Our granddaughter, Jahniya, recently told us she is having trouble sleeping. Her mind races and she feels tired, but can’t sleep, so she listens to music or podcasts. I told her that she probably shouldn’t listen to anything before sleep as that could be keeping her awake. We talked about breathing deeply, running energy, and meditating as ways to relax and fall to sleep. After we spoke, I remembered the power of “yes, do” over “no, don’t”, and decided to create a soundscape for Jahniya to listen to before sleep.
I am familiar with some of the popular music that she likes, so I listened to a few songs and zeroed in on a Bb major scale as the tonal color for her dreamscape. Using the piano keyboard as a template, the Bb major scale uses all of the black keys and the B and F. The tonality of the song she likes is in the piece, but it is cropped and stretched and layered with no words except “Good Night, Jahniya. We love you” spoken by Gigi at the very end. I hummed softly over one short section near the end of the scape.
Several weeks later and the soundscape is recorded. I had to experiment with the voicings to get the blend and definition I wanted. Then once recorded, I shape the dynamics, movement and placement of melodic statements through automation in Ableton Live. Since Jahniya will listen to this through earbuds, I mixed primarily through headphones, although I did listen through the QSC for perspective. Trudie listened to it and gave me some feedback, which I used to make the final soundscape mix in Audacity.
I ended up cutting the sound file in two parts and moving the end to the beginning. There is a part of the scape that is more energized and excited, as our brains are when we are teens (and hopefully beyond). That part happened closer to the end. I wanted to meet the brain where it is at and then accompany it to calm and sleep. Moving that section to the beginning made more sense.
The soundscape comes with instructions:
Listen to this soundscape as you fall asleep or anytime you want to relax. Listen to the scape as if it were a painting rather than a song. Notice the harmonic layering of the voices. Feel how it envelopes you like an ocean of sound. Notice how the voices move in and out and around in what seems to be your head. Let the swells reverberate through you bringing calm and peace. Let the soundscape gentle you to sleep.
With love, Juju and Gigi
Jahniya was able to improve her sleep and successfully finish her first year of high school. Plus she used her experience to create a school project about sleep deprivation among teenagers with suggested solutions!
The latest signs from the Wave of Wonder (the WoW) are pointing me toward hangups. Attending to my hangup of the moment is easily avoided – except for those little reminders: the tug as my shirt gets caught on a knob, my jacket snagged in the closed car door, jerked back by the garden hose wrapped round a tree root. Everytime I get one of these reminders from the WoW, I stop and ask myself : “What am I resisting?”
Often I am resisting THE MOMENT. I engage in distracted thinking about someone I love who is ignoring me or some activity I would rather be doing than the one at hand. I engage in stories of disapproval from others, resentment over perceived slights, and general feelings of not mattering and not being important.
When I entertain these thoughts – and their good buddy, painful feelings – I am lured out of this moment of being by my mind and my story. The actual physical manifestation of the hangup jerks me back into the moment.
I appreciate the very pointed choreography, and will continue to ride my awareness toward presence in the Now.
I have a friend whom I have not seen in many decades. We now communicate on Facebook. We shared a connection in high school, then I moved away sophomore year. I am not good at maintaining long distance relationships – being a right here, right now kinda girl! The present moment is very full, but I want to expand my awareness to include those I love who are not in my immediate proximity.
My friend had a difficult and painful 2016. She surrendered much, participated in great healing and is moving through the experience with much love and gratitude. She is in my thoughts alot these days. We have shared jokes and love memes on Facebook. She has listened to some of my soundscapes and is open to the vibrations. I wanted to create a soundscape for her journey.
I have not heard from her in a while and I am sending waves of loving vibrations her way via the soundscape entitled Carried Wisdom.
Moogfest 2016, which took place May 19 – 22 in Durham, was a mind-blowing and inspirational experience for me. Last Fall, while selling my old instructional drumming CDs to the now-defunct Nice Price Books, I was talking to the owner about my new love: electronic music. He said, “You must be super excited about Moogfest coming here!” “Oh, yeah”, I responded, knowing I should be excited but just not feeling it yet. A few years earlier I wanted to go to the festival in Asheville, NC when Brian Eno was featured. But then I read how you spend all this money on a ticket and might not be able to get in to see what you came to see. So I knew about how the tickets worked, and that it was a celebration of Bob Moog, a synthesizer pioneer. The Moog Factory is still a fixture in Asheville, but Moogfest was coming right to my front door.
