Introduction to the Sound Dreaming CD Concert Blog Posts

What follows is 13 days of posts I made in Facebook, counting down the days to the Sound Dreaming CD Concert which happened on Dec. 5, 2014 at the Array Space in Toronto.   

Each of these 13 posts gives background and context to the various pieces that were performed at the concert, along with my musings about the creative process.  The pieces are also available on the Sound Dreaming: Oracle Songs from Ancient Ritual Places CD. 

Posted 290 weeks ago

Sound Dreaming CD Blog Posts - Day 13

Today is Day 13, the final day in this countdown to the Sound Dreaming CD Concert. Everything is ready for the show to begin.

Instead of writing today, I’m posting a video created a few years back by my good friend, talented musician and artist Stavros Stavropolis. He put it together using extra footage we did for the Sound Dreaming Indiegogo Fundraiser video along with a short sound piece I had created from recordings made while sounding to the waters along the shoreline of Lake Ontario.

Thanks to all for reading, liking, commenting, and all round support of these posts. Its been an amazing experience for me, and looks like this is just the beginning.

Watch “Water Oracles

Posted 290 weeks ago

Sound Dreaming CD Blog Posts - Day 12

It’s Day 12, with one more to go until tomorrow’s Sound Dreaming CD Concert. Although I’ve talked a lot about the Hypogeum in these postings, I wanted today to highlight the last piece on the concert - entitled “Into the Hypogeum”, created from my 2004 recordings. During the concert though, I’ll be changing things up from what’s on the CD. Several years ago, someone I met wanted to do a remix and put beats to this piece. I was reluctant, although the idea was intriguing. So now the time has come to venture into that terrain, and I’ve found the perfect person to collaborate with on this idea - Ian de Souza.  I’ve sent him the separate tracks used in the composition of the piece, and he will use those as sound sources to improvise along with me. Eventually, beats will be added, as well as live sampling of my voice into a looper, and the layers will build and build, until as Ian puts it, we end up in a “frenzied froth”.

This is entirely appropriate for the ecstatic state that one can so easily go into when sounding in the Hypogeum. In fact, I remember that one of the things Marlon Briffa, who worked as a guide in the Hypogeum, told me was that he believed that the powerful force of the sound vibration was in part intended to raise the kundalini energy. It was a bringing together of the masculine and feminine energies, the yin and the yang.

In thinking back on this over the last day or so, I recalled the many things that I’ve read about the acoustics in the Hypogeum over the years. One of the consistent statements that’s made is that it’s only the low male voice that can set the hypogeum into a state of vibration that can be felt in the bones or resonate throughout the space. Not ever believing that fully, I wanted to experiment with it while there. During one of my recording days, Marlon came to participate with me. As he sang the low frequency, I sang 3 octaves higher than him, and sure enough, that high tone set things ringing and vibrating as well. It was a different quality, but definitely there was a strong resonance present that penetrated deeply into my body.

I had a similar experience at one of the outdoor temples that is situated not far from the Hypogeum– the Tarxien temples. These temples are renown for their remarkable spiral designs on many of the stones. One day I tried an experiment that Thomas Anderson had told me about. Thomas is an acoustic engineer who was doing research with sound at the temples during my second trip to Malta in 2007 and whom I spoke about in Day 9’s post.

At the Tarxien temples, there are two large slabs that each have two pairs of spiral designs on them, with a large circle dividing the upper and lower pairs. These slabs sit on either side of a doorway or entranceway into one of the temple apses. When you look at today’s picture, you get an idea of what these looked like. The experiment was to have two men sing an octave apart, and each direct their sound onto either side of the large central circle on one of the slabs. Then myself and another female friend stood at another doorway leading into the most inner temple apse, and sang 3 octaves above the lowest note. Everything started buzzing at that point and my head started swirling. Surprising, since we were outside, and the acoustics less contained. But something was definitely being set in motion. From both the experiences I’ve described here, I would say that both the masculine and feminine voices were needed to create a full experience of the resonance possibilities.

