I have heard that enlightenment can come in small transient experiences or, in the case of many spiritual masters, as a constant and grounded state of Divine Being.
When I was eight years old, I had a profound experience that set me on a path that I would follow my entire life. It was a beautiful Texas afternoon and I was lying on my back in my front yard looking at the clouds moving gently across the sky. As I lay there, not really thinking, I experienced a burst of clarity and awareness. I knew that I was connected to those clouds above me. I was in awe of some profound mystery that unfolded at that moment, a feeling of union that was totally new to me. That memory is emblazoned on my heart: I can remember the smell of the grass, the sensation of warmth on my back from the earth, and the gentleness of the breeze as it moved over my face. As a young child, certainly, I could not fully understand what I had experienced that day. I now realize that I had briefly connected with the Divine Presence and had been allowed my first tiny glimpse of enlightenment.
As I grew, my life’s journey guided me toward music, both as a teacher and performer. This was a logical path, as both my parents were professional musicians who filled our house with classical music. I was given piano lessons and voice lessons as a teenager and went on to college to earn both a Master’s degree in music and vocal performance and a Master’s degree in guidance and counseling.
I have always been fascinated with the magic that music creates and how it influences our consciousness. As a university professor, I taught voice and theory to my students, but I always shared with them the knowledge that music could be a healing force for them and others. At the base of all my beliefs, was the knowledge that music could evolve the soul. Enlightenment kept gently knocking on my door through what I came to call “crossing the musical bridge” to another realm, an altered state. I found that when I would perform and sing, I did so from an expanded level of awareness. Time would often stand still as I became unaware of myself but deeply connected to my audience in a profound experience of unity. With each passing day, the bridge as a connection to this awareness was more solid and available to me.
This magical bridge became a permanent fixture in my life after a second “enlightenment” experience, which happened to take place on the Connecticut Turnpike. I was returning from my uncle’s funeral in Philadelphia and listening to Pachelbel’s “Canon,” truly one of the most beautiful and moving orchestral pieces I know. Alone in my car, with tears streaming down my face, my heart was open as I mourned my uncle’s passing. Then, without warning, I was suddenly enveloped in a tube of brilliant white light. Nearly blinded by my tears, I pulled my car off the turnpike, and the love that I felt flooding into my heart was beyond any love I had ever experienced. If I could, I would have stayed there, suspended in that state, for eternity; I would gladly have left behind my life as I knew it.
The love was deep, without end and beyond words to describe. It was a peace beyond human understanding. I suppose I stayed enveloped in this light for a couple of minutes, though I don’t really know as time was both an eternity and a split second. As I slowly returned to my earthly awareness, I realized that I was forever changed. I knew that I was part of that light, just as I knew as a little girl that I was connected to those clouds. I had found this light with an open heart and on the wings of music. This love had always been there, waiting for me to accept it.
Music as a Teacher of Healing
From that moment on, music became my passion, my beloved, my world. I began to compose, and the music I was creating would take me “across the bridge,” letting the sounds and harmonies flow through me as I wrote them down. My purpose became clearer: I was becoming a “way show-er” or guide for my students and a servant to my art. Before long, my teaching, performing and composing opened me up to another path: the study of music as a healing modality in the physical, emotional and spiritual realms.
I knew that music had the power to remind me and return me to the knowledge of who I truly am. I knew that music had the power to move me past the limitations of my beliefs, conditioning, ego, and judgment. The question then became, “Could it be this way for others as well?” Feeling as though I was now on a quest, I began to wonder if there were universal elements that could be found in sacred and spiritual meditative music all over the world.