I was still feeling ambivalent in April and Moogfest was 6 weeks away. One thing I had decided – I wanted to be involved musically – so I started planning a Post-Moogfest event for the final day after everything “official” was over. (See post: http://wp.me/p5yJTY-ci) Then a volunteer application came my way, I filled it out and attended my first volunteer meeting. I met Wilson, Hugh, Robin, Ilsa and several other sweet, friendly folks who were psyched for the event. Bianca Banks, the volunteer coordinator, gave us postcards and Moogfest stickers (everybody LOVES stickers) and a welcomed us to the Moogfest family. Sweet!
The only acts I knew in the line-up were Laurie Anderson and Sun Ra Arkestra. By this time, Sun Ra Arkestra had cancelled, so I started YouTubing the artists to get a taste of what they had to offer. I started with the women artists: Julianna Barwick, Grimes, Suzanne Ciani, Grouper, Julia Holter, Laurel Halo, Olivia Block, Paula Temple. I did not get very far in this exploration before Moogfest was upon me and I just had wing it.
The first day, I worked guest check-in with Michael Jones (or Jones Michael, his producer moniker: check out his Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/jonesmichael), Nico and several other young musicians who told me about groups they were excited to hear. Volunteering took 18.5 hours of the weekend, and got me free admission into the festival – way worth it. I learned that hospitality is not my skill set (My partner, Trudie said, “I could have told you that.”) I learned that there are lots of folks, young and old, poor and rich, out there creating vibrations in the form of music and sound. I learned that people who come to Moogfest are – for the most part – friendly, open and excited about the prospects of technology and music making.
Luckily, Jim Kellough recommended several performances to me on the first night that were fantastic. His first recommendation was Silver Apples, a staple of the NYC scene since the sixties. Silver Apples was an early electronic duo who played the soundtrack for the moonlanding as it was broadcast on a big screen in Central Park in 1969. Now Silver Apples is just Simeon (his drummer died in 2005) and he really rocks the synthesizers. Here is a picture of Simeon with The Soundman AKA Christopher Thurston at Motorco the night of his performance:
Christopher and Silver Apples, Motorco, May 19, 2016
After this show, I headed over to see the best music of the whole weekend. Arthur Russell’s Instrumentals was inspired by the nature photography of Yuko Nonomora, and was only performed five times in Russell’s short life. The group, playing under the direction of Peter Gordon, was comprised of Russell’s collaborators and cohorts, including Peter Zummo, Rhys Chatham and Ernie Brooks. The piece was jazzy, funky and took the listeners on a fabulous journey. My favorite part was Peter Zummo dancing around the stage and gently clapping his hands whenever the trombone had a musical hiatus. Their performance left me curious to check out more of Russell’s work.
Moogfest is all about synthesized sound. So on Saturday, I headed down to The Carrack to hear Antenes, who crafts old phone operator switchboards into sequencers and synthesizers. She performed on her DIY synths for a half an hour and then did a presentation on how she came to create these particular instruments. I loved the deep sweeps and blips and bloops she carved out of various oscillating waveforms. Next stop was the Pop-Up Moog Factory, where employees were building actual Moog Synthesizers right before our eyes. The employees worked at four stations performing assemblies and passing them on to the next table. By midday Saturday, they had assembled 14 Minimoog Model Ds. The factory was full of a variety of synths hooked up to headphones so people could play and experiment to the ear brain’s delight. I had a fantastic several hours there, and left feeling like I really need a synth to add to my setup.
