FALLING IN LOVE
I saw something special in Holly the night we met, at my sister’s house in Atlanta on March 28, 1992. My life has never been the same since then. We fell in love and, after nineteen months of long distance relationship and serious conversations about our lives, got married. It’s been a great adventure, with many unexpected delights along the way.
With a quarter century of perspective, we can see things embedded in our story that we couldn’t recognize at the time. God was at work, and allowing us time to discover what He was up to.
Holly has an adventurous spirit. She came to Nashville, a city where she’d never been, to marry me.
From her first job here as a Montessori teacher, Holly has been doing things that were part of an invisible (to us, at the time) story that is only beginning to become visible: we’ve actually been working together creatively for years without realizing that’s what we were doing. God snuck up on us, and now, with the emergence of Bilateral Music, we see that He had specific plans in mind for our being together, plans that bless us and many other people simultaneously.
This month we celebrate our first 25 years of marriage. As Holly says, it’s a personal best for both of us, who met each other after being divorced from less successful marriages.
October 2018 also marks the first time we’ve been featured together as the people who came up with Bilateral Music.
Briefly, Bilateral Music is soft, gentle instrumental music created for EMDR therapy. Holly, as a therapist trained in EMDR, suggested it to me, and helped produce the album, and took the lovely photograph that became the cover artwork.
This beautiful photograph has subsequently been viewed by thousands of Spotify and iTunes subscribers all over the world who stream tracks from the album. The latest report form CDBaby indicates over five thousand streams in the last week.
The growth of the music since it was released in 2013 has generated a second album, Bilateral Music II, again featuring a lovely photo by Holly.
The music was created in my studio. It’s never been performed live, until now.
RIVER OF CALM
Earlier this year, internet radio station River of Calm started playing Bilateral Music. Ed Bazel, the musician who started River of Calm, is very interested in the healing power of music. He invited Holly and me to appear as guests on the monthly concert series.
The concert is Thursday, Oct. 18, at Miller Piano in Franklin, starting at 7 pm. It’s free, and will be simulcast on Facebook Live. Holly will be interviewed by Ed Bazel about EMDR, and then I will play two songs from the first two Bilateral Music albums, accompanied by pianist Eric Bikales.
Thursday will be the first time the concert has featured a therapist together with a musician. It helps illustrate the unusual quality of our collaboration, how music and therapy can work together. Ed Bazel’s natural interest in healing music and the opportunity for us to appear together make the concert a great way to celebrate what God has done by putting Holly and me together.
Bilateral Music didn’t come out of nothing. There’s a story of where it came from. I can tell it from my perspective as Holly’s musician husband. Before Bilateral, there were other songs, all unplanned, at least from our limited human perspective. It could have been part of God’s gentle way of weaning me off of believing that “the music business” could provide for me. Now I see that God has ways of making things happen that nobody with a “music business” mindset could ever imagine, much less accomplish. And He has demonstrated this through Holly.
HAVE YOU HEARD
Holly had no interest or experience in writing songs, so it was a surprise in the early 90’s when she wrote the words to a beautiful song. She says she just transcribed it; the words appeared in her mind in a moment of pure inspiration. She showed them to me, and I put the words to music and recorded a demo.
A few weeks later, we received a mysterious phone call from a woman asking if we knew anyone with original songs that could be used in a church music project. We submitted our song, “Have You Heard,” which was included in a compilations sent to churches nationwide. We received a $500 payment for the use of the song, a non-exclusive agreement, which meant we retained ownership of the song. We also got to attend a recording session at one of the finest studios in the area, Kitchen Sync in Cool Springs, to observe the recording they made, a full arrangement of our song, including a dozen singers.
The lead sheet, printed in red ink, was used as a Christmas card my parents sent to their friends that year. We’ve heard it performed in several Nashville churches since then.
A few years later, we wrote another song together, “He Gathers The Lambs,” as a prayer of support for our niece and her parents, as they dealt with her anorexia, from which she has totally recovered. We never intended or expected anyone to record the song, but a singer who came into my studio happened to hear it and decided to include it on his next album.
Both songs were total surprises, both in how they came into existence, and how God engineered circumstances for their being heard.
A few years later, Holly was inspired to write some more words, this time in the form of a prayer. She entitled it Breathing Prayer, and asked me to record it, reciting the words in my voice. After listening to it, she asked if I could add some gentle music behind it. I was happy to try.
In the studio, while listening to the words of the prayer, I played a series of chords on the guitar, trying to remember what I was doing, so that I could come back later and play along with it. It was a totally spontaneous composition, conscious of nothing more than playing guitar to fit the words of the prayer. The spoken prayer was over eight minutes long, which gave me time for lots of variations in the chords. About half way through the song, I changed keys, and finished it in a new key. Guitarists will know that the keys of G and E are both very inviting, making use of the open strings tuned to those notes.
After finishing the first track of guitar, I recorded a second guitar part, a melody to go over the chords played on the first track. Since the original track was not written down, the melody I played over it had moments of uncertainty, as listening was an important part of the playing, flying blind in a sense, almost a case of artificially imposed humility. But that quality added to the mystery and tenderness of the music. Holly and I both liked the result, and felt that it had value on its own.
And that was how “Wandering Path” was born. The two word title reflected the creative tension of having a destination or purpose, but not knowing exactly how or when to get there.
