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Author Topic: Music In Rituals  (Read 13459 times)
Ligeia
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« Topic Start: June 27, 2008, 03:55:27 am »

Is it OK to incorporate music into your rituals. Music is a big part of my life so I would think it would bring me closer and help me concentrate. (appropriate music of course) What are your thoughts? Also what is some good pagan music? I haven't really looked into it. I also keep seeing pagan/wiccan hymns referenced does anyone know where I could find recordings of these?
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« Reply #1: June 27, 2008, 07:45:24 am »

Is it OK to incorporate music into your rituals.

Sure.  Many people and groups do.  If you're working within a specific tradition, I suppose there could be restrictions placed on use of music by that tradition.  I haven't heard of any, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.  If you're not, though, then there aren't really rules about what is and isn't OK.  Provided your particular religion/tradition/path/etc. doesn't specify, you're free to do whatever works for you.

Quote
Also what is some good pagan music?

We have a music thread running, actually, if you haven't seen it yet:
http://www.ecauldron.net/forum/index.php?topic=6028.0

Not everything under discussion there is specifically Pagan, but many people have given suggestions of music that they've found useful in a Pagan context.  It might be helpful to you.
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« Reply #2: June 27, 2008, 09:15:17 am »

Is it OK to incorporate music into your rituals. Music is a big part of my life so I would think it would bring me closer and help me concentrate. (appropriate music of course) What are your thoughts? Also what is some good pagan music? I haven't really looked into it. I also keep seeing pagan/wiccan hymns referenced does anyone know where I could find recordings of these?

It's absolutely okay - though I agree with you about 'appropriate'. (Story on that at the end of the post)

Good sources:
The one I'd start with, and which is absolutely worth the cost if you read music enough to sort them out (or have a friend who will sight-sing them for you), is a book called _Songs for Earthlings_ by Jess Middleton. It comes in several versions: I recommend the one you can stick in a binder. She hits many common Pagan chants, and she also includes recording information wherever possible. http://www.emeraldearth.net/sfe.htm

There's also _Circle of Song_ by Kate Marks, which I like somewhat less well: I find some of her notation choices a little weird (and different from the versions I know in ways that seem less singable), also, it has more chants that are very specifically focused in ways that don't coincide with my practice (specific deities, etc.) 

Listening:
There are three places I'd start.

Ivo Dominguez has a free online site that includes a chant a month (or so) with many common chants. It's at http://www.seeliecourt.net/panpipe/oldchan.html . Some more chant links are here: http://www.soulrebels.com/beth/chants.html - the Utah Pagan Clergy Association chants link there has some particularly good common ones to learn.

There's also two CD sets that hit a lot of common ones. Ruth Barrett's two CD set _The Year is a Dancing Woman_ have lots of seasonal chants. And the Reclaiming CDs have quite a number - _Let it begin now_ is Samhain focused, and the _Chants_ and _Second Chants_ have a number of other options, too.

The story: 
Several years ago, a new student came to the group I trained with (and was actively involved with)- and had some not-good experiences with someone who was a teacher in the group. After the dust settled, and he was asked to leave the group, she asked about two of the deity chants we were using.

Turns out that this person had re-written the words to two Christian evangelical tunes, and passed them off as his own music (substituting our deity names, in other words, in for 'Christ' or 'Jesus'.) We hadn't noticed because no one else had a background in evangelical music (I had a heavy one in Catholic music, but these were different songs.) We of course immediately pullled them from use, and a couple of months later replaced them with chants I'd written for the purpose, but it left me with a *very* bitter taste in my mouth.

I'm also a composer, and when I write something for a religious purpose, I know I don't want it randomly repurposed to a completely different religion. It's therefore really important to me to treat other people's work with that kind of respect: I'd happily write new words to a traditional secular tune, for example, but I'm really wary of doing it with anything that has a strong religious connotation in another path. (This includes Christmas carols). 

Using stuff that's secular in origin feels a bit better for me - but my preference is to write stuff or use stuff I know comes from a similar enough path, when I have the option. This takes longer, but it also means I tend to find music that's a really great fit, not just a "Yeah, well, okay, good enough" one. Developing over time is also perfectly okay: finding one song, and learning it and using it, and then doing another in 3 months or whenever you learn a new one that fits right, is a great way to go.
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« Reply #3: June 27, 2008, 11:16:00 am »

Is it OK to incorporate music into your rituals. Music is a big part of my life so I would think it would bring me closer and help me concentrate. (appropriate music of course) What are your thoughts?

I use music in ritual sometimes - generally not officially "pagan" music though.  I've used Delerium, Loreena McKennitt, Dead Can Dance, Mediaeval Baebes pretty often, along with others.  Electronic music is great for ecstatic dance, too. Smiley
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« Reply #4: June 27, 2008, 01:54:19 pm »

It's absolutely okay - though I agree with you about 'appropriate'. (Story on that at the end of the post)

Good sources:
The one I'd start with, and which is absolutely worth the cost if you read music enough to sort them out (or have a friend who will sight-sing them for you), is a book called _Songs for Earthlings_ by Jess Middleton. It comes in several versions: I recommend the one you can stick in a binder. She hits many common Pagan chants, and she also includes recording information wherever possible. http://www.emeraldearth.net/sfe.htm

There's also _Circle of Song_ by Kate Marks, which I like somewhat less well: I find some of her notation choices a little weird (and different from the versions I know in ways that seem less singable), also, it has more chants that are very specifically focused in ways that don't coincide with my practice (specific deities, etc.) 

Listening:
There are three places I'd start.

Ivo Dominguez has a free online site that includes a chant a month (or so) with many common chants. It's at http://www.seeliecourt.net/panpipe/oldchan.html . Some more chant links are here: http://www.soulrebels.com/beth/chants.html - the Utah Pagan Clergy Association chants link there has some particularly good common ones to learn.

There's also two CD sets that hit a lot of common ones. Ruth Barrett's two CD set _The Year is a Dancing Woman_ have lots of seasonal chants. And the Reclaiming CDs have quite a number - _Let it begin now_ is Samhain focused, and the _Chants_ and _Second Chants_ have a number of other options, too.

The story: 
Several years ago, a new student came to the group I trained with (and was actively involved with)- and had some not-good experiences with someone who was a teacher in the group. After the dust settled, and he was asked to leave the group, she asked about two of the deity chants we were using.

Turns out that this person had re-written the words to two Christian evangelical tunes, and passed them off as his own music (substituting our deity names, in other words, in for 'Christ' or 'Jesus'.) We hadn't noticed because no one else had a background in evangelical music (I had a heavy one in Catholic music, but these were different songs.) We of course immediately pullled them from use, and a couple of months later replaced them with chants I'd written for the purpose, but it left me with a *very* bitter taste in my mouth.

I'm also a composer, and when I write something for a religious purpose, I know I don't want it randomly repurposed to a completely different religion. It's therefore really important to me to treat other people's work with that kind of respect: I'd happily write new words to a traditional secular tune, for example, but I'm really wary of doing it with anything that has a strong religious connotation in another path. (This includes Christmas carols). 

Using stuff that's secular in origin feels a bit better for me - but my preference is to write stuff or use stuff I know comes from a similar enough path, when I have the option. This takes longer, but it also means I tend to find music that's a really great fit, not just a "Yeah, well, okay, good enough" one. Developing over time is also perfectly okay: finding one song, and learning it and using it, and then doing another in 3 months or whenever you learn a new one that fits right, is a great way to go.

Thank you very much for the sources! Now I have heard my first pagan hymns. They are interesting. As I do have a background with secular religons I find them VERY interesting b/c the lyrics are 180's from what I am used to hearing and I think I may need time to get used to the hymns. I can sight read so when I get the money together I will check out the book you recommended also. I'm sorry to hear about what happened with your student.

