The Universal Symphony and Music’s Power to Change the World
Sound shapes the world around us. The ancient syllable Om, said to be the primordial sound from which the entire universe arose, invokes this reality and has been the subject of deep inner inquiry in the East for millennia. While the Bible includes the phrase “In the beginning was the Word”, Egyptian mythology similarly says the “singing sun” created the world with its “cry of light”.
Today, various areas of science have documented sound’s ability to create, preserve and destroy matter. In cymatics, we can see the beautiful and ordered patterning sound waves create on chladni plates, rigid surfaces covered with powder that immediately aligns to specific shapes according to sound vibrations. Biologists have learned that flowers adjust the sweetness of their nectar based on the sound of nearby bees, and that pea seedlings can send their roots toward water based only on its sound. Iridescent butterfly wings contain nanostructures that change the way they reflect light based on the sound in their environment, so that sound literally changes their color. Our bodies, as well, respond to sound. Workplace and environmental noise can cause hypertension and heart disease, while music can alter heart rate and brain chemistry. “Mozart Effect” studies beginning in 1993 revealed that classical music in particular boosts our spatial reasoning.
Sound can invoke balance and wellbeing, or it can invoke chaos and dis-ease. Music, then, is not simply a form of entertainment or even a means of self-expression, but a way to literally transform every aspect of the world within and around us. The practice of Nada Yoga recognizes sound as a way to the infinite, where deep inner listening connects us with the originating sound of the universe that aligns all things in absolute harmony, including ourselves. This listening can inspire sonic expression accordingly—such as through music or mantra—as an offering to amplify the vibration of that omniscient sonic presence within us and all beings.
Our world, and the solar system through which it circles, exist based on proportions that, when translated to sound, produce harmony. This is why the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who told his followers that “a stone is frozen music”, spoke of the “harmony of the spheres” around 400 BC. In the 17th century, mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler used these principles of celestial harmony to discover that many planets in our solar system have elliptical orbits. Our human bodies are proportioned in the same way, reflecting this immense cosmic order. We are like the celestial bodies that represent harmony on a scale we cannot perceive with our ears, but to which we naturally align.
The world is full of music-makers, from humming insects to trilling songbirds to resounding whales. The patterns of their songs perpetuate life, whether by communicating information or attracting mates. Be it within a forest canopy or the ocean depths, the sounds of Nature combine, harmonize and synchronize into a vast, purposeful and interconnected whole. Yet, we may not realize that the plant kingdom is also a part of this symphony. Scientists have discovered that plants can create sound waves in their roots as a form of below-ground communication. And through photoacoustic spectroscopy, scientists have been able to listen to the music inherent in rock crystals and plants alike. They have observed a rose bursting into bloom with the expanding sonic majesty of a Bach toccata.
Made of wood, gut, hair, skin and metal from the Earth, many musical instruments are a way for us to emulate that natural interconnected whole. Using our own bodies as resonators involves us even more deeply in the universal symphony. From the cry of a child for its mother to the aspirated growls of a traditional throat singer to the piercing notes of an opera singer breaking glass, vocalized sound reaches and connects and transforms both its originator and the world around it.
As the German music producer and journalist Joachim-Ernst Berendt shared in his groundbreaking book “The World is Sound: Nada Brahma”, the universe naturally moves toward harmony and balance. Just as our ears prefer harmony to dissonance, any two or more oscillations in proximity tend to synchronize—be they the pulsations of muscle cells within our hearts, the pendulums of ticking clocks, or the flowing movement of schools of fish or flocks of birds. In this light, we can see that chaos and dissonance are not our nature, but interference. Cells in our body that do not align to the rhythms around them are cancerous and work against life. To use sound in the form of noise, without consideration for the harmony of the whole, is to create suffering. For example, seismic blasting and active sonar pulses, used to detect what may lie in the ocean depths or seabed, cause deafness, injury, illness and even death in marine mammals.
Though our human choices have led to increasing chaos like a cancer in our collective body, Nature shows another way. Within our complex global ecosystem, each species plays its role. There are some creatures, however, who not only protect ecological balance but act in ways scientists would call altruistic, to support the well-being of other creatures. For example, it has been repeatedly documented that humpback whales will rescue seals or smaller whales from orcas, and dolphins will protect humans from sharks. Is this not, in its way, an expression of Nada Yoga in action, a choice to hear, respond to and amplify a deeper universal harmony? Gifted as humans with the power of choice, can we not do the same?
Music is a key aspect of GEM: Global Education for MAPS, because the collective transformation our world needs cannot happen through intellectual discussion alone. Music, especially that which is dedicated to interconnection, speaks to the heart and alters the cells. It can invoke the symphonic wisdom of Nature and reawaken the true potential of our minds. The song “Ocean Anthem”, leading off GEM, is inspired by, created with, and dedicated to this truth. Its symphonic harmonies are a reflection of Nature, an expression of Nada Yoga, and an invitation to repattern ourselves to Nature’s universal symphony, for the wellbeing of all.
Parvati is an award-winning singer, composer, producer, yogini, author, and Founder and CEO of the international charity Parvati Foundation. Her work is dedicated to protecting all life on Earth by establishing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS).