Some of you may know that before I became involved in the amazing world of sound healing, I spent some years playing in rock n’ roll bands. During those years, I played electric guitar. For the first few years, after I first discovered sound healing, I was convinced that rock n’ roll was some sort of anti-healing music and stopped playing electric guitar. In fact, I stopped listening to rock n’ roll all together. Then, one day I realized that you could simply denigrate any genre of music, whether it was rock n’ roll, jazz, country and western, hip hop, classical or whatever. There would always be those who were geniuses and played wonderful healing music. And there would always be those who did the opposite. I think this thought hit me in one huge gestalt in which I realized that some of the most light filled and loved filled music I had encountered came from the Beatles. What could be better than “All You Need is Love”?
So, I went back to listening to all forms of music and have done so since then. I realized that music was like a smorgasbord of sound and that each type of music (and each musician or musical group) was like a different food with different nutritional value and flavor with different effects. What was nutritional and tasteful for one person might not be in the taste buds of someone else. I totally acknowledge that certain types of music—for me at least—have the ability of creating an adverse effect when I listen to it. Yet, I will never forget when I was 13 years old and watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan for their first performance on US TV. I remember being in a state of juvenile ecstasy from watching (and listening) to the Beatles. So were my cousins who were near my age. My parents, aunts and uncles were either holding their hands over their ears or making discouraging remarks. I vowed that I would not become like my parents, regardless of how the music affected me.
Interestingly enough, for our Healing Sounds Intensive, we have a questionnaire that participants fill out. When asked if there’s a particular music that disturbs them, a large majority of those who answer this state either “Hip Hop” or “Heavy Metal”. And from one perspective, I can truly understand that. On another level, I have become a huge believer in fluidity. What’s fluidity—it’s being fluid, rather than static. It’s like being a shaft of wheat in a windstorm that bends with the wind as opposed to the rigid tree that breaks. I think that with all the various frequencies on this planet, fluidity may well be mandatory for us to be able to manifest in order to continue as a species.
Thus, while I understand how “Hip Hop” or “Heavy Metal” may be the nemesis of many people beyond the age of 30, this adverse reaction does remind me of the reaction of the older generation to the Beatles. And often, if I have a truly negative reaction to music, I will go out of my way to find out what it is and learn to resonate with it. Here is a true story:
It was a few years ago and I was in a record store in Boulder (a phenomenon that is getting rarer and rarer as the Internet pervades our lives) to check out some music. I walked in and immediately was barraged by a sound that shocked my nervous system. I’m very sensitive to sound and here it was—something akin to a buzz saw screaming in my ears. I immediately walked up to one of the sales people and yelled (had too—the sound was that loud): “What is this?”
The salesperson screamed back a name. Then they said: “You want it? You can’t have it. It doesn’t go on sale until tomorrow!”
“No thank you!” I shouted. Then, I left the store as quickly as possible. I went home. A Healing Sounds Intensive was coming up and I immersed myself in the various activities necessary to manifest that extraordinary phenomenon. However, several weeks later, after the Intensive was over, I returned to the record store.
I asked if they had the CD that I had briefly experienced—the one that was like a buzz saw. And the salesperson politely got it for me. I put in on my stereo and sat back. For the first few minutes, I was again taken aback by the barrage of sound. I remember looking at the CD credits and seeing that one of the band members was indeed credited with “noise”. From my perspective, that was certainly the truth. Nevertheless, I continued listening to the recording until I got it. Because I knew that from my initial experience with this recording at the record store, there was a certain population—most notably folks a lot younger than me—who really resonated to this sound.
What I “got”—for myself at least—was that this group was purposely trying to create the antithesis of beautiful music. Instead of sonically portraying a bouquet of lovely flower, this group was portraying the decay of these flowers—which visually would not have been a pretty sight, nor was it sonically attractive. Nevertheless as an art form, I “got” it. Not all artists portray that which is beautiful. And that’s okay. We can choose what we want to view. Or listen to. And after I “got” it, I chose to no longer want to listen to this music.
I realize that on many levels, from physically to emotionally to mentally to spiritually, I’m probably not resonating on the same place as those people who enjoyed this music. Their metabolism was different. Their hearing was different. Lots of things were different. And for some of them this “buzz saw” type music was attractive. It wasn’t to me. I found it destructive and stressful, not only to my hearing, but to my brain, nervous system and etheric body (among other things).
Nevertheless, since I feel that fluidity is the answer to our being able to maintain ourselves on this planet (because if we become static and stiffen, we oftentimes become really stressed out, which is certainly not a good thing), I like to suggest that when the time is right you try the experiment that I did. Find yourself a piece of music that you really can’t stand and sit there and see if you can take it—see if you can get behind the creation of the music and understand why someone else might love it while you loathe it.
Now please, understand I am not suggesting you expose yourself to frequencies that are damaging. So you first have to approach this as a science experiment and not a healing one. I don’t doubt that there are sounds you can expose yourself to that will be quite damaging—especially if you remain rigid while experiencing them. But if you’re as curious as I have been and think you can withstand these adverse sounds, you might it quite interesting. Remember also, that you don’t need to listen to this music at ear blasting volume. What I’m suggesting is an investigation and one in which the amplitude of the music is kept extremely tame and low. Once again, if you try to do this and this “science experiment” gets too much, simply hit stop on whatever playback device you may have. And don’t bother continuing because it’s not worth it.
Sometimes, if your “intent” is really one of curiosity, this will help overcome the adverse effects that might occur. But not always. Trust yourself and see. I’m simply suggesting that it can often be a worthwhile exercise to become mindful of and attempt to move beyond any autopilot preconceived judgments regarding any type of music or sound. It might help you understand another sonic form. It might help you understand the psyche of a generation that has continued to elude you for decades. Or it simply might be too much.
Good luck in your sonic explorations. As noted, there’s a whole smorgasbord of sound out there, but as a caveat, remember to be cautious in your experimentation. Some things, after all, are simply not worth it.
Jonathan, thank you, this totally resonated with what I thought (and again was reminded that it’s a small universe) about how music affects me, I would say physically and most certainly emotionally. I can barely stand to listen to country music and many heavy metal and rap songs. I have yet to figure out why this is and this is the first article I have found to help me think I’m not crazy, and that I was just strangely reacting to different music.
Thank you, I think this is important for people to realize. I perform in a progressive metal band and am an aspiring sound healer, though I am already doing sound healing in performance as we do find our own music to be very healing and transformative. Thanks for your columns.
Thanks for the suggestion. I’m 85(!) and have just got hooked on an old recording of the Glory Sisters singing gospe . I don’t know enough about music to say what genre it is, but I know their music helps me get started, and liftsme for hours. I used to hate black gospel!
Also an anecdote: In in my 20’s I drove a cab in DC, to raise my Neice and save $ to go to school. One Sunday morning about 4AM, I picked up some guys coming out of theback entrance of the Warner theatre. They poured into the cab and named a hotel they wanted to go to. I knew that the hotel was right across the street. They laughed, and thanked me. Then Iasked them what they did. One said “we’re entertainers.”. I asked what kind of enterainment? “/We’re musicians.” Oh, what do you play? I asked. “We”re singers.”. one said. “are you good?”. I asked. Lots of laughter . “we think so!”. More laughter.
then some quick conversation. “Have you heard of Yellow Submarine?”. “No.” I answered. More conversation, then a really incredible burst of music!! They sang to me! “Love Me”
There was much more conversation and another song! It’s much too difficult to type in this format! Needless to say, I became a life long Beatles fan, I also got a Ph.D. In clinicalPsycology!
Thank you for your blog and your music. Your work kis amazing!