For those of us who were meditating in the 1970s and 80s, the memory of Maharishi’s lectures will forever be entwined with the delightful songs written and performed by Emily Levin. After garnering an MA in music, Emily began writing songs for the TM movement in 1974 and was given the title of Minister of Music and Merriment. She has composed over 280 songs.
Now with the release of Emily’s second album, From Here to Here, we can enjoy this cherished music once again. These songs linger in your heart, capturing the essence of Maharishi’s knowledge in witty language and lively rhythms. (Who could forget lines like “The aroma of soma in Tacoma”?) And then there is the bliss you feel when listening to Emily’s voice—so light and melodic and pure it could come from another realm.
Probably the best-known song on the album is the soaring “Birthday Song (To Be Born),” which has spontaneously been sung at countless birthday parties over the years. Other favorites include “Five Fingers” and “Let us be Together.”
Here Emily talks about the purpose of music and her process of creating these timeless songs.
Linda Egenes: What is your creative process?
Emily Levin: Joy is part of the process. The songs I wrote were expressions of Maharishi’s knowledge. I wrote for special events—or for conferences or inaugurations—and on new inspiring themes of knowledge that Maharishi was bringing out.
When I begin to compose a song, key phrases come first, suggesting a meter, which guides the melody. There’s a pivotal point when the song’s “essence” materializes, and like the iron filings around a magnet, everything seems to fall into place.
For example, how did you compose “Victory Before War,” which is one of my favorites from your first album?
The title and lyrics for “Victory Before War,” which was composed in 1976, were inspired by Maharishi’s lecture on Enlightened Defense.
The melody came quickly—I knew it was a march. On the left side of the page, I listed key phrases from the lecture, and on the right, military terms that came to mind. I put them together, like puzzle pieces: “A 21-gun salute, for watering the root.” The video recording of that song is still enjoyable to watch. A lapel microphone was carefully secured to a strand of a chorus member’s hair. It always makes me laugh to see it dangling there.
Sometimes I needed to write a song in a very short time. The creative process was somewhat different under those circumstances—alternating moments of creative flow and inhibiting fear that I wouldn’t finish on time. Oddly, some of those songs are my favorites.
On a course I attended in Switzerland, I was telephoned and asked to write a song—to be performed for the National Leader’s Conference in Seelisberg one hour later. I remember sitting at the hotel switchboard, guitar in hand, singing into the phone. That was pressure transformed into exhilaration.
Why did Maharishi place so much value on creating these songs?
Maharishi said, “The role of music is a very beautiful role; a divine role for unifying creation.” Music stirs the bliss, refines the heart, and acts as a purifier in society. He said that when we can maintain bliss consciousness as our all-time reality, life becomes musical.
Your first album was recorded in 1978. What inspired you to make this album now?
I was appreciating the songs from a new perspective, seeing their historic value, tracing where Maharishi’s attention flowed and how his knowledge of consciousness unfolded at a given time.
Right now I’m working on another album, which will include both some older songs and a few new ones.
Any advice for songwriters?
At the moment, my advice is for everyone to be a songwriter. Feel freedom—no inhibitions. Take one simple idea and give it a melody. Repeat it, briefly elaborate on it, return to it—silence, dynamism, silence—all from one’s finest feeling.
Emily Levin’s CD, From Here to Here: Songs on the Blossoming of Enlightenment is available at the MUM Bookstore, (800) 831-6523, or online at MUM Press. The proceeds help support the Mother Divine Program.