Meditation music is music performed to aid in the practice of meditation. It can have a specific religious content, but also more recently has been associated with modern composers who use meditation techniques in their process of composition, or who compose such music with no particular religious group as a focus. The concept also includes music performed as an act of meditation.
Modern meditation music in the 20th century began when composers such as John Cage, Stuart Dempster, Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley, La Monte Young and Lawrence Ball began to combine meditation techniques and concepts, and music. Specific works include Tony Scott’s Music for Zen Meditation (1964), Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Inori (1974), Mantra (1970), Hymnen (1966–67), Stimmung (1968), and Aus den sieben Tagen (1968), Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time (1941), and Ben Johnston, whose Visions and Spells (a realization of Vigil (1976)), requires a meditation period prior to performance. R. Murray Schafer’s concepts of clairaudience (clean hearing) as well as the ones found in his The Tuning of the World (1977) are meditative (Von Gunden 1983, 103–104).
Stockhausen describes Aus den sieben Tagen as “intuitive music” and in the piece “Es” from this cycle the performers are instructed to play only when not thinking or in a state of nonthinking (Von Gunden asserts that this is contradictory and should be “think about your playing”). John Cage was influenced by Zen and pieces such as Imaginary Landscape No. 4 for twelve radios are “meditations that measure the passing of time” (Von Gunden 1983, 104).
Christian meditation music
Some Christian faiths, particularly the Catholic Church, reject meditation practice from outside their traditions, particularly new-age music (Anon. 2003; Arie 2003; Krumboltz and Chan 2005, 358; Pontifical Council for Culture, and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue 2003). However, the Olivier Messiaen piece referenced above is explicitly Christian, and Messiaen himself was a practicing Catholic and a church organist.
- Anon. (2003). “Vatican Book Is Offering Reflections On ‘New Age’“. New York Times (4 February).
- Arie, Sophie (2003). “Beware New Age, Vatican Tells Flock“. The Guardian (Thursday 30 January).
- Krumboltz, John D., and Anne Chan (2005). “Professional Issues in Vocational Psychology”. In Handbook of Vocational Psychology: Theory, Research, and Practice, third edition, edited by W. Bruce Walsh and Mark L. Savickas, 345–68. Contemporary Topics in Vocational Psychology. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. ISBN 978-0-8058-4517-4.
- Pontifical Council for Culture, and Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (2003). “Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water Of Life: A Christian Reflection on the ‘New Age’“. Vatican website (accessed 2 January 2014).
- Von Gunden, Heidi (1983). The Music of Pauline Oliveros. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-1600-8.
- Johnson, Tom (1976). “Meditate on Sound”, Village Voice (May 24).
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia