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Mystical Connections

June 25, 2007

It's odd just how certain things..poems, bits of writing, certain music, etc. can appeal so strongly to a person. I mean..certain things from particular individuals can appeal so strongly to me in particular that I keep going back for more from the creators of it, hungry each time. I find that I'm often satisfied by the "feeding", but will come away hungry for more from them, so I keep returning to the well to see what else they may have for me. On occasion it's a shared exchange, and sometimes it's something sent to me without solicitation, and their timing is impeccable..

There are those who write things which I'm astonished by, which sooth or challenge or excite me, and I'll return on occasion to have a nice listen, but there are certain individuals whose work appeals to me on such a deep, inner level that I'll make a tentative approach, with excited caution almost, knowing that what I come across may solicit some reaction which might give away how very affected by it I am, or will have to confront something so untouchable in myself that I'm forced to deal with it right then and there. It's almost as if someone has loosed the lock to Pandora's box. Losing my breath, tears, gasping, dropping my jaw, standing there frozen and unable to move..all of those loss-of-composure things we'd sometimes like to keep private and to ourselves until we can gain composure come in to play here.

There's a sense of isolation almost, when I experience something so meaningful to me. I'm in my own head and perfectly aware of it's reactionary effect on my own body, but am aware that few around me may react to the same thing at the same time and in that same fashion. Some things fetch water to the eyes so quickly that even I can't see it coming.

Once in a blue moon I'll find an artist whose lyrical and musical meanderings will drag me down beneath the surface like a trawler's net without dolphin/turtle
safety release, and I'm helpless to escape, and not really all that sure that I want to be released! All I know for certain is that I'm compelled to keep coming back for more.

I often wonder why certain individuals' work, the way he or she makes language and music (for music is a language), speaks so directly to me. What is the possible connection? On the rarest of occasions a kindred spirit will emerge from this, and that gives me a great deal of comfort, just knowing that there is someone else out there who can identify with those inner passions and fears and joys and ways of going about thinking. The connection is direct and solid, even without the long history friendship affords. The business of social niceties in getting to know one another is skipped past, no longer important. I'm mystified by this.

I cannot imagine that I am the only one who has experienced this psychological and musical language phenomena. Has anyone else experienced this Mystical Musical Connection?

Posted by JoLynn Braswell at June 25, 2007 5:11 AM


Yes, I have experienced MMC.

Sometimes, that connection is a "one-hit wonder" - just a single song or poem from an author which resonates with me.

Sometimes, the connection lasts for years, with each and every poem or lyric written by an author, and that oracle "can do no wrong", always providing a well from which I humbly drink.

However, I have found that as I grow personally in my own ability to write poetry and compose songs, that some of the works of my personal "masters" become demystified. I become the oracle and sage to enrapture and hold spellbound others. That is also a humbling experience for I do not know how and why the words occur. They seem to flow out from the winepress of daily joys and frustrations, by necessity.

Nowadays, profound words I encounter often get worked into a new song. Yes, it is by pure chance that the magic happens. You can't schedule this sort of stuff.

Posted by: Richard Schletty at June 26, 2007 8:34 AM

I really like what Jolynn wrote, seeing this is such a difficult thing to put into words.
I think it’s the mystery of it all that compels us, because it is so completely out of our mortal hands. I am reminded of the first songs that I connected with, and had this very experience: The Moon and St. Christopher, by Mary Chapin Carpenter, Home Before Dark, by Judy Collins, Dear Magnolia, by Mark Erelli and so many others. I thought about the difference between having this experience and allowing it to change me, vs. seeing the connection and shutting it out. I feel Roger Waters describes very well that initial childlike wonder and sadness as an adult in these lyrics:

When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown, the dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb.