There is obviously more to be said about the spiral designs themselves, but that’s an entirely different topic. They feel though very connected to the spirals on the Hypogeum Oracle Room ceiling. It was suggested by Paul Devereux (again see Day 9) that the spirals could be an early form of music notation. Perhaps they were more than notation, but rather were indicators of where to place the sound in order to maximize the sympathetic resonances. Or, in other words, how to set up the vibrational patterns to affect the brain wave states. Something to consider.

Coming back to the piece on the CD “Into the Hypogeum”. It’s my first piece with the Hypogeum recordings, and although it doesn’t really have much to do with these experiments I’ve been talking about, the vibrational resonances of the Hypogeum are present throughout. some of the duet improvisations I did with Marlon are also included in the piece. Kundalini rising, yin and yang complimentary energies. The alchemy of sound can hold it all, and, set it in motion.

Posted 290 weeks ago

Sound Dreaming CD Blog Posts - Day 11

Day 11 of the 13 day Sound Dreaming CD Concert Countdown. Today I am writing about the second line of my title for the CD: “Oracle Songs from Ancient Ritual Spaces”. Often I’m asked what kind of music I do, what type of singing I do. I find it hard to put it into a well known label. One day I came across the word ‘oracle songs’ to describe the pieces I had created.

As in the age-old tradition of the sibyls, seers and oracle priestesses who used a variety of ways and means to divine wisdom and receive guidance, I realized that in working with the voice and the power of sound frequencies I was intending to access deeper layers of memory, connection and wisdom. It seemed to be similar to what this more ancient tradition was all about. Thus the phrase ‘oracle singing’ seemed to fully embody what I have been doing.

In choosing this name, I also realized that these pieces were part of a larger picture of what I’ve been cultivating over many years - which I’m calling a sound oracle process. This process involves using the voice as a way of receiving wisdom, guidance, and connection through aligning with an intention or question. Using the voice is also a way of divining the sound stories that live in the land, in a particular place, that are present in the waters and trees, and in the ancient sacred places. It opens up one way of connecting with mythical and archetypal consciousness, the legends and characters of specific places. It is a way of receiving wisdom from the earth and establishing a deep relationship with the spirit of Gaia. A dialogue and communion. Through the voice, we can connect with the deeper wisdom that dwells within us, and with the larger sacred field of life.

It is a process of opening, aligning, listening, and receiving, and a practice that is constantly unfolding and circling around, spiral-like. It is an attunement to the creative impulse that lives within us and in all forms of life. It is an act of ‘subtle activism’, for we are participating in the restoration of humanity’s relationship with the earth and all creation. It’s a way of being and living with sound that is opening itself like a pathway and to creat community with. It’s become a core part of my life’s work.

The picture today is one of my favourites - an Oracle Hole in one of the walls from the Mnajdra Temple, Malta. The darkness of the hole pulls us into its mysteries, much like when we drop fully into the body and breath, we can access unique sounds that can bring us into resonance with our truest self. What is the oracle sound revealing today?

Posted 290 weeks ago

Sound Dreaming CD Blog Posts - Day 10

It’s Day 10 already in the Sound Dreaming CD Concert Countdown and things are heating up. Today’s topic is the legacy of the voice, and part of my own journey into the deeper terrain of vocal possibility. This is a huge topic, so I’m limiting it to one important aspect of how I’ve come to work with my voice. This approach is the foundation of the vocal work on the Sound Dreaming CD. When I think of my relationship to voice, I can go way back to childhood, or start when things started moving in a nontraditional direction. The latter started when I was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto and spent many days listening to contemporary compositions for the voice in the music library. One of my favourites was the piece ‘Eight Songs for a Mad King’ written by British composer Peter Maxwell Davies, who often visited Toronto in those days as part of the New Music Concerts series. As the title may suggest, the piece was full of wild sounds, extreme ranges, cries, shouts, etc.

