Peace in the New Year

These words, spoken by American composer Alan Hovhaness in 1971, seem to resonate today:

“We are in a very dangerous period. We are in danger of destroying ourselves, and I have a great fear about this … The older generation is ruling ruthlessly. I feel that this is a terrible threat to our civilization. It’s the greed of huge companies and huge organizations which control life in a kind of a brutal way … It’s gotten worse and worse, somehow, because physical science has given us more and more terrible deadly weapons, and the human spirit has been destroyed in so many cases, so what’s the use of having the most powerful country in the world if we have killed the soul. It’s of no use.”

Here’s a video featuring Hovhaness’s beautiful music for English horn, harp and percussion, Koke no Niwa (The Moss Garden). The composition, inspired by Buddhist gardens, includes haunting melodies but also moments where nothing much happens but the ring of a vibrating bell, or the gentle yawn of a tympani. The composer reminds us of the power inherent in even a simple vibration. Sound heals.

In this New Year, I hope the healing power of vibration will help you find peace in this chaotic world we live in. Whether you feel emotional pain or physical pain, you always have at your disposal one of the most powerful means for transforming that pain: the healing capacity of the music you are playing, the healing power of a beautiful tone. When you pay attention to your body, you can feel how a free tone can free the body, and vice versa. Finding tonal resonance can help you release physical tensions in the body and allow you to find spiritual resonance with the music.

Alan Hovhaness described his music this way:

“My purpose is to create music…which is beautiful and healing. To attempt what old Chinese painters called ‘spirit resonance’ in melody and sound.”

May this spirit resonance help you find peace in the New Year.