On the Journey of Discovery
What I discovered on my journey was that there are indeed some consistent elements in the musical expressions of all religions. I researched and sang Gregorian Chant, experienced American Indian drumming, listened to the mantras from the Hindu and Sufi traditions, studied the throat singing from Tibet, and sang the Icaros songs from the Shipibo Indians in Peru. To further explore the Icaros, I went to Peru and took part in their sacred plant medicine ceremonies, which use these songs as a way to call forth the Divine Spirit. I realized that all of these sacred music expressions lead to an induced trance state, transporting the listener past the ego into a state of expanded awareness. It was also clear that infused in all of this music was a sense of deep memory, an atavistic recollection of mystical ritual and ceremony, a calling from ancestors and spiritual masters.
During these musically created, heightened states of awareness, individual elements of this trance music seemed to present themselves to me. I found that the most transformative music always contained one or all of these elements: A low-pitched drone (one note playing throughout the entire piece), very slow-moving harmonies, and the human voice as just a musical line with no words.
Why is this? I wondered. First, because music with words tends to engage the Left Brain (the analytical side) rather than the Right Brain, which encompasses gestalt awareness (also known as “mindfulness”). I also realized that the proven phenomenon of “entrainment” was employed. Entrainment is the alignment of both the body and brain-wave states with slow, ordered rhythms and/or isochronic beats (repeated beats). Interestingly, music that has no rhythmic pattern at all is even more trance inducing, as the brain slips into a low alpha (daydream) or theta (trance) state. Also, the element of the human voice without words is immensely important as its frequency pattern can carry the intention of the singer. Vocal sounds can carry all types of emotion. In such wordless vocals, I prefer high-vibration intentions such as love and compassion.
Healing Through Music
Lastly, in my quest to understanding musically created, heightened states of awareness, I also was drawn to crystal singing bowls as musical instruments. Their sound is rich in overtones and happen to mimic the human voice, which from the beginning of time has been used by mothers to soothe their children. Research by Dr. David Simon, medical director of neurological services at Sharp Cabrillo Hospital in San Diego, found that chants and the sounds of the singing bowls can create internal opiates that act on the body as painkillers and healing agents. In other words, through intentional music and singing, we can become our own pharmacy and heal ourselves.
As I moved deeper into my study of musical healing, I also found that intervals—the harmonic relationship between two notes—play a mysterious role. Numerous studies have shown that each musical interval invokes a specific emotional reaction in the listener. The most important for our purposes are listed below:
- Major 2nd (Do to Re): “Do, a Deer,” longing.
- Major 3rd (Do to Mi): “Kumbaya,” joy and happiness.
- Perfect 5th (Do to Sol): “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” stability and balance.
- Major 7th (Do to Ti) “Bali Hai,” deep longing.
- Octave (Do to Do in next octave): “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” resolution, and perfect stability.
After pondering and experiencing these intervals as both a composer and performer, one simple question arose: Why? Why do these intervals affect us so profoundly? It then occurred to me that the musical overtone series follows a very set pattern. The first five tones in the series always outline an Octave, a Perfect 5th, and Major 3rd (also known as a major triad). Sing the first three pitches of Kumbaya, then hear these pitches in succession. We associate this triad sound with a choir of angels singing, trumpets announcing the arrival of royalty, and the ultimate chord of consonance and stability. I have learned to produce this overtone series using my own voice, so it is clear to me that these pitch intervals are anchored into us in a very visceral way. We can create them easily, as if they were a clue for us to discover and follow.
Frequency relationships became my next area of study. I found, quite by accident—or maybe not—a YouTube documentary titled “Sonic Geometry” by Eric Rankin and Alanna Luna, which helped clarify the numerous questions I had about frequency and its effect. I was beginning to see that major-chord harmonics are revealed by specific geometric shapes. This is significant, as many physicists are now saying that we live in a geometric universe, which in turn means we are living in a harmonic universe as well. The field of study that demonstrates that sound can be made visible is called Cymatics, coined by Hans Jenny. He published a great deal of photographic documentation of the effects of sound vibrations and specific frequencies on fluids and powders. If you look closely at these shapes, you will begin to see, emerging in the matter, the geometric patterns evident as Sacred Geometry, the geometry of our natural world.
