Making Music That Heals
Creating music that taps deeply into our consciousness, composer and performer Barry Goldstein is helping people cope with everything from Parkinson’s disease to depression.
We all know that music can help us relax and bring us to emotional highs and lows. But it also can provide therapeutic benefits, and few people have tapped this power as effectively as Barry Goldstein. A versatile composer, performer, and Grammy-winning producer who has worked with Les Paul, Shirley MacLaine, Neal Donald Walsch, and Dr. Joe Dispenza, to name a few, he’s now making music that has proven beneficial for conditions ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease.
At an early age, Goldstein recognized the emotional power of music to take him to a higher plane of awareness. “I was always using music to shift my own moods,” he told me in a recent interview. “Music also has been a spiritual connection for me.” While many instrumentalists spend years playing other people’s music before venturing into composing, Goldstein began writing songs as soon as he could strum guitar chords. By the late 1990s, he was actively composing, performing, and producing in New York City.
Goldstein’s musical focus shifted as he became disenchanted with the grind of spending a hundred hours to create a three-minute song. “I started to move to what I called decomposing as opposed to composing, where I would take these hourlong journeys and just let the music move through me,” he said. “I also started doing research about bringing the heart to a relaxed state, and part of that research uncovered what we call entrainment, which is when our internal clock adapts to an external clock.” Goldstein began composing pieces at a tempo of 60 beats per minute because studies had shown that this was the average beats per minute of the heart at a relaxed state.
Goldstein initially created this music for himself; he doubted that other people would want to listen to “hourlong pieces with no melody in them.” But when he played them for friends, including massage therapists and healers, they implored him to share them with the public. He took their advice and began recording his Ambiology series, starting with Ambiology 1: The Heart, released in 2002. Six albums in the series have been produced to date, and positive testimonials continue to add up. Ambiology recordings are currently aired in many hospitals, hospices, and wellness centers, and healthcare professionals confirm their value. They have been used by midwives delivering children into the world, by therapists to help allay the frustration of autistic children, and even by people who need to alleviate anxiety about going to the dentist. “What started out as a very pure intention to bring myself back to my heart ended up bringing a lot of other people into that space as well,” notes Goldstein.
“We’re discovering that different parts of the brain are affected by music, and that music can actually improve motor skills in people with diseases such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s,” he adds. He has also learned that different conditions may respond better to specific frequencies and has been exploring compositions in the studio to use these frequencies for more targeted therapy.
Goldstein also continues to explore how people with Alzheimer’s or dementia can reclaim memories by listening to music that affected them when those memories were formed. Since music memory is more connected to the emotional part of the brain than the intellectual part, he feels it may override cognitive deficits to provide a bridge to other memories that might otherwise remain inaccessible.
Lately, Goldstein has been working on music that taps even deeper into the core of one’s being. While working on his recent album, The Heart Codes, he found that the musical and compositional process brought him into a highly meditative state. His intention with this recording was to literally bring awareness to the heart of people, because the heart has the strongest electromagnetic field in the body and is the center point for how we share emotions. Mission accomplished: The Heart Codes helps people turn their fear and anger into emotions such as love, kindness, and compassion. “People say they actually feel this music through every part of their body,” he says.
Goldstein knows that the response to a piece of music is highly personal; a passage that will make one person gasp in awe will make another yawn in boredom. As he puts it, a “unique vibration” is created in us based on our experiences. “You hear a song, and something resonates in one person but not another,” Goldstein explains. “This happens in our lives, not just in music but in incidences and events. We have the ability to resonate with different experiences in our lives, just as we do musically.”
Due to this individuality in response, Goldstein provides different types of music for clients according to their situation and needs. “I use music as a bridge for what I call musical prescriptions, to meet people where they’re at. If a person is in a state of depression and wants to move to a higher state where the depression is not present, you’re not necessarily going to play relaxation music for him. So I ask people where they’re at right now and where they want to go, then recommend a piece of music or find one that is going to assist them in bridging those two distinct states.”
Goldstein feels that specific types of music can be used as part of a daily regimen to promote greater wellness, just like a balanced diet and an exercise routine. One type of music can be listened to upon waking, according to what the intention of the day is, and then a different type can be used during the day and at night to help clear our energy. “We would all see a humongous shift in our consciousness if every person used music three times a day,” he claims. “We can use music to rewire our brains and rewire our hearts.”
We can expect musical breakthroughs to continue as long as Goldstein keeps composing, playing, and recording. “We are realizing that music moves beyond entertainment,” he says. “It is also a bridge for using the different aspects of intelligence we have, the heart and the mind, allowing us to use both of them to create transformation in our lives. When people develop an awareness that music can be a transformational tool, they can ultimately become the DJ of their own lives.”