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Rochester musician composes pieces for Mayo yoga classes

Most music composers would probably not appreciate their pieces being called background noise. Mike Terrill, the songwriter behind Fires of Denmark, composed a 45-minute piece to be played during restorative yoga sessions.

Restorative yoga
Yoga instructor Chris Armstrong commissioned a unique piece of music by Mike Terrill for her restorative yoga class.
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Most music composers would probably not appreciate their pieces being called background noise.

Mike Terrill, the songwriter behind the band Fires of Denmark, composed a 45-minute piece to be played during restorative yoga sessions.

However, neither Terrill nor Chris Armstrong, the restorative yoga instructor who commissioned the piece, would describe the composition as background noise. The piece adds to the yoga class.

Restorative yoga is a practice that combines comfortable positions, controlled breathing, and meditation. The practice is designed to help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower heart rates of participants. Armstrong teaches the class as part of Mayo Clinic’s medical education program and holds public classes at the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center. She said she wanted a piece to help participants feel comfortable.

"Even just having a custom piece of music hopefully makes (students) feel taken care of," Armstrong said.

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That presented a challenge for Terrill.

"How do I make it interesting without being distracting?" he said.

Part of the key is repetition.

"Anything you hear that’s repeated, your brain picks up on it and you start to hear music," he said.

Taking a cue from classical music naming traditions, Terrill titled the piece, "A Moment No. 4, Opus 2."

Armstrong said the piece was exactly what she had hoped for.

"This is the song (restorative yoga) teachers want but can never find," she said.

Terrill said he only worked on the piece when he was in a meditative mood. He would listen to it from the beginning and then make changes if something pulled him out of his state of mind.

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The commission didn’t take Terrill too far from his comfort zone.

"I’m always making weird stuff for my own entertainment — spaced-out, stuff that no one wants to listen to," he said.

For Armstrong, it was a chance to have something that fit the class. Most of her choices for music or audio during the class were either repetitive loops or something from a music subscription service that didn’t fit the class or the room.

Some people respond to physical relaxation cues. Others need visual cues (the studio has a view of west downtown Rochester and the surrounding valley). Some participants need auditory cues to relax. The composition was a needed piece of the total experience, Armstrong said.

Terrill, before recording the piece, performed live for another meditative yoga class last year. Armstrong liked what she heard.

"You could tell he was interacting with the energy of the room," Armstrong said. "It was like a conversation between the music and the energy of the people in the room."

That gave him a foundation for the piece. He also included the room’s air circulation fans to make sure none of his composition clashed with the sound.

The song is available on Spotify and iTunes.

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Mike Terrill.

Related Topics: MUSICEDUCATION
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