The Sound of Music

[Listen to Asha read this story]

(Told by Bhagavati)

 As soon as Swamiji began to sing, it was obvious that the cough and sinus infection he had been battling for months had seriously affected his voice. I am a professional musician, and my heart went out to him. I play the flute, and I know what it is like to try to perform when the body isn’t working right.

The song was Where Has My Love Gone. It is hauntingly beautiful and quite long. His voice was weak and inconsistent and I projected as much positive energy to him as I could just to help him get through it. With my sensitive ears, I expected to endure rather than to enjoy his performance.

To my astonishment, this turned out to be a truly exquisite performance and a defining moment for me as a musician, because the real secret of Swamiji’s musical genius was revealed to me.

Until then, I had made the natural mistake of thinking that when Swamiji sang, the beauty of the music came from the sound of his voice. Now, the sound was distorted by his illness, but the music was more beautiful than ever. For the first time I saw it clearly: Music comes from consciousness. Swamiji’s body was impaired, but his spirit was soaring.

This realization brought to a clear focus something that had puzzled me for years.

I was always something of an anomaly among my classical music colleagues. Before big performances, I would devote comparatively little time to practicing the music itself, and an inordinate amount of time to “warming-up.” On my instrument this meant long slow tones, which required deep breathing and concentrated attention to every nuance of sound.

I knew from experience that if I got myself in order, the music would come out fine. During the performance I could lose myself in the music in a way that wasn’t possible unless I prepared in this way. I understand now that it was my way of meditating.

It had never occurred to me, though, until Swamiji showed me with his performance, that consciousness is the music. Sound itself is secondary.


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