Original Compositions

The “Ring” song that follows was part of a series of three wedding songs that I composed during my engagement, just before my wedding, and during my honeymoon. I offer it as an expression of preparing to join together with my husband in marriage. I will let it stand alone, open to interpretation and direct experience, as a portal to how wedding songs can capture the imagination of the emergent marital bond.

Ring

In the quiet
In the cold
Something growing
From the old

In the stillness

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In the haze
Something clearing
From the maze

Ooooh, oooooooh
Ha ha
Oooooooh
Ha ha
Oooooooh
Ha ha

The bell is ringing, it’s time to go
Your heart is singing on the open road

Come on now, be strong
Come on now, be strong

In the presence
In the new
Something stirring
Deep in you

In the open
In the heart
Beginning….
Here we start

Ooooh, oooooooh
Ha ha

Oooooooh
Ha ha

Oooooooh
Ha ha

The bell is ringing, it’s time to go
Your heart is singing on the open road

Come on now, be strong
Come on now, be strong
Come on now…

© Copyright, Willow Pearson Trimbach, 2023

Music can play a key role in honoring and facilitating the life stage transition of marriage. Specifically, wedding songs facilitate community gathering and witnessing, social-emotional focusing, and symbolization of the marriage bond through emotional

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containment and communication. It can play many roles in the celebration of a wedding, including songs for announcing the wedding party, songs for announcing the couple, songs for the couple’s first dance, songs for the parent/child dance, songs for the cake cutting, songs for the bouquet toss, a dance party playlist, and live music performed for the ceremony itself and during the wedding reception. Some or none of these musical expressions may be selected for a specific wedding according to the culture and style of the particular occasion.

There are infinite ways that music can figure into a wedding, just as there are an infinite number of expressions of culture and gender that constitute weddings between two people. This paper offers but one illustration of a wedding, in this case between a bride and groom in a Western context. I center on two examples of wedding songs: the parent/child dance and the live music performance for the ceremony, using my own recent wedding to illustrate the depth of meaning, communication, symbolization, witnessing, facilitation, and emotionality that songs can provide in the embodiment of marital union, both for the couple and for the family and community.

Cello Dreams

I have a lifelong passion for the cello. I am told that it is the instrument closest to the human voice. The cello appears in my dreams regularly. Both on a conscious level and in the life of the unconscious, the cello is a vibrant part of my spiritual psyche. (For a discussion of the spiritual psyche, see the book I co-edited with Helen Marlo, The Spiritual Psyche in Psychotherapy: Mysticism, Intersubjectivity, and Psychoanalysis, published in 2021 by Routledge.)

For me, the cello represents the embodied transcendent. It is an instrument that I deeply admire and yet cannot play myself. As such, I have to go outside of myself to access it; I can only enjoy it through others’ playing. This dependence on another to enjoy the music of the cello mirrors an enduring truth of marital relationships: loving the other (spouse or cellist), this person who is other than you yet united with you (in marriage or music) is a bridge and conduit between the internal and the external, between the self and the other.

Union and Distinction

As a complementary digression, before I continue with my

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discussion of how a live cello performance figured into our wedding ceremony and celebration, another artistic rendering of the interpersonal and intrapsychic dance of “union and distinction” (Eigen, 2020, pp. 29-30) within marriage is also vividly demonstrated and symbolized by an eternity knot—a Kenyan soapstone figurine—that my husband and I received as a wedding gift. The eternity knot is a symbol of the everlasting nature of the bond between two marriage partners. It symbolizes two distinct souls, united, in the same way that musician and music listener are united yet distinct in an instance of music listening.

To return to how a live cello performance figured into our wedding ceremony and celebration, in the communication of the marriage bond and as an image of the eternity knot, a cellist performed classical music during the processional, Ave Maria during the ceremony, and original, contemporary compositions during the reception as dinner music. With each of these offerings, the cello served as a voice of emotion, facilitating the gathering and focusing on the social and emotional presence among the guests and for us as the couple. There is such a depth of myriad, swirling emotions involved in a wedding—empathetic joy, jealousy, exuberance, despondence, courage, fear, open-heartedness, loneliness, belonging, exaltation, and more—and that was true of our wedding as well. For many, who noted the impact of the music following the ceremony, the cello was a powerful conduit and container for this depth and complexity of emotional stirring. The cello served as an essential bridge among mind, body, heart, spirit, and community, allowing the caesuras—simultaneously the separations and unions—between them to be traversed, woven, and distinguished, back and forth, note by note, throughout and following the performance.

Communion and Separation

In the same way that, as an art object, the eternity knot simultaneously demonstrates and symbolizes the union and distinction of the marriage bond, and the live cello performance threaded an emotional presence for those gathered, the song that my husband and I chose for the parent/child dance at our wedding reception both contained and communicated the deep feelings of honor and respect, communion and separation, embodied by this specific wedding ritual. In our case, we chose the song “Kind and Generous” by Natalie Merchant to convey something of our gratitude, as children, to our parents, for providing us with the foundation for—and supporting us in—seeking lifelong love.

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I, as the bride, danced with my father and, at the same time, my husband, as the groom, danced with his mother. The repetition of gratitude expressed through the melodic chorus of the song created a lulling, mantric expression of all that words alone cannot convey. The broadcasting of honor and respect that the song imparted helped to contain the simultaneous ongoing need to further individuate from our parents and the parallel ongoing need to pay homage to their parental guidance and example as well as to incarnate a new family system recognizing my husband and I as a married couple.

