When one considers the power of music— taking into account how in one way or another it literally permeates nearly every facet of our lives— it makes perfect sense how music and homoeopathy can literally go hand in hand. Music transcends borders, languages, cultures, ethnicities, even time. It speaks directly to the heart in one form or another, in one way or another, to one depth or degree or another. It can raise us to the highest euphoria or bring on the deepest sorrow. It can wake us up or lull us gently to sleep. It can make us note the slightest detail and also allow us to more fully embrace the vast breadth of the world and even the universe of which we are a part. When one analyzes music, considering various aspects of it from minute to large scale, one can begin to comprehend how music accomplishes so many things… much like homoeopathy.
There have been various “explorations” into music and homeopathy, but this one will be done by me, a classically-trained musician with several decades of musical experience on multiple continents who also has a keen interest in homeopathy, having studied it many years and is now beginning to obtain my homeopathic credentials. Being someone with an intense interest in history who knows well that we more fully appreciate what we have today when we know its roots, I will provide an overview of various aspects of music. In this beginning article, I will include a very brief history, an overview of musical theory, and a quick look into families and individual instruments, presenting these in a very open manner to illustrate just a few homeopathic parallels as I have found they exist. I hope this will prove a boon to help you more fully see what I, after years of playing my instrument, have grown to intrinsically know to be there. Studies have been made into subjects such as how a single musical note or key or even rhythm can resonate homeopathically with certain people. How musical notes are actually produced and heard/received through sine waves and such has been explored on a homeopathic basis as well. These are all fascinating, but will not be my focus at this time. In addition, there are countless styles and genres of music throughout the world—and I have an intense appreciation for the beauty and variety these represent, much like the expanding depth found as we look into the different plant, animal, and mineral kingdoms upon which homeopathic principles and remedies are built.
Everyone has their own personal likes and dislikes, and makes their own decisions as to what they find to be “good”, “bad”, or even “mediocre” music, and so on. In like manner, each homeopath finds avenues of homeopathy that will work according to where they are working, with whom they are working, and their professional desires. Let it be clear that my object is not to convince you to like or dislike any style of music—nor to make any attempt to persuade you to practise homeopathy a certain way. With my presentation here, I will simply use as my focus and comparative point the music I know best. This boils down simply to what is termed “western” music, meaning music primarily from Europe and the Americas. In addition, what I have performed and studied in depth over the course of many years has been commonly termed the “classical” form of western music, which is essentially the music produced by orchestras in concert halls.
I hope to lay a foundation of understanding—to paint a picture, if you will, of a few of the parallels I have clearly found between music and homeopathy. Also, as this idea was presented to me, and I began compiling resources for this, it became abundantly clear to me that, as with homeopathy and various life pursuits of any depth, the more I started writing down, the more I realized I would love to address. Further articles will go more into depth on various aspects that I will begin to touch on here. I strongly feel the subsequent articles will be understood to a greater depth with the foundations I aim to provide here. The words and musical examples I present here are designed to generate thought more than anything else. And with this, you may find a way to help work it into your own life and your own practise.
With the musical links I have included throughout this article, please, do not “watch” them. Listen to them. Click and then close your eyes. Explore what you may find the music causes to happen within you. My undergraduate degree is in music, with a focus on its history and literature. My primary instrument is the Horn (also known as the French Horn or even the forest horn or the hunting horn), having studied this instrument under some well-known teachers. I have played in orchestras in the United States as well as in Germany, where I lived while in college. I also play the recorder and the piano. I have studied, performed, and still enjoy music of nearly every western genre, from Medieval to modern day repertoire. I have played solo works as well as in orchestras and ensembles of all sizes, playing countless symphonies and other symphonic works, large and small, as well as chamber works, and in orchestras for religious and secular choral works, operas, ballets, as well as Hollywood musicals. I have played on street corners, in recording studios, for tiny handfuls of people, as well as for audiences of up to twenty thousand people. I have taught music many years as well, both privately and in classroom settings. I have composed and arranged music. Works I’ve written have been performed for local and international events and have been evaluated by Hollywood composers.
