Sometimes You Just Gotta (What Music Therapy Looks Like)

I’ve said it before…but, it bears repeating (and repeating, and repeating). Music is powerful. It’s spiritual and can be meditative and healing to body, as well as to mind, soul and spirit. Music therapy is a way to use music as medicine, very specifically and effectively. Playing a hand drum increases blood flow (circulation), singing is good for the lungs and nervous system. But that’s just one aspect (and only two examples). We’ve all heard how “music soothes the savage beast”. This isn’t just a saying. There is good medical science behind such a phrase. In making music, we can focus energy positively and that flow of positive energy and vibration can help manage conditions such as anxiety and depression, as well as being a good therapy for those of us who suffer from mood and personality disorders. Music IS powerful. I made this video to extol the virtues of music therapy and showcase just some of the healing benefits of making music.

Colours True (and a word about regeneration)

Firstly, please turn up your volume.

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For me, the original version of this song is the best. But, this picture and quote that I put up on my Facebook Page yesterday inspired this rendition of the song True Colours you are listening to now (or, you are if you turned your volume on/up as you were requested to).

This subject of knowing and being yourself, is at once so simple and so deep.

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I am presently going through what I call a regeneration (those of you who are Whovians will automatically get the reference) which began at the close of last year and is continuing on.  If you aren’t a Doctor Who fan…well, I feel very sorry for you…  um… leave now and go do whatever it is non-Whovians do.  Moving right along…  Regeneration.

When I posted this image on my FB page, I wrote this:

I’m regenerating.
It’s a process.
It isn’t just for Time Lords.
It can be painful…
but it is necessary in order to continue living.
I can’t promise you what you’re going to get.
But, the time has come…
and I AM regenerating.

This year I feel that, in and out, I am becoming myself. The outward display of that are the new tattoos and piercings. The inward display (the most important) is in my comittment to cultivate awareness and live in the present. In other words, meditation and mindfulness.

It’s about not diluting my colours for anything or anyone. It’s remembering. Discovering. It’s awareness. That with undiluted hues I may leave my mark on the world – not a watered down, dirty smudge, but a vibrant, beautiful work of true artistry.

A Moment of Silence

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One of those days when it’s all getting to me… and that always amplifies my angst at the shittiness of people not giving a shit and my frustration at the ughness of life.

Well, read the tagline… it is a blog about rants, after all.  I am attempting to live in the present and develop a more positive outlook… through mindfulness meditation I am cultivating awareness, and it is helping. But, in all honesty, I do ride the line of hope and hopelessness. I have moments when I experience a small taste of freedom. Moments of silence, as an observer; moments of not being caught up in my thoughts and the feeling of helplessness and the… the lifeyness of it all and the unfairness of talent going unappreciated, the lack of a caring audience, the inability to do something to support myself and my family through my gift, the agitation and anger at my mental health (or lack thereof and the limitations it causes).  Oh, but…on a sideline, speaking of an audience, I do want to say “hello” and “thank you” to the new followers of the blog I have recently acquired. And, then, there are these other moments of silence. Grieving the dead dream, along with my own longing for death… a deep sadness that creeps around the edges and stains the present old-photograph-yellow. Awareness gets swallowed up in reverie and rumination and the silence is filled with a scream of anguish about…well, about all those above mentioned things and more.

It’s just a moment. 

Only a moment. I won’t stop playing and making music for long. It feeds my soul and even though I can’t “make a living” from it, it is my life. My therapy and expression and, as I said here, I do want to make beautiful things whether or not anybody cares.  No matter what Don McLean wrote, there has never been a day when the music has died. Music lives and is powerful medicine. Dreams die. Musicians die. But music? It’s eternal. And so…

I’ll have my moments (now and then) for grieving the dream, but I will never stop making the music. And, I will also continue to take time for moments of silence where I go beyond the despair of life to experience a level of…something close to enjoyment of the present. Until I, at last, get to finally join my dead dream in rest.

Won’t you join me in a moment of silence?

 

 

A Sky Full of Music

Turn up your volume, please.

