Aniello Agostino Oliviero’s Infinity Symphony in G Major

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”

~ Plato

“And if I’m feelin’ good to you

And you’re feelin’ good to me

There ain’t nothin’ we can’t do or say

Feelin’ good, feeling fine

Oh, baby, let the music play”

~ The Doobie Brothers

Did you know you are made of music?

Not just when you listen to music, like when you bliss out to the Beatles, can’t separate yourself from Vivaldi’s violin, become the color in a rainy Raga, or close your eyes and can actually feel the Rasta in the reggae. Not just when the music plays for you and you become it, but when you, dear one, are the music to begin with. When you were the music all along.

Please allow me to explain.

Papa loved music. If I walked through his door, and there was no music on, it meant he was asleep, the power was out, or something was very, very wrong. He loved music so much that one of his rare laments in life was that of never becoming a professional musician or performer.

“I always wanted tah sing on stage in a musical.” He would say wistfully, “But, I nevah could memorize all the woids.”

As proof of his enduring efforts, hundreds of 3×5 index cards covered with penciled song lyrics were strewn around his apartment.

His lack of musical vocation occasionally created a void in his life, yet he made every effort to fill the hollow by pouring in music of any kind, and then constantly immersing himself in the melodic mere.

Throughout the time I knew him he owned almost every type of instrument you could imagine*– a recorder (Do you remember? You know, the plastic kind every parent has to buy their school child, the kind that ends up being used to learn a painful sounding version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, the one that gets taken away at home because of the incessant, impulsive urge to play the same note over and over again at the top of their lungs…yes, you remember, that recorder.), a round, black metal note tuner, a short flute, several violins, a weathered mandolin, a peeling guitar, a stringless banjo, a piano, multiple keyboards, maracas made from painted gourds featuring a picture of a burro and “Mexico” written on the side, a ukulele, two harmonicas, large castanets, small bongos, a tarnished, dented trumpet, an accordion with worn-down, stained keys, a toy xylophone with colored bars, finger cymbals, hand bells, a tambourine, and a weird little tilted wooden box with a hole in the middle and short, tight strings attached.

*(Instrument Sidenote: I never saw him play one of them. Once in a while he would pull a sample off of the wall to show me, or pluck a string or blow a note, but I had a feeling the best concertos took place only in the presence of Papa and the other instruments. I imagined dark, quiet, late nights, Papa’s apartment glowing with light, muted sounds sneaking out into the atmosphere. Me peeking in the window to catch a glimpse of him gesturing with one of the violin bows, a few horse hairs dangling as he keeps tempo, conducting what appears to be the walls- until I peek further in only to see the instruments jumping off their nails and hooks to play themselves in a circle, a la Fantasia, Papa in the center of it all.)

But Papa was not content to just stare at hanging instruments. He would play music on his record or tape player, he would sing, he would dance, he would do all three at once.  Anywhere, at any time, with or without accompaniment*. I observed him singing “Vesti La Giubba” from Pagliacci to a group of giddy, giggly, white-haired grandmas on a cruise to Cozumel, saw him on the train station platform in Rome, demonstrating to a small boy how to dance around an old light pole like Fred Astaire, listened to his audition practice of “Summertime” for a part in Porgy and Bess at the Gulfport Theatre, and watched him conduct numerous invisible arrangements from “Carmen” in his living room.

*(Accompaniment Sidenote: Participation in these musical interludes was not mandatory, but always encouraged by Papa. Sometimes a brave spirit would accept the invitation and join in for an unexpected duet or dance, but more often than not Papa was a solo act. He was fine with that as well- he knew that not everyone was comfortable with such public displays of rhythm and joy, being all too familiar with the most common reason: worrying about what others would think. Papa told one story about the time he finally declared what he thought about that excuse:

“I was at the aihpawt with Fiona, we were headin’ to the Caribbean togetha. I got this song in my head and started hummin’ out loud. Fiona says tah me, ‘Aw, Neil, I love that song.’  

So I say, ‘Well, then let’s dance!’

I jump up on my feet, and put out my hand. She looks at it, then me, and she’s got this confused, uncomf’table look on her face. She whispas, lookin’ around, ‘Dance?? Here? Oh…no… There isn’t even any music…What would people say? What would people think?’ 

I say, ‘Wha? Whaddya mean what otha people might think? They’ll think ya a nut job! Or they won’t think about ya at all. Or they’ll go home and tell everyone the story about the lady that was so happy she stood up and danced at tha aihpawt. What I’m tryin’ tah say, deayuh, is who the hell cares what anyone else thinks?! If ya wanna dance, ya gotta dance!’