With this in mind, I have also always had a keen interest in natural forms of wellness and healing. I first heard the word “homoeopathy” from a friend when I was still quite young. This concept of “like curing like” intrigued me. But it wasn’t until many years later, shortly after my second son was diagnosed with autism and I again heard the term, that I decided to seriously explore it it. And as I began my homeopathic studies, I realized quite clearly that each one — music and homeopathy — can easily be as all-encompassing at every level as the other. I have grown to conclude that we are drawn to various aspects of music in much the same manner that we can be drawn to certain remedies or families of remedies or even sub-families, plant, animal, or mineral. Certain people identify much more with sounds produced by a violin or a key such as B-minor, or even a certain note. Thoughts and ideas generated by this will be explored more completely within this and subsequent articles.
As we begin this journey, consider first some basic emotions. Think about how music can be upbeat, rousing, awakening, calming, tranquil, thought-provoking, stirring, disturbing, distressing, discomforting, and many more appropriate adjectives, depending on the piece or the composer or the instrumentation or tempo or key. Often the same piece can promote strikingly different emotions, sometimes even within the same person. Sometimes something as simple as a different instrument playing a particular solo work can allow an entire piece can be received differently. The same piece can be played faster or slower, eliciting different responses. Consider the well-known children’s rhyme, “Frere Jacques” or “Are you Sleeping”. The Bohemian composer, Gustav Mahler, put this happy melody into a “minor” key as one of the themes for the third movement of his first symphony (“The Titan”), resulting in something strange, but alluring, in part, as this, in introducing the movement, is played by the high and straining sounds of a string bass in a range far above its normal register. How can one medium, music, be a source for all of this, and so much more? Concurrently we shall observe homeopathy. This medical approach, taking into account the physical, emotional, and mental aspects on every level, whether superficial or in great depth—we know how well it works. But it can take years to even begin to fully appreciate how, much less why this happens.
While in music school, a professor once shared a unique definition: Music is organized sound, A very simple and non-specific definition, but it can work. Think, at first, of the many different kinds of “music” we hear every day. Around the house, for example, there is the rhythm of the dishwasher, the humming of the computer. From nature, consider things such as the simple song of a bird, the hauntingly beautiful cry of a wolf on a lonely summer night, the sounds of a waterfall at the end of a hike through the mountains, the crashing of ocean waves. Noises all around us at one time or another can be thought of as organized sound, or, in other words, “music”.
So now, let us consider music which is produced by instruments, whether by the vocal cords within our own bodies or by instruments which are made of wood or metals and are bowed, blown into, plucked, or struck in some manner— instruments, we will say, that are also all around us in one way or another. Consider the following: What “plays in our head” when we think of certain well-known movies? How many motion pictures and other areas have used Carl Orff’s O, Fortuna? What four tones resonate quite clearly when we think of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony? Why, even though it was written nearly four hundred years ago, does the Hallelujah Chorus from G.F. Handel’s Messiah continue to remind Christians of Christmas? What can be so captivating about driving rhythms? (Yes, please go ahead and watch this particular video.) What about familiar tunes associated with nursery rhymes and the nostalgia these provide children of all ages? Why is it that music is such an effective way not only to remember things, but also to entice one to buy certain items or even to stay longer and eat more? Why has music proven to be so effective helping people with emotional and mental trauma? How can music be so rousing, so lulling, so motivating, so aggravating, so enticing and even sensual, so repulsive and even nauseating— and all the emotions in between and beyond? Music literally encompasses us, much like the very air we breathe. It transcends both spoken and written language and speaks directly to the inner self.
In reference to both of these ideas, consider how, in one way or another, homeopathy is all around us. It uses nature — plant, animal, and mineral sources. Some of these are easier to find, some much more difficult. But they are all a part of the world around us. While different peculiarities and individualities make an individualized approach necessary on the levels of person and culture and nation and climate, the homeopathic philosophies and principles remain the same world-wide.
