Like many teenagers back in the late nineties, my journey through the sounds of electronic music was greatly influenced by Germany. At that time I was devouring low bitrate recordings of Anthony Rother or Sven Vath, with a BPM easily going over 140. Then step by step, I got introduced to the deeper shades of house music through the same gateway: Germany’s club scene. That was in the early 2000s’ and it was the moment I discovered music as something more than just the sonic background for sleepless weekends: it became a soul food. This is when I stumbled upon Vera Heindel, while digging through the lineups of Panorama Bar or Robert Johnson. She was one of the first DJs who has captured my dancefloor attention with a narrative set, a story that took me through a pleiade of genres and sub-genres. Listening to Vera was one of the first times I felt that there was a two-way communication between the DJ booth and the dancefloor, beyond my sensorial abilities.
Fast forward to 2023, when the club scene got a harsh reset after a long pandemic. Some artists reinvented themselves on a totally new set of skills and domains, while others rediscovered music from a totally new perspective.
ACCESS ALL AREAS – Psychoactive Sound Journey, or AAA Sound Journeys, was born in 2022 as powerful music and sound meditation that includes ancient instruments, creative exercises, mindfulness techniques, breath work, sensual activation. Like all spiritual enhanced moments, this project appeared as a synchronicity during the Houghton Festival, when Vera was invited to play an ambient set. With the help of her friends, Eugenia, Camille and Jorhito, AAA Sound Journeys was born: a musical journey that interacts not only at the sensorial level with its audience, but on a more subtle plane, where one can become self aware in the depths of the subconscious. It sounds complex, but in reality all it takes is an open mind and the will to just be in the present moment.
Vera was kind enough to walk us through what is behind AAA Sound Journeys and why is this project a tool to discover one’s Self. Enjoy it and if you have the chance to connect with the AAA Sound Journeys experience at some point, make sure you do it with an open heart!
How was the AAA Sound Journeys project born?
It started last year in 2022 during my preparations for Houghton Festival. I was offered to play an ambient set on the „Pinters“ stage in addition to my regular DJ sets. During the pandemic I had studied music and sound therapy and I was thinking about how I could apply some sound therapy instruments during that set. After consulting back and forth with the promoters we decided to add an additional gig in „The Orchard“, the „yoga stage“, with a prerecorded ambient DJ set, a contemporary sound journey, combined with the live sounds of the instruments. The idea was to create an immersive, listening experience where the music and live sounds where almost indistinguishable, which plays with acoustic perception and helps induce a state of trance. In order to create this experience I needed help and luckily my friends Eugenia, Camille and Jorhito, who is now one of my AAA partners, where at Houghton too and I asked them if they wanted to join me. Eugenia runs the yoga studio HAR in Berlin and she has been offering sound baths with tibetan bowls since some years already, and Jorhito has been working at HAR studio too, giving regular yoga and gong bath sessions and Camille is working with tibetan bowls, specializing in playing them on the body. We did a rehearsal at HAR before going to Houghton and both sessions turned out to be very impactful, the participants where touched and positively surprised by it and we understood that there is potential in it.
What is the purpose of these sessions? Should one come with expectations or just leave it to the Universe and see what happens?
We are using music and sound as therapeutic tools to promote self awareness. The sessions are carefully designed to lead the listener on a journey within.
Each sound journey was created with an intention and a purpose. We prefer not to give away too much to avoid creating expectations, it’s best to come with an open mind and heart and curiosity to try something new.
Walk us through one AAA SJ session, please
Right now the sessions look like this…
We start with some awareness exercises by focusing on our senses to increase overall perception and to connect with the people in the group. It helps to have a feeling for what and who is around you, in order to feel safe and be able to relax more deeply and let go of control. We also do some exercises that help getting out from the head into the body, making us feel well rooted and centered. The exercises change every now and then. After 30 min we start with the sound journey, which lasts about 1 h. Afterwards we usually open a sharing circle and sometimes we do an art therapy exercise that helps reflect and anchor the experience.
Who should attend the AAA sessions? Am I required to have a previous experience in holistic practices?
No previous experience required, anyone that can stay silent for 1h and is curious can join :D
Generally this speaks to people who are interested in:
– a deep listening experience
– ambient/ experimental music
– meditative music and sounds
– sound therapy
– meditation, yoga and other spiritual practices
– self awareness/ self exploration
– Personal growth
– deep relaxation
– creative therapies
There is a disclaimer though. People with diagnosed mental challenges are advised against participation and rather try such experiences in one-on-one sessions, with a professionally trained and experienced therapist. Music and sound are powerful instruments to access our psyche. They may evoke inner images, sensations, feelings, stories or memories that can be painful or uncomfortable. They have the potential to trigger transformative processes, deep insights and even transpersonal experiences but they can also reactivate trauma or induce psychosis.
