An Interview with Don G. Campbell
New Age Sound Master
by Swami Virato
Don G. Campbell is Director of the Institute for Music, Health and Education in Boulder, Colorado, and also runs the Therapeutic Sound School in Minneapolis, Boulder, San Francisco and Philadelphia. The author of several books including: Music, Physician for Times to Come; Master Teacher, Nadia Boulanger; Music and Miracles; The Roar of Silence and Introduction to the Musical Brain, Campbell is considered the world's leading expert on sound and healing. He has released seven albums of music which express his work of using sound to heal and transform consciousness.
A classical musician from a very early age, he studied at the famed Fountainbleu Conservatory of Music in France, has taught at universities world-wide, and was recently appointed to the Guggenheim Education Project in Chicago.
On Good Friday, March 6, 1994, Don Campbell suffered a massive hemorrhage just beneath his right brain, with a one and one-half inch blood clot in a corroded brain artery. No one expected him to survive, and the medical doctors suggested removing a large portion of his brain, which would have left him a vegetable.
Unwilling to accept such a consequence, Campbell elected to use the very techniques of self-generated sound he had studied and taught for years, plus imagery and prayer to create a miracle. And that is just what happened.
Today, far from being disabled in any way, he travels the world over giving lectures on sound and healing. He is a living testament to his teachings, and is now in the middle of writing a major book about his own personal healing experiences with sound, to be called The Angels of My Brain.
You're recognized as one of the leaders in
the study of sound and its effect on the human body, particularly
in the area of what we might call the New Science. How do you
see sound playing a role in the expansion of human consciousness?
We're outgrowing the overly convenient myths in spirituality, religion, and metaphysics. We are seeing things as they really are, not just how we want them to be. For me, I sense the ability to feel the energy inside of sound, not just the acoustical power of sound.
What does that mean?
Until this point, we have measured sound and music by what we put out, what we broadcast, what we play, and what we say or sing. But what is of great value is how each individual actually receives sound. Some people receive sound through bone conduction more acutely than air conduction. These people are often so internally haunted by voices, or emotional feelings, that they find the world a very alien and difficult place in which to live. Communication for them becomes quite distressful. Often with autistic children, their auditory sensitivity is so high that they cannot stand to be around any sounds because of the pain of the sound. Until we look at healing with music and sound from the listener's viewpoint, or dare I say, "earpoint," we cannot understand the energy inside of sound.
People have traditionally been led to believe that most
of the sounds we hear do come through our ears, and that there
is a minor portion that we get through the rest of our bodies.
Do you mean she heard sounds?
She has played with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic orchestra, and the Eastman School of Music. What is most amazing, is that Evelyn has been completely deaf since she was 11 years old! Evelyn "hears" all of the sounds through her skin and her bones. When she learns music, she studies the score in front of her, and places a cassette recorder between her knees. BBC, and public radio and public television in this country have done many programs on her. What is extraordinary, is that when she is playing, there's nothing in the program that says that she is deaf. She does not put that on her phenomenological sleeve.
I believe sound creates an energy, and this energy is equivalent to twelve or sixteen octaves in our perception, depending on each individual person. Light is not even one octave in our perception. The ability to listen is the new science of healing.
How does that equate to the world of men and machines?
Or is it beyond that?
The posture and the setting-up of a listening environment is more important than the music that is played at times. It's not the music. It is the envelope of invitation, the posture, the time of day, the food taken, and the ability of the body to receive sound.
My work is to help people understand the wide varieties of manners in which sound can come in. In other words, the position of the body, eyes open, eyes closed, the time of day, and food consumption as well as audiological assessment, all determine these factors. You can play the same piece of music in twenty different contexts, and people will hear twenty different things. If you're an educated musician, and have studied structure and form, can read music, know interpretation, and so on, you are actually listening from an altogether different part of the left pre-frontal lobe, while everybody else with no musical background will be listening to a place high to the right ear--in the right brain.
Play a classical piece by one composer, and one person will go into ecstasy, while another person will relive childhood trauma, because this was the person's mother's favorite piece.
We have been so naive in the music world to believe that this Chakra is this color and this sound. It would be nice if that were true, but we've had a lot of time to prove things. What we can prove is the relationship of sounds. We know that this is an octave, this is a perfect fifth, that there is a relationship between sounds as they begin to effect the body.
The "E" sound has a higher quality in the body, the "O" sounds somewhat lower, but we can no longer move into the future with ridiculous statements like, "This piece of music will create this effect." I hear such comments like, if you play something of Beethoven in B-flat major, it helps a certain Chakra. Well, Beethoven didn't even write it in B-flat major. B-flat was an altogether different note during his time. The tuning, and the history of tuning was different then.
I think the New Age is over. We've had our fun and games, the dream, the visions, and I think we are at a place were we can go into the history, the science, and the wisdom of the 60's, 70's and 80's and come to an altogether new, grounded way to use the healing art that is the basis of all life creation.
The past three decades helped till the soil, so to speak, so that there was room for the psychological, room for the Eastern belief systems, and ways of organizing things.
But we are no longer at a place where we can conveniently say that the base Chakra is red, and its note is C. If one has ever studied anything historically, he or she can't even say what the color red is vibrationally. Red is a huge spectrum. We cannot live in this naive convenience, that's first and second grade stuff. We have to get to graduate school if we're going to save this planet.