Music is art that enters the body through the ears. But the term “art” only begins to describe what music is. The sounds produced through music can themselves be healing. The warmth and comfort we can remember feeling from the songs our mothers sang to us as children; the various disciplines we learned from music lessons we may have had; the loud, tumultuous music many of us as teenagers embraced in an attempt to define our own place in the world; and what all this inevitably and individually settled into as we became adults, in one way or another, deeper or shallower. The sounds produced through music are part of our individual, unique, internal workings. I would venture that we all have opened our lips to sing along with a particular favorite song either audibly playing on a musical device or which simply had “just popped into our heads”. What we have as individual preferences for particular genres and styles of music can remain constant or change or expand as we grow and experience whatever life brings us.
In a very similar manner, this can be seen in much the same way as the term “medicine” only begins to describe what homeopathy is. Consider alone all the homeopath must take into consideration as he takes on each individual case, how this can vary, depending on age, circumstance, background/heritage, and so much more. A “constitutional remedy” may be found, which may be what an individual needs throughout his or her life. At the same time, the “constitutional remedy” may need to change, depending on many things.
As mankind has always had an innate desire to look into, study, and know health, historical evidence also confirms mankind has always been fascinated with music. Plato (c. 400 BC) said, “I would teach children music, physics and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.” And even earlier, David from the Old Testament of the Bible wrote many of the Psalms around 1000 B.C. as he lamented the loss of his son, Absalom*, and, ultimately, his honor as king. Music is also known to have been an integral part of ancient Egyptian life as early as 3000 B.C.
The founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, not only found the essence of healing happens under the principle of “like cures like”, but based the homeopathic philosophies and approach to healing on principles known anciently, considering Hippocrates himself to be the father of medicine.
As in this forum, we are more familiar with the roots of homeopathy, let us delve just a bit deeper into some musical history that can pertain. It is important to know that we can only, at best, make educated guesses, as to how music may have actually been performed or even sounded as early as the ancient Egyptians and the Greeks. As we proceed into the eras of Byzantium and the Middle Ages, and music began to be written down and described via written word, we can hope that our “educated guesses” are a bit more sound. Around the year AD 1025, a man named Guido d’Arezzo began enhancing a very basic system of actual musical notation, adding to this a method of indicating sung pitches, denoting their relative positions using marked locations on his fingers. This ultimately led to what we know today as the “solfege” system—or the “Doh-Re-Mi”. But how was a consistent starting pitch determined? Thanks to Guido’s initial foundational establishments, eventually came the 5-line, 4-space musical “staff” we know today in music, as well as numerous aspects of musical notation. Established and accepted pitches, based on various physiological natures of instruments became standardized. Consistencies and, in the end, a universal approach for interpretation and performance were enabled, regardless of language or culture.
Music is, without a doubt, a form of art. However, it may be interesting to note that considering music as solely and only an art form, is a relatively recent development. Addressing music as a science will actually show quite a bit of depth. To illustrate, I will present just a couple of examples here. A musical work known as a motet was composed by a very well-known and respected composer of the Renaissance named Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474). This piece was written for the dedication of the cathedral in Florence, Italy. Dufay literally wrote this work, Nuper Rosarum Flores, to be in the same “shape” as the cathedral itself, using the proportions, 6-4-2-3. Approaches like this were quite common in his day. That, to our ears, the result is quite pleasing can simply be considered an added bonus. But guess what. Because his work is pleasing, this and many other pieces by him are still enjoyed today, six hundred years later.
During the same historic time period, another composer, Johannes Ockeghem (1410-1497), employed another “clever”, but still scientific, in its own way, technique to encourage people to come to Mass. He wanted to encourage church attendance, so composed a mass using, as its base, a tune that was very popular at the time among the people in the area, “La Homme Arme”, or “The Armed Man”. Of course, he did not tell what he had done to the bishop, but just let word of it spread amongst the populous. We, today, do not know the song, “The Armed Man”, so this tune does not jump out at us. But Ockeghem apparently succeeded with his goal in writing this piece.
These early musical examples alone can be paralleled homeopathically on several levels. Consider how the homeopath is trained to look at the entire symptomatic picture presented by a patient before making any call as to what the needed remedy would be. Think of a “strange, rare, and peculiar” symptom that a well-trained homeopath can ascertain from myriad of symptoms a certain client can present. Additionally, sometimes a homeopath does not share with his client the name of the remedy he feels most appropriate for this case, yet it works.