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« Reply #5: June 27, 2008, 02:05:37 pm »

Sure.  Many people and groups do.  If you're working within a specific tradition, I suppose there could be restrictions placed on use of music by that tradition.  I haven't heard of any, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.  If you're not, though, then there aren't really rules about what is and isn't OK.  Provided your particular religion/tradition/path/etc. doesn't specify, you're free to do whatever works for you.

We have a music thread running, actually, if you haven't seen it yet:
http://www.ecauldron.net/forum/index.php?topic=6028.0

Not everything under discussion there is specifically Pagan, but many people have given suggestions of music that they've found useful in a Pagan context.  It might be helpful to you.
I must have been half asleep when i looked at that thread last night, because it did answer one half of my question lol. Wow no more message boards at 5am for me. Thank you for reposting it so it would inspire me to go look again  Cheesy
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« Reply #6: June 27, 2008, 04:32:16 pm »

Thank you very much for the sources! Now I have heard my first pagan hymns. They are interesting. As I do have a background with secular religons I find them VERY interesting b/c the lyrics are 180's from what I am used to hearing and I think I may need time to get used to the hymns.

I'd be curious about what's so new to you about the lyrics, if you'd have time to expand (one of my major interests is the use of music in ritual, so much so that it's a major reason for hiving from the group I trained with - not that they don't use it, but it wasn't a focus in the way I want it to be.) So I'm always interested in what people's initial impressions are, and what they struggle with.

The music's probably also quite different - which is something I've heard more often. On that front, a few notes, in case they're useful.

1) Most of what's out there was designed either for a small group, or for a large group working without standard hymnals/texts/resources at a public ritual.

In the case of a large public ritual, people need to be able to pick up the music pretty quickly. For most people, this means 2-4 lines of music *at most* and shorter is probably better unless you're repeating it for quite a long time, or unless it's something very widely known in the community (so that at least 1/3 of the people there start singing along immediately and know it.)

2) In the case of a *small* group ritual, chances are that in a group of 13 (standard coven size), you will have

- 2-4 people who are really strong singers and interested in developing good music (and willing to invest time and energy into learning new things and making them work for the group)
- 5-8 people who are okay singers, but need to be really comfortable with a song before they are comfortable singing (and who will be unlikely to want to start off singing something.) Most of these probably don't read music, so they will need to learn by ear from someone else or a recording.
- 1-2 people who really can't sing very well, or who have some disability (hearing loss, throat issues, actually being tone deaf, which while relatively rare, is out there) that makes it more complicated.

My experience with the larger (13ish) group size is that simple harmony (melody/descant) and 2-3 part rounds can work - as long as you have at least one strong singer familiar with the song on each part, and as long as the rest of the group both knows the song and is reminded of it (doing it a few times through in unison.) If you're short people (they're not there, out sick, lost their voice), though, revamping is often a really good idea so the music doesn't crash and burn.

3) If you're working in a smaller group, it's even more complicated.

In the current 2 person coven, I'm a strong singer (and have a music degree), but my covenmate, while she's very interested in music, and a very strong singer, has a lot less confidence about what she's doing until she's practiced it a bit. She's also slower to learn new music, because she also had less of the "Must learn this for a concert next week" background that I got through various performing ensembles. (in other words, I've learned tricks over the years that help me learn a new piece pretty fast, and get it solid.)

We can adapt for that - but it affects what we sing. As does the fact we're both female, and we're *so* not getting a bass line any time soon. Nor, obviously, could we do a 3 or 4 part round or harmony with just 2 of us.

4) Harmony is complex magically: if I'm using a chant in ritual at a point at which we want to have a unified group mind during or immediately afterwards (we're raising power for something, for example), having people sing a round *can* knock them out of that mindset. So can singing harmony, if it's not handled thoughtfully and fairly organically.

5) Likewise, if you get people fretting more about the music than the working, they can end up not as clearly energetically tied into the working. Solos are complicated this way. As are "Well, you will sing the harmony." There's places in our ritual structure where that kind of thing can work well - and there are places where it will affect the flow of the work of the ritual in ways I really don't care for.

6) Finally, there's instrumentation: if we're in ritual in someone's home, we have limited instruments (unlike a mainstream church, many of which have a piano of some kind, if not an organ.) While there are plenty of hand-held instruments, or slightly less portable ones (my harp, for example), bringing them into circle can be complicated. Where do they go when they're not in use? Will people step on them? Will worrying about them (or whether they've stayed in tune!) mean the musician is more worried about than the ritual work?

There's also some physical stuff: when I was playing piano for Catholic services regularly in college, I often felt *really* left out of some of the ritual structure, because I was stuck behind a large piano, often unable to see the Eucharist clearly, or having to adapt what I'd like to do in order to be able to play music for other people.

Music is definitely its own kind of ministry, but it made me particularly sensitive to the use of music in ritual when what is really wanted is either a strong community bonding moment (in which case, all people involved need to be able to participate equally) or a group mind working (in which case, people need to be not fretting about the logistics of what happens next, or whether someone's going to knock against an instrument.)

Voice is *so* much simpler for all of those things. And you also don't get an internal division between 'people who play instruments' and 'people who sing'.
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« Reply #7: June 27, 2008, 05:17:32 pm »


Music is definitely its own kind of ministry, but it made me particularly sensitive to the use of music in ritual when what is really wanted is either a strong community bonding moment (in which case, all people involved need to be able to participate equally) or a group mind working (in which case, people need to be not fretting about the logistics of what happens next, or whether someone's going to knock against an instrument.)

Voice is *so* much simpler for all of those things. And you also don't get an internal division between 'people who play instruments' and 'people who sing'.
[/quote]

I think it is just not a familiar thing for me to hear chants about the moon goddess. Something to get used too. The songs on the website kinda seem like childrens songs with spirtual meaning. Which then again being simplistic in structure that would be a normal thing to think. I am used to the kind of Hymns that actually sound like they could be secular songs (think "I could only imagine") So the ones on Ivo domniguez's site just kinda threw me. I guess I was expecting something more melodic or more on the gregorian chant side. See what misconceptions get you...

I practice Solitary witchcraft so I have no one to preform the songs with they would be for me and the dieties. So as another question Is it OK  to take an instrument into your circle? (since I don't have to worry about people stepping on them) Would you need to purify it first? I have a keyboard so I could easily bring it in the circle...Or I could just get recordings and play the recording in a tape player in the same room but not in the actual circle.

Any thought?
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« Reply #8: June 27, 2008, 06:47:40 pm »

I am used to the kind of Hymns that actually sound like they could be secular songs (think "I could only imagine") So the ones on Ivo domniguez's site just kinda threw me. I guess I was expecting something more melodic or more on the gregorian chant side. See what misconceptions get you...

I think there is more "song-like" pagan music out there.  (I'm thinking of the little I know of Thorn Coyle's music.)  Chants are a specific genre, for a specific (ritual/magical purpose.)  And not all traditions and pagan religions use them.

Quote
Is it OK  to take an instrument into your circle? (since I don't have to worry about people stepping on them) Would you need to purify it first? I have a keyboard so I could easily bring it in the circle...Or I could just get recordings and play the recording in a tape player in the same room but not in the actual circle.

I'm guessing different traditions might say different things...I personally tend to cast my circles to the edges of the room I'm in, encompassing my cd player, computer, and whatever else is there.  (A lot of times circle castings include purifying the space, too.)
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« Reply #9: June 27, 2008, 07:58:59 pm »

The songs on the website kinda seem like childrens songs with spirtual meaning. Which then again being simplistic in structure that would be a normal thing to think.

That comes back to the usage part too.

Longer songs are great - but they're *really* hard to teach other people to sing quickly, unless you're teaching people with a lot of music background - or they have song sheets. Some Pagan groups use these (or some other printed option), but in many cases, at least in Wiccan-based ritual, you're doing something else with your hands while singing.

You might be raising energy through a circle dance, so you're holding people's hands on either side of you. No way to hold a song sheet. You might be passing around food and drink - and in a small group, you're going to be handling stuff for about a third to a half of the time it takes to sing something. You might be singing a simple chant to help direct energy while you make a talisman, amulet, token, candle, or something else that is occupying your hands. Etc. etc.

The group I trained with uses song sheets, and even with them, people would often look lost or sound confused when we did longer songs: the most successful way to do longer songs was with one person singing the verse and everyone joining on the chorus, but there are only some songs that works with. (And again, only some times in ritual when it meshes with the intent.)

On the melodic side, you should *see* the looks and complaints I get about some kind of melodic leaps - lots of people *can* sing them, but don't think they can - all their insecurities about music classes kick in. Weird but true. There are ways to work around this, but they only really work in small closed groups who are willing to invest some time in confidence building: they don't work well in situations with lots of newcomers.

Songs
All of that said, there are more developed songs - if you go look at my post in the other current music thread (the one someone already linked you to), most of the musicians I mention there do fully developed songs (usually more or less in the British folk or Celtic kind of genre, which I particularly like, so there's a lot of it in my music collection, but there's also a few bits of Pagan rock in there.)

A few particular ones to look at: Castalia (whose music is a little hard to come by, but excellent), Spiral Dance (more on the song side), Spiral Rhythm (a great example of how fairly simple tunes/words can have a big impact), Damh the Bard, Emerald Rose, Gaia Consort all spring to mind.

It occurs to me that several of those groups have free downloads, so I should handwave at them briefly

Gaia Consort - all their current stuff in MP3, but lower-quality than you get if you buy it.
http://gaiaconsort.com/lyrics.html
Not all of their stuff is explicitly Pagan: Pagan favorites include
- On _Evolve_ : Solstice Call, Drawing Down the Moon
- On _Secret Voices_: Secret Voices, Beltane Fires, Cry Freedom
- On _Gaia Circles_: Gaia Circles, and Gathering

Damh the Bard:
http://www.paganmusic.co.uk - go to the CDs and MP3s thing, and look at each album. I've only got the first album and the downloads, right now, but am eagerly awaiting budget to get more.
Pretty much any of them, but of the stuff that's downloadable, I really like "Land, Sea, and Sky" and "Pagan Ways"

Spiral Dance:
http://www.spiraldance.com.au/?CDs_and_Downloads gives lots of info.

And finally, some of it is very *very* practical: there are a number of Pagan musicians out there, but it's a pretty small niche market, all in all. Writing music that fits into ritual is even more specific as a role. While Christianity (and more than, several different segments of it) can support pretty significant ritual-use music industries, Paganism isn't there number-wise for chants. Not yet, and maybe not ever.

At the same time, chants are what people often most seek to use - for practical reasons, and ritual design reasons, and because you can actually have people singing them quickly. And so people *write* a lot of them - because someone inclined that way is helping with a ritual, and you need a chant for a specific need, and one gets written.

The good ones get used and passed on later. (The only one of mine this has happened to, other than the deity chants I've mentioned, is up on my blog over here: http://gleewood.org/threshold/2008/02/12/down-in-the-darkness-original-chant/) But the easiest way to pass them along is like that example - not great recording, no unusual equipment. But it's enough to learn the tune.

Likewise, bear in mind that the Gregorian chants we still use? Are the ones people kept passing on, or thought were worth writing down. There's scores and scores of music that didn't make it that far, for all sorts of reasons. Doesn't mean that music was bad, or pointless, or whatever - just means that it didn't get passed on. (Or think of things like Hildegard von Bingen, whose music was ignored for quite a long time, because it didn't sound like the rest of Gregorian chant, but whose compositions are now some of the best known medieval music for a lot of people.)

And finally, there's an artistic choice here.

These chants may not be pretty and polished, with tons of remastering and beautiful sound quality. But they do have a sense of reality and visceral power to them that I've grown to really adore. I was already heading there in the tail end of my Catholic days - but it's gotten a lot stronger.

