I posted a draft of this in the Bardic Order of Music Magick group. I have decided to continue it here.
I can't claim to be a Bard in any organised druidic order, but as a lifelong musician, music magick is particularly sacred to me. However I sometimes lose sight of the magick whilst I focus intently on some of it's academic qualities, when I'm practising relentlessly to prepare for a concert, or when I pursue professional engagements for my livelihood. I've been searching for the meaning of magick in music, and I think I've missed a simple and beautiful truth that music is magick. It is unique among the arts for being the most abstract, I think of it as a particularly concrete form of magick. I've also realised during performances a very palpable sensation of the presence of spirits and the nearness of Annwyn, the otherworld.
One experience, for which I am eternally grateful to my gods, I get to have on a weekly basis. I could have this experience daily if I remind myself to let go and breath in the music whilst I practise. A perfect performance is one in which I step out of myself, out of this world, into a world in which the very landscape is formed of the tones from my instrument. In that place is perfect happiness, peace, and above all joy. Sometimes it's a story of a man striking out over land and sea to find his love and return home, sometimes it's a rendezvous in a forest during which a wild storm accompanies wild love-making. Sometimes it's a great adventure to parts where there be dragons. When I play this music I go to these places, and it is among the greatest pleasures of life.
Often times I find myself growing tense as fear tries to break down the magick. Fear of missing a phrase, forgetting, judgment from others. It is all lies. "Let go, and exist in the music and walk in between the notes" is what I tell myself when I find myself struggling during a performance, and if I do it, the song turns around and may even become a great channel into Annwyn, the otherworld. It's a way of being compassionate to oneself: To not berate oneself for a wrong note. The point is not to play ink on a page, although it's good to be able to do that. The goal is to walk in Awen and allow its magick to flow into a world which needs it desperately. Sometimes the right music can thin the veil between the physical world and the otherworld. But what makes the music 'right'?
Several years ago (okay, more like a decade) a book by John O'Donohue called 'Anam Cara' introduced me to the idea of 'thin places'. He describes them as locales and/or times wherein the veil which separates our physical world from the spiritual realms (which many have called 'Annwyn') is thinner. In some places it seems so thin that it seems as if one could simply walk into Annwyn as through a wide open door. One goal of music magick is to create these 'thin places'. The sacred symbol/syllable, AWEN, is very important to this as well. Awen describes the flow of inspiration and creativity of a bard. (Greenwood the Bard describes it HERE rather succinctly.) The three rays of Awen are also the gateway to the otherworld, Annwyn. So it is no great stretch of reason to see that music can be a catalyst for Awen to open that gate.
The 'right music' then does not refer to a genre, does not have to be a select set of tones (though certain tones put together can have what one might call an ethereal quality). Awen, the symbol, is comprised of a triad of rays coming from the sun. Awen is also the flow of inspiration and creativity - but I think there is a third part: Sharing or perhaps simply receiving. I've experienced the nearness of Annwyn occasionally whilst practising, but I feel it almost every time when I play and another person is there who receives the music as food for the soul. The times when I play the music and simply enjoy it as if I were a spectator are those sacred moments to me when I enter privately into the otherworld for a time. Inspiration is light from the gods. Creativity is light from the bard. When another receives the musical offering in a way that illuminates one's consciousness, then the three rays of Awen are complete and Annwyn seems so very near!
If I have written anything which is disagreeable, I ask forgiveness,
If ever I contribute to happiness and fulfillment, you deserved it,
May the music you make and the music you receive carry you to places your physical form cannot travel,
And may the magick of Awen fill your life and the lives of those around you.