Bring on the New Age Music
I’ve had new age music pouring into my ears 30 hours a week for the last eleven years.
My non-massage therapist friends cringe when I say this out loud.
I get it. Bad new age music is as awful as bad pop music, and the good stuff doesn’t always make it to the masses. This is so unfortunate. Music and sound can be healing. Please visit The Healing Music Organization to find out more about the science and art behind this.
“Certain types of sounds and music have a proven effect in creating states of relaxation, balance, healing and visualization. Generally these include certain types of lyrical, flowing melodies and chord arrangements. Certain of these arrangements can create an atmosphere of peace, mystery, awe and openness.” ~Dr. Jeffrey Thompson
When I was a kid, I cherished this floppy 45 record of humpback whale songs that came with my parents’ June 1975 edition of National Geographic. It came out the month & year I was born! My family had cabinets full of old Nat Geo’s & I thought for sure that my discovery meant the whales were reaching out to me across time and space, so that I, tiny sensitive quiet girl that I was, could crack their code and help other humans to finally understand what they were saying. I spent a lot of time listening to this poor little record, and I also noticed that I felt really calm and happy when I did. I’m not sure I cracked their code, but I certainly enjoyed the resonance & mystery of their sounds.
Fast-forward to college: my local NPR station played (& maybe still does?) two new-agey/ambient music shows on Sunday evenings: Hearts of Space & Echoes. Weekly, I would veg out to these shows, maybe reading, maybe allowing my mind to drift off into space with the floaty music. It felt amazing, and like I was recharging my whole system with the aid of this gorgeous soundtrack.
Once I became a massage therapist, I was aware that there was powerful sound and music out there. I would get a little peeved if therapists (or classrooms) were not consciously choosing high-quality music. I think if something is going to be filling the ‘sound space,’ it may as well be helpful and brilliant.
All art is subjective….
I’m not a musician, but I know when an album begins to grate on my nerves, or feel stale. I know when I, or my clients drop into a deeply meditative state encouraged or enhanced by music. I can usually feel it when the music is slightly jarring or agitating to an otherwise unwinding nervous system. I’ve noticed that each client at any moment responds differently to the sounds, and that my own moods have changing musical taste.
My iPod now shuffles a decade’s worth of massage CDs and downloads, but for years I played one CD at a time, sometimes for several days in a row. Bad new age music on a repeat loop is a very unique form of torture (akin to, but maybe easier to bear than a loop of bad holiday music). Listening to something for hours on end can help you figure out pretty quickly what you love and what you don’t.
Thankfully, over the years I’ve found some good stuff. The following five (in no particular order) just happen to be my go-to albums. They are beautiful, relaxing, and I never tire of them. In doing the small bit of research for this article, I’ve realized I’m barely scratching the surface of music as a healing art, and I’m excited to continue to explore how it can enhance my bodywork practices.
These are my long-standing favorite five albums for the massage room (the headings are links to listen to or buy the music):
Steady, slow drumming that maintains a heartbeat-like rhythm throughout. This is one of the most grounding albums I’ve found. For bodywork, meditation, or yoga, it’s very useful that the tempo remains constant.
I use this in yoga classes as a breathwork (pranayama) tool: it can help students feel and steady the rhythm of their breath, serving as a metronome if we are working on making inhales and exhales of similar length (also giving them a nice break from counting breath-length).
Jim teaches drumming workshops around the country, and he comes to Bloomington! Let’s get him back here. (All of my hippie friends will know that he was a member of the band Rusted Root.)
He composes music for planetariums. Space music: enough said.
(Someone made a copy of this disc for me years ago, and I’m not sure if I have Planetary Chronicles I or II.)
Michael Hammer’s website describes his music as “interdimensional….transmitting and translating the energies of the next evolutionary steps for humanity in the form of music.” This is all I know: I like it. It makes me feel good. My clients seem to enjoy it. It sounds cool, and I don’t know how to describe why.
Various Artists: Between Father Sky and Mother Earth
This one is a compilation of the work of various Native American artists: multicultural, including traditional and modern pieces. Two songs that move me to my core every time are Perry Silverbirds Ashne Ate, and R. Carlos Nikai’s flute rendition of Amazing Grace. This music just resonates with the land here.
Again, a “relaxed heartbeat drum rhythm.” I’m a big fan of the drumming of hearts. It’s healing. It sounds great, and is always grounding and soothing.
So, what are your favorites?
I continue to work in the massage room for many hours a day, so I’m always on the hunt for new healing music. Please share with me artists and albums that you love via comments here or on my facebook page.
And, soon we’ll have to have conversation about music for yoga practice, and what’s going on with all of the chanting….