Music hath powers when Murray Hidary is at the helm

July 15, 2019 22:02
Music hath powers when Murray Hidary is at the helm

MURRAY HIDARY: I do my best to interpret and translate how I perceive the hidden universe through music.. (photo credit: DANIEL DEARCO)

Musical performances can be moving and sometimes even transformative experiences. Whether your sonic cup of tea is Beethoven, The Rolling Stones, Oum Kulthum, The Sex Pistols or Shlomo Artzi, you may at some stage have attended a live gig which blew your mind and forever altered your sensory perception.

Such an epiphany may be on the cards for anyone who goes along to one of Murray Hidary’s shows here next week. The American pianist is due to give three 7 p.m. outdoor performances: at Yarkon Park at Tel Afek on July 16, the Bell Cave at Beit Guvrin on July 17, and Apollonia National Park on July 18. Actually, calling Hidary a pianist is tantamount to proverbial damning with faint praise. The man is clearly far more than “just” an inventive keyboardist.

Much of Hidary’s artistic output involves multi-stratified soundscapes, as he seems to follow an inner stream of consciousness. And there are plenty of layers to his professional life, too. His incredibly varied bio features an abundance of envelope-pushing hi-tech endeavors and professional photographic work in addition to his musical projects. You can add to that a slew of adventurous physically demanding departures, including completing three marathons and undertaking a 10,000-mile cycling odyssey through Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Clearly Hidary brings a lot of emotional and philosophical depth to his musicianship. “I do my best to interpret and translate how I perceive the hidden universe through music. It’s about unveiling those superficial layers of perception,” he posits.

The emotional awareness plot thickens. “We have what we perceive with our five senses, and I am interested in what happens when we peel back the veil and release that hidden universe. What does that sound like or feel like, energetically?”

The thousands of people across the globe who have participated in a live Hidary offering will no doubt have taken at least some of that on board. The 47-year-old Jewish-American multidisciplinary artist has performed the fruits of his creative continuum to all sorts of audiences in all sorts of locations. The concept of “release,” of relinquishing control and preconceptions about our lives and the physical world around us, is central to the thematic ethos. 

Over the years, Hidary’s aptly named “Mind Travel” venture has unfolded in a variety of corporeal conditions including at a swimming pool, with participants chilling out on floats, thereby enabling them to chill out physically and emotionally. Hidary aims for a similar effect when, for example, he plays the piano at a beach with his listeners enjoying an enhanced listening experience by donning headphones, as the sea ebbs and flows behind them.

Typically, Hidary’s performances comprise a single work that gradually develops, builds up a head of steam and leaps off in all kinds of directions. That is very much down with the flow mindset which Hidary believes can offer significant personal added value. “There’s a deliberate reason why the format that I play is a long format. It is uninterrupted from the first note to the last note.”

Among the other benefits of the protracted setting, the meandering progression helps to offset any attention disorders we may have contracted over the last couple of decades of living in a largely virtual-based world. “It gives the mind time to settle down and open up, so we can tap into the deeper layers of our subconscious,” Hidary explains, adding that he makes few demands of us. “It’s not any specific technique of having to say a mantra, or concentrating on our breathing, it is just listening and being with the music, and that opens up that access.”

IT REALLY is very much, to paraphrase a slightly risqué saying of yore, lying back and getting into the music. “I just ask people to get comfortable. There’s a great quote from one of my favorite composers [20th-century French impressionist pianist and composer] Claude Debussy, who said: ‘Abandon yourself and let the music do as it will with you.’ That’s all that’s really required.”

Despite his non-musical technical and technological abilities, Hidary connects most strongly with the non-cerebral side of life. “It is about getting past that intellectual layer, to something deeper.”

That said, Hidary does feed off some seemingly less artistic elements too. “There is a lot of pattern-based music and there is a lot of math involved,” he notes. “A lot of my inspiration comes from theoretical physics, and using music as a way to interpret my understanding of what’s happening out in the universe, from gravitational waves to the subatomic, quantum phenomena at the smallest level.”