Further comparative explorations into more modern musical history and homeopathic parallels that can be found here will be done at a later time.
Delving just a bit into actual western music theory itself presents a very different area of homeopathy with which parallels can be found. Consider this quick overview: There are twelve semi-tones, or half-steps, in what is known in western music as the chromatic scale—this has been established and accepted for centuries. This is further refined into what are known as scales, which are differentiated as major or minor or even modal. There are seven steps in these, from one tone to its repeat an octave, or eight total steps higher. Each scale is made of a specified combination of half- and whole steps, unique to the major, minor, or modal key invoked. And different keys are specified according to what is known as the “tonic” or first step of each scale. Various harmonies are created when two or more notes are played simultaneously. There are intervals known as consonant, dissonant, and “perfect”. There are particular chordal progressions we don’t realize we anticipate as we listen to music in any form. Particular compositional techniques present very scientific studies of numbers, involving calculations, planning, anticipating, exploring, researching, theorizing, questioning, reasoning—finding out what will “work” and what won’t. Within this realm are even more fascinating unknowns. For example, some seem to simply have a feeling and “know” how a certain piece must go together. Others need to study this for years. Certain people can have music playing in their heads that they’ve never heard before. Many composers openly expressed how they often felt they were simply a means to get these heavenly sounds on to paper so that they can be performed and enjoyed by others. Some can hear a pitch and know, without further reference, what note it is (often referred to as “perfect pitch”). Some learn this skill after years of study and training (often referred to as “relative pitch”). Some never seem to gain any concept of this.
Homeopathically speaking, consider how it is that there are homeopaths who have taken to this art in a very natural way. Others have made sometimes quite strikingly different professional pursuits, but saw something in homeopathy that intrigued them and drew them in. Additionally, consider the complexities found in the various families from which remedies are made—complexities which do not present themselves until study into these has begun. Parallels between families exist, yet very subtle differences must be known in order to properly ascertain what a particular client may need. Simultaneously, remarkable parallels exist with striking differences that make it absolutely clear that one remedy and not another must be used.
This proverbial “scratching of the surface” of music theory has hopefully awoken a curiosity within you to know even more about the science within the art of music. There will be more to come.
As a final aspect to consider for this initial presentation, let us also explore very briefly just one more musical fundamental—the actual sounds we hear when music is played. Let us consider these from, shall we say, the homeopathic perspective of the individual instruments and their particular families. This will be looked at from what is known in western music today as the symphony orchestra. Each instrument and its pertinent family, presents its own musical color or timbre, melodic range as appropriate, method of playing, individual construction, unique strengths and subtleties. These differences are often very fine, but at the same time, often vast. The string family—made of the violin, viola, cello, and bass— is the most congruous, each instrument having the same basic shape, generally made of wood and played, generally speaking, with a bow drawn across one or more of four strings. The low range of each can be no lower than its open lowest (or thickest) string, but the high range of each can be extended. The woodwind family is made, generally speaking, of the flute, the oboe, the clarinet, and the bassoon. Of the non-percussive instrument families, this one is the most varied, with instruments being either wood or metal and played either by blowing across a whole or by the vibration of one or two wooden reeds. There are also different “sub-“ instruments within this family—like an English horn, a bass clarinet, a contra-bassoon– which offer even more depth and color. Within the brass family, the most commonly used instruments are the trumpets, horns, trombones, and tubas. These instruments are all, as their name denotes, made of brass—so, in their own way, are quite congruous and can blend together quite nicely, as the string family. However, the quality of sound produced and the sheer volume potential is quite different. While each brass instrument has its own melodic range, the actual playable ranges of each is quite wide. And, finally, within the percussion family, there is an extensive variety of colors. Percussion instruments, by their nature, must be struck in some manner, whether by a mallet, a brush, or the fingers. The piano and the harp are in the percussion family. There are different families alone of certain drums. There are different types of bells and cymbals and more. The volume level allowed within this family is unmet by even the brass, by nature of the type of sound produced. A single triangle can be heard above everything else when struck. Entire musical works can be performed simply using percussion instruments—and sometimes even with those instruments that do not play sounding notes.
