An Outlet November 5, 2015



    The faces of surprise and awe when uninformed bystanders realize what's happening during a Genesis Party sends tingles up my spine and sets my heart spinning with joy. It's such a foreign concept, when people get it, they're usually a little shocked and genuinely intrigued. …."you mean, everyone here is contributing to this music, right now in front of my eyes.… I can go up there and sing/play on your song…. and you're going to record it and make a studio quality record from it? ….Really? ….and you don't care what I do or say on it?" Yeah…. really.
     At the 2014 Mahabhuta Yoga festival, the GP was announced but not explained. It was raining on the last day, so all the vendors had to come inside to the large lobby of the community center. It was very much like a yogi market with all sorts of wears and products from fresh juices and home made granola to yoga mats, slack lines and even emergency, reflective head bands designed by a child looking for a way to stay outside later. The lobby was packed. A few people even had instruments at the ready—unknowingly. The stage was set and with a captive audience, we began.


Party Time
    To start, I went straight to the guys with their guitars and explained the process. They thought it was a great idea and followed me to the microphone. A tall gentleman with long brown dreads started to play his guitar. We worked together for a moment and when he played something we liked, and could set to a loop, we recorded it.
    The slack-line presenter, who was set up outside until the rain came, is a multi-talented instrumentalist. The first thing he recorded was a throaty beatbox baseline. It's pretty cool and can be clearly heard around (2:01). He also laid down some organ and piano.
    As the layers began to add up, the crowd of people in the lobby started to realize what was going on and that magical feeling of joy and excitement flooded the lobby. There's an unexplainable phenomenon that happens at every GenParty. It's akin to an altered state of mind; that, to achieve, usually entails breaking the law. No worries though, GenParties are completely legal.
     Once there was a sufficient foundation, the founder of the festival decided she wanted the mantra, "Ma", on the recording. She helped gather a load of guest musicians and many more to add their voice to the mantra. Later, when the last class of the festival was over, the instructor of that class, a presenter from Mississippi, sang a beautiful melody with a mantra (the Gayatri mantra) that later became the lead vocal (after some stylistic processing). The interplay between her vocal and the "Ma" mantra gives me the feeling of a guru and her followers. It's not meant to sound cult-y, but it kinda does in a cool way.

    Just outside the mostly glass entrance to the lobby, at the top of the stairs is a concrete breezeway that wraps around the building and overlooks the bay. It's a beautiful view over the water to Gulf Breeze. Even though it was raining, I wanted to capture the sound of the breezeway—I also knew I would want to record the rain, as well. During the GenParty, we recorded three amazing things out there: the flute, a djembe and the rain. The song comes to a point where the drum leads the flute to solitude—a place for reflection—naked in the rain with only truth to ponder. …and then, "Free" (a child saying his own name). The flute then ascends back into the music with a new perspective (the cool rhythmic gating effect that makes the flute not sound like a flute anymore). Watch out, Strauss, these tone poems are deep.



    The song takes me to a universal temple of truth. I don't know what she's saying, but it's like she's reading to me the depths of my soul—flaws and all—and telling me it's all okay. Every Genesis Party song has some magic to it. For me, the magic is when people are filled up and recharged from the experience. It doesn't happen to everyone every time, but it does happen to at least a few people every time—even people who are just watching and listening. And that fills me up.
    This year at the Mahabhuta festival, we will be there running sound for the whole festival. We will be making another Genesis Party song; though it is not actually scheduled. We hope to see you there.


An Outlet



    About a year ago, we were asked to host a Genesis Party for the family and friends of a suicide victim. The song would then be put on the Dream Project CD: a compilation produced for suicide awareness and prevention. Though we weren't close with the family, we certainly weren't far.

    The evening of the Party—which felt a bit like a memorial service with tired smiles and calming tones—was just two weeks after her passing. The wound was still fresh. For some, it was still hard to believe. Despite the sounds of people talking, instruments being played and the general noise of a party, it was one of the most silent gatherings I can remember. Maybe the silence was simply the space everyone was holding for Lydia.  