For those of us whose understanding of science is limited to occasionally popping into Wikipedia, don’t panic – Hidary is not out to blind us with his superior knowledge of the way cosmic things work. He simply wants to convey some of the majesty of the world and outer-world domains through the appealing prism of his artistry. “To me, music is a wonderful way to, at least metaphorically, express what’s happening. When I am playing, I am hoping the audience really feels what a gravitational wave would feel like going through them,” he chuckles. “And, likewise, on a quantum level what would it be like to be vibrating in a quantum field, as a subatomic particle.”

Before Hidary got a wider sense of how the universe does its thing, he imbibed some healthy musical nutrition. “I grew up in a classical household. You know, it’s always, ‘What music did your parents play in the car when you were a kid?’ For me, it was always classical radio stations.” The youngster soon started making mellifluous sounds himself. “I started on cello when I was five and piano when I was six,” he recalls.

He knew just where he was heading early on. “When I was in high school I knew I wanted to be a composer. I felt like I had my own thing to say in music, as opposed to interpreting other composers. I started writing when I was at school and then studied classical composition at university in New York. That’s my technical and formal training.”

Things soon began taking on more expansive cultural and emotional dimensions. “In my late teens I began my spiritual journey as well, in Eastern philosophy and Eastern ideas, and the influence of Eastern music came along with that. Specifically, I got into the Japanese Zen Buddhist tradition of music for the Japanese bamboo flute, the shakuhachi.” Hidary subsequently spent several years studying with a couple of masters of the shakuhachi and studied some of the 18th-century Japanese repertoire for the bamboo instrument, which he says “definitely fused and worked its way into my music.”

There is a meditative element to many musical works from the Eastern world that is not only appealing, it can also have a therapeutic effect on various levels. Sadly, Hidary knows exactly what that entails.

HE WAS in dire need of comfort himself 12 years ago, after he was involved in a horrific traffic accident in South Africa, in which his younger sister was tragically killed. “I talk about my travel, first and foremost, as my own personal practice. It is what I did for myself for many, many years before I made the decision to share it with other people. It got me through the ups and downs of life, in particular the most difficult time of my life so far. My little sister was 23, and she was killed right next to me. I had to deal with that and, of course, the trauma associated with that. I turned to music as the main modality, the main tool, to get me through that. I just play those emotions out of me and express it through music. There were no words for what I was feeling. I couldn’t find the words if I tried.”

With his Jewish background, Hidary also connected with grief generated by associations with the Holocaust, and tries to offer some healing through his craft. “I was in Dachau, to have that feeling and experience. It’s just so powerful to be in these places. There’s such an energy there. When I got to these places, I translated that through the music.”

Hidary is constantly looking to offer some palliative relief to those who are suffering. “I don’t compare it with the Holocaust, but we had these terrible fires in California last year, in which many people lost their lives and their homes. I took my piano to these areas of devastation and I placed my piano in the middle of these neighborhoods that were completely destroyed. I would play a musical elegy.”

Hidary was looking to generate some financial support, too. “I sent the video around and we were able to raise quite a bit of money for the families that were affected. There is always suffering, throughout history, and I think music can play a significant role in alleviating that.” Hidary will be bringing some of those positive vibes to these parts next week, following his sold-out appearance at last year’s Piano Festival in Tel Aviv.

Hidary says he is looking forward to his forthcoming appearances in Israel, and will feed off the different natural ambience of each location, and hopes that will be taken on board by his audiences, too. “The Beit Guvrin show will be in this huge beautiful cave. I think that will be a perfect setting for reflection. I went to scout there earlier this year, and I was very moved by the space.” He says he is also eagerly anticipating his outdoor performances, particularly the seaside Apollonia National Park date. “Being by the sea will be very special as well.”

Water is central to Hidary’s standpoint on energy and the dynamics of a health life. “I often offer this visual to people, with the first note that I play kind of visualizing placing a leaf in a river. Then as the leaf goes down the river and the music builds. Sometimes the music is calm like the river, sometimes the river can be more turbulent and the music becomes more evocative. It expresses the arc and the journey of life, ups and downs, twists and turns as the river winds. Ultimately the river, like all rivers, merges with the great ocean. That merging and the leaf – which is us – entering the ocean is that unification with the cosmos, with the great energy of everything. Music is such a great way to translate that.”

For tickets and more information, go to, followed by 831501730549068 (Yarkon Park), 336581983686721 (Beit Guvrin) and 425062804891828 (Apollonia National Park).

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