Unlike Tony Soprano, I'm not into traditional forms of psychotherapy - but the negative and positive energies around me were fighting a war, and it was time to get help mediating a truce.
With chronic pain from my disabling osteoarthritis and overwhelming fatigue, I needed a new approach.
One day my breakfast buddy who loves albums and energy fields turned to me over greasy-spoon eggs and said, "I saw this crystal bowl guy at the Halifax Busker Festival. His music hit all my chakras. It felt so good. Seriously, you should look into it."
Could there be something to this sonic meds stuff, I wondered? For a long time I've noticed that heavy metal can from time to time blast away my discomfort like a high-powered water cannon blowing protestors off a street.
Could I find a tune therapist who could work this magic more predictably? Would she play Rust Never Sleeps? Is there a difference between the $100-per-hour private soundwork session and $71.50 to hear Radiohead at the Hummingbird Centre?
I locate my song shaman in a Davenport office with light pouring in the windows and inspirational quotes lining the wall - which never do anything for me. Payment instructions are nearby, too.
She has curly brown hair and comfortable autumn-coloured clothes, and she wouldn't stick out at the Big Carrot. She asks where I'd prefer to meditate, the chair or the message table? I choose the table, and she starts the session by letting me unload my personal crisis. With my horrors out in the open, she guides me into a meditation.
Then she chooses an instrument, a buffalo drum that lets loose a thunderous, negative-energy-dispersing roar. The thunderstorm pours all over me. After a decade of medical poking, prodding and invading, these aural vibrations feel wonderfully pacifying.
There's a lot of science attached to this, it turns out. One study at the University of California's Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia, for example, discovered marked improvement in test scores for Alzheimer sufferers after they listened to Mozart's D-major sonata for two pianos. Other research shows that people with arthritis getting their groove on have less pain.
To get deeper, I seek counsel from South Salem, New York, physician John Diamond, a medical doctor, holistic healer and performer at the Institute for Music and Health. Diamond argues that in many so-called primitive societies, the healer is almost always a musician and that the only remnant we see of this now is the use of music in religious ceremonies.
Artful sound, he says, speaks directly to the body, mind and spirit. "At age 70, when some 50 per cent of American males are dead, some 80 per cent of conductors are still alive, healthy and well.'
He has used many different forms of music, from jazz to classical, folk and more, to identify a person's individual and highly personal harmony. Everyone, he writes, has his or her own therapeutic "song of the soul.' But maybe we should take a hint from Starbucks soul sister Corinne Bailey Rae, who coos, "Girl, put your records on," and go easy on CDs and iPods.
Diamond thinks so. While his pre-1979 record collection works wonders for patients, he says, "the digital recording technique not only did not enhance life energy but was actually untherapeutic. Cold. No heart,' he says. "At some level, the ear is perceiving a signal that it recognizes as unnatural and alarming."
But digital or no, Valerie Stratton, a psychology professor at Penn State at Altoona, has conducted research that shows "if it's something you choose to listen to' as opposed to store owners blaring Barry Manilow to drive loiterers away, then music is likely to be a tonic.
Most of these studies, however, were pre-iPod. Maybe iPodders have more opportunities to solve their mood-related mental woes than a pharmacist with pills. With a 5,000-song iPod, perhaps it's now possible to tailor sonic meds to every crest and valley of the psyche.
Armed with a little insight, I head to my second therapy session. It follows my bust in Hamilton for allegedly giving away .5 gram of ganja, and I'm a jangle of nerves. Should have come way sooner.
This time my sound healer starts with a crystal bowl that pulls some kind of mournful energy out of me. She asks me to find my own spirit guide, but I can't seem to find any of the buggers. Soon, though, her invocations put a hum in my head, and it turns out to be a line from Social Distortion: "I'm as strong as a thousand armies. I'm as soft as a pillow made of roses.'
All I can think of is getting her to beat the buffalo drum. Calling forth fire visualizations, she pounds the skins. Goodbye, tension; hello, happy harmony. I'm introduced at last to my own private soul song.
Sound sessions sooth soft savage souls sweetly.