"RITUAL OF NOW: BELONGING Premiere” - Interview with Vancouver, BC Sound Artist Karma Sohn by Willi Paul, Planetshifter.com Media
Listen to: “excerpt-cycles” by Karma (mp3)
Artist's Statement - "RITUAL OF NOW: BELONGING” by Karma Sohn -
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My current project is a multi-media installation that invites participants to examine their feelings of belonging. I grew up moving from place to place throughout the prairies of Canada, but I always had a strong sense of security because of my strong family bonds and the rich experiences I had exploring nature. Some people struggle with a sense of isolation or abandonment from having to flee their country, being displaced, or dealing with difficult familial issues. Indigenous people have too often had their land and culture taken from them and need to fight to regain their sense of place. If we are not connected to the place we live, how can we take care of it? If we don’t have a strong connection with those closest to us, how can we grow and thrive? Sound is an ancient human tool. Can sounds remind us of our origins and help us evolve as people? Can music be used to create new myths that help us navigate the modern age? What sounds are part of your story?
Art and poetry are full of metaphors, archetypes, and symbols. Music uses these too, possibly more effectively because music can transcend language and express complex concepts and emotions. Music is pre-linguistic; it moves us on a physical and spiritual level, and connects us to the primordial. Sound has the ability to reflect back to us our internal impulses and struggles. Rituals, such as music concerts, bring people of a community together for a shared purpose and experience through which to grow, transform, and heal.
I’m exploring many themes: Belonging, Isolation, Displacement, Security, Chaos, Emptiness, Home, Ancestry, Fear and Vulnerability, through symbols including the coyote, expansive wilderness, wind, water, cycles of time, weaving, electronic and nature sounds. These symbols are conveyed through a soundscape and visual projection with stories and poetry woven in. Audience members can read and add their writings to the "story tree”.
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Interview with Karma by Willi -
What is a sound archetype in your view?
If an archetype is something that is universally understood and has symbolic meaning, then sound is definitely tied up with that. How we perceive sound is central to our humanity and transcends cultural and time barriers. Sounds can have symbolic meaning in that they remind us of water, wind, or danger, and so on-- things that we tune into on a base level... and there's something about music being non-literal that activates our emotional selves and our imaginations, and that helps us to make connections with other things that our minds are working through. So looking at sound as archetypal is very interesting in that it teaches us about the symbolism in music and sonic experience.
How would you know it if you heard or created a primordial sound? Can you (give) an example of this?
Maybe you just know it... and feel it. I think a primordial sound moves us on a physical level and a spirit level, and it brings us into awareness of something deeper than the everyday way of moving around and thinking. It takes us into a deeper, more instinctual realm. People who are able to sing really freely, unimpeded by the constraints we put on ourselves, are tapping into a primordial source... Bjork and the experimental Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq are examples of artists who use primordial sound. Braids' “In Kind” is another example and the video for this song also has gorgeous nature imagery which suggests symbolic associations.
Soundscape or sound collage is a popular format in jazz composition. Are Steve Tibbetts and John Fahey making soundscapes?
Sound collage sort of implies a random order pasted together, whereas soundscape may have more of a narrative. Jazz music can follow many structures but has often had at its core a sense of freedom which allows the music to unfold over the course of a solo, or the whole piece, or even a whole concert. Soundscape also implies that the music is painting a picture, and this is a wonderful function of music-- to create an imaginary landscape that people can escape into. Tibbetts and Fahey both do this beautifully by transporting us to another place and combining rich and lush sounds that remind us of our ancient memories.
Steve Tibbetts’ way of integrating ancient chanting and drumming speaks to us in a way that is at the same time strange and familiar. John Fahey recreated and paid homage to the blues tradition. Later in his career he became increasingly avant-garde. In his last album, “Red Cross”, the strains of familiar tunes are interwoven in a carpet of lush guitar finger picking, string bending and reverb. If you didn't recognize the tune, it would still speak to you because it's part of the collective unconscious at this point. I love music that doesn't latch on too carefully to a certain style. I think that allows the listener to breathe and move with it, and not become complacent because we know what to expect next.
Can Jungian (analysis) help you create archetypical sound?
Although it sounds contradictory, analysis can help us with the creative process itself. An understanding of metaphor and Jung's work with the subconscious can help us decipher our responses and associations. It may also allow us to take more freedom as artists to trust our instincts and explore seemingly strange ideas. Sometimes impulses that don't make logical sense can, as we work into them, unfold into pieces of the story that make it come to life.
What is a myth? A new myth?
People have different ideas of what myths are: some people pass it off as untruth or allegory, but what lies beyond that is an attempt to explain the world and our place in it. Myths exist in the present-- they are not so much historical relics as dynamic tools that become relevant when we interpret them in our present lives. Myths can survive the test of time only if they are re-invented through the lens of our lives now. And we are making new myths every time we use symbol and metaphor to get at something more complex and tangled.
What is a mythic artifact?
In my view a mythic artifact is an object or a record of the myth-making experience. What, then, is a sound myth? Since sound and music is temporal, it exists in time, then becomes memory. Even if it's recorded or notated, it is still experienced only in time. But that experience is the artifact, and maintains a quality of elusiveness despite all our efforts to define it... I think that's part of the magic of sound.
Can you create a new myth with your voice?
Sure-- the voice is our most inherent instrument, and so it can be a direct tool for conveying emotion and spirit. Our voices have such a wide range. Yet we have learned to suppress our expression and tame it. I think our voices have the potential to allow us to tap into the source of our ideas and emotions... that is, if we wish to explore that impulse.
