With autumn now in full swing, there's a different feeling in the air. Gone are the warm summer nights. As we move forward into less daylight and attempt to bypass elements of seasonal depression, it's important to ask: do you have any special music you turn to this time of year?
This past month, I've really fallen in love with the music of Suzanne Ciani. Particularly the albums Seven Waves (1982) and The Velocity Of Love (1986). There's also something captivating and uplifting about her appearance on the television show 3-2-1 Contact, which you can view below. I used to watch this show as a kid! Talk about a nostalgic blast from the past.
“The Romantic movement was built upon the idea of nature as the salvation of the mortal soul and the mortal imagination, with poets penning odes to high peaks just as industrialization was beginning to choke its way through Europe. Wordsworth wrote of a fusing of ‘the round ocean and living air, / And the blue sky and in the mind of Man.’ Beethoven would literally hug a linden tree in his backyard. He dedicated symphonies to landscapes and wrote, ‘The woods, the trees and the rocks give man the resonance he needs.’ Both men were speaking of a melding of inner and outer systems. It sounds a bit woolly, but they were auguring the explorations of twenty-first-century neuroscience, of human brain cells that sense environmental cues. Our nervous systems are built to resonate with set points derived from the neutral world. Science is now bearing out what the Romantics knew to be true.”
With or without headphones, there is an abundance of music to be heard. This past summer and early fall, the birds have been the stars of the show. Sometimes I play music at a low volume in my headphones, trying to strike the right balance. Gentle music that won’t drown out the wind in the trees. Lately an artist named Suzanne Ciani has shined bright in this role. But more on her next week. For now, I’m going to include some North American birdsong below. 🐦
This video shows you how to play the most common C major chord shape on your guitar (commonly abbreviated as simply a C chord). It also includes a few adaptations to hopefully make guitar playing more accessible to a wider range of musicians. Have fun!
The legendary singer Tony Bennett has been living with Alzheimer's in recent years. Last night I watched an incredible piece on "60 Minutes" about Tony as he prepared to play his final shows at Radio City Music Hall.
Music is an unparalleled activator for Tony. Being a performer and true professional is so hard-wired into his brain that it is a sight to behold when the curtain rises and he is on stage, in his element.
What's more is Tony is not relying on replicating notes verbatim from sheet music. As a Jazz singer, he is adding nuance, variation, and improvisation in every performance. Tony's neurologist Dr. Gayatri Devi states, "Even though he doesn't know what the day might be or where his apartment is, he still can sing the whole repertoire of the American songbook and move people."
When asked how music stimulates the brain, Dr. Devi responds, "music engages multiple parts of the brain. There's the auditory cortex for hearing. There's the part of the brain that deals with movement and dance. There's the visual system that gets engaged, so it's kind of like a whole brain activator."
I've included the entire segment above. There's a moment on stage with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga that really moved me, but I won't spoil it.
For many, Monday signals a return to the work week grind. It can come with its fair share of emotions. A push and pull of yearning for the freedom and revitalization often associated with the weekend, coupled with the drive and determination to access a productive and optimized flow state. A work week that leaves you getting ahead in what you seek to achieve, without sacrificing your well being or humanity.
The right music can help prevent a workspace from becoming draining, boring, stale, or devoid of human spirit. Recently, I was introduced to a phenomenal album by my dear friend Tim Berrigan. It's called "playing piano for dad" by h hunt, and I find it to be a highly replayable piece of music that suits the workspace exquisitely. Mellow, warm, and intimate, it can speak to your soul without bombastically interrupting your focus on other tasks. Read on for a bit more about the album, and if you need something new for your headphones, I encourage you to seek this one out. I put a link to the music in the comments section.
"Recorded in one comfortably-seated take at Studio Ferber, Paris, France in 2015 - h hunt’s ‘playing piano for dad’ was initially conceived as a Christmas gift to the composer’s father. Intimately recorded, it is a heartbreakingly gorgeous & sincere work of eleven vignettes which capture even the most nuanced sounds of the recording session - the composer’s breath, the shifting sounds of the piano pedals, the ambient noise and conversation within the studio. With minimalist tendencies, h hunt’s compositions are earnest and heartfelt."
