Friday, May 01, 2009

En-chanting world

Chanting, everyone is familiar with that. You, me and everyone chants or prays sometime in a day. The sound of chanting is an eternal part of the universe. Plain words and yet not so plain, that seem to echo throughout the universe and the human soul.

Chanting speaks to the soul and soothes the mind that is in search of god. The melody of the chant is its strength and that it more to the soul and heart than the regular music. This is not just a song that is chanted across the world by monks for the monks in their seminaries. These songs flow from solitude, silence and meditation of god.

Gregorian chants are a mystical form of music that touches the deepest recesses of the soul. The heart opens up to receive the glory of god allowing the listener to feel the eternal peace and quietness.

It holds your breath; it reverberates through your mind, heart, soul and body. It is a very peaceful experience. For the monks it was an exercise to get close to the almighty. You may understand the words or not, a friend once told me, ‘they can create magic around you.’

They can still an agitated mind, echo through the body, mind and soul relaxing you completely forcing you to contemplate. Chanting in fact creates an energy field around you which is pure and clean, a piece of peace on earth which no one can touch. The chants seem to slide into you from the top of your head to the toes of your feet sending a powerful message through every molecule of your body, charging it as the message moves along. These chants are sung with no or bare minimum of music which I prefer but many modern singers choose to accompany it with Celtic, folk, or rock music of different types to suit their taste.

Chant is the oldest form of singing and was first developed in the 8th century. Learnt through viva and in Latin language, perfection is only reached through several years of experience. Singing chants is an important part of the seminary life; it filled with the monks with renewed energy to go on with the life that they had chosen.

It became an important part of the daily church service according to the Rule set down by St. Benedict. Only small groups and soloists sang the chants. The chants were organized and codified in the 12th-13th centuries in Frankish lands. It was imposed and made compulsory by Gregory I [590-604 AD] and Charlemagne, King of Franks [768-814 AD].

The most famous canters are the Benedict monks. They are said to have encounters with gods, which has had a supernatural effect and is added on only by the monks. Gregorian chanting is regarded as a channel to the human souls. As one individual has said listening to the chants is like ‘listening to the angels (said to be a gift from them). The chants reflect the angelic songs.’

There is a popular belief that hooded monks intone the chants in dingy corridors which are not so. A regular church service also holds a session of chanting. The music is ethereal, pleasing to the ear and eyes. The deep voices of men intone the words so well it is as if they are breathing it. The object of using the chant is to worship and time in fact does not matter - one line takes a whole of four minutes to sing. Gregorian chant follows a simple melody. Done in unison it produces a rich harmonious field and when it is performed in the cathedral, the architecture enhances the harmonious field.

Sound is known to heal and many ancient civilizations have used music, chanting, intoning, and instruments like drums, bells, singing bowls, gongs, whistles, and prayer to cure and as remedies. Mastering the music regulates the heart and mind. According to Kay Gardener (1990) there are nine elements of healing in music:-

1. Drone – the constant tone is a simple melody
2. Repetition – short phrases repeated over and over again
3. Harmonics – long sustained tones – balance the emotional, mental and spiritual from of the aura
4. Rhythm – duplicates the pulse in the body
5. Harmony – the various keys, major and minor bring on the feeling of sadness, joy, soothing and triumph – which bring the diseased organ back into harmony with the others
6. Melody – mind is engaged by melody which takes the attention away from the day to day afflictions one faces
7. Instrumental colors – each instrument has its own voice – overtones and wave forms that penetrate the various parts of the body
8. Form – the musical piece determines where the journey will take the listener.
9. Intention – a musician must recognize the power within and its effect. What is the intention to heal or harm.

According to a study conducted by Dr. Alfred Tomatis a French MD in 1950s in auditory neurophysiology. On his behest the monks were forced to give up chanting for a year or so which resulted in many falling sick, becoming completely listless and not responding to even normal prayers. Diet change did not work nor did lifestyle change until Dr Tomatis told them to begin the chanting again. The chants stimulated the brain, charging it with energy created by the voice and the limited intoning of the vowels.

Listening to Gregorian chants forces the body to breathe more deeply, center itself, creating a balance of the mind and body. The magnetic rhythm enchants the listener massaging the body inside out. Sound is not only created by the mouth but also with the bones and skin.

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