Brian Paulson isn't exactly what you'd call a conformist. The junior high and high school teachers who repeatedly kicked him out of their music classes knew that, but they might be surprised at the result. Paulson has produced seven albums on his label, Aeon Records, and owns a massive instrument collection from guitars to Peruvian flutes and didgeridoos. Paulson specializes in something called harmonics, a property of sound that he says can improve your learning skills and modulate your brainwaves.
You're not formally educated in music, is that right? I am not trained in the traditional fashion. I don't read music in the classical sense. My ability, I think, is more in the African tradition -- listening and then creating a response. I taught myself to play, and I am still experimenting and learning. To me, an instrument -- if it has the right sound -- teaches you a secret. It's just a matter of learning to find and reveal it.
How many instruments do you have now? I do an inventory about every couple of years just to see, and it's in excess of 230. We've dedicated part of our house to what I call the "museum."
Are most of those instruments ones you made? Not necessarily, but quite a few. I am always looking for a new sound, because then I have the ability to use it in a composition. For example, I was washing the dishes one day and I happened to tap some measuring cups on the bottom of the sink. It created a really interesting sound, so I created a measuring cup wind tree.
Your music is based on harmonic resonance. What does that mean? Harmonics are simply overtones. If we were to play a string on a guitar tuned to G, we hear ... a continuation of energy, a series of overtones which give that string its particular sound. If we had enough acoustic energy, then theoretically you could continue producing higher and higher octaves until it is no longer in the electromagnetic spectrum of sound, which encompasses eight octaves. Then [the sound] can be equated to such phenomena as electromagnetic energy as we call color, or light. Even higher vibrations can be considered fragrance.
Basically, harmonics are a minute part of everything? Anything that vibrates produces harmonics. As a matter of fact, I have a CD called Mystic Rain that mimics actual photon emissions.
What's the benefit? There have been studies that show that if you play sitar or Bach to plants, they would grow deeper root systems and flourish, but if played certain kinds of rock or metal the plants would actually lean away from the sound sources, develop short roots and die. I believe that we are now rediscovering what the ancients knew. We have so many distractions in our society that we very seldom get in touch with our true self, and I think sound and specific kinds of music can produce such lucent dream states to make that possible. We also know about the Mozart effect -- how music can improve intelligence and things like that. So we know that by creating specific intervals and specific music you can change mood.
How does that theory translate when you play live? I play off of the natural vibration of the audience. So if I pick up a vibe, I play music accordingly. And that's the way I work best. Sure, I can sit down and play tunes you might recognize, but I think a true artist is one that explores that language within themselves. For me it has been the language of vibration.
For more info on Brian Paulson's music, including his CDs, visit www.music-for-the-soul.com