After decades of work pioneered by great minds like Daniel Levitin (This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession), Oliver Sacks (Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain) and the researchers at The Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, music has become widely accepted as a form of healing on the emotional, psychological and physical levels.

This may not come as a shock to those of us who have experienced the profound effect music has had on our own lives, but it’s nice to know that neuroscientists agree.

Over the last dozen or so years, I have watched as the mindfulness movement has gained momentum and moved away from the fringe of society, closer to the centre of the mainstream.

As dependency on mobile devices and social media has increased in orders of magnitude, so has the need for an antidote to the hazardous side effects of our new neural makeup. Apps like Headspace and InsightTimer help the tech-savvy soul-searcher lean towards better mental hygiene and internal awareness practices, while relaxation and sleep aid playlists grow more prevalent on Spotify and other digital music-streaming platforms.

As a composer and producer, I’ve always felt my path would lead to some kind of deeper connection with the mindfulness movement, and that my work was meant to prove useful to others while offering me the joyous vehicle of benevolent creation.

A forcefield of pleasant equanimity

The seed for my recently debuted functional ambient music project, “Music for Painters,” was planted in early 2006 when I ran into a simple problem. I needed to find a way to use music as a protective bubble so that I could focus on pen-and-ink drawings in busy parks, coffee shops and subway cars in New York City.

I noticed that listening to music on my headphones helped drown out the noise, but could have other undesirable effects, depending on what I was listening to. Pop music pulled my attention and emotional awareness in too many directions, while hip-hop, trance, jazz and EDM (electronic dance music) all modulated my moods in ways that I found counterproductive to the art.

After weeks of research, I stumbled upon Brian Eno’s genre-defining ambient works from the late 1970s. The first time I sat down with my sketchpad and put on Ambient 1: Music for Airports, I knew I was on the right track.

The non-invasive, neutral yet beautiful soundscapes seemed to activate a forcefield of pleasant equanimity around my brain. It provided the right amount of stimulation and aesthetic smoothness to serve the function I needed it to.

Soon after, I set my course on developing a methodology that would lead to numerous sonic sculptures. These would become my project’s seminal works.

Pale Blue Dot

Twelve years and a career in pop music production later, I’ve finally publicly debuted “Music for Painters” with the premiere of “Sitting on a Pale Blue Dot,” a 30-minute musical sculpture.

This was inspired by the iconic 1990 photograph from the Voyager 1 mission that inspired the title of Carl Sagan’s 1994 book, which explores humankind’s place in the universe.

The exercise of perspective—in this case, the perspective of our home planet as one unified ball of light—is a very powerful tool in cultivating mindfulness and allowing a break in the habitual negative thought cycles that can drain our daily energy reservoirs and threaten our ability to feel grateful … one of the pillars of true happiness. I’ve learned on my own spiritual journey that it takes conscious attention, each day, to cultivate a sense of connection to the gratefulness that already exists inside of me.

“Music for Painters” is my offering to people looking for a healthy aid to move them towards a better sense of connection with themselves. By providing stable textural spaces designed to allow the conscious mind to slow down, create space and express itself freely, it can be used as a creative stimulant or a meditative or self-reflective aide—a safe place to focus on mindfulness practices or discover personal truths that may be obscured by the noise of daily life.

Try listening in different environments and see how your observations change.

Listen to the project debut here»

image 1 Pixabay 2 Pixabay 3 A Pale Blue Dot by Ray Maclean via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)