The Art Of Authentic Communication And Listening - A Journey Through Music
Heartfulness eMagazine|January 2020
PETER KATER is a Grammy Award-winning musician and author, who also conducts musical, healing and creative retreats in beautiful natural settings. Here he talks with MEGHANA ANAND about communicating feelings and ideas through music.
Meghana Anand

Q: Hi Peter. What does music mean to you? How did your journey begin?

Music for me is a way to communicate feelings and ideas that are not easily put into words. When I was a child I didn’t really want to be a musician; my mother made me take piano lessons. But after 10 or 12 years I started to enjoy it. I found that it was very soothing and healing for me to play for myself. I did a lot of improvising even when I was a teenager, and I started writing my own songs also when I was pretty young.

But I really played for myself. Sure it was cool in high school, but after I was out on my own I was really mostly doing it for myself. Other people always encouraged me to play publicly, and I would wonder, “Really, you think I should play in this place?” And they would say, “Yes, yes, you should do it.” So I would. One thing just led to another. I always had my own unique style – it’s good to be yourself.

Honestly, I now enjoy it more than ever. After all these years I’m starting to come into the fullness of myself and express that musically in a way that is more complete. I am now talking about the creative process. The creative process is a process of self-acceptance and it’s a process of compassion, spontaneity, listening very closely and deeply to yourself, and to what you hear and feel. There is no censoring. Music is a very interesting path. In my opinion, it’s a very spiritual path.

Q: You play music for the healing arts. Can you elaborate on that?

I was always into the healing arts, meaning I personally always loved any kind of healing process, any kind of organic bodywork, whether it was massage or something deeper. I have always enjoyed therapy of different kinds, but as far as my music being healing, I never tried to play healing music. I never tried to affect anyone in a way that would be healing. All I have tried to do is show up authentically.

There’s a saying that I love (I don’t know who coined it): “Authenticity heals.” If we are authentic, where we are, at any given moment, and transparent in a way that’s genuine, authentic, it heals us and all of a sudden we change. It’s like taking something from the dark and shining light on it. If we say, “Oh, I’m feeling frustrated,” or “I’m feeling grief,” or “I’m feeling angry,” or “I’m feeling nervous” – whatever the truth is about that moment – if we can express that in a real way then it’s transformative.

So when I play the piano, I just want to tell the truth. I just want to express what’s really true for me at that moment, and when I express that then I feel differently. Then I have to express what’s true for me in the next moment, what’s true for me now and now and now and now. That becomes a natural unraveling process that I could never orchestrate with my mind. It just organically wells up. And if I allow it to flow, it takes me to someplace where I need to go, but I don’t really or necessarily plan that. Does that make sense?

Q: Absolutely. I totally relate to that. You started your career in music playing jazz, which was contemporary and mainstream. So how did the transition happen into the healing arts? Did you face any challenges, internally and externally?

Well, I went through a period of only improvising for about 6 years, between the ages of 18 and 24. Then I had the opportunity to make an album, and so I decided to compose the songs for the album because I wanted to be able to play songs from it. And I released my first album called Spirit. It was very close to home; it was very much me. It was a solo piano album.

The album did well, but I received some criticism from other musicians around saying, “Oh, he doesn’t really know how to play jazz. He doesn’t know how to do this,” and I felt challenged. So in my next album, I incorporated other musicians, some jazz, and I started writing melodies that were catchy and commercial. And that record charted in the USA in the top 20 of National Airplay Contemporary Jazz charts.

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