Good Vibrations and Milford Graves’s Healing Harmonics

Annabel Keenan , Hyperallergic, June 28, 2021

Hidden amid the chaos and noise of the Bowery is another kind of sensorial experience. Honoring the late artist and jazz percussionist Milford Graves, the current show at Fridman Gallery celebrates his exploration of the relationship between vibrations and healing. Featuring paintings and entrancing audio-video installations, Heart Harmonics: sound, energy, and natural healing phenomena is a testament to Graves’s dynamic practice. 


Graves spent nearly 40 years investigating the healing potential of music, a practice he continued through his own heart disease diagnosis in 2018 and up to his death three years later. The experience of viewing Heart Harmonics is sensorially engaging. Graves’s work hijacks and stimulates the senses, pulling you through the space. Upon entering the gallery, colorful wallpaper and swirling abstractions draw the eye down the long hallway, which culminates with the display of four painted wind gongs, each dangling in the air.



Emanating from the bronze gongs are audible vibrations that pulsate and resonate throughout the room, creating a calming and entrancing effect. A deep bass punctuates the sound of the gongs, coming from the lower level where two audio-video pieces showcase Graves’s dedication to the relationship between vibrations and the human heartbeat. Part of the artist’s “Heart Music,” the sounds fill the dark lower level with audible translations of the electrical pulses of the heart, allowing you to hear the frequencies at which it vibrates. These sonic components are paired with video clips of a figure, presumably Graves, hooked up to electronic stethoscopes and graphs of the frequencies, flashing in bright colors and constantly changing graphics, recalling a science experiment at times. Sitting through all five minutes of the loop was exhausting, verging on stressful. Yet embracing the discomfort brings its own catharsis. Allowing Graves’s work to activate and overwhelm the senses was freeing, relaxing, and, just as he always said, possibly even healing.