The singular importance of song, dance and music as elements of folk traditions of healing as well as spiritual awakening is well-known. What is perhaps not so well understood are the many quantifiable ways in which song, dance and music function as conduits of healing and connection, especially when practiced collectively. The best way to experience these things is perhaps to engage with them practically, over an extended period of time, until a rudimentary understanding allows one to experience that healing and bonding power of these things for oneself.
Having said that, I also believe is it possible, and therefore necessary, to examine the dynamics and quantifiable effects of song, dance and music with modern tools and technologies. Many of us are more easily inspired to engage with some practice when it has first, to some extent, been rationalised. I don't think there is anything wrong with this; we have all grown wary and weary of institutions that have exploited and manipulated us throughout the ages. We are aware of the extent to which our own gullibility, and our desire to experience something "real" and "true" in our lives renders us vulnerable to those who demand that we "trust" them.
There are many other angles to this conversation however; "what is healing really?", "how does connecting to others help?" etc. Song, dance and music are not just behaviours that allow us to express ourselves, to experience our voices and our bodies, creatively, connected to others, etc. They are also conduits that allow us to "transcend" ourselves, to "transcend" even the consciousness states we experience as ordinary, consensual, reality. They allow us to engage with the world in a non-rational way, to connect and harmonise with others, to engage in a collective experience and consciousness and experience ourselves, even if only temporarily, as part of a larger whole.
The loss of such traditions due to globalisation and mass media is frightening to contemplate. At the same time, we can hope that at least some of these traditions can be maintained or recreated because human creativity is simply capable of overcoming such problems: nothing is ever truly lost. I take hope from the emergence of rap as a musical and poetic trend that quite unselfconsciously, at least in the beginning, gave voice to a generation of urban, downtrodden, disempowered youth. This trend suggests we are infinitely capable of finding or creating artistic forms to challenge oppression and overcome disempowerment and isolation.
Those of us who are interested in or already involved in the creation of intentional communities would do well to explore the many different ways song, dance and music have been employed throughout history, and in every culture, to promote healing, well-being, harmony and awakening/liberation. Since I am not personally qualified to expand on this subject, I appeal to anyone of my readers who feels inclined to help by sending me material to add here, or elsewhere on the website.
—Daniel Waterman, Mar. 2018.