Something weird about me:
In the midst of glorious music, my breath often stops on its own.
I’m not purposefully holding my breath—I’m just moved to stillness. I feel a resonance that would rather not be disturbed by breath. My body doesn’t seem to miss the air.
I remain fully conscious, immersed in the present moment. Rather than feeling “spaced-out,” I find my focus greatly enhanced, my perceptions sharpened. My internal energy soars upward to the forefront of my mind, like a deep experience in meditation.
It is oh, so enjoyable. It lasts a while, until my ego gets in the way: “Hey! Look at me! I’m not brea…oh, never mind, just lost it.” I don’t then suddenly gasp for breath—it simply resumes.
This blissful rest from the obligation to breathe is coupled with the emerging energy I described in my article on sacred music. Could it be that this energy is curbing my need for oxygen? Am I being sustained for those few minutes by some cosmic intelligent life-force?
My crazy hypothesis
Intelligent life-force has a name: prana.
Prana refers both to breath and to energy, akin to Qi and Pneuma, the respective Chinese and Greek terms for life-force energy.
Prana is the animating power behind inspiration.
Brahms, in Talks With Great Composers, describes his experience of connecting with prana:
I immediately feel vibrations that thrill my whole being. These are the Spirit illuminating the soul within, and in this exalted state I see clearly what is obscure in my ordinary moods; then I feel capable of drawing inspiration from above, as Beethoven did.
Those vibrations assume the forms of distinct mental images; after I have formulated my desire and resolve…to be inspired so that I can compose something that will uplift and benefit humanity, something of permanent value.
I believe that the composer’s inspiration, their connection to creative life-force gets encoded into their music.
But how is this possible?
Great writers and artists convey the nuances of their inspiration through the weaving of their words, color, form and so on. Great composers use melody, rhythm, harmony, etc., as the warp and weft to tie their inspiration into their music. Gaps in their technique prevent the inspiration from fullest expression, like gaps in a darkroom ruin a perfect picture.
When well written and played to perfection, music reveals its prize. The surrounding space becomes enlivened. I go breathless.
So…music is like a magician’s spell?
A friend urged me to think of it like this:
Studying the art of painting, we learn to perceive the presence of energy as light in our visual experience. By studying music, we can learn to perceive intelligent life-force that lies behind silence.
Music reveals the veiled prana within and all around us. By combining music and meditation, we unlock the barrier to experiencing for ourselves the life-force resonating within us—the vibration of life.
So what does this do for the music?
When practicing, I use the intelligent life-force to lead me to greater concentration and productivity. Joy is the ultimate motivator.
When performing, I use the power of my thought to infuse this presence into my notes. I keep my physical tension at a minimum so that it can resonate through me as clearly, powerfully and openly as possible. This tangible presence becomes a life raft to sail way beyond stage fright.
When conducting, I open myself to the unique signature of inspiration within each piece. I allow its energy to coalesce into the center of my bearing and presence. I radiate that resonance to the choir or ensemble. In this way I hope to inspire, not by words, but by vibration.
While listening, I try to resonate back to the performer the resonance of inspiration I feel from their music. I honestly have no idea what effect this has, but I bet it gives them the feeling that I’m REALLY listening. When I perform and feel this from others, it creates a dynamic circuit between us that lifts us all even higher into a magical musical connection.
Inspiration is the connection to creative life-force.
So it all ties together:
- I enter into music.
- The music uplinks me into the inspiration behind the piece.
- I ask to meet the source behind the inspiration.
- My breath stills.
So next time you’re moved by music, see how deep you can go. What can you perceive?