We know music has the power to affect the spirit profoundly – love songs, national anthems, funeral laments show us that.
It was with this awareness that I wrote Healing Music. At a time of needing deep balm for myself in a long, unhappy time in my then-marriage, I decided to create a piece I could play on the piano which evoked calm, peaceful feelings in the listener (myself included) while describing them in sound.
The piece is written virtually all on the black keys of the piano which seem to me to have a warmth largely untapped. Most of these notes are less frequently heard as a group because millions of songs and pieces of music are composed in keys with fewer accidentals – essentially on what would be the white keys of the piano. Healing Music is harder to play, as in the key of C sharp there are a total of seven sharps, but resonates more richly in the sound world it inhabits.
On this site there are several references to the positive effect of music on the spirit. Leanne Brookes writes of the therapeutic value of songs she created, sometimes from white-heat inspiration, as a means of coping with depression, unresolved emotions or blocked communication. Her plea to everybody to try simply expressing themselves in the imaginative grammar of musical outpourings – "Put aside any preconceived notions you have about what does or doesn't make a great song. This is for you to let go, be in tune with your emotions and feelings" – is evocative.
Music comes from and moves through the realm of feelings which words have difficulty reaching. Music therapist Gráinne Foster writes that we are innately musical beings, with a capacity to respond to music that is not dependent on ability.
She says music can be a powerful tool for increasing communication, encouraging self-expression and emotional exploration and enabling personal and psychological growth. Music is not only, like writing and art, a means of self-expression but is, I believe ardently, meant for the use of others. However, it lives only in performance; in sheets on a shelf, it sits unbreathing.
That is why I am so pleased Healing Music has been useful for more than 25,000 people who have listened to it on the free artist website where I uploaded it; more than 5000 people have downloaded it so they can continue to listen again. If they are enjoying the same slow, beneficial peace I do in playing it, I am so pleased to share. It seems to be working to judge by some comments people have posted.
"I was transfixed by this gentle piano solo this morning. There have been many difficulties in my life in the past few years that sometimes I forget to stop and breathe. I'm listening over and over to your beautiful music. It's not just the composition, with its funerary components, but the sensitivity of the playing. That there is a lightness to the depth. Emotionally this piece gives me a sense of acceptance and uplifts to a vision of warmth, love, light, air, the beauty of the planet. In the gentle notes, ultimately an affirmation of life", wrote one person.
"It takes a while to recover from a trauma in our lives, it seems like a long sore haul over that rough road as we stumble along. Life has pain, it is guaranteed, but it also has healing and art and ultimately it has joy, if joy is looked for, and shared. This song depicts that struggle through pain and into peace and gentle joy. I found it interesting that the artist wrote the song on the black keys of the piano. I don't know how many times in moments of sadness I picked out a tune exclusively on the black keys. I always thought of their tone as more loving and forgiving", commented another.
I don't know where music comes from when you compose a piece. You set up the parameters – fast, slow, short, long, classical, popular, song, piano, group, orchestra – and start dreaming in tunes and rhythms.
Of course, the analytical brain keeps an ear on the grammar and vocabulary of the unfolding work. But a composition moves and develops a musical story of its own and I simply follow, listening carefully. Great composers in concert halls, in rock stadiums, in darkened recording studios, at home or in a summer garden shed (like Gustav Mahler) have offered humanity a world of the most inexpressible, untapped emotions through music. In my small corner, I offer Healing Music.