Interview With Sound Healer and Researcher Jonathan Goldman
The following interview was conducted with Jonathan Goldman as an inquiry into "sound" and its meaning for contemporary music. Mr. Goldman is a writer, musician, teacher, an authority on sound healing and a pioneer in the field of harmonics. He is the director of the Sound Healers Association-- a non-profit organization dedicated to education and awareness of sound and music for healing, and president of Spirit Music, which produces music for meditation, relaxation and self-transformation. An internationally acknowledged Master Teacher, Mr. Goldman facilitates Healing Sounds Seminars at universities, hospitals, holistic health centers and expos throughout the United States and Europe. He has appeared on national television and radio and been featured in USA. It is the hope that the questions and answers in this interview will help contemporary musicians, singers, songwriters, etc., think more deeply about their music and its potential.
[Lori Thompson] What is your background and training in the field of music?
Jonathan Goldman I'm mostly self taught. I did take some piano lesson when I was very young-beginner level classical and pop standards. I learned to read music a bit at that time. Then the Beatles came around when I was in my early teens, and I taught myself guitar. You couldn't effectively play "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" on piano, so I persuaded my parents to get me a guitar and I taught myself. A couple of years later, I got my first electric guitar-a Fender Stratocaster. From there on, I was hooked on not only guitar, but on playing rock n' roll music.
I have a pretty good ear and when I'm motivated, I'm a very good self-learner. So most of my initial musical background is simply in the experience of playing music.
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I remember, my first rock n' roll group cut its first demo when I was about 16-they were two songs I'd written and truthfully, for what they were-they weren't half bad. I'd been writing and recording music ever since.
I sometimes tell people that with regard to guitar playing, I was schooled in the Jimi Hendrix genre of broadcasting. Even today, I remain a devote fan of his. And I have a very knowing feeling that if had he survived, he would be very much into exploration of sound and music for healing and transformation. I also believe the same thing is true about John Lennon. Using music as a healing modality is a very visionary thing-and of course, both Hendrix and Lennon were extraordinary visionaries.
[Lori Thompson] How did you come to pursue work in the field of sound healing, harmonics, etc.?
Jonathan Goldman Sometimes I like to tell people that the Light of God struck me one night when I was one stage. In truth, I'm not exactly sure what happened, but it was for me truly life changing. And yet, it was so simple.
I remember one night I was in a group that was playing in a club outside of the Boston area. This one particular night, after we came back from a break, I remember looking out at the audience and for some reason I became aware of the ambience of negativity and violence in the audience. And I thought, "I wonder if music could be used to make people feel better!"
Now please understand that I'm sure a lot of the negativity and violence in the club was due to the alcohol and other intoxicants that were abundant in that place. But also the music we were creating-a lot of it was very aggressive musically with some particularly dark lyrics. A lot of this, incidentally, was very tongue in cheek, but I doubt the audience realized that.
Anyway, I had this realization that music was contributing to the overall ambience of negativity and violence in the club and I had the thought about what if music could be used to make people feel better. No big deal, except that I'd been playing professionally since I was about 15, and this was over15 years later! I'd spent many nights in many clubs creating music. Why, on this night, should I have that particular thought: "I wonder if music could be used to make people feel better?"
This thought, incidentally, didn't just come into my consciousness and then leave my psyche. It followed me home and wouldn't let me go. It stayed and it's still there! I started looking for books about sound and music healing. Which, believe me, was not easy. This was in the early '80s and there were probably a handful of books and record albums that fit into this genre. And I found them all. I devoured the books, such as "The Mysticism of Sound" by Hazrat Inayat Khan, "The Magic of Tone" by Dane Rudyhar, and Steven Halpern's "Sound Health." And I played the records and tapes over and over-some like Steven Halpern's Spectrum Suite were specifically created as healing music. Others, like Brian Eno's ambient Music for Airports, Kitaro's Silk Road or Laraaji's Days of Radiance calmed me down and helped me chill out-particularly without the use of alcohol and other intoxicants, which was extremely healing for me. I think anytime music can help you de-stress and chill out, it's probably very healing.
Shortly after, a friend guided me to a workshop on "Healing with Sound" taught by a woman named Sarah Benson. During the workshop, I had an experience that I write about in my book "Healing Sounds" in which I was placed in a circle with the group singing my name and I was transported out of my body to somewhere else. Without going into more details, it was about as psychotropic an experience as I had had-and this was created solely through the power of sound. I remember coming back to my body and thinking "I've really got to find out more about sound!" Because then, I realized that sound could do a whole lot more than just make people feel better-it could be an incredibly transformational tool that could literally change your consciousness. I don't think I was the same after that workshop. And sound continues to change me.
