Paul Horn - Flutist - Grandfather of New Age Music
A beautiful interpretation by Paul Horn of "Air", from Johann Sebastian Bach's Orchestral Suite No 3. Enjoy listening to his flute while reading about the life of this incredible man who continues to make a difference in this world.
Jazz flutist and Grandfather of New Age Music
A biographical interview by Rosemary Phillips, Spring 1992
Horn with R. Carlos Nakai
for their recording
Inside Memorial Valley - Canyon Records
Photo by John Running
INTRO: “Inside the Great Pyramid” and “Inside the
Taj Mahal” with flutist Paul Horn represented the beginning
of a whole new genre of New Age Music. Paul Horn, master of jazz
flute, took his spontaneous sounds into world monuments and created
a unique vibration as his clear notes from his flute echoed around
the shapes of the building, or as now, the walls of canyons.
Ten years after beginning to use Paul Horn’s “Inside
the Great Pyramid” for relaxation and meditation I had the
pleasure of doing an interview with him outside the Tidemark Theatre
in Campbell River for the local CRTV station. We sat in the courtyard
under a cherry tree as people wandered by or stood and watched.
It was a beautiful warm sunny September day in 1992. What follows is the transcription of that interview which, twenty years later, is still relevant, and which, until recently, was the only biographical interview on the internet.
Music as Healer
Rosemary Phillips: With us right now
in the Tidemark courtyard is musician Paul Horn. Thank you for joining
Paul Horn: You're welcome.
Rosemary: I'd really like to know your
background in music and how you got started on some of those incredible
recordings you did back in the '60's that were created in the Great
Pyramid and the Taj Mahal.
Paul: Well, we're going to cover a lot
of years in a short time. I always loved music. My mother was a
professional musician back in the 20's, she recorded, had her own
radio show in New York City, sang and played piano. Her career stopped
when she got married and I came along. But the musical influence
was always there because she would play the piano and sing around
the house. I went through Conservatory majoring in clarinet and
taking up flute. I already played the saxophone. By the time I'd
finished all that I was a well-schooled musician.
Chico Hamilton Quintet
I had a pretty straight-ahead jazz career in Los Angeles and around
Hollywood after being on the road for a couple of years with the
Chico Hamilton Quintet, which got me started. Then I did studio
work for about fifteen years in Los Angeles until 1970.
Paul Horn’s spiritual transformation in the 60's
But it was in the late '60s that a transformation took place in
my life, a spiritual transformation that affected everything, including
the music and how I viewed music. Until then music was entertainment,
and I was mainly a jazz musician. I was trying to build a career
for myself so I was pretty self-centred about it and was very concerned
about acceptance with my peers, what the critics thought of me,
and everything that it took to prove to myself that I was OK. The
career was building nicely, and everything was going as I had hoped
it would, and yet the realisation came to me quite vividly that
I wasn't very happy with all of this. It seemed like a real paradox.
I was achieving all of my goals that I had set out to achieve over
the years, so why wasn't I smiling from ear to ear twenty-four hours
a day? And so I began a spiritual search. There was an inner unfulfillment
that obviously didn't lie in the area of my career because that
was being fulfilled. So what was it that was lacking?
Rosemary: Did you find something to turn to in
Paul Horn meets the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi - Transcendental
P: At that time Maharishi
Mahesh Yogi came into my life. That was pre-Beatles' time, before
it all hit the world stage. A few friends were starting to practice
his system of meditation. I'd read over the years about meditation,
Eastern philosophy, Yoga, Zen, and things that were attractive to
me. In these books they always talked about meditation but no one
ever told me how to do it. And here was someone who talked about
it and showed how to use a simple technique.
R: It actually became something you could
P: It was something I could do and it
was simple. I began to feel better. It wasn't an overnight cure-all,
but I felt that this was worthwhile pursuing. Then it came to mind
that I should just go to India and spend some time with this man.
I dropped everything in L.A., my career and everything, and just
went. I spent four months with him in his ashram in India and really
got immersed in the whole thing. That really changed my life. I
still do meditation as a daily practice otherwise I think I'd have
been dead long ago. Meditation grounded me, and it centred me. The
whole creative flow and new direction in music then opened up to
R: Is that when you did the Taj Mahal
Paul Horn records "Inside the Taj Mahal"
P: Soon after that. The period I was
talking about was 1967. I went back again the following year, in
1968, to spend more time with the Maharishi. On that trip I went
into the Taj Mahal one night and recorded my flute playing. It was
never intended to be a commercial recording, just something that
I had hoped to do for myself, to bring back a tape to play for some
friends back home as a memento. But the tape came out quite good
and a year later Epic Records wanted to release it. That opened
up everything. "Inside the Taj Mahal" was the first of
that type of album. I had already done about fourteen jazz albums
and this was a real departure from all of that.
