Sound Bath – Interview with Lucy

Interview and Lucy’s Sound Bath Meditation report for DJBroadcast, March 2015 with pictures by Lisa Swarna Khanna. Soon after the interview, he played this amazing 4 hours long set (below). Also, read my interview with Lucy from 2014 for Secret Thirteen.

Lucy Sound Bath Meditation, Photograph: Lisa Swarna Khanna

On March 4th, DJBroadcast went to experience something beyond the usual encounter one has with the DJ known as Lucy. As the founder of Stroboscopic Artefacts label and the producer who gave a new meaning to the word ‚techno‘, Lucy probably doesn’t need an extensive introduction. On that Wednesday evening, Lucy presented himself in a different angle – as a guide for a sound bath meditation.

The meditation took place at Studio Sonne, a new enclave for Berlin’s Yellow Yoga community. For his first-ever sound bath meditation, Lucy prepared a series of gongs from his instrument collection, and a bell for giving the signal to start and finish the meditation. The whole session took an hour, starting with a short introduction, then continuing with participants lying down, eyes closed with the sound going reverberating through our bodies and minds.

The fact that Lucy is a spiritual person isn’t such a secret. His musical productions explore the power of monotony, uncovering hidden sound dimensions. His DJ sets often have a meditative character and in his interviews he mentions that while performing, he feels like a shaman. In addition, his studio hides an esoteric spot with a carpet, a gong and Tibetan singing bowl. Being into yoga and various kinds of meditation and pranayama, sound meditation seems like the logical progression for Lucy’s interests and passions. After the meditation, which was a pleasant and introspective experience, DJBroadcast sat down with Lucy to discuss the session, the healing power of sound and similarities between guiding a sound meditation and the crowd in a club.

Friday: For how long can a gong vibrate with just one hit?

Lucy: The gong has a very, very long decay, which refers to how the sound vibrates from its upper point to its silence. With a gong like mine, it can be three to four minutes long. And in the decay, in the tail-end of the sound, that’s where the real magic is. It’s something that comes into your cognitive brain and when it does, you’re even more distracted from the real effect that is letting it pass through your body. Unlike the impact, decay is really delicate and contains all different kinds of harmonics, overtones and sub-harmonics, one fading into the other in a way that is absolutely unique. Every corner of the gong changes a lot. The gongs I like, like the one I have here for example, are not tunable. They’re handmade and each one of them sounds different. There are no two gongs that would sound even remotely similar.

The other thing about gongs is that what you hear is not only the gong itself. The gongs work with resonance. Depending on where you play, it sounds completely different. For example, this room is absolutely different from any other room, therefore it will sound in a fully different way. That’s the beauty of it.

When did you start to become interested in the healing power of sound?

Probably via different and more classical kinds of healing processes and medicine. It’s been probably five years since I started doing yoga. A few years ago I started feeling confident with yoga, meditation and pranayama practice, so I felt that I could step into something that was very close to me – sound and silence. Because to me, the certain moments when I play in a club are not so far away from what you experienced tonight. The same sometimes happens when I’m doing a musical performance, and at some point, it becomes an exchange of energies that you partly control and partly, it controls you. I don’t want to use the term ‘transcendental state’, because this term has been overused and abused, but that’s pretty much the point.

A few years ago, I visited a therapist because I had some problems with my back. He placed singing bowls on different parts of my body and started playing. It was crazy. It felt like minuscule fingers working deeply into my tissues. As soon as he touched the bowls, the sound went exactly where the pain was. And I thought, whatever the explanation is, this works way better than any painkiller. So I started to get interested into it more deeply.

Would you say that the way you were guiding us through a sound journey is similar to when you guide a crowd through your DJ set?

Pretty much, yes. The settings are very different, but the functions are very similar. When you’re guiding a meditation, you have a responsibility to your public, and the same goes for when you’re in the club. You are holding a mass energy in your hands. According to your will, you can bring the people down or up, you can bring them to violent places or to quiet places. At the same time, it’s also the other way around. You become a sort of medium for something, that’s not a part of your conscious life or your subconscious life. It’s a part of the collective sub consciousness.

Did you feel it tonight as well, or would you need more time for that? How do you actually feel after your first session?

Phew! It’s crazy, I feel hyper energized, I don’t know how will I be able to fall asleep now. So I definitely felt it. But I also felt the need to refine the class for the next time, because every time I DJ, I’m also thinking about what to refine in the next set. Tonight I felt that things got really slow and into another plain of time, so a lot of people came to me after the meditation and said ‚This felt like only seven minutes‘ or ‚When you rang the bell again, it felt like it would last only 15 minutes‘. So the normal sense of space and time changed completely. The world outside disappeared and then there was our own universe created by the reverb of the gong, the heat of the bodies and yourself. It all became a microcosm.

Speaking of the universe: According to theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, every subatomic particle works as a musical note on vibrating strings, which corresponds with the law of vibration. What is your opinion on this theory?

I fully agree. We are vibrating. We are constantly mutating and changing. Accepting this means saying ‘yes’ to life. Otherwise you just stick to trying to stop the flow, which will submerge anyway. Vibration doesn’t need many definitions. Maybe two and two doesn’t make four, but five, because of the interaction in between. All of these kinds of theories are very interesting to me.

So we should just go with our flow?

Yes. Or just accept and open up to it. Because when you close yourself, you don’t stop it; you vibrate anyway. So the point lies in acceptance.

During the introduction, you mentioned that when you’re sick or don’t feel well, you can heal yourself with sound. How can we tune or harmonize the vibration of our body to get better?

It’s not something you can choose to do, like tune yourself to 122 kHz. First of all, it’s about the treasure and heritage of culture and traditions that have been manufacturing stuff like this for millennia and applying it to many different settings of healing and meditation processes. Let’s say that once again, if you open up, accept it, allow it to permeate you, give up the control and let everything out, even when it feels uncomfortable, then you can harmonize yourself. Somebody told me after the meditation that there were moments when it was really tough and they wanted to stop it, when they felt lost in the ocean. But that is a part of the process; give up the control and let the panic out. I see human panic as a burning bubble inside you. Maybe if you take off the shield and let it out, then it can explode and vanish. Krishnamurti was always saying ‚Don’t think that you are meditating, otherwise your mind is busy. Keep your mind empty, because the empty mind is a mind full of energy.‘

Actually, for a while, I also felt nauseous when you played the smaller gong.

According to the theory, that depends on which kind of sound effect you feel in your body, which helps you to discover and bring problems to the surface. Even in the realms of traditional medicine, these kinds of therapies are going quite far right now. The singing bowls are part of the osteopathic treatments, for example, and are considered as an official healing practice. And as I said during the introduction tonight, our bodies are mainly water. A human body contains 55 – 78% of water, which makes it the best sound conductor you can imagine. It’s much better than air. That’s probably why are we so attached to sound. It is said that the difference between sound and noise is that sound is noise organized by a human being. So the presence of sound is a very significant trait of our identity as a human; we resonate to sound as well as we resonate to language. It’s one of the highest points of human exchange. But unlike language, sound doesn’t have any kind of borders. Anybody can hear and feel it.

How did you structure the sound meditation tonight? Do you have in mind what people should feel in any particular time, or how would you guide them during the meditation?

I don’t want them to make them feel something particular, because again, it’s about losing the control. But I learned a lot from the feedback I got today, some people told me ‚I felt like standing up and starting to move‘ or ‚I wanted to play the gong myself‘, so I thought that maybe at the end of the next session, everyone could hit the gong and make the room resonate. Also, I think I might swap the instruments form time to time. Tonight, it was about the gong, another time I’ll bring some native American drums  that are quite intense, and another time I’d like to even bring some electronic instruments like a modular box with some nice droning and phasing.

Back to the healing power of sound, what are the wholesome effects of sounds? What psychological, physical effects can it bring?

Do you really think that there’s a difference between psychological and physical? You can’t split those two things. Something that has a big effect on your perception will have a big effect all over you. A big effect on your physical body will also affect your mind. Here we reconnect to the topic I was talking about before, about experiences that transcend your normal everyday life, like going to work, to get paid to buy food to be able to go to work again. If life is reduced to that, then there’s no sense of it. It’s the same as when we are talking about dreams. Dreams are not innocent. Dreams are something that don’t belong to your horizontal reality, but they work deeply inside you; they plant seeds that will influence your choices in life and make you take one direction instead of the other. The same goes with music.

What I hope I can achieve, even when I produce music, is to wake up certain feelings that are normally asleep.  And then maybe one day, you will listen to a certain thing and start feeling rage, or sadness, or happiness. I don’t believe in massive revolutions, but this is a private revolution. I believe that the only revolution is the personal revolution. No other revolution is possible without that. So these are inputs or triggers, which make that happen, or at least open certain doors or wake up certain things that have been sleeping for a long time in your mind. That happens with music. Most of the people experience it in their life. Small example: You break up with someone you really love, then you are fine for few years, but then you listen to a particular track and start to cry. These are the triggers and they’re very powerful.

So no matter if you’re conducting a sound bath or producing a track, it’s always about giving people a chance to face themselves on a deeper level?

Yes. To give them a chance to experience something that is outside their box. Or to open a window in their comfort zone and let them look outside. For example, tonight, a part of the public was used to meditation, but the other part wasn’t and it was new to them. Similarly, in a club, people attend it because they like techno,  but what I play is something that they don’t always expect. Eventually, they may like it, but at the beginning, they didn’t know they would. So this is the door-opening I was talking about, that’s the base of experimentation. Without that, I am a dead man. I can do a lot, I can work like crazy, I can travel the whole fucking world every weekend with that force behind me. As soon as that push fades away, it would all become senseless to me.

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