Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Music is a world within itself"
                                                - Wonder

The musical yogi

        Once there was a saint named Swami Hari Dass who was absolutely in tune with the universe. His music brought flame to candles, and rains from the sky. One day, as he sat in the forest singing in his traditional Dhrupad style, King Ahkbar came strolling through to find this yogi in absolute musical bliss. "You there!" said the King disturbing Hari Dass from his meditation, "Your singing is exquisite, and I must have you in my court as entertainment for my esteemed guests and royal family." Hari Dass sat on the ground in his loin cloth smiling and politely declined the King's wish.

       Shocked, the King exclaimed, "I will adorn you in the finest of fabrics, and you shall be surrounded by beautiful women and luxurious accommodations!" The saint continued to gently shake his head. "Your talents will be known throughout my kingdom, and you shall be held in high regard above all other musicians! How could you possibly decline such a bountiful opportunity?" After a moment of silence and few gentle breaths, Hari Dass told the king, "I need only to work honestly, meditate everyday, meet new people without fear, and play". With that, Swami Hari Dass returned to his mediation, and King Ahkbar went on to employ the saint's finest deciple, Tan San, to play in his court and begin the Sani Gharana musical tradition.

         Music has not always been a performance practice. Originally there was no need for a stage, an audience or even a preconceived aesthetic with which the artist is expected to mold their expression. The musician was focused primarily on honing his or her connection with the universe; and through that connection realizing a state of Ananda (bliss). This state is realized when the musician becomes the composer, performer, and listener all at the same time. My teacher and I both believe that this state of bliss may be realized through visual art, dance, poetry, love, and many other form of expression.

        In the Western world, it seems that there is a common understanding that the brain is the main control center of the body, and the heart is like a pump that keeps everything running smoothly. However, I am beginning to think that there is more to this mind~heart connection. The HEART is the center of our being. It is the heart that sings, the brain that interprets, and the body that manifests the interpretation. Practice is when we refine this ability to immediately understand our heart's intention and execute the action fluidly. This is why musicians drill scales and rudimentary techniques, they are strengthening the mind~body connection so that when it is time to express the feelings of the heart, there is a clear channel of energy, and a seamless delivery.

       The story in the beginning of this post is a combination of what I have learned from my gurus and friends Joe "Rahini" Ridolfo, Trip "Bholla" Slagle, and Professor Raja. I have paraphrased, included a few historical figures, and added some 'story telling spice' of my own. I would like to encourage each of you to seek out and enjoy your own means of expression, and let it bring joy to your life and to the lives of those around you. Listen to your heart; as it is always humming, and sometimes it is singing! Follow your passion and always remember to play.

Love and Light,
Nathan King (Granola Bear)


  1. I look forward to debating this one around the old campfire.

    I would argue that as soon as we dropped from the trees and started banging sticks together our primate brothers and sisters said "Wow! That sounds cool. Do it again."
    I believe performance and audience are two sides of the same coin. As satisfying as practicing music can be it rises to a different level for the performer when there are listeners. It becomes complete.

    I'm going to assume you are speaking metaphorically in your fourth paragraph so I'll leave that for now except to say that it certainly all happens in the brain; that is if the brain exists and it's not all just a hologram.

    Thanks for this one. I'm reminded of my own seeking when I was a young man. Keep it up young brother.

    Unka' Dave

  2. Thank you Uncle! You are correct, this is a lovely debate.

    I certainly agree that there is something special and unique about sharing music with others, and I hope that performances and spontaneous musical moments never cease. I am seeking to explore a musical world beyond the senses and the intellect. Perhaps music can transcend it's embodiment as a means of entertainment or as some intellectual work that the listener must interpret.

    Perhaps music has hidden dimensions that we have yet to access; different levels as you put it. Although, I am an optimistic dreamer, so I hope everybody takes what I say with a grain of salt! ; )

    Oh yeah, and regarding the fourth paragraph:
    I actually was not speaking metaphorically. I strongly believe that "it" does not "all happen in the brain". Not to say that we think with our heart in the traditional understanding of thinking, but that there is more going on in the heart than just taking orders from the brain and pumping blood. I am still learning about this, and there are lots of different views out there.

    Dig this:

    You mentioned the brain (and perhaps the body) being a a hologram...
    We should save that one for the campfire for sure!

    Love you Uncle, and thanks again for stirring up a this dialogue.

  3. I suppose my argument is that music HAS always been about performance. As enjoyable as it is to create any art, it's purpose is to be viewed, some way experiences by someone other than the artist. Certainly there is an abundance of art that is meant to please gods or some sort of deity but who really saw these and why are they so precious? People did and thought they were cool or at least enjoyed their antiquity.

    If the idea is to create music that alters your consciousness I would argue that it already exists. If the idea is to create music that alters states of matter; I would refer to it as sound and it also exists.

    As an artist I totally get your reference to bliss (Ananda) whilst creating. I always felt that part of this is the anticipation of the viewer (or listener...) experiencing the emotions I intended.

    Of course that's just me and I could be wrong.

    A note on paragraph four. There are even more "brain cells" in the stomach than in the heart. If the heart sings and the brain interprets, What is the stomach's role?

    Unka' Dave

  4. I think by "heart" you are not limiting your understanding to a part of our anatomy that is form. You are perhaps referencing the point at which we are aware that spirit is temporarily housed in form, in our body, and that is the spot that speaks to us from our true selves which are not form, but in fact are spirit.

  5. YES. Christine, that is exactly what I am talkin' about. The heart is a reference to our energetic center; and I would further agree that this center acts as a gateway to realizing our true selves.

    Uncle Dave, good point! The idea of trusting your gut is very interesting. In Yoga, this region houses our Swadhisthana (sacral) Chakra which is where we house mental impressions. Emotions, confidence, creativity and desires are all linked to this area.

    Love and Light,

  6. Okay. It looks like I'm not going to get anywhere with this "Fourth Paragraph" stuff and that's fine. I feel compelled to say this-
    Certainly the body is attached to the brain. The brain houses the mind. If you want to say spirit or soul that's fine and it's comforting to believe there is some part of us that will outlast our temporary bodies. I simply see no more than anecdotal evidence for this which is not the kind of evidence I require.

  7. I've been meaning to comment on this post for quite some time and I'm going to nerd out here:

    The heart can actually function independently from the brain. The heart is a mechanical machine; the brain is an electrical one. Imagine their relationship in the metaphor of a car. The engine, which is wholly responsible for setting the car in motion, can function without the electricity of the radio. However, the radio makes the ride more enjoyable. Perhaps it is the brain, not the heart, that makes life enjoyable as well.