Some years later I was introduced to Richard Armstrong, who had been a member of the Roy Hart Theatre in the late 60’s and 70’s. The vocal tradition that was at the heart of the Roy Hart Company dates back to post WWI and the vocal explorations of Alfred Wolfsohn, first in Germany and then in England. During the late 40’s, Roy Hart began studying with Wolfsohn, and gradually took over his studio practice after Wolfsohn’s death in the early 60’s. However, he dedicated to create a theatre company that would work with the pioneering vocal approaches of Wolfsohn, rather than offering primarily voice and singing lessons. The company developed and toured work into the early 1980s.

The signature part of Wolfsohn’s work was to open up the possibilities for the whole range of the human voice. Influenced by Carl Jung, Wolfsohn believed that when you expand your vocal range, you are expanding your entire psyche. Both his female and male students could sing in all the traditional ranges defined by gender. In a BBC documentary, you can hear as a male singer sings the soprano aria from a Mozart opera, while a female singer sings a baritone aria. And not only lyric tones were part of the repertoire. Once Roy Hart brought in the use of spoken text, the range and possibilities for the voice continued to expand to include a whole palette: motor , broken, stranded, breathy, nasal, and warbly sounds for example. Contemporary composers such as John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen were drawn to the studio to listen to what was happening with the voice. One such composer was Maxwell Davies. He struck up a collaboration with Hart, and ‘Eight Songs for a Mad King’ was born. The original version was performed by Hart, and in the piece, the vocal range extends over the full 8 octaves of the piano. I love the magic of how I was drawn to Roy Hart’s work years before knowing anything about it.

It all came together when I began working with Richard Armstrong and my whole relationship to the voice shifted. In that first workshop I did with him, I was effortlessly making extremely high and whispery peep-like sounds, and many times in subsequent workshops, it was hard to believe what was coming out of my mouth. During one such workshop, Richard had me sing the phrase, on one note: “Holiness Holiness, Queen of Heaven, Where is your Voice?” It was one of those transcendent moments, when a new voice, a voice from somewhere else, came into me. Of course it was me, but it was completely unrecognizable, even to Richard. This voice was unstoppable, continuing to grow and deepen as I walked around the room singing the Queen of Heaven phrase. After the singing was over, I was basking in a rich honey-warm glow that lasted for hours. It felt like some sort of initiation had occurred.

When I began my trips to Malta and Crete my vocal improvisations were approached from this way of working with the voice, which are absolutely dependent upon an intimate connection with the body and the breath. I was now extending this, at least for myself, into a connection with the earth, with ancestral memory, and ritual spaces. My intention was to keep myself open to the type of sound that arose from my presence there, and as much as possible, not overlay contemporary musical styles, whether that be the avant-garde or folk.

In the summer of 2013, I finally was able to make a pilgrimage to the Roy Hart International Arts Center located for the past 40 years in the south of France. It is a place where one can be fully present with the constant sounds of the voice wafting through the air, and can enjoy the absolute freedom and permission to make whatever sounds are desired. The place effuses its remarkable history and vocal legacy, with many of the workshop teachers and permanent residents belonging to the original Roy Hart Company, and one woman having studied with Wolfsohn back in the 50’s. My experience was foundational – with my voice being stretched and drawn into new terrain.

Today’s picture is of one outside wall of the main studio building at the Roy Hart International Arts Center. I celebrate the gift of the voice, which enables us to synthesize all our past experiences, dreams, memories, and emotions, as well as touch into the unseen worlds and draw us closer to our essence, and into deeper communion with others, with the earth, and the layers of human experience that whirl around in the collective unconscious.

Posted 290 weeks ago

Sound Dreaming CD Blog Posts - Day 9

It’s now Day 9 in the Sound Dreaming CD Concert Countdown. Over the last two days I’ve talked about the Sounding Dream Woman and the Hypogeum, so I’m going to just keep going on that topic, in part because my experiences there have become both the root and the heart of this entire Sound Dreaming project. Even calling it a project feels too cold, because truly, the effect that being in the Hypogeum has had on me over time has created a core shift in my being. But that’s the whole point, I believe, of why such a place was originally built. It stands as a landmark of a time when there was both an awareness and an honouring of the power of vibration and sound to affect change on the human body and whole being down to the cellular level.

In Day 3, I spoke about the unique acoustics of the Hypogeum, and posted a picture of the Oracle Room with its ‘oracle hole’ and ceiling filled with red ochre spirals. This entire room is key to the Hypogeum, for when one sings or speaks into the oracle hole, which is no more than a carved out niche in the wall, the sound is projected or amplified throughout the entire three levels of the underground sanctuary. Amongst these three levels are many rooms, doorways, stairways, niches and windows, all carved from the limestone rock. It’s truly an architectural wonder. Another of the rooms that has red ochre spiral designs painted on its walls is called the Decoration Room. It’s up a few steps and down the hall from the oracle room and looks out into the main central area or ‘holy of holies’ as it’s called. Back in the Oracle Room, if you look carefully, you will see that there are also small spirals painted on the inside of the oracle hole niche. During one of my recording sessions, it was pointed out to me by Marlon Briffa, who worked there for many years as a guide, that to really activate the vibrational resonances of the space, it’s best to project the sound directly at these small spirals.

Marlon knew well how to set the place in motion, so to speak. He did so with ease, even by gently humming a particularly pitch, the resonant frequency, which could slightly change from day to day depending on how much moisture was in the air down there. The intermittent dripping of water was an ever-present element of the overall soundscape. On both of my Hypogeum pieces on the CD, it’s Marlon’s voice that creates those incredibly low frequency drones, that just by themselves, are enough to set the brain waves going off into a different state.

The acoustic mysteries of the Hypogeum have been the subject of much research and discussion. During the Metageum Conference in 2007 that I spoke about yesterday, one of the presenters was Paul Devereux, a British author, researcher and broadcaster who has done extensive work in the field of archaeoacoustics (the study of sound at ancient places) as well as in consciousness studies. Conference organizer Peter Lloyd had made special arrangements for him and an acoustic engineer from the USA, Thomas Anderson, to make a series of acoustic measurements in the Hypogeum to contribute towards a better understanding of why the sound behaves as it does. For example, how was it possible for a sound directed into the Oracle Hole of the Oracle Room to travel throughout the entire 3-story complex? Over the course of the conference, I learned about some of their findings, and experimented with a few of these during the recording sessions and workshops I led in the Hypogeum.

One of my experiments, as suggested to me by Thomas, was to place one microphone in the Oracle Room close to the oracle hole, and another microphone in a specific spot in another chamber some distance away-up the steps, around the corner, down the hall, around another corner, and down more steps. despite the distance away, it was a very specific area where the microphone needed to be placed. Anderson had told me that in his experiments, the sound quality was pretty much identical in both these spots. And sure enough, when I got back to my computer, and input both recordings into separate tracks in the recording software and compared them, it was astonishing to hear how there was very little difference between the two. How did these ancients know of this? Was the place consciously built with a form of knowledge about the nature of sound and how it travels? I’ve already suggested that this type of structure was a conscious choice on their part, yet there remains controversy about this in the archeological circles. And, to my knowledge, nothing definite has emerged from the research done by Devereux and Anderson. During an email inquiry a few years later to Anderson, his response was that the information they gathered was extremely complex to decipher and it was almost impossible to come up with definite conclusions.

But back on the ground, there is no denying the visceral affect that the Hypogeum sound has on one’s being. Everyone who goes there knows something deeply important is going on here. The two pieces I have written from my recordings there are a way I offer so more people can entune themselves to these sound mysteries. Today’s image is a view of the entire Oracle Room, before the UNESCO renovations that brought in wooden ramps, stairs and metal railings. Look carefully to see those small spirals inside the oracle hole and be filled with wonder how such a small area could multiply the sound so magnificently.

Posted 290 weeks ago

Sound Dreaming CD Blog Posts - Day 8

Day 8 of the Sound Dreaming CD Concert Countdown. Today I want to talk more about my CD piece “Sounding Dream Woman” which I introduced at the end of Day 7’s post. Sounding Dream Woman is the name I’ve given to one of the amazing archeological finds in the Hypogeum in Malta – a small figurine of a woman in a reclining position propping up her head with her hand. She is known widely as the Sleeping Lady, but if you’re wondering why I’ve renamed her, for myself anyway, or who she is, check out the Day 7 post.