Then I checked out Critter and Guitari, who were in a geodesic dome tent outside the DPAC. These Booklyn-based musician entreprenuers have created adorable little synthesizers that are just my style. I enjoyed playing with the Moogs, but they are expensive and heavy. (Dang, I do not need anymore weight in my setup with a 12″ QSC K Speaker to haul around.) I enjoyed jamming with the guys , the other peeps, and the train that passed by. Their Organelle allows you to dial up a variety of sounds, play them polyphonically on a little wooden button keyboard, and tweak the sounds as you go. Neat! In my fantasy, they offer to give me one to play as a sponsor of ibod when we go on our sound sculpture tour. Wouldn’t it be nice…
I was anxious to get a good seat for Laurie Anderson’s Saturday afternoon performance, so got there waaaay early only to discover a long line snaking around The Carolina Theatre. I got in it only to discover the line was for a talk by Jaron Lanier, whose name I did not know. The guy in front of me did not know him either, but he figured “He is the keynote speaker, he must be good!” As it turned out- he was right! Jaron is a musician, virtual reality geek, author and incredible human being. He started his talk by playing the khene, a Laotian mouth organ, that he said is a “digital” instrument thousands of years old that could have inspired the invention of computers. Here is a YouTube video, where he plays this instrument in his own amazing way:
His message was wonderful and optimistic. He said we need to “will away” our obsesssion with war, combat and all things military. He advocates a movement toward kindness and beauty as guiding values in technological development. He asked VR game makers to use the technology to engender empathy. What I heard was – let us play games that engage our emerging polyvagal brain rather than continuuing to stir up our shriveling reptillian brain. Jaron Lanier is one gorgeous genius, and I was uplifted and inspired listening to him.
Next up was Laurie Anderson, who grabbed her electric violin, slung it over her shoulder and and filled Fletcher Hall with deep sweeping harmonics that made my heart pound. She moved toward the audience as she continued playing, looking right at us. This connecting more openly with the audience is a shift in her performance aesthetic from times I have seen her over the past twenty years. The next day, she talked about “seeing the audience” during her presentation/interview. While I enjoyed her performance, I was mesmerized by the retrospective talk about her work on Sunday. I love hearing and reading about artistic process. It is extremely intimate discourse, which is why many creatives are reluctant to share it. Laurie gave us a glimpse into her process over the years, and for that I will be forever grateful.
She spent a good bit of time talking about a recent work Habeas Corpus and how the piece evolved into an illumination of and a step toward healing the horrors and injustices of Guantanamo Bay. The work was presented in 2015 in NYC and is based on the experience of Mohammed el Gharani, the youngest detainee at Guantanamo Bay. He was sold to the US at the age of fourteen, kept in solitary, subjected to torture, and finally released by a US District Court judge for lack of evidence. He was held for seven years. The performance installation included a plaster cast chair the size of the Lincoln Memorial. Mohammed’s full body image was projected via a live video feed from Chad, where he now resides. He sat in the chair and told his story. The audio was one way only to protect Mohammed from hearing any personal attacks from the American public – there was concern that those Americans still blinded by their own fear and ignorance might attend the installation to berate him. He had suffered enough at American hands already. The video feed was two way, so Mohammed could see the audience. The most moving thing Laurie shared with us was that many of the attendees came forward and mouthed “I am sorry” to Mohammed’s projected image. For more on Mohammed el Gharani and Habeas Corpus see this link:
Laurie Anderson echoed Jaron Lanier’s thought on the necessity for kindness, empathy and beauty as hallmarks of our creative relationship with technology. Both pointed toward the potential for technology to help us connect, see, listen to and understand each other even if we do not agree.
Laurie and Lou Reed, her husband who died of cancer in 2013, came up with three rules to live by which she shared with us: 1. Do not be afraid of anyone. 2. Have a good bullshit detector, and learn how to use it. 3. Be tender with life. Afterwards, I could only remember 1 and 2. That is because I have issues with tenderness. Tender feelings make me feel vulnerable. Gotta work on that.
There is lots more to write about, so many encounters and experiences packed into 4 days, 40 venues and nearly 300 speakers/performers/presenters. Moogfest was so much more than I ever expected – my world expanded several times over. And the best way to top it all off was to play with my cohorts before an exclusive and appreciative audience. Here is an excerpt from Adrift in a Sea of Bells, one of the pieces we performed in the soundgarden following Moogfest:
So today I got to mow the lawn! (Trying on the Timothy Leary “Life is an opportunity” approach to this chore.) I got to be outside in our BIG backyard. I got to walk, bend, push, lift and carry – all great functional exercise. I got to observe butterflies and birds gracefully fluttering around me. It was cool and overcast, so all in all an enjoyable experience.
AND —- I got a huge gift for doing this. As I was mowing the front yard, I kept hearing this bird call that sounded like the first four notes of a jazz standard that I like. Over and over, this bird sang this little intro and my brain voice would fill in the rest. I thought, “I need to go get my digital recorder and catch this sample. Ohhhh, but as soon as I do that, the bird will be gone.” So I continued mowing.
