Some Notes on Cycles in the New Year (Part 1)

With the start of 2022, I find myself returning to the idea of cycles. Part of this reflection includes considering what attracts us to music and how sound creates meaning in our lives, as both listeners and musicians. 

We might examine the cyclical nature of things from any of the following angles: 

Sound and music as: 

  • Frequencies 
  • Vibrations 
  • Progressions (chord progressions - harmony - as well as how we grow and progress along with music as evolving humans) 
  • Rhythmic cycles and melodic themes, such as a catchy “hook” or repeating figure 

Sound becomes music when it is organized by rhythm and melody. The moment we feel a beat, or hear tones in a sequence, our brains are inclined to perceive musical form. This could be as simple and natural as noticing the metronomic nature of our feet as we walk, or observing the cascading pitches of a bird call, as well as hearing a drum loop on tape or enjoying a choir of voices in harmony. 

Perhaps not often enough do we consider that the very production of a note itself comes from sound waves moving at a particular frequency, or rate of vibration. The faster the oscillation, the higher the pitch. And if we were to record a note and slow the speed down drastically, we would eventually find that what we register as a single note is actually a rhythmic pulse. 

Frequencies are referred to by how quickly they move. A tone at 10khz moves at a speed of 10,000 cycles/second and is much higher in pitch than a frequency of 1khz, 100hz or 20hz, which is very slow and at the low end of what we can hear. 

An interesting experiment might be to listen to each of these frequencies and notice how you relate in mind, body, heart and spirit. Where do you respond in the body and how does it feel? What does your mind think, along with the physical response? Do you open or close, relax or tighten? 

As we think about sound from mental, physical and emotional perspectives, it may be worth considering a broader picture of cycles and the roles they play in our everyday lives. We live cyclically day in and day out, in the short and long term, rising and falling with the sun and moon, as we evolve from childhood to adolescence through stages of adulthood, feeling the rhythms of days, weeks, months, seasons, years, decades and beyond. When we open ourselves by listening to music, we may find that we move through time into something wider, perhaps by connecting with a recording from before our birth or by transcending our experience altogether, as we harmonize with something greater than ourselves. 

It may be that we are attracted to music not only because it reflects our own experiences, but also because it embodies the fundamental laws of nature. We can feel this intuitively, even if we aren’t fully conscious of the relationship. Music speaks to every part of us and mirrors our experiences in ways we may not be able to fully process with our minds alone. However, through attentive listening, we may find that we already have a meaningful awareness around what music means to us and that it can fall into any of the following categories of resonance: 

Emotional - how sound and music reflect our feelings back to us 
Physical - the qualities of music and sound (tone, timbre, texture, time) speak to the body and nervous system 
Mental - music has the capacity to teach us new ideas about life, the world, ourselves and others 
Cultural - music can help us to identify with humanity, time and place, both as individuals and in community 

We can perceive cycles through repetition, as we come back to what we know and feel again and again in our lives. In music, repetition is central to how we organize sound, regardless of genre. Even seemingly random aspects of music have structure and purpose to them, when we listen well. These questions might help bring further insight: 

* What are the cycles of your life in the short and long term? 
* Do you recognize cycles in your thoughts, rituals, activities? 
* What kind of music expresses your truth? 
* What is the connection between the cycles of your life and the music you love? 


(Part 2 coming soon)


Wishing you and yours love, peace, fulfillment and health in the new year,



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