The Secret Power of Music: The Transformation of Self and Society through Musical Energy


This study of the hidden side of music and its subtle effects is one of the most detailed books ever written on the subject.



By David Gottner on June 18, 2000

The intention of this book is in the right place. It’s a wake-up call to society on the destructive effects of modern music, and conversely, the healing power of the more traditional forms.

The author discusses 20TH Century classical music (the “New Music”), jazz & rock, Indian, and Chinese music, and discusses the physiological effects of music. His discussion about Chinese and Indian music is fascinating, and he seems fairly objective here (not in being strictly factual (he includes the oriental theories and myths in the material), but rather that he is able to discuss this music without passing esthetic judgement.)

His discussion of the “New Music” and Rock/Jazz is much too one-sided. I totally agree with him that early jazz (the blues) and rock are particulary destructive (stand back and examine the lyrics to most songs… I rest my case.) I would also agree with the author that the atonality of most 20TH century “classical” music, not being rooted in the physics of the harmonic series, is also very destructive. (As he points out, this music is so universally disliked that in practice it’s not so destructive — because few people listen to it.)

However, there are several inaccuracies in his critique of 20TH century art forms, and he argues his case with the fanaticism ……… that I find most unattractive. He is also quite fond of circular reasoning.

As one example, he criticizes composer Steve Reich for having imitated the rythmns of african drumming in his music, claiming that Reich is somehow re-enacting barbaric voodoo rituals in his music. Yes, it’s true that Reich’s inspiration comes his study of African drumming, but to claim that Reich is consciously (or unconsciously for that matter) attempting to create music suitable for voodoo is absolutely ridiculus. (For one thing, drumming is part of all African ritual, both voodoo and more constructive uses.) In his section on rock, he compares the incessant drumbeat to a shaman’s ritual, and notes that rock drummers can sometimes move into a trance state during their performances. Yet, that’s the whole point of shamanic drumming (the trance), and that’s part of the healing, not the destructive, power of the drum.

He spends a page deriding Wendy Carlos’ “Switched on Bach” recordings, yet for that whole page, he never really explained what made them bad, except that they were synthesized (so that makes them bad?) and that they made a lot of money. His scathing criticisms about the use of computers to compose or teach music are really unfair and miss the point entirely. Computer composition in the 70’s were really about AI experimentation – I’m sure nobody thought that computers would actually compete with a human composer!

His main complaint about Jazz is it’s over-sesuality. I would agree with him here, after re-listening to some of my (instrumental) jazz recordings. Yet so is the Isolde Liebestod from Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde”, yet he holds Wagner’s music in high esteem. (as well he should 🙂 For some people, sensuous jazz would be healing. For others it is unbalancing. Yet the author seems unable or unwilling to provide a more moderate view of music.



“The Secret Power of Music: The Transformation of Self and Society through Musical Energy” is a concept that explores the profound impact of music on individuals and society, suggesting that music has the potential to catalyze personal and collective transformation. Here’s an overview of some key aspects of this concept:

1. **Personal Transformation**: Music has the power to evoke strong emotions, evoke memories, and alter mood states. It can provide a means of self-expression and creativity, offering individuals an outlet for processing emotions, experiences, and inner conflicts. Through listening, performing, or creating music, individuals may undergo personal growth, healing, and self-discovery.

2. **Collective Experience**: Music has the ability to bring people together, fostering a sense of community, belonging, and shared identity. Whether through communal singing, dancing, or attending concerts, music creates social bonds and strengthens interpersonal connections. It can serve as a medium for communication, cultural expression, and social change, uniting people across diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

3. **Therapeutic Applications**: Music therapy utilizes the power of music to promote healing, rehabilitation, and well-being. Trained music therapists work with individuals of all ages and abilities to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs. Music therapy interventions may include listening to music, improvising, composing, or playing instruments to achieve therapeutic goals and enhance quality of life.

4. **Spiritual and Transcendent Experiences**: Music has long been associated with spiritual practices, rituals, and ceremonies across cultures and traditions. It can induce altered states of consciousness, facilitate meditation and prayer, and evoke feelings of awe, transcendence, and connection to the divine. Music’s ability to bypass language and speak directly to the soul makes it a powerful tool for spiritual exploration and mystical experiences.

5. **Cultural and Societal Impact**: Music reflects and shapes cultural norms, values, and ideologies, influencing attitudes, behaviors, and social movements. From protest songs and anthems to nationalistic music and ceremonial music, it has been used throughout history to mobilize, inspire, and unite people around common causes and ideals. Music also plays a role in shaping identities, subcultures, and youth culture, serving as a medium for self-expression and cultural resistance.

Overall, “The Secret Power of Music” highlights the multifaceted and transformative nature of music, suggesting that it has the potential to heal, inspire, and empower individuals and communities. By recognizing and harnessing the power of music, we can cultivate greater awareness, connection, and harmony within ourselves and with the world around us.


See also

Leave a Comment