Put it this way: I have a choice. I can be be in circle making music with my friends, who I love dearly, or listening to a far more musically perfect recording. Which one is more connecting? Which one is more personal? And which one is a unique experience that we will never duplicate again - because it'll come out different next time we sing that same song, or different combinations of people will be there?

Quote
I practice Solitary witchcraft so I have no one to preform the songs with they would be for me and the dieties. So as another question Is it OK  to take an instrument into your circle? (since I don't have to worry about people stepping on them) Would you need to purify it first? I have a keyboard so I could easily bring it in the circle...Or I could just get recordings and play the recording in a tape player in the same room but not in the actual circle.

Like Garnet, I just cast circle to include my computer or stereo, depending what I'm using (neither of which are consecrated the same way I'd consecrate a ritual tool, but which I do treat as a ritual item in a lot of other ways). But to talk more about your options.

- Why that instrument? One of my goals for this summer is to start doing more harp playing - but I don't see it crossing over into regular ritual use for a while, because I am not able to do the kind of music I want in ritual with it yet: I spend too much time fussing about the technical side (getting my fingers in the right place) and can't yet divert enough resources to getting benefit from the music in a ritual sense.

Which is to say: I'm fine with using an instrument, but like any other thing in ritual, I want to be able to answer the question "Why is this here right now?" and "Why am I doing it this way?" coherently.

- Electronics:
From my point of view, electronics *in* circle are vastly superior to electronics outside of circle (and where you will need to cut yourself out in order to start or stop the tape/CD/whatever.)

That said, it's good to think through why the music: music that we make ourselves engages the body in an entirely different way than listening to a recording. One of the reasons it's considered a traditional path to power is the combination of rhythm, breath engagement, and overall physical response (as your body responds to sound vibrations.) And that's before you get into dense theory about different modes having different effects magically or ritually.

Playing an instrument doesn't do the same things. Listening to a recording doesn't. They engage only the hearing, and the thinking - not the core-deep state of being.

So, if what I want is music to help focus my intention while I'm making something, or something to buffer household noises while I'm meditating, sure, I'll use an electronic player. But if what I want is to charge an object, or doing something involving magic or power raising? My voice, and only my voice, every time.

(I admit that I am opinionated in all of this. You'd probably figured that out, though.)
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« Reply #10: June 28, 2008, 01:11:03 pm »

That said, it's good to think through why the music: music that we make ourselves engages the body in an entirely different way than listening to a recording. One of the reasons it's considered a traditional path to power is the combination of rhythm, breath engagement, and overall physical response (as your body responds to sound vibrations.) And that's before you get into dense theory about different modes having different effects magically or ritually.

Playing an instrument doesn't do the same things. Listening to a recording doesn't. They engage only the hearing, and the thinking - not the core-deep state of being.

Interesting.  I'm more of a musician than a singer, so I've generally felt just the opposite of this, at least from a solitary standpoint.  Within a group setting, I can certainly see how the voice provides more power (it allows not only what you said, but an intense unity among those who allow themselves to be swept away by the music).

For solitary purposes, however, I find myself feeling much more involved through playing my guitar than through singing.  Part of this could simply be that I've never been completely comfortable with my voice (there's nothing wrong with my voice...it's simply been a comfort-issue for me since my Christian days), but I feel that all music has its own magic, and the fact that one is made with your hands (or lungs) versus your vocal chords (AND lungs  Cheesy) doesn't necessarily make one less effective than the other.  I would actually love to see what could come of JUST playing with a group of like-minded musicians...I just don't know any besides another guitarist who lives 6 hours away.  Sad

Part of my stance could also come from the fact that I don't actually have much in the way of formal music training (can't sight-read sheet music, can barely sight-read tablature). 

