November 2011

Binaural Beats

Meditation At The Push Of A Button?

Binaural beats are getting mixed into a lot of New Age music these days, because a lot of people believe they can help induce a meditative brain state automatically, as if by flipping a switch. Personally, I'm extremely skeptical of this assertion- it seems a lot like an attempt at a shortcut, which would be a bad idea spiritually even if it worked- but here's the theory behind it.

 

If you put on a stereo recording in which two similar but not-quite-identical frequencies are played so that one frequency plays in one ear and the other frequency plays in the other, your brain will try to sync them up so they match perfectly. In doing so, it will create a third beat on its own, a sound you'll actually be able to hear even though it's not on the recording.

 

This much is fact. Binaural beats really do exist. The question is whether they do what some people claim they do, such as encouraging lucid dreaming, opening the “third eye,” or inducing meditative states. So far, the evidence on this question is purely anecdotal. Some people swear by them, but there haven't been any studies to actually prove that they work this way.

Guided Meditation With New Age Music

Opening The Third Eye

Guided meditation videos combining New Age music, artwork, and a soothing voice-over: this is where New Age music and New Age spirituality really intersect. You can bring the video up on Youtube, plug in your headphones, and let the combination of the voice and the music guide you into meditative bliss, reduce your anxiety, or even help you to achieve enlightenment by opening your third eye.

 

What is the third eye, you say? It's the spot on your forehead above and between your two eyebrows, where the pineal gland is located. According to horror master HP Lovecraft, stimulation of this unholy spot will give you access to a really awful alternate reality, and you'll go insane faster than you could possibly hit the pause button on this video.

"Merlin's Magic"

New Age Music

This track is more typical of New Age music than some of the other pieces I've linked to on this blog. Peaceful, relaxing, free-flowing music intended for either meditation or deep relaxation exercises. I use New Age and ambient music for those purposes myself, and I assume a lot of the people who listen to this type of music do the same.

 

There's a school of thought that says you can't really meditate with music because your mind will only follow the music and you'll never achieve one-pointed concentration. I can see some validity to that, but in my experience the opposite problem is just as bad. If I try to meditate without music, my mind just goes to whatever background noise is in the environment- the TV in the other room, my daughter talking to my wife, the cat rattling the door frame.

Dark Orchestral Ambience

And The Art of Beksinski

In a previous blog, I tried to make the case that dark ambient music was a variant on New Age music with a darker aesthetic. “Dark orchestral” is a sub-set of dark ambient, with more of a “classical” sound and sometimes semi-operatic vocals. What it shares in common with more typical New Age music is its complete lack of any standard song structure. The music is built up out of overlapping sound layers rather than beginning and ending according to a set order or melody.

New Age Music and New Age Spirituality

Is There a Connection?

 

What is the relationship, if any, between New Age music and New Age spirituality? Many people use New Age music as an aid to meditation, but that doesn't imply that either they or most New Age musicians would identify with the New Age spiritual movement.

 

Both the musical genre and the spiritual movement are difficult to pin down, because the definitions are both fluid and subjective. There are many different elements to New Age spirituality, and not everyone involved with one set of elements is equally engaged with all the others. You might believe in reincarnation, practice meditation, accept the concept of karma, and believe in a Goddess, without also believing in indigo children, the Maya 2012 prophecies, or alien abductions.