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Music For a Busy Head

Since the early 1960's we have seen an increase in interest in and awareness of ancient cultures, especially those of eastern origin. The main areas of exploration have been through spirituality and philosophy and hand in hand with these two pillars of existence have come health and exercise systems and regimes which look at the whole of our existence and lifestyle rather than fragmented aspects of it.

It was through an eastern healing system that I became interested in making music which had an applications for health rather than for entertainment and as with many people working within complementary health systems new and old the catalyst was a crisis and a dissatisfaction with my lifestyle.

I worked as a session musician in the late 80's and through the 90's, and was lucky enough to get a good break in 1996 when I was asked firstly to play guitar with Gabrielle on the album which won her a Britpop award and then to help organise the band which toured and promoted the album.

Simultaneously I was also making very loud experimental dance music with a band called The Green Nuns! The style was called Psychedelic Trance and had originated from groups of hippies putting on outdoor parties in Goa in India. The scene was very hedonistic, but at the heart of the music was an interest in the notion of Trance. In this case, creating an elevated state of consciousness by using repetitive cycles and patterns of rhythm over dramatic electronic soundscapes.

Because of the Indian connection of this scene I was introduced to a way of looking at the body through chakras rather than just organs and the idea of health being about balances and the movement of energy through the body. As I came from a family of nurses this was quite a challenge to the conventions I had grown up with and it made me aware of the to and fro of arguments about allopathic healthcare versus complementary and alternative methods that are becoming more and more prevalent in the world of health.

In 1999 my work with Gabrielle came to and end and The Green Nuns were booked for a tour of Australia and New Zealand. We played in Byron Bay and a couple of days after the party we decided to take a drive along the ominously named 'Broken Head Road', having spend the previous day climbing the equally ominously named Mount Warning. I'll cut to the chase; we had a car accident which was both traumatic and sobering. Miraculously there were no serious injuries, but the shock was deep and I took it as a wake-up call.

We then went to New Zealand and whilst I was there I emailed a masseuse friend of mine and told her what had happened. She suggested I contact a Reiki master in Queensland that she had studied and attuned with and for two weeks I walked the hills overlooking the lade and rivers of the adventure sports capital of the world whilst learning and attuning to Reiki with a wonderful woman called Ruth Anna Horton.

The experience was profound in the way it changed my outlook and understanding of the movement of energy, not just in the human body, but in all things. Quantum physics for the spiritually minded was the way I can best describe it. The final session I had with Ruth was a full Reiki treatment and I dozed off half way through it and woke up with a very clear mission in my head, to get out of pop and dance music and make an album of music for Reiki and massage.

When I returned to England I read into subjects such as Cymatics, Vibraitonal and sound healing and formed a very basic understanding of how different frequencies affect different parts of the body; i.e. deep bass frequencies can be 'felt' in the belly and lower body and screeching high register violins can rattle the teeth. Jonathan Goldman's book, The Power of Harmonics, really opened my mind up as well offering insights into the qualities of music as a healing tool and art form.

I expanded my awareness of the emotional content of a musical work. It is simple and obvious, but significant, that a march or anthem is composed to induce stirring nationalistic pride, or to note the sleep inducing lilt of a lullaby or the sadness and nostalgia inherent in many fold songs.

It must, therefore, be possible to induce a state conducive to healing through music as well. But as there is no obvious emotional state for healing, other than deeply relaxed, another element was required.

....and that is the notion of intent. As any performer will tell you, the frame of mind in which you approach the stage will dictate the ability to project to and connect with your audience. I believe that is no difference in composition. I wanted to make music that would aid with the healing and relaxing process and that was my focus. I used Reiki before each session and tried to let the music create it. I didn't really listen to anybody else's healing music before starting work on the album; I didn't want to be influenced by what other people were doing. The way I produced the album has more in common with ambient spin-offs from the Trance scene.

My album, Music for a Busy Head includes seven works, each of which is written in a key which, according to some theorists of vibrational healing, resonates with the 7 main chakras of the body. Beginning with the crown chakra and working down to the base, the idea being that the physical treatment and the music move energy down away from the head.

Different schools of thinking exist as to how a Reiki treatment should/does work but I simply decided on an approach that I thought would benefit people whose minds run a little faster than their bodies can keep up with.

All the tempos are below 65 bpm - the average heart rate at rest, which helps to lower the metabolism of the listener. Such a tempo can also induce a state of semi-consciousness, a state in which the human body is able to do its own healing work.

I used instruments and sounds for the textural quality and resonant properties, including Nye flutes, acoustic guitars, gamelan, Tibetan bells and bowls, Celtic harps and Swedish Lyres. I used synthesizers and vocal samples for some of the bass sound and as many of the Trance music production tricks as I could muster to give the album the appropriate sonic quality.

When the album was completed I had it professionally mastered, like any other album due for release and chose artwork which I hoped would keep it distinct from the other releases in the same genre.

I tried in vain to find a label or distributor for the album and was disappointed by the lack of response from those I approached. So I pressed up 1000 copies myself and employed a friend to help generate some PR and began selling the album from home. Three re-pressings later I'm glad I chose the independent route.

This article is reproduced with permission from Matt Coldrick and you can hear excerpts from the album Music for a Busy Head at www.absoluteambient.com You can also email Matt at m_coldrick@yahoo.com