Energy and Imagery in Music and Voice
There are many factors, facets and layers to the elements of energy and imagery in music and voice and elsewhere. My friend Wendy Howard said it very well when she said, “Psychic imagery is ultimately what we're all using constantly to create our individual realities, our consensus reality through the medium of sound via language, and what our creation myths are referring to when they state variations of "First there was the Word ..." In fact, sound without imagery is just noise, and sound without energy is powerless and hence no sound at all. It's the energy and imagery that creates the capacity for communication and entrainment.” We know that the “creation myth” of Dzogchen tells us that the first impulse was sound, and from sound arises light, from light, the rays. Out of the rays arise the five elements, and from the five elements all else comes into manifestation. We also know that there is outer, inner, and secret sound. Sound is primary and foundational.
Ultimately, it is the quality of the sound and energy that determines the imagery of sound, and visualizations, intent and embodiment are part of what shape and determine that quality. Here, quality does not refer to timbre, though timbre is another factor that may contribute to shaping the imagery. Then there is the necessary resonance entrainment to engage and influence the listener, if there is one. From here, I am taking a kaleidoscope approach to discuss various aspects and applications of energy and imagery in sound, music, and voice.
First there is the inevitable manifestation of energy, as everything is energy and vibration. More subtly, we found that in toning, it is not volume but the inherent energy in expression, as it was possible to tone quite loudly and find the sound dull and flat, or to tone very softly, and yet the tone would be fully charged and alive.
The word imagery invokes the idea of pictures, and also ideas, thoughts and feelings. It is important to understand that imagery is not solely visual, but may be experienced by different people through any sensory avenue. It would be possible to hear a sound, and get a visual sense of it, or a taste or smell, or a physical sensation, or something else, or conversely, see or feel an object, and hear a tone or sound as an expression of its energy. There are those with synesthesia where one sensory experience triggers an experience of a different sensory venue, such as hearing the note G and seeing orange triangles. This is fairly rare of course, though cross-sensation association if not literal sensory experience happens to some extent for many if not most of us. For example, we may experience low tones or minor key chords as having a cooler color such as blues or purples, and higher brighter tones and major key chords as lighter, brighter colors such as yellow or orange.
Certainly, the Indian idea of rasa comes to mind as a vital factor and component in energy and imagery in music and voice. Here there is both enlivening feeling and emotion, direct experience of a state of beingness. There is also the element of intentionality to the feeling, which brings in direction, life and color to the energy. What is the motive, or the intended impact of the music? Dr. William Fowler, who was my music composition teacher many years ago, said that the purpose of music was to manipulate your listeners emotionally. That may sound stark and somewhat harsh, yet there may be some validity to it.
When I was studying with Native American wisdom holder teachers, I began to learn about and explore another deeper and yet pervasive dimension to imagery, or psychic imagery, which is usually perceived subliminally though feeling perception, projected thought or image, body language, or otherwise. I learned that an ordinary person’s perceptions and responses are driven by psychic imagery by about 60-65% of the content of information input, and people who are empaths and sensitives by as high as 90-95%.
As with anything of power, it is possible to find applications of imagery that are destructive as well as applications that are positive, healing, and integrating. Those in marketing are masters of manipulating consumers through such imagery, and this is also the root of successful propaganda. Conversely, the possibilities of positive applications of imagery are profound.
The far-reaching possibilities of consciously working with psychic imagery really came home to me in my studies of Peruvian toning with these teachers. Peruvian toning is a form of melodic vocal toning using the syllable ‘oooh’ softly, with the sound reminiscent of the sound of a wooden flute. These teachers would use Peruvian toning as a vehicle for imagery to call in the spiritual guides and Mentors that they work with for ceremonies or healing sessions, to do clearings, to put a seal on someone after a healing session, and more. Once in a hands-on healing class, they gave a demonstration of Peruvian toning which excited me mightily, because I could distinctly hear four voices in harmony, not two. I found out I was the only one in the class who heard the secondary voices which they were toning psychically, and which I was hearing clairaudiently – they were not overtoning, which can produce two or more audible sounds. Is this an expression of the ‘inner sound’ of Dzogchen teachings?
