Diverse cultural, scientific and religious practices suggest that different types of music bear distinct effects on consciousness.
The biologist Lewis Thomas says we enjoy classical music because we’re getting a glimpse inside the fantastically complicated mind of the composer. But others say there’s more to music than that. In fact, it’s generally believed that certain musical forms can literally transport consciousness to a different kind of awareness.
Tibetan Buddhist throat singing is no exception.
Individual performers or monks practice for years to perfect their ability to simultaneously produce two notes. Some see this as a reflection of the spirituality in nature. Others take it a bit deeper, believing that the vibration created through their singing helps to deliver the soul blinded by maya (the illusion of physicality) and dukkha (the sorrow arising from bondage to maya) to a better plane of existence.
Ultimately this can lead to nirvana, which for Buddhists is an ultimate, blissful release from worldly ignorance.
Throat singing actually appears throughout the world. It’s not just a Buddhist thing by any stretch of the imagination. And, personally, I think different world religions tend to puff themselves up a bit with the alleged importance of their practice. The way I see it, any kind of sound can transport listeners to a different place. It doesn’t have to be overtly religious or spiritual. EDM music is one example. But again, any kind of music can be transcendent, mystical—what have you.¹
Just how music affects listeners probably depends on the music and, also, where the listener is at.
¹ A similar kind of religious elitism arguably appears with mantras, sacred characters and certain words in world religions. In my view, language itself has a numinous quality. The full range of linguistic numinosity, however, is far more subtle than most overt religious demonstrations and recitations. But it’s still there.
On the Web:
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- Rumtek Monastery
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- Know your neighbour: ‘Asian, not elsewhere classified’, Tibetans in New Zealand