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Melinda Given Guttmann

The Ultimate Brain
Tom Kenyon
Sounds True
2006 by Melinda Given Guttmann

Whether you are making love, suffering from a panic attack, or solving a difficult problem, Tom Kenyon's acoustical music gives you a natural "high" which can enhance your pleasures or resolve your fears.

Twenty years ago, while searching for new music by Kitaro, the celebrated Asian composer of the classic New Age recording, Silk Road, I noticed a CD entitled Soma. Soma, described in the Hindu Vedas as a potion created from mushrooms, was considered the first reference to "god inducing" plants (entheogens) in recorded history. The composer of Soma, Tom Kenyon, had been researching how to elicit euphoric feelings in the brain produced by Alpha and Theta waves in his electronic music, by opening neurological passages through the two hemispheres of the brain. I found to my amazement, that unlike many New Age assumptions which I considered foolish, or occult, like the power of wearing crystals, channeling and astrological charts, the music had a profound effect on me instantaneously in sensuous immediacy. The Ultimate Brain, produced in 2006, explores the range and depth of Kenyon's experiments in the last two decades as founder of the Acoustic Brain Research institute.

Since then, I have purchased nearly one hundred discs and sets of discs either commercially or through organizations like the Monroe Institute in Virginia for a variety of personal use. Some of the music had no effect at all, some of the discos such as the Monroe Institute's series on death and dying done in collaboration with the famous Elizabeth Kubler Ross, were miraculous. Although most people have become acquainted with The Mozart Effect, a theory that the structure of Mozart's music leads to inner peace and personal insight, most of the CD's I have discovered are exponentially more powerful than Mozart even in live performance. This is not to diminish the genius of classical Mozart, or the experiments of postmodern Phillip Glass or Kitaro or other New Age, the profound impact of sacred tribal music.

Several years ago, I invited a small group of single friends without family for Christmas dinner. The anxiety produced by the observation of this Holiday in America is intensified if one is alone. During the whole evening, I had Kenyon's Soma playing as ambient support in the background. After about an hour, with the aid of glasses of champagne, I asked my guests how they were feeling, and how they were feeling about Christmas. One friend, who was dying of cancer, exclaimed, "I feel so peaceful!" Everyone else agreed and remarks were made about the beauty of the music. The music itself composed of a simple melody is not that of a great composer, but the bio-pulses do work, and without exception everyone to whom I have exposed this music has had mild to extremely euphoric responses to the music.

I remember that intuitively both my great love Fernand and I had confided in each other that we could not live without Mozart, which enhanced our romantic love affair whether in prosaic Brussels or on the Nile in Egypt.

With the postmodern collapse of high art into the secular, millions of younger people have been experimenting with various types of Trance music which often provides similar effects, but unevenly, and by chance. Trance music has become the rage not only for the underground raves which also use the drug Ecstasy, which was being used in psychotherapy until 1986 when the FDA scheduled it as illegal. Obviously the power of this "love drug" produced the primary effects for the participants. Trance dances derived from Shamanism and have become highly developed among certain mystical African, Native American, and Islamic cultures. Trance music, which is highly rhythmic and repetitive, is used as rapturous healing for the body and soul. The participants call this form of trance dance music medicine.

Most secular has been club trance music which varies from the sensuous, lyrical music of the Buddha Bar lounge scene and series from France to the International Chill-out Trance music which results from clever intermixes of several cultures.

It occurred to me that my passion for the transformation of consciousness as resistance to the prevalent terrorism and evil on the planet and the increasingly cruel interpersonal relationships in all social situations might be transformed and remedied. My ideas about this have been most deeply influenced by the consistent use of Acoustic music, particularly the work of Tom Kenyon. It is my medicine; it is my guide; it lead me to dance and create new dance forms: music, not only to soothe the barbaric environment of the post 9/11 chaotic violent mind, but to provide the first non-ordinary state of consciousness in people who have never taken psychedelic drugs, ecstasy, or entheogenic plants like peyote or ayahuasca. Consciousness altering music can be employed for the most quotidian uses, such as the ambient support used in conferences to give an environment that is conducive to the resolution of conflict among disputing parties; for purely social parties to increase the delight of guests in interrelating, relaxing and enjoying each other's company; to, of course, enhance the act of making love in various forms from the nonverbal, to the verbal, to the sensuous, erotic and sexual dances which have numbed in this era.