How that song would launch a record that would revive my sense of purpose as a creative musician is connected to the story of Holly’s career after she moved to Nashville.
TEACHER, ORGANIZER, COUNSELOR
Holly’s first job in Nashville was Montessori teacher. After a few years, she went into business for herself, as a professional organizer. She discovered that people who struggled with decluttering their physical spaces often struggled with underlying emotional issues.
That ability to understand and help people with emotional issues drew her into counseling.
She enrolled Trevecca and, in 2007, received her master’s degree. After a few years of internship, supervision and licensure, she’s now been in private practice for several years.
Part of that journey involved learning about a new mode of therapy called EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR goes further than “talk therapy” or cognitive approaches by giving the brain a chance to break out of its usual patterns and access the subconscious.
EMDR was developed by Francine Shapiro, who found that moving her eyes back and forth from left to right helped reduce her emotional response to certain painful memories.
In neuroscience, memories and thoughts are identified as specific electrical signals that pass among neurons. Eye movement was first, but other forms of bilateral stimulation have been used and found to be effective in EMDR. For touch, a client can hold electrodes in each hand which are activated to transmit a gentle buzz first in one hand, then the other. For hearing, a client can wear headphones and listen to a click sound that appears on one side, then the other.
Holly had received EMDR therapy, and then trained in it, so she could use it on her own clients.
MAKING IT BILATERAL
She heard some music I was working on in the studio and suggested that it might be good for EMDR therapy, if it were presented with bilateral panning.
Since Holly had been through EMDRI therapy herself, she knew intuitively what the patient’s experience was like, and what would be effective. And so she could give parameters that would make the music useful for this use. In a way, we were experimenting with music in a new application.
There was no thought of song structure, or genre implications of any particular instrument or sound. The opportunity was completely outside what I had perceived as “the music business,” which provided - even required - a radical freedom.
The goal was to establish a peaceful mood with slow moving music, and then making it pan back and forth at a slow rate.
A NEW WAY OF MAKING MUSIC
Holly helped me understand about the threshold of stimulation that exists when music works to relax the mind. In theory, any sound, any melody, and any chord progression is possible. But the most important feature is sensitivity to the brain of the patient, providing a soundtrack that is reassuring and unobtrusive. It’s almost the opposite of pop music, where everything is designed to attract attention. Instead of a heavy beat, fast tempo, loud voice, or urgent repetition of a phrase, the music for therapy is slow, soft, and gentle. It has rhythm, melody, tempo, and structure, but sounds vastly different from “pop” music, because it has a completely different purpose.
One key parameter is tempo. One constant characteristic of Bilateral Music is a tempo that is near, or below, the rate of the human heartbeat at rest, which is around 72 beats per minute.
Another parameter is the relative “intrusiveness” of certain instruments, or the way in which they are played. I had been creating “soft jazz” songs for several years. Since I played saxophone, I tended to favor sax as the melody instrument, carrying on the lyrical tradition of the players who inspired me, like Stan Getz and Paul Desmond.
Holly liked the songs I was creating, but found the sound of the saxophone too strong, too demanding of the listener’s attention. As I digested this news, it expanded my own sensibility. Holly said her own experience was that a melody played on an acoustic guitar, especially a nylon string guitar, never sounds obtrusive. There was something about the sound of a string being touched by fingers that conveys feeling without being demanding. I enjoyed playing nylon string guitar, so this was not a difficult transition for me.
Holly also suggested mixing in nature sounds, usually wind, rain, and ocean waves.
The songs were longer than typical pop songs, which gave me room for extensive improvisation. The acoustic guitar, the flute or recorder parts, keyboard pads, hand percussion, and the nature sounds were all layered together in the recording to create an audio track six to eight minutes long. It was a familiar process for me, assembling music in the studio, but it was both easier and more interesting than previous efforts, because it was something new, created for a new purpose.
RELEASING THE ALBUM
I collected nine songs that fit our new formula, adding up to an hour of music. We used Holly’s beautiful photo for the cover, added the title Bialteral Music and released it on CDBaby in 2013.
Holly told her clients about it, and offered free samples of several songs on her website. Other EMDR therapists heard about it and told their clients about it.
A woman named Lisa Schwarz, who had developed her own hybrid approach to therapy called CRM (Comprehensive Resource Model,) heard Bilateral Music and began to recommend it to her trainees. She ordered dozens of copies of the CD to hand out at her conferences, and encouraged me to make another album.
Holly was happy to continue the work, and helped me put together a second album. We chose another beautiful photo she had taken for the cover, and assembled ten songs that became Bilateral Music II, released summer 2018.
It’s been amazing to see that Bilateral Music is being heard all around the world. It has restored my faith in my own musical desires, and potential to reach an audience, as I see that my perceived lack of success in “the music business” has been part of a story with a much bigger agenda, and much larger perspective.
What God has been doing all these years is showing me how much a woman can bring to a man as they join together to make something that never existed before. It’s very satisfying to see how powerful and creative a marriage can be. But it’s even more inspiring to realize that it’s not us making it happen, but God. Our story is our testimony. We have faith, and the willingness to respond, and God does all the rest, with His enormous imagination, abundant grace, infinite love, eternal patience and beautiful plans to bless us and all the people we reach, no matter how long it takes us to realize what He’s up to.
The first 25 years have been great. I’m awed by the amazing woman He brought to me, and everything that she has brought to my life.
Blogging Bryan 15 October 2018