Simone Vitale

Sound Ecology p. 1 – Music for a special time

Exploring the concepts of “sustainability” and “ethics” from a musical perspective.

From Wikipedia:

The word sustainability is derived from the Latin “sustinere” (tenere, to hold; sus,up)[...] However, since the 1980s sustainability has been used more in the sense of human sustainability on planet Earth and this has resulted in the most widely quoted definition of sustainability as a part of the concept sustainable development,that of the Brundtland Commission of the United Nationson March 20, 1987: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Ethics, sometimes known as philosophical ethics, ethical theory, moral theory, and moral philosophy,is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct, often addressing disputes of moral diversity. [...] Philosophical ethics investigates what is the best way for humans to live, and what kinds of actions are right or wrong in particular circumstances.[...]

Ethics seeks to resolve questions dealing with human morality — concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime.

Richard Paul and Linda Elder of the Foundation for Critical Thinking define ethics as "a set of concepts and principles that guide us in determining what behavior helps or harms sentient creatures". The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy states that the word ethics is "commonly used interchangeably with “morality”... and sometimes it is used more narrowly to mean the moral principles of a particular tradition, group or individual." Paul and Elder state that, "most people confuse ethics with behaving in accordance with social conventions, religious beliefs and the law, and don't treat ethics as a stand-alone concept".

Itis my wish to share some ideas, feelings and insights concerning therole of music (and art in general) in the evolution of human society.

Iwill do my best to avoid dogmatic statements and to draw conclusionsmainly from my own experience and the observation of many years inthe music field. I will also refer to the work and research of otherswhere I reckon the source to be reliable and credible.

Theonly premise to everything that follows is that I believe we arespiritual beings in a human form and therefore spiritual evolution isthe basis and cause of our existence.

Thetheories and ideas about the birth and development of music from ananthropological and philosophical point of view are many.

Forsome scholars music has no “evolutionary function”, meaning thatit doesn't arise from the necessity to fulfill basic needs likesurviving, procreating, etc.

Forothers it is a mere by-product of the development of language...something like an enjoyable side-effect.

Ifwe think of evolution of life only as a process of biological growththat follows the needs for survival and procreation then of course weconsider as “necessary” only those things that serve thesepurposes on a practical level.

Butwhat if life (or at least human life) is not only about surviving ata basic level? What if it is also about expanding and growing beyondthe more tangible physical level of the “animal” life of ourbodies? In that case Nature would probably provide us with “tools”to thrive in that sense as well... and art could be one of suchtools.

Whatseems to be the most ancient musical instrument ever found (a flutemade out of a femur bone) has been dated some 40.000 years. Thisdiscovery has been obviously disputed, but the evidence seems to bein favour of a very early presence of musical knowledge in theNeanderthal age. I say musical “knowledge” here, not only musicitself, because the holes on the bones seem to match specific musicalintervals. Furthermore it is reasonable to expect that some form ofmusicality would exist before the creation of musical instruments, inthe form of vocalisation and basic percussions.

Whythen has music been with us for such a long period of time if it isnot something “necessary” to our life?

Weneed physical strength and specific bodily features to move throughthe environment, find food and procreate. We need intellect toovercome life challenges like avoiding predators and adapting toclimate variations. All this can secure our presence on this planet.From that point we need something more to proceed along ourevolutionay plan when survival is secured. We need to learn to masterour creative power, our discernment and our role of guardians ofnature. And God knows what else...

Inthe myths of ancient traditions, music comes from a super-naturaldimension, often gifted to mankind by super-natural beings. In manymystical schools music and especially sound are seen as gateways to ahigher dimension of consciousness. Because of this and because of themagical role that music has had in my own life, I like to think of itas a sofisticated and powerful tool for the development of subtle,spiritual qualities essential to our existence.

A littlebackground

Since I canremember I have always been fascinated by the world of sounds.

Themysterious power that musical soundscapes have to enchant, bewitchand open gateways for the imaginative mind has always had a strongcatch on me.

Still achild, I used to spend quite some time listening to music through bigheadphones on my father's Hi-Fi system. Retrospectively I can see howmy future propensity to work with sounds in detail as a composer,producer and, more recently, in an alchemical way, was already clear,although only in nuce.

