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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Music Trance

On Saturday, I attended a women's drum lodge. It was led by a woman who has studied Native American drumming traditions and mystical traditions. It was beautiful and incredibly intense.

I've heard of shamanic journeying before. I didn't think I would simply slip into shamanic journeys, meeting animals who offered guidance and power and lessons.

But there we were, drumming to the four directions (I played a rattle) and...To the East, the direction of Air, I saw a pack of horses flying across the open earth. They told us that we should be as noble and graceful as them, as free and joyous. In the South, I slipped beneath some desert brush in the dark of night. Crawling there, I met Coyote. He smiled at me, his eyes glowing yellow. He reminded me that trickery and sneakiness are OK, put to use for the greater good, and that we should laugh and enjoy life, taking nothing too seriously. I can't even talk about the long canoe trip I took to the West, it was so stirring and transporting. I met many animals and ended up on grey cliff, sea crashing below, rainstorm beating down and cleansing me, lightning crashing. And the North, the direction of Earth. I dropped into the red earth, and enetered a place where we all danced in a circle, kicking up the red dust, the earth warm beneath my feet. Then I met the Earth Mother in the guise of a particular animal. For some reason, I feel like I should keep the details secret, because the experience was so...so...no words... After we returned from that journey, I told the drum circle leaders whom I met there. Their mouths dropped to the floor. I'm still not sure why. I think she must be a very powerful being in the Native Way.

But what happened? I still feel refreshed and nourished by this wild experience, this traveling without moving, even through the sorrow and grief that stabs at me because of the shiatsu school's end. But what was it? I'm Western enough, schooled enough in science and the Greeks, that I reserve the right to chalk it all up to a very active imagination, or to some primal part of the brain activated by the sound of drums, or dreaming while awake. But why is there a road map I could find without prior knowledge? Why do humans, transported by drumming, meet the same "Beings" over and over? Is it part of our ancient brain that we don't normally activate? Are these journeys without or within or both?

And then I have a question for Larry, or any other musician who has happened by. Does music transport you? Have you met gods in a trance-like state? Are you transformed and transported by your music? Is it the power of Native drums I felt, or of music itself?


Blogger Larry Jones said...

Yes, music transports me. I haven't met any animals, but in the old days, when we did long jams, playing just one chord or a very simple progression for ten minutes or more, I would get lost in it. I can't describe it, but the longer it would go on, the more I would see in the patterns, the interplay of instruments and players, and the more meaning I would find in the same notes.

Most of my life, though, I have had to maintain a pretty precise structure in the music I've played. Even when I've played with much better musicians, I always seem to be the one who enforces the arrangement. This means I have to remember chords, words, melodies, harmonies, fingering positions, transitions, the actual sounds of the electronic instruments, who plays when and who "lays out" when, and of course the all-important ending. When there's an audience, somebody has to think about these things if you expect to get booked again.

With the frontal lobe so thoroughly engaged, the subconscious stays in the background. If I were just drumming or shaking a rattle, and there were no tune, and the arrangement was intentionally going nowhere, droning, then who knows? That said, I can still tell you that few experiences are so cathartic as playing loud rock'n'roll with a few like-minded friends for a couple of hours, with or without an audience. It has brought me back to life over and over. I hope I get to do it all the rest of my life.

There is a whole genre of music called "trance," which may have a transporting effect on listeners. I think the style is not simple or elementary - I think it is quite complex, which would seem to argue against my theory. But it's highly repetitive, created in advance, electronically, and allowed to drone for a long time. So when it's played there's nobody like me, worrying about the song and trying to hold everything together.

I am moved by the description of your beautiful experience, and a little perturbed that you won't spill the beans about the Earth Mother. In all these mystical experiences there is always something, some secret that I can't be let in on, and I can never figure it out for myself, either.

One final note: I have had hallucinations in the past, very real visions and sounds that couldn't have been actually happening, but surprisingly not completely unlike the visions of others. So I'm pretty sure that stuff is not "out there," but rather it is "in here," and the human mind, deep inside, shares more than we know with everyone.

4:41 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

Awesome. You're a rock star. Thanks.

5:37 PM  

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