Music has the power to heal. The other day I had a terrible headache and an upset stomach just before a rehearsal. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through the rehearsal, but as it went on and I gave my attention to the music, I soon felt perfectly well. People have known of the healing power of music and used music in this way throughout the ages, and yet, not all music heals. What makes the difference between music that does nothing for us, or perhaps just dazzles us for a moment by its technical brilliance, and music that truly touches and heals our hearts and bodies?
It literally may have something to do with the beating of our hearts and the rhythm of our breath. A beloved mentor of mine often used to hear me play and told me in his kindly way that I played too fast. “Una,” he’d ask, “have you heard of tempo ordinario? It’s about 60 beats to the quarter note…similar to your heartbeat.” I sensed that there was something to this, but at the time, I argued back that everyone had a different heartbeat. Of course that is true, but then again, we all know that a fast heartbeat and a short breath can be indicative of health problems or stress! Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate more and more how important these ideas of the pulse and the “right” tempo really are.
Music is compelling when it tells us a story, though usually it is a story that unfolds without words. When our breath and our pulse lock in with that of the music, we follow it with our full consciousness the way we follow a well-told story or a gripping movie. This kind of immersion involves the entire brain–the analytic left side, the intuitive right side, and also the visceral brain, the seat of your emotions.
The physician John Diamond, in his book Your Body Doesn’t Lie, cited a survey of orchestra conductors and noted how long-lived they tended to be, and how they remained active and energetic to an advanced age. He believes this is because they involved themselves primarily with the pulse of the music, and that they thereby reaped the benefits of rejuvenation and longevity from doing so. Whether you aspire to live into your second century or not, let your music have a pulse and a breath that is harmonious with your body’s pulse and breath….and a story that comes from within you.