 She just looked around, still shakin’ huh head no. It was a damn shame, I tell ya, her missin’ out on that- ‘cause of otha people that won’t even remembah it?’”

Papa continued the story with part two, which took place some 10 years later:

“…But, I tell ya what. She realized what she did. I saw her a few yeahs ago, when she came to St. Pete tah visit some friends. We met at Mazarros, and we’re havin’ a gelato at the bar, catchin’ up on old times, and she says tah me, ‘Ya know somethin’ I regret, Neil? I regret not dancing with you that time in the airport. Just because of what other people might think. If I had to do it all over again I would say yes.’”

And of course, with that, Papa reports he smiled a great big smile, gently put down his cup and spoon, stepped off of the café bar stool, and grabbed her already outstretched hand.)

Voice, instrumental, or both, Papa’s own or someone else’s, it mattered not. If music was there, he would sing and/ or dance to it. If music was not audibly there, he would sing it and/ or dance to it. Music was always somewhere for him, surrounding him, embracing him, within him, guiding him, serving him, saving him. By ancient Greek definition, music is a muse, and it certainly was Papa’s.

“All my life I have studied the peculiar powers of music. It has a force of its own that few would deny.”

~Katherine Neville, The Eight 

Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies.”

~Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Papa loved music and he knew the power that music held- to keep a voice and mind strong, to change a mood, to make himself- and hopefully others- feel better. He knew music was around him, he knew it was in him, but more than that, he knew it was him. Remember, dear one, that to Papa, everything was energy, and that included music. He said that matter, our matter, all matter is simply energy vibrating at different levels and in different ways, just as with the energy of music.

“Did yah know that a deaf person can hear sound?” he told me one day while extolling his hypothesis on everything being made of music. “My friend Oynie, he can’t hear a thing, paw guy lost his hearin’ in the war, but he still goes tah the dances. He puts his hand on the speakah and damned if he doesn’t tap his feet to the same tempo as the rest of us!”

Papa reasoned that because music is an energy vibration, and because we are made up of energy vibrations, “then ipso facto, latee dee latee dah,” it made perfect sense that we…are made of music.

“So, if ya think about it, deayah, maybe we like music so much because we are music.  Maybe each of us is a buncha notes, and we live life makin’ all different kinds of music with our lives. Sometimes we’re in tune, sometimes we’re outta tune, sometimes it’s a good song ya wanna keep playing ovah and ovah, sometimes it’s so bad ya just want it tah end.”

Of course Papa’s notion went beyond single notes- to what happens when those vibrations get together. “If each of us is a buncha notes, then maybe a few of us togetha, we’re a sonata- and who knows, maybe all of us are…everythin’ is…some crazy kinda awchestra heyah to see what kinda infinite symphony we can make outta all of it.”

I have to admit, back then I thought the theory was just a wee bit kooky. I mean, I love music more than your average country bear jamboree, but I did not think I was actually made of music. Over time, though, I thought about Papa’s ideas more, in an open-minded kind of way, and actually took the time to learn a little about music and the role it plays in life- from the individual cellular level out to the infinite expanding universe. What I discovered is that music is quintessential– every part of our being, be it emotional, mental, physical, social, spiritual, intellectual, or mystical, embodies music.

And it turns out, dear friends, that Papa was singing the right tune all along.                                

“Music is … A higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy”

~Ludwig van Beethoven

“The only truth is music.”

~Jack Kerouac


“Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory.”

-Oscar Wilde

“Great music is that which penetrates the ear with facility and leaves the memory with difficulty. Magical music never leaves the memory.”

-Sir Thomas Beecham

Papa knew the emotional impact music had on his life, and any one of us that enjoys music knows the sway it can have on our hearts and guts and minds.

How many of us remember the songs we danced to at our prom or a wedding? How often have you heard a random tune and it instantly, joyfully transported you back to another place in time? How often do you hear music and think of a certain person and emotion every time you hear it? To this day when I hear certain songs by Badly Drawn Boy, Dave Matthews Band, Rosemary Clooney, Ben Harper, Railroad Earth, and even Carol Channing, I think of people and moments and emotions in my life.  Like scents and sights, music can serve as an “anchor,” pulling us back in time and bringing potent memories* and feelings with it.

*(Anchor Sidenote: One of my favorite stories about musical anchors is one I have about my mom, Paula. I wanted to take her on a trip for her 65th birthday. Someplace really special, someplace she had always dreamed about. I asked her, “Mom, if you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?” Her immediate answer, without hesitation and to my surprise, was, curiously, “Salzburg.”

“Salzburg?” I asked, completely confused by the seemingly random, slightly odd and unexpected response. I thought she would have said Rome, or Paris, or someplace more…obvious on a map, no offense to Austria. “Why Salzburg?”

She smiled and looked up as if she could see the reason in the air.

 “Because I loved the movie The Sound of Music– the music was so happy and the scenery was so beautiful, with the Von Trapp family singing and dancing through the hills at the end, I have wanted to go ever since.”

So there you have it. Those memorable melodies had anchored my mom in Austria and made her feel the hills were alive whenever she heard those songs. And even though I was pretty sure that last scene of the movie took place in Switzerland… Salzburg it was.0)  

“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.”

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music.”

~George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

Music’s emotional force does not stop at our association with memories. Nerve fibers in our ears enter the brain and actually activate our emotional centers. Dr. John Beaulieau, of the sound healing center BioSonic Enterprises, says those listening to music experience, “a warming of the skin, a decrease in heart rate, and an overwhelming sense of wellbeing.”1

How many times have you listened to music and it moved you, changed your attitude, your “sense of wellbeing?”– even Bugs Bunny knew that music could “calm the savage beast”2 and Blues music was borne out of emotion itself. Anyone that listens to music to motivate themselves for a workout, calm down after a stressful event, or turn around a bad mood can attest to the emotional powers of music.


“In every man’s heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty and music.”
Christopher Morley

Music touches, embraces and permeates physical existence. At the most basic level, the vibration of music creates new vibrations. For example, when we strike a tuning fork, if there is another tuning fork nearby of the same pitch it will spontaneously begin to vibrate with that tone. The same principal applies to the influence music can have on our human bodies- some musicians clench the tuning fork with their teeth, because the vibrations of sound “ring through their bones, allowing the brain to hear the tone through the jaw.”3

 Papa recognized firsthand the connection between the energy vibrations of music and our bodies. The notes vibrated in his ears, then in his brain, hands and feet and he found himself almost involuntarily tapping his toes and fingers, nodding his head, and, ultimately, jumping up and moving his whole self to the beat.

Scientist Hans Jenny created some fascinating and famous experiments, showing that notes, tones and their vibrations really do impact our bodies, and are part of the invisible force that gives physical form to us and to the entire natural universe of “flowers, mountain ranges and even stripes on a zebra.”4

Jenny, replicating and expanding the 1750’s experiments of physicist and musician Ernst Chladni, took different substances like sand, water, and iron shavings, poured them onto big metal cookie trays (well, not actual cookie trays, but “cookie trays” is more fun than saying “Chladni Plates”) and then played different notes and tones under them. When the note, tone or song played, Jenny could actually see it move the substance and create a physical image on the tray! When the tone stopped, the image fell apart, but when the tone was repeated, it would create the same exact image again. Especially amazing was what happened when water was placed on the tray- the water image created by the vibrations “stuck” to the metal plate. The moment the music was turned off, the water ran off the plate onto the floor, but when the sounds were occurring, the water adhered to the metal, showing that the vibrations had some kind of anti-gravitational effect.

Even more mesmerizing was the vast, varied, complex and beautiful images that were created by the tones. Rich, intricate patterns that just happened to mirror those that already existed in nature and science. (For a spectacular color gallery of these images, visit These resemblances caused Jenny to theorize that evolution was the result of vibrations, and that objects in nature may have taken their form from the vibrations and sounds around them. Supporting Hans Jenny’s theories, Catherine Guzetta, Director of Holistic Nursing Consultants and published researcher in the area of Holistic Health and Sound Therapy said, “The forms of snowflakes and faces of flowers may take on their shape because they are responding to some sound in nature. Likewise, it is possible that crystals, plants, and human beings may be, in some way, music that has taken on visible form.”5

Papa’s dancing was surely evidence of the concept– I imagined he and his friends on the dance floor at the Palladium, the music turned on, hundreds of dancers moving to the tones and vibrations like one great big, human, Hans Jenny experiment– even to the point when the music ends and everyone pours from of the floor like water off of an enormous Chladni Plate! I wondered if they too, like the sand or metal shavings Jenny used, had formed some glorious, collective design, some not-so-random pattern when viewed from above.

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

Bob Marley

At an even more mysterious physical level, music has the power to heal. Music and musical tones have been used in ancient, indigenous, and eastern healing practices for millennia. And western science has proven that listening to music releases Nitric Oxide in the brain and has the ability to protect us from bacteria, viruses, and high blood pressure.6 Music therapy has become a more widely-accepted western healing modality, and even popular western-culture physicians such as Dr. Mahmet Oz (of Oprah fame) promote the role of music in health and longevity.

From a recent article on his website, Dr. Oz says, “Music has a long history of therapeutic use– from its traditional role in healing rituals around the world to its recent use as an integrative Alzheimer’s disease treatment. Music to your ears can add on years.”7


“For me there is something primitively soothing about music, and it went straight to my nervous system, making me feel ten feet tall.”

~ Eric Clapton     

“I’m wishing he could see that music lives. Forever. That it’s stronger than death. Stronger than time. And that its strength holds you together when nothing else can.”

~Jennifer Donnelly, Revolution

“He took his pain and turned it into something beautiful. Into something that people connect to. And that’s what good music does. It speaks to you. It changes you.”

~Hannah Harrington, Saving June

Anyone that was a teenager with a temporary, exaggerated life crisis, a locking door and an album, tape or CD collection knows the power of music on mental health. Somehow listening to Nirvana, Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones, or The Ramones for hours or days on end could make one’s adolescently fragile mental state improve or deteriorate depending on taste, timing and troubles. This effect is most likely due to a very real chemical reaction that occurs in the brain when we pipe in music. Researchers doing studies of the brain on music found that listening to pleasurable music activated certain brain regions which “reward” us with “euphoric gushes of dopamine- the same effect we get from sex, really good food and addictive drugs.”8  (The verdict is still out on exactly how listening to Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” or Michael Murphy’s “Wildfire” turns on the waterworks, although I have my own theories, and darn you mom for selling Crayon after he horsepooped on your shoes…)

This direct cause and effect relationship between our brain and music may be hard to believe, but the Center for Greater Good at the University of California at Berkeley confirms that our human brains (and even the brains of animals!) are hard wired for music, from the time we are babies:

“Music appreciation starts at birth. Research has found that lullabies lower heart rates and induce deeper sleep in infants; infants also have shown the ability to identify fundamental properties of music, such as pitch and rhythm, with the same accuracy as musicians. In fact, in a recent study, brain scans of two- and three-day-old babies indicated that they recognized a drumming pattern and were surprised when the drummer missed a beat…And humans aren’t the only animals whose brains seem wired for music…animals ranging from great apes to whales to seals have been found to make music, whether through drumming or singing. In one study, when a researcher tried to teach koi (cousins to goldfish) to associate certain music with a food reward, the results showed that the fish were able to distinguish classical music from the blues! The language of music may indeed be universal.” 9

In her interview on National Public Radio, Elena Mannas, author of The Power of Music discusses the impact of music on the brains of babies and adults; from early development to healing the injured brains of adults to improving the brains of the elderly:

“Scientists have found that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function… ‘A stroke patient who has lost verbal function- those verbal functions may be stimulated by music.’ One technique, known as ‘Melodic Intonation Therapy,’ uses music to coax portions of the brain into taking over for those that are damaged. In some cases, it can help patients regain their ability to speak. And because of how we associate music with memories, Mannes says such techniques can also be helpful for Alzheimers patients.”10

Science continues to expand in its research on the human brain and music– proving repeatedly the mighty and sometimes miraculous ways that music has impacted the brain, as scientists and medical practitioners witness people in lengthy comas awaken upon hearing music, observe patients with Alzheimer’s disease who remember nothing, but sing all of the words to their favorite songs, and watch severe brain-damaged musicians that could not function in society but could peacefully sit and play entire compositions of Chopin at the piano.11


“Music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common.”
Sarah Dessen, Just Listen

“He who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once.”
Robert Browning

“Too bad people can’t always be playing music, maybe then there wouldn’t be any more wars.”

~Margot Benary-Isbert, Rowan Farm

Music has deep social roots. Our ancestors used music to bring the tribe and community together around the fire. Through music they passed tribal stories to future generations, unified the tribe for celebration or war, sent messages to other tribes, and invoked their gods and spirits, or messages from within. Music still brings people together, albeit not as often collectively around the fire (although people still create music together in the occasional drum circle and jam session, hootenanny, sing-along and festival). The music experience today is more likely to be made up of large groups of people congregating around performers or music, such as at concerts, dance clubs, and parties.

Whether people are playing, singing, listening or dancing, when music is involved it has the power to unify. As just one example, music was widely used in the late 1960’s and 1970’s to communicate ideas with and coalesce groups as part of the anti-war, pro-peace movements (please note, fans of Mother Teresa, these two approaches are indeed different!), with artists like John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul & Mary and others being moved to create music that reflected their personal feelings about and philosophies on war, violence and human rights.

Wherever music has the power to coalesce, it also has the power to divide, and has been an influential part of people’s and groups’ efforts to separate from or rebel against unwanted influence.

