Music and metaphysics, unmasked

March 30, 2007

lsummer.jpg

Lisa Summer, author of “Music The New Age Elixir”

I’m reading a fairly interesting book called MUSIC: The New Age Elixir by Lisa Summer. It calls to task the several shelves of books that have been written about music and the spiritual world over the past 100 years or so, from the point of view of a music therapist. Got that?

Whether through nature or nurture, I have always asked “yeah, but is that all there is?” And this restlessness took me on a long spiritual journey through learning about traditional religions, their mystical components and offshoots, theosophy and all its offspring, and a large amount of channeled material from the profound to the ridiculous.

On that 30 year journey I picked up a fair number of books about music and metaphysics. None of them interested me terribly much as, like sex, the real thing is so much better. Being a composer, I didn’t really need to worry about what anyone else thought the metaphysical correspondences to music. I picked up Summer’s book and realized WHY none of them really stuck. These people would write these books and just SAY stuff, and it was all of a sudden true. And the older it was, the more true it had to be. She critiques all of those books I have on my shelf, pointing out their flaws, inconsistencies, absurdities, non sequitors, and other impossibilities of these strange little world views.

The kvetch factor is very high in this book. You always have the feeling she’s complaining, or bitching, or whining. You look at her picture and she looks, well, a bit upset. And after reading her book, I understand why.

Summer rakes metaphysical musician-mystic Steve Halpern over the cosmic coals with the vituperation of a jilted lover. Maybe she had believed in Halpern’s shtick until she accidentally peeped around the curtain.

She compares different authors’ writings on the correspondences between exactly which pitch and which color and which music correspondes to which chakra. And each author speaks with equal authority. And as I said, these dudes are just makin’ this shit up. The P.T. Barnum factor prevails in literature about the mystical nature of music.

Summer gets really pissed when authors claim that THEIR music will heal. One of her tirades is against the chap who insists that the customer must buy his specific cassette (sic) in order to get the full power of the treatment. Copies will NOT work. She scalds the snake-oil salesmen who claim their meditation music can cure cancer or AIDS.

My old friend Rosemary Brown appears throughout the book.

I’m only half way through the book and will update this post if I need to. It succeeded in bringing back some old incomplete memories and in processing and updating them.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniel Wolf March 30, 2007 at 12:23 pm

Roger —

You might be interested in reading Gilbert Rouget’s _Music and Trance_ which is rather convincing in its argument that while music is often instrumentalized in the induction of trance or possession and that music is useful to the socialization of such states of consciousness, there is no material relationship between a particular sound or music and a trance state. It’s a nice bit of affirmation that our responses to music are something other — and deeper — than a simple behaviouralist mechanism.

Brad Wood March 30, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Roger, I jumped to Amazon via your link but at 26 dollars + s&t (one copy left! hurry!) I hesitated, especially after reading Leroy Banjo’s review (a name that cries out for anagram processing!). Maybe I can read your copy when you are done.

Brad Wood March 30, 2007 at 1:00 pm

(as for example: “Role: Ban joy”)

Previous post:

Next post: