Excerpts from Paul Winter’s foreword to:

Music: Physician for Times to Come” Anthology compiled by Don Campbell, 2000.

I have been involved with music in the realm of “performing art” all my life, but I am equally excited about the possibilities that music-making holds for all people and for its ability to heal what seems to me a chronic imbalance in modern life: our predominately visual mode of experiencing the world.

Playing music brings me to wholeness more than anything I know. It awakens a deep sense of optimism and brings me often into a kind of exalted state, resonating with feelings of gratitude and reverence for life. I have often wondered: Should this experience be available only to professional musicians, or just to people who have taken lessons or who have been deemed to possess this mythical thing called “talent” (which I feel is one of the more injurious concepts of our culture)? Or is the musical mode part of our birthright as human beings?

I marvel at the effervescence of my three-year-old daughter. Observing her propensity for making sounds – singing little improvised ditties to herself as she plays and imitating with great amusement the sounds of animals – I wonder what role music will play in her future. I dream of a life path for her that will remain true to the wondrous spirit she manifests as a toddler, in her honesty of expression, her unbridled spontaneity, and her total delight in the sounds and sights around her. Could a young life immersed in sound-play and music-making lead her onto a deeper path than that of the competitive consumerism of our culture? This little being seems to live in a state of integral balance among her faculties. I can’t help but believe that as we continue our journey into adulthood, we still have within us some of this childhood capacity for authentic expression and for appropriate relationships with the entire family of life.

What happens along the way? Where do we lose it? How might we recover it? Looking into the mirror (or, should I say, listening to the sounding board) of other species gives me clues and encouragement. I have come to realize that in many ways our species is very much still in its childhood. Among the greater community of ten million species on Earth, we Homo sapiens are the youngest of all. Wolves, for example, have a lineage of some thirty million years, while that of our own, as “big brain” humans, may only be about three hundred thousand years – only one-hundredth as long. It is humbling to realize that all other living species have learned how to live in harmonious relationship with their environments, or they would have ceased to exist long ago. We humans, however, seem hell-bent on destroying not only our own environment but the habitats of all other members of the Earth community as well. In truth, at this stage of our journey, we are more like a juvenile delinquent than an innocent child. What might we learn from these elder species about finding an integration of our faculties and instincts that may be more true to our own deeper nature?

My enthusiasm for the powers of music prompts me to ask: What is it we want, in our quest for “healing”? Is it simply to be free of illness or discomfort, to just get us back to the status quo? Or do we aspire to a wholeness, a fullness in which the wellsprings of our potential are uncorked and the enthusiasm of our life-song – whether as teacher or mother or fisherman or sax-player – is manifest in our voice, our smile, our relationships, and our livelihood?

I resonate with the words of my cosmologist friend, Brian Swimme: “My wild idea is that we reinvent ourselves and our society from the assumption that music is the central power of the universe. I propose that until we recognize this and organize our lives in ways congruent with this fact we will only deepen the planetary misery. A wild idea, yes. But I am convinced that only wild ideas offer any real hope for the Earth.”

I propose, with the license for optimism given me by sound-play, that these simple sonic rituals, these prescriptions of “Vitamin M,” may be among the most transformative things we can do. Through we can be brought back to “beginners mind,” with the child in each of us reawakened by our allurement to sound and our natural yearning to resonate with the world.

Each morning, as we hum or chant or strum or drum, we can celebrate the renewal of our path, our life-song, or the journey of our fledgling species, with our own humble offering of this glorious gift called music.