Enjoy the alchemic feedback and soul in our interview with Berkeley performance artist and body healer Francesca Genco by Willi Paul.
Robyn Hitchcock told me that music is a form of alchemy - perhaps an invisible attempt to alter people's moods. Your reactions?
Alchemy is the ancient practice of transmutation - of base metals into gold and silver and of the physical body into the "light body" or immortal body. I do believe that music and sound transmute energy by creating a vibrational field that affects the mind and body. One's mood and state of mind/body is affected not only by experiencing direct associations with the qualities of the music and/or lyrics, but by the actual vibrational patterns created by the music.
Do you write music based on your dreams?
I haven't written any songs with a specific storyline from a dream. However, I feel a lot of my music comes from a deep place in the collective unconscious, which is expressed not only in my dreams, but also in the dreams of others. This is, in part, the role of the artist - to creatively express experiences and archetypes that are deep within the cultural and global psyche.
Hero. Define yours? Are you a hero?
Any being who is acting from a place of deep listening and compassion is a hero/ine to me. Service to the whole, coming from a place of knowing oneself as a true expression of the whole, is heroic. It's also heroic to fail over and over again to act in this way, but continue to find one's way back to this place of awareness of the possibility of acting from true nature. Actually, that's more heroic than being that way all the time! Am I a heroine, given this definition? Absolutely! I'm constantly falling off the horse and getting back on. My horse and I do a great dance together.
What are the sounds from pre-history? Do you sample nature?
Sounds whose existence precede our ability to record them often have a primal power to move us in ways we don't cognitively understand. The human heart beat, wind in the pines, water lapping at the shore or running down a mountainside - these are all sounds that have a deep affect on the limbic brain. They connect us to our ancestry. There are ancient sounds we haven't even heard yet. We're still honing our ability to tune in to deeper levels of acoustic consciousness.
I haven't yet directly sampled sounds from nature for any of my pieces. However, I love to sing outside of the studio and am planning to record and perform in naturally resonant chambers (such as caves) in the near future.
What is Gaia? Do we see / hear this force in the eastside of East Oakland?
Gaia is the World Soul, the Divine Mother Earth in all her beauty, rage and compassion. No part of this planet is excluded from this! Some humans have (un)consciously tried to subdue this World Soul in service of ego, but still she shines, even (and perhaps especially) in places like East Oakland. Gaia dances with those who know her name and there are many gathered all over the planet who do, in cities, suburbs and rural lands alike.
"In the realm of psychoacoustics, the terms music, sound, frequency, and vibration are essentially interchangeable, because they are different approximations of the same essence." What is this essence? How does this force heal?
(see PS.com interview Event Circle with Dréa Drury)
The essence is Love. Not love in the realm of the personal/emotional, but as the "isness" or "suchness" of all things, as the Zen masters would say. Experiencing Love as the essence and ground of all being is the most powerful healing. It leads us to re-member our wholeness.
How does the transformative effect of intoned sutras work? Does one need to be initiated in some way to benefit?
Chanting sutras, or scriptures, is a way to embody the wisdom that lies therein. The words themselves hold a kind of power. The repetition of the sutras can be transformative. One can literally absorb the energy of the words as they are chanted over and over again. It is also a way to honor the wisdom of the sutras. If one has studied the meanings of the sutras and is "initiated" into the practices connected with them (e.g., sitting meditation), the practitioner often will experience their power at a deeper level. However, it is entirely possible for spontaneous transformations to occur when chanting sutras, for initiated and uninitiated alike.
What is a Chanting & Sound Healing Circle? Is this based on ancient formula?
Sometimes I call these circles Spirit Singing Circles, as my friend and sister dancer/singer, Jacqueline Parsons
, coined them. They are, in fact, just that. We come together to celebrate and collaborate with our voices and our listening. Most of the chants are in Sanskrit
and invoke the names and qualities of various Hindu and Buddhist deities (e.g., Tara as the expression of Universal Compassion).
However, we also include chants from other cultures/languages and chants that are spontaneously created in the moment. When one chants and also receives the vibrations of the chanting of others, this can be deeply healing. We also place a "healing blanket" in the center of the circle, where people can lie down for a few minutes if they are so called. Kimba Theurich
, who sings with me and plays the didgeridoo, often plays the didgeridoo directly over the body of the person lying on the blanket. The deep resonance of this ancient instrument is transformative. What I offer with the Spirit Singing Circles is based on the ancient and modern practice of coming together to listen and respond to one another through song. We sing the blood and bones of our lives, both as individuals and as the endless web of community.
Why are you a contralto ( type of classical female singing voice with a vocal range somewhere between a tenor and a mezzo-soprano)?!
I've never been officially dubbed as a contralto before! I actually don't specifically identify within a particular vocal range, as I can sing most soprano, alto and some tenor parts. However, my range does fall most strongly within the alto.
Is there only one way to engage the chakras? Or, are there stimuli and reactions on via multiple channels? How do you do it?
There are many ways to engage the chakras, or energy centers, in the body. Meditating on the qualities of the chakras, chanting the Sanskrit sounds of the chakras and visualizing them in the body are a few ways to engage them.
Is your call and response circle like the caller at a country barn dance or a poet ranting at a slam?
Neither! As I explained in my description of the circles above, it's more of a collaboration. However, I do lead the chants, meaning I begin them and see where they go as others bring in their voices and ways of creatively expressing within the chant.
Are you a Green woman? How does your spirituality weave sustainability, music and politics?
Well, I am half Italian, which gives my skin a sort of olive hue. ;) My connection with Gaia and Nature has always been of primary importance to me. I spend a lot of time in the hills behind Berkeley, walking, listening, smelling and looking. What I offer through music is a direct result of my relationship with Gaia and my love for Her. I hope to bring others on this journey with me, as they re-member their direct connection with Gaia, perhaps on an unconscious level, through the songs/sounds. This, for me, is a political act. It is contributing to a paradigm shift that must happen on all levels, including in how we engage politically, socially and individually with one another.
Do you see sustainability as a new religion?
If by "religion" you mean a set of beliefs that guide behavior, yes.
What organizations to you belong to?
I am connected with many circles/organizations, including the Green Music Network
, the Contact Improvisation community and BNI (Business Network International).
What the range of outcomes that can result from a Song of the Body workshop? How can participants extend this healing on their own?
Participants in Singing the Body workshops often leave with much more freedom and confidence around expressing themselves vocally, both with singing and speaking. They have a clearer sense of how they can relate to and engage their bodies as exquisitely designed instruments, connecting movement (on subtle and broader levels) to the qualities of the sounds they make. Playing with how to improvise vocally is also central to the workshops. We delve into how to consciously use these skills to effect healing in oneself and others through the voice. Many participants have said they feel a greater sense of joy in singing/sounding and moving as a result of taking the workshops.