The recordings for the Sounding Dream Woman piece were done during my return visit to Malta in 2007. I had been invited by Peter B Lloyd to present recordings I had made at the temples during my first visit in 2004 at a conference he was organizing called “Metageum 07: Exploring the Megalithic Mind”. It was an extensive gathering of archeologists, writers, musicians, philosophers, academics, dream researchers, healers, geomancers, sacred site guides and explorers–a full interdisciplinary gathering with some of the top names in the field in attendance. The overall theme was to explore the consciousness of the Neolithic shamans who built and used the megalithic temples of Malta. One of my contributions to the conference was a concert presentation of some of the pieces I had composed up to that point from my earlier recordings.

It was suggested to me by a friend that I might inquire about the possibility of offering workshops in the Hypogeum as part of the conference. Peter immediately agreed to that, and as it turned out, I ended up giving 4 workshops during the conference noon-hour slots. Due to preservation concerns, attendance is limited in the Hypogeum to 10 people at a time, thus requiring so many workshops. Following the conference, I gave an additional two workshops to primarily Maltese residents. So all in all, I had the rare opportunity to spend quite a bit of focused time in the Hypogeum being present with the ancestral spirits and experimenting with the vibrational resonances of the place. I structured the workshops as a sounding ritual that I guided the participants through in homage to the original purpose of this powerful resonating chamber–a place for dreaming and awakening a different state of consciousness through sound vibration. I spoke about this in Day 3’s post. During these group rituals, I invoked the presence of Sounding Dream Woman through both a spoken text and a vocal improvisation that the group joined in on.

Along with all this extra time which enabled me to explore more deeply the nature of the ‘Sounding Dream Woman in the workshops and rituals, I also was granted my own personal recording time in the space, thanks to Heritage Malta. Combined, these experiences form the basis of the recordings used in the composition of my piece. This piece in particular highlights multiple layers of voices, many of which consist of different acoustic qualities. This was accomplished through the use of a variety of recording techniques and the placing of the microphone in different locations. The next step in the composing process was to mix the multiple layers into surround sound. That means that instead of the sound coming out of just two speakers – left and right channels that we are used to– the sound instead comes from 5 separate speakers. This is similar to how we experience sound at the movie theatre – with 3 speakers at the front (Left, Center, Right), and 2 at the back (Rear Left, Rear Right). The advantage of using this type of mixing process in the Sounding Dream Woman piece for example, is that I could create the sense of the multiple niches and rooms of the Hypogeum, as well as the unique acoustic qualities of each of these places. The layered voices create an environment of multiple accompanying voices, and provide a support for the main solo voice – that of the Sounding Dream Woman.

I also want to make special mention of Marlon Briffa, who I first met when he worked as a guide for the Hypogeum during my visit in 2004. When you listen to the piece, you’ll hear a very low and deeply resonant voice as one of the layers. That’s Marlon’s voice. He also contributed greatly to my understanding of the place, and we created magic together during some of our improvisations.

Today’s photos are related to the performance I gave as part of the Metageum conference. I had asked Peter Lloyd to create a labyrinth for a sound installation I was planning to create there. Although that didn’t fully materialize, in part because the sound would interfere with the rest of the conference, the labyrinth became a gathering hub for the conference, with nightly drum jams occurring there. It was also the site of where I gave my own “Sounding Dream Woman” performance, walking in the labyrinth as I sounded along with recorded tracks playing back amongst 8 speakers. The first image is just of the labyrinth, and the second is of the performance. I’m the shadowy standing figure on the right towards the back of the image.


