Music (Paranormal)
Paranormal music ranges from inspired performances by
mediums, to compositions dictated by ‘‘spirit musicians,’’ to
music that is heard without any apparent earthly source. This
latter form of paranormal music is perhaps the most impressive.
During the seventeenth-century persecution of the Huguenots
in France, music from invisible sources became a widespread
phenomenon. The Pastoral Letter of Pierre Jurieu (1689)
refers to dozens of instances. The sound of trumpets as if an
army were going to battle, the singing of psalms, a choir of
many voices, and an ensemble of musical instruments were
heard day and night in many places.
After the church in Orthez was razed, there was hardly a
house in the city in which people did not hear the music, ordinarily
between eight and nine o’clock night. The Parliament of
Pau and the Intendant of Bearn forbade citizens to go and hear
these psalms under a penalty of 2,000–5,000 crowns. The scale
of the phenomenon was too vast to be attributed to hallucination.
It was experienced throughout the Cevennes. It was largely
under the effect of this supernormal phenomenon that Cavalier,
Roland, and Marion rose against Louis XIV.
According to Beriah G. Evans, in his account of the Welsh
religious revival in the Daily News (February 9, 1905), ‘‘From all
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parts of the country come reports of mysterious music descending
from above, and always in districts where the Revival fire
burns brightly.’’
Several interesting cases in which music was heard around
the deathbed are cited by Edmund Gurney, F. W. H. Myers
and Frank Podmore in their classic study Phantasms of the Living
(1886). For example, after the death of a Mr. L. (p. 446), three
persons in the death chamber heard for several seconds three
feminine voices singing softly, like the sounds of an Eolian
harp. Eliza W. could distinguish the words ‘‘The strife is o’er,
the battle done.’’ Mrs. L., who was also present, heard nothing.
Before a Mrs. Sewell’s little girl died (vol. 2, p. 221) ‘‘sounds
like the music of an Eolian harp’’ were heard from a cupboard
in the room. ‘‘The sounds increased until the room was full of
melody,’’ the researchers narrate, ‘‘when it seemed slowly to
pass down the stairs and ceased. The servant in the kitchen, two
stories below, heard the sounds.’’ The sounds were similarly
heard for the next two days by several people, except the child,
who was passionately fond of music. She died when the music
was heard for the third time. Following the death of her 21-
year-old daughter, a Mrs. Yates heard the sweetest spiritual
music, ‘‘such as mortals never sang’’ (vol. 2, p. 223).
As reported in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research
(vol. 4, p. 181), music was heard around the sickbed of John
Britton, a deafmute who was dangerously ill with rheumatic
fever. His face was lit up, and when he had recovered sufficiently
to use his hands he explained in sign language that he had
heard ‘‘beautiful music.’’
Puritan divine John Bunyan related his observations of an
elderly believer, saying that ‘‘when his soul departed from him
the music seemed to withdraw, and to go further and further
off from the house, and so it went until the sound was quite
gone out of hearing.’’
The British Daily Chronicle reported on May 4, 1905, the
case of a dying woman of the Salvation Army ‘‘For three or
four nights mysterious and sweet music was heard in her room
at frequent intervals by relatives and friends, lasting on each occasion
about a quarter of an hour. At times the music appeared
to proceed from a distance, and then would gradually grow in
strength while the young woman lay unconscious.’’
Of course, in some cases the experience appears to have
been purely subjective. According to a story told by Count de
la Resie in the Gazette de France of 1855, Urham’s Chef d’oeuvre
Audition was supernormally produced. In a narrow glade in the
Bois de Boulogne, he heard a sound in the air. Urham saw a
light without form and precision and heard an air with the accompaniment
of an Eolian harp. He fell into a kind of ecstasy
and distinctly heard a voice that said to him, ‘‘Dear Urham,
write down what I have sung.’’ He hurried home and wrote
down the air with the greatest ease.
In the famous Versailles adventure of C. A. E. Moberley
and E. J. Jourdain, two English women walking in the gardens
of Versailles were apparently transported to the Trianon (a
villa) of 1789, where they heard period music, which has since
been transcribed.
Music through Mediums without Instruments
Whereas mediumistic manifestation of the production of
music without instruments was rare, the apparent telekinetic
playing of instruments was heard fairly frequently. The sitters
of D. D. Home and William Stainton Moses were often delighted
by music from an invisible source. Home relates, in Incidents
In My Life (1863), the following story
‘‘On going to Boston my power returned, and with it the
most impressive manifestation of music without any earthly instrument.