Don't Feel It
    Everyone has their personal way of dealing with grief. A lot of us deny it; push it away. Society doesn't seem to like grief very much. Watching someone cry can make people uncomfortable. But why? It is necessary to grieve. When I feel myself starting to get emotional, I push it down and don't let myself feel it fully. Why? Because I'm afraid to feel the pain of it. I'm afraid to feel. Which I think is completely ridiculous and ironic considering I also believe that we're here in these bodies to FEEL—to have a human experience! This being true, one could say that I'm afraid to live because I'm afraid to feel pain. WTF!? So, basically, if I can bring myself to boohoo like a baby and really surrender to the pain of it (whatever feeling it is I'm squelching), I can then begin to live a whole life as a whole person and stop letting fears control me. Sounds good to me. Some people get it, a lot of us don't. I'm not a pro when it comes to mental health and maintenance, but I think talking things out and getting closure are better ways than eating your feelings (which is also something I do). I also believe there's a connection between the way society treats emotions and the growing number of suicides.

    Conquering pain is empowering. Just ask the Earth Mother—who's given birth to a load of children, all natural, in the woods with only her husband—how she feels about fear. Pain is pain; be it physical, emotional, whatever. When you stop it in it's process, it never gets to live out it's life and die; it stays within you reeking havoc. It has a purpose. Everything is energy. Right? If you don't let it out, the energy can turn into something else in your body, usually something you don't want. Think about it—how could the energy of pain turn into anything positive without, at least, a little will and effort? We all know energy doesn't just go away.


    For me, a ritual is a physical act coupled with intention. When we were asked to hold a GP for Lydia's loved ones, we knew we had to do it—and we knew it was important. When you make music (even if you're 'bad' at it), you release a lot of energy. Usually, the energy that goes out is a strong mix of pain and love. Playing music also generates positive energy. Compound that with the group effect and you've got one powerful healing tool: perfect for Lydia's loved ones.

    Her father brought a Buffalo Drum and a Didgeridoo. Her mom brought a rain stick and used her coral bracelet to make rhythm. Her mother also wrote and sang the line, "I love you, I love you, too." —haunting. The moment she started recording the vocal line, I knew I wanted to take the, "I love you, too." part, pitch it up a bit and separate it from the, "I love you…" in the stereo field. I had a major panic about that decision, due to the sensitive nature and the fact that my intention was to emulate Lydia's voice by modulating her mother's. Thankfully, I got over it after a few long talks with Amy. I love the way it turned out. No one was offended. Everyone loves it.

    A family friend started the song off with an acoustic guitar strumming a heartfelt chord progression (if you want to play along, it's D C G D). We quickly added the Buffalo Drum along with the rest of the mother and father's offerings. There's a great poem from a family friend with children laughing and playing. Amy's angelic voice re-emphasizes the love theme in an emotional chorus. It's a powerful piece of music.

The Story
    Often at Genesis Parties, magic happens. Later in the evening, as we were about ready to wrap, a drum circle jam of 3 or 4 djembe's began to develop. Their tempo varied from the tempo of the Lydia Song Loop, but only a little. I quickly set up a track and hit record. When I got to the editing stage, I sliced it up just enough to make a usable loop. Those drums became a pivotal point in the song where, in my mind, they take Lydia, and all of her loved ones, to the Peace after the grief. It's the "everything's okay" moment that comes after her dad's didgeridoo shows up as a light in the middle of the darkness. Keep in mind—this is all my interpretation of the music and the story I'm telling through the arrangement. Every song tells a story and that story can be anything to anybody at anytime. Music is here to mirror and engage our spirit and emotions, on an individual level—and that's a beautiful thing.
    However, at this particular gathering, I felt like the story of the song was given. Everyone there seemed to agree, without saying, that the song needed to be this way. Even though I struggled with my ego about what I thought was my idea of how the song should flow, I was unable to arrange it in any other way. Toward the middle of the song, when everything drops out, listen closely to the depths of despair. The atonal, nylon stringed, out of tune ukulele, played by two of Lydia's peers, speaks volumes about what it could have been like for her. The song fades into the darkness and then, just in time…. hope.
    The song strongly mirrors the energy of the evening. I felt lightness after it was done. Lydia's mother has since told me she listens to the song every night and how much it has meant to her in her healing.



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