Posted 290 weeks ago

Sound Dreaming CD Blog Posts - Day 7

Day 7 of the Sounddreaming CD Concert Countdown. Today I want to follow up on a few things I ran across on Facebook this week that are related to my SoundDreaming work. They are separate articles about two recent archaeological discoveries of artefacts important in the ongoing recovery of woman’s history. The first was the uncovering in the ancient Greek city of Zeugma (southern Turkey), of a mosaic of the nine Muses, whom I spoke about in yesterday’s post, Day 6. The mosaic is a series of portraits, with eight of the nine Muses in a circle, and in the center a larger portrait of the Muse Calliope. I’ve included a link to the article at the bottom of this post. The mosaics are very stunning and so I urge you to check it out.

The second discovery brings to light a controversial subject. The headline reads: “23,000-Year-Old Statuette Found In France Adds To Mysterious Collection Of ‘Venus Figurines”. The article shows an image with four such ‘Venus Figurines’ all lined up, each from a different location. I recognized the one on the far right as being from Malta. (see second link at the bottom of the post)

Part of the controversy is regarding the name given to these figures: Venus. Why Venus? What is the possible connection between these four images from four different places to the Roman goddess of love and beauty? And what is implied here regarding stereotypical views of woman? This morning I read an enlightening comment on that question written by Max Daschu, the creatrix of the Suppressed Histories Archives, an invaluable resource which I highly recommend you checking out–both her website and Facebook page. She states that using this label ‘Venus’ creates “a distorting lens that projects these ancestor Mothers as ‘sex objects’ and is a “modern patriarchal construct”. She continues: “It also uses the interpretatio romana instead of considering them within the ice age foraging societies out of which they arose.” In case you’re wondering, the term Interpretatio Romana refers to the identification of a foreign god as a Roman one.

I don’t want to digress too far away from the main topic of these 13-day countdown posts, and my focus on the pieces and relevant topics connected to the SoundDreaming CD. However, I bring this matter of female figurines into the conversation because during the process of making my recordings at the ancient places in Malta, Crete and Greece, I spent a good deal of time in the museums looking at a wide range of sculptures, female statues and frescoes. Having these images in my imagination helped immensely while I was actually on site and diving into the vocal improvisational process, which eventually led to the pieces on the CD.

I also bring up this naming process of the female images and Max’s point about the patriarchal overlay, because assigning a name is a powerful act of defining and attributing meaning to something. According to the article on this recent discovery of the statue, one of the defining characteristics of a “Venus” figurine is that they have

“similar physical attributes, including curvaceous bodies with large breasts, bottoms, abdomen, hips, and thighs, and usually tapered at the top and bottom”. This definition reminds me of when I was in Malta and I encountered the name that archaeologists had given to the many female figurines found in the temples. They were routinely referred to as the “fat lady” statues. I was quite shocked at the time that such a name would be even considered!! One of my favourite figurines from Malta is known as “The Sleeping Lady”, found in the Hypogeum. Even that name bothered me. Sleeping seemed to be too passive an activity to refer to what the Hypogeum signified to its community: a place for entering into altered states of consciousness through sound vibration (see Day 3 of my Countdown posts for more details on this).

A few years after returning from my first trip to Malta in 2004, I began to write a series of mythical stories about how she, the so-called sleeping lady came into being. I share here the opening paragraph from one of these stories.

I speak to you now in your current time of the 21st millennium. I am known as the Sleeping Lady of Malta. But I am NOT asleep. At this point in time, as you may be aware, I am encased …in glass… banished into a darkened room in an old Baroque-styled home built 400 years ago. Just to be clear–this is NOT what I was made for–to lay here, motionless, surrounded by admiring eyes within this airless coffin. It has happened to so many of us you know– our names too numerous to mention. But… let me tell you how I was made, and for what I came to be known.

After writing this, I realized something was afoot here, and that SHE had much more to say and reveal. A year later during a retreat led by wisewoman Deena Metzger, I was encouraged by Deena to step into a deeper encounter with the music I had composed from my recordings and offer it to the other retreat participants. As I allowed myself to embody more fully the energy of the music, I could feel a strong presence enter into me. The only way I can describe it is that it resembled a shamanic shape shifting experience. I became her, my face changed (as I was told by others) and during that process, her name was revealed: “I am the Sounding Dream Woman” she stated loudly into my ear.

