“The entire cosmos and all that exists within the cosmos including human beings consists of sound vibrations. It holds that sound energy in motion, rather than of matter and particles, form the building blocks of the cosmos.”
- Principles of Nada Yoga
Mythical Human Vessel is a trilogy of records written and performed by the songwriter and guitarist Paul Masvidal. They are the first independent solo releases on his label, Masvidalien Records, of which the first collection, Mythical, will drop May 31, 2019.
Best known for leading the influential progressive rock group Cynic, Masvidal has been developing many of these tightly-crafted songs for over a decade. “These little beings tapped me on the shoulder one day, asking to be completed, and from that point forward, I listened,” he recalls.
Pain is a doorway
“MHV expresses another dimension to me entirely,” says Masvidal, “At first, I was reluctant to let others hear these songs cause it’s me at my most vulnerable, raw and naked, and frankly, now it’s the part of me I feel is most important to share.”
In 2018, Masvidal began sending demos to longtime-collaborator Warren Riker for his feedback. Riker urged him to move forward with the project.
“Warren's a rare one in that he empathically absorbs music while mixing,” Masvidal says. “We took a meaningful journey together.”
Drawing on influences from musicians John Lennon, Brian Eno, Chet Baker, Russill Paul and Elliott Smith to visual artists, Mark Rothko, Ai Weiwei, and Hilma af Klimt, the songs embrace concise forms and catchy melodies in spite of their often painful subject matters of loss, depression, and heartache. In Masvidal's view, pain is not something to be feared but embraced as inevitable, and, ultimately, a doorway.
Featuring Masvidal’s voice, and acoustic guitar-playing alongside occasional rhythm accompaniment, the new collection, like Masvidal himself, takes a cosmic, progressive approach. "Getting to know these states of mind like sadness and depression is what builds courage and invites kindness,” he notes, “although they can sometimes feel like we’re entering a bad neighborhood, and some of us don’t make it out. In these songs, I felt a connection between touching the center of my pain and the boundless nature of consciousness. The edges of despair are like gateways to fearlessness.”
The healing power of sound
At the center of Masvidal’s experiment is the use of Isochronic tones, a 'brain-entrainment' technology. Isochronics are said to produce bio-chemical reactions in the body that increase serotonin, alleviate depression and stress, improve focus, and aid in restful sleep, similar to the effects of exposure to negative ions in nature.
In recent studies, neuroscientists have found that sound waves can induce an alpha state in brain waves, which promotes healing processes. For example, the use of sound to induce an 8 to 14 Hz alpha state in brain waves increases serotonin production and delivery.
Through its incorporation of Isochronic tones, Mythical Human Vessel is intended as “an inherently relaxing listening experience, and adding the tones multiplied the benefits,” Masvidal says. “More serotonin for all!"
“Isochronics have worked on multiple levels for me,” he continues. “There will always be naysayers who go to the pseudo-science argument, but I believe humans are just at the tip of the iceberg with psychoacoustic sciences.”
Culturally, Masvidal notes, the sacred healing power of sound has been deployed by ancient Egyptian society and Tibetan monks alike. Tibetan monks use singing bowls in prayer and meditation, believing them to be “a symbol of the unknowable” whose “vibrations have been described as the sound of the universe manifesting.”
Throughout all three volumes