Monday, December 24, 2007

Jazzman, Milford Graves, Helps to Heal with Rhythm

Milford Graves, 63, a jazz drummer who made his mark in the 1960's with avant-garde musicians like Albert Ayler, Paul Bley and Sonny Sharrock, performs only occasionally now. He spends about half his week teaching music healing and jazz improvisation classes at Bennington College in Vermont, where he has been a professor for 31 years. He spends much of the rest of his week in his basement researching the relationship between music and the human heart.

After descending the psychedelic-painted stairway into his laboratory, visitors are faced with a collection of drums from around the world, surrounding a network of computers. Wooden African idols spiked with nails rub up against medical anatomical models. Amid a vast inventory of herbs, roots and plant extracts sits an old wooden recliner equipped with four electronic stethoscopes connected to computers displaying intricate electrocardiogram readouts.

In 1967, Mr. Graves was honored in a Down Beat magazine critics poll as the year's bright new talent. He had offers of lucrative gigs from artists like Miles Davis and the South African singer Miriam Makeba.

But after years of hard living as a jazzman, Mr. Graves began studying holistic healing, and then teaching it. He became fascinated with the effect of music on physiological functions.

"People with ailments would attend my performances and tell me they felt better afterward," he said.

Curious about the heartbeat as a primary source of rhythm, he bought an electronic stethoscope and began recording his and other musicians' heartbeats.

"I wanted to see what kind of music my heart was making," he said.

Read the entire story in the New York Times.

Visit Milford Graves website for more information on the man, his music and his studies.

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