I’m going to conclude today’s post at this point. Tomorrow I will speak more about the Sounding Dream Woman piece that was composed from recordings I made after this experience and during my 2nd trip to Malta in 2007. The photo today is of the original statue found in the Hypogeum, now located in the National Museum of Archaeology  in Valletta, Malta.

Muses Mosaic: http://www.sci-news.com/archaeology/science-mosaics-ancient-city-zeugma-02307.html

Ancient Figurine found in France: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/23000-year-old-statuette-france-mysterious-collection-venus-020116


Posted 290 weeks ago

Sound Dreaming CD Blog Posts - Day 6

And now it’s Day 6 in the 13 day CD Concert Countdown. For those of you reading these countdown postings for the first time, what my intention has been is to write each day about a different piece that will be performed at the concert. Since there are only 7 pieces in the concert, I’m also including relevant topics to the CD music. Today’s piece is entitled “Temple Muses” which is based on improvised vocal recordings I made at the Ggantija temples located on the island of Gozo, part of Malta. Malta is a small island in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Sicily. Even though the Muse tradition originates in Greece, I chose this title of Temple Muses for this piece because the name ‘muse’ can also refer to a source of inspiration, a close-by companion who guides and supports the creative flow of ideas and juices. That’s exactly the experience I had at Ggantija.

Last night I had great fun presenting a few of the CD pieces at the local Soundhackers meetup. During the question period afterwards, someone asked me how long I improvised for when I was at one of the sites. I hedged a bit on that, and so today I was thinking about it, and the answer that came to me was: ‘as long as it takes’.

When I was in Gozo, I was fortunate to live for a month very close to the Ggantija temples in a small town called Marselforn in a flat just steps away from the sea. Being so close to the temples meant I could visit many times and get there early enough before the tourists arrived so that I could have my private time to connect and do the vocal improvisations without interruption. Because I was able to spend so much time there, I developed a much deeper intimacy with the place than in other places I visited. During the process of collecting quite a substantial series of vocal improvisations there, it seemed that each time I visited, a new presence, or vocal character with definite and specific qualities of sound would show up. That’s why it felt like I was having a deep sound conversation with the “temple muses” of Ggantija.

In the Greek tradition, there were/are nine muses, each with their own name and representing different artistic spheres or artistic qualities: erotic and lyric poetry, tragedy and comedy, hymns and choral song, etc. It was common practice for artists, writers, and orators to invoke the muses before beginning to write or perform for example, calling for help or inspiration, or simply inviting the Muse to sing or speak through them.

As I continue to develop my own relationship with the earth and ancient sites, I’ve noticed that those moments when I’m really connected and take the time to drop into my breath and belly, I can feel the gravitational force of the earth pulling me down. I think one of the first times I experienced that in a big way was at Ggantija. I had been invited into one of the little apse areas of the smaller temple, and my companion and I were intentionally tuning in to sense whatever memories we could possibly tune into. As I did so, I found myself experiencing a huge pull down down into the earth, and so I let my body drop into a squatting position, as if giving birth. Everything went black, and somehow I was transported into a place of no time, no place, just a visceral sense of the earth’s magnetic force and how it dwells within my body.

From similar experiences I have had subsequently, I notice that this seems to happen with the most intensity when I’m in a place where the earth energy is particularly strong, whether that be because of the ley lines present (which are like meridian or energy lines in the earth’s body), or because past history has built up a resonant field that can be felt and tuned into. What actually occurred in that temple area so many millennia ago is not so important to know, I feel. That the earth remembers and opens up a space for deeper communion there tells me that she is alive and sentient.

This past summer I had an experience in a workshop with composer Pauline Oliveros where we collectively experienced/performed her piece entitled ‘Extreme Slow Walk’. Walking extremely slowly by moving consciously from the heel to toe areas of our feet, we were invited into a place of Deep Listening (Pauline’s signature work) to not only the soundscape of the environment, but also to listen to and feel the earth frequency of 7.83 HZ vibrating through our feet, while sensing the pull of gravity on our bodies and the electromagnetic field of the earth. Although we were in a local urban park, I definitely traveled back to that timeless place. The soundscape was alive, as my body gradually slowed down and tuned itself to the earth. Afterwards Pauline observed that the whole environment was responding to our group’s listening with the vibrant sounds of birds, people and animals, while the winds picked up and animated themselves through the swaying trees.