Stereotypically we have seen this polarization in decades of teenagers and youth that declare they are tired of being told what to do by their mothers, fathers, teachers and society in general. Young men and women of the 1950’s and 60’s defied their parents by flocking to see taboo and even illegal rock and roll artists like The Beatles, Elvis Presley and The Rolling Stones. 1970’s mohawked and pierced, leather-clad fans of Punk music listened to the kind of songs and bands that gave the proverbial, black-nail-polished middle finger to society and conformity. And the controversial Gangsta Rap of the 80’s and 90’s surfaced cursing and spitting from the concrete chasm between life in the urban, inner-city communities and the rest of society- although eventually you were just as likely to hear it coming from a prom queen’s V.W. Beetle in Boca Raton as from a front porch in Overtown.

“We Africans we must do something about this nonsense
We say, we must do something about this nonsense
I repeat, we Africans we must do something about this nonsense.”
~Fela Kuti,
Authority Stealing

“Get up, stand up! Stand up for your rights! Get up, stand up! Don’t give up the fight!”

~ Bob Marley, Get Up, Stand Up

“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.”
Kahlil Gibran

African–based music has often been a source and reflection of rebellion. Music called “negro spirituals” was a way for slaves of a divided Colonial America to express their own religion and roots in defiance of violent suppression by white slave owners. Some scholars claim that the lyrics of “coded slave songs,” such as “Wade in the Water,” “Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd,” and “Go Down Moses” were written and sung to secretly give other slaves clues about how to escape or avoid capture. The African slaves of Brazil used traditional Brazilian Berimbau music and accompanying “dance” to disguise their martial arts and defense movements. The resulting Brazilian Capoeira is still avidly practiced today, now as a symbol of the rebellion against oppression for which it was originally created. Jamaican singer and songwriter Bob Marley wrote songs which reflected his views on Africans’ struggles for equality and his opposition to South African Apartheid- songs of rebellion, freedom and redemption; and Fela Kuti, Nigerian Afrobeat musician, was fueled by the 1970’s Black Power movement and rebelled fiercely against the Nigerian government, not only in his lyrics but in his defiant, riot-inciting words and acts at concerts and in his creation of the Kalakuta Republic- a commune and recording studio for the many band affiliates that declared themselves independent from the Nigerian state.

“Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul.”

~Angela Monet

“Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.”

~Maria von Trapp

In addition to figuratively binding people together for a common cause, music has been shown to actually “bind neurological systems together”12– as demonstrated in a study of chorus singers’ hearts all beating in unison when singing hymns together:

“Using pulse monitors attached to the singers’ ears, researchers measured the changes in the choir members’ heart rates as they navigated the intricate harmonies of a Swedish hymn. When the choir began to sing, their heart rates slowed down.

‘When you sing the phrases, it is a form of guided breathing,’ says musicologist Bjorn Vickhoff of the Sahlgrenska Academy who led the project. ‘You exhale on the phrases and breathe in between the phrases. When you exhale, the heart slows down.’

But what really struck him was that it took almost no time at all for the singers’ heart rates to become synchronized. The readout from the pulse monitors starts as a jumble of jagged lines, but quickly becomes a series of uniform peaks. The heart rates fall into a shared rhythm guided by the song’s tempo.

‘The members of the choir are synchronizing externally with the melody and the rhythm, and now we see it has an internal counterpart,’ Vickhoff says.

This is just one study, and these findings might not apply to other singers. But all religions and cultures have some ritual of song, and it’s tempting to ask what this could mean about shared musical experience and communal spirituality.

‘It’s a beautiful way to feel. You are not alone but with others who feel the same way,’ Vickhoff says.”12


 “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

~Ephesians 5:19

“Music is my religion.”

~Jimmy Hendrix

“Let us release ourselves into the rhythm of God and thereby become part of the rhythm of this universe.” 

Joel S. Goldsmith, A Parenthesis In Eternity

“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD WAS MUSIC.”

~Kurt Vonnegut

Music has long been an integral part of religion and spirituality- in both formal and informal religious and spiritual rituals and practices.

In formal religion, think about the haunting chants of Gregorian monks, Catholic priest’s echoing intonations over swinging, incense-filled thuribles, Hindu and Buddhist call and response to Kirtan, Sufi Dervishes who “whirl” to music as a form of physical meditation and connection to the divine, and the African slaves who created religious music as an expression of their anguish, strength, hope and faith in their god or gods.

Humans have also used music as a tool to connect to their divine and spiritual nature unrelated to a formal, established religion. Music is used in spiritual ceremonies, such as meditation or inducing trace states, as a form of spiritual communion with their spiritual “Source.” “New Age Spirituality” brought about a quartz bucketful of music called New Age music, used by retreat centers, spas and individuals around the world to invoke relaxation and facilitate a peaceful environment for everything from massage to yoga and meditation.