At night, when I was asleep my room would be filled
as it were with sounds of harmony, and these gradually grew
louder till persons in other parts of the house could hear them
distinctly; if by any chance I was awakened, the music would instantly
cease.’’
In the second volume of his biography, Home recounts the
following well-attested experience that occurred on Easter Eve
1866 in the home of S. C. Hall ‘‘First we had simple, sweet, soft
music for some minutes; then it became intensely sad; then the
tramp, tramp as of a body of men marching mingled with the
music, and I exclaimed ‘The March to Calvary.’ Then three
times the tap-tapping sound of a hammer on a nail (like two
metals meeting). A crash, and a burst of wailing which seemed
to fill the room, followed; then there came a burst of glorious
triumphal music, more grand than any of us had ever listened
to, and we exclaimed ‘The Resurrection.’ It thrilled all our
hearts.’’
Lord Adare, who published Experiences in Spiritualism with
Mr. D. D. Home (1870), recorded many interesting accounts of
the same phenomenon. ‘‘We had not been in bed more than
three minutes,’’ he writes of an experience in Norwood, London,
‘‘when both Home and myself simultaneously heard the
music it sounded like a harmonium; sometimes, as if played
loudly at a great distance, at other times as if very gently, close
by.’’
On another occasion, says Adare, ‘‘the music became louder
and louder, until I distinctly heard the words ‘Hallelujah!
Praise the Lord God Almighty!’ It was no imagination on my
part.’’ The music was the same as at Norwood. The aerial musical
sounds sometimes resembled drops of water, and according
to Home they were produced by the same method as raps. Dr.
James H. Gully, in whose house Home was a guest, writes ‘‘Ears
never listened to anything more sweet and solemn than these
voices and instruments; we heard organ, harp and trumpet,
also two voices’’ (Spiritualist, vol. 3, p. 124).
In the presence of Moses, ‘‘drum, harp, fairy bells, trumpet,
lyre, tambourine, and flapping of wings’’ were heard (Proceedings
of the Society for Psychical Research, vol. 11, p. 54). No
such instruments were in the room. They were also heard in the
open. A Mrs. Speer reflects on the event (Light, January 28,
1893)
‘‘September 19, before meeting this evening we heard the
fairy bells playing in different parts of the garden, where we
were walking; at times they sounded far off seemingly playing
at the top of some high elm trees, music and stars mingling together,
then they would approach nearer to us, evidently following
us into the séance room which opened on to the lawn.
After we were seated the music still lingered with us, playing in
the corner of the room and over the table, round which we were
seated. They played scales and chords by request, with the
greatest rapidity and copied notes Dr. Speer made with his
voice. After Moses was in trance the music became louder and
sounded like brilliant playing on the piano! There was no instrument
in the room.’’
There were similar observations before Home and Moses;
in the case of Mary Jobson a psychic invasion took place during
a spell of mysterious illness.
Taps ‘‘as on a bell so pure as to bear no vibration, in the
most exquisite tones, quite beyond description’’ were produced
by ‘‘Walter’’ in the ‘‘Margery’’ séances (see Mina Crandon)
without any visible instrument. Notes were struck on a ‘‘psychic
piano’’; the English call to arms was rendered on a ‘‘psychic
bugle,’’ sounding at a distance and in an open space; the British
reveille was played; an invisible mouth organ and the striking
of a ‘‘celestial clock,’’ different from any clock known to be in
the house or in the neighborhood, were heard (J. Malcolm
Bird, ‘‘Margery’’ the Medium, 1925).
Music Telekinetically Produced
According to E. W. Capron in Modern Spiritualism Its Facts
and Fanaticisms (1885) ‘‘Mrs. [Sarah] Tamlin was, so far as I
have been able to learn, the first medium through whom the
guitar or other musical instrument was played, without visible
contact, so as to give recognisable tunes. In her presence it was
played with all the exactness of an experienced musician, although
she is not acquainted with music, or herself able to play
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on any instrument. The tones varied from loud and vigorous
to the most refined touches of the strings that could be imagined.’’
The playing of a locked piano in a séance with James Sangster
is reported in the Age of Progress (March 1857).
In the presence of Annie Lord and Jennie Lord of Maine—
both unable to play any instrument—a double bass violincello,
guitar, drums, accordion, tambourine, bells, and various small
instruments were played ‘‘with the most astonishing skill and
power,’’ writes Emma Hardinge Britten in Modern American
Spiritualism (1870). The instruments were played ‘‘sometimes
singly, at others all together, and not infrequently the strange
concert would conclude by placing the young medium, seated
in her invalid chair, silently and in a single instant in the centre
of the table, piling up all the instruments around her.’’ Britten
writes.
In D. D. Home’s mediumship, musical feats of telekinesis
were particularly well attested. Sir William Crookes witnessed
it under fraud-proof conditions. The quality of the music was
mostly fine. William Howitt had an experience to the contrary.
He is quoted in a letter in D. D. Home’s Incidents In My Life
(1863) ‘‘A few evenings afterwards, a lady desiring that the
‘Last Rose of Summer’ might be played by a spirit on the accordion,
the wish was complied with, but in so wretched a style that
the company begged that it might be discontinued. This was
done, but soon after, evidently by another spirit, the accordion
was carried and suspended over the lady’s head, and there,
without any visible support or action on the instrument, the air
was played through most admirably, in the view and hearing of
all.’’
Lord Adare noted a peculiarity
‘‘The last few notes were drawn out so fine as to be scarcely
audible—the last note dying away so gradually that I could not
tell when it ceased. I do not think it possible for any human
hand to produce a note in that way.’’
Robert Bell gives the following account in the Cornhill Magazine
(August 1860), under the title ‘‘Stranger than Fiction’’
‘‘The air was wild and full of strange transitions, with a wail
of the most pathetic sweetness running through it. The execution
was no less remarkable, for its delicacy than its powers.
When the notes swelled in some of the bold passages, the sound
rolled through the room with an astounding reverberation;
then gently subsiding, sank into a strain of divine tenderness.’’
The experience was the same when Bell held the accordion
in his own hand, with full light upon it; during the loud and vehement
passages it became so difficult to hold that he had to
grasp the top with both hands, he said.
In a letter to the Morning Star (October 1860), a Dr. Gully
stated, ‘‘I have heard Blagrove repeated; but it is no libel on
that master of the instrument to say that he never did produce
such exquisite distant and echo notes as those which delighted
our ears.’’
Alfred Russel Wallace writes in his book My Life (1902) of
his first séance in the company of Crookes and Home
‘‘As I was the only one of the company who had not witnessed
any of the remarkable phenomena that occurred in his
presence, I was invited to go under the table while an accordion
was playing, held in Home’s hand, his other hand being on the
table. The room was well lighted and I distinctly saw Home’s
hand holding the instrument which moved up and down and
played a tune without any visible cause. He then said ‘Now I will
take away my hand,’ which he did; but the instrument went on
playing, and I saw a detached hand holding it while Home’s
two hands were seen above the table by all present.’’
There were other mediums who apparently performed similar
feats of telekinetic music, Henry Slade and the Reverend
F. W. Monck among them. Of Eusapia Palladino Hereward
Carrington gives the following account, in The Story of Psychic
Science (1930)
‘‘One of the most remarkable manifestations, however, was
the playing of the mandolin, on at least two occasions. The instrument
sounded in the cabinet first of all—distinct twangings
of the strings being heard, in response to pickings of Eusapia’s
fingers on the hand of one of her controllers. The mandolin
then floated out of the cabinet, on to the séance table, where,
in full view of all, nothing touching it, it continued to play for nearly
a minute—first one string and then another being played upon.
Eusapia was at the time in deep trance, and was found to be cataleptic
a few moments later. Her hands were gripping the
hands of her controllers so tightly that each finger had to be
opened in turn, by the aid of passes and suggestion.’’
H. Dennis Bradley writes in . . . And After (1931)
‘‘I have had instruments of an orchestra placed in the centre
of my own study, with luminous paint covering them so that
every movement could be seen instantly, and these instruments
have been played by unseen forces in perfect harmony. Whilst
operatic selections were being played upon the gramophone,
they have been supernormally conducted with a luminous
baton in a majestic manner.’’
Musicians Who Were Mediums
There were also musical mediums who achieved fame, even
though they were often without musical training or were unable
to play in a conscious state. Among these, Jesse F. G. Shepard
was the most astonishing.
Well-known classical composers were said to play through
George Aubert, a nonprofessional medium who was investigated
at the Institut Genéral Psychologique in Paris.
At the International Psychical Congress in 1900, Charles
Richet introduced Pepito Ariola, a three-and-a-half-year-old
Spanish child who played classical pieces.
