Yesterday NPR interviewed two monks of the Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert in Abiquiu, New Mexico, concerning the Gregorian Chants that are part of the fabric of their lives.
The occasion was the release of a CD of their music, “Blessings, Peace, and Harmony.” Brother Christian Leisy explained that an email from Sony arrived proposing the recording. ”We thought at first it was spam,” he said, “but apparently someone at Sony felt the world wasn’t getting any better, and they wanted to work with a community that might focus on some of the peace elements.”
Chanting does exactly this. Abbot Phillip Lawrence explained that scientific studies of the effects of contemplative chanting match those of meditative practice: relaxation, stress reduction, lowered blood pressure and a general sense of wellbeing.
I bought my first album of Gregorian Chants in high school. Even though I was usually given to rock n roll, there were times when I was drawn to this seemingly strange music with the power to draw me outside of ordinary concerns. I’ve collected other music like it since then. Abbot Lawrence understands the power of different types of contemplative music. He stayed for a time in a Tibetan monastery and found that the deep chanting that is part of that spiritual discipline has the same power as the music he is familiar with.
I highly recommend the interview and the song samples to anyone interested in contemplative music: http://www.npr.org/2012/05/27/153707577/deep-in-the-desert-monks-make-transcendent-music