Incidentally, Sarah Benson has now been a friend of mine for over 20 years-she comes and teaches with me at our Healing Sounds Intensive. And she is a fabulous musician, who co-created Chakra Chants 2 with me, which has just been released. This is the long awaited follow up to my award winning (1999 Visionary Awards for "Best Healing-Meditation Album" and "Album of the Year") recording, Chakra Chants. I personally think it's equally good, if not better than the first Chakra Chants-especially with Sarah's wonderful musicianship and healing energy. She's also on my second Celestial Reiki recording, which features both Sarah and Laraaji. Chakra Chants is about 90% vocal sounds, while Celestial Reiki 2 is mostly instrumental.
Interestingly, both Sarah Benson and Laraaji are both faculty member of my Healing Sounds Intensive, which is a nine-day training that takes place very summer. We have people from throughout the planet who come to study with us for this extraordinary event. It's truly an amazing gathering. We have musicians, doctors, lawyers, healers and total neophytes (or beginners) who come and join us for this program. It's unlike any sort of sound healing experience on the planet, combining the latest scientific research with time honored sacred sounds from different traditions. It's truly transformational.
Anyway, those many years ago, after I did this workshop with Sarah Benson in which I had that truly powerful and transformative experiences, I had to find out more about sound. As I mentioned before, when I'm motivated, I'm a very good self-learner. I created a Master's Degree Program in Independent Study at Leslie College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, "Researching the Uses of Sound and Music for Healing." Around the same time, I formed the Sound Healers Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to education and awareness of the uses of sound and music for healing. This was an extraordinary time, particularly with the sound healers-when some of the great pioneers in the field would come and give freely of their time and knowledge to the interested group of people I had assembled for our monthly meetings.
[Lori Thompson] How do you distinguish between "sound" and "music"? How might a better understanding of "sound" improve our "music"?
Jonathan Goldman I think of sound as being an aspect of music. While this is not technically true, I define sound as being single tones that don't vary much with either rhythm or frequency. In other words, you can examine a particular sound-a specific tone-and you can get some very good information about the effects of that sound. You can see where it's vibrating in your body and how it's making you feel-that sort of thing. You can get pretty specific about the effects of a sound. You know the specific cycles per second and you can isolate the sound and what it's doing.
I perceive of music as being a composite of different elements-melody, rhythm, harmony, timbre-those sorts of things. And each one of these elements has different effects. If you're examining melody, you need to understand not only the effects of the key of the sound, but also the scale that you're using, as well as the intervals. And of course the instrument it's being played on. If you're examining rhythm, you need to examine the beats per minute, the drumming patterns, the type of drum-all these different things. And when you combine melody and rhythm, there are many more and different possibilities to examine. Each of them influencing and affecting the overall music that is being created.
So, I like to work more with just sound, if possible. Single tones. Or perhaps intervals, like the effects of Pythagorean Tuning Forks. From one perspective, the less complicated the sound, the easier it is to examine and understand.
Of course, in reality, this definition is not correct. Some of what I consider sound is also music because, for example, the single toned chanting of Tibetan Monks is considered part of the music of Tibet. Likewise, with my recording of the "Ultimate Om," the idea was to create the sound of hundreds of people chanting a rolling (continuous) "Om" in a temple. Now, this is one tone using a fundamental frequency of 256 Hz., which is a harmonic of the resonant frequency of the Earth. And this "Om" also utilizes a 2:3 Pythagorean perfect fifth ratio and has lots of harmonics. So, from my perception, it's a number of different sounds coupled together to create a sound that has very healing and transformational effects. Still, most people think of music as being this composite of many different elements; melody, rhythm, harmony, etc-and examining and understanding as best we can each particular part of these is really helpful in understanding the effects of sound and creating music for sound healing.
[Lori Thompson] In your article, "The Science of Harmonics," from your book "Healing Sounds," you note that, "In different cultures, science and music have not been separated as in the West." How might our music be different-and how might our science be different-if we did not separate the two?
Jonathan Goldman Overall, if we did not create such a delineation between science and music, I think a lot of people would understand science a lot better, and probably also feel more connected to spirit-to the Divine.
I was recently presented at the Science and Consciousness Conference. Dr. Michio Kaku, one of the foremost physicists in the world, also gave presentation there-- a talk on the unified theory. He is considered one of the foremost scientists of our time-quite a brilliant man. He is the creator of the "Super String" theory. He stated that his scientific predecessors were wrong. "It's all music!" he said.