Entire doctorate dissertations could be written on music and spirituality, so I will leave the rest of this topic with a thought by talented musician and writer Frank Fitzpatrick who said, “Any music that helps us reconnect to our essence—to our inner and divine nature—is spiritual…When created from the heart and with truth and pure intention, music is a spiritual expression of the most universal nature and highest order.” Mr. Fitpatrick also included some very meaningful quotes in his May, 2013 blog on the topic of music and spirituality. These famous folk beautifully and eloquently convey music’s influence on the spirit:

“There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is.”

~William P. Merril

“Music is the easiest method of meditation. Whoever can let himself dissolve into music has no need to seek anything else to dissolve into.”


“Music should uplift the soul; music should inspire. There is no way of getting closer to God, of rising higher toward the spirit of attaining spiritual perfection than music.”

~ Hazrat Inayat Khan


“Music is the pleasure the human soul experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting.”
~Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, German mathematician and philosopher

“Harmony is divine, it consists of numerical ratios. Whosoever acquires full understanding of this number harmony, he becomes himself divine and immortal.”
~B. L. van der Waerden, 20th century Dutch mathematician, describing the beliefs of the followers of Pythagoras

“Music is true.  An octave is a mathematical reality…It’s a truth.  The laws of physics apply to music, and music follows that. So it really lifts us out of this subjective, opinionated human position and drops us into the cosmic picture just like that.”
~James Taylor 

Math and music may seem disparate, a paradox- however, ancient cultures discovered that there really are patterns, hidden structures and relationships between numbers and musical scales. Pythagoras, an ancient Greek philosopher, mystic, mathematician and the father of geometry, was one of the most famous to recognize such a mathematical pattern in music. The legend goes that he heard the sound of several blacksmiths hammering and decided there must be a mathematical answer to the beautiful sounds. Further curiosity led him to discover the musical scale of tones, called Octaves.14

Since Pythagoras laid a heavy blanket of mathematics over everything, he of course also applied mathematics to explain the stars and planets. He believed that the cosmos moved in very predictable mathematical patterns and equations, that these equations, “corresponded to musical notes, and with each movement of the universe, they collectively produced a symphony.”15 Pythagoras called this cosmic symphony, “The Music of the Spheres.”

Pythagoras also believed that “musical instruments, when tuned to the mathematical Pythagorean harmonics, were capable of tuning the human soul to sing the rhythms of the universe.”16 In short, Pythagoras asserted that if music is math, and the entire universe is math, then, by Pythagorean inference, the entire universe… is music. These beliefs led to his theory that the human soul can be tuned to the music of the universe- a theory that our native ancestors already knew, and that philosophers, scientists and healers have been pursuing ever since.

“‘Ah, music,’ he said, wiping his eyes. ‘A magic beyond all we do here!’”

~J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

 “Constellations of thought hard wired to the universal energies between us resonate as a familiar hum that gently vibrates to caress my soul.”
Truth Devour, Wantin

Johannes Kepler, a theologian and mathematician during the Renaissance, backed up Pythagoras’s vision of sound when he declared the whole universe as the vibrating string of a single string instrument. To Kepler, the vibration was the “universal sound,” the sound from which everything emanates- the sound of God. In John 1:1, the Bible refers to this sound with its very first verse: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God“.” Hans Jenny, the Cymatic scientist whom you met earlier, showed agreement in the concept of sound as Creation when he said, “The more one studies these things, the more one realizes that sound is the creative force. It must be regarded as primordial…We cannot say, in the beginning was number or in the beginning was symmetry, etc…They are not themselves the creative power. The creative power is inherent in sound.”17 These declarations came after but paralleled Hinduism, in which the sound of the universe is “Om”, a Sanskrit sound that “resonates with a great cosmic vibration so massive and subtle and all-encompassing that everything seen and unseen is filled with it.”18  Buddhist and Jain philosophies also use Om in their mantras, and in his New York Times bestselling book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into The Afterlife, Author Eben Alexander said, “Om was the sound I remembered hearing associated with that omniscient, omnipotent, and unconditionally loving God.” In the mystical Dervish tradition, the Dervishes whirl and commune with their God to this “infinite sound of the cosmos.”19

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”

Albert Einstein

In an effort to bring scientific principles to these mysterious theories, Albert Einstein called this universal place of infinity, energy and vibrations the “Universal Energy Field.” After discovering that all matter is energy and all energy is matter (e=mc2), Albert Einstein spent the last part of his career trying to prove that the Universal Energy Field existed. Today, physicists in the field of String Theory, including Stephen Hawking, believe that the “Universal Energy Field” is comprised of billions of microscopic strings that “vibrate at different frequencies, which creates harmonics and patterns, thus organizing the entire universe and every particle in it.”20 The biggest guitar in existence, and we, my dear friends, are all part of the jam session! Ah, music!

