By Meg Lyding, MFA
I had just registered for the Integrative Sound & Music Certificate Program at the NY Open Center when I met and began dating Ray. We’re both musicians: he, an opera singer and K-8 public school music teacher; me, as more of a hobby, a self-taught pianist and singer/songwriter with an archive of unfinished songs, venturing into the healing realm of sound and music (my academic background is in visual art).
It was early September 2018. I had been conducting occasional group sound meditations primarily with crystal singing bowls for a few years now, but I wanted to delve more deeply into the therapeutic use of sound and music beyond the increasingly popular sound bath. The NY Open Center program, which I had been eyeing up for years, offered a well-rounded introduction to a variety of sound and music practices with a panel of dedicated and accomplished teachers. The timing felt right, I was in; and yet, in retrospect, I had no idea exactly what I was in for.
While enrolled in the program, I was also immersed in completing a long-term creative project about love in NYC entitled, Concrete Hearts of Manhattan, an artistic journey to find and document the symbolic hearts of lovers inscribed in the wet cement sidewalks of New York City and to uncover their hidden love stories.
Over the span of about two years, I had walked 102 miles of sidewalk, every street between 14th St. and Houston St., and found a total of 1,182 concrete hearts. I was now searching for the owners of these hearts in the hope that they would contribute their love stories. My friend and colleague, photographer William Heuberger had agreed to create a short video to help me procure these love stories and encouraged me to write the musical accompaniment.
Although songwriting and music production weren’t part of the Integrative Sound & Music Certificate program’s curriculum, I began to apply concepts and practices from the program into my songwriting, taking unique inspiration from each workshop, but in particular from music therapist Alan Turry, vocalist Silvia Nakkach, and the revolutionary work of Rick Jarow, all yearly recurring teachers in the program.
Every workshop exposed new facets of sound while taking foundational concepts to greater depth and clarity. As my awareness expanded, so did my curiosity. For a while, the vastness of sound vibration and its applications felt overwhelming, but I soon learned to ride the wave of each teaching without concern where I was heading with it all just yet.
A few short months into the program, I had written and self-produced the soundtrack for that short film. The song is entitled, Follow Your Heartbeat, and speaks about my personal journey to find love as a parallel journey to the project’s search for love. I self-released the song through various online music streaming services–this is something I had never done before, as I had never produced a song to such a level of completion.
It soon became clear to me that I was not only seeking greater knowledge and new ways to expand my professional practice with sound and music through the NY Open Center program, but simply to show up for myself, giving permission to sing, explore, and create in ways that felt genuine, intimate, and vulnerable.
I now consider, in part, that it’s that desire and willingness, that focus and expansion, that excitement of creative possibility, nurtured each month within this experiential program and within my own personal practice, that also allowed me to deepen my relationship with my partner in a way that eventually led to the decision to partner together as husband and wife, as well as musically.
We got engaged in May of 2019. I was, by that time, preparing my final presentation to complete the program and began looking ahead to a whole new journey with Ray by my side. My projects, which compelled me to share my voice and find the courage to be vulnerable, and my artistic intention to bring awareness to love, led me to find love too.
Ray had voiced wanting to write a song about his journey to find love as well. So began our musical partnership. We co-wrote the song Out There, and our recording made its debut in front of an audience of my fellow cohorts as part of my final presentation.
My final presentation became the voice of a personal journey. Visual art had always been a therapeutic outlet for me, poetically exploring aspects of personal growth and transformation through a transpersonal artistic reflection. It seemed my musical side had been waiting patiently for me to bravely give it voice. The topic of exploration for my presentation was therapeutic songwriting, showcasing how I found myself within sound healing through songwriting, integrating experiences and influences from the program. I presented three songs (two aforementioned) that I had written during the course of the year, all of which were ultimately about love, firstly in cultivating self-love, which then opened me to the love in the heart of another, and finally in connecting with love as a state of being and a creative force.
The third and final song was a meditation on humming aptly named Humming Song. We often utilized the practice of humming in our workshops proclaiming its profound vibro-acoustic effects with such a simple technique.
Humming creates a meditative internally-focused vibration, helping to reduce stress hormones and increase levels of nitric oxide, associated with healing, as well as oxytocin, the ‘love’ hormone. Humming can be used to self-soothe and is also simply something we do when we are happy. Through a process of vocal improvisation, I layered my voice into a whole choir of humming floating over a simple accompaniment of singing bowls.
The directive to create a final project based on our personal interest in the field, our unique experience within the program, and our individual expression of the work, truly allowed me to gain clarity on how this journey has informed my creative practice and sense of purpose in the world.
Furthermore, with each monthly weekend gathering, I found myself in the presence of a supportive community of individuals varying in age, background, and experience. The on-going group journey of our cohort, or co-heart, as we began to refer to ourselves, became another unexpected gift.
I realize now, when I started, I had no way of truly knowing why I had joined the Integrative Sound & Music Certificate program, but over the course of this past year, a door has flung open of which, I only previously dared to peek through the cracks, taking me far from where I began, and at the same time, returning me home.
Meg Lyding, MFA, is a certified sound practitioner, composer, and visual artist with a Master’s Degree from Parsons School of Design and certification in Integrative Sound and Music through the Open Center in New York City. She is a multi-instrumentalist and her creative work is multi-disciplinary. In 2019, she created Make a Wave Productions as a way to integrate her creative and therapeutic endeavors, harnessing sound, music, and the creative arts as practices of self-care and personal transformation.
The Integrative Sound and Music Certificate Program
A 9-Month, 130-Hour Certification Training
October 2019 – June 2020
To learn more and register, click here.
Free Intro classes on:
Tuesday, September 3, 2019, 7:00 – 9:00 pm with Silvia Nakkach – (Webinar)
Click here to register
Tuesday, September 24, 2019, 7:00 – 9:00 pm with John Beaulieu – (at the Open Center)
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*Photo credit: www.mikezawadzki.com