Later, while I was taking a hydration break in the house, I heard the bird again. I thought, “Dang, now is my opportunity.” I ran in my studio, grabbed the Zoom, went outside on the porch and captured this:
Isn’t that cool? I love that the bird is singing the beginning of…what is the song? I can’t identify it. It has a similar tonality to “My Blue Heaven”, but the melody pattern is not right for the beginning of that song. Here it is lined up the way it goes in the song. It repeats and then changes slightly the third phrase (of course, the bird did not change, so you are hearing just the first two iterations):
So I need your help. Can anyone tell me what song this bird is singing? Can anyone identify the bird? I never got a sighting on him either. Thanks for your input.
The year 2015 coming to an end has me thinking about time. Not time as a mechanistic ticking off of seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years, but time in a larger sense as moments and experiences that we organize into the “story of my life.” Every thought, feeling, action and reaction we bring into the corporeal world imprints on the matrix of being. And we weave all of this together into a fabrication of who we are, both individually and collectively. How is your story going? What is it about?
I wish all my friends wrote blogs so I could read their stories. Some friends do send year-in-review letters this time of year. I enjoy reading those immensely. I have the good fortune to be surrounded by interesting people who are passionate about love, food, creativity, and holding a high vibration. We are the light tenders, the love snipers; we do what we can where we are to energize the highest vibe possible. We love and respect the individual paths we are each on, and we shine light for each other along the way.
At the Interfaith Celebration this week, Rachel Wooten reminded us that to love is to be present with, to focus our loving awareness on another. In order to do this, we must first be present and aware of self. Loving one’s self is the foundation for loving everything outside of self. Acts of self-care and self-love are some of the most powerful healing actions you can take in the world. Our spiritual traditions, educational system, social/familial beliefs discourage loving of self in favor of service to others. Loving actions and service to self/to others are both sacraments of the compassionate heart. It is the good in people that calls us to give and to help others. But, you cannot pour from an empty cup, so our first responsibility is to take very good care of self.
There is a general feeling that the world is a scary and dangerous place right now. Even a cursory read of world history confirms that this has always been the case! Gertrude Stein said, “Everything is so dangerous that nothing is really very frightening.” – a wonderful example of a koan whose meaning shimmers just out of reach. FDR said “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Ghandi said, “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate, but it is fear.” “Fear not” and “Do not be afraid” reoccur throughout The Bible. All of these teachings point to a path away from fear. The scary and dangerous world (which we cocreate together) is shifting.
At dinner the other night, our soon-to-be teen granddaughter Erin, said, “well, I am afraid ISIS is going to come and kill us all.” Ah, yes, I remember the bomb shelters and the threat of nuclear devastation I came of age within. My mother came of age during the depression and World War II. Are we recognizing a pattern here? I love the state of the world at this moment because all of these patterns are coming to light. Patterns of belief that no longer serve and are no longer supported by the new energies flooding into our realm. The new energy fields of the planet do not support the political yammering and the media frenzy creating the “world about to end” story. All the patterns of control, cruelty and subterfuge are coming out into the light.As we learn to turn our attention within, and then without, we are creating a vibration of integrity, generosity, love, and acceptance of the incredible diversity this world engenders. We have the opportunity to use our most valuable currency – our moment to moment attention – to help the world evolve into a place of greater compassion and less violence.
How do we accomplish this shift? First, stop watching the news. Take in just enough mediated info to have some perspective. If you are watching hours of news, your currency is being used against you. After turning off all the media, sit in silence and stillness. Give full attention to your breath. Take three deep breaths into the heart. Ask for guidance from within. Just ask! And then pay attention throughout the day for signs from your guides. They love you dearly and will help you to live from your heart.
The next thing is the hardest to explain and of signifigant import – we must give up our “victim thinking”. Where else is there to go for one who has been victimized? Throughout time, people have been and are being vicitimized in some way by others. As a victim, I feel the need for justice, reparations, and retribution. I feel the need to stay vigilant against further victimization. This gives my victimhood identity and value. So some of my attention is taken by my need to keep my identity as victim alive in the world. Maintaining victimhood undermines personal power and free will choice. Once one is free from the victimizing situation, drop the need for vengeance, for rehash, for continuing to victimize yourself. Let it be finished.
