How Is a Concert Like a Ritual?

Musician and meditation guru Dinner serves up some musings on music and spirituality.

What is the connection between a musical experience and a so-called spiritual one? And why are either important to me?

Let me address the first question first and say, I don’t know.

But I can guess.

I think it’s about transcendence.

“Transcendence of what?” one might ask.

I would say, transcendence of the everyday experience — the everyday mental modality.

“Now why would you want to transcend that? What’s wrong with my everyday experience?”

Nothing! Or rather, I don’t know what’s “right” or “wrong” with anyone else’s experience. I can only tell you what works for me. And, personally, I find that my normal, everyday perception is very limited.

My “thinking mind” is very small. It’s always thinking very small thoughts. For instance, when I try to predict what my future might be like, I can come up with maybe one hundred possible scenarios all in all. That’s how far my logical, linear mind can take me.

But there are, in fact, an infinite number of possible turns my life can take — an infinite number of variations.

This reminds me that there is a power greater than myself. A power that can create outcomes that I can’t even imagine. A power that is infinite. Call it God, call it élan vital, call it Tao, call it nature, call it chance. Call it whatever you like.

When I offer myself up to this power, then life feels easy. In doing so, I’m somehow moving with an invisible flow. Life then feels fun. Like a game!

I relate this to letting go.

When I let go of my narratives about the past, and when I let go of my expectations about the future, then I feel good. Then I’m dancing with life. Then I’m moving with elegance. When I let go of the thinking mind’s ideas, life gets easy.

In my life I write songs and I play concerts. I like to think of a concert as a ritual.


Imagine our ancestors gathered around the campfire. They would need to evoke certain spirits from time to time. What was this evocation like? There’d be dancing! There’d be lights (the open fire)! There’d be drumming and clapping and chanting! And there’d be a shaman to direct the ritual — to direct the energies of the tribe.

Does a modern-day concert digress much from this formula? No, I don’t think it does.

So I do my best to work with this.

My performances are a form of self-hypnosis. By executing a pre-meditated series of bodily movements in conjunction with certain sounds I bring myself into a trance. “Trance” sounds so dramatic! It isn’t, though. It just means the thinking mind steps back.

I can honestly say that the best (or most true) version of myself expresses itself when I’m performing because the mind gets out of the driver’s seat and something else takes over. I’m then allowed to move in sync with that wonderful flow I mentioned above. No fear, no worries. Elegance! Being this version of myself is so much more fun than being my everyday persona.

The way I see it, me putting a trance state on display facilitates some sort of shift in the audience (if they want it, that is). One could speculate that me acting as a conduit allows members of the audience to come into contact with their own conduit-ness.

Maybe this happens on a small scale, maybe on a big scale. Some people will come up to me after a show and say, “That was fun.” My dance moves probably are a bit funny-looking.

That’s good! Humor is a powerful spirit to evoke. A powerful gateway into something bigger…

Other people will come up to me and talk about grand feelings of oneness or “ego loss” or seeing colors during a show. Others, I’m sure, don’t experience anything out of the ordinary.

I’ve just released my debut album, Psychic Lovers. Simultaneously, I’ve put out a CD-R with a guided meditation. I’ve led group meditations in L.A., where I’ve lived. I’ve done guided meditations at shows, too. I’ve had people sit down on the floor when I’ve played at small art galleries or even big festivals. Sometimes these “rock concert meditations” are long, sometimes short. Sometimes people cry during these group meditations. Sometimes they have strong, physical reactions. Sometimes they fall asleep. Sometimes they are bored.

In other words, these experiences are no different from a concert, right? I don’t differentiate between putting out a guided meditation CD-R or a vinyl record with music, because it’s basically the same thing. In other words, the connection between the “spiritual” and “musical” experience seems pretty clear.

Why, then, do I find music, performances, meditation, hypnosis or any other form of trance-inducing tools important? Why do I put them at the core of my life and work?

Because they remind me that there is…something else.

They allow me (maybe just for a split second!) to observe the thinking mind short-circuiting and something else shoving up in its absence.

This answer is vague. “Something else” is vague. But it needs to be vague or it will lose its meaning. “The name that can be named isn’t the eternal name,” as the famous quote from the Tao Te Ching goes. Or “mu,” to go all Zen on you. At least that’s how life works in my experience.

The way I experience “reality” is based on my human biology, just the same way an ant’s biology (the size of its brain, its sensory organs, etc.) determines its perception of reality.

I wouldn’t trust an ant to understand, say, Henri Bergson’s writings, much the same way I wouldn’t trust my own mind to understand the invisible script of absolute reality. From this point of view, everything I can measure or logically understand is by definition an illusion.

So, any tool to help me escape this illusion is important to me. That’s why I like music and rituals. They help me glimpse reality! And what could be more important than that?

Dinner is Danish producer and singer Anders Rhedin. Dinner leads a nomadic existence, dividing his time between Los Angeles, Copenhagen and Berlin. So far, Dinner has three EPs and a guided hypnosis tape under his belt. This April, 2016, sees the release of his debut album Psychic Lovers.

(Photo credit: Mette Hersoug)