“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances. ”

~Maya Angelou

 “If each of us is a buncha notes, then maybe a few of us togetha, we’re a sonata- and who knows, maybe all of us are…everything is…some crazy kind of awchestra heyah to see what kinda infinite symphony we can make outta all of it.”

~ Aniello Agostino Oliviero

Maybe Papa’s theory on music, energy, and everything wasn’t so kooky after all. It does seem like there is quite a bit of science, art, religion, and experience to support the idea that we are all music, all playing our own tunes in a cosmic improvisation…or purposeful composition, depending on your doctrine.

So, if we accept that music is everything and everything is music, what do we do with this belief? Do we:

A) Listen to more music?

B) Pay greater attention to the music we listen to, and how it makes us feel?

C) Build up our playlist collection of, “Music for Self, Global and Universal Harmony”?

D) Take it to the next octave and reflect on the music we make- our personal energy vibrations, the vibrations of those around us and the impact they have on each other?

E) Climb the crescendo- and consider the possibility that our collective orchestra is perpetually generating an entire soundtrack of our existence; a never-ending mix tape that vibrates through infinity?

Hmmm…choices, choices. In my humble opinion, the answer is F) All of the above…But I especially like that last note, “E.”

And you, my dear friend- are you willing to sing that tune, or at least start to hum along? If you are, then we really should complete the scale. We are, my dear, missing a note, a major note that serves as the home key for all of our others. If you’re willing to join in the chorus, then let us add “G.”

A note that, in the Baroque era, was referred to as the “key of benediction,” “G” invokes divine guidance and blesses us as we make the decision, the choice, to create a positive, radiant melodic masterpiece of our lives- slowly, mindfully, intentionally. A life that has the power and possibility of creating the universal “music” that, in the words of spiritual teacher Dr. Wayne Dyer, “makes us all feel good-makes us all feel…God.”

That scale was Papa’s wise canon, one he caught onto in the second half of his 90-year symphony, pondering, practicing and perfecting his art.

And so what sage advice did Papa have for us novices? Us amateur composers and conductors? He had none of the data, none of the studies, none of the formal philosophical education, so his wisdom and experience-based counsel was rather simple:

“Just keep playin’, singin’ and dancin’ deayah. And always watch the tune ya carryin’- ‘cause ya never know when you can make beautiful music togetha…and who might be listenin’.”

Thank you, Papa. Play on.

“When we die, we will turn into songs, and we will hear each other and remember each other.”

~Rob Sheffield, Love is a Mix Tape

Recipe of the Month

In honor of this month’s theme, our recipe will be made of musical ingredients. Some of Papa’s favorites (marked with a *star) and some of mine inspired by the writing and adventures of How Do We Love? Enjoy!

*Nessun dorma (Vincerò)
*There’s No Tomorrow (O Sole Mio)    Dean Martin
*In Napoli                                              Dean Martin
Non dimenticare le mie parole            Carlo Buti
*Return to Me (Ritorna-Me)                  Dean Martin
Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba                            Peggy Lee
*Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)            Dean Martin
Papa Loves Mambo                            Perry Como
La Festa Dell’amore                            Louiselle
On an Evening In Roma                     Patrizio Buanne
Carina 3:17                                          Nicola Arigliano
*Grazie, Prego, Scusi                           Dean Martin
La Traiettorie delle Mongolfiere          Gianmaria Testa
Le Cose in Comune                            Daniele Silvestri
Juke Box 2:23                                     Fred Buscaglione
Via con me                                          Paolo Conte
Come Di                                              Paolo Conte
We Open In Venice                             Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin & Sammy Davis Jr.
Botch-A-Me (Ba-Ba-Baciami Piccina) Rosemary Clooney
Azzurro                                                Paolo Conte
Mambo Italiano                                    Rosemary Clooney
Amada mia, amore mio                       The Starlite Orchestra
Gnè Gnè                                              Giorgio Conte
Tu Vuo’ Fa’ l’Americano                        Quadro Nuevo
L’Italiano                                                Patrizio Buanne
Come On-A-My House                          Rosemary Clooney
Che Cossè L’Amor                                Vinicio Capossela
Tu Vuo Fa L’americano                         Renato Carosone
Be Italian                                                Fergie
*Funiculì, funiculà                                    José Carreras, Los Angeles Philharmonic
Armida al campo d’Egitto RV699-A       Vivaldi: Arie per basso (Edition Vivaldi)
*Tarantella                                               Manhattan Pops
Un Bacio a Mezzanotte                          Quartetto Cetra
Cannelloni                                               Giorgio Conte
Petali e Mirto                                           Maria Pierantoni Giua
Dentro al Cinema                                    Gianmaria Testa
*Carmen: Havanaise                                Manhattan Opera Chorus
***Carmen: Overture                                 Leonard Bernstein
*Cavalleria Rusticano: Viva il Vino Spumeggiante          Luciano Pavarotti
*Pagliaci: Vesti La Giubba                                              Placido Domingo
*South Pacific: Happy Talk                                             Original Soundtrack
*Porgy and Bess: Summertime                                       Ella Fitzgerald