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I could write, and tell you how I’m feeling. Blog it all out. I have so many, many things to say – stories to tell, experience to share. Stuff and more stuff. Aging superhero (aka musician), strugging with life, illness, trying to cope, trying to cultivate awareness (living present in the moment), trying…failing…trying…  or, I could do what I do and just give you this. Because, right now, this here says it all, and it is how I say it best. Always.

Even If

As I was saying here

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Today, I had to go for a blood test. It’s a long walk from where we live to where I had to go to get the red stuff drawn. To make matters less appealing, it was a fasting test, so I had to do all that walking on an empty stomach. The good news was that my husband took the day off work to make sure the kids got to school and I made it to my appointment without fainting or anything.

After we were done at the phlebotomist’s, our first port of call was to get me a much needed cup of coffee and something edible. We did that. Then we had time just to wander around town together. If we’d had any money to spend we’d have gone straight into the bookshop.  But, window shopping in a bookshop is, for me, like the height of being teased and left high and dry. It’s a literary blue balls. Yeah, I’m being crude…get over it. You get the point.

So, we decided to go look in a vintage furniture shop. Now, if we couldn’t afford to get me a new book, we certainly couldn’t afford to get any of the cool furniture, but – for me – it’s not nearly so much of a tease; I can look and say, “Yeah, be nice”, but you won’t see me climbing the walls with unfulfilled desire.

Jamie was the one to spot this coaster (it’s a coaster, but I’m keeping it as a plaque on my piano).  He remarked something along the lines that this should be our philosophy and I said, “Yeah…it’s sort of what I was talking about on my blog yesterday.”  He counted out some change in his pocket and bought the coaster/plaque.

Sure, IF more people did care, I’d be able to afford the book and maybe even the really nice furniture. But, they don’t, and there’s nothing I can do to make them.  It is what it is. But, still, I am what I am. Thus, the beautiful things shall continue to be made whilst I have breath.

Sitting there on my piano, it will be a source of comfort and inspiration. It’s also testiment to the love and thoughtfulness of my husband who counted out pennies so that I could have a bit of visual support on those days when people’s great lack of caring is getting to me. That’s love, that is (yeah…he is awesome).

Compulsions

While success continues to elude me, I continue on because:

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It’s sort of like breathing. I’m a wreck at life. I don’t like it (life, that is). It annoys me (and that’s on a good day – the rest of the time I detest it). And, yet, I keep breathing… it’s that thing I do. But, unlike life, I am good at making music. Talent, I have. But, talent means so little in this business. I do this when there is no real reason to other than the compulsion to do it. If I could stop myself breathing, oh I would.  One day I may figure out the way to do that. Until then, apparently, I’m going to continue making music.

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At the moment, I’m getting in touch with the tribal; I’ve gone native. It feels right. It feels now. It feels ancient and now. Sometimes, I picture myself sitting against a tree in Queen’s Park or somewhere, with my hat off on the ground (to collect any stray change a kind passerby might give), playing my wooden flutes to the wind. I doubt that I will actually take up busking any time soon, but  that’s the visual in my imagination right now as I compose pieces layered with driving rhythym, accented by the haunting sound of my “second voice“.

I’m not releasing any more music (not putting out any more to sell, that is). What’s out there is out there (on bandcamp, cd baby, amazon and i-tunes). It is failing to fly off the virtual shelves. I will continue to share some of my new stuff online (and if and when gigging comes back into the picture), but it isn’t worth the amount of time (blood, sweat and literal tears) and money (I don’t get my money back, let alone make any on what I put out there) that it takes to produce and distribute if people aren’t going to buy it. It’s good stuff, but there’s too much competition and far too much apathy. I’m trying not to be bitter. Did I mention, life sucks?

I am always grateful for those who do enjoy my stuff. So, as I say, the stuff will still be there, but no new albums or singles.

I spent time this morning on another stab at an exercise in futility: uploading yet another song, one of my best (or so I’m told) to BBC Introducing. I’ll wait to hear that it’s been listened to…and then remain hopeful for a few days until I realise that, just like all the other times, they don’t want me.

Screw it. I’m breathing. And thus…I can’t escape it. I’m driven to do it, to make music whether anyone else is interested in what I have to offer. It’s beautiful. It just is. It allows me occupy the present moment and almost, nearly (as close as I get except maybe during orgasm), to enjoy it (the present, the moment, that is).

It used to be all about my voice. I finally realised, it’s bigger. I’m not just a vocalist. I’m a musician. I make music. I’m not a failure at making music. I successfully do the making thereof. I’m a failure at getting discovered/heard/famous. I’m a failure at making my passion and what I am good at pay my bills and contribute to the financial needs of myself and family. But, making music? At making clever, unique, versatile and pretty damn awesome music? At that… I’m a colossal success.

Perhaps, after I’m dead, my music will be discovered. Perhaps it never will and it will die with me. But, whatever the case, I’m making it because I don’t sing the song, it sings me. I don’t play the music, it plays me. And in it… in it is something pure and beautiful, something untainted, something that – for a moment – can make me feel like fucked-up-me is contributing something beautiful to this world…for a moment. And, I must do it. Like breathing, it’s a compulsion.

 

This is the piece that I composed as a thank you to the dear friend who sent me the gift of a second voice – my Native American wooden flutes. I have this set to play automatically so that, if you have the volume up on whatever circuity device you are reading this on, you can listen while you read. If you like what you hear, why not check out my other stuff? Thank you for reading and listening.

Life Blows… Blow Back!

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Or, we could say, “Life hits hard; hit back harder!”

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Music is powerful. Music is influential. No matter what you tell yourself and your parents when you’re a teenager; the music you listen to affects you, in a very real way. Science now supports all this. Thank God for the invention of brain scans, ay? What you listen to will affect mood, ideas; it will influence you in subtle and significant ways. Deny it if you want to, but music is a spiritual force.

I’m not hear to preach at you. I am simply in awe of, well, the awesomeness of music. As a musician, it’s an honour and responsibility to use the “power” wisely (with great power, yeah, yada yada yada…Spiderman has nothing on us musos…we’re the real superheros and, dare I say it, villians). Music is a gift to us all and a helpful medication in the struggle to cope with life.

I am a huge supporter and believer in music therapy and the more I find it helping myself and my mental health difficulties, the more I want to share the therapeutic benefits with everyone who will, well…listen.

Listening is where we start. Not a passive listening, but listening with awareness. Music is meditative in quality, and right there lies so much of its healing power.  The Latin word for meditation is mederi, which means “heal, cure, remedy, assauge, comfort, amend” (see, you learn something reading my blog).

What is listening with awareness or meditative listening? 

Sitting or lying comfortably, choose a piece of music to listen to (for this “exercise” I recommend going for an instrumental piece so you can focus more on the music and avoid the temptation to get caught up following the story of the lyrics and how THEY play on your emotions or what they cause you to remember, think about, etc.). If it is a piece you are familliar with already, approach this listening session as if it’s the first time you’ve heard the piece. Or, you could choose something new to you. The idea is to approach the music with curiosity, as if hearing – not only music, but hearing itself – for the first time.  You are cultivating a sense of curiosity and wonder. You are cultivating a sense of gratitude for the ability to hear and for the gift of music itself.

Perhaps you’ve been taught that meditation is some Eastern mystisism that you wish to avoid. Lately my view has been quite challened on this subject. The medical and scientific proofs of the benefit of meditation on the brain is not to be sniffed at! You need not sit and chant weird words and it’s not about reaching some altered state of consciousness. It’s about becoming AWARE, about getting off the autopilot most of us are run by day in and day out, and grounding yourself in the present moment. It’s about taking time out of all your busy DOING to simply BE.

Ok…now, back to the music…

Actively listen. Don’t judge what you hear. Just follow along with the “travel” of the changing notes, follow the rythym and, as you listen, shift your attention to your body and see how the sound is affecting you. What do you feel? (This is why it’s better to try this with music sans lyrics because we are discovering the raw effect, the sensations, in the body – how the music effects the body, and working with those feelings rather than with emotions. And (now this is important) if (and when) the mind wanders (it’s what minds do), gently escort your attention back to following the music, right where it is. The mind may wander several times – that’s natural,  but every time it does,  gently (without beating yourself up about it) bring your awareness back to the music.

