Muse Power: How Recreational Music Making Heals Depression and Other Symptoms of Modern Culture (Introduction, page 1 of 7)


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The night is cold and dark. A full moon hangs low on the horizon, orange, bright and promising of some other worldly magic. The sound of drums, rattles, bells, and voices intermingle, creating a wild cacophony of sound that reverberates for miles in every direction. Around a blazing fire, bodies move, circling in both directions, feet pounding the earth in rhythm to the drummer's songs, arms and bodies moving as if by some other will than just the dancer's own. Some of the dancers have rattles, some have bells around their ankles, and some are arm in arm moving around the fire as if in council. Some have painted faces, some are adorned with feathers and bones, others are all in white, and some are naked or half naked. Around the edges of the circle, people of all ages, from children to elders mingle; talking, laughing, sharing food and moving about in many forms of prayerful offerings.

The drums get louder, faster and more intense and suddenly a woman breaks into song as if on cue. Her voice wild, free, and beautifully human wails over even the loudest drum. The song is telling a story, a story of pain, of human endurance and a greater truth. The song touches another dancer who responds in a rhythmic chant, and then another, and within minutes all of the dancers are singing, creating layer upon layer of sound and expression. Slowly the drummers soften, and the voices are carrying a new song into the night. A soft cloud emerges over the moon, darkening the sky, the fire softens and only the voices are heard; the rhythm is carried on by the bare feet of the dancers.

Looking at this gathering, from the outside, deep in the heart of the woods, fire blazing, drums resounding, spirit songs emerging from wailing hearts, it might be hard to tell when or where in time you are. The familiarity of it is inexplicable, yet profound, primal and somehow undeniably intriguing. It could be in Africa somewhere or a ceremony in North America before the Europeans came, or it could be a modern tribe somewhere in the United States, which indeed it is.

Out of this space, one young woman steps forward into the center of the circle, close to the fire. She is in her early 20's and she is flanked by two other women who are holding space for her, energetically supporting her. She is silently acknowledged by all present and begins to speak. The singing voices continue on, but intuitively all the singers bring the volume down so that this young woman's voice can be heard clearly.

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