Harmony Integrative Therapy has an extended family. Key people who have inspired us and help make the world a better place. For our first spotlight on the community, we're sending a special shout out to Austin Morford of Morfbeats.
Austin is a skilled designer, builder, and engraver of innovative instruments for Morfbeats alongside his brother Adam. It's not often you come across a family who is creating new instruments, building them from scratch, and inspiring unparalleled levels of creativity in the music realm. In this video you can hear Austin creating a hypnotic rhythm with Morfbeats' High Octave Gamelan Strips and Low Mid Octave Block Bells. It's a thing of beauty to witness.
Aside from the credentials mentioned above, Austin is a composer, ultra talented musician, and all around great person. His designs are a dream come true for the music therapy world: beautiful sounding, hand crafted instruments that can be arranged in a plethora of adaptive, accessible set ups. For example, his Chromatic Gamelan Strips can be arranged in the same shape of a piano octave, or you can reduce the number of pieces at your heart's desire. Try out just having two tones to bounce off of. Need a specific scale? Eliminate a few strips and you have the notes of the pentatonic scale. Or, throw the constraints of music theory and tonal harmony out the window completely, make a custom arrangement, cease to analyze, and just follow the muse. It's endless fun.
Here at Harmony Integrative, we feature a full Chromatic Gamelan Strip set in our library for utilization during music therapy sessions. Thank you Austin for doing all that you do, and for helping us provide the highest quality therapeutic services possible.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard of this phenomenon, but in recent years many long lost, overlooked, and underappreciated works are being discovered and exalted by way of the “YouTube algorithm.” Long out of print musical treasures from continents thousands of miles away are being beamed into the homes and workplaces of those seeking glorious sounds. In many cases, they are obscure and unavailable on major streaming platforms like Spotify.
“Endless Tide” has become a treasured work here at Harmony Integrative. If you need to unwind and disconnect from the pressures of the world, put this on, close your eyes, and let it transport you to a special universe. A lot of us are stuck behind computers for several hours a day during the work week. If you seek to stay focused and productive within your technological framework without losing your sense of the higher self, play this through headphones at low volumes to help steep your daily grind in a more transcendent atmosphere.
Lately I’m thinking a lot about the mixture of music and nature. Here, the harp swirls and creates a meditative experience, eventually melting away and seamlessly blending into ocean waves lapping at the shoreline. It can be blissful.
This video shows you how to play the most common E minor chord shape on your guitar (common abbreviations: Em, em, Emin). It also includes 2 adaptations to hopefully make guitar playing more accessible to a wider range of musicians. Have fun!
the feeling you get when you're looking for the next song to really connect with whenever your head strong there's always a playlist always a lost gem to get you through phases and then when you find it, you're outta your head your into the skyline and centered again
Above is a set of lyrics I wrote yesterday while working on a new song. Music is a very special gift. Life can be difficult at times. My hope for you is that in every phase of life, you can pull from the infinite well of sound and rhythm, and in doing so, you can be empowered to carry on and weather the everchanging forces this world presents.
Did you know there is a Lesson Resources section of this site? It includes many different resources for people who are learning an instrument. The goal of the Lesson Resources section is to help make practicing more fun and effective. I will be adding to this page ongoingly.
I just started a new collection called Drones & Pedal Tones. The key of C was the first in the series, and now earlier today the key of G has been added. Expect more to arrive shortly. But why pedal tones, and what are they?
Pedal Tone - Pedal point, in music, a tone sustained through several changes of harmony that may be consonant or dissonant with it; in instrumental music it is typically in the bass.
Drone - A sustained tone, usually rather low in pitch, providing a sonorous foundation for a melody or melodies sounding at a higher pitch level.
"Try practicing some scales over these sustained tones. Or, you may find yourself treating the sound as a pedal tone to play chords over. It could even inspire some improvisation. Alone, these drones can sound monotonous. However, treating them as a foundation for musical exploration, you can easily get lost in your playing and take flight." - Will
“Music engages widely distributed neural networks that are shared with general ‘non-musical’ cognitive, motor, and language function. Music processing can engage, train, and retrain non musical brain and behavior function” (Thaut & Hömberg, 2016).
I've always loved this image, which I scanned out of a 1960s era Time Life Science book. I think it pairs nicely with the above quote from the Handbook of Neurologic Music Therapy.