When I heard this I just smiled because I have, for a very long time, taught this-that everything is in a state of vibration, from the electrons moving around the nucleus of an atom to planets moving around stars in distant galaxies. And if they're in motion, they're putting out a vibration-a sound. Now, we may not be able to hear this sound. But it's there. This of course, includes our body. Every organ, bone, tissue-every part and system of the body is making sound. And when we're healthy, we call this Sound Health. We're very much like an orchestra that's producing this Suite of the Self, this Harmonic of Health.
But what happens when the 2nd violin player looses their sheet music. They begin to play out of tune-out of harmony with the rest of the orchestra. This is what we perceive of as disease.
The basis of sound healing is that it is possible to project the correct resonant frequency to that part of the body that is out of tune, restoring it to its normal, healthy vibratory essence.
I created a recording called The Lost Chord that combines many of the concepts of sound that were utilized on Chakra Chants and Chakra Chants 2"-including the Sacred Vowel sounds and the Bija Mantras-sounds to resonate the chakras, and then added another element-sounds to resonate the kabalistic Tree of Life. All the elements in The Lost Chord are based upon the sacred geometric ratios of "Phi" of the Fibonacci Series. This is a very special mathematic series that is said to be the basis of much of the formation of form in the universe. In addition, I added many other sacred and psycho-acoustic ingredients for The Lost Chord, so I think it's an extraordinary example of how science and music can be combined. From my perspective, The Lost Chord is one of the most advanced recordings on the planet in terms of creating truly powerful transformational effects. Many people who I respect in the musical or scientific communities agree with me and are overwhelmed by the power of this recording. However, I also admit that for other people, it's a bit too advanced.
[Lori Thompson] I am particularly interested in your formula: visualization + vocalization = manifestation? Can you explain the meaning of the formula? What implications does this formula have for musicians and singers and for those who listen to music?
Jonathan Goldman This formula is actually a follow up to another formula is my book: frequency + intent = healing. And I have a recent formula as well that's very similar: frequency + feeling = effect. All these formulas mean essentially the same thing, and they are based first and foremost on many years of study about the effects of sound. What I found was that different people were having success using the same sound to heal different conditions. And they were using different sounds to heal the same condition. I couldn't understand how this could be possible. Then, I realized that the actual sound was only part of the healing formula-that the intent of the person creating the sound also was equally important. Sound is actually a carrier wave of consciousness. And this consciousness is received by the person hearing the sound.
This is extremely important because it means that when musicians are performing or recording, their state of consciousness will be on the sounds they're creating. So, for example, if they are experiencing a lot of anger while they're making the music, that anger will be somehow perceived by the audience.
I guess this is fine if you are indeed trying to get your listener angry, though sometimes I feel there's enough of that in this world. But regardless-I believe that there's a responsibility to the musician for their condition-their state of consciousness when they're creating music. It's important just to be aware of the power we have in terms of influencing the effects of the music.
When I'm working on a recording, I really spend time trying to put myself in a positive state of mind. I meditate and invoke specific energies when I'm working on the music-for example The Angel & The Goddess works with the energy of Shamael, Angel of Sacred Sound and Saraswati, Hindu Goddess of Music and Medicine. And these beings were consciously invoked during the recording. The same is true with Trance Tara, which works with the energy of Tara, Tibetan Goddess of Compassion or Medicine Buddha, which brings in the energy of the Buddha of Healing. I like to believe that one of the reasons why my recordings are so well received is not only the music, but also the energy I put into the recordings.
[Lori Thompson] In your book "Healing Sounds," you talk about a tour you took in Palenque, Mexico. You described a particular subterranean location that was completely dark and where you were told to "Make sound here." Upon sounding harmonics in that area, you noted that a subtle light became visible. You described this as using "sound to create light" and contrasted the experience with what physicists know about "sound turning into light." Can you clarify the difference between the two phenomena? Is it possible that music creates such subtle light on a regular basis but that we are unable to perceive it under less than ideal conditions? If so, what does this say about the potential power of music?
Jonathan Goldman This is a huge question. I devote an entire chapter in my second book, "Shifting Frequencies," to this subject. I'd like to suggest that while some perceive that sound and light are just the same thing. I don't. It is theoretically possible to speed up a sound 40 octaves (that means doubling the frequency forty times) and the sound then becomes light. But I'm not sure that this is physically possible. In other words, I don't think anyone has ever successfully done this without using some instrumentation to artificially transduce or change the energy from one form to another-sound to light. They may just be two different energies.
What I believe happened in Palenque, Mexico, is that I made a sound that opened up an energy center in that produced light. And in fact, in workshops, I now assist people in making this sound with a visualization to open up their own "Angel Chakra" as I call it, and they experience a profound initiation-receiving what could be called an inner light. And of course, people who are clairvoyant can see this light.
Now, this is an example of what might be called sono-luminescence-sound producing light. I think that happens, maybe more frequently than we know. So indeed, I think that a subtle light is created when we create music. But I think that this is different than sound turning into light. I also think that sound and music also produce different shapes and forms, particularly sacred sounds.
[Lori Thompson] Also in your book "Healing Sounds," you describe the work of a Dr. Hans Jenny, a Swiss scientist who spent years "observing and photographing the effects of sound upon inorganic matter." Can you summarize the findings of Dr. Jenny's research and the potential implications for the effect of music on matter?
Jonathan Goldman Dr. Jenny put various substances-plastics, pastes, liquids, etc., on a steel plate. He vibrated these plates with sound. The results have been published in a marvelous book called "Cymatics" (which is Greek for 'wave form'). They show these extraordinary organic looking shapes-what look like underwater life or cells under a microscope-and many display sacred geometric proportions. They look alive. But of course, they're just inorganic material that has been exposed to sound.
What this shows is that sound can create form. And then, this brings new meaning to the concept of "The Word"-as "In the beginning was the Word." This concept of sound creating form-in many of your World religions the Creator God uses sound to manifest the planet. Remember The Old Testament tells us that "In the Beginning"-"And the Lord said 'Let there be Light'!" Here again we have the Sound (capital S) creating the Light (capital L).
Another extraordinary example of the power of sound to create form was done on a device called a tonoscope. Someone sounded an "Om"-the ancient sacred Sanskrit mantra-and it made the same shape as the "Shri Yantra," which is a mandala or visual representation of what the "Om" was believed to look like. Thousands of years ago, the wise men in the East meditated upon the "Om" and came up with this image of the "Shri Yantra," which was virtually duplicated scientifically in the laboratory. In lectures, I show slides of both Dr. Jenny's images, as well as the Shri Yantra pictures, and they're truly amazing. These examples of sound creating form help us realize the power of sound.
[Lori Thompson] How do you define "sonic entrainment" and "resonance"? How might these concepts influence "inspirational" factors for musicians? For example, why might some musicians find creative inspiration by sitting near the ocean or viewing a mountain vista? Can sonic entrainment and resonance with a physical form play a role in creative musical inspiration?
Jonathan Goldman Resonance is the natural vibratory frequency of an object. Everything has a resonant frequency. This includes the human body-- Every organ, every bone, every tissue, every system of the body is creating a sound. When we are in a state of health, we're like an extraordinary orchestra that's playing a wonderful symphony of the self. But what happens if the second violin player loses her sheet music? She begins to play out of tune, and pretty soon the entire string section sounds bad. Pretty soon, in fact, the entire orchestra is off. This is a metaphor for disease. With regard to sound, I ask, "What if we could somehow give the string player back her sheet music?" What if we could somehow project the correct resonant frequency to that part of the body that is vibrating out of harmony, and cause it to vibrate back into its normal, healthy rhythm, restoring it to a condition of health? That's the basic principle of using sound as a healing modality.
Sonic entrainment is the ability of sound to affect our nervous system and actually change the frequencies of our brain waves. This is tremendously important! I refer you to my article on "Sonic Entrainment" found on www.healingsounds.com. It's really a very coherent and well-researched piece of information about how sound can effect our brain!
Now, our brain wave activity is measured in Hertz (or cycles per second), just as we measure sound. There's Beta (14 - 20 Hz.), Alpha (8 - 13 Hz.), Theta (4 - 7 Hz.) and Delta (0.5 - 5 Hz.) The slower the brainwave, the more relaxed we are. Beta's very awake and active. Delta is deep sleep.
What's interesting is that nature and the Earth itself seems to resonate at a very low alpha frequency of about 8 Hz. This is brainwave activity found in light meditation and day dreaming. It's a very creative state. Now, when you're near the ocean or a brook or in the woods or on a mountain, your nervous system-in fact your very being is resonating to this alpha frequency. Which is not only very relaxing-it's also enhances our creativity. No wonder that musicians, artists, writers and other creative people like to be in nature for inspiration!!!!
Many of my recordings such as Celestial Yoga or Celestial Reiki assist in helping people entrain to this 8 Hz. frequency. Not everyone can travel to a mountain or the ocean. But it's not too difficult to put on a CD and entrain to some powerful relaxing frequencies!
Join us next week for the balance of Lori Thompson's interview with Sound Healer and Researcher, Jonathan Goldman.