The Gates of Sound
You breathe deeply into the meditation of grounding; preparing and anchoring yourself in anticipation of entering sacred space. You step forward and cross the threshold of ritual space and pass between two drums placed on either side of you echoing the rhythm of your heartbeat. A rush of energy moves through you and you immediately feel the core of your center respond in resonance. Boom-boom, boom-boom; each dual strike syncopating the placement of one foot in front of the other carrying you into the space of magick and arriving through the Gates of Sound.
Music soothes the soul, quiets the mind and sets the listener in a space of tranquility and peace. Music unleashes the prime instinctual nature and rouses the passions, spirit and emotions of the listener to a place of alertness and action. Music inspires what will become art or a piece of great writing. Music links the atoms and cells of its vehicle in grace and fluid motion, or syncopated frenzy. Music beats out the rhythm of the heart and carries the journeyer to realms hidden and remote holding treasures of deeper mystery. Music carves its way through the energetic fields surrounding and like the ephemeral flutter of butterfly wings, lightly etches its feathery strokes; forever changing all in its path. This month we’ll begin a journey exploring the definition of, energy and form that sound takes and its transformative qualities that create the music of the Soul that becomes the harmonious composition of the Universe.
Music is only one aspect of what is included in the definition of sound. Some may say that music is the structured pattern of sound’s rhythm. And, that when sound is unstructured it becomes noise. I believe these are merely the semantics used in an attempt to categorize what essentially moves of, and in its own accord as it recreates its own definition in response to where its energy is directed. Music is the most overt expression of sound, primarily because we are conditioned to recognize its signature of pattern and perk up in attention as the sound moves through the receivers of our auditory experience.
It is scientific fact that the brain responds in accord with the signature of rhythm that is provided it. If we look at this response using the definition of artistic expression it is clear why so many of these forms of creative beauty are used to access the deeper response of the soul and elevate conscious awareness to a place of inspiration. Sound applied through the dynamics of music takes many forms and in its most structured is used as therapy to heal, calm and stimulate function because of this innate stimulation of resonance of the neural pathways to specific electrical patterns. We’ll take a look at the specific sound patterns of music in future writings.
At a physical level, our ears are the tools of auditory experience, but this is only the beginning of the auditory responses of our subtle senses. The transparent sounds we encounter act as depth charges on our psyche and emotional, mental and ultimately physical response play out the discord or harmony we have taken in. If we think of sound in these ways, we also realize that volume and tone play only a small part in what the effects will be. The intention placed behind an almost silent utterance of negative energy will produce the same desired effect as one of more audible level. Conversely, an invocation bolstered by a voice that is loud and full in its calling will draw nothing to itself, if intent is not strongly in place as the cannon of carrier. Each action moves sound, breath and rhythm in a specific way, but as with all magickal practice, the intention provides the suitable structure for success and the ultimate point of resonance that attracts the desired goal.
In the mundane experience, we are continually surrounded by the vibratory signature of sound, and are largely unaware of the responsive resonance of those powerful waves of vibration moving through and within our bodies. The profound inference of this statement is that when we become aware of the effects of certain sounds on our emotional, mental and active states we can use these as potent tools of magickal working, spiritual practice and transformation. In example, nothing touches us to the core of our being like a piece of beautiful music and likewise, the same sensations are evoked at the sound of new life being birth and the first cries of a beautiful baby. Similarly, music can agitate us if certain pitches and rhythms are used just as that same crying baby can rub nerves raw if encountered in an already stressful state.
Much of the sound and subsequently altering of our own state of resonance is transparent. The white noise hum of electrical objects, that when electricity fails brings us to the startling awareness of the real meaning of silence. The clicking of the keys of the computer keyboard as we type. The daily opening and closing of our car or house doors as we arrive and leave. The rubbing of our hands together for warmth and the swish of clothing brushing across our skin as we move about. All of these and more form the multiple gateways of sound through which we forever move as we go about our daily tasks. In the space of eventide we are still subject to sound. The rhythmic or annoying sound of breath as we move into dreamscape that becomes the gentle wave holding us at the fluctuating levels of consciousness can easily become the abrupt awakening that occurs when snoring reverberates through a quiet bedroom. The white noise of the air conditioner that aids our sleep or the all too loud ticking of the clock that keeps us on edge. All these and more effect the quality and thus level of dream state we are able to achieve in any given night.