There is also, of course, the grand instrument existing since the beginning of time in all its variance and unsurpassed beauty, all things taken into consideration—the human voice. But exploration to any depth here must happen at another time.
It can, indeed, be dizzying to consider the depth of knowledge a homeopath must have of the different plant, animal, and mineral families to pursue his profession with any degree of effectiveness. But perhaps with just this brief initial overview of the orchestral musical families, to consider like parallels to homeopathy, one can further appreciate a true art that is behind it all, and that can help make effective homeopathic pursuits even more desirable. My musical training and experience allows me to see personality types behind those who play certain instruments, just as one can see, for example, a melancholic or phlegmatic personality by certain presentations.
In presenting foundational patterns between music and homeopathy, much has been fundamentally addressed in this preliminary journey. It has literally taken me months to consider even where to begin with a presentation such as this. I hope this will have intrigued you—whetted your appetite to find out more. Indeed, I feel I have hardly skimmed the surface with all I have presented here. In the brief appendices below, I have provided links not only for more information about what I have shared, but also for many musical samplings to help you gain a better picture of the vast and varied and colorful world that is found under the heading of music. In addition, I hope these will provide further thought and possible questions regarding music and homeopathy that I plan to address in future articles. I do not touch on popular music at all here. Because of the nature and inherent depth of homeopathy, I present samples of the music I know best—“deeper” music that represents what all can be encompassed by this medium. Listening to all the music alone will take some time. But allowing the music to fill in further what I have begun to share with you here, I hope to help you begin to see the depth to which this may provide for your homeopathic world.
NOTES for further Consideration:
David’s Psalms: https://www.biblicaltraining.org/
*David (Josquin’s Absalom fili mi): http://www.dycom-il.com/j/jos-absa-info.html
“Mozart Effect” (1991): http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130107-can-mozart-boost-brainpower
Music Genres: http://www.musicgenreslist.com/
Music helping plants grow faster (2007 Korean study):
Music in Ancient Egypt http://www.thenagain.info/webchron/africa/EgyptMusic.html
Music Therapy: http://www.musictherapy.org/about/musictherapy/
Schoenberg, Arnold, 12-Tone sampling: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/610945/12-tone-music
Music Samples for your listening enjoyment (YouTube links included), representing and expanding upon much of which has been presented:
Adams, John, “Short Ride on a Fast Machine”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WELh2Ij5ulg
Arnold, Malcolm, Four Scottish Dances: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHnBibfWu2Y
Barber, Samuel, “Adagio for Strings”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lV3SHBFyDZM
Brass Quintet, Canadian, “Quintet” (Michael Kamen): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjBT8ElQ7Pw
Britten, Benjamin, “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” (BBC recording – well illustrated): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfFFqxnQBuI
Demby, Constance, Novus Magnificat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPoBEfCaG10
Dufay, Guillume, Nuper Rosarum Flores: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGW2HL35kqY
Gabrielli, Giovanni, “Canzon duodecimi toni” (Brass choir): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nx47RD7NZ_g
Gershwin, George, Rhapsody in Blue (1942 recording with Benny Goodman on clarinet solo at beginning): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FnL6HZ2xUk
Holst, Gustav, “Jupiter”, from The Planets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz0b4STz1lo
Holst, Gustav, “Mars”, from The Planets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0bcRCCg01I
Mahler, Gustav, Symphony #1 (Titan): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5c1RDalpXuA
Ockeghem, Johannes, Missa L’Homme Arme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68N791msDt0
Pärt, Arvo, “Festina Lente”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_hxEgiulY4
Prokofiev, Sergei, “Peter and the Wolf”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfM7Y9Pcdzw
Shostakovich, Dmitri, Finale, Symphony # 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogJFXqYEYd8
Smetana, Bedrich, The Moldau (from Ma Vlast): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mu2q0S4sDKQ
Stravinsky, Igor, Rite of Spring (Bassoon playing “very” high at beginning): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xfg9IIXhcPk
Woodwind Quintet, Berlin Philharmonic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTCJhuxNBHA