DR: Spectrum Suite is a unique piece of music and composition. Did you work on it for a long time, or did it just come to you one day out of the blue?
SH: The style of composition was a quantum leap, and did come to me out of the blue.
DR: How would you describe that style of composition, for someone who hasn't heard it yet?
SH: It is somewhat freeform, ambient. In this case it's played on an electric piano, but it could be played on a grand piano. There is no strong rhythm. The simple melodies are based on the five-note, pentatonic scale, so all the notes are consonant. There is no dissonance, no hard edges, and the music breathes. There are spaces between the notes in many cases, which allows a listener to come in and be part of the music.
DR: I found that it redefined my whole idea of rhythm, because of those spaces.
SH: It does. Space and silence have always been an integral part of my music. One thing I've noticed is that the people who have the hardest time listening to my music are those who are most addicted to big beat, big rhythms, whether it's disco, heavy metal or rock, or even Beethoven-type classical music or the regularity of Bach. Or, those who try to listen to my music after having several cups of coffee. Your body then is physiologically incapable of slowing down, so an internal energetic dissonance develops. I've noticed that sometimes when I've been in some pretty hyperactive states, my music sounds totally different. Once many years ago when I heard my music while I was in a stressed state, I for the first time understood why some people don't ñget,î don't hear the music the way it was composed. It was an epiphany for me. And the reality is that most people are in that place much of the time.
DR: Is there, therefore, a different response to your music from people in other places and other cultures?
SH: Not for that reason. Music is really a universal language. In 1977, I was in England at the first Festival of Body, Mind and Spirit. I had British people, and people from the continent who didn't speak English, who heard the music and immediately said, "Yes, that feels good." Most striking, though, was a gentleman from Japan, who barely spoke English, and a woman from Nigeria, who heard it, and said she loved it and wanted to bring it back to Nigeria. So people from vastly different cultures can relate to this music at a soul level and a cellular level. My music has sold consistently and well throughout the world, including China, Japan, Australia, South America, and throughout Europe.
The ideological basis of much of my music, the books and writings that I've studied in conceptualizing the music that I was hearing in meditation, is akin to the ancient Chinese artists who would use space with just a few lines to define a mountain. Think about Chinese graphics and calligraphy, and that use of space. I'm using notes in that same way. One of the seminal statements that I read from an ancient Chinese poet was, "Invoke chi or do not paint." In music, it's "Invoke chi, or do not play." Another basic principle I work with is, "Composer, compose thyself." I need to be in a balanced, relaxed, and attuned state when I'm recording, or I shouldn't do it, because that state will be transmitted and radiated to the listener. I've had some very definite lessons with that over the years. So everything that gets recorded has been cleared.