Music of the Five Elements
Music of the Five Elements was part of Sam’s final Division III project at Hampshire College. Recorded over a year in the Hampshire Electronic Music Studio, it was composed according to Sam’s research into the effects of musical intervals and rhythms on the Organ Meridians of Acupressure. The music is actually one 53 minute piece in ten sections (the Five Elements) comprised of guitar, piano, synthesizer, chants, Chinese flute, bowed bass guitar, and various natural sounds.
First released worldwide as an LP and cassette tape in 1982 on Jonathan Goldman’s Spirit Music label, it was re-mastered by Sam and re-released on the Brandon Hocura’s Séance Centre label in 2018 as an LP and digital download
Note relationships and their relation to the Meridians were first mentioned in the Nei Jing, the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine which is one of the oldest medical texts in the world. Through his knowledge of Chinese medicine and diagnosis, and the Five Elements model, along with a great deal of experimentation, patterns emerged that allowed for the use of music for balancing the emotions and, through them, the meridians.
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Notes from Séance Centre
Music is the healing force of the universe. It’s an ancient idea bandied about by Pythagoras and Plato. In the last century, music as medication has been explored by musicians as diverse as Albert Ayler, Spacemen 3 and Pauline Oliveros. Nowhere did this concept gain more traction than in the so-called realm of New Age Music, an entire movement of synth droners and echoey flautists recording home-baked healing mantras on 4-track. In recent years, thanks to cassette collecting devotees and open-minded music journalists, New Age has shed its flowing robes and is being mined for the truly incredible music that swells under its pastel surface. Musician/acupressurist Sam McClellan’s 1982 Music of the Five Elements is one of those revelatory discoveries, an unrivalled work of intense research and focus, simultaneously a near perfect work of art and a scientifically sound elixir for body and mind.
After studying electronic composition at Hampshire College with Randall McClellan (no relation), Sam McClellan became intrigued with the possibilities of healing through music. He explored this idea by applying the ancient Chinese philosophy of medicine to the principles of musical composition. Using the pentatonic scale (the traditional scale of Chinese music), McClellan related each of the notes to one of the five elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal Water), and created five variations for each. He experimented with tempo, beat, pitch, duration, and sound quality, studying the effect on people’s energy levels. Using the results of his tests he developed a comprehensive theory of sonic healing and spent the next year composing an album designed to help people achieve inner balance, reducing anxiety and energy depletion.
Music of the Five Elements is not only the “acoustic massage” that McClellan set out to make, but is a fully realized and peerless piece of music. Taking cues from Minimalism (Tony Conrad / La Monte Young), American Primitive guitar (Fahey & Basho) and even psychedelia, the album is a continuous sound voyage for voice, synthesizer, guitar, bowed bass, piano, effects and ciao (Chinese flute) all played by McClellan himself. Although divided into sections, the journey is best undertaken as a whole, without distraction. As McClellan himself wrote in the original liner notes:
“The optimum effect of Music of the Five Elements will be achieved if each side of this recording is played through, from beginning to end without interruption. Music of the Five Elements, when used as a meditational or body work tool, rather than entertainment, will increase in effect over time. Overplaying or improper use, however, may eventually diminish its designed effect”
The prescription for this album: play it loud and heal yourself. Remixed and remastered from the original reels and cut using DMM for the purest dose possible.
Notes on Music of the Five Elements
Music of the Five Elements, designed to balance the energy levels of the body, is the result of my studies in the field
of music and holistic health. In 1976 at Hampshire College, Prof. Randall McClellan (no relation) sparked in me the possibility of using sound and music for healing work. Since that time, I have taken every opportunity to find out as much as I could about “ healing music”. What I found was that, although there were people doing excellent work in this area, none had as yet devised a system for understanding and predicting how music affects the body-mind. I decided to see if this could be done.
As my model, I took the ancient Chinese philosophy of medicine now utilized in acupuncture. Its structure is based on the interrelationship of the five elements and their influence on the whole person. These five elements, or wu-xing, literally translate as “ five to go” and are also known as The Phase of Energy Transformation. They are: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water.
- Wood represents the creative aspect, when energy is expended to create something, such as in germination or the season of Spring.
- Fire represents the aspect of maturation, energy is expended for growth, as found in the season of Summer.
