Dear SOMA friends,
As many of you will know, SOMA is always looking for ways in which our instruments and their sounds can promote a more harmonious society through music and community. We are instrument builders but also dreamers of a better world where mutual love, respect and understanding are paramount. Also within ourselves, which is often easier said than done.
Today we therefore want to share with you a different type of performance, which can easily be reproduced locally in your own community. We had the first edition of our “psychoSOMAtic” live concept at the end of October, organized by SOMA Laboratory and Creative Community SOMA RU. The goal? To create a conscious awareness of our inner emotional states in the context of a musical performance, where audience and artist can react to each other through movement and music.
The essence of this concept is that, throughout the concert, the listener carries out the practice of recognizing and reflecting on their own psycho-emotional state and uses this awareness to become an active participant in the performance. As a result, both listener and artist will have the unique experience of interacting with their inner self and the opportunity to consciously develop awareness of their emotional sphere, learn to accept their emotions and express them in a responsible and respectful manner. The artist also gets the opportunity to develop a conscious approach to building the psycho-emotional dramaturgy of their performance.
We feel that efforts such as these can be useful for people in modern urbanized societies, where there often is a lack of emotional education and where even some adults lack a healthy connection to their emotions and how to process them. By creating a conscious awareness of your emotions, you can more fully reveal your creative potential and become a more harmonious person. Both within yourself, and towards others.
This concept is also based on the fact that one of the main goals of any performance, and any work of art in general, is to affect the mood of the audience. Music affects the state of our soul, as if painting it in different “colors”. An artist, in any medium, expresses through their works certain psycho-emotional states that they consider valuable. A listener will choose styles and individual compositions which resonate with their own inner state, or can shift it in a desired direction. Usually, both artist and listener do this intuitively, without being fully aware of exactly which states they are expressing and perceiving, and why these states are important to them.
What sets apart a psychoSOMAtic performance from a traditional concert, is that the artist has the opportunity to try to shift the emotional state of the audience in a predetermined direction and evaluate the result, and the audience has the opportunity to develop the ability to recognize such changes, displaying them with movements on the special diagram described below. This allows the artist to observe changes that occur in the audience live during their performance, turning the concert into a single organism with feedback. We hope it will give artists and listeners a unique experience and new perspectives on working with sound, emotions and the dynamic and transitory relationship between artist and audience. This approach is especially interesting in the context of experimental music scenes, where the range of possibilities for artists and venues is practically unlimited.
Audience and venue
It is best that the venue is clean, with clear energy, without a bar, alcohol or extraneous noise, allowing both the artist and the listener to concentrate on their experiences. Since work will be carried out with internal states, it is very desirable that the psyche is not distorted by drugs or similar substances and is in its natural state. It is worth choosing a room where the floor is covered with soft mats, or to fill it with pillows that allow you to move freely, sit or lie. Yoga and fitness rooms are well suited for this.
In order for the audience to be able to reflect their internal states, the venue must be prepared in a certain way. To achieve this, a Mood Mandala, an indicator of emotional states, is applied to the floor of the venue. The audience will display their inner states by moving along this indicator. You can organize such indicators in two ways: 1. If the area of your venue is quite large, then you can organize the diagram in the form of a circle with eight sections in different colors. States are organized by pairs of opposites (for example, joy-sadness). Please take a look at the diagram below:
2. If you do not have access to a large floor area (in our case it was a 45 sq.m. hall with 30 visitors), then we recommend organizing the diagram in the form of rectangular state indicators: the first state starts from the stage (harmony, unity), then they are arranged according to the color spectrum below:
The simplest way to apply markings to the hall floor is with special colored paper tape, which does not leave sticky residue. Rubber-based duct tape may also work. You can write the names of the states on the tape with a marker. It takes a small team (2-4 people) about an hour to set up and remove all the markings on the floor.
Of course, this set of emotions/states describes only a small part of our internal palette. We considered it a good balance between complexity and amount of states included for the initial form of the experiment. You can modify, supplement and develop this scheme according to your own needs and wishes.
Listener: during the entire event, the audience member is in a constant state of awareness of their psycho-emotional state and displays it by moving along the state indicators.
Before the start of the concert, the listener evaluates their current mood and places themselves in the part of the mandala which most accurately reflects their internal state at that moment. During the performance, the listener evaluates their inner state several times and adjusts their position on the mandala accordingly. It’s possible to be in several sections at once, as well as stand, lie, sit, and move smoothly. To make the process as effective as possible, all listeners need to be active participants in the experiment. Passive observers from outside should not be included in the event.
If the venue has been marked with the round mood mandala, we consider the center to be the place where the states blur, intersect and therefore are less pronounced. Closer to the edge means the emotional state is brighter and clearer to the experiencer. We apply the opposite logic for the rectangular mood indicator, so outside the rectangle the state is not defined, at the edge it is weakly expressed, and the closer to the center, the brighter it is. This allows the listener to indicate not only the type, but also the intensity of their internal state.
Mood mandalas are pretty universal in their use and can be applied effectively in a variety of settings, including the classroom. For example, children can listen to a fairy tale and reflect the change in their feelings about what is happening in the story by moving around the classroom marked with different moods in different areas of the room. A fun way to make kids aware of their emotions and how they can change!
To make the experiment even more interesting, you can also add a task for the artist. The artist plans in advance what state or sequence of states they are going to express through their performance and how this should affect the movement of the audience through the mandala and shares this description with the organizers of the concert. During the performance, photo documentation is carried out and then a comparison is made with the artist’s original plan.
The following suggestions will maximize the effect of the experiment: The performance should be live, and not a playback of pre-recorded audio files and sequences with low involvement of the artist in the performance. It’s therefore best to restrict the use of a computer on stage, as well as the use of long samples and sequences. Ideally several different artists will perform so that the palette of conditions is varied. Each performance should be no more than 15-20 minutes, and very short gigs are fine too. In our concert six artists took part. Having short performances proved to be ideal, as it prevents boredom and familiarity from setting in. And you know, with art it’s always better to have a little bit less than too much 🙂
It is advisable to organize the change of artists and setups in such a way that it does not interrupt the flow, so the audience does not fall out of the state of internal concentration. For example, have artist setups pre-mounted on different tables ready to go, so you can simply move and replace the table when a performance is done.
We recommend taking photographs of the state of the mandala and the people on it (always from the same angle) at the beginning of each artist’s performance, 5 minutes after the start, after 10 min. and at the end. This is done in order to compare the movement of the audience along the mandala with the preliminary plan of each artist after the concert.
Variations on the concept
You can vary this concept as much as you like, based on your goals for the event. You can apply this concept to an open mic night, with people reciting poetry or mantras on stage while the audience moves along the mandala on the floor. Or you can focus entirely on developing the emotional awareness of the audience, as an educational effort to help people understand themselves a little bit better. This idea can also be adapted for children’s activities to help younger generations explore their emotions and perhaps learn to become less overwhelmed by feelings, especially negative ones. That all emotions are transitory and will fade, that you are not your emotions, you are just aware of them. And so on.
This concept may also be relevant among professional communities, such as an acting troupe or an orchestra, so they are better connected with their emotions and each other.
We will be happy to discuss any questions you may have, you can send them us by email: [email protected]. We also hope that our vision of the current situation of emotional awareness of people today, or the lack of it, will resonate among you and that we will be able to make this world a friendlier and more loving place, one little step at a time.
Of course this concept does not require the use of Soma instruments, but both LYRA-8 and TERRA can conjure up quite meditative states and are very useful for special performances such as psychoSOMAtica.
Here you can see how our first event of this kind unfolded: