Music and the Soul: Summary

Music and the Soul: A Listener’s Guide to Achieving Transcendent Musical Experiences was published in 2004 by Hampton Roads Publishing Company.

In this book, I introduce the idea of transcendent musical experiences (TMEs), a term I’ve invented to describe the extraordinary emotional, spiritual, or mystical reactions we can sometimes have when composing, performing, or listening to music.

TMEs run the gamut from chills along the spine to apparent physical paralysis. They often result in tears and feelings of being deeply moved. They can include sudden realizations about how the music is constructed or what the composer was thinking or experiencing at the time it was written. They can also produce spontaneous and ecstatic insights into life, the universe, or God. Some TMEs induce inner visions of odd colors and geometric forms impossible to duplicate in physical reality or scenes with the hyper-reality of lucid dreams.

TMEs appear to be messages from our souls that guide us toward developing a greater awareness of our potentials as human beings in the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual realms. Some TMEs have the power to transform or change the direction of our lives.

What brings about TMEs? Are there particular composers, genres, pieces of music, or recordings that are more likely to produce them? What can listeners, composers, and performers do to increase the likelihood of generating TMEs in themselves or an audience?

Music and the Soul attempts to answer these questions. Not only is it a listener’s guide to achieving transcendent musical experiences, but also a handbook on how the soul guides us, through music, to increase our satisfaction and happiness in life, and become more deeply and truly ourselves. My goal has been to develop a vocabulary for discussing music in terms that anyone can understand, based on intuitions that we all have about the music that moves us, but perhaps have never had the words for--until now.

My focus is on classical music, because that’s what I know best. But interviews with friends whose TMEs have been induced by listening to jazz and rock, from Brubeck to Led Zeppelin, demonstrate that the phenomenon is not limited to classical music. The techniques and principles for achieving TMEs that I reveal here will work just as well in other genres of music. TMEs seem to be more common than other types of mystical experiences, such as out-of-body experiences or near-death experiences. Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to has had at least one TME.

As I describe my TMEs and those of others, providing hints about how listeners, performers, and composers may be able to replicate such experiences themselves, I hope you’ll be reminded of your own TMEs. The internal and external conditions that induced them can be important clues about how to achieve future TMEs.