Music & Trance

Music in its Relations to Emotional, Communal, and Shamanic Trances:

“The role of the music is much less to produce the trance than to create conditions favorable to its onset, to regularize its form, and to ensure that instead of being a merely individual, unpredictable, and uncontrollable phenomenon, it becomes, on the contrary, predictable, controlled, and at the service of the group...”

Music in its Relations to [musical] Possession Trance:

“Although it is conceivable that a subject can enter into trance without music, it is inconceivable that a subject could experience the trance itself without music. Let us say that, in possession, music is the condition of the trance experience. This is so for a few reasons. First, because possession trance is a change of identity, because that change of identity has no meaning for the subject unless his new identity is recognized by [others], because it is the music that signals it, because this new identity must be manifested. Provided, then, that it is not absolutely fleeting (I am thinking of Malkam Ayyahu's trances, described by Leiris, which often lasted no more than an instant, just long enough to express it with a gesture, word, pose), provided that it has duration, this trance, which is the experience of another identity, has an absolute need for music in order to continue to exist, since it is music that, through its identificatory character, maintains the illusion and that, enables it to be manifested.

The major function of music thus seems to be maintaining the trance, rather in the way an electric current will maintain the vibration of a tuning fork if tuned to the same pitch frequency. Here, however, music is not just physically (on a purely motor level) “in tune” with trance. It is even more “in tune” on the psychological level, since its action consists in putting the individual experiencing his transitory identity “in phase” with the group that is recognizing this identity, or imposing it upon him.”