Sound symbols are equally important to open doors of perception and consciousness. How might you learn these?
Well, I think sound needs to be understood, that is, felt and perceived with our whole being... and that can be done by learning to be receptive. It's simple, really-- it's part of our nature. If we can turn off and tune in, and let go of the shells we build up to protect ourselves, then we can allow ourselves to feel again. In that way, music can heal and transform us.
What (if any) sound symbols do the Copilots implement?
In our music there are lots of sound symbols but few of them are literal or static. Sometimes there is a feeling conveyed by the lyrics and the arc of the piece and we improvise around that, creating something new each time. Like at the end of “the Falls” we repeat a little motif but everything gradually disintegrates into chaos while maintaining an unrelenting rhythm. I think it conveys a kind of uncompromising power or strength. There are symbols of the machine, or electric interference and dissonance... also of joy and sweetness and triumph. There is quite a lot of darkness that we explore. This album doesn't shy away from the depths of the human experience.
Does “https://copilots.bandcamp.com/album/sunstroke target=”blank”>Sunstroke” have a mythic meaning?
I think of it as ecstatic abandon, or an altered state of consciousness. Like looking at the sun/the source too long even if it can blind or burn you. If you think of the image of being stroked by the sun it is a warm and powerful feeling but also dangerous. You could see this as a critique of our society and the way we can move through life without sensitivity and care.
Where might you start to build a new sound symbol library for global community storytelling?
A good starting point is to initiate discussion and see what wants to be included in the library. Asking questions, like what is the meaning and function of sound in our lives? Do uncomfortable sounds represent our shadow? Or unresolved feelings? If we can sit with our feelings that arise out of a sound experience and allow it to move us, we will begin the journey. And then there's the business of sharing it! Any time we make music together, or experience sound together in a meaningful way, we are weaving its magic into our lives. We can also combine sound with our other sensory experiences because they are intrinsically linked. Dance moves us, helps us feel music. Images and words help us define abstract ideas and sounds. We can also make up our own definitions as we go. Sound is everywhere yet we don't always embrace it as a powerful mechanism for growth.
Please critique both of these pieces from Planetshifter.com:
This piece is really playful, but also gets down to the real issues of building sustainability in everyday life. I love how it draws on influences from age old themes as well as new ones. It's fun how it takes on these big topics in the context of sci-fi/futurism and in the form of a play. That's how art can speak to people-- by story and a fun experience we are drawn in, but over the course of it we learn lessons, examine our beliefs and values, and work through problems fictitious and real. These issues become more and more relevant as our global systems become less able to support the environment and humanity in the big picture.
This presents an intriguing and usable model for modern myth-making. It's thorough in that it explains many concepts, provides suggestions on how to approach the process, and gives ideas for collecting materials for the myth with examples from several projects that have used this approach. I enjoyed the graphic scores and images that accompany the soundtracks as well as the mixture of field recordings and composed music. The pieces all imply connections between sounds and images that are open-ended enough to encourage interpretation. It seems to me that defining “8 key elements” makes this exercise a little less abstract and provides a sort of value system with end goals such as addressing nature, the future, and human rites of passage.
Community Resilience is all the rage. Please define this in sonic terms.
When I jotted this question in my notes I wrote “Resil:” sonic and noticed if you shuffle the letters in sonic, it becomes “Resil-ionsc”. I thought that was funny... That's a great question. Nature is resilient. We can learn resilience by observing nature. I think of insect sounds, water, movement... any nature sounds represent resilience because nature knows how to heal, grow and evolve. I also think of cycles. Resilience is a process and we observe processes through rhythm and time.
I always return to Nature. Do you, too?
Absolutely. Nature also heals and transforms us. She teaches us how to be fully human. Nature is our life source and when we come back to it we are able to re-align our spirits with our bodies. It's easy in this day and age to be disconnected from our true nature. Nurturing that connection can bring us back to a state of balance.
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Bio – Karma Sohn
Karma is a Northwest Coast sound artist and instructor. She guides people of all ages to connect with their creative inspiration privately and in workshop settings. Her area of interest is in cultural modes of expression and using sound to convey concepts that are too big for words. Karma also performs with the Avant rock group, Copilots.
Willi Paul’s Bio -
Willi is active in the sustainability, permaculture, transition, sacred Nature, new alchemy and mythology space since the launch of PlanetShifter.com Magazine on EarthDay 2009. Willi’s network now includes multiple blog sites and numerous list serves with a global presence.
SF. Mr. Paul has released 27 eBooks, 2345+ posts on PlanetShifter.com Magazine, and over 320 interviews with global leaders. He has created 79 New Myths to date and has been interviewed over 30 times in blogs and journals. Please see his cutting-edge article at the Joseph Campbell Foundation and his pioneering videos on YouTube.
In 1996 Mr. Paul was instrumental in the emerging online community space in his Master’s Thesis: “The Electronic Charrette.” He volunteered for many small town re-designs with the Minnesota Design Team. Willi earned his permaculture design certification in August 2011 at the Urban Permaculture Institute.
Willi’s current focus includes the integration of sound, permaculture, mythology and the Transition movement.
Mr. Paul’s eGroups -
Depth Psychology Alliance - New Global Mythology Group Founder
LinkedIn - New Mythology, Permaculture and Transition Group Founder
G+ Permaculture Age Group Founder
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Illustration by Simon Haiduk