Monday, August 12, 2013

Music, Meditation, Pan Pipes.

A few leftover, musical, thoughts from a post earlier this month about meditation.

Music must be a helpful aid to meditation. My own restless mind will not stay still enough to meditate for more than 30 seconds, so I cannot claim a credible opinion on this, but when has that ever stopped me? I tottered around YouTube looking for inspiration. There are lots of videos promising "music for meditation", long videos of an hour or more. What would suit one person's taste could be anathema to another, what follows is simply my own opinion.

I sampled a few minutes of a couple of special meditation music vids, found them a tad synthetic sounding; experienced a similar reaction to some other New Agey offerings. What would I find soothing ? Gregorian chants sprang to mind - the wonderful echoey mystical musicality of it. Dang ! Gregorians Do the Beatles now?? What the.......? Granted there are still some traditional Gregorian chant albums around, but those I sampled didn't give me the right amount of echo - probably due to combined limited acoustics of YouTube and my computer's sound system.

How about Enya? A possibility, but from that thought my mind leaped immediately to pan pipes. Yes! Simple, natural, honest, organic (in every sense of the word - pipe organs were an evolution of the ancient pan pipes.)

Pan pipes: their history spans the continents of Earth. They appeared in various different cultures, perhaps not at exactly the same time in man-made time, but probably around the same stage of development of each culture. In the Americas, China, Europe, Africa evidence of this, one of man's earliest musical instruments has been found, stretching back for at least 6000 years. The instruments were constructed from reeds, bamboo cane, wood, clay, bone.....whatever was to hand in a particular location.

The instrument's name - or that given to it in the West, honours Greek mythological god Pan. The story goes that Pan, god of pastoral folk and their flocks, fell in love with a beautiful nymph, Syrinx. Syrinx didn't find Pan, with his cloven hooves and shaggy countenance in the least fanciable. She fled, with Pan in pursuit. When they reached a river bank with nowhere for Syrinx to escape, she became desperate. She called to the river god for aid and in response was turned into a reed. Pan, reaching out to embrace the nymph found only a bunch of reeds in his grasp. His sighs produced a strange melodic sound to echo through the reeds. To demonstrate his undying love Pan broke off some reeds and made them into a flute-like instrument, played sad melodies to his lost love, who he imagined to be embodied in the instrument he always carried.

A modern master of the Pan pipes is Romanian musician Gheorghe Zamfir. Here he plays Chopin's Etude no. 3 in E major
Opus 10 no. 3 "Tristesse".

Edgar Muenala plays "Chess"

This piece is titled only Tibetan Flute - Deep Tibetan music (1) - it's lovely, but politically slanted comments below have to be ignored!.

From Pan's Pipes, an essay by Robert Louis Stevenson from his book Virginibus Puerisque (translation "for boys and girls")
Last paragraph:
There are moments when the mind refuses to be satisfied with evolution, and demands a ruddier presentation of the sum of man's experience. Sometimes the mood is brought about by laughter at the humorous side of life, as when, abstracting ourselves from earth, we imagine people plodding on foot, or seated in ships and speedy trains, with the planet all the while whirling in the opposite direction, so that, for all their hurry, they travel back-foremost through the universe of space. Sometimes it comes by the spirit of delight, and sometimes by the spirit of terror. At least, there will always be hours when we refuse to be put off by the feint of explanation, nicknamed science; and demand instead some palpitating image of our estate, that shall represent the troubled and uncertain element in which we dwell, and satisfy reason by the means of art. Science writes of the world as if with the cold finger of a starfish; it is all true; but what is it when compared to the reality of which it discourses? Where hearts beat high in April, and death strikes, and hills totter in the earthquake, and there is a glamour over all the objects of sight, and a thrill in all noises for the ear, and Romance herself has made her dwelling among men? So we come back to the old myth, and hear the goat-footed piper making the music which is itself the charm and terror of things; and when a glen invites our visiting footsteps, fancy that Pan leads us thither with a gracious tremolo; or when our hearts quail at the thunder of the cataract, tell ourselves that he has stamped his hoof in the nigh thicket.


mike said...

I remember well the Gregorian chant craze of the 1990s..."new age" music that popularized and morphed into the genre "house music" for the ecstasy (drug) crowd. The group Enigma became a hit with "Sadeness":

I thoroughly enjoy the classics for relaxation inside my home. One of my favorite albums that I put on replay and allow it to percolate for hours while I work inside is "Ave Maria", by Laser Light Classics. Holy moley...I just looked at it on Amazon and it's going for $39.95! I bought it years ago, when it was available for probably less than $10.

I can completely relax when I'm out in it. Over the years, I've been fortunate to live in close proximity to the ocean and the soothing music of waves repeating and nostrils sharpened by the salt air. Or camping in remote mountain spots with the wind rustling the trees and birds with their routines...maybe a day trip or bike ride to a very large park or even cemetery allows an equivalent experience.

There are many sites on the internet that provide free nature sounds. Here's one that I just tried and it's OK...I'd rather be there in person for the total surround, but I could go about my day inside my house with some of these playing in the background. My dog unrelaxes to the "forest walk"...the birds pique her curiosity!

I can also relax and become lost in my thoughts while working in my vast yard, usually weeding. It's work, but not the "office" kind that requires an active brain wave.

I can't speak from experience, as I don't sing or play an instrument, but I always suspected that the ultimate relaxation may be in the actual production of musical vibrations. How nice it would be to pick-up an instrument and create vibrations to express my mood.

mike (again) said...

P.S. - the notion of relaxation reminds me of particular buildings that I've been in over the years. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo, has a Buddha room that could instantly induce theta brain wave activity in me!

We've both talked about structures in Europe that we've visited and enjoyed. There were many, some religious and some not, that could put me in a stupor, if I lingered too long.

I've visited several botanical gardens over the years that could bring-on the feeling of induced slumber, too.

Twilight said...

mike ` Ocean sounds - oh yes! I lived most of my life within an hour or so's drive (sometimes just minutes' drive) of the sea, but the cold, often grey and angry North Sea.
The salt sea air was good though.
A better ocean experience was on vacation in the Canary Islands where I used to try for a vacation apartment overlooking the sea. Managed it once or twice and still have very happy memories of going to seleep with the sound of the Atlantic in my ears. :-)

Nature sounds, bird song etc, is nice, but I'm not especially drawn to walks in the woods, gardens etc. here in the USA. I tend to be the target of insects and react badly to insect bites, which blunts the enjoyment.

I find any gentle music relaxing, any style, genre, instrument.
Johnny Hodges on saxophone playing one of Billy Strayhorn's compositions such as "Single Petal of a Rose" or "Daydream" - lovely!

Back to pan pipes for a mo - We once heard an Andean group (Andean Fusion, I think was their name) playing native instruments including pan pipes in a lovely big airy mall in San Antonio, the acoustics there mus have been exactly right for their music - I was hooked, had to go buy their CD immediately.


mike (again)~ Places with special relaxing or magical ambience - yes, the older the better in the case of structures. For the general "feel" of an area: anywhere in New Mexico, Land of Enchantment, is always special in that way for me.

Paulo Renato Scheunemann said...

I love pan pipes to meditate, especially Andean and Tibetan. But what really calms me down is the sound of rain or the ocean, and you can find some really good samples on youtube, some lasting over 7:00 hours....

Twilight said...

Paulo Renato Scheunemann ~
Rain - yes, that's strangely calming also, especially when heard from the safety and comfort of a warm dry environment.