In Tune: Music As the Bridge to Mindfulness
2019 / The Experiment
Review by Kathy Parsons
In Tune: Music As the Bridge to Mindfulness is a fascinating book by Richard Wolf, a music producer and Emmy Award-winning composer who is also on the faculty at the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music where he teaches classes on music in media and culture, and the special relationship between the musical and mindfulness practices. I have recently read several books about meditation and consider myself to be a beginner, but I really enjoyed reading about Wolf’s approach to meditation as a musician. I started playing the piano as a young child and have been a piano teacher for the past 39 years. I also review a lot of music and proofread and edit solo piano sheet music, so although I don’t perform in concerts or compose music, I do consider myself to be a musician.
In Tune is very well-written and easy to understand - IF you have a working knowledge of music theory and terminology. Otherwise, it’s likely to be a bit of a slog since many of the various examples and exercises probably won’t make much sense to a music novice. The book is set up in three main sections - “Preludes to Practice,” “The Twelve Bridges” and “Bonus Tracks.” The first section is an introduction to Richard Wolf and his experience in both meditation and as a music professional. He also explains how the two practices can work together to enhance each other. The main part of the book explains the “twelve bridges,”which include: Dedication, Posture, Concentration, Harmony, The Art of Deep Listening, Patience and Perseverance, Mindfulness and Creativity, Transcending the Self, and Silence. Each “bridge” section includes a discussion about why it is considered a bridge and how to approach it in your own meditation, plus exercises and techniques to get started and to deepen your meditation experiences. The Bonus Tracks section is subtitled “More Modes of Mindfulness Training” and offers additional exercises that are more musically complex.
The emphasis that runs throughout the book is a focus on breathing and listening to your own breath, quieting the mind and becoming more fully aware. It is not recommended that you listen to music while meditating, although listening to calm the mind before meditating is fine. I found that surprising. I have also thought for a very long time that being “in the zone” while playing music (either a recording or playing music myself) was very much akin to meditation, but Wolf does a pretty thorough job of debunking that idea, which also surprised me. It’s a fascinating book that taught me a lot of ideas and concepts that were new to me - always valuable!
The book is available in several formats, and I read and reviewed the hardbound book.
December 5, 2019