Matthew Cantello is a gifted music instructor, instrumentalist, and composer with over 20 years experience teaching and performing. He studied at The Crane School of Music and later founded Ecstatic Arts Inc., a nonprofit organization in New York dedicated to promoting the healing potential of music through workshops and performances. In this edifying paperback, Cantello presents his ideas on "communing" with music in ways that are good for the mind, body, and soul. The author wants to arouse within us "a renewed awareness and appreciation of music and sound in our lives." Whereas others have written about this subject mostly in abstractions, Cantello has included many exercises that can help us open to the curative and enhancing power of music.

Beautiful music can move us in many direct ways and transport us to other worlds. Cantello opens the book with an exquisite description of a peak music experience that transformed him (see the excerpt). He writes about how our consciousness is influenced by powerful music: in repose and tranquility; vitality and inspiration; love, compassion, and forgiveness; and nurturance and healing.

Cantello suggests that we diminish unhealthy noise in our lives and learn to savor silence. He cautions is us to think twice about playing music in the background for every activity or wearing a headset all the time. Instead, we could practice audio awareness by trying to discern the different characteristics and influences of sounds that meet our ears, such as the roar of an airplane overhead, a car horn, or the bark of a dog. We could also begin to notice the vibrations of sounds as they make contact with our bodies.

These exercises and others related to melodies, expressiveness in music, and visualization suggestions are preludes to practicing absolute listening. Cantello suggests we clear our minds before our encounter with a classical piece or another kind of music. Once the piece starts, it is good to let go of judgments and criticisms that emerge in the mind. Let the music take you where it wants to take you. Savor the surprises and also its predictable moments. If you are attending a live performance, you might want to close your eyes so you are not distracted from what you are hearing. Let the music seep into your whole being to work its magic.

Cantello concludes this fine work with classical music suggestions for compassion and redemption, love and warmth, joy and ecstasy, longing and sorrow, serenity and tranquility, vitality and exuberance, mystery and the exotic. Communing with Music is an excellent resource for those who are on a spiritual journey and yearning to make the most out of all their experiences.

Try a Spiritual Practice on Listening