Blind Tom, a child living in south Georgia described as otherwise
intellectually deficient, played the piano impressively
with both hands, using the black and the white keys, when four
years old. At age five he composed his ‘‘Rainstorm’’ and said
it was what the rain, wind, and thunder had said to him. He
could play two tunes on the piano at the same time, one with
each hand, while he sang a song in a different tempo. Each
tune was set to a different key as dictated by the audience.
In 1903 the famous palmist ‘‘Cheiro’’ (Count Louis Hamon)
introduced to London a M. de Boyon, a French musical medium
to whose extraordinary gift Victorien Sardou, actress Sarah
Bernhardt and other musicians of the day testified. M. de
Boyon had no memory of what he played. He employed a
unique fingering, and he could not play the same piece twice.
The most remarkable musical medium of the late twentieth
century has been Rosemary Brown, a British housewife who
performs musical compositions on the piano, claimed to originate
from such great composers as Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt,
and Chopin. Brown has no musical training, but these psychic
compositions have been endorsed by established musicians.
Paranormal Aspects of Music
Because of its powerful influence directly on emotions,
music often achieves remarkable effects on humans and even
on animals. Music therapy is now a recognized treatment for
mentally handicapped children.
Ancient legends tell of the paranormal effects of music. Orpheus
of ancient Greece charmed wild animals and even trees
by his music, and the modal system of the Greeks was said to
influence the social and emotional attitudes of listeners. Naik
Gopal, a musician of ancient India, was said to have caused
flames to burst forth by his performance of Dipak Raga (associated
with heat), even when the musician stood in water.
The musical system of India has always emphasized the powerful
effects of musical vibration. Different ragas (scale patterns)
are regarded as specific for certain times of the day or
seasons of the year, and their microtonal intervals and grace
notes involve vibrations that are unknown to the well-tempered
scale of Western nations. Ragas, properly performed, are said
to evoke beautiful forms or have paranormal effects.
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In Hinduism, the first manifestation of creation was said to
be that of subtle sound vibration, giving rise to the forms of the
material world. Each sound produced a form, and combinations
of sound created complicated shapes. This is also the basis
of mantra yoga. The creative power of sound is also echoed in
the Christian Scripture ‘‘In the beginning was the Word, and
the Word was with God, and the Word was God’’ (John 11).
Through this century attempts have been made to explore
the legendary traditions from scientific perspectives. The great
Indian scientist Sir Jagadis Chunder Bose devised sensitive apparatus
to demonstrate subtle plant reactions, many of which
resembled nervous responses in animal or human life. Prof. T.
C. N. Singh and Stells Ponniah of Annamalai University in
India carried out experiments to measure the growth in plants
as a result of musical sounds (see Plants, Psychic Aspects of).
Western scientists have demonstrated that ultrasonic sounds
can destroy bacteria, guide ships in the dark, and weld together
materials.
In recent years, the Hindu musician Swami Nadabrahmananda
Saraswati has demonstrated an ancient yoga of music,
involving the arousal of kundalini energy through the psychic
power of musical vibrations. In a Western context, psychic effects
from music were claimed by the singing teacher Alfred
Wolfsohn.
In contrast, some have suggested that the aggressiveness
and violence of much of modern popular rock music seems to
have had a negative and sinister influence on a younger generation,
recalling the fears of the ancient Greeks that certain musical
modes would have a harmful social effect.
Sources
Brown, Rosemary. Immortals at My Elbow. London Bachman
& Turner, 1974. Reprinted as Immortals by My Side. Chicago
Henry Regnery, 1975.
Crookes, William. Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism.
London J. Burns, 1974.
Danielou, Alain. The Ragas of Northern Indian Music. London
Barrie & Rockliff, 1968.
Gurney, Edmund. The Power of Sound. London Smith,
Elder, 1880. Reprint, New York Basic Books, 1966.
Parrott, Ian. The Music of ‘‘An Adventure.’’ London Regency
Press, 1966.
Podolsky, Edward. Music Therapy. New York Philosophical
Library, 1954.
Rogo, D. Scott. Nad A Study of Some Unusual ‘‘Other-World’’
Experiences. 2 vols. New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books,
1970–72.
Scott, Cyril. Music Its Secret Influence Throughout the Ages. 6th
ed. London Rider, 1956.
Sivananda, Swami. Music as Yoga. Sivananda Nagar, India
Yoga-Vedanta Forest University, 1956.

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