Opening To Music

By Ron Esposito- February 2011

As a kid growing up in Youngstown, Ohio during the 1950’s and 60’s I was exposed to the glory of rock n’ roll and soul music heard on AM radio.  James Brown, the Beatles, Chuck Berry, Del Shannon, the Rolling Stones, Wilson Pickett, Motown, the Beach Boys, Dusty Springfield and the Ronettes were part of the soundtrack of my emotions.

I started playing guitar when I was ten years old, inspired by Chuck Berry, one of early rock’s most distinctive guitar players and lyricists.  I wanted to rock out…rock n’ roll was freedom!  As I became attracted to girls, a sense of longing pervaded (early onset of seeking union that would later show up spiritually) that was evidenced in listening to love songs and songs of love lost.  Hormones and codependent love songs had a strong effect emotionally.  I was definitely a budding romantic.

The music of the Latin mass of the Catholic Church had its place as well in my developing awareness of the powerful emotional effect of music.  I found great beauty in the sound of Gregorian chant as it wafted through the high vaulted ceiling and stone walls of St. Patrick church.  The acoustics and the architectonics of the space were meant to reverberate and inspire awe as well as introspection.  The organ and choir music could bring goose-bumps but Gregorian chant was my favorite. 

My experience of Gregorian chant plumbed another dimension of my opening to music.  Chant heard in church sparked an inward gaze with a calming and centered effect that led to contemplation and reflection.  The vibration had a profound effect upon the nervous system enabling contact with an awareness that was beyond the up and down of the emotional roller coaster. Later, in my 20’s, Hindu Sanskrit chant would become very meaningful for me because of its vibration and entraining quality.

I spent hours in the bedroom that I shared with my brother listening to music.  I really dug the Beatles album “Revolver” and the song on it “Tomorrow Never Knows” (which is about letting go of egoic identity).  The song contained an Indian influence and used studio effects evoking an inner journey through the mind.  Through the influence of Hindu philosophy and psychedelics the Beatles took the music into another zone that was emotionally light years away from “This Boy”.  The emotional yearning in me was moving toward spiritual yearning, a desire to know myself on a deeper level.  Who am I?

While in college during the late 60’s I sang and performed folk and blues music on the guitar as my listening was moving more into an instrumental direction with jazz.  The music of saxophonist, John Coltrane indelibly marked me.  Coltrane’s instrumental power, passion, spirituality and searching tone seared my heart taking me further into myself, to the Self.  The yearning for spiritual unity was in flame.  Coltrane was a mystic and you could tell in his music that there was a marriage of heart and mind in service to Universal Love and Truth.  That moved me…and still moves me.  Check out the album, "A Love Supreme."

In the early 70’s after college I worked in the jazz music business in Boston and New York.  I met many Latin, African and Brazilian percussionists who taught me about the ritual use of rhythm in their cultures.  The music of the Afro-Cuban religious sect, Santeria drew me in.  The drumming with “call and response” chanting of Santeria is based in the religion of the West African Yoruba people who were brought as slaves to Cuba by the Spanish.  The slaves nominally converted to Catholicism and superimposed their pantheon of gods (orishas) onto the Catholic saints.  Their culture survived largely intact as did the music.

The Santeria ritual music features African polyrhythms played on the double-headed bata drums along with a lead chanter and small chorus using the “call and response” style that is still heard in Pentecostal churches.  The powerful spirituality of the drum is front and center with Santeria.  Locking in with the rhythms enables the spirit to fly like Coltrane in ecstatic free-flight.  I’m very happy that I got to experience Santeria when I visited Cuba in 2009.

While in the ashram of Sivananda Valentina in Miami Beach during the mid 70’s my interest in Indian music was piqued by my study of Hindu mysticism and philosophy.  The ragas of Indian classical music have a meditative aspect at their core and the sound of the instruments bring about a calm and centered state of consciousness…the original “chill out” vibe.  In the slow sections (alap) of Indian music there is a ruminative and an introspective quality that mellows the emotions and supports meditation.  The Hindu raga system is complex and nuanced, reflecting the centuries old study of various states of consciousness and their relationship to sound and vibration.  Indian music is not based on chord changes like Western music so it has a static quality to it that focuses on the nuances of note production and intonation, creating atmosphere through playing on various modes (scales).  The tabla drum rhythms used in Indian music are highly complex and are based on speech patterns.  All of it is set up to journey deeply into the Self to experience the union and oneness of consciousness beyond identification with the ego.

Most contemporary new age music has its roots in the “modal” sound of ancient cultures like India and the indigenous peoples of North and South America.  Miles Davis, the late jazz trumpeter, revolutionized jazz in the late 50’s by departing from the multi-chord compositional style of the be-bop era and introduced improvisation over sparse chord changes that “opened” up the music.  The Davis albums “Kind of Blue”, “In A Silent Way” and “Bitches Brew” are great examples of this “modal” style of playing emphasizing scales over chords.

In 2008 I came to playing the crystal and Tibetan brass singing bowls because of their purity of sound and vibration. They are like tractor beams for the mind in the way that they focus attention in the present moment.  The long resonant tones shift and stack in a cloud-like movement…thoughts going across the empty sky of mind.  Much of the music is akin to sound ritual practiced in many spiritual traditions to access the inner stillness that is our core. The sound is intended for a deep listening experience…ascendance on the spiral of consciousness.

The crystal singing bowls are made from crushed quartz silicate and are akin to the silicate micro-chips used as conductors in computers and other electrical devices.  The crystal bowls are aligned with the chakras (energy system) of the body and produce subtle changes in brain waves and the central nervous system.  The crystal bowls have been used in various healing modalities since the 1980’s.  It is the centering sound of the bowls that most attracts me.

The Tibetan brass bowls have long been used in the ritual practices of Buddhism.  They produce a shimmering sound that affects the subtle body (aura) much in the same way the crystal bowls do.  Both types of bowls are very rich in harmonics and overtones that tickle the ear and stir the soul.

Music as vibration is powerful.  May it open your heart.

 

Ron can be heard playing the crystal and Tibetan singing bowls on the CDs, “Lifting The Veil” (2008) and “Open Heart” (2009) available at http://www.ronesposito.com/

To schedule singing bowls sound sessions contact Ron by email, ron.esposito@goconscious.com

comments powered by Disqus
Website design, development, and content tools from NetCrafters - Cincinnati, OH