Through each of these musical experiences—the composing of original songs, the performing of solo cello, and the playing of “Kind and Generous”—the marital knot was tied. Each musical offering brought out and also held a meaningful dimension of the depth of feeling running through our sacred union, not only for us as the married couple but also for the community in celebration. For the unspeakable depths of emotional truth that brought us together, music created a voice and a chalice alike, emanating and containing a union of souls.

Music Listening: A Singing Practice

What threads each of these musical experiences, and allows for their emotional impact, is the capacity for attuned listening. One way to experience this directly is to listen to a song and sing along, as I will describe and invite here.

The first principle of music listening, applied here to singing a song, is this: all levels of conscious and unconscious awareness are always already emanating at once, whether these levels are distinctly registered or veiled in mind and screened out of awareness. Even so, quite paradoxically, there is just this one taste, which is the taste of equality. There are three stages of realization embedded in music listening—any one of them can be approached and open up an experience of the other stages, at any moment.

The first stage is to practice, to recognize moment by moment, the co-emergence of silence and sound. Psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion used to exhort his supervisees to “listen to yourself listening to the patient!” (see James Grotstein’s But At the Same Time and on Another Level, Volume 1, p. 62) which is an excellent way to attend to how a patient makes you feel, and what you find yourself thinking about the patient, at once, not as a conscious or unconscious reaction, but as the beginnings of a music listening

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practice, for there is the introduction of space to feel and space to think about the “emotional storm” that you and your patient are engaged in (Eigen, 2005). Translated here into a singing practice: listen to yourself listening to your singing of the song.

The second stage is to practice, to recognize, the co-emergence of what psychoanalyst Ofra Eshel (2019) calls “withnessing” with what Ken Wilber (2006) often presents as “witnessing.” This is the communion of subjectivity and objectivity, the co-emergence of ontology and epistemology, engaged at the edge of openness to mystery—one aspect at the heart of the definitive meaning of any music listening practice. In genuine reality, being and knowing are inseparable, yet, even so, there is always the leading edge, albeit intertwined with emergent knowing, of ultimate subjectivity, of ontology, of being. This is an important teaching point. In other words, expand your feeling state even as you expand your capacity for observation. They are partners, not antagonists. (For in-depth instruction and training in clarity emptiness, bliss emptiness, and appearance emptiness, see teachings on Love on Every Breath: Tonglen Meditation for Transforming Pain into Joy by Lama Palden from 2019.)

A third point is that this is a song composed of, and from, the ever-present field of what the Buddhists call “clarity emptiness,” another term that is akin to—yet not entirely confluent with—what Wilber refers to as “suchness.” Allow the union of a full heart and a focused mind; they are companions. You can begin with the fruit of the music listening practice and allow the song you choose to express itself naturally, as you enjoy the singing, allowing each of these levels of practice to center you as the spirit moves. Sing from the heart of what the Buddhists call “bliss emptiness”—the union of an increasing development of desire, with a recognition that you are in a dream when you know you are dreaming. (For a presentation of integral dreaming, rooted in study with my principal meditation teachers, Lama Palden Drolma and Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, see the forthcoming article from the Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche [16(4)] on an “Integral Relational Method of Dreaming the Caesura.”)

Original Compositions

For a direct experience of Music Listening: A Singing Practice, I offer the following three songs as a trans-symbolic, nondual, and embodied expression of preparing to join together with my husband in marriage. I will let them stand alone, open to interpretation

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and direct experience, as a portal to how wedding songs can capture the imagination of the emergent marital bond. These original compositions represent one of the aforementioned several ways that songs can figure in the ritual, ceremony, and celebration of a wedding:

The three songs, composed during the various stages of my personal wedding process, are entitled “Shown”, “Ring”, and “Your Hand.” “Ring” was written on December 12, 2020, during our engagement; “Your Hand” was written on July 9, 2022, three weeks before our wedding day; “Shown,” which came to me in a dream, was composed July 24, 2022, on the last night of our honeymoon. See the chapter “Welcoming dreams” in the forthcoming volume co-edited by L. Daws and K. Cohen, Dreaming the Undreamable Object in the Work of Michael Eigen: Becoming the Welcoming Object, published by Routledge.

You can listen to the songs and sing along (Willow Pearson Trimbach’s music is available to hear through most streaming and downloadable music outlets). Once you catch the tunes, enjoy singing them on your own. Embellish each song with your signature voice!

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References:

  • Eigen, Michael (2005). Emotional storm. Wesleyan University Press.
  • Eigen, Michael (2020). Dialogues with Michael Eigen: Psyche singing (L. Daws, Ed.). Routledge.
  • Eshel, Ofra (2019). The emergence of analytic oneness: Into the heart of psychoanalysis. Routledge.
  • Wilber, Ken (2006). Integral spirituality: A startling new role for religion in the modern and postmodern world. Integral Books.

Authors:

Willow Pearson Trimbach

Willow Pearson Trimbach, PsyD, LMFT, MT-BC, is director of clinical training and associate professor of the Clinical Psychology Department at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. A psychologist, psychotherapist, and music therapist, she has a private practice in Oakland, California (drwillowpearson.com). Dr. Pearson Trimbach is also a singer and songwriter, with six albums of original music and a seventh album of Tibetan Buddhist songs of realization (lionessroars.org). She is co-editor and contributing author of The Spiritual Psyche: Mysticism, Intersubjectivity and Psychoanalysis in Clinical Practice, published by Routledge in 2021. She can be contacted at .

How to Cite This:

Trimbach, W. P. (2023). Wedding song. Clio’s Psyche, 29(3), 363-369.

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