This type of attunement and walking presence is something I’m continuing to cultivate in combination with sounding to the earth. This level of attunement to the body, the voice and the body of the earth will be at the core of the Spiral Path Pilgrimage I’m co-leading with Sarah Hoskin Clymer this coming summer in Cornwall, England. (June 23-July4).

Getting back to GGantija, whose name translates as “Giants’ Tower’: The picture I’ve posted today is of that special spot where I experienced the magnetic pull of the earth. It’s an invitation for you to find time to slow down and attune with the earth in your own unique way, whether that be through walking, listening, sounding, or any other way ‘of the muse’. 

Posted 290 weeks ago

Sound Dreaming CD Blog Posts - Day 5

So this is day 5 of the Dec. 5 CD Concert Countdown. Today’s piece has two names. On the CD, it’s called “Stone Mysteries”, composed from recordings I made at the Mnajdra temple in Malta. The piece is also the soundtrack for a video created by my good friend and collaborator Jacky Sawatzky entitled “Soundlines”. This video will be screened at the concert, with part of the vocal soundtrack performed live by myself and singer Penelope Cookson.

The three Mnajdra temples are perched on the rugged coastline of Malta’s southern coast overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. These temples date from about approximately 3000 BC, with the most southern temple functioning as a solar calendar. This southern temple has two circular apses, with one in front of the other. Think of a figure 8 and that’s roughly the design structure, with a few extra nooks attached to the sides. When you walk in through the main doorway you are in the first chamber and then enter into the second chamber through another doorway. This doorway plays an important role in the functioning of the solar calendar.

At both the spring and fall equinox, the rising sun shines straight through the main entranceway and following a straight line through both chambers, lights up the altar or shelf area at the very back of the second chamber. During the summer solstice, the rising sun enters at an angle and shines on the left side of the doorway between the first and second chambers. On the winter solstice, the same thing happens, only it’s the right side of the same doorway that is lit up. As well, the beam of light is much narrower during the solstices. Check out one of the pictures posted today for a great visual of how it works.

Although, this is mechanics of what happens, the real question is, as always, what are the deeper layers of meaning behind the architecture of these incredible buildings. Part of it certainly is that it speaks to the close connection that these temple builders had with the elements, the moon and sun, and with nature. Not to romanticize the past, but living in a balanced relationship with the earth is something that was and is at the heart of ancient and indigenous culture and is what is so lacking in our own.

Which brings me to “Soundlines”. Jumping half way around the world from Malta to Vancouver, BC, the footage for Soundlines was taken days after a devastating storm in Stanley Park uprooted and knocked over thousands of trees. If you know Stanley Park, it was an incredible to go there and witness the force of the winds and the massive changes to the environment. There was sadness in the community at the loss of so many beautiful trees, but such is the way of nature. Change, decay, renewal, rebirth. Was the high velocity of the winds a result of human induced climate change?? No one can say for sure, but we are aware of the increasing number of strong storms that are like nature’s way of sending out a wake-up call. A call not only to think about how we generate energy that is sustainable, but also a call back to the ways of knowing how to connect, commune and engage in a relationship with nature and all the forces that are part of the complexity of life. A way that our ancestors knew.

When you compare the picture of the southern temple of Malta posted below and the green forests of BC on the Soundlines video (go to http://vimeo.com/15502853) you’ll see a stark contrast of environments. Yet, there is a matching of the two places–Malta and Stanley Park–for they both bring us into a deeper respect for how we consider ourselves as humans in the larger cosmology.

The Mnajdra picture was taken from an angle of the front area of the temple overlooking the sea. The solar calendar doorway is at the bottom left. In the second image, you can see an overview of the three temples and how the sunlight works with the architecture.

Posted 290 weeks ago

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