When the piece of music finishes, you could sit quietly for a little longer, focusing on your breathing, staying aware of the present.

Taking the therapy beyond listening.

Making the music takes this therapy a leap beyond listening. This gets you actively involved with making and using the gift of music. Some might even call it true magic.  The problem is, not everyone is musically gifted and so they can feel left out of anything more than the listening. Sure, having some kind of natural talent helps (greatly), but you can still benefit from something like joining a drumming circle and getting involved with making the healing sounds. Drumming with a hand drum (like the African djembe which I am playing in the second picture up there), helps with blood flow and circulation. And, if you have any kind of rythym at all, you can play – it’s a very “user-friendly” instrument.

You don’t have to play complicated rythyms. Experiment. The idea here isn’t to play to entertain others, or even to “entertain” yourself. This is for YOU. Time for you to beat the demons away. Time for you to personally take the power of music and let it IMPACT you. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t judge the sounds, just play them. Imagine you’re one of those X-Factor contestants that really think they can sing but are tone deaf and couldn’t carry a tune if a bucket was strapped to them to carry one in! Just play.

Like anything, it takes a bit of practice, but it’s worth it. I challenge you to play the djembe for 15 minutes and tell me how you feel afterwards? It’s invigorating. Much better than a gym workout, in my opinion – one, because you don’t have to be a super-athlete to do it, and both body and MIND get the benefit.

See, meditation doesn’t have to be freaky hippie stuff – it can be cool musician stuff (I know, sometimes, it’s the same thing…but yeah… I encourage you; give it a go).

Anywho, hand drumming is a great place to start your music therapy journey. And, you don’t have to join a circle (that just gives an added social/community type thing to it – it is fun to make music with others) – just get yourself a hand drum (again, I highly recommend the djembe) and begin. I am certain you will feel the benefit straightaway.

To comfort…to assuage (mederi).

If you follow my blog, you know I am a professional musician and have been singing since the age of 4. I am now nearly, coughcoughcough, shuddershudder, 40.  Throughout the whole of my existence, music has always been a great comfort to me. I have used my voice and the piano (mostly) to express myself, to express my emotions, my pain…to be the voice of my soul. Now, I am learning a new way to use music.

While I have always known music to be powerful and therapeutic, I am now using it in a specific and meditative (mederi) way and this has led me to expand from my comfort zone of voice and strings hit with hammers.

I am presently embarking on learning what I call “my second voice”.  This week, a dear friend of mine (another person I met because of this here series of books) sent me the exceptionally special gift of two Native American style wooden flutes.  And, when I play them, they speak to something deep within me and they become the voice of my soul, in that moment.  The sound resonates and clears my head.

Music therapy.  Awesome stuff.

Life blows.

I also had an appointment with a doctor this week who finally seemed to listen to me and see how badly I was struggling – crippled and not really living – because of my mental health. It was nice to hear someone who knows what they are talking about say that you can’t just choose to be happy; it’s a chemical thing. It was also nice to hear that she was going to get me properly diagnosed and see I eventually get some more specific help for my case. Refreshing. It won’t happen overnight; I still have to jump through some nhs hoops, but…there might be some hope, and that’s a big something. What do I do in the meantime?

Blow back! Oh, and I’m a musician, I welcome all your blowing jokes, innuendo, and double entendres…be my guest. Blow it, beat it, finger it, baby! 😉 It’s all good.

Yeah, it was nice to finally say to someone, “Really, there’s never a time I’d choose life (existing) over death…I’d always prefer to die,” and not have them give me some stupid, high and mighty response made in some effort to shame me into appreciating the “gift of life”. No, she listened, she understood, she promised to help. Now we see. And, for the moment… I play on.

Support my music. You can help me while I "play on".

Support my music. You can help me while I “play on”.