- Earth relates to balance, when energy is in equilibrium, such as during late Summer, or early Fall.
- Metal represents the gathering of energy, as when a tree draws sap into its roots during late Fall, as Winter approaches.
- Water represents the storage of energy, or return to potential and is manifested as death, or as the season of Winter.
This way of seeing cycles is universally applicable as an extension of the philosophy of Yin and Yang, wherein Wood and Fire are Yang, Metal and Water are Yin, while Earth is the point of balance between. All things manifest aspects of one or another of the elements through which its qualities and its relationship to all other things can be understood and predicted.
With these principles in mind, I began research and experimentation using the five possible variations of the pentatonic scale (the traditional scale of Chinese music). I related each of the notes to one of the five elements and constructed a series of five scales, the five possible variations of the pentatonic scale and assigned each variation to one of the five elements according to its intervallic relationship. I discovered that each scale had emotional effects that were related to one of the five elements. I did the same with tempo, beat, pitch duration and sound quality. Realizing the exact effects of the notes was particularly difficult due to the different qualities created by various combinations; the playing of two notes together for a short time will raise (tonify) the energy flow of an element while sustaining the same notes will calm (sedate) the energy flow. Similar problems with other variables of music, including the effects of extra notes not found in the balanced Earth scale, also had to be understood and overcome before the system for Music of the Five Elements could be completed.
I then composed ten short pieces, two for each element, with five of them designated to tonify the elements and five of them designated to sedate. By using Oriental Diagnosis, I determined the energy imbalance in several people and played for them the five pieces in a predetermined order, which in theory, would balance them. Through use of Applied Kinesiology (a method of muscle testing) and Oriental Pulse Diagnosis, I tested each person at the end of their session to verify my theory. The results were most encouraging, much more so than I had hoped, for they did indeed verify that this system I developed worked not only in theory but in actual practice.
My next step was to create music which anyone could listen to with positive results. Using the knowledge I had gained from these experiments, I worked for over a year creating and recording Music of the Five Elements, as it now exists. The music has been designed to balance all the aspects of self, according to the order of the five elements, with specific emphasis on those aspects that, in our culture, tend to be commonly imbalanced. These usually manifest in individuals as anxiety and energy depletion.
My original intent for Music of the Five Elements was to use this music in my practice of acupressure, as an acoustic massage, to be played either before or during the session. I have found, along with many others, that it is equally effective when used with any type of body-mind work and is also excellent by itself as a guided meditation. The optimum effect of Music of the Five Elements will be achieved if each side of this recording is played through, from beginning to end without interruption. Music of the Five Elements, when used as a meditational or body work tool, rather than entertainment, will increase in effect over time. Overplaying or improper use, however, may eventually diminish its designed effect.
From the original liner notes, 1982
Sam McClellan’s Music of the Five Elements is one of those rare new age gems that guides the listener to a state of calming meditation through actual science and research. The liner notes included on Séance Centre’s loving re-issue offer a fascinating glimpse into Sam’s creative and technical process, which involved mapping the pentatonic scale to the five elements of traditional Chinese medicine in an effort to “balance all aspects of the self,” with a specific focus on the anxiety and exhaustion that are synonymous with the modern world. There is even a nice translation chart if you prefer chakra balancing! But as heady and conceptual as the backstory is, the music itself is transcendental, legitimately healing, and necessary now more than ever…a gorgeous driftscape of synth drones, acoustic guitar, layered singing, and relaxing piano cascades.
Excerpt from a lengthy review
— The Sun Lounge
“Earth, wind, water, fire, wood: There’s a track dedicated to each on Sam McClellan’s Music for the Five Elements, the latest reissue from Seance Center. McClellan carefully interweaves electronics, piano, Chinese flute, guitar, and bowed bass. The resulting blend, which features tinges of psychedelia and American primitive, as well as transcendent minimalism, balances, centers and soothes the listener, encouraging deep awareness of the present moment in all its intricacies”
“Some absorbing soundscapes for your Bandcamp Monday: a masterful song suite that unfurls beautifully over the course of 50+ minutes, with 12-string guitar, Riley-esque acoustic piano, Chinese flute, wordless vocalizing and gently droning synths blending and drifting and dreaming. So nice – it can be as heavy as a thunder cloud or as light as a summer breeze. In addition to being a musician, McClellan is an accupressurist, so this music is functional, too.”
— Doom & Gloom from the Tomb
First ever vinyl reissue for this fantastic & peaceful 1982 album of self-proclaimed “healing music” by Sam McLellan. The music is based on the Chinese philosophy of acupuncture & the whole album flows together naturally using fingerstyle guitar ala Robbie Basho & Jim O’Rourke, Chinese flute & even some drone elements. This reminds us a lot of the mellower side of POPOL VUH. Recommended!
— Reckless Records
“Electronic composer Sam McClellan’s ‘Music of the Five Elements’ is a work of perfectly tuned healing music, composed over two suites ‘Gathering’ and ‘Focusing’. Originally released in 1982, reissued by Séance Centre – TIP!”
— Sounds of the Universe
Ex-Invisible City founder Brandon Hocura’s new Seance Centre project readies its seventh outing. Turning their attention to acupressurist Sam McClellan and his 1982 LP ‘Music of the Five Elements’, they offer a new perspective on one of pastoral America’s many unfortunately misaligned ‘new age’ ventures. Yes, the album was designed with healing-via-sound purposes in mind, but look beyond the latest cash-cow fad of times gone by and you’re left with a spectacular album that effortlessly bridges some seemingly disparate genres together. File under the best of Takoma/Windham Hill meets La Monte Young/Terry Riley et al with touches of ECM. Must listen from start to finish!
Brandon Hocura’s Séance Centre pull out Sam McClellan’s sublime 1982 new age opus Music Of The Five Elements for this invaluable first vinyl reissue. Devised as ‘healing music’ designed to “balance the energy levels of the body”, this, the first of three sought-after volumes, borrows from the ancient Chinese philosophy of medicine now used in acupuncture, to riff pentatonic on guitar, synth, piano and ciao (Chinese flute) in a seamless, rolling suite best consumed in one go for best effect. The A-side is focussed on the cyclical guitar strums, while a much stronger 2nd side focusses deeper on the synth, keys and vocal treatments.
why we love this
Music of the Five Elements was first released in 1982, and was one of the first works in contemporary Western music to combine a considerable skill of musicianship with a thorough knowledge and expertise in the ancient methodology of healing with music. A beautiful meditative piece of work. Best enjoyed from beginning to end, without interruption.
about the record
Acupressurist and electronic composer Sam McClellan’s Music of the Five Elements is a work of perfectly tuned healing music. The album is a continuous sound voyage for voice, synthesizer, guitar, bowed bass, piano, effects and ciao (Chinese flute) all played by McClellan himself. Although divided into sections, the journey is best undertaken as a whole, without distraction.
As McClellan himself wrote on the original liner notes: “The optimum effect of Music of the Five Elements will be achieved if each side of this recording is played through, from beginning to end without interruption. Music of the Five Elements, when used as a meditational or body work tool, rather than entertainment, will increase in effect over time. Overplaying or improper use, however, may eventually diminish its designed effect.”
— objects & sounds
Music for healing from our good friends at Séance Centre… On Music of the Five Elements, electronic composer Sam McClellan applies the ancient Chinese philosophy of medicine to music composition with the goal of creating “a scientifically sound elixir for body and mind.” Each track is based around one of the five elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water) which McClellan then aligns with different levels of chakra and the pentatonic scale (the traditional scale of Chinese music). This might sound a bit too heavy on the New Age tip for some (even this writer), but there’s certainly healing qualities to the music contained on this disc. We’ve experienced it first-hand ourselves in the early hours of the ISC listening bar. Deep listen recommended! “The optimum effect of Music of the Five Elements will be achieved if each side of this recording is played through, from beginning to end without interruption. Music of the Five Elements, when used as a meditational or body work tool, rather than entertainment, will increase in effect over time. Overplaying or improper use, however, may eventually diminish its designed effect.”
Recommended – Full Listen
— In Sheeps Clothing Hifi
Draw the curtains and light a candle. Draw three chalk figures on the floor and feel the air in the room tremble – incredible esoteric psych-folk here unearthed by the excellent Seance Centre – don’t sleep.
— Picadilly Records, staff recommendation by Patrick
Seance Centre see fit to re-press Sam McClellan’s 1982 New Age work Music Of The Five Elements. McClellan – a musician who moonlights as an acupressurist – concerned himself with making music to heal after he finished studying electronic composition at Hampshire College. Using the pentatonic scale and Chinese philosophy as guiding principles for his work, McClellan composed a ‘Focussing’ and ‘Gathering’ piece for each of the five elements. The result is not always tranquil, but often beautiful, reminiscent of Eno and prefacing Spacemen 3.
— Norman Records
“Music Of The Five Elements” è a tutti gli effetti un brano di ben 52 minuti che nelle due parti“Gathering” e Focussing”, trae ispirazione tanto dai bordoni di Tony Conrad e La Monte Young, quanto dal folk strumentale di Fahey e Basho, originando una suggestiva composizione elettro/acustica per chitarra, pianoforte, violoncello, Ciao (ovvero flauto cinese), sintetizzatore e voce, ricca di passaggi di pacifica e cristallina bellezza. Considerare “Music Of The Five Elements” semplicemente come musica “funzionale” è un errore. Questo disco va ascoltato e scoperto senza preconcetti, vi ricambierà appagandovi. Provare per credere.
“Music Of The Five Elements” is in effect a song of 52 minutes that in the two parts “Gathering” and Focussing “, draws inspiration from the drones of Tony Conrad and La Monte Young, as well as from the instrumental folk of Fahey and Basho, originating a suggestive electro / acoustic composition for guitar, piano, cello, Ciao (or Chinese flute), synthesizer and voice, rich in peaceful and crystalline beauty. Considering “Music Of The Five Elements” simply as “functional” music is an error. This record should be listened to and uncovered without preconceptions, [and] will repay you by appeasing you. Seeing is believing.
A complex work here. First, he studied electronic composition at Hampshire College where he was intrigued by the possibilities of influencing people, «healing» through music. Second, he experimented with musical composition by relating each of the notes to one of the five elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal Water), and created five variations for each, then he studied its effect on people’s energy levels. And finally, after these tests, Sam McClellan spent one year composing an album designed to help people achieve inner balance, and reduce anxiety and energy depletion. The album was released back in 1982 but its aim is fresh as ever.
— Krossfingers – Best Music of April 2018
果てしなく澄み渡る久遠のヒーリング・サウンド！昨年のレーベル設立以降、Beverly Glenn-CopelandにEblen Macari、Michel Banabilaなどの再発を始め、昨今のニューエイジ／エクスペリメンタル再評価の文脈に大きく食い込んできたカナダの新鋭レーベルで、Séance Centreからは、アパラチアン・フォークな情緒〜卓越したミニマリズムが香る82年宅録ヒーリング・ニューエイジの隠れた大名盤が堂々の再発です！
先日の再発作品は弊店でもベストセラーとなったRandall McClellanとともにハンプシャー大学で作曲を学び、音楽療法の可能性へと興味を持つようになった彼は、古代中国の医学の哲理を自身の音楽の原則に適用し始めます。McClellanは、中国の音楽の伝統的なスケールであるペンタトニック・スケールを用い、テンポやビート、ピッチ、持続音、音質などが人々の精神状態へと及ぼす影響を研究したソニックヒーリング理論を開発、これによって人々の心の処方箋となるべくして製作されたのが本作です。Tony ConradやLa Monte Youngなどを想起させる緻密なミニマリズムや、John FaheyやRobbie Basho直系とも言えるアメリカン・プリミティヴ・ギターは大変聴きものです！開放感たっぷりな自然美あふれるイメージは、ウィンダムヒル・レーベル辺りのサウンドにも通じるのではないでしょうか。ピースフルな調べが織りなす趣豊かな響きと神聖な温かさで包み込むニューエイジ大傑作。これは必聴です！オリジナル・マスター・リールからのリミックス&マスタリング。大推薦！
Healing sound of endless enduring beauty! Since the establishment of the label last year, Canadian new label which has begun to reissue artists such as Eblen Macari, Michel Banabila etc in Beverly Glenn-Copeland, has brought greatly into the context of New Age / Experimental reevaluation, from Séance Center, Appalachian Folk Emotion – The 82-year Home Record 82% Honorable New Age’s hidden famous board is reborn perfectly!