The assignment that I was given to practice developing the imagery that makes Peruvian toning so effective recalled for me the cymatics work of Hans Jenny which demonstrated that sound can move matter. In the process, I also learned that working with imagery at this level is decidedly more than merely thinking an intention or picture – there is something like a viscosity, an authenticity or “juice” to it that moves or changes matter. I also noted that these applications are done from a place of focus, clarity and neutrality, without emotion. It seems that sometimes, strong feeling and emotion are necessary in the expression of imagery, and other times not. It is not so simple to understand the varying layers of this onion! But it does seem that at the root of it the issue is one of the quality of the sound and energy, and visualizations, intent and embodiment are part of what shape and determine that.
The first part of my assignment was to take a glass of water and put a few drops of food coloring into it, and then tone through a straw into the water, and through concentration and working with the imagery, to change the color of the water. The second part of my assignment was to place a wooden tongue depressor on a small cube-shaped block, and to tone toward it, and move the tongue depressor through the imagery. As Peruvian toning is done quite softly, the tongue depressor would not be moved by blowing on it. I regret to say that I was not successful in either of these particular assignments, nevertheless I learned something about the power of working with psychic imagery.
While there are many ways to embody and express imagery, one especially effective way is through the breath, either vocally, as with Peruvian toning or singing, or though playing wind instruments. Some examples that were effective:
My father developed cancer in his spine, which was very painful to him. He had been my first healing teacher, skilled as a clairvoyant and in distance healing working using projected color and imagery. He was very receptive and open to me doing some healing work for him with my didgeridoo. The didgeridoo is an Australian aboriginal wind instrument that is essentially a tree branch or trunk that has been hollowed out by termites. It is a drone instrument that has the greatest range of harmonics of any instrument. It is an extremely powerful instrument, with a penetrating energy and quality to its sound. The didgeridoo I used with my father is an agave didgeridoo in the key of D. I would play, projecting the intent and imagery of healing and color inside the sound penetrating into his back where the hot pain was. Most often I would use a clear turquoise color, with the cooling blue with a bit of healing green, and saturate my father’s back with the color and sound of the didgeridoo. Every time, it would significantly decrease his pain level and bring his energy level way up, and these positive effects would last well beyond the end of the didgeridoo and color healing session.
More recently, I was attending a sound healing workshop where we worked with Native American flutes among several other instruments. I had brought my first Native flute with me, a cedar 5-hole flute in Gm, made by Coyote Oldman. We were each to play a short improvised solo on our flutes. When we had all finished doing so, the shamanic practitioner who was sponsoring the workshop said that she saw ‘smoke’ coming out of the end of my flute when I played. I was amazed and amused, because many years ago, I used that flute as a surrogate peace Pipe to practice the protocol of handling the Pipe to seal my initiation commitments at summer solstice ceremonies when I was studying with my two Native American wisdom holder teachers. After all these years, the flute ‘remembered’ and still held the imagery of the sacred Pipe.
At the NW Native Flute gathering in October of 2006, one of the presenters was Anthony Natividad, master of the Hawaiian nose flute. Anthony had recently spent several months with Maoris in New Zealand, and had been gifted several Maori koauaus, a small traditional side-blown flute that may have several holes or may have none. He played a very old stone koauau for us, and said that particular one would only sing for him about one time of fifteen that he tried. It sang that day. What I experienced with the power and sound of this koauau was the imagery and energy of what seemed to me to be something like a timeless subtle golden ‘stardust’ from another near/distant dimension that came into the room, filling it, swirling in a counterclockwise spiral. This otherwordly ‘stardust’ moved through my body and energy field, filling in what seemed to be spaces that hungered for its energy, and activating energy, memory and recall within me that felt as if I had been seeking it for lifetimes. It was an exceedingly powerful and transformative experience from one untuned note from this very old stone Maori flute. I now have a koauau iwi toroa, an albatross bone koauau, which was made for me by master Maori artist and carver Rangi Kipa, who traveled halfway around the world to be a featured artist at the opening of the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art, and delivered it into my hands. The universe really worked some magic with this one ~ it was clearly meant to be that I have such a rare and amazing instrument to work with. This koauau is a sweet, subtle, powerful and magical instrument, and we work well together as we get acquainted and our connection deepens…
++ © Janis Page, 2006 ++