"Don't play the saxophone. Let it play you." -- Charlie Parker
I'm a novice flautist, not a world renown authority on music. So when I speak of being "in the music," this is my term, my meaning, my definition. Let me begin by saying that I am a believer in the power of music as an influencer, a healer, and at times, a destroyer. I have had fascinating experiences with music as a concert attendee and a performer. And yes, even while playing my iPod or casually singing to myself.
In the music is an altered state of consciousness which enables an individual to be one with the music. Professional writings on music therapy have compared the altered state music creates to a drug and alcohol induced experience. According to studies by J. Fachner, music and intoxication seem to have the same forms of emotional processing. Meditation, yoga, prayer, and physical exercise, especially dance, are other means to accessing an altered state. Listening to music may literally alter not only our emotional states but also our physical states.
Shortly after I started playing my flute at mass about seven years ago, I discovered this nirvana on the rare days when my musical muse took the reins on my flute. Improvisation and playing without thinking just happened. And I could play well without fear. The result was a mental cleansing of sorts. For that brief moment, I was out of my mind, or at least I was on temporary leave from my quantitative, linear, rational, and Type E woman monkey mind. Playing my flute became a way to recover from weekday life in a big corporation. In a way, it was comparable to what I have heard an out of body experience is like.
Everyone can be in the music, even if they're not in the band. And it's possible to be in the music in the most unlikely of places. I had a business trip to New Orleans and found myself with other conference attendees at one of the dozens of nightclubs on Bourbon Street. In order to escape the jello shots fanfare, I affixed my attention on the live band and quickly found myself in the music. Yes, in the midst of craziness and frivolity, I escaped to my center.
We've all had experiences where the music "takes us back" to another person, time, or place. One of my favorite songs about being in the music is The Song Remembers When by country singer Tricia Yearwood. Sesame Street songs brings back the nausea of morning sickness of my second pregnancy and any song Shania Twain sings reminds me of being in the grocery store in Switzerland, where her music was played often.
It's not always possible to be in the music, even as a musician. For example, I won't be in the music if my "favorite mistake" is sitting on the first or second row at mass as is oft the case (in case you're wondering, he doesn't want to reconnect in any meaningful way ... he just happens to prefer the front few rows, usually right in front of where I'm standing).
If the music is too sing-song-y, regardless of whether I'm listening or playing, I won't be in the music. But as Fachner states, "Everybody has musical preferences, and there are those very special pieces of music that make us shiver." In other words, what's sing-song-y to me could be poetic ecstasy to you, so you could find yourself in the music.
When I need to feel powerful, I listen to the soundtrack from Evita, repeatedly until I feel ready to face the latest curve ball life has pitched. You probably guessed my blog name FeliciaEvita originated in part from the incredible power of Evita.
Next time you listen to or play songs that you love, take note. Use the experience as a powerful tool to break away from ordinary to extraordinary. Don't just listen or play. Feel it down into your toes. Be in the music.