Posted by: Shannon McDaniel at June 26, 2007 10:01 AM

My entire life is one big "Mystical Musical Connection." I know what it's like to sit in awe--jaw dropped--tears forming--from just a song. And that exact same song, upon hearing it numerous times, still creates the same feeling. Why would a song, that you have heard hundreds of times, still resonate in you? I have no idea. I sometimes wonder myself why even just a simple musical passage can cause so much emotion. Sometimes it's not even words--it could literally be just a guitar solo, or a twenty second interlude in a song. Music is by far the most personal of all art forms. Sure--that could be argued, but I think it's safe to say your mind, imagination, and subconscious plays a HUGE part of your musical listening. Most of us don't think about it. We just tap our foot and go along with the flow. Like JoLynn, I tend to over analyze all this stuff. Sometimes I wonder if it would be better to be like the masses--just tapping your foot, listening to what you're told, going along with the flow, not questioning your reality, listening to commercial radio, watching romantic comedies, not thinking for yourself, being influenced by the lowest common denominators, and lacking any real brain power. Nah--that's just boring.

Posted by: Chris Boros at June 26, 2007 12:09 PM

Great post, JL, and yes, I have had that connection many times. The first I can recall was at a craft booth at the North Carolina State Fair, where a long-forgotten craftsman was selling those little "clogging dolls". As part of his presentation, another person at the booth sat in on dulcimer and played "Pretty Polly" in Aeolian mode. I was nine years old and have been hooked on mountain music ever since.

Posted by: Jim Pipkin at June 26, 2007 12:34 PM

I still have an MMC with Red Rubber Ball, written by Paul Simon and Bruce Woodley, and made a hit by The Cyrcle and The Seekers.

Posted by: Richard Schletty at June 26, 2007 12:51 PM

I find, also, that certain intervals and chord progressions and inversions can draw me in...and I like to be challenged and surprised. Some of these have caught my ear since as far back as I can recall from early childhood, and I'm thinking the appreciation of them must have something to do with how my mind was made - as unique to me as is my personality.

As for the similarity in language-use amongst individuals who began as complete strangers from differing backgrounds and differing geographical locations..I have no explanation for that. That shared language and immediate recognition of similarity is a large part of the mystery to me.

Jim P. - I believe that those 'clogging dolls' you mentioned seeing are called "Limberjacks". I've loved those since I first saw one too!. It's actually considered an Appalachian rhythm instrument, played since Colonial days.
Here's a place where you can see one in action:

Let me know if this is what you were talking about. (o:

Posted by: JoLynn Braswell at June 28, 2007 8:59 AM

..and here's an excellent resource for the sweetest, most beautiful Mountain Dulcimers you'll ever hear!

Tom Yocky's Mountain Dulcimers

Posted by: JoLynn Braswell at June 28, 2007 9:04 AM

This book deals with the question at hand. I own a copy.

The Mysticism of Sound and Music
by Hazrat Inayat Khan

Excerpt from a review:

"Music, according to Sufi teaching, is really a small expression of the overwhelming and perfect harmony of the whole universe—and that is the secret of its amazing power to move us. The Indian Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882–1927), the first teacher to bring the Islamic mystical tradition to the West, was an accomplished musician himself. His lucid exposition of music's divine nature has become a modern classic, beloved only by those interested in Sufism but by musicians of all kinds."

Posted by: Richard Schletty at June 28, 2007 6:14 PM

Those are the COOLEST Mountain Dulcimers I have ever seen! I want one...or two.


Posted by: Chris Boros at July 2, 2007 12:04 PM

Chris, I understand that you can order one from Tom Yocky with custom features. I found out about him from a Folk Alley Open Mic-er who now has one. The best thing is that Tom Yocky's place is not too far from here in Caldwell, Texas, and actually on my way to my family's place!

Posted by: JoLynn Braswell at July 3, 2007 10:54 AM

JoLynn rocks!

Posted by: Richard Schletty at July 3, 2007 12:11 PM

I agree with Richard that JoLynn rocks. :)
I also agree that music has this amazing
power, at least over me.