How is sound going to save this planet?
Unfortunately, we are literally producing too much sound on the planet today, and I don't think we can put a little red light on our recording door that says, "Dear Earth, be quiet for a few hours so Mother can get some sleep."
The reality for me, in the healing arts, is to learn how to self-generate sounds to create a balance. We need to get into modalities that use self-generated healing techniques, using self-produced sounds. My fundamental interest is toning--developing toning techniques that are like a specific glossary. Each vowel, and each pitch, creates a different physical, emotional, and spiritual response. We self-generate sounds when I say to you "think of the Star-Spangled Banner" in your head. Think of it now being played on a xylophone, now think of it on a trombone, now think of it with Rosanne Barr singing it. Those are self-generated sounds within your memory.
And we have to be more careful than we've ever been. Twenty to twenty five percent of all effects are placeboic, so I cannot even embrace the miracle stories that have happened to me. If I am really awake, concrete, and conscious, I'm going to look at, honor and praise God with every breath for miracles, for the spontaneous remissions that I see around me all the time. Although I say I'm a healer, if I say I am doing this, I'm a fool. And if the other person projects it upon me, chances are they are just as foolish as I am.
What we can do, however, is create agreements. To me, music is a transcending experience. When I say that it's a transcending event, I mean "trance-ending"--coming out of the social trance, coming out of a spiritual trance that is full of woo-woo...coming out of a left-brain academic trend that has no place for heart.
Life is vital, exciting, ecstatic feeling work, and that includes as much pain as it does ecstasy. When I can absorb that, then my life is a fugue. My life has many melodies coming in at different times, in a complex texture, as neural function is, as spiritual function is. There is a place--a right harmonic place--for my intellect, for my emotions, for my jubilant and cruddy personality, for my musicianship, and for the spirit of God. Some things I do better than other people, some things other people do better than me, but I can't just take my betterment to say that this is how it is. I have to take my fullness and say that this is how I am. And that's when the music makes a big, big difference.
As we become more civilized, and more sophisticated
in our use and manipulation of sound, where are we headed?
Art and music have always been the vessel to heal a society. Part of that healing is the emotional release. I meet parents who show up at every workshop, asking "What do you think of this horrible music today," and I say, "If we didn't have horrible music, and we didn't have football, our youths would have hardly any rite of passage, or any hope of getting through those years."
Do we still need the dark...to be the animal and go
through the process?
Are you seeing less violence on the streets, or in sound?
Sounds like you're a true Taoist.
But I do know that when I have rage and frustration I can hear certain parts of that music that allows me to be free of the trauma. Now, I'm doing it consciously, youths, for the most part, do not do it consciously.
What I also see is the extraordinary, as no time in history, the ability to receive the most eloquent music that has ever been created. The University of Southern California is even proving that Mozart raises IQ. Fifty years ago, we had a hundred kinds of music, today we have 500,000 kinds! And as the spectrum gets darker, it also gets lighter, but it is still one energy.
We know, that in the realm of psychotherapy, and in the realms of healing, many times the greatest healing does not create curation. It is the true balance between mind, body, spirit, and heart that is required.
Music is a bridge that is connecting. We are connected with the Aborigines. We are connected with Shamans, that lived a thousand years ago. We are connected with Beethoven, and Bach and the Reformation. We are connected with Romanticism. We are connected to China. We are connected to every people.
I do not believe music is the universal language. While it has universal components, music is thousands of languages, with universally understood components known as rhythm, beat, pace, pulse, feeling.
Many people understand basic Mozart, but they don't "speak" Mozart. Music is many, many languages. We are on the threshold. I would say that in two to seven years, the sciences will come and help us language what so many of us in this new age movement have groped between. I think that there's a lot of good music in the New Age category, and I also think that there is absolutely a lot of it that I call "Hostess Twinkie." Just because it's soft and sweet means its healing?? I think it's ridiculous. So what if it's channeled??
However, I will never take away the power of those sounds, in other people's healing, by my own personal tastes.
How does one know? Let's say somebody is listening to
some Judas Priest music and it's activating something--or let's
say rap music. How do they get from something which is keeping
them in this darkness, to something that will bring them into
They discovered that when they played my album, Crystal Meditations, or one of Steven Halpern's albums, the pain increased. However, when they played Michael Jackson, rock music, or rap music, the pain decreased.
The New Age musicians out there who are in personal internal pain are creating this nice sweet stuff to allow them to heal, and feel better, but we're not looking at the nature of how medicines work, and how our immune systems work.
What about resonance? It's often said that certain music
such as heavy rock will activate our lower Chakras, leading us
I don't particularly like to be screamed at in any kind of religious context. Nor do I like everything poo-pooed in a religious context. It doesn't have to be nice or bad. What I find meaning, substance and dynamic impulse with, is the clarity, the precision of the heart, not the ambiguity. I go into the toning. I can play these hymns, or I can listen to Hindu music. I may not be hungry for everything, and I may not like everything, but the things that give me genuine depth, I do not hold prejudice on the way other people use them, one way or the other.
Do you have any closing statements for our readers?
Thank you for your time today.