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Gillian Sanger

How does music influence you?

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This week's question asks:

How does music influence you?

For this week's question, I invite you to consider the impact that certain pieces of music, singing, or playing an instrument has on your mind and body. This question is influenced by the worksheet, The Power of Music, and so I invite you to read through it and practice any one of the four practices outlined. Then, feel free to share what shifts you noticed in your mental, emotional, and/or physical state of being.

Alternatively, you might simply share some thoughts on how music influences your mind, emotions, and body. What music makes you feel calm and relaxed? What makes you feel inspired or energized? Simply explore and reflect upon the influence of any sorts of music that touch you in some way.

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Growing up, I had several uncles who played in a fairly popular band called Whiskey River (very apropos) and we used to go to their outdoor concerts when I was a young child, so I feel like music has always been in my life. I listen to a wide variety of artists and styles of music. Lately I listen to a lot of chanting; everything from Tina Turner to Deva Primal, Snatam Kaur, Krishna Das, Peruquois, Ajeet Kaur, etc. Chanting is soothing and facilitates my writing.  I also love Madonna, and have seen her in concert five times! I've always admired her strength and attitude; her breaking of rules and constant evolution. Other artists I enjoy listening to are PJ Harvey, Tori Amos,  Kate Bush, Prince, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Ani Defranco (she recently came out with a collaborative release about prison life that is absolutely brilliant). I have to be in a certain mood to listen to music because it does provoke so much emotion. There are times when I play certain artists to provoke certain emotions. For example, there are certain Ani Defranco songs, such as 'Dilate' and 'Untouchable Face' ("fuck you, and your untouchable face, fuck you for existing in the first place") that I play if I want to release anger; I typically dance while I listen to the songs really loudly. There are other songs, like PJ Harvey's 'Blue Drug' or Pink Floyd's 'Learning to Fly' that I listen to if I want to cry. Other songs bring back memories- any song by The Cure reminds me of my older sister, who was obsessed with The Cure when we were growing up. Music by Neil Young, Roxy Music, The Moody Blues reminds me of my Dad. This music that evokes memories is also very emotional for me, and sometimes I'll have to change the radio dial. I am grateful for the richness that music adds to life.

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It is interesting how my relationship with and to music has shifted over the course of my lifetime.  As a kid and young teenager, it was an escape...a way to fantasize about things and places and people far away from my small, suburban life.  Even then, I was equally drawn to a mash up of artists and styles.  Just like now!

Like other input coming in through the senses (and like @Jo L so eloquently said), music can transport you to places and people from your past.  I find that is true some of the time, especially if I hear something randomly (on shuffle or the radio).  More often, I now reach for music that soothes...while I am driving or making dinner, I lean toward India Arie, Amos Lee, Mumford and Sons, Lana Del Rey, Jono McCleary, Ben Harper, The Staves, and others who stir something in me with soulful lyrics and/or acoustic instrumentation.  I like to sing along.  🙂

A new band I have recently discovered on Instagram is @infinitysong...incredible.  Talented and mesmerizing.  Highly recommend.

Every evening, after my meditation, I like to listen to soundscapes to drift off to sleep.  I love the mix of sounds from Mother Nature and synthesized binaural beats and find them so comforting.

Thanks for the thoughtful question, @Gillian Sanger!!

Rachel

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Hi.  I am new to the community, so thought I'd put in a comment.  I had a 50 year career as a symphony percussionist, so naturally music affects me very deeply.  What's  maybe interesting to this community is how mindfulness has affected my experience of listening.  Playing in a symphony orchestra seems glamorous and exciting to many people, but there are also long stretches of boredom and a lot of burnout.  So toward the end of my career there were a lot of pieces I thought I'd never want to hear again, ever!  But I started listening to music with my whole body, kind of like a musical body scan, noticing where my body was responding.  I always envied people in the audience, because I knew that a lot of them were hearing the same thing I was, but with "beginner's mind", and hearing it on a much more emotional level.  So I'm pleased to report that I am making listening to music (mostly classical and jazz) with new ears, and appreciating it in a way that I haven't before.  Kind of like mindful eating.  So I can hear a piece by Tchaikovsky, for example, that I'd played dozens of times and which I was sick of, and feel the tremendous emotion that the composer  expressed.  It's really wonderful to experience life on a deeper, richer level, and all you have to do is pay attention.  My second grade teacher told me to do that.  Better late than never.  Peace to you all.  Congratulations for choosing the path of wisdom.  Keith

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Jo, Rachel, and Keith - thank you for these beautiful reflections. 

Jo and Rachel - I can definitely relate to the feeling of being transported to another time and place through music. Music can stir such strong feelings of nostalgia, which is an interesting state of being to observe. 

I listen to a varied range of music as well, from Krishna Das, East Forest, and Deva Primal to Nick Mulvey, Sufjan Stevens, Aldous Harding and many more. @Rachel - I checked out Infinity Song - you are right... incredible! Thank you for the introduction.

Keith - What a lovely sharing. I love this idea of applying the beginner's mind to listening to music and allowing the entire body to tune in. I can't say I have tried this with music other than during kirtan but I certainly will. Kirtan moves me in this sort of way, where no matter how many times I repeat the same mantra, I am fully present to the sound and the accompanying music. 

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I'm picking up on this thread as I purchased a ukulele recently! I've only just begun learning how to play it, but it is already proving to be a helpful tool to enhance my focus and quiet the mind - plus, it is just a joyful experience. Does anyone else play the ukulele or some other instrument?

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