I've experienced many MMC's. When
I took yoga, one of my teachers used to play
tapes during the relaxation at the end of the class.
During one particular tape, the tears just rolled
down my eyes and then I started to sob. No one else in the class had that reaction. I finally bought the tape to desensitize myself to it.

My niece was 4-6 years old at the time. After I was
desensitized to it, she came over one day and wanted to do her version of ballet. I put that tape on and within 2 minutes she was on the floor sobbing. I asked if she'd hurt herself. Nope, it
was the music. I felt horrible, but apparently
we were the only 2 people who reacted that way to it. I think it's very personal, very visceral, and very primal.

Posted by: Nina Gray at July 5, 2007 1:32 AM

Nina & are so kind. Let's all rock together! I'll get the chairs.

Man-o-man, Nina - do I want to know what that tape is and who the artist writer/performer is!

This same kind of thing happened to me at a Georgia O'Keefe exhibit some 20 years ago in either Dallas or Fort Worth, TX, but this time with a painting or pastel.
It was what I might normally consider a somewhat (comparatively) plain painting of a red hill face out West somewhere, possibly New Mexico where Ms. O'Keefe loved and had spent much time.
This hill was dead center in the painting, and it had experienced some age old erosion. I'd seen places like this as a kid on family vacations out West, and had climbed around on a few. I think this painting was titled "Elephant Hills" or Elephant Butte", possibly.

I had been meandering through the exhibit of her work, mostly paintings of the sort for which O'Keefe is well known..extreme magnifications of flowers, views of things we might not look for in the every day; things which might challenge our sense of perspective and cause us to take a closer look.

But when I came across this particular painting, my eyes immediately filled with water and I lost my speech! Couldn't utter a word. I had to walk away to gain composure, then quietly grabbed my friends to come take a look to see if their reaction was similar, not telling them what I'd just experienced. Their reaction was, 'Hmm..nice painting..kind of plain", and they quickly moved on.

So, I walked around for a while and returned to see it with fresh eyes...same instant reaction, and I felt the need to weep right then and there. But I didn't and walked away, even though I was compelled to stay. It was torture!
I've been meaning to find a print of that painting, if one exists, for years now.. I'll be sure to have some hankies at hand, just in case!

Posted by: JoLynn Braswell at July 5, 2007 6:29 AM

Chairs! No way! I am on my toes, torquing my torso. Getting ready for another Rocka-Rolla gig on July 28th -- this one is a garden party at Leon's house in Inver Grove Heights (his 30th wedding anniversary celebration). C'mon over and help "cut the sod". We'll be doing 50s and 60s rock, plus some old time polkas, waltzes, schottisches and bunny hops. Lord of the Stance? Lord of Expanse?

Posted by: Richard Schletty at July 6, 2007 11:24 PM

I've seen the torque & twist, and he ain't kidding, folks!
Richard, you are to be commended for your high scissor jumps. Have a great time at the soiree!

Posted by: JoLynn Braswell at July 7, 2007 3:07 AM

Thank you, thank you very much.

Posted by: Richard Schletty at July 7, 2007 3:05 PM

Ladies & gentleman...Richard has left the building.

Posted by: JoLynn Braswell at July 7, 2007 8:45 PM

I felt real hot, fat and tired today. Maybe there will be no swiveling at the party. The jig is up?

How you all doing? Are we pushing the envelope here at FA?

Posted by: Richard Schletty at July 8, 2007 12:40 AM

You're having a heat wave up there, I hear, Richard.
There's a reason why Southern porches down here have rockers on them.

