Eric Karlstrom grew up in Arlington, Virginia where he developed a love for music early on…., from playing trombone in elementary school band, then singing and playing folk guitar in junior high school. I wrote my first “folk” song at the age of 14 (see if you can find it on my Reflections CD!). With the help of my family, I cut my first record while still in high school and then began playing the 5-string banjo and the piano in college. Some “practical voices” intervened and prevailed…. so I took a long, winding digression down the academic path, which eventually led to my becoming a physical geography professor. But throughout the academic challenges, I kept my soul alive through my music and my outdoor pursuits - climbing, hiking, skiing, etc. (Check out my movie. “An Awakening Journey: Songs and Voices From the Earth.” It features my best piano songs and my best photos from various outdoor adventures).
Yes, I’ve been lucky… lucky enough to be able to pursue each of these passions- music, mountains, and the life of the mind. I recall that as a graduate student in Wyoming- my life pattern was already pretty well established. I’d hit the books for a few hours and then I’d jam away on the banjo for a couple hours more. On weekends, I’d be rock climbing, cross-country skiing or climbing some mountain. Yes, I’ve been lucky. Today, living in Crestone, Colorado, I more or less maintain this personal rhythm, feeding the mind by reading and writing, the body by hiking, and the spirit through music.
I’ve now made over 15 CDs that feature my acoustic guitar, banjo, vocal and piano music. Many songs are originals and others are just favorites. As ever, I’m currently working on my next CD, still determined to become the “banjo player of my dreams” some day soon. But I’m also learning that there’s more to the music than just the good vibes. My love affair with the banjo has led me to what, for me, is the real “heart of America.” At various music festivals, I meet real people who are playing and singing their own music- music with real soul. Here, we come together to listen to each other, to swap songs and licks…. We are a mix of great pickers and singers; middling pickers and singers; beginners; oldsters and youngsters. Most of our differences don’t really matter here because we can enjoy each other through the music we share. Today, this bluegrass/folk/country/acoustic style of music is evolving just as we are as individuals and as community. (As you see, I am kind of patriotic about this music and this subculture.) But other kinds of home-made music also offer the same kinds of opportunities. So no matter what our musical and personal tastes, we all realize that music is our birth right, just like breathing and talking. And as a form of expression, it seems music begins where words leave off.
So… now I realize that music is much more than just fun and games. Wise people have known this for a long, long time! Here are some wise words from some very wise individuals that help us to understand why music is so important in our world!:
And yet shall Love himself be heard,
Though long deferred, though long deferred:
O'er the modern waste a dove hath whirred:
Music is Love in search of a word.
Sidney Lanier, "The Symphony" (1875).
God respects me when I work but He loves me when I sing.
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)
Harmony sinks deep into the recesses of the soul and takes its strongest hold there, bringing grace also to the body and mind as well. Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order…
Plato (429-347 BC)
In ancient times music was the foundation of all the sciences. Education was begun with music with the persuasion that nothing could be expected of a man who was ignorant of music.
Cicero (106-43 BC)
Do you know that our soul is composed of harmony.
Leonardo da Vinci, Notebooks (1451-1519)
The highest goal of music is to connect one’s soul to their Divine Nature, not entertainment.
Pythagoras (569- 475 BC)
Music is the mediator between the life of the senses and the life of the spirit….
He that divines the secret of my music is freed from the unhappiness that haunts the whole world of men.
Music is the art of the prophets, the only art that can calm the agitations of the soul.
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Listening is nothing less than our ‘royal route’ to the Divine.
Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis (1920-2001)
Oh music! Thou who bringest the receding waves of eternity nearer to the weary heart of man as he stands upon the shores and longs to cross over! Art thou the evening breeze of life, or the morning air of the future one?
Jean Paul (1763-1825)
Music… a kind of inarticulate, unfathomable speech, which leads to the edge of the Infinite.
Music expresses that which can not be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.
Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
The magic of “Musical Medicine” will come into its own. The application of such healing potencies will not be limited just to man’s body and mind. It will be an agency for building and healing his soul as well.
Corinne Heline (1882-1975)
Music should be healing, music should uplift the soul, music should inspire; then there is no better way of getting closer to God, of rising higher towards the spirit, of attaining spiritual perfection, only if it is rightly understood.
Sufi Master Hazrat Inayat Kahn (1882-1927)
People say that the soul, on hearing the song of creation, entered the body, but in reality the soul itself was the song.
Now we must learn to judge a society by its sounds…
Jacques Attali, (1943- ) The Political Economy of Music”