This article by Jeffrey Palmer was published in Australian music magazine CutCommon on 28 May 2019. To see the article in full, click here.
Neal Anand is one of those artists you simply don’t come across every day.
Originally hailing from Northern California, Neal is now making waves in the New York City music scene with the release of his debut EP Akasha.
And, when I say he is making waves, I am referring specifically to those that fall into the brain category.
Neal’s first solo music offering was composed to stimulate the listener’s pineal gland – the part of the brain that produces melatonin to regulate circadian rhythm. Essentially, his music was engineered to heal and relax the mind of the listener.
I first listened to Akasha’s shimmery lead single She on a southward train journey through New York’s Hudson Valley. I almost felt as if I was transported into another dimension as the soothing, pulsating sounds of piano and synth washed over me whilst I watched the sunlight play on the waves of the Hudson River.
His engineering seemed to work!
This serene, unique experience brought several questions to mind, which I felt quite grateful I had the opportunity to ask the composer himself.
Akasha is released on the composer’s own record label Pineal Labs, which is “dedicated to enhancing pineal gland activity through music”.
Neal Anand talks about his (brain) stimulating new release.
Neal, congratulations on the release of your EP! How did this fascinating project first come about?
Thank you very much. I was inspired by my meditation practice. I saw that mindfulness was becoming more important to balance our fast-paced lifestyles, yet many people find it difficult to get into meditation. So, I thought, what if I composed music that would help people relax in a similar way? That was a couple years ago, and I’ve been exploring the concept ever since.
The fact that you composed these songs with the specific purpose to calm the listener through the stimulation of the pineal gland is not only fascinating, but quite a feat. What scientific research did you conduct to learn how to do this?
Science has proven that the pineal gland detects light and produces melatonin, which governs our circadian rhythms. But some recent studies have suggested that it’s capable of much more. Eastern spiritualism and Western philosophy believe it to be the “third eye” [of spiritual perception].
We’re just starting to monitor listeners’ brainwaves through a portable EEG to see if our music emits alpha waves, or a relaxed state of mind.
I’m not claiming that anything we are doing is backed by science, but I’m definitely curious, and I’d like to learn more.
Even though there is this scientific undercurrent to your music, it is still quite accessible and likely to appeal to listeners who might have no idea you are literally getting into their heads! How did you balance this purpose with the aesthetic beauty of the music?
I didn’t think about isochronic tones or solfeggio frequencies. I just made music that was personal to me, that helped bring me to a state of calm, and I hope that listeners feel the same.
You worked with some rather impressive people on this project, including Grammy-winning engineer Warren Riker and Grammy-nominated engineer Justin Shturtz. How was it working with such world-class professionals?
I’ve been working with Warren and Justin for a while, and they’re part of the team. They’re immensely talented and experienced, and it’s always fun bringing projects to life together.
The beautiful artwork for the EP is by Amit Slathia, who hails from Jammu, India. Did your own Indian heritage influence how you approached this project in any way?
It did not, but I discovered Amit’s work at a gallery in New Delhi a few years ago and was totally taken aback. I’d never seen art like his come out of India. I reached out to see if he’d be interested in designing the artwork, and he agreed. After listening to the EP a few times, he created it, and I could not be happier with the result.
There is a large interest in the relationship between music and the mind at the moment, from music therapy and childhood education, to studying how music can even alter the brain. Is this a subject that you would like to further explore?
Absolutely. I’ve always believed music is healing, and I would love to learn more about how it can help people and society. I find it so interesting how we’ve been conditioned to primarily see music as a means of entertainment, when really, it is so much more than that.
What is your vision and hope for how people around the world will listen to and engage with Akasha?
I hope that it makes people relax!