Performance Today®

with host Fred Child

Stillness and Sound: Live Music Meditations at Princeton University

35c864 20190327 kb meditation
Tibetan singing bowl Fernando Albert, via Pixabay

When was the last time you listened to music without distractions or expectations? What about the last time you listened to your mind and body? Here's your chance to do both! Inspired by the Live Music Meditations at Princeton, we teamed up with Princeton University Concerts to make a mini-meditation you can do wherever you are. Take 15 minutes out of your day to try this guided meditation and experience a deeper form of listening.

This is a 5-minute guided meditation leading into 10 minutes of music. Before you begin, find a comfortable position and close your eyes if you like. Seek stillness and quiet. Become sensitive to your breath and begin the guided meditation. When you've finished the meditation, take a moment to reflect on your experience.

Music is everywhere. It's piped through headphones to drown out the sounds of the outside world. It's perpetually in the background: the soundtrack to workouts, meals out, road trips, and long waits on the phone.

But when was the last time you really listened?

The opportunity to listen deeply exists, for many, in the concert hall. But I know I'm not the only person who finds it impossible to focus during a concert. My mind lasers in on the person rustling their program, the itch on my foot, the endless to-do list waiting for me outside the concert hall. And soon enough, the music on stage has become background music to my own personal narrative, the soundtrack to my own internal landscape.

How luxurious it seems, to hear and feel the music in the present moment without any distractions or expectations. And now, thanks to a concert series at Princeton University, that type of listening is possible. The Live Music Meditations combine guided meditation with incredible performances by classical musicians.

The impetus for starting the series was a simple sound: the sound of the meditation gong. Dasha Koltunyuk regularly attended meditations on campus when she was a student at Princeton. She discovered that she meditated so much more in the few seconds where the gong sounded than she did in the rest of session.

As a musician, Koltunyuk wondered if the same concept could be applied to live concerts. She worked with Marna Seltzer, Director of Princeton University Concerts and Matt Weiner, Associate Dean of the Princeton University Office of Religious Life to create Live Music Meditations. It's a concert series unlike any other, one where silence holds just as much weight as sound.

Before each concert, audience members and musicians silently file onto the stage. Matt Weiner guides participants through a brief meditation, ending with silence. Then, out of nowhere, music begins.

By meditating and holding silence together, musicians and audience members alike are open to experiencing music in a new way. Gone are the inhibitions surrounding proper concert etiquette. Instead, a gift: thirty minutes to listen to the music onstage and the music within.