R: By sharing the recording with others
you have helped open doors for many people.
P: It proved to be that way. It was really
a phenomenon. The record company couldn't believe all the people
that were interested in it and the radio stations couldn't believe
all the people that were requesting it because it was so quiet,
just a solo flute inside a building that has wonderful acoustics.
It's a very meditative album because there's a lot of space in it.
Due to the large echo in the building I was forced to not play too
much because if I did it would come back as a big jumble of sounds.
So, I played a phrase then waited while the sound settled down,
then played another phrase and all the echoes went twirling around
in that beautiful huge dome. It's quite magical as far as the sound
is concerned, and it allows people to drift and sink within themselves
creating what is very similar to a meditative experience.
R: It was in fact my first meditation
tape, and it has helped me over many humps in my life.
P: A lot of people have told me that over
the years. That to me is very fulfilling and rewarding that, somehow,
I was a part of that transformational music that was about to emerge
in a bigger way. I just happened to be one of the first such musicians.
Since then there has been an emergence of a new genre called New
Age music, a term which is very confusing to a lot of people, as
all titles for genres are, because the music keeps changing. You
can't really pin down what this music is, but to me it's a type
of music that is basically therapeutic in nature. It's healing music,
music that's healing mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
It has the power to heal very strongly. This is the music that I
have been more interested in over the last twenty years, and I think
my career has gone more and more in that direction.
R: The recording in the Taj Mahal was
totally spontaneous and creative. How did the creativity flow through
you at that time and how is that happening with you now, as your
P: Well, the essence and basis of jazz
is improvisation, spontaneous expression of what you feel at the
moment, with the knowledge you have attained throughout the years,
just as we are now talking an unrehearsed conversation. We trust
in the moment because you know the language and I know the language.
That's the basis of improvisation. You use the language of music
in a spontaneous way. It's always fresh and energising. There's
a certain energy to that rather than, say, a prepared speech. As
a jazz musician I've always been into improvisation. It's very natural
for me to play music that way. So, when I walked into the Taj Mahal
I didn't have any piece of music in mind. I just started playing
and let the feeling of the moment come through me. That's basically
what I do all the time.
R: Following the Taj Mahal you also did
a recording in the Pyramid. How did that experience come about?
Paul Horn records "Inside the Great Pyramid"
P: It was about eight years later. Someone
suggested it to me because the Taj Mahal album had been so successful
and people were probably looking for more of the same. When a friend
was thinking about some very special places in the world the Great
Pyramid came to mind. I thought it was a wonderful idea, so about
a year later I was on my way to Egypt with a group of people and
managed to get inside the Great Pyramid to do the recording. Again
it was the same kind of meditative experience, but something a little
different because the building is a part of the music too. The history
and the mystery of the pyramids is different from the history of
the Taj Mahal. There's a history in the Taj Mahal that's about three
hundred years old. It's a marvellous world-famous building and it
has wonderful acoustics, but there's no mystery to it. The Great
Pyramid is five thousand years old, minimum, and there are lots
of theories about how it was built, why it was built, when it was
built, and all of that. But no one really has a definitive answer.
So it's a very mysterious place, and it's a very powerful place.
That feeling, that mystery and that history became part of the music.
Music, mathematics, Pythagoras and healing
I've approached music with the understanding that knowledge is
available regarding tones and their effect upon the body. I think
the father of that knowledge was the mathematician Pythagoras who
lived several thousand years ago. Pythagoras was also a fine musician
and he knew specifically what tones would affect which parts of
the body. I once read a story about his attending a big banquet
and while he was there someone had an epileptic fit. He pointed
to the lute player in the orchestra and asked him to pluck a certain
chord. It stopped the fit immediately. That was a specific example.
Another story tells of how he would walk down the streets with his
disciples, strumming on a lute, and he'd say, "See that building
over there? This is what it sounds like." He would translate
the mathematical proportions of that building into physical, musical
sounds, which are based on harmonics which are mathematical. He
had the brilliance and the genius as both a musician and a mathematician
to put the two together. That particular knowledge has been lost,
but there seem to be people interested in reviving it.