Reissued work of 1982, the artist learned composition at the Hampshire College with Randall McClellan, and became interested in the possibility of music therapy…McClellan developed a sonic healing theory that studied the influence of tempo, beat, pitch, sustained sound, sound quality, etc. on the mental state of people using the traditional scale of Chinese music, the pentatonic scale, This work is made to be a prescription for balancing people’s minds as much as possible. Precise minimalism reminiscent of Tony Conrad, La Monte Young, etc., and American Primitive Guitar which can be tied directly to John Fahey or Robbie Basho! With plenty of opening feelings full of natural beauty similar to the sound of Windham Hill Label as well. A masterpiece of New Age enveloping with a rich sound and a sacred warmth peacefully interwoven. This is a must! Remix & mastering from the original master · reel. Great recommendation!
— Meditations JP
Popol VuhことFlorian Frickeによるニュー・エイジ～アンビエント～エクスペリメンタル・ワークを髣髴とさせるオリエンタル～アジアン・フレイヴァーをふんだんに帯びた異色電子ワーク。優しく脳髄を刺激する柔らかな音の波に身を委ね、心身ともに浮遊するメディテーティヴ・ワーク傑作。A面は”Gathering”と称し、それぞれ「木」、「土」、「水」、「火」、「金」、「木」の順で表現。B面は”Focusing”と称し、「木」、「金」、「火」、「水」、「土」、「木」の順に構成されています。
he ’82 New Age masterpiece expressing Chinese philosophy with electronic music!
After learning electronic music at Hampshire College located in Massachusetts, meditation soundscape incorporating the Yin-Yang five-line theory known as thought occurred in Ancient China familiar with Yin Yang is included in the sound.
Popol Vuh That’s New Age by Florian Fricke ~ Ambient ~ Oriental to make experimental work. ~ ~ Different color electronic work abundantly with Asian flavor. Meditative work masterpiece that entrusts to the waves of soft sound which gently stimulate the brain marrow, and is suspended both mentally and physically. The side A is called “Gathering” and is expressed in the order of “Wood”, “Earth”, “Water”, “Fire”, “Metal”, “Wood”. B side is called “Focusing” and it is composed of “Wood”, “Metal”, “Fire”, “Water”, “Earth”, “Wood”.
— Jet Set Records
といったリイシューが大好評を得た、[Invisible City Editions]の片割れBrandon Hocuraによるレーベル[Seance Centre]。その最新作は、指圧療法士としても活動していたアメリカの音楽家、Sam McClellanが1982年に自主レーベルからリリースしていたアルバム、『Music Of The Five Elements』の正規ライセンス復刻盤。ギター、ピアノ、シンセサイザー、フルート、ヴォーカルなどを自身で多重録音しながら、片面12～15分の尺の美しく静謐で透明溢れるサウンドスケープを展開。さすがにこのレーベルから出るだけあって、やはり素晴らしいニューエイジ/アンビエント・アルバムですね。音質も良好。おすすめ盤！！
Reissue has gained great popularity, according to Brandon Hocura of [Invisible City Editions] Label [Seance Center]. The latest work is an authorized license reprint board of “Music Of The Five Elements” album “Music Of The Five Elements” which American musician Sam McClellan had been releasing from his own label in 1982, also active as an acupressure therapist. While recording multiple guitar, piano, synthesizer, flute, vocal and so on by themselves, it develops a beautifully serene, transparent and overflowing soundscape with a length of 12 to 15 minutes. As expected it is only from this label, it is still a wonderful New Age / Ambient Album. Sound quality is also good. Recommended board! !
— Lighthouse Records
Here are some nice long clips from the first and second sides of the album.
Side A – Gathering
Side B – Focusing
SoundCloud versions (same clips)
You may purchase the LP from the record company, Séance Centre:
and is also available from many music stores and distributors.
Digital download and/or streaming is offered by all of the following services and distributors:
Google Play Store
24/7 Entertainment GmbH
Amazon Digital Services Inc.
BounDEE (Space Shower)
CJ DIGITAL MUSIC
InternetQ SA dba Akazoo
Library Ideas / Freegal
Red Touch Media
YouTube Art Tracks