Posted by: JoLynn Braswell at July 9, 2007 3:54 PM

Went to see Joan Baez at Harrogate last night. Wonderful as always. But prompted me to comment on this. Music is a form of enhanced poetry (my thoughts- I cant justify it..) And both trigger emotions and memories, sending us off into reveries. Last night Joan opened with "Farewell Angelina", taking me back to being about 13 and looking at her picture onthe LP cover and listening on my old Dansette 10 changer. And "Joe Hill" took me back to the soup kitchen run during the miners strike. So- yes, I think music speaks directly to us, triggering memories of happier/sadder times but also evoking a "feeling" or theme. We played Grace Notes "Spirit Song" at my mothers funeral last year. She never heard it, or anything they have done. But when the convenor asked us what music we wanted, it was an immediate reaction from us both. And all at the funeral commented on how it encapsulated her life.

Posted by: Chris Whitworth at July 10, 2007 10:59 AM

Chris, thank you for sharing this. So sorry about your Mum. Be sure to share this with Nina Gray in her blog, "Folk Song Appropriate For Funerals and/or for Remembering a Loved One". I know she would appreciate this.

Posted by: JoLynn Braswell at July 10, 2007 9:12 PM

JoLynn, Haven't been able to make the time recently to check out the FA blog (much to my dismay.) I would like to echo your original thoughts about those pieces of music that send a laser beam, zapping one particular memory. For me, it's the song Souvenirs by Dan Fogelberg...about a girl a long time ago...before I met the love of my life...but that Fogelberg track takes me back....

Anyway, there are those "mystical chords of memory" as Abraham Lincoln said. And in one way, it's how we stay culturally attached to each other.

Posted by: Michael Rogers at July 23, 2007 5:36 PM

Apologies to all Lincoln scholars.."mystic chords of memory" not mystical. As soon as I hit the 'Post' button I knew I was incorrect :-)

Posted by: Michael Rogers at July 23, 2007 5:39 PM

Oh (erm) yes..those Dan Fogelberg years, Michael...they take me right back to my first love, and I have to tell you that I cannot "go there" very often..keep those treasured pieces of vinyl in a place of honor and dare to listen to them on the rarest occasion. What has it been now...maybe just over 21 years later and I still can't listen to those albums without losing an afternoon.. pretty strong stuff.
Listened to "Leader of the Band" recently though. Would love to hear that on Folk Alley some time. Maybe I'll make a request.
Thanks for the reminder.

Posted by: JoLynn Braswell at July 23, 2007 6:04 PM

I dunno. I kinda like "Leader of the Pack". How many remember that song?

Posted by: Richard Schletty at July 25, 2007 9:24 PM


Posted by: JoLynn Braswell at July 26, 2007 12:15 AM

Played it on the Juke in a pub on the way to Cropredy when I was 18 (early camping holiday in a 2 man ridge tent with Veronique -
oooohhh!). We put it on about 12 times in a row while we ate lunch. Then we put another pound in, set it off another 10 times and ran for the car. I can still hear the noise from the bar as the door swung shut behind us.

Spiritual moments - first time I heard Harry's House by Joni Mitchell, West End Blues by Louis Armstrong, Light Flight by the Pentangle, The Hen's March Over The Midden and the Four Poster Bed live by Fairport in 1981 at the Half Moon in Putney. Bruce Rowlands didn't play his drum break at all, simply waited with the sticks over his head until the end of the figure and hit both his big crash cymbals on top of the kit. Sounded like the end of days! Lincolshire Posy by Percy Grainger. Battle of the Somme by the Albion Band. McBrides on Moving Hearts live. My father singing Little Brown Bird (Arthur Sullivan) over his mother's coffin.

Posted by: Huw Pryce at July 30, 2007 5:01 PM

Huw: Thanks for sharing those resonant moments.

I sang at a funeral a few years ago, accompanied by mandolinist Peter Ostroushko. Amazing Grace and other songs of hope.

Posted by: Richard Schletty at August 16, 2007 9:59 PM

I think most folks who are right-brain inclined know exactly what you are saying. Each one would probably have a different way of experiencing the phenomenon and a different way of articulating it. It is a matter of attunement...

Posted by: William Dumas at October 30, 2007 10:44 PM

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