Published on www.WiseWomenNow.com in January 2011
by Susan von Reichenbach
My parents were entertaining friends late one autumn afternoon close to Halloween when I was about
five. Always welcome to join them, never relegated to a playroom or removed from the energy, I thought
it would be a pleasing idea to “dress-up”, too, and join the party wearing the nurse’s uniform my father
had just bought me at New York City’s childhood paradise, FAO Schwarz. The costume included a Red
Cross apron, a cap with a Red Cross symbol, a serious looking M.D. satchel, and an impressive mini
stethoscope to hang around my neck.
As I entered, an avuncular friend of my father bent down benignly over me and said, “Susan, dear, will
you be a nurse when you grow up?”
Music - The Cosmic Song
“Oh, no!” I replied, without hesitation. “I’m going to be an opera
My Mother almost dropped the hors d’oeuvres platter, and my
father was, for once, speechless. In retrospect, I realize that
announcement was the moment when my soul revealed that I
was to live in music and the healing power of sound and to
experience a lifetime devoted to discovering the meaning and
implications of the ideas —that music is a gift of Spirit and that
sound has healing properties.
The thread of music that ran through my life, and the love of
singing, demonstrated itself throughout my girlhood. I sang
everything I heard and could recall notes and words perfectly—
in the bathtub, around the house, in the school Glee Club and
in Church. This singing thread stitched itself into my adult life at
the age of 19, when I gave my first public recital, and it was
received as something “special”– an idea I have spent most of
my life working to expunge!
After graduating from college and getting married, I began a career in music, performing
internationally, which involved years of hard work and travel and wonderful opportunities.
Through the years, the Song kept singing in me and through me, helping to elevate me above
whatever earthly situations and trials I was encountering — the usual disappointments and problems
we all experience on the human journey. I learned that music, by revealing an invisible life of
harmony and order, of beauty and joy, of sweetness and vitality, nobility and majesty and power, is a
language, and that this wordless language communicates transcendent ideas and eternal truths.
Music helped to awaken me to the divine nature of life; it opens a door for me allowing me to enter
into realms divine, sacred, eternal. I can lose sight of myself in sound—as we all can. On whichever
side of the footlights I find myself, music speaks directly to my soul.
As Lebanese mystic-poet, Kahlil Gibran wrote: “In the depth of my
soul, there is a wordless song!”
Participating in music has the extraordinary ability to unite human
beings. It is a more powerful “weapon” than the sword or a peace
conference—it moves beyond borders, cultures, religions,
ethnicity, because its universal language can be comprehended at
the soul level. After all, since time immemorial, toning and chanting
have been an exalted activity of human beings on our planet.
Ancient Hindu Scriptures and the Old Testament Psalms were
written to be sung. Music is often played on commemorative
occasions to express joy, celebration and thanksgiving; and, at
events solemn or sad, the presence of music can help us to
release and transform our sorrows and pain.
This kind of communal experience of music, seen routinely in
choruses or in orchestras, invites human beings into a harmonizing
state of mind. The participants are drawn into the music and of
necessity are listening to everyone else in order to create harmony.
The world needs the beauty, inspiration and grace that music shines into our lives. I do not speak
here of rock or rap or noisy thumping, dissonant sounds or harsh vocalism, that deafen the ears,
deaden the mind and harm the homeostatic balance. These are not music. A well-known 20th
century composer is quoted as defining such music as “aural sewage”!
In his welcoming remarks to newly arrived students, the director of a well-known New England
Conservatory described the mission of the musician in an interesting and metaphorical light as being
equivalent to that of a nurse or doctor, paramedic or therapist, of a firefighter or 911 rescue worker.
He views musicians as administering CPR and balms for our tired minds and bodies, offering soothing
harmonics as meditation, giving sacred prescriptions of joy and beauty and renewing tonics (in the
“tonic” scale for those of you who are musicians!), promoting vitality and well-being, reviving us in the
emergency rooms of concert halls and Opera Houses. “Walk-ins” are always welcome, and no
insurance forms or invasive tests are required!