And here are the references I made in the post – some are citations, others links to new information. Enjoy!

  1.     The hills are alive! Mom in Salzburg… The hills are alove!
  2.     John Beaulieu, “Human Tuning”, Biosonic Enterprises, 2010
  3.    Clip of Bugs Bunny’s “Soothes the savage beast” scene in “Hurdy Gurdy Hare”
  6.     Guzzetta, Cathie E.: Music Therapy: Nursing the Music of the Soul, in Music: Physician for the Times to Come, Campbell, Don (Editor), Quest Books, 1991, p. 149
  7.     Salamon, et al., Sound Therapy Induced Relaxation, Medical Science Monitor, 2003; 9(5).
  9. Blood, Anne J. & Zatorre, Robert J., “Intensely pleasurable responses to music correlate with activity in brain regions implicated in reward and emotion.” Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences. (2001) Vol 8, No. 20.
  14. Frank Fitzpatrick, “Why Music Part 9: Music and Spirituality”, Huffington Post, May 3, 2013
  16.   Christoph Riedweg, Pythagoras: His Life, Teaching and Influence, Cornell: Cornell University Press, 2005
  17.   John Beaulieu, “Human Tuning”, Biosonic Enterprises, 2010
  19.   John Beaulieu, “Human Tuning”, Biosonic Enterprises, 2010
  20.   During, J., et al. iEncyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition, 2009, Search “Sama.”
  21.   John Beaulieu, “Human Tuning”, Biosonic Enterprises, 2010

 Also: For a thorough bibliography on articles related to the role of music on our brains and lives, click here for Oxford University’s Institute for Music and Brain Science:

And, related to music and its effect on emotions:

NPR recently had an illuminating interview on All Songs Considered, titled “Songs that make you feel good.” and “Songs that make you cry.” Even more interesting was the NPR piece on Oleg Berg, on the science of changing Major and Minor chords to make “sad songs happy and happy songs sad.” Here is the article: but be sure to search “Oleg Berg” on YouTube for more great examples!

Major Switches:

A downright cheery version of REM’s Losing my religion:

A carefree version of “Careless Whisper”:

Minor Switches:

A pretty damn depressing “Be Worry, Don’t Happy” – our favorite, most overplayed feel good song gone wrong by just changing the notes!:

Let It Be –a hopeful song in major that turns hopeless in minor:

For more information on Papa’s Italy and the Book “How Do We Love?” go to

Ci vediamo al prossimo mese! See you next month! In the meantime…Listen to the music!


Listen To The Music- The Doobie Brothers

Don’t you feel it growin’, day by day

People gettin’ ready for the news

Some are happy, some are sad

Oh, we got to let the music play

What the people need

Is a way to make ’em smile

It ain’t so hard to do if you know how

Gotta get a message

Get it on through

Oh, now mama’s go’n’ to after ‘while

Oh, oh, listen to the music

Oh, oh, listen to the music

Oh, oh, listen to the music

All the time

Well I know, you know better

Everything I say

Meet me in the country for a day

We’ll be happy

And we’ll dance

Oh, we’re gonna dance our blues away

And if I’m feelin’ good to you

And you’re feelin’ good to me

There ain’t nothin’ we can’t do or say

Feelin’ good, feeling fine

Oh, baby, let the music play

Oh, oh, listen to the music

Oh, oh, listen to the music

Oh, oh, listen to the music

All the time

Like a lazy flowing river

Surrounding castles in the sky

And the crowd is growing bigger

List’nin’ for the happy sounds

And I got to let them fly

Oh, oh, listen to the music

Oh, oh, listen to the music

Oh, oh, listen to the music

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: All Aboard! Part II of “Be Italian,” A Time Travel Adventure on Papa’s Wonderful, Whimsical Train of Life! | Papa's Italy

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