Each summer, I escape the flatlands of south Louisiana for some time in Tennessee. It’s never long enough, but always fulfilling and downright fun, as the time is spent visiting friends, playing a few gigs, and attending the NAMM show in Nashville.
NAMM stands for the National Association of Music Merchants, and they have a huge trade show in Anaheim, California each January to introduce new instruments, new technology, and just about everything new (as well as old and faithful) in the world of musical manufacture. I’ve been to the Anaheim show a few times, and it is busy, crowded and crazy. The Nashville show in the summer is smaller, with fewer booths, but has the advantage of being within driving distance. It’s also in an area of the country that I love.
I’ve found several instruments and fun things over the years at NAMM, and the show always brings wonderful synchronicity for music partner Bubba and me. A summer NAMM show was where I discovered and fell in love with Luna guitars.
That same show was where Bubba and I met mastering engineer extraordinaire Roger Nichols (think: Steely Dan) and where he offered to master our Blue Merlot CD. We have found instruments, equipment, and made new connections and friends over the years. Bubba, who is a Grammy-winning engineer and producer, goes with a list of manufacturers and new software / gear that he wants to learn about. I go with an open mind, looking for inspiration (as well as a wish list of items, such as an easy midi controller for our pipe organ at Epiphany). Last summer I found a wonderful harp (Harpsicle) that has given me relaxation and another inspirational sound to play with. (www.harpsicle-harps.com)
As we walked from the car to the Music City Center, Bubba asked “are you looking for anything in particular?”
“Nah, not really” I replied. I was more focused on the gigs we had lined up, and was content just to see what was new, though heaven knows we need some new mic stands.
“But…” I said, “I would love to find a Tibetan singing bowl.”
This isn’t the type of thing that we usually see at the show, but you never know.
We arrived, got our badges, and I put in my earplugs to buffer the onslaught of noise that is typical for NAMM. Every guitar slinger, drummer, etc. wants to try out the goods. I keep thinking that it would be nice if NAMM posted the “key of the day” so at least there would be some continuity in the cacaphony, but that hasn’t happened. We entered the huge showroom, with aisle after aisle of everything from acoustic guitars to zithers. The first booth we saw had tubas in purple and other bright colors.
BUT – right next to that was a booth with Tibetan singing bowls! A whole booth of singing bowls, crystal bowls, tingshas, drums and more.
Now at NAMM, there is a background melee of every kind of musical instrument, soundtrack, synth and drum that mashes together in a mess that doesn’t even resemble music but rather what I imagine a barrel of wet, angry cats would sound like. Anyone with “soft” instruments is at a disadvantage, especially if they are anywhere near the drums (this is a “hands on” kind of show). This particular booth, Serenity Tibet, was an aisle over from the drums. Yikes, how was I going to hear them?
In spite of everything, there was a sense of centeredness in the booth. Bowls like this are used in meditation. A quick lesson from Ruby Shrestha taught me how to elicit tones from the bowls – that I could hear, in spite of the screaming cats chorus all around me.
No one had to show me how to feel them. These bowls vibrated like crazy. At the Serenity Tibet boot, I learned that Sureen Shrestha uses bowls like these in healing and teaches healing at his school in Colorado. I’ve been drawn to sound healing for a long time, and these bowls seemed to be an affirmation that this is an interest begging for more exploration. I purchased Sureen’s book, How to Heal with Singing Bowls, and resolved to purchase a bowl the next day.
I began reading the book that night, and felt a click of agreement when I noticed that Sureen referred to quantum theory in his book. We feel and interact with sounds and vibrations. As a singer, I feel the songs that I sing. (Yes, some feel much better than others, and it’s not necessarily linked to the lyrics.) On the very smallest level, we are – and everything in creation is – energy. Like sound, we are made of vibrating particles / waves, in a marvelous swirling sea of cosmic energy.
I could go off on a quantum tangent here, but I’ll save that for another day. Let’s just say that the tones and vibrations of the bowls are very centering and grounding. The give you an aural sigh of relief felt throughout the body.
I selected a bowl the next day, or perhaps it chose me. Through the rest of our trip, it came with me everywhere. It stayed in the car only when we were going to a different place – I brought it out to ring wherever we were, experiencing calm when I did so. What a great way to re-energize hotel rooms! A visit with friends Deacon Diane, Vickie and Sister Madeleine Mary saw (and heard) the bowl passed around, and sparked a conversation on sound and spirituality. The bowl began inviting synchronicity and happy accidents immediately (more on that in another post).
The bowl that I selected is handmade, formed and hammered from 7 different metals that Ruby explained correlate to the 7 chakras, or energy centers of the body. Most are made in Nepal, and they are infused with prayer and intent as they are crafted. You can learn more about these specific bowls at www.atmabuti.org. Other bowls were machine made, inscribed with the beauty of images, symbols and Sanskrit prayers and words. I saw and heard an incredible frosted crystal bowl, inscribed with Om. Even in the noise bath of NAMM, we could hear the voices and feel the spirits of these bowls, bells and drums.
I am often amused at how new things – especially musical things – pop into my life. This little bowl was an immediate and complete response to my thought “I’d love to find this….” It doesn’t always happen that way, but it’s fun when it does. We resonate.