Insomnia, that’s where this all started. This was in the mid-2000’s when we all walked around with telltale white iPod wires dangling all the time. My iPod and I had a very longterm, round-the-clock relationship. I didn’t go anywhere without it, including to bed, which was when I needed it most.
Intuitively, first off I turned to nature to help me. I hunted through dozens of soundscapes searching for tracks that soothed rather than invigorated. When I look back, this was my real first investigation into the innate natural rhythms that can prove mentally healing.
The natural noise I found effective was of the sea, rain, thunder, forest life – repetition of sound that came in low rumbles and brown noise on long play through the night. Birds, however, with their bright, random chatter, woke me up.
It took time to grow used to a noise in the ears for hours at a time, and worse rolling over to find a white earpod wedged in the side of your neck, but on very low it gradually lulled me. Bit by bit I trained myself; I began to fall asleep more readily and more often. Better still, one day I began to resume an almost normal sleeping pattern. These days I only use it when I know my mind is busy or I wake in the night on alert.
It works much like meditation: I know to use it when I really need it.
After I later took up learning the drums the soothing repetition became beats in the literal sense. This – tribal beats, rattles and chants particularly – became as comforting and natural as raindrops and thunder claps; as natural as a heartbeat.
I enter trance state to paint because in order to create anything I have to alter my mind state from where it's naturally at in the everyday. It requires calming down enough for me to pause and then allow myself the space to focus on the process of creating...
Rhythm is the quickest and most effective way I can reach that point. I'm not alone as an artist in this: Salvador Dali used trance states to explore his own creative sources and imagination. As a concept and method, it is far from new.
RHYTHM AS THE KEY TO CONNECTION
Our human nomadic ancestors used rhythm to connect, entertain, heal, celebrate and to come together as a community to demonstrate power and allegiance. Rhythm was the collective, resonant human voice, the non-verbal beat that spoke of who and where we were; it connected us to our people, our surroundings and to ourselves through dance and grounding.
Rhythm is a profoundly powerful and under-appreciated aspect of everybody’s existence, and how it works to induce trance state should not be such a surprise or questioned as a means of focus for artists. I worked with many studio freelancers in my time with their own headphones plugged in for most of the day, their chosen sounds allowing them to be more productive – and more mindful – in their work.
The most interesting aspect to me is where rhythm can be found and sourced back to. It underlies and underpins so much of our lives and world around us. In this sense, it is central to our own existence, artist or not. It is our heartbeat.