Music is the universal language, affecting everyone whether or not they realize it. Sound, tone, volume, and harmony work together to affect our mood, outlook, and ultimately our personal energy. Have you ever found your thoughts and feelings altered by the sounds in your environment? Both intentionally and unintentionally, the sounds around us affect our health. We can find ourselves near a busy construction area, with banding, noises and equipment sounds, and develop a headache, stress, or simply become withdrawn and unaware of those sounds and the rest of our immediate environment. The sound of those arguing around us, or a chaotic traffic jam can create a similar effect. Alternatively, we can spend time in nature, and not consciously be thinking of the wind through the leaves or the sound of birds, but find ourselves more relaxed and at peace. Many of our "relaxation" recordings mimic the sounds of nature. Man-made sounds, from primitive chants to more complex recordings, can be used in a similar way to affect your consciousness and, ultimately, your health. Different genres of music can have radically different effects on the listener. People are often drawn to the styles of music that empower them and make them feel good.
Mystics around the globe and throughout time have known the power of music. Music is used in rituals, sacred dramas, worship services and personal healing sessions to affect change. Today, our modern mystics look to the principles of vibration to understand how sound works to bring healing.
Esoteric lore tells us that everything has a vibration, a spiritual vibration or energy that defines its essential nature. Everything has a vibration, from our physical bodies to our every thought. Stars, planets, trees, rocks, and drops of water all have their own vibration. Though this seems like a crazy idea, because we can't literally see this vibration, modern science has proven the principle of vibration at least in part.
Scientists now know that nothing physical is at rest. Our cells are constantly moving. Even matter that is not alive, or cellular, vibrates on a molecular and atomic level. Our molecules and atoms are constantly in motion. We can't see this movement, but it is there.
To the mystic, everything is in motion with this vibration, not just physical matter. The universe is filled with many things we cannot see, and they too have a vibration. Our thoughts and feelings have a vibration, as well as our spirits. Each plays a critical role in our overall vibration. Many forms of holistic healing are called "vibrational healing" from forms of energy work, such as Reiki, to liquid remedies known as flower essences and gem elixirs. They alter our subtle vibrations, the vibrations of our spirit, mind, and emotions, in order to affect our body.
What is sound, but an audible vibration? Sound is a range of energy that is audible. We have a range of energies that science has catalogued, like the auditory spectrum and the electromagnetic spectrum. Modern mystics believe there is a range of energies aligned with more subtle forces—the life energies of the body and the universe. They relate to subtle and subjective experiences, such as our emotions, thoughts, and spirit. Along with our Principle of Vibration, there is another esoteric teaching known as the Principle of Correspondence. A well-known version sums it up as "as above, so below, as within, so without." Patterns repeat themselves on many levels. To know one pattern, study it on a different level. Another way to look at it is through the musical image of octaves. Energies repeat themselves in different "scales." Sounds can also correspond to colors. Colors, as discovered in color healing and color psychology, can correspond to different moods and thoughts. If you want to change your outlook, you can change it more easily with the help of sound or color. The esoteric systems of healing relating stones, plants, flowers, colors, notes, mantras, and even planets to parts of the body are all based upon the esoteric principle of octaves. If you have a piano and play a low C with the pedal up, then all the Cs vibrate. If you play the "low octave" of a healthy thought or feeling, represented by a sustained tone, or even another healing tool, such as a crystal, the higher notes in your emotions, mind, and spirit will resonate and bring healing. In the end, all spiritual forms of healing are based on this power of vibration.
Sonic vibration is one of the ways we are most familiar with vibration. Music, percussion, song, and dance are all culturally accessible to us and call upon a strong use of our intuition, determining what makes us feel good, and what doesn't, without a lot of esoteric knowledge of foreign cultures. I had a teacher who suggested once that you just make noise—random tones and sounds—until you find one that makes you feel good, particularly if you are feeling ill, and you continue the good sound until you feel better. I've done that many times when I thought I was getting sick, and apparently moved the vibration of illness right out of me.
Sometimes understanding those cultures that valued the power of sound healing can help give us some guidelines and structure. One of the best books for understanding how to use sound in your own healing is Sacred Sounds by Ted Andrews. In it, Ted explores the sacred science of sound, and its history in the ancient world. In it, he relates the musical tones of the C scale to the seven chakras of the body.
He also relates a powerful component of music to esoteric healing: rhythm. Though many focus entirely on pitch and tone in their sacred healing, tribal practitioners of healing to this day also focus on the magickal powers of certain rhythms. The number of beats within a pattern can influence the effect it has on the body and awareness. Shamans who use drumming to enter an altered state have known this for centuries.
Compose Yourself by Andy Barnett carries a musician's sensibility and applies it to all aspects of life. Barnett encourages lovers of all kinds of music to apply their music to their health and wellbeing, from classical to punk rock. The book is filled with a variety of exercises designed to help the introspection and wellness process, using the principles of music. I found exercise 24: Vocal Calisthenics very helpful.
Warm up: start with a soft, very low tone on "ahh." Very slowly raise your pitch as if imitating the sound of an air raid siren starting up. About mid-range change the phoneme to "eee." Keep going. Increase the volume and breath support. Go all the way up, as high as you can go. SCREECH! Now slowly come back down, all the way to the grunt. Repeat several times, taking less and less time to complete the siren's call. That's your extended range, probably close to three octaves. Singers spend years training these three octaves to perform.
For the following exercise use this sentence for the score: "There is no possible chance you can convince me of anything."
Pacing: Repeat the sentence at medium volume and with the tempo in a monotone. Change nothing else; repeat the sentence several times, increasing the pace each time, saying it faster and faster until the words start to be garbled. Now repeat the sentence at a slower pace, going slower and slower until the words begin to modulate and blur. (The slower you go you will notice that it is harder to maintain the monotone.)
Volume: Using a normal inflection, start by repeating the words at a slightly louder than normal volume. Repeat louder yet, changing nothing else. See how loud you can get. When did the volume start to influence the meaning? Now go the other way. Repeat the phrase, getting softer and softer until you are whispering. How did the meaning and personality of the words change?
Pitch: Pitch (couple with volume) is probably the most revealing aspect of the human voice because pitch modulation is clearly a product of varying degrees of inner tension. Keeping an even, near monotone articulation, repeat the entire phrase starting at different places all over your range. At the same point do not modulate from word to word. Maintain a normal pace and volume as you change only the register in which you speak the entire phrase. Notice the tension in your throat, lungs and belly as you move from register to register.
Enunciation: Clear consonants and resonant vowels articulate distinctive images. Slurring words, talking into our teeth and talking so fast the words race by all contribute to a blurry rendition, a fuzzy projection of our best intentions—a bad first impression.
Repeat the sample sentence using varying degrees of clear enunciation. At one extreme, slowly and carefully clip every consonant; move your mouth and tongue in an exaggerated way, sculpting every letter of every world. At the other end, see how little you can move your apparatus and still get the words out. Take it another stage further; mumble to the extent that the words dissolve into a garbled slush. Again concentrate on only the enunciation aspect; keeping the pace, pitch and volume at the middle setting.
With this exercise, you can really see the power not only of your words, but how you deliver them to others. By paying attention to the music of our voice, we have a better understanding of our personal power to communicate on a multitude of levels.
In the end, all the sounds we make, and all the sounds we listen to can contribute to our overall health and wellbeing. The more conscious we can get about the sounds in our environment and the sounds and words we choose to utter, the more empowered and healthy we can be.