Grammy Award winner Barry Goldstein was living in the fast lane in NYC, a full-time, glamorous, big-time pop-music producer. It was the sort of work that required hundreds of hours of high-pressure work to produce a 3-minute song that would get heavy airplay on the radio. Not surprisingly, it was taking a toll on his health and his spirit. Being a creator, Barry began to experiment with what could be a new form of pop music: long-form tracks that have a specific purpose as they align with and decompress the body. He was exploring what would happen with specific rhythms, tones, and musical keys if we thought of them as medicinal. The result was that Barry’s music is now being used in hospitals, hospices, cancer centers, and medical practices.
Pop music that we have today is a rather new phenomenon. Don’t get me wrong, I love pop music — it is tremendous, and I can’t imagine a day without it. It is probably the most powerful mood-altering enjoyment we can have without the negative consequences of a real drug. You can turn it on or off at will, it can stay with you for decades, and I am not aware that it will ever cause you to feel bad. It can act as a time machine bringing you back to times and places from decades past in ways that are not just memory activators but cause actual physiological changes in us as we think of ourselves in those past days.
But what if there was a different kind of pop music, one that is not about a 3-minute hit, that was something designed to have a positive health effect on one’s body and spirit? Perhaps this is what all ancient music was designed for: healing and spiritual connection.
I was a bit skeptical of all this new age woo woo. I mean, can sound really have a medicinal effect on people? When Barry gave me a track of his music, I played it for an hour before bed. Yes, it relaxed me, I slept well, but what got my attention was my HRV (heart rate variability, an indicator of the absence of stress) almost doubled overnight. This got my attention. This music really did have a measurable physical effect. I wanted to know much more about Barry and what he was creating. Now living in Arizona, but always a New Yorker, Barry is a frequent collaborator with people like Dr. Joe Dispenza, seeking to integrate us oftentimes fractured humans.
What was it like growing up? Were you from a musical family?
I grew up in New York City, surrounded by diverse culture and a melting pot of amazing music to absorb and learn from. Although my mom and dad were not trained musically, my dad was always singing and my mom could play piano by ear. I remember sitting at the piano with her at a very early age. She took my fingers and hit the notes at the same time she sang the song ”Yellow Bird.” I remember the feeling of amazement as I heard the notes sustain. They lingered in the air long after she played…the space between the notes is still a focus of my compositional style.
“The space between the notes is still a focus of my compositional style”
I understand your father bought you a Les Paul guitar, and then years later you co-produced a Grammy Award-winning track with Les Paul… What was that like?
Yes, my dad bought me a Gibson Les Paul, but it came with a stipulation … a promise that I would stick with music. The promise was made, and every time I looked at that guitar, it reminded me of his belief in me. About 30 years later, I co-produced the Grammy Award-winning track “69 Freedom Special” for Les Paul. It was an amazing experience to watch how an event could be seeded with a promise and nurtured to create a dream come true. Even more amazing was getting to play onstage with Les at the Iridium in New York City…We traded riffs and laughed like 2 kids playing guitar for the first time…I also got to tell Les the story in front of a live audience, conveying what it meant to have my dad buy me that Gibson “Les Paul” …not a dry eye in the house (including me).
How did you get started producing pop songs?
Initially, I was a singer songwriter…I learned how to produce my own songs and then began producing others.
But then you left pop music. Why is that?
I never really left doing pop music; I still produce pop songs but now I am pulling from over 30 years of production and composition experience into my process. My goal is to keep re-inventing what is viewed as popular music. I am incorporating elements from many cultures and genres with spiritual undertones.
“My goal is to keep re-inventing what is viewed as popular music”
About 20 years ago, I co-created an album called “There is an Angel Watching You.” It brought together 11 amazing singer/artists to create a new genre; I called it “Now Age.” This is where I still see pop music going…What’s exciting is it’s beginning to happen more and more. I see Grammy Award-winning artists using singing bowls and incorporating different tunings in pop songs!
Many of us have had spiritual experiences listening to a pop song that moves us, but when the artist creates intention around a specific emotion or experience in the recording process with the end result of having the listener in mind, it can be even more powerful. It moves from being a random experience to an intentional and transformational one. Yes…pop music can be transformational!
Why did you move towards works like Ambiology?
Ambiology (A series for relaxation, meditation and more…) was really an experiment…I was looking for a way to release anxiety and stress and to re-find my love for music after getting burned out in the music business. So, I started taking hour long journeys just letting the music come through me…instead of composing, I was de-composing…Instead of creating crafted 4-minute songs, I was creating loose-flowing hour-long pieces of ambient music. I set my metronome to 60 beats per minute after researching that this is the tempo range (60- 70BPM) of our heart rate at a relaxed state. While creating this music I found myself moving into “The Zone.” I was highly relaxed but still attentive. My stress and anxiety diminished as I explored this new type of music. I didn’t think anyone would listen to hour long pieces of music with minimal melodies and no real structure, but my girlfriend at the time (a massage therapist) urged me to get this music out there. We started receiving testimonials right away of how people were using them and over the last 20 years they have been used in hospitals, hospices, cancer centers, dentist offices and with individuals and pets who have benefitted throughout the world. They have helped people reduce stress and anxiety, sleep better, deliver children into the world, reduce agitated behavior in dementia patients and improve quality of life.
“Our heartbeat and our breath are in internal symphony that orchestrates our life every day”
What do you mean when you say we have an inner symphony?
Most people think of music as something that happens to us, something outside of themselves. Music also happens in us. Our heartbeat and our breath are in internal symphony that orchestrates our life every day. When we connect with this internal music on a daily basis, we create an awareness and appreciation that in this moment we are alive, and each breath, each heartbeat is a gift!
Music as energetic tools seems ancient as if it is the original bio-hack. Is that how you see it?
Yes, we are seeing some great research emerge on the benefits of chanting, drumming and mantras that can be used for stress, anxiety, depression and benefitting Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. They are low cost, non-invasive and have been around for thousands of years. This is a beautiful example of how music is being used as medicine…
What is designer music?
When we create a musical recipe (the ingredients: tempo, frequency, harmonics, composition, tones, etc.) to target a specific benefit in the listener.
Are there frequencies or rhythms that work for getting us to certain energetic states?
Yes, we have the ability to entrain to specific frequencies and tempos. Entrainment is when an internal rhythm synchronizes with an external rhythm. (Our heart is internal rhythm and music is the external.) So for example, we can play music at 60 beats per minute to entrain our heart to a relaxed state. We can also slow down or speed up our brain waves using brain entrainment technologies to target calmer or more focused states, but this can also be very individual. Just as the best medicine is when it is individualized and based on the needs of the patient, working with music, sound and vibration is the same. Each person needs to empower themselves to create awareness around what resonates with them, what brings them to an expansive or specific energetic state. I don’t believe it is one size fits all. This is a perfect example of an area where more extensive research is needed.
How can we navigate music to enhance our energy?
Navigating your energy is meeting yourself where you are emotionally and upgrading that emotion. Asking yourself three important questions:
1) Where am I now emotionally?
2) Where would I like to go emotionally?
3) What piece of music will take me there?
I also suggest creating specific playlists for different emotions…Have fun with it! I have a playlist for gratitude that goes from Sly and the Family Stone to Deva Premal…
Playlists to Start and End Your Day
I love the idea of being able to modulate my energy during the day. Maybe give us a playlist of what you listen to at different times of the day and why.
I have put together some great Spotify playlists to start and end your days
Playlist to start your day:
This playlist starts out with a beautiful song called “Lay Down in Love” which brings in a feeling of gratitude and new beginnings to start your day. The playlist builds to open the energy of your day with a piece called “Ascend” and then two pieces called “Morning’s Embrace” and “Soar.” Set your intention while listening and then move to gentle movement with “The Voice of Freedom” and “Kundalini Calling” From my album “Yoga Journeys.” The playlist ends with a more epic piece to spark the energy of your day called “Ignite the Heart.”
Playlist to end your day:
This playlist is great to put on about 90 minutes before bedtime. It can be played gently in the background to bridge your busy days into restful nights. It starts with the songs “Call of the Heart” and “Forgive.” This is excellent music to help process your day, so that the busy mind does not keep you awake. It then moves into excerpts from my series Ambiology which will assist you in bringing your heart to a more relaxed state. The playlist ends with “Alpha Evening,” the perfect piece to slow those busy brain waves down.
I also have a Powerful New Music Program that Daniel G. Amen, MD and I created called Your Brain is Always Listening:
It has pieces to start, end and plugs into your day to improve your brain state and the titles are self-explanatory.
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