The concert hall offers a platform, to be met with
reverence by performers and listeners alike, where
they are one, jointly participating in the sacred
experience of the music. This quality of making
music has a salutary effect and can quickly restore
Uplifting the soul and refreshing the minds of all
who participate in it, music blesses the listener as
well as the musician. The musician, of course,
must focus attention on playing or singing the
music, and no other thoughts can enter; and the
listener, if he is listening, must pay attention to the
message in the music. The benefits in this
experience occur as the noisy mind is stilled,
|Chinese Temple, Singapore, by Benoit Mortgat
giving us some relief from our cares and concerns, grievances, troubles and daily ruminations; music
can wash out the static and clutter, leading the mind to a quieter state, whereby needed solutions and
new insights can reach and inspire us or just return us to a healthier mental outlook.
So often after singing, I have felt completely rejuvenated. For some, music is a form of worship. St.
Augustine said of singing that “to sing once is to pray twice.”
The idea that music is divine, “an invisible gift from
an invisible Source” (Thomas Hora) is well
illustrated by Beethoven, an example of one who,
although deaf, could “hear” entire symphonies in
his consciousness and then manifest them in
visible form in a manuscript. Bach and Mozart, too,
recounted pulling whole symphonies and oratorios
out of the Cosmos—not note by note—but with
every line already composed and orchestrated
from beginning to end, gently “dropped” into their
awareness. Beethoven said: “What is to reach the
heart must come from Heaven above; if it does not
come thence, it will be nothing but notes—body
|Concert hall in Clementi, South West, SG by Benoit Mortgat
The ancient Hindu rishis (holy men) described this “heavenly” music as infinitesimal and invisible
vibrating strings of sound, operating in an invisible field of Intelligence, underlying and supporting
the sometimes confusing and discordant world we experience —
vibrations which are absolutel yperfect, perfectly harmonious,
infinitely beautiful, and which can demonstrate as order in our
lives, adjusting and retuning them, if we know how to access
them. This ancient knowledge is the same that quantum physics
astonishingly postulates as “super string theory”: All life is
vibration. The entire Universe is Music. We are living in a Cosmic
In ancient Hindu scriptures, as well as in Christianity, we are
informed that Creation came into being through sound—through
the divine utterance or Universal Song from which everything
vibrates into expression. Current day physics and technology
substantiate that, indeed, all existence is vibrating, from orbits
around the sun to the movement of electrons around atoms. Our
space probes have recorded some planets “singing,” in some
instances like choirs of angelic voices and, in others, like
dolphins; this is a documented and extraordinary phenomenon.
|Holy Men, Pashupati, Nepal by
So, too, did 4th century BCE, mathematician and musician, Pythagoras, report the existence of the
Cosmic Song. Apparently, Pythagoras could “hear” the high frequency whirring and vibrations of
the Cosmic Sound existing beyond the physical ear, and tune into it, also teaching his students to
do the same, so that they could access wisdom, insight and healing.
He was aware of the power in aligning ourselves with sacred
sound waves (what he called the “harmony of the spheres”)
in order to bring us into wholeness; his work has been aptly
called “Sound Medicine.” The God, Apollo, too, reigned
over both Music and Medicine, so we can see that the
pairing and synergy of these ideas has been long realized
on the planet.
Even the human body can be seen as a wonderful
symphony, pointing to the idea that “music” is everywhere
expressing itself—the beat of our heart and pulse, the flow
of our circulation, the rhythm of our breathing—everything
within working in concert!
“We are the Symphony of the Cosmos,” as Depak Chopra
|Pythagoras - Google Images
Music has blessed my life with more than income, travel,
recognition and so-called “glamour” (although these are all
pleasant experiences along the way). It set me on a lifetime
path of seeking to understand the meaning and purpose of the
human journey, especially as it relates to our individual gifts
and talents and the consecration of their use. Make no
mistake: a life in the Performing Arts is fraught with all the same
problems and struggles one finds in any other profession. It is
still a business and not always pretty. But, its path did bestow
on me the redemptive opportunity to come to know that there is
an Eternal Cosmic Song from which all Harmony and Perfection
emanate, and we are already in It, even if It is sometimes
difficult to discern. Stay tuned!
|Photo by Curlsdiva - Rachel Cowan