WHAT A LOT OF CHAT-TER-ING THERE IS
WITH-IN MY MIND
WITH-IN MY MIND
A POINT OF BA-LANCE
CAN BE FOUND
IN SOUND Try speaking this in the rhythm of the opening of the Fugue subject!
Many years ago I had the idea for a research project which would philosophically and psychologically explore the communality of the experience of great music. Concerts which create such a strong and powerful experience that the usual stream-of-thoughts present in each member’s consciousness is overtaken by the communal experience of the music. On a few occasions in my life I have been present at concerts which felt as if they were world-changing events – I remember as a teenager a performance of Steve Reich’s Drumming in Oxford, long before he was well known in this country. There were only around fifty people present but it felt as if a whole new world of musical experience was opening up before our very eyes. In 1988 I saw Abdullah Ibrahim perform his composition Mandela live in London soon before Nelson Mandela was released from prison. The power and commitment of his playing convinced me that music could make real political change possible. These experiences have been a profound influence on my life. In the world of art therapy there is a word for this powerful shared experience – intersubjectivity. Experience which is shared at a deep level and which resonates in a similar way with different people at a level other than that which words can articulate. I went on a songwriting course once where three out of nine people on the course, myself included, were all writing challenging songs about our fathers at the same time. Not a word had been spoken in the group or to one another about our fathers. It was only when the songs had been written and we came to sing them to the whole group that the ‘conicidence’ became apparent. But was it coincidence? Or had we become more open than usual to accessing a deeper layer of the collective unconscious. There will always be some people who are more sceptical than others about the ‘reality’ of shared experience at this level – but there is understandably a communality of descriptions of mystical experiences across cultures, across centuries, across different stages of life. In the Orthodox Christian Liturgy the stage of moving from the individual-subjective experience is mapped out clearly. In the singing of the Cherubic Hymn we put aside ‘all cares of this life’ and place ourselves alongside the invisible orders of angels in worshipping the divine reality. When we receive communion the deep level experience is then of unity with the very essence of life, Christ as the divine DNA. In the light of this experience, the perennial questions in Western Christian history as to the nature of the Real Presence become irrelevant in much the same way as the sceptics’ questioning of the efficacy of homeopathy becomes irrelevant when you have seen a baby being transformed from a dangerously high fever to a calm sleep within twenty minutes of taking some Belladonna... When we approach the piano from this angle anything is possible. We teach well by being open in heart and mind, by allowing space for the angels to play with us and our pupils, and by immersing ourselves in an intersubjective experience of the music. By giving our ‘small self’ up we receive our ‘deep Self’ again and again. And while we cannot MAKE this experience happen for anyone else we can at least facilitate the conditions in which such experience is possible.