Incidentally, I'm not sure if this would help anyone with their ritual work, but I do have some music available for free download at http://tinyurl.com/4txs3s.  The two that are most suited to ritual work are "Wanderlove" and "Healing," as they are the most organic pieces there.  "Trance Jam" might also be useful , but it may also have elements that are too distracting for ritual work.  If anyone finds the music at all useful, please feel free to use it.  Smiley
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« Reply #11: June 28, 2008, 01:54:03 pm »

Is it OK to incorporate music into your rituals. Music is a big part of my life so I would think it would bring me closer and help me concentrate. (appropriate music of course) What are your thoughts? Also what is some good pagan music? I haven't really looked into it. I also keep seeing pagan/wiccan hymns referenced does anyone know where I could find recordings of these?

I use music in several ways. I play guitar as a way to get my mind to the best possible place cause whenever I play i get there spiritually and mentally. I also play as almost like an offering/gift to the Gods - kind of like "this is me at my purest and most bare and open"

What I find curious is this - how does one define the music as "appropriate" or "pagan"? Why should it matter if its Lorreena McKennitt or if its Type O Negative - isn't it more important that its music that gets you feel is right for what you need?  For me listening to Steve Vai is a religious experience in itself - but so is Arch Enemy or the aforementioned Miss McKennitt.

Incidentally, I'm not sure if this would help anyone with their ritual work, but I do have some music available for free download at http://tinyurl.com/4txs3s.  The two that are most suited to ritual work are "Wanderlove" and "Healing," as they are the most organic pieces there.  "Trance Jam" might also be useful , but it may also have elements that are too distracting for ritual work.  If anyone finds the music at all useful, please feel free to use it.  Smiley

Dude - your playing is awesome!!! Loved it. Very heartfelt.

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« Reply #12: June 28, 2008, 02:44:33 pm »

What I find curious is this - how does one define the music as "appropriate" or "pagan"? Why should it matter if its Lorreena McKennitt or if its Type O Negative - isn't it more important that its music that gets you feel is right for what you need?  For me listening to Steve Vai is a religious experience in itself - but so is Arch Enemy or the aforementioned Miss McKennitt.

I think it's more important to define what's appropriate (or appropriately pagan) within a group context.  In solitary work, you know best what you are trying to accomplish and what music will work best to accomplish that, but within group work, you want something that will not distract any members of the group from the work, as well as something that will help to unify the group (rather than have that one person thinking "What the hell is this crap?"  Grin).  Incidentally, I agree completely...listening to Steve Vai is a religious experience all its own Cheesy
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« Reply #13: June 28, 2008, 02:48:32 pm »

For solitary purposes, however, I find myself feeling much more involved through playing my guitar than through singing. 

I'm not talking solely about 'unity' though. I'm talking about paths to power, in the traditional sense (of which there are 8, though what makes up the 8 varies somewhat between different people's lists.) These include breath, meditation, rhythm, bio-chemical responses (drugs, but also herbal stuff), sexuality, ordeal, etc.

Voice engages multiple of these - and especially breath, because you *must* breathe in certain ways in order to produce sound and singers or wind-players must be very attentive to their breath in a way other instrumentalist can fudge more. (I've played both kinds: my music training includes voice, piano, flute, bassoon, harp, and a bit of playing around with recorder/tin whistle/etc.)

You also have the vibration issue: the physical results of having your vocal cords vibrate as you sing affect and reflect in your body. Guitar doesn't do that.

Finally, with voice, there's nothing between you and other people in the group. In an energetic sense, that makes it easier to share energy and to modulate it, depending - in guitar, you have an actual physical object between you (and your chakras/energy points/energy center) and the other people you're with. This is probably the *least* important of the three, but I have found it can make a difference: I spent some of last weekend at music parties, and watching the body language between the singers-only and the singers+players was rather instructive.

There's also the one that always gets me, personally - when I'm playing, I am less coordinated than I am musical, so there's always a back of my mind worrying about if I'll hit the right strings, etc. (Watching people last weekend, this seemed to be a common thing, too.) Once you get *really really really* good at particular pieces, that drops off - but it also seriously limits your musical choices to those you can play that well. With voice, there are still performance issues, and your voice can go off. But there's much less conscious mechanical attention to the process.

Like I said: I'm opinated. Most of this doesn't matter unless you want to come do ritual with me - where we might, in some cases, make use of instruments, but in most situations, would do voices only.

