Mindfulness in Music: Notes on finding life’s rhythm

91pevtndzelGuest post by Mark Tanner

I wonder how often we pause to consider the importance music plays in our everyday lives. What would we miss most about music if it were no longer there? It’s not just non-musicians who run the risk of taking music for granted – exponents of music, and professional players perhaps especially, all run the risk of treating music as a commodity or utility. When beauty surrounds us from every conceivable angle it’s hardly surprising we sometimes feel bombarded and unwittingly skip past the enormous creative resources that went into producing it. Some would say our wonderment of music is slowly being eroded by a casual acceptance, or even a sense of entitlement.

Mindfulness in Music is both informative and thought-provoking – a fascinating read on many levels

Julian Lloyd Webber

The burden of choice we all feel as we reach for our smart devices is the unintended consequence of easy accessibility, for we now can consume (I hate that word) virtually anything we could want to listen to, simply by prodding at our screens and waiting for a reaction. Instead of tripping over new music randomly, as many of us used to delight in doing, we now have music (also movies, books, adverts, TV programmes) funnelled unashamedly across our sight-lines by businesses which have a vested interest in holding our attention. Our media providers claim to know more about what we want to listen to, or indeed watch, read or eat, than we would ever dare to reveal about ourselves, so that our musical intelligence runs the real risk of becoming diluted by artificial intelligence.

Mark Tanner has written a mindfulness manifesto for music

Tom Service, BBC Radio 3 ‘Music Matters’

My feeling is that this rather pessimistic view is not irreversible, nor is it compelled to worsen in time to come. But for music to play an even more valuable role in our lives we could do with a little help in recognising its restorative value, its ability to lift us and mollify us. We could also benefit from a few ideas which connect the joy of self-discovery with the pleasure music itself can give us, and, at the same time, how to question the assumption that music is there to be functional. This is why I wrote Mindfulness in Music – I wanted to encourage us to prise open the shell a little and see what was inside. The secret to gaining pleasure from music is of course subtly different for each of us, no matter what advertising algorithms supposedly reveal to commercial enterprises about our listening habits. We already have all we need to return music to a more sensual, personal place in our hearts, and the book offers the reader 20 access points, or activities, each of which are designed to defeat indifference and awaken the thrill of musical rediscovery.

Peppered with intriguing exercises and motivational quotes

BBC Music Magazine

In each chapter I’m proposing new or subtly different viewpoints on music, and at times provoke questions about musical meaning, what the relationship might be between sound and colour, or how natural sounds intertwine with music in ways we may not have considered, for example biomusic or the sounds a forest makes as it shivers in the morning rain. I raise the question of nostalgia in music, music and movement, how self-compassion can link with a more sincere compassion for our world, whether music resembles a language, and the ways by which musicians of all persuasions attempt to reveal something of themselves in the music they make. The idea that music is potentially a form of practical meditation also intrigues me, in much the same way as people make bread, knit, draw or surf.

An inspirational delight from cover to cover…The must read book of the season

Pianodao, Andrew Eales

My aspiration is that there will be something of interest for musicians and listeners alike. Listening, after all, is about active interpretation and participation, just as it is for the performing musician, composer or conductor. Many of my suggestions have the potential to unleash ideas latent in the accomplished performer too, and later in the book I dare to tackle the thorny issues of musical talent and tone-deafness, as well as offer ideas about investing in our musical communities, re-engaging with a musical instrument, joining a local choir or using one’s energy and passion for music to help others.

Mark Tanner is a concert pianist, composer, B.I.F.F. adjudicator, teacher and writer.

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