I also became acutely aware that different tuning methods can profoundly influence the intricacy and beauty of those displayed patterns. To the point, the currently accepted tuning system used the world over uses the pitch A tuned to 440 Hz, or cycles per second. All other notes played by any instrument must be tuned relative to the A. More recently, many musicians have come to agree that tuning the A to 432Hz yields a slightly different yet warmer and more relaxing sound. If these pitches are subjected to the Cymatics system of sound made visible, an interesting phenomenon occurs. Notes that have been tuned to 432 Hz have a more distinct, ordered and intricate pattern. The geometry and numerical ratios of the natural world and of our bodies emerge in those patterns.
Creating Through Deep Meaningful Partnerships
My deep study of these musical concepts, along with my own experiential awareness, became integrated into my consciousness. Then sometime last year, I began to feel that I had sufficiently assimilated the knowledge about sacred trance music. A deep urge to give birth to a totally new kind of meditation music, based on this knowledge, began to nibble at my brain.
I reached out to my dear friend Daniel Wyman, an amazing musician and my accompanist for many of my vocal performances. We experimented and played with the different musical elements of drone: Crystal bowls; resonant pitches of the Chakras (diatonic scale of C major); intervals of octave, including the 3rd, 5th, and 7th; and extremely slow-moving harmonies without specific beat patterns. I sang vocal lines around the harmonies, always allowing the harmonies to lead the vocal line, and introduced the 7th interval, which produces a strong pull toward the octave, which suggests peace and stability. The major 2nd was used as a dissonant color, always resolving into the tonic pitch or major 3rd. We also added crystal singing bowls, presenting the major triads built on each resonant pitch of the Chakras (energy vortices or transducers present in our bio-field as evidenced in Electrophotonic analysis). I also knew we needed to incorporate the undulating drone, suggesting both movement and life force. This sonic foundation allowed the other harmonic colors to weave and swirl above the solid drone.
Finally, we were ready to record! Daniel and I improvised all of the tracks in a day and a half, creating what we knew to be the ground-breaking offering we called “Chakra Soundscapes.” Throughout the recording sessions, we never had to redo a track … they were all perfect on the first take! We actually put ourselves in a light trance before the recording sessions and allowed the music to emerge. We had no sense of time, choosing instead to flow in the sonic stream.
For me, recording this CD was total joy and euphoria. It is a product of true co-creation and partnership in the flow – with sound, people, spirit and technology. There are seven tracks built on the pitches of the diatonic scale, which correspond to the frequencies of the seven Chakras. As a final track, we recorded a track built on F sharp, the resonant pitch of the High Heart Chakra. F sharp seems to hold an especially magical frequency, as described in “Sonic Geometry” by Eric Rankin. We also realized that if we wanted this CD to have the healing effect that we knew it could, the music should be recorded in 432 Hz, which would offer the most healing and congruent tonal frequencies. With all the elements incorporated, we felt we had served our inner directive with integrity.
For thousands of years, our healers and mystics have used music to enliven us in countless ways – to enhance our spirituality, unite us, heal our spirit, help us rejoice with others, mourn, resolve our sadness, and to connect with the Divine. Music elicits that deep and profound echo from within our hearts that calls us home. Music is our bridge to the Divine and to our expanded, limitless selves. Daniel and I share a fervent desire to offer this music, “Chakra Soundscapes,” as a bridge into the realm where all of us can discover and feel the Divine Presence of encompassing love.
Flicka Rahn is an internationally known opera singer, educator, sound therapist, composer, and distinguished academician, who was a tentured Professor of Voice at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, where she taught for 22 years. Ms. Rahn has sung major operatic roles throughout the United States. In 2017, Rahn will release her first CD recording, Chakra Soundscapes with accompanist Daniel Wyman. Chakra Soundscapes fulfills Rahn’s unique life mission to provide healing energy through the universal language of music. For more about Chakra Soundscapes and Flicka Rahn visit www.theicaros.com