Jennifer Goodenberger, Breathe Peace
by Lisa Evans for Hipfish Monthly
A new direction in recording and a new release just in time for a new year
IT’S A FITTING EXPRESSION for the holidays. It’s an spot-on suggestion for our world right now. It also happens to be the title for the latest, and very well perhaps the greatest, c.d. of local musician and artist, Jennifer Goodenberger. I had the opportunity to attend her presentation, “Music for Health & Healing” at the Performing Arts Center last month and it was both informative and inspirational. I’d heard her play many times before and have always enjoyed her music, but this particular performance was diff erent. It was different because she not only played her passion, she spoke about it in such an uplifting and life-affirming way that one couldn’t help but be moved by the whole experience.
Fellow artists will understand what I’m about to say next. Doing your art (whatever your medium happens to be) is often easier than talking about it. Explaining what you do is one thing, but being able to express why you do what you do and getting others to really understand your art from that perspective…well, that’s an art in itself. And that’s what Jennifer did that night. Through her music and her words, she gave the audience a chance to “get” why she plays the piano.
Passion often begins as a yearning for something you can’t have. At six years of age, Jennifer begged her parents for piano lessons. Even though her folks loved music and there was a piano in their home, it wasn’t until she was nine when she began learning how to tickle the ivories. Perhaps they made her wait because it was the conventional wisdom of the day. Perhaps they wanted to make sure she was serious about learning an instrument. Perhaps they weren’t quite ready to hear what passion sounds like from a young child. What Jennifer didn’t know back then was her journey as a life-long artist had begun. Perhaps that’s what her parents had concerns about...being an artist can be a challenging profession. Passion often leads a person to follow the less-traveled path of instability. Passion isn’t always reasonable and reliable. Passion doesn’t always pay the bills. All of this is irrelevant, however, to a person who must create their art.
Jennifer has been studying and creating music for the last forty years. Despite her early interests in folk and pop music, (she was a big fan of Elton John’s in her teens), her education was centered on classical formal training. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in music from Marylhurst University in Portland and her Master’s in Music from Northwestern University in Illinois. It was while she was attending Marylhurst and taking music classes taught by strict nuns that she discovered she was a non-traditional student. While learning music theory and methodology were important in her studies, so was learning about the spiritual and healing qualities of music and these two elements were missing. She remembers asking herself, “How can music change the world?” and after she received her undergraduate degree, she began exploring how her music could answer that question.
In the early eighties, Jennifer discovered the music of Steven Halpern who was using his piano compositions as instruments of healing. This struck a deep chord (piano pun intended) with Jennifer and she was inspired to create her music in a similar style. While many people would categorize it as “New Age”, Jennifer prefers to call it “a mesmer- izing fusion of classical, improvisational and contemporary styles.” Her latest work, BreathePeace, is more than a style. It is a true reflection of who Jennifer is as an artist and how she hopes to make a difference in healing the world.
During her presentation Goodenberger also gave the audience a glimpse of her research into the connections between sound, music, health, and all else, which she has been refi ning over the last 30 years. She revealed that the ancient civilizations of India, Greece, Egypt, China and Tibet had vast knowledge of the power of sound to heal, based on an understanding that vibration was the fundamental creative force of the universe. Scientists have recently proposed that “superstrings” are the fundamental building blocks of matter and energy, and their vibrations are manifestations of everything in the universe. Goodenberger sums it up as, “The universe is a symphony of vibration.”
And she was quite excited to learn that sound and health had a common etymology. Health (Gesund in German) is defined as soundness of body and mind, and to heal is to “make sound”. “Music is life made audible,” says Goodenberger.
Goodenberger’s extensive home library includes two books that demonstrate how water and other materials are aff ected by vibrations. Cymatics: A Study of Wave Phenomena and Vibration by Hans Jenny, and the newer Water Sound Images by Alexander Lauterwasser, seem to say that the world (and the rest of the universe) is (and has been) essentially formed by sound. The ancients had it right after all.
So why did Jennifer record this kind of c.d. now? About a year and a half ago, she was asked by a couple of friends to consider lengthening some of her songs from earlier works and that marked the beginning of the idea of BreathePeace. Longer songs with extended pauses that didn’t stir up emotions, but would provide a sense of calm and comfort was what Jennifer wanted to create. Having done her research regarding using music as a healing modality, she wanted to find out what kind of aff ect her new songs had on people before she recorded them. This past summer she held several mini-concerts for friends and the feedback she received confirmed that this new c.d. had to be made.
After two days of recording in mid-August, on a Steinway in a professional studio in Portland, BreathePeace was born. It’s the perfect time now for this c.d. Our world is stressed-out, sped-up, and stripped of serenity. While Jennifer’s big dream is to have this c.d. playing in hospital rooms and hospice centers around the country, she created BreathePeace for all of us. We can all use a bit of healing these days. Indeed, BreathePeace is spiritual, soothing soul-food.
BreathePeace is available at Gypsy’s Whimsy in Astoria and House of the Potter in Cannon Beach. Ann Baldwin, LMT (503-791-1858) is also selling Jennifer’s CDs. She is offering discounts on massage gift certificates for anyone purchasing a CD from her. You can also purchase BreathePeace from Jennifer directly by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It will also be available soon on her website with a link to C.D. Baby.
To find out more information about Jennifer and her passions, go to www.jennifergoodenberger.com or give her a call and take her out to lunch at her favorite restaurant, The Urban Café. That’s what I did.