“As a composer and a pianist I created this experience really to move people to purpose through music.”
When we think of mindfulness and meditation, it’s often associated with the concept of silence and solitude. MindTravel, a multi-sensory experience conceived by Brooklyn-based composer and pianist Murray Hidary, challenges that notion. Using music for the purposes of healing and growth has been transformative in his own life, Hidary says, having used it to cope with the death of his sister, and it’s something he wishes to share with others.
“As a composer and a pianist I created this experience really to move people to purpose through music,” he says over the phone. “And I saw what music did for me in my own life—it allowed me to achieve greater clarity and to express emotions through the ups and downs of life and so I wanted to share that experience with the world.”
What began as a series of indoor concerts five years ago—in which Hidary would play uninterrupted, improvised pieces of music that allowed the audience to really sink into the experience instead of being lifted out each time a piece ended–has now expanded into outdoor events that bring together groups of people in beautiful locations for a communal musical experience.
“Nature’s been my deepest inspiration so I felt like if I could actually get the audience into nature where I derive my inspiration then my improvisations and their feelings will be more deeply rooted and connected and inspired,” he says.
While certain venues and settings allow for Hidary to play live music on a piano, the recently launched SilentHikes require a different approach. In lieu of a live performance, these outdoor activities involve pre-recorded music that Hidary curates for each particular location, which participants listen to on wireless headphones.
Besides nature, sometimes art serves as the focal point around which the activities are built, both providing visual imagery that’s a key component of MindTravel. Past events have been held at unexpected venues all over the United States—the Tidal Basin in Washington DC, the Getty Centre in Los Angeles, the beach in Santa Monica.
“Each time I play live is inspired by what’s around me, it could be the weather, whatever’s happening in that particular moment, in that location on that day. I played in Central Park with a massive lightning storm rolling in and I promise you that was reflected in the music. With the Silent Hikes, the idea is that we’re not just in the landscape but we’re moving through the landscape to really have it unfold almost cinematically with the music as the soundtrack to this experience and to the landscape we’re in. In order to do that of course I can’t play live when we’re hiking for three miles but I use different recordings that I curate specifically to the location that we’re in so that as we hit various milestones in the walk, I introduce tracks that are appropriate for that setting. I scout it fully myself beforehand, so that I can really know deeply the landscape that we’re moving through.”
While meditative experiences are usually perceived as still and solitary, Hidary believes it’s possible to achieve mindfulness and clarity through communal activity, which is how the concept for MindTravel was born.
“What I talk about is finding stillness through movement,” he explains. “The universe is in constant change, everything around us is in constant movement and shifting and changing, and so for me the idea is for us to find that calmness, that relaxation, that stillness, that clarity through the movement, within the movement of life.”
This weekend, Hidary brings MindTravel to Canada for the first time, with a (free!) SilentHike in Toronto’s Trillium Park on August 4.
“We like to create this in as transporting a location as possible,” he says. “The park being on the water, and the sculptures, it just has that sort of grand sense to it of both art and nature.”
So what are Hidary’s hopes for the people participating in these events—does he wish to create a reflective internal experience or more of a communal one?
“The most surprising element for me has been the deep feeling of human connection that people report after the experience,” he says. “We call it a SilentHike because no one’s speaking during the whole experience, I request that everyone remain silent. And it’s incredible how deeply connected people feel to each other despite not speaking to each other for the duration of the walk. And part of that, counter-intuitively, is actually the headphones. You think that they might be isolating, which they are in a sense—they [allow for] reflection and contemplation—but then you look around and you’re walking with hundreds of people, each of them having their own reflective internal experience and that is the bond. We’re all sharing this deep human experience and ultimately the soundtrack that they’re listening to, it doesn’t only become the soundtrack for the external landscape, it becomes the soundtrack for their internal landscape, for this internal human story. While the details might be different for each person, the arc of human story in my opinion is the same for everyone.”
You can register for the Toronto SilentHike, which takes place from 7 to 9pm on August 4, here.