R: It's coming out a lot in New Age music,
music with a healing approach.
P: That was very specific information
known in the days of Pythagoras. There are people today, Steven
Halpern is one such person, who are really looking into this subject,
investigating colours and tones and how they correspond to energy
centres in the body. Pythagoras said something that rang a bell
with me. He said that what's really healing is the mood of the music.
That's what I do, I create a mood, and the only way I create that
mood is through pure spontaneity. If I'm quiet and balanced and
centred then the mood will take care of itself, and the music, whatever
the music is to be, comes out of me and reflects that mood.
R: How do you actually feel at the time
of recording or performing?
Paul Horn and feeling the calmness inside
P: Over the years I've finally got to
the point, thank God, that I feel real relaxed when I perform, because
I'm not out to prove anything. That stopped a long time ago. And
when that day arrived in my life then everything just settled down
and was much smoother because I had already established myself and
really didn't care about what other's thought of me. I know I'm
not going to get everyone to like me all the time. So what! That's
part of life. I just show up and play. Music comes from wherever
you are consciously. If you show up at a concert feeling very agitated,
and don't take time to meditate, when you start playing obviously
you are starting from that level of agitation. Your performance
is going to be influenced by that feeling or that emotion that you
are having at that time. Because I've been meditating on a daily
basis for about twenty-five years now it's very easy for me to just
go inside myself real deep, within a second. So when I'm on stage,
or if I'm inside the Taj Mahal or the Pyramid, or wherever, I can
just close my eyes and go inside. Then everything becomes centred
and calm, and the music then comes from that calm. I don't worry
about anything, and I don't think too much. I just open myself and
see what comes out.
R: In other words by feeling that calmness
inside yourself you are allowing the creativity to just flow through
you much more easily?
P: Exactly, because creativity, the creative
intelligence, energy, your life force, that all comes from your
centre which is right in here. (Paul pointed to his solar plexus.)
The Buddhists call it your Dantien. That's the well-spring of it
all. So if you go inside and make contact with that life force,
that's where you're going to come from, that deepest level.
So it's just a question of touching home base, and getting connected
and grounded with your own Self, your own centre. I know that sounds
esoteric and philosophical. It is. But it's open to empirical verification,
that is, direct experience. It's not that you have to believe in
meditation, you don't have to believe in any of this stuff. This
has nothing to do with your philosophical beliefs or your religious
beliefs or anything else, it's just that now you can get a direct
experience of your own Self. That's all I do. I just go inside,
touch bases with my Self, with my inner most part and then let the
creative flow come from there, which it always does.
R: You allow everything to come from the
calm within you?
P: You used a great word, allow. That's
right. You just allow it to happen because to try to make it happen
doesn't work. When an animal is sick, what does it do? It stops
eating, it doesn't run around and it lies very very still. As humans
our job for healing is to be still because nature takes care of
the healing. We don't heal ourselves, and doctors don't heal us.
It's God, if you will, it's that power, that force of life, nature,
cosmic intelligence, whatever name you want to give it, which is
healing. It's beyond human direction. What we can do for our part
is be as still as possible to conserve energy and to shut down,
and that allows the healing to take place.
R: And many of us don't do that. We are
running so fast with our daily lives and our daily business that
we don't take time to just stop. Doing something like putting on
your music allows us that opportunity.
P: That's healing music as far as I'm
concerned. Select a time of the day for you, say, after you've finished
with your business, the kids are in bed and you're finished with
dinner and all your chores. It's a time that you can be quiet, but
you can't just tell yourself that you're going to be quiet now because
your body is going like this and your mind is going like that. What
helps is that you put on a piece of music, put your feet up and
just go with the music without trying to do anything. Just get absorbed
in the music and if it's a quiet type of music it will be very healing
to you because it will release a lot of the stress that is in the
nervous system and it will quiet you down.
R: Once we go into the quiet we often
ask questions about life, the universe and everything.
Paul Horn on meditation and going into the silence
P: That's not the time to do it. The
answers will come in silence but when you are meditating my suggestion
would be to not think about anything specific. Don't try to find
answers to anything - daily problems, or the great mystery of life,
and all of that. That's for another time. This is a time to just
be quiet, shut the intellect off, and just float with the music.
