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About the book and author


The Sonic Thread
Sound as a Pathway to Spirituality

by Cynthia Snodgrass.

Paraview Press, 2002
ISBN: 1-931044-37-6
Paperback $15.95
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Sonic Thread

  As far back as I can remember, I have been in love with the phenomenon of sound. Maybe it was because I was born “blind as a bat” and during my early years my ears learned to compensate for what my eyes lacked. As a childhood game I would close my eyes and pretend to be completely blind. I’d imagine that I could negotiate the world with only the use of sound to help me navigate through a maze of objects.

Maybe it was because I grew up with classical music in the house, accompanied by expositions on the importance of its meaning. Or, maybe it was because on hot summer nights, after dinner, my father would read out loud to the family long sections of ancient prose and poetry, old morals, and stories spun from some of the world’s greatest sounds.

Or perhaps I was so fascinated by sound because there were so many wonderful things to listen to in the world -- clicks and thumps, the whirrings of mechanical devices, the pounding rhythms and swirling eddies within the physical body, the exotic trills and glides of various bird calls -- all so fascinating to focus on and to fathom as a child. There were times I even thought I could hear the sound of atoms humming in their orbits as their miniature worlds spun around.

Or maybe it was due to a dream experienced in adolescence, wherein I crouched, late at night, out of breath and in mortal fear, on the side steps of an Eastern temple as the sounds of a Dream-Wind saved my life.

Or it could be because every day for as long as I can remember, I have spent countless hours practicing some kind of musical instrument. As a child, each day I was required by my mother to practice intervals, repeat scales, memorize melodies, and count to the beat of a metronome. Each instrument had its challenges -- the single reed, the double reed, the bowed string, the plucked string. T.S. Eliot wrote that “between the ideal and the reality falls the shadow,” and indeed, between my ideal of being able to issue forth radiant streams of celestial sound and the reality of God-given talent fell the shadow of hours and hours of practicing.

Intense listening in order to produce the right pitch, with fingers placed just so, was followed by the intricacies of coordinating left and right, high with low. The brain completed one chore while the body learned to automatically execute another. Rhythms were learned (three against two), chords were built from the bottom up, and melodies were spun from the center out. All for the sake of the beauty of sound.

It was beautiful, too. After hours of practice came the perfectly placed interval or the exact contour of a line that could open doors. Working in tandem or in chorus with others, harmony realized was a truly remarkable thing. When focused intently and breathing deeply, with the voice placed and tuned with consummate care, could come the amazing sensation of flying, the energetic explosion of having “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to glide and float high above the physical body. Music was a transcendental pathway and it could take one into higher realms.

Maybe it was in the fact that music has turned out to be my avocation, while a quest for the deeper perceptions of sound has continued to be central to my life’s work, as well as to my spirituality. For, when I recognized vibration to be more than this world’s music I realized how important the study of sound has been to my soul.

2002, Cynthia Snodgrass

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