Milford Graves & his Psychedelic Set

Milford Graves: Heart-Rhythm-Music

Rhythm. What a quizzical word – even the spelling has its own unusual pattern. Rhythm at it’s most basic is defined as, “movement in time” [from the Latin, rhythmus]. This makes no reference to periodicity or other attributes that the word typically evokes. In this way it unveils that we each have our own rhythm based on what our heart emits through us. Listening closely to your own heart you can detect patterns unique unto you, a rhythm that is solely registered through your body. This is an incredible truth and speaks to how we can each uniquely and purely connect our heart to the world.

Since the early 1970s Milford Graves has been dedicating much of his studies to healing, particularly in relationship to the heart. Beyond his trap set, he’s also an herbalist, acupuncturist, sound therapist and holistic healer. Graves began his research in a way only a drummer could – with his drums. He started working with people who had been diagnosed with non-organic arrhythmias where no medications or other treatments had worked and he would spontaneously work through a freely improvised session of drumming or play pre-recorded sessions. When the person would start to sync up with a rhythm, Graves would do the rest of the session live playing out of the arrhythmic beat into a steady rhythm and the person’s heart would follow. He documented his unusual clinical trials with electrocardiograms as well as a tape recording which hosted the music on one side and the person’s heart beat on the other to reveal how they synced up.

Graves makes a point of projecting specific feelings through his drumming to the audience, and here’s him sharing an example of when he knows he’s connected with them:

People come over to me after. They don’t just tell me ‘wow, you’re a great musician.’ Which is great- because I know that they didn’t get it if they tell me that. But when they tell me ‘I came in here and I was all uptight and I didn’t even feel like coming to this concert, now I’m so glad I came here. You made me feel the way I’m supposed to feel.’ They’d be smiling. You could see them open up and sparkle. That’s great.

Milford Graves’ approach to healing expands the concept of holism in a multidimensional experience where both the healer and patient meet each other vibrationally at the heart. Through improvisation, deep listening, creative expression and a genuine ear for delicate fluctuation, he knows and understands people through their hearts. Maybe more healers, musicians and all kinds of people can develop their sensitivity to the hearts of others and we could meet each other at the core – at the earliest expression of the soul. Then we could know each other’s truest music.

Milford Graves in his element with the NY HeArt Ensemble at the 2013 Vision Festival.

“I wanted to see what kind of music my heart was making,” – Milford Graves speaking on why he purchased an electronic stethoscope in the early 1970’s.

Milford Graves in his basement.

Milford Graves & Computers

Further reading:
Perfect Sound Forever Interview with Milford Graves
Find Healing Music in the Heart
The Jazz Scientist