Quote
I feel that all music has its own magic, and the fact that one is made with your hands (or lungs) versus your vocal chords (AND lungs  Cheesy) doesn't necessarily make one less effective than the other. 


I don't think it makes it less effective *music*.

I do think it sometimes makes it less effective *magic* or other ritual use. (Song to a deity? Background to meditation, if the person playing can noodle and follow the meditation at the same time? Sure. Guitar is lovely. Harp is lovely. Whatever other instrument, great.) Trying to engage every possible method of building power that you can? Instrument not so useful. Wanting to dance at the same time? Instrument *really* not useful in most cases. Singing is. Singing is, also, accessible to almost everyone in a way instrumentation isn't.

Music in ritual is a tool. It is also a joy, and an inspiration, and a pleasure, but it is, fundamentally, a tool, doing a needed job, or it should not be in that ritual (same deal as anything else in ritual).  I treat it that way, and pick the best musical tool for that job. That means getting my personal preferences and fears about what 'sounds good' or 'what I like listening to best' out of the way, sometimes.
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« Reply #14: June 28, 2008, 03:23:40 pm »

What I find curious is this - how does one define the music as "appropriate" or "pagan"? Why should it matter if its Lorreena McKennitt or if its Type O Negative - isn't it more important that its music that gets you feel is right for what you need? 

As I mentioned, I also write music.

It's important to me to respect other creators. (Religious value, even!) If I have reason to think that someone would be uncomfortable with their music being used in a Pagan ritual, I think it's up to me to be ethical and not use it. Period, end of statement. There's tons of music out there: it's not like this limits me a whole lot.

I'd certainly hate it if music I wrote ended up in Christian services in a totally different context (and the chant I linked earlier this thread certainly could be: it makes a rather nice salvation chant) And I don't pull the stuff I wrote when I was Catholic (which is a reasonably substantial chunk, including a full setting of the St. Mark's Passion) into my Pagan working: the context is tied up explicitly with the music. Yes, that means there are about 100 pages of music I've written that I can't do anything meaningful with anymore. I figure that's life, and that's okay.

For this reason, I roughly group music into 3 categories (same breakdown as the list I posted in the other current music thread.)

1) People who self-ID as Pagan, who are writing music *for* Pagans.
Chances are, they don't mind the use in ritual context - many even encourage it. But more than that, they know enough about the community that if they *do* care, they can make it clear themselves. If they don't, that's also meaningful information that is pretty reliable. (Naturally, I'd respect a group that said 'Listen all you like, but this piece? We'd rather not have it used outside the ritual context it was designed for')

2) People who write Pagan-friendly music (Lorenna McKennitt is definitely in this group):
I'll often consider using this music in ritual as well - but I tend to be very thoughtful and careful about which pieces, and why. Again, I consider music in ritual to be a tool, like everything else in the ritual space: "I like it" alone is not a good enough reason to include it.

It also depends on usage: I'll use music more readily for meditation background, or while people are creating a token/talisman/whatever because (assuming the music is not explicitly some other religion), the music at that time is not pushing a particular religious POV, but rather encouraging a state of mind.

I am *far* more cautious with music used as part of deity invocations, or power raising, or other cosmology-specific parts of the ritual. In those places, I want to make sure all of the words/structure support the goals in question, and that the musician would be fine with where we're taking that meaning. Neither of these are automatically true for Pagan-created music, but they're more likely to be an issue as you get further away from it.

3) Music I find inspirational or of interest to me as a Pagan, but that comes from other sources.
I don't normally use this in ritual, because the people I'm in ritual with may have *very* different readings of the same music. I don't want to accidentally use something I adore, but they hate with a passion for some reason, or that always makes them think of a particular problematic relationship, or whatever. This likelihood goes up when you start moving into secular music.

There are exceptions: I fully expect to design a ritual around the Wailin' Jenny's "One Voice" one of these days. That said, I know my current covenmate also really likes the song, and for very similar reasons.
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