The Art of Distilling

St. Giles

St. Giles Church, Prague

Something new occurred while I was listening to a concert last month. I was in Prague. It was my first visit, and maybe it had something to do with being alone in a foreign city, pummeled with strangeness from all sides.

“There is no better way to feel part of a country whose language you are cut off from than to sit in a concert hall and listen to music. For once you understand the sounds that are coming to you, just as the natives do.” (Patricia Hampl; A Romantic Education.)

It was winter, the concert season, tickets were reasonable, and I went to no less than three the week I was there. Smetana, Dvorak, Mozart and Vivaldi in the Spanish Synagogue, so called because it was built in the Moorish style. Mozart and Dvorak at the Municipal House, “the pearl of Czech Art Nouveau,” and more Mozart and Dvorak, plus Bach (on one of the biggest classical organs ever made) at St. Giles Church, where they filmed the marriage of Mozart and Constanze in Amadeus. (Watch the clip.)

Neither synagogue or church was heated, but at St. Giles, which seemed to contain the cold of the ages, blankets were provided. I didn’t take one because the thin cushions on the 16th century pews turned out (thankfully) to be heating pads.

Music. The composer writes it, musicians play it, and we hear sound waves. Frequencies. Music is a series of vibrations. I can picture the waves darting and rippling through my energy field as the rhythms swept through me. Whether it was because I was in Prague, “the Magical City,” or because it’s rare that I attend a live concert, I seemed to be hearing on another level, analyzing my enjoyment in a different way, having a different insight into what I was hearing through this filter of music.

Filter: a device that allows signals with certain properties, such as signals lying in a certain frequency range, to pass while blocking the passage of others.

Church of St. GilesMusic was a filter. It came to me at St. Giles, where the Baroque interior dated only from the 1500s, but souls had been coming and going through the doorway of the Gothic exterior since the 13th century. Think of all the energies they’d left behind!

I wasn’t thinking of that then. I was sitting near the front watching the musicians against a background of gilded frames and pillars, the paintings and sculptures of saints and angels. There were two men and two women, all young and in black, their faces rapt in concentration. As I watched and listened, feeling my energy becoming entrained with theirs, I was aware how music manipulated my emotions, then distilled them through sound. Music was not only a filtering tool, it distilled feeling.

To Distill: to extract the essential elements of.

Artists do this with vision. We organize space so that others can see what we see. Mozart, Dvorak, Smetana, created different combinations of notes to bring up certain feelings, the same way that visual artists use line and color. Musicians, painters, poets and actors, are an intermediary between thought and feeling. Perhaps it’s no wonder this occurred to me in Prague, where I often felt I was walking through a living museum, surrounded by art and beauty with every step I took.

Art takes you out of yourself so you can more fully enter into yourself again.

I hadn’t thought how art contributes to the process of alignment simply through watching and listening, without requiring you to make it or do it yourself.

AA-Ebook-COVER-210x300I have an illustrated article, “The Painted Path,” about my own experience, which is included in the ebook, Art and Alignment by Louise Oliver. It’s about the relation of art and creativity to healing and the Journey of the Soul. But I believe there’s also a path to alignment through looking and listening to what we resonate with, distilling what we need from it. Allowing it to filter through our energy field to the deepest self.

After a little more than an hour the concert was over. The clapping was muffled in our glove-clad hands. As I rose from the pew and slowly filed out with the others onto the narrow darkened street in the heart of Prague, I thought, it’s all one in the end. Making, creating, or listening and viewing. The openness, the willingness, was all that mattered.

When you go to a concert you might think you are just going to listen to the music. When you go to a museum or an art gallery, you might think you are there just to look and observe. But depending on your willingness to be open, you are allowing yourself to be entrained to a specific mental/emotional space. And maybe into a state of alignment with your inner being.

About Nancy Wait

Nancy Wait is an artist and a memoir writer, "The Nancy Who Drew, the Memoir That Solved a Mystery," and a former actress (stage, film and TV) in the UK under the name Nancie Wait. She hosted blog talk radio shows "Art and Ascension" and "Inspirational Storytellers." Her current project is a second memoir, "The Nancy Who Drew the Way Home," due out in 2023.
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