“To say science and spirituality are mutually exclusive, does a disservice to both” – Carl Sagan.
Those insightful words always resonated deeply with me, and by extension the arts (in my case music and sound), provide the perfect medium to communicate ideas which simultaneously straddle the worlds of science, spirituality, and art.
I discovered my passion for music and sound via electronics and technology. Growing up in the late 70’s – early 80’s around the age of 5-6, I was fascinated with electronics and computers, I loved listening to records while watching the turntable go round and round (there was something about the disc shape which I found mesmerising), along with anything other worldly, such as extra-terrestrial life, magic and the paranormal. In fact, I had numerous experiences with such things very early on.
Although less frequent, they have continued throughout my adult life which is itself an interesting point; when we are young, we are completely open to everything, more in tune, and capable of perceiving magic in the world around us. But as we grow older, we are taught and told to discount as dreams or imagination, anything which can’t be easily explained.
When I was young, wonderful and mysterious things seemed to happen to me all the time, they were a regular feature of life. They were not just dreams, nor the product of an over-active young imagination. They were real, palpable experiences, often with physical evidence. As I grew up and the influence of the secular world flexed and tightened its grip on my psyche, those occurrences became rarer, or at least much more difficult to perceive through the increasingly dominant lens of the rational adult mind. Because of this, I find myself actively seeking them out, hoping for another glimpse of the tantalising ethereal world which seemed so much closer to my younger self. I’ve often wondered how many of us have these mystical experiences early in life but soon either forget them or are persuaded by our parents that they all have some prosaic explanation and are to be quickly discounted.
When I became interested in such topics in my mid-twenties, I began to remember all those childhood experiences and decided to investigate them further as I felt they were an important part of my personal spirituality. Part of that process involved regression hypnosis which granted, is perhaps not the most reliable source of information due to its highly interpretive nature. But experiencing it first hand, I can say with absolute certainty that the things I saw and experienced were not products of imagination, nor was I led in any way by the practitioner, what was most overwhelming though, was how incredibly emotional the experience was. In quite uncharacteristic fashion, I found myself in floods of tears as waves of emotion washed over me. The exact content of those sessions, and of all those experiences is beyond the scope of this article, but I have started writing a book on the subject.
Topics such as past lives and reincarnation, extra-terrestrial life, out-of-body experiences, ghosts and other entities, between-lives, and E.S.P have all been regular features in my life and have greatly influenced the music I write. I’ve always subscribed to an individual, personal spirituality rather than one based in organised religion. It has been my experience that whenever humans seek to organise spirituality in the form of religion, it is all too often for entirely the wrong reasons.
Through my teenage years into my early twenties, my family had introduced me to a Christian organisation with whom they had been studying the bible. However well-intentioned they may have been, that whole period was incredibly damaging. This religion was particularly cultish and controlling, it took everything I had to separate myself from it, and meant I had to endure being completely ostracised by the very people who had been my closest friends for years. By deciding to follow my own spiritual path, I was considered a dangerous apostate. I had dared to question some of their most troubling and contradictory doctrines, but rather than discuss them with me, it was announced to the congregation that I had chosen to follow the path of the devil and therefore must be shunned by all. I can’t begin to describe how it felt when the people who had been so close to me for so long, now hurriedly crossed the road to avoid me with looks of fear and dread on their faces.
As challenging and painful as that was, it taught me a great deal and ultimately served to strengthen my resolve to follow my own spiritual path, and to decide for myself what exactly my belief system would be made of.
After more than three decades working as a composer, producer, and sound engineer, of studying the cultures surrounding the native instruments and traditional musical styles I was incorporating into my work and exploring a broad range of spiritual subjects and belief systems, I am convinced that music and sound are powerful beyond their aesthetic and emotional qualities and are actually ancient technologies. The ancients understood this and used music and sound both in their spiritual practises and in very physical, practical ways ranging from all kinds of healing, sonic levitation, esoteric weaponry and defences, to even accessing other dimensions. One area I found particularly interesting was cymatics:
“…In his research with the tonoscope, Dr. Jenny noticed that when the vowels of the ancient languages of Hebrew and Sanskrit were pronounced, the sand took shape of the written symbols for these vowels, while modern languages, on the other hand, did not generate the same result. What was so special about these languages, did the ancients know of these sciences? Dr. Jenny’s research leads us to conclude that there is deep rooted science behind the ancient languages. This perhaps explains the healing and manifestation power of various Sanskrit mantras…”
Over the last thirty years, I have been privileged to explore so many aspects of spirituality, from my early new-age albums with themes including feng-shui, reiki, ayurveda, tai-chi, yoga, and others, through my world-dance music of the early 00’s which focussed on eastern mysticism, to earlier this year when I released “Moon”, my 37th album of original music.
This one combined my love of space and science with the combination of synthesisers and orchestra which has become a big part of my style, and the incredible narrative of the 1969 Apollo moon landing.
I adore composing film music and view this album like a score for a movie in your head. I take much inspiration from vivid imagery, a story or narrative and strong emotional content which are all rich in the Apollo 11 mission. “Moon” explores the emotional and spiritual impact of that pioneering mission upon the astronauts who braved incredible odds and forever changed the way we perceive our place in the universe. I’m honoured that the album has won ‘best electronic album’ in the annual One World Music awards this year and spent 4 weeks at No.1 in their charts.
Science, spirituality, music, and sound are all vast and fascinating topics, but the area where they overlap is what fuels my muse. The power of spirituality combined with music is clear, but it really hit home with me when I saw the reactions to my 2002 album, “Guardian Angels”.
One track in particular, “In Michaels’s Realm”, has over 1.3 million views and more than 500 comments, and some of those comments took me completely by surprise.
This short little piece which features a solo choir boy over a gentle, dreamy orchestral arrangement of strings, harp, and trumpet, seems to have connected with people in a remarkable way.
When I scrolled back through the comments, I was quite overwhelmed to find so many claiming the track had helped them overcome difficult times and to reconnect with their own spirituality, and most incredible of all, several said it had lifted them so much that it prevented them from committing suicide.
I found this incredibly humbling, it confirmed to me the power of music as a tool for healing, especially when combined with spiritual themes.
It also got me wondering whether we really do compose anything at all completely by ourselves because at times, musical ideas and inspiration in general seem to be gifted to us, appearing from thin air without conscious thought or effort. In a sense, at times I feel more a conduit for the music, wherever it comes from, than its actual originator.
Either way, I feel it is a great privilege to be able to express myself in this way since music not only delights, heals and inspires those it touches, it has also been a great comfort and dependable friend to me throughout my life, giving language and form to the abstract concepts of spirituality and how I relate to it.