Actually, “victim thinking” is part of a trio of roles we actively engage in that must ALL be given up. The idea here is from the teachings of Eric Berne and Transactional Analysis, which came into my life in my twenties. (Thank you, Dan Vice!) The Karpmann Drama Triangle has helped me be kinder and more present in all my relations. In our interactions we often play the role of either the victim, the rescuer or the persecutor, or a combination of these roles. Recognizing when I am playing in the triangle, deconstructing where my attention is focused, and shifting my attention away from the drama in my mind and into the present moment, into this particular situation, with these people. When I look at my life so far, I see that I chose to play the victim or the rescuer most of the time. I so indentified with victim or rescuer that I could not even recognize when I was the persecutor.
I am starting a practice of questioning my own righteous indignation in all its guises. It is an anger discharge mechanism that brings about injury to myself and others. Anything that gets me riled up, or annoys me, I look for ways that I AM the thing that annoys me. I caught myself bullying Trudie the other day about something trivial (she forgave me!) This interaction haunted me for several days as I replayed my superior tone, accusatory language, and tightly-held body. I felt fiercly justified in my reaction. In this case, I was victimizing Trudie with my righteous indignation about something she may or may not have done. Giving up these roles, means waking up to all the ways we create our own misery, lack, need, contempt, anger, rage, depression, fear by interpreting our experiences through filters of drama and pain.
Pay close attention to how your thoughts and beliefs shape your reality. Stay in the flow as much as possible. Say yes more than no. Always say no when you want to. Challenge your thoughts whenever they create pain in your gut, in your heart or in your head, in your life! We are taking an evolutionary step that involves a shift from “survival of the fittest” to “survival of the kindest.” Our brains are evolving so rapidly that medical and behaviorial sciences are struggling to keep up. Breathe deep, allow your conciousness to expand a little bit more with each breath, learn to listen to the guiding voice in your head that comes from your heart. Whatever may be happening feel the joy and love that carry us through each moment.
And, if you can’t feel it just now, trust it is there. That is faith, and it is a relief!
About a month ago, a friend asked me if I would do a “commissioned” piece for her fortieth birthday. I was thrilled and honored by her request, so we made a plan to talk on the phone so I could get a sense of what this birthday means to her.
Heather Barnes and I have known each other for over a decade through singing with the Common Woman Chorus, and more recently as Facebook friends. Over the years, I have enjoyed singing with her in small groups and hearing the funny, charming stories of her daughter’s escapades as she becomes her own unique person. When Heather and I talked about the end of her fourth decade of life, she spoke of the double-edged sword of being a mother. She relishes her relationship with her daughter AND she acknowledges the need to heal from postpartum depression. For this birthday, she wants to “lay down a marker” of the journey she has been on. She spoke of creating healthy and flexible boundaries, feeling more confident, and appreciating the person she sees in the mirror each day. The future holds the promise of strong connections with people she loves.
I felt a powerful sense of self-love and positive feelings about her own physical body as a part of what Heather is feeling in her life now. So the the piece should invite movement. As I began to work, I needed a bit more direction, so I did a tarot card reading using my favorite Motherpeace Tarot deck. (Thirty years ago I often consulted tarot and I-Ching for perspective and guidance. I just recently returned to this practice.) Heather’s reading indicated a strong negative force that she is working through and leaving behind. The Death card and the Moon card pointed to this movement. The path through this force is the penetrating intensity of the Ace of Swords combined with the stillness and patience of the Son of Cups. A sense of mourning and letting go combined with deep surrender to the unknown – “let the Goddess work in your life” was the deep message.
Our conversation and the reading shaped the piece in terms of structure, voicings and themes. “So Far (for Heather)” begins with a bluesy swaying dirge and a trumpet wailing grief, anger and sadness. There is a feeling of sloshing through a great heaviness for a while. This movement gives way to the metallic piercing of bells creating a clearing in the sonic space. There is rattling, ringing, a sifting through and letting go of the bones of the past. The final section is a percussive and joyful release with an invitation to celebrate and dance!!!
Happiest of birthdays to Heather Barnes and much appreciations for including a soundpainting to mark this time in your life.