Thursday, January 28, 2016

Full-throated Mixolydian

Full-throated Mixolydian, 7 x 5", mixed media
The fifth mode (going up the scale in C major) starting on G, is the Mixolydian mode. When I play the Mixolydian scale, I immediately think of ballads and the spinning of tales. It is conducive to self-expression. How appropriate then, that the fifth chakra is the throat chakra. This energy center in the body is focused on expression and communication (which includes listening).
    These aspects of expression, giving voice and listening have been much on my mind. Perhaps these are quite important issues in our world today where there is a lot of vocalizing about not be heard. Is anyone listening?
    At this same time, I am studying to be a bedside musician through the Therapy Harp Training Program, and so appropriate musical expression is part of my learning, along with the modes (and the chakras have come along for the ride.) This is a very creative pursuit requiring intuition to understand what is needed in any situation and then to create the music that can bring comfort. I love this aspect of improvising and helping someone on their journey--a Mixolydian ballad might be just the thing!
    My study has also introduced me to the concept of toning; using the voice to bring healing. The very act of singing is a life giving force. This makes me very happy to know, as I am constantly singing or humming when by myself. Often, when I am out walking, I realize that I am singing a song which deals with some issue that is rattling around in my brain.
     Recently, at my uncle's funeral, there was a slide show of photos from the length of my uncle's life. There were photos from early childhood and photos at least through this past Thanksgiving, where he gave us a final gift of leading us in song. My mother (my uncle's sister) died in 2004, but she showed up in many of the photos. Something that struck me was how happy she appeared in the photos where the siblings were singing. I think this was her greatest expression and, though she struggled with some memory issues and SAD, she was shining whenever she was singing.
    Let's bring healing to the world by allowing people to express themselves and by listening. We can also use our expression to promote healing and harmony in the world.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

At Home in Harmony

Forest Floor Harmony, 9 x 12", watercolor/pastel on paper
We gathered for Thanksgiving with family at a West Virginia state park in the region where my mother and uncles grew up. I always view these visits as a kind of homecoming, where I am able to commune with my mother (she died in 2004). This interlude had a special quality because my young cousin is learning to play the violin and specifically, she is learning all the old favorites that we play and sing when my mother's family gets together. Because of Maggie's inspiration (and organization--she copied out sheets with lyrics for everyone to sing along) we had a couple of music sessions after our feasts. My usual instrument for such music making is the viola and I particularly like to harmonize with the old favorite melodies. What a rewarding experience this was! The senior generation lit up and and reminded us of how it is really done. The second night, Uncle Dave lead us all with his mandolin for an evening we will never forget.
          As we were experiencing this amazing grace, I had a sense of how at home I felt and how rewarding it is to be in harmony with one's surroundings. Thinking back to my childhood, I remembered that a first goal of mine was to learn to sing in harmony like my mother. This was a skill that I wanted to gain and I was so pleased when I was able to sing in this way with others. It was a rite of passage for me. The viola is also a harmonizing instrument and studying the viola and playing viola in ensembles strengthened my sense of harmony. I realized that harmony was a very early value of mine and one that persists into my seventh decade.
           In this new year, I am going to explore this value of harmony. How might living in harmony feel? And how does a purposeful harmony reflect out on the world and back to my sense of the world? This is what I will be thinking about in this new year of 2016.  Happy New Year!