That's healing. And then, when you are all relaxed and you're centred,
you'll want to think of those things and maybe you'll come up with
R: I heard somewhere that it's OK to ask
the questions but we have to have silence to hear the answers.
P: Very good. I like that. Sure. Because
most of the time when the answers come we're still asking questions.
We don't allow time to receive the answers. The whole thing about
meditation is that it is a technique to be still.
R: We don't give ourselves enough healing
time. We get signals like headaches, or back aches or whatever,
and we just don't pay attention to them, then we're given a swift
kick in the ass to sit, or lie down. It's at that time that you
can put the music on and drift.
P: Isn't that something - we're so stubborn
as human beings that we're put through trauma to get to a point
where we can see simple things again. As you say, maybe an illness,
an operation, or a car accident that's really going to lay you up
for a while will suddenly force this quiet, force you to stop running
around. Almost instantly you re-evaluate your life and maybe think,
"God that was inappropriate, all that stuff I was mixed up
in, or worrying about and getting all sick about. What the heck
was all that - it's not important. What's important are my loved
ones, whoever they may be, my kids, and whatever." Just figure
out what you really like in life, and usually it'll be real simple
and clear and no big deal. This other stuff that we all get caught
up in is what's giving us sickness.
R: Has your music in any way been used
in places like hospitals?
Paul Horn’s music used in hospitals for healing
P: Yes. I've received tapes from hospitals,
many in the States. They say that they use my music for post-operative
healing in the hospital and then they give a cassette, of which
my music seems to be a part, to the patient to take home with them
for the purpose of what we are talking about. It's really interesting
how this is gradually coming into the medical profession. They are
accepting it to some degree. I don't think that they can deny that
to be quiet is what's important. Rest. Whenever you're sick they
say go to bed and rest, rest, rest. In a hospital you can't get
too much rest because they awaken you every hour, shove a pill down
your throat or a needle in your arm or feed you, and so you don't
get much rest in a hospital. There's a paradox right there. But,
when you're home you just have to be quiet and then the healing
takes place. To me that's the highest value of music. It can heal
us like we've been talking about, and it can bring us together because
it's a common denominator to all human beings. Everyone in the world
understands music and relates to music because it's sound and sound
is vibration and we're all vibration.
R: You say the vibration helps create
the mood. This can be everything from quiet meditation to celebration,
joy and exhilaration?
P: Yes, music has the ability to take
us through the whole gamut of emotions, but when it comes to the
healing it's the quiet that we're talking about, that end of the
Paul Horn and his jazz tours in the Soviet Union
R: The tour that you are doing now with
a group is a celebration of the tour that you did through the former
Soviet Union. It's slightly different from the recordings you've
done so far.
P: It isn't different from recordings
I've done so far but it's different from the recordings we've just
been talking about. I do wear two very distinct hats. I wear my
old jazz hat which has high energy music played with a group of
musicians and my other hat which is the quieter, meditative, solo
type of playing. I love them both.
When we went over to Russia in 1988 the people needed and wanted
energetic music. Things were really bad over there. It was the third
time that I had been there in five years and I could see the changes.
I also knew the situation there and how difficult life was for the
people, so to play soft, quiet, introspective meditative music was
not really what they wanted, rather something in which they could
just lose themselves, in a way that was more entertaining, if you
will, that had more energy to it. So, I put together this band which
is a good jazz band, and the tour was wonderful. We met some great
people and made wonderful friendships, some of which are still lasting
today. Once again we experienced the connection that music has as
a common denominator to us all. All the political stuff, or whatever
was separating us, fell away in a minute with the music. And there
we were just enjoying our humanness with one another Music is a
great communicator, it's certainly the Universal language.
R: Thank you for joining us and sharing
with us and helping us get a bit of insight into the music that
you have given us for so many years. Good luck on your tour.
More information about Paul Horn To find out more about this incredible musician, his journeys,
his recordings and life work read his autobiography - “Inside
Paul Horn: The Spiritual Odyssey of a Universal Traveler,”
written with Lee Underwood, published by Harper & Row, 1990.
And of course there are now many articles, interviews and videos on the Internet about Paul Horn, his past and present endeavours, recordings and performances. These can be found through Paul's web site and through any search engine.
Link to A Whale Story: Follow this link to a companion article about how Paul Horn's music affected a grey whale.
Note: There are many more articles on this site.
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