Intrinsic, Waking Life, Waha. I assume this project requires an environment that vibrates on higher frequencies…
Hm, I wouldn’t say that. There is a potential to also offer the sound journeys in different settings. At those festivals and in yoga studios we run into open doors, they are the perfect playground for what we do. Yet at the moment we are preparing a portfolio to offer the sound journeys in the corporate world, as team building or creative workshops. We also have a second format called „Healing Freqs“ which is more performative. Originally we invented it for chill-out rooms cause. And it turned out this format too is pretty versatile. In November we are having a „Healing Freqs“ performance at a small gallery in Berlin, stepping out of the club into the art world. So many doors have opened up since this project started and we had such an amazing summer together, we are very excited about all the opportunities and possibilities.
Are the sessions different from one another, depending on the place and the audience?
For now we have two sound journeys, with different music and live choreographies, and usually we vary the warm up exercises. And of course the experience can be different depending on the settings. And we do the „Healing Freqs“, which is similar to the sound journeys, yet also very different. We are wearing costumes and masks and perform some kind of sound ritual on people. But we use the same principles as for the sound journey, live sounds and ambient music. I am sure we will continue to create new formats and sound journeys. I am very restless when I caught fire for something and always come up with new ideas or look for ways to improve and change the existing formats.
What is your role in the project?
First of all – AAA is meant to be an open collective that other professionals can join in for various settings and occasions. But at the present moment we are three. I am the founder and then was joined by Jorhito, as mentioned earlier, he’s a professional gong player and yoga teacher and continuous student of both sound healing and yoga. Our triad was completed by Nigâr, who is a classical pianist and a sound therapist specializing in tuning forks. She has her own sound therapy practice “Sükûn”, and is also working part-time in psychiatric rehabilitation in Berlin.
We are still in the process of building the project in a professional way and figuring out our roles, so far I have created the sound journeys (the ambient mixes) that we play along with the live sounds during the sessions and then we elaborated the instrumental choreography together in the team. I usually have a lot of ideas that I share with my partners and then we all explore the possibilities together and they add their ideas and visions to it. Or they come up with their own ideas and suggestions on how to improve our existing work. I have also been doing some PR stuff/ communication, with festival for example, as I have a lot of contacts in our music scene, while Jorhito is very connected to the yoga scene in Berlin and has been organizing those events for us. Nigâr, or Mimi, as we call her, is pretty good with social media and design and probably will take care of that in the future.
What’s your daily spiritual practice?
I don’t have a regular or daily spiritual practice, but spirituality is part of my every day life, no day passes without me thinking about the life and death, consciousness, the universe and what’s beyond what we call „reality“. I’m driven by the search for meaning and truth, understanding myself and the world that surrounds me. And I try to become a better human every day and find my purpose, I want to evolve and be able to live my full potential and with that create something meaningful.
I feel like everyone that works with music is aware of it’s spiritual dimension and I have been exploring that dimension in different ways. So maybe working with music and art is my spiritual practice.
Jumping from 120+ BPM sets to pranayama, gong baths and meditation: is there any connection between Vera from the DJ booth and Vera from AAA Sound Journeys?
Hehe, off course! The connection is Vera :) It’s veragoesdeep & veragoesdeeper.
What drives you to go on this path of reconnecting with yourself through sound?
As I said before, I always had a spiritual connection with music. I guess most of us do, but some are more aware of it than others. For me this path is a continuation of my relationship and work with music and sound, which I now use consciously for therapeutic purpose. I say consciously, because I am sure, that also DJs sets can have a therapeutic effect. We practice music and dance therapy every weekend in clubs, but rather unconsciously, we do it because it makes us feel good, we feel present and connected. That already is wholesome. I was always looking for those transcending moments in parties, when I felt like I am not playing the music myself, but the music played itself, when the records would almost jump into my hands to be played, without me actively choosing them. In that moment I would just be a medium that is channeling energy – my energy, the energy of the people, the energy that surrounds us, and express it through music. Or like a translator, intuitively decoding the vibes and interpreting them with music. Those moments feel like we all are all tuned in and we are united in music and sound, connected to something bigger than ourselves. Those moment are what inspire my work. I want to create an experience for people that touches them and opens up their awareness.
And I personally also had some very transformative and effective sound therapy sessions, that taught me how powerful and effective sound can be and inspired me to study music and sound therapy.
Did all these years spent on the dancefloor influence in any way the AAA Sound Journeys project?
Sure, everything influences everything :D I always loved being taken on a musical journey and I also love creating them for others. By own experience on the dance floor has allowed for me to understand it’s dynamics and how a good DJ navigates those dynamics. DJing in a way is a live improvisation and it is influenced by the surrounding and sometimes it is a collective energy that drives the direction of the set. Now with this new project, I build the sound journeys with more attention to detail and a clear intention and also the people joining the experience are approaching it with increased mindfulness and deliberately intent to connect with themselves. It’s very similar to what I do when I DJ, just the whole process is more conscious. And without dancing…. for now :D