These sound patterns move cyclically and create their own geometric patterns that are then embedded within our own to form points of resonance for future reference. This is how we are often not even aware of the sounds that routinely surround us because we are already attuned to their specific signature. Think about the country dweller who is acutely aware of the sounds of nature and can “hear” the change in the seasons. Arriving in the city, that same individual is deafeningly aware of the sounds of sirens, cars, and city equipment. The city dweller barely notices these things because they are attuned to the frequency of the cityscape and would most likely say that it is “too quiet” in the country, never hearing the gentle rustle of the butterfly as it moves through feathery greenery.
Years ago I was listening to multiple compositions of music to select one for a piece of choreography and came across something called the “Tabula Rasa” by Arvo Part. Basically the music is a geometric structure of sound that repeats the same basic set of notes with minor variations and dynamics as the completed composition. The intriguing part is how the music winds and weaves its repetition of notes around a central core of sameness. This sameness is the point of resonance where each responds to the other in like manner. This is the resonance of the country fellow and the sounds of the country and the city woman who thrives in the bustling rhythm of the city.
Initially what attracted me to this piece of music was the title, “ The Tabula Rasa”, and as I dug a little deeper into what that title might imply, I was inspired by the etymology of its origins. The term in Latin equates to the English “blank slate” (which refers to writing on a slate sheet in chalk) but comes from the Roman tabula or a wax tablet, used for notes, which was blanked by heating the wax and then smoothing it to give a “tabula rasa”. I liked this idea of mind being molded by experience and the many permutations that it may take on, while still operating from a central core of knowledge.
I believe this principle to one that is a staple of spiritual progress. This is the idea that we go through, or perhaps better stated, allow our minds to periodically return to this state of the Tabula Rasa as we inch along the Path. And, by so doing new levels of thinking can be formed that are then integrated and woven into those that are firmly rooted. And, each of these periods when there is a pause, opening and influx of new information brings us to greater awareness of the process of mind, inspiration and creating something new from their union. This is the same principle used in composition of the rhythms used within an inspiring piece of music. And, it is for this reason that music in the form of a chant, drumming or metronomic invocation is used in ritual. This state is also what produces other artistic modes of self-expression. As I sat listening to the music weaving its labyrinthian story, this is what spoke to me and flowed out from my resonance with it into an affirmation that I set down on paper.
May I be as the
That the hand
Of the Divine may
Write the words
Symphony of Life
And, paint the
Of the future
For this month’s exercise I’d like you to take a journey into sound using the various forms of music. Pick a genre that you don’t normally listen to and sitting with full attention on how the music makes you feel, allow the sound to move through and around you. When you have finished listening, write down your impressions. Did it make you want to get up and start moving? Did it evoke specific images or emotions? Would you consider listening to this type of music again, now that you’ve had experience with it?
Repeat this exercise for several different types of music. Looking back reflectively on which you connected most deeply to. When you’ve done this for several sessions, try to tune into the sounds that surround you as you move through your day that you have not actively sought to listen to. These would be the sounds of whatever method of transportation you may take. Even if you walk to work or school, there is a rhythm and sound that will be made when foot strikes the pavement. Mentally make note of any that really rouse specific emotions in you. These might be excitement, surprise or annoyance. Spend some time comparing how, if at all the experiences differed from chosen listening to being caught up in a rhythm not of your own choice or design.
The more you become aware of the sounds that are continually creating energetic flow and affect, the more adept you will become at selective hearing and intentional response.
Next Month: We’ll take a look at The Sounds of Ritual