Monday, April 20, 2009

Breathing Music

A little known fact is that when the Zen monks began playing the bamboo flute, it was simply a device for a breathing meditation. Over time, they developed music, and today we hear it as a musical instrument.

R. Carlos Nakai says that the wooden flute played by the tribal people who first inhabited this land was probably originally used as a game call, a hunting device. Then later, people made up courting songs with it. Now musicians play many kinds of music on these simple flutes.

The recorder is an instrument with a European history, and simple as it is, it could fashion everything from folk melodies to classical music.

Panpipes, invented by Pan, were played in ancient Greece. Today you are likely to find panpipes made in Peru in stores. The modern descendant of the panpipes is the harmonica.

Then there is also the occarina, the clay flute, played by many tribal people. Again, a simple instrument can be remarkably versatile, if we simply follow our ears.

The digeridoo is another wind instrument where the player can slip into a trance state very easily by using their breath to create a variety of sounds through a simple hollow tube, originally a tree branch that had been hollowed out by termites. Today people make them out of plastic pipe as well.

In one family of ancient wind instruments you move your fingers over the holes to make the sounds. In the other, the reeds are stationary and you move your mouth ot blow into the different holes to make the different sounds.

If you set aside any considerations of becoming a performer or professional musician, and simply used one of these simple wind instruments in the same way, you could just let yourself get lost in the music and create something beautiful, while enjoying a meditative experience. Try some breathing music as a form of relaxation, healing and a source of joy.

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