics and the vibe.

What I realize is that musicians, while tapping into an incredible intuition, are still human beings who are at certain points in their lives and are availed a very specific window on reality. We join them and listen to them and buy their ideas.

The fading Adele craze comes to mind—all kinds of songs about breaking up, regret, sadness.

When I hear that in stores, I leave. I couldn’t buy any of her music because it all conjured emotion and thought about a place I was not visiting, even remotely. From the little I have heard of her, she has an amazing voice but the vibration there is heavy for me.

iPhone song delete screenshot
I couldn’t do it … but you get what I mean.

This may sound extreme, but honestly, I’m at a place where I need to go through my sound library and make sure that the messages are ones I want etching my future. They served me in the past when I bought them but now, do they still?

I am ready for this next shift; everything I put in must support it.

Visiting Vishuddha

The fifth chakra, according to the Hindu-based (yet widely-accepted) energetic system, is termed Vishuddha. Its energetic color frequency reveals as blue. It governs the throat, but do not let that idea limit it to speech.

It has to do with sound as well, since vocalization and listening are intimately paired.

What I have noticed for a long time is that there is a strong link between the musical vibration and accompanying lyrics—as if the lyrics are a kind of medicinal message and the music is a syrup containing them.

In many cases, they blend very well. In any case, when you listen, you are taking these messages in. What is happening to them? How do they shape your moments? How do they set you free or trap you?

Symbol of Vishuddha Chakra.
Symbol of Vishuddha Chakra via Wikimedia Commons

What has brought me to write this most, perhaps, is my daily visit to the realm of silence (well, as much silence as you can experience in a city) while meditating on a daily basis.

What becomes more profound to me is when I travel to the other side of Qatar and sit in the desert and experience pure silence. Tears come to my eyes. The relief is palpable at a cellular level.

As much as I love music, the silence proves to inspire equal obsession. It is in this silence that all sound is contained and all of life lives. Silence is the grand canvas for the sensory reality of the fifth chakra.

This chakra is the gateway of our communicative connection with each other. In some cases the communication is low-level or cheap. In other cases it’s absolutely pure and sattvic.

Anything in between goes.

But I write this to encourage you to consider your aural diet, perhaps for the first time, in a more conscious light than just reaction and what feels ‘good.’ Because it’s easy to get confused about what is ‘good,’ and what is ‘familiar.’

I guess that’s all I have to say except to leave you with a good line I read recently to punctuate all of this. When it comes to choosing your music, “forget about your past; remember your future.”

 

 

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

About Emily Alp

Emily Alp has been practicing various forms of Yoga for 15 years and has settled on, and is now a certified teacher of Astanga (emphasizing in practice all eight limbs). She keeps a writer/editor day job that's pretty hard-driving and is exploring how to incorporate a traditional practice and the transformations it brings into modern-day life. She's also diagnosed with celiac so personalized nutrition has long been in the forefront of her thoughts. Ayurveda has transformed her outlook on diet altogether. Born in the US, she lives and works in the Middle East and loves to help Yoga and health infuse society there. To connect, feel free to like her facebook page: www.facebook.com/BuddhifulLifeYoga.

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4 Responses to “The Power of Sound.”

  1. I went through the same transition. I totally get what you're saying. Great article!

  2. Emily Alp emilyalp says:

    Am happy it resonated with you, Leoza :) Thank you for your kind comment!

  3. lischen_ says:

    I really enjoyed the article. Got me to think a bit more about music. I absolutely love music and i totally agree that it is something really powerful. I'm reading this book at the moment, it's called "Music, The Brain, And Ecstasy: How Music Captures Our Imagination" (by Robert Jourdain) – I find it really interesting as it start with sounds and continues to music. Maybe something of interest :)

    • Emily Alp emilyalp says:

      Lischen, I'm very interested in this book–will look it up. Thank you for taking time to write this and I'm really glad you liked the article!

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