On the spur of the moment I offered a colleague to write a piece about music and cello playing for his magazine. So here is an attempt.  Then I got talking to another shamanic teacher colleague about music and he offered some breathtaking insights that are simply too good not to share.

However, let’s start at the beginning. Not of the cosmos, but of me playing a string instrument.

As a teenager I switched from playing the church organ to playing the violin. My parents did not make any of this easy for me. (My mother had music lessons forced on her as a child and she was trying to spare me the agony!!) I had to buy a violin from my ‘life’s savings’ (about 14 years worth of pocket and birthday money, fortunately I was a positive Scrooge and I had hoarded every Dutch cent). Once I had the violin I had to brave the notorious Dutch winds and cycle many kilometres to get to my lessons. But I loved nothing better! I played for hours a day until my brothers begged me to PLEASE STOP!!! I had a very eccentric teacher who tried to persuade me to apply for MusicSchool and become a violinist – but I headed for Art School in Amsterdam instead.

There was long pause after that. Maybe the teacher had put notions in my head?! Ever since I have lived with the ‘Ghost Of The Musician I Didn’t Become’ but my inner compass took me to Art School and that was one of the best choices I ever made. I continued playing the piano but stopped playing the violin. Over the years I realised that the instrument that really “calls my soul home” is the cello, not the violin. When I hear a cello solo in a beautiful piece of music I freeze and I forget who I am or where I am. I want to dematerialise and BECOME THE MUSIC. The expression ‘music to die for’ comes to mind!  This for instance….


 CHANT FROM A HOLY BOOK, Gurdieff, Lechner & Tsabropoulos

 A few years ago (in my 40s by now) I found a cello teacher and started playing, as a gift to myself. I had already found an old German cello on e-bay for £35 (I know, criminal!!!) and now I got to hear its voice at last!

So what is it about the cello that is so compelling?

I love the fact that you need to embrace this instrument to play it. It’s almost like you are making love to it. It hums in the lower registers and a violin seems quite shrill and high-pitched in comparison.

I like playing the cello for the Moon and I just know that the Moon loves cello music as much as I do. (I have no scientific proof for this inner knowing).

To me the ultimate nature of everything is frequency and vibration. Wherever I go I always seem to hear ‘the music behind the music’ and the music behind the everyday sounds on Earth. If you listen very carefully, you can hear the heartbeat of the Earth. If you listen even more attentively you can hear The Music of the Spheres (nod to Plato’s Tale of Err). All that that is, has vibration and that vibration can be heard as sound.

Maybe I have a mild case of synaesthesia – I don’t know, I have never been diagnosed.  What I do know is that I have no difficulties telling what colour the days of the week are or hearing paintings as a piece of music. Even buildings can be heard as a piece of music if you tune into their vibration.

Trees sing and then there is the Song of the Wind…. (I once made a painting , about playing the cello in a field under the full moon and the wind responding). Everything is vibration, everything sings.

My dear friend Rich Lenson tells me that

 …the Hebrew word to speak has as its root the meaning to vibrate. The Hebrew word for bumble bee shares a similar root.

My understanding of all matter is that its appearance and properties is a reflection of the underlying vibration patterns of its molecular structure. All reality is vibrated into being…


This resonates with me. The universe sings to us and we sing back. A spiritual path is about becoming aware of our frequency, our vibration and to choose the song our soul transmits with great care. It is that song that pulls other people and opportunities towards us (or away from us).

4.6 Physics and Torah tell us creation is vibration—Elohim spoke the world into existence (Genesis 1:3). The universe is a speaking, a vibrating, a singing. This is why we Jews call ourselves Yisrael, not just Godwrestlers—yisra/wrestle El/God—but Godsingers—yashir/sing El/God. We are singing what is even as we wrestle with what might be.



When you play the cello, you cannot make a sound that goes on forever. You have to turn the bow around. Now professional cellists are very good at hiding this so you can barely hear it. My teacher put me through a lot of practice over this. However, the fact remains that there is an ‘in breath and out breath’ that mirrors the expansions and contractions of our cosmos and cyclical time.

Rich quotes his rabbi friend again and points out that when

… Moses asks to know God’s Name, God’s essence, God replies, Ehyeh asher Ehyeh—not the static “I am that I am” so many English Bibles offer us, but the dynamic “I am becoming what I am becoming.”

For me that endless process of becoming is what music is. A note held for a too long time becomes an irritant (think of a car alarm or siren). The music is in the shape shifting, the dancing with possibilities and variations.

I will give Rich the last word (as he practically wrote this piece for me)

Shalom , the Hebrew word translated as “peace” really comes from a root meaning wholeness. The first letter, shin, stands for fire, the third letter, mem, stands for water, and the middle letter lamed stands for learning or understanding. I understand this to mean the coexistence of fire and water with understanding creates wholeness.

 However, others see in the word shalom the two words, shel and om. Shel means of. So shalom can be seen to mean “of om,” a manifestation of the uet to be undifferentiated vibration of The Universe from which all creation is happening. Your playing of the cello is shal-om.




 (More delicous Tsabropoulos and Lechner)




 (Four cellist from Finland)


And for fun:


 SMOOTH CRIMINAL by Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic


Imelda Almqvist (in partnership with Rich Lenson!)