From the ageof roughly 7 until my 30's I have listened to a huge amount of musicof many kinds.

When I wasaround 7 - 8 years old, I received a vinyl 45 with two tracks fromthe orignal soundtrack of the movie Flash Gordon, by Queen. That wasmy first mesmerising experience with music! It makes me smile nowwhen I think of how relevant was for me to listen to such music,although not really the most sofisticated...

Nonethelessat that time, obviously unaware of the subtleties of musicarrangement, I experienced an indescribable mind trip made of sounds.

At age 10 Iwas gifted a cassette tape of the soundtrack from the movie Rocky IV.That album features two synthesiser tracks by Vince di Cola that justblew my mind. I remember listening to those two single tracks overand over again, trying to decode the mysterious elements that wereable to affect my mind and body in such a remarkable way. No wonderthat, years later, I started my musical career playing keyboards andsynthesisers.

Lookingclosely at my intense passion for music, I can say that most of thetime my interest was something like 70% in the sound and 30% in thecomposition. I was often more fascinated by the way a piece of music“sounded” rather than by the song or tune itself.

As a young,avid listener, I was not at all aware of everything that goes on atthe unseen level. I was only focused on enjoying the sensorialpleasure and the emotional excitation.

It was onlyafter a period of crisis and change in my life that my awarenessexpanded enough to allow me to recognise that there is always muchmore than meets the eye. Not only around the experience of listeningto and playing music of course. But because music has always beensuch a huge aspect of my life, it has been easy for me to use it as agateway to observe subtle energetic phenomena. Analogically I wasable to then transpose my understandig to other areas of life,observing general dynamics and components of the interaction betweenpeople.

Now, keepingin mind the tremendous impact that sound has on water, on the humanbody, mind and emotions... on matter in general, I would like toexplore the topic of music from an “ecological” standpoint.

Sustainabilityand music

Myidea of a music that is sutainable is of a music that is producedwith pure intention and clear awareness. I wouldn't go as far asstating that it shouldn't be made with the intention of profit. I ammyself a composer and producer and I consider this a remarkableprofession that holds the potential to create enormous influence insociety. If used with awareness and purity of intention, it can bringabout balance and justice amongst human beings.

Thepurity of intention that I mean comes from the awareness of theeffects that music has on listeners.

Iwonder what the drive towards change would be if the study andknowledge of the effects of sound on matter, as well as the linkagebetween the subtle energetic aspects of music and physiology would bea considerable part of all musical studies.

Let'simagine a situation in which ideally every “artist” would presenttheir work to the public only after a process of refining.

Artcan be a great and powerful tool of introspection, purification andsublimation. If needed, it helps the expression of inner conflicts,issues, traumas in order to process them and trancend them, as thefield of art therapy clearly shows.

Placingpeople in the context of artistic creation, whether with full freedomof expression or with a guided procedure, can be extremelyliberating; emotions buried for years can find their way to thesurface, long forgotten dreams come alive again... in one word:healing.

Thisquality of art is priceless and I believe it should be used more andmore as a therapeutic tool in a safe, appropriate context, as well asin schools.

Inthe same imaginary situation when it comes to presenting art to thepublic, care, awareness and ethical purpose should be leadingfactors.

Now,whilst the field of “ethics” itself is not an easy one, dealingwith the concepts of “good and bad” and the like, sustainabilityhelps us bringing in more neutral ideas. I like the definition quotedabove:

sustainabledevelopment is development that meets the needs of the presentwithout compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirown needs.”

Ifwe think about the life of an individual as an eco-system, and theconstant reproduction of cells as generations, we see how we all needa sustainable conduct. What we do, think, feel and experience willhave an effect not only on our surroundings, but also (and firstly)upon the “future generations” of our own inner community.

Aperson could find deep healing in expressing anguish, fear, lust,attachment, anger, etc in a piece of art, but is that same piece ofart supposed to transfer those emotions to others?

