[My advance apologies for the length of this entry]
I cannot remember a time when music wasn’t the biggest and sweetest part of my life. Dad was a guitarist and singer who had spent some time with an early incarnation of Don Messer’s orchestra. He always had the radio on, in the house and in the car. Mom too enjoyed the music from the radio, and could often be heard singing along. The only radio station I heard for years was CFNB in Fredericton New Brunswick, the city closest to where I lived. CFNB broadcast with fifty thousand watts of power, so the signal was always strong. They played a wide variety of music from Pop to Country, Big Band to Polka, religious programming and news… Everything was covered.
In the early to mid 1960s music became more tangible; some students of our school had formed a small band and would perform every Friday at lunch time in the auditorium. The rest of the students would dance, or “cruise” around the perimeter of the room while the hits of the day issued forth from the drums and amps on the stage. It was the drums to which I was most attracted. The drummer, Reg Sansom, was kind enough to share his knowledge, and it was during this time that I began to lose interest in many other things. My drumming career was being born unbeknownst to me.
When the Beatles came to North America and appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, followed by the other Rock ‘n’ Roll acts of the day; The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, Johnny Rivers , etc I was glued to our television set. I watched every act I could see. Our school’s student council brought bands in regularly to play for Friday night dances, which ran from 9:00 – 12:00. I got to see many drummers during my school days and several of them became friends and, like Reg, were generous with their knowledge.
When I began playing in public, all thoughts of having any other occupation quickly faded. I was completely enthralled with drumming and soaked up anything I could learn like a sponge. In my early twenties, I had the opportunity to study from a professional teacher. He moved away before I could learn much and the little bit of knowledge he had imparted only served to make me want more and resulted in frustration. It would be a few years until the opportunity again arose to study. Eventually I managed to learn to read music well enough to teach myself through books available at music stores. A subscription to Modern Drummer magazine proved to be an invaluable resource as well.
As time passed, I began using the knowledge I’d acquired to teach others. It was in this capacity that I met a young Mi’Kmaq chap who was related to the Drum Keeper for one of the Traditional Drum groups in our area. A few short years later, I was invited to co-produce a CD of this Drum group’s music. When the CD was released, I was asked to join the group.
It was a short step from drumming at Pow - Wows to drumming at Healing Ceremonies. I learned the Sacred Healing Songs and participated in many Healings.
At that same time, I was introduced to the works of Peter Kater and R. Carlos Nakai via the soundtrack for the TV mini-Series “How the West Was Lost.” I began exploring other “New Age” music and the healing properties of music, both rhythmic and ambient. I delved into the writings of Mickey Hart and Joseph Campbell. The route began to branch off into religions, philosophies and much more. As I began to explore these avenues, I discovered the Tibetan Singing Bowls and Buddhist Tingshas and Meditation Bells. Music from Stephen Halpern, Hennie Bekker, Suzanne Ciani, Constance Demby, Steve Roach, Paul Winter and so many more was constantly in my CD player. Then Dr Andrew Weil weighed in on the subject along with Kimba Arem. They described how all life is vibration, and sound, as vibration, can disrupt or re-align our body’s natural vibratory patterns. Of course, I realized this to be true as soon as I heard it spoken, and realized also that everything we hear has an effect on us and the way we feel. Realizing the need for personal Healing and Transformation, I began to use music in my Meditation; soothing, relaxing, re-vitalizing sounds to realign my vibrations.
As my explorations continued, I discovered the music of Deva Premal, Snatam Kaur and Jai Uttal.
Sound can also have negative effects. After the end of World War Two, many people in Britain displayed adverse reactions to hearing a siren. The sounds of Industry can cause nervousness, tension and anxiety. I believe that some music, such as Gangsta Rap can incite violence, and of course, there is the “Brown Note;” the infamous note discovered by the Moody Blues that when slowed down, oscillated, and reversed, can cause one’s bowels to move. They wisely have not revealed what note that is, or by what degree it is slowed or oscillated.
When we examine sound and how it affects our minds, emotions and bodies, we must then examine our very words and the effects their vibrations have upon us. Even in joking, many phrases can be harmful. Choosing our words carefully can be a wise move, but many of us are too busy talking to actually think of the effect of what we say.
We all know the effect of sound in movies; it creates tension, pathos, joy, or longing, to enhance the mood of the scene on the screen. This is all very intentional, and in many cases, the soundtrack is available on CD. Many soundtrack CDs are as successful as the movie from which they come.
Besides music, the sounds I prefer to hear are the sounds of the natural world; birds singing, bees, water (especially rivers flowing) and the other sounds that occur naturally and are not man-made.
My many years as a drumset player have taken their toll as well; tinnitus developed and steadily grew to where conversations are difficult at times, awkward on a regular basis. I hear sounds, but not always distinct words; the frequencies muffled and compressed. I recently drove away from a drive—through due to the frustration of not being able to distinguish the words spoken by the store employee.
Whether sound is important in your life or not; whether you are soothed, aroused, frightened, or reverent, sound will have an effect, either directly or subliminally. Take some time and examine how various sounds affect you. Go for a walk in nature and listen, really listen, to the birds as they call to one another. Do you hear silence as they become aware of your presence, or do they realize you pose no threat? Observe the sounds the trees make as the breezes pass through the leaves or needles. Can you distinguish one tree from another by sound alone? There are differences, you know.
Listen closely to the sounds of the voices you hear. Are they coloured with anger, fear, or frustration? How does the sound of a loved one’s voice differ from a casual acquaintance? Do you recognise the calming effect of the voice of someone like Thich Naht Hanh or the Dalai Lama?
No matter what you are hearing, I hope you find Joy and Happiness within.