Most important, as the Indian philosopher Aurobindo believed, the goal of Eastern religious practices was not the appearance of new fully enlightened leaders like Buddha, or transcendent Avatars, but the evolution of consciousness in all Homo Sapiens: the shift in evolution from the biological, or cognitive to the spiritual in the manifestation of the evolution of New Consciousness. The ground of new consciousness is the music of Love in the neo-platonic Phoxinus' illumination of art or eastern sense of Love of Divine.

My own experiences and intentions have developed along a wide continuum of desire. I have attempted to calm my mind and eliminate emotional pain, to increase the joyfulness of all my activities, and to open my heart as deeply and widely as possible, to manifest the transpersonal psychology of Wilbur, of loving myself absolutely and expanding that love to my neighbors, humanity, the animals, the environment and the cosmos. In my own case, I use various music and dance forms to intensify my spiritual states and open up the infinitely, expanding, and ecstatic states of divine consciousness which, I believe, is the true identity of all of us.

What I can assure all listeners is that those who claim to have a higher consciousness than yours, or to whom you attribute spiritual authority, it is preferable to take the direct path, to trust your own infinite potential for co-creating the Real. If one takes enlightenment, not as a binary on-off switch, but as infinite, then perhaps you might be surprised that you can awaken to become a .002 like me or much more. Whatever prison one finds oneself in, can be escaped with the formless self, with invisible vibrations of sound.

In Boston, a small group of innovative intellectuals have created an organization called contemplative mind. They believe that by intertwining various forms of meditation, movement, and music from the Eastern religions in public education, as a pedagogical tool, that the sense of separateness of the individual, or the isolation of the individual culture, will be replaced by an sense of interconnectedness/and spirit of unity. They are supported by the Pizer foundation and grants are given to higher educators by the American Council of Learned Societies. Their first study proved that the techniques work but were not astonishingly successful.

However, spiritual epiphanies are not widespread in this culture, nor acquired through expectations imprinted upon us at an early age. In fact, one of the failures of Buddhism in this country, is that after twenty years of devoted, highly structured practice, very few students attain any significant change or transformation of Being. Part of this is due to the mind-body split of Cartesian dualism in Western Culture which is difficult to break through. The ideal of monistic epistemology seems to lie beyond the reach of the most profound and dedicated practitioners, like philosopher Joan Stambaugh, who after twenty-five years of studying Zen Buddhism, modestly claims that she has achieved but a hint of escaping her Western mind-forged thought forms, and has experienced a hint, a chink in the wall, of what the Eastern scriptures express.

In spite of our limitations, states of euphoria, ecstasy and knowledge of the nature of being are often captured by Kenyon and others' acoustic music and the liberating dance forms of Gabrielle Roth's Wave, a path to ecstasy of dancing to a sequence of sounds which are flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and silence-a moving mediation which also claim to lead to paths of enlightenment.

Considering the dominance of scientific or psychological research in determining valid proofs, my own accounts of the value of this music can be easily discounted as anecdotal. However, as an Arts critic, there are still those who believe that the devotion many of us experience results in a refined sensibility whose judgment reflect a standard of excellence which proves useful to those who have neither been exposed nor rigorously studied many of the Arts. In particular, I have always believed that the rigorous thinking involved in philosophy, and in this case Aesthetics and Consciousness studies remains as important if not more profound that many scientific materialist studies and proofs.

It is difficult to find a methodology for examining subjective responses other than with the faculty of reason which demands that the conclusions have clarity of expression, logic, and an awareness of their relation to ordinary reality.

Kenyon's music which overlays his "bio-pulses" which stimulate the brain waves is lyrical and repetitive like much of Phillip Glass, except that he uses the more conventional Western 4/4 time to Phillip Glasses' Eastern tonal system. In Opening the Heart, for example, he calls the first half "Lullaby," which uses the sounds of harpsichord, violin, harp and occasionally a soothing tenor voice intoning "Ah."

Kenyon states that his "eccentric" music forms are based on harmonic intervals based on ancient Greek models. These sounds elicit strong emotions of joy and compassion in the listener which are responses associated with both deep feelings and physiological effects on the nervous system which enhance the immune function. His book Brain States claims to scientifically document the effects of sound and music on the nervous system.

The music which I suggest to you can tame the savage beast of violence in the breasts of the insanely militant, heartless, madmen and oppressors who dominate our wars and our governments.

Each of us who longs to liberate oneself and others should use this music inventively and pass it on to others as an act of Love.

NYTW readers may email Melinda Guttmann at: starnyc@aol.com


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