Nowadaysself expression through artistic means is accessible to the vastmajority of people. Basic non-professional equipment and tools arerealitvely affordable, thus a “piece of art” is something thatalmost everyone can produce and present in a pretty easy way. You canbuy a guitar for 50 euros or less, teach yourself and, if you areartistically talented enough, you can be performing very quickly. Youcan buy very cheap non-professional painting material; you can makevideos and upload them on youtube; you can learn every form of art inone of the millions existing art schools... in fact everyone isencouraged to do so in the spirit of “letting it all out”,encouraged to emulate those who have done that before.

Ofcourse the point here is not artistic education, for there is nodoubt that nothing like the fine arts can elevate human spirit to ahigher state of consciusness.

Atthe same time I am aware that the role of the artist could be (orshould be?) to share uplifting contents/vibrations that inspireothers towards awareness, compassion and fraternity; to create an artthat somehow resembles and embodyes the principles of life-affirmingenergy.

Inthe case of music, I am not talking here about a particular genre asopposed to others, but rather about “intention”. Intention is akey element in healing processes of all kinds and it might not beobvious to everyone that the intention of artists is “imprinted”or “embedded” in their artistic creation.

Artis at the same time influenced by and influencing society. It is amutual process.

Onething that we learn from ecology is that no action should be madewithout considering it's consequences on the environment.

Especiallyconsequences in the future.

What if weapplied the same principles to the field of art?

By the wayit is not clear to me why usually people speak of music andart... I use here the word “art” to include all the possibleartistic expressions.

So... whatif we applied the same principles to art? What if we asked simplequestions like “is this useful to others as it is to me?”, “isthis my personal healing journey that I need to keep for myself?”,“is this going to contribute to the elevation of society?”

As boring,trite and maybe even stern as it may sound it could be a powerful keyin these delicate times of change.

Food forthe soul

Let'scompare art to food for a moment. After all art is often defined as“food for the soul”.

Basichuman needs like eating or sex have their original function innatural amounts. But they can also be overdone for the enjoyment ofthe pleasure they provide. And this can be true for music as well.

People ofteneat toxic and poisonous food just for the pleasure of the moment. Theimmediate fullfilment of senses becomes more important than the longterm consequence on one's health. But the price to pay, althoughoften not in the present moment, is sooner or later paid in terms ofhealth issues. Lack of awareness of the ingredients in processedfoods, for instance, is often a cause of ill health.

Lack ofawareness of the “ingredients” of a piece of art can be just asdetrimental.

If we acceptthat the primary function of food is to nourish the physical bodywith those specific elements that Nature creates for our growth andsustenance, then this question spontaneously arises: “why are we sooften drawn to food that does not contain those elements?”

That isoften because we develop emotional attachment to the sensations thatcertain foods elicit in our bodies, regardless of the lack ofnutrients or even of the toxicity of the ingredients.

Art can bealluring to the emotional body just as food is. And it changes thechemistry at the physical level in the same way, creating the anchorin the body for emotional cravings.

It has beenscientifically proved that music influences the activity in the brainand has an impact on the neural activity.

If theprimary function of food is nourishment, what it music's primaryfunction?

The answercould be... nourishment.

Can apiece of art be toxic?

Yes, in myopinion. And also according to my experience.

Forinstance, if an “artist” creates a piece of art with the soleintention of showing off, that piece of art will most probablyaddress issues concerning the ego in all those who will get in touchwith it. That could manifest as adoration for the artist(disempowerment) or enflating of the ego (false empowerment –desire to imitate).

This is notnecessarily “wrong” in itself the same way that let's say whiterefined sugar is not. That white sugar is toxic for most people is apiece of information available to us and everyone can choose what todo with it.

If a pieceof art is created out of a deep connection with one's higher self itwill trigger the same in the receiver, whom will experience states ofclarity and empowerment.

If a pieceof music is embedded with a deep feeling of anger, the listener willexperience the anger. This could even be beneficial, at first, if thelistener is repressing anger, because the music will create aconnection with something that needs to be brought to the surface.The music will elicit a cathartic effect in the brain, a sort ofvirtual experience of the releasing of anger. But a further exposureto the same music (brought about by the cravings and attachment ofthe emotional body) can result in excessive tension, neural overloadand aggressive or self-destructive behaviour.

Trusting and opening

Whenever adescription of the function, effect, quality or “magic” of musicis attempted, one of the most recurrent definition is that “musictransmits emotions”.

The skill ortalent of a performer is then valued accordingly to their ability toconvey emotional nuances; to find their way, as I would put it, tothe resonating areas in the emotional and pshychic bodies of thelisteners.

So basicallywhat composers, producers and performers do is to use their skills tointeract with or even manipulate the emotional bodies of thelisteners, aptly creating resonances with the emotional states thatthey choose to express.

The degreeof awareness, honesty and responsibility involved in this process isof course highly variable...

When welike an artist we basically trust them and allow them to interplaywith our energetic bodies.

This ispossible because of the modern configuration of a separate levelbetween performers and listeners. In ancient traditions and inindigenous cultures this separation is not obvious as it is for us“civilised” people.

In thoseculture there is often no separation for example between singing anddaily life and, even more importantly, no separation between peoplewho are “entitled” to sing or dance and people who are not.

Our modernculture has given birth to the concept of artistic performance. To beeligible for such a role, one must have specific skills andexperience that meet the established standard.

ThePerformer is then put on a stage, and the receiver in the audience.

Thisinevitably creates (may it be only at a subconscius level) a sense ofinferiority in all those who sit in the audience to passivelyreceive. And even more in those who don't have (or think they don'thave) the necessary level of skill required to be on that stage.

Furthermorewe need to consider that the artist is usually someone gifted with anatural sensitivity and openess to the astral worlds. Being so openat that level without a developed ability to descern and recognisewhat kind of energies are encountered can result in all sorts ofinvasive infiltrations.

I'd like torepeat:

whenwe like an artist we basically trust them and allow them (and theastral energies they are connected to) to interplay with ourenergetic bodies.

Let's goback to the food example.

People arebecoming more and more critical towards food producers. We aretrusting them less and less and we want to be sure of what we areputting into our bodies. And we do so by checking ingredients,searching for information and studies on the effects of all differentsubstances and so on.

It can be agood idea to start doing so with artists as well.

Music fora special time.

With allthat said, the artists' contribution to the shaping of societybecomes clear. They have a role that involves great responsibility.

Hundreds ofcomposers and performers all around the world are answering the callfor a music that sustains the process of our growth as human kind.

A new musicfor this special time.

Purity ofintention, devotion to Mother Nature, the apiration to bridge Heavenand Earth are typical characteristics of what is normally defined as“New Age Music” (and New Age as a movement in general).

This termmay sound cheap due to the commercial over-exploitation of theawakening process that is currently happening on this planet. Thisexploitation serves the double purpose of profit and of diverting theawakening consciousness in the safe area of a defined label, wherepeople can idientify (and possibly get stuck) with a concept.

We might orwe might not need new definitions... but that is also a game of themind.

New age”might recall the taste of soft synthesizer music roughly mixed withthe sound of chirping birds, sea waves and dolphins... but of courseit is much more than that and it is not about a specific genre.Rather it has to do with the state of mind and the level of awarenessof the artists.

That isindeed what we, as artists, instill in our artistic creation.

Of that weare responsible and in that lies the key to the birth of a new era ofsacredness in the arts, that will then become nourishment (as it hasalways been) for further growth of our souls.

Sources andsuggested readings:


Katha Upanishad


HansJenny – Cymatics,a study of wave phenomena and vibration(book)

HansJenny – Cymatics,bringing matter to life with sound (video)

MasaruEmoto – Themessage from water

JonathanGoldman – Healingsounds

RobertoLaneri – Lavoce dell'arcobaleno (The rainbow voice)

JoscelynGodwin -Mysteryof the seven vowels

RandallMcClellan – The healing forces of music

MariusSchneider – Primitivemusic

EricA. Gustafson – Theringing sound, an introduction to the Sound Current

RussillPaul– The yoga of sound

PaulDevereux –Stone age soundtracks – The acoustic archeology of ancient times

DanielJ. Levitin– This is your brain in music

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