Play in and with nature

The violin has an enormous ability to create myriad sounds by varying timbre and dynamic level as well as accessing its four octave range. The bow can produce long pure tones, minute percussive hits, and everything in between. There are many examples of imitating animal sounds in the violin repertoire. I’m thinking of pieces such as bird calls in  Summer from “The Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi and “The Lark Ascending” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, or the donkey in “The Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saëns among many others. L’Aurore from Sonata No. 5 by Eugène Ysaÿe is a solo violin piece that depicts the sunrising at dawn. It is a meditative, emotional, and technically challenging piece representing a moment in time in nature. One can imagine, animals and insects waking to the rays of the rising sun, wind blowing through wildflowers, grasses and trees. The intensity of the music increases as the sun rises.

Another interpretation of this card is returning to nature or restoring one’s relationship to nature. You may have seen the Youtube video of a violinist playing to swaying elephants. The point of some of these videos seems to be demonstrating how animals appreciate our music and in a way more authentic than human beings. However, it is just as nurturing for the violinist to be the witness of this authenticity. In order to master such virtuosic music from the voluminous violin repertoire, one must spend many many hours alone in a practice room. Many run the risk of losing a connection with nature.

There is definitely a connection between nature and mental health. There are some animals that genuinely make an emotional connection with human beings and in so doing, can offer healing. If you have a dog or cat at home, you have probably noticed how they respond when you are experiencing intense emotions such as grief, excitement, and rage. There are service animals that guide people with disabilities. They help people suffering from psychological disabilities navigate through stressful situations. There are even animals that can alert humans of dire health conditions such as seizure. Animals seem to have prescient sensory abilities often attributed to instinct that humans seem to lack. Or do we?

When we are in nature, we are surrounded by flora and fauna that have the ability to sense subtle energies that may include human emotions. When we are surrounded by these beings we start to remember our own abilities. No longer distracted by electronics, traffic jams, social media, or work deadlines our minds become more open to sensory input. There is no certification program or college degree necessary. It is just part of who we are. We can connect with nature but most of all take our place in nature. Environmentalists and animal activists have been contending for years that we need to change our paternalistic identity of being superior and separate from nature. They assert that humanity’s arrogance has caused environmental destruction, global warming, and mass species extinction. There is an obvious physical cost to humanity but an energetic one as well. If you could feel Nature’s fear, danger, and grief energies would you be so quick to be part of its destruction?

There is an important opportunity for musicians here. We always have had the ability to connect emotionally with humanity on an energetic level. Our music has the ability to synchronize an audiences’ collective heartbeat.1  Music is woven into every important gathering from weddings, to funerals, to graduations, to presidential inaugurations. If we remind ourselves to nourish our own spirits through convening with nature, we become sages for our listeners, reminding them of their own authentic sensitivity.

1. Pauline Anderson (June 30, 2009). ‘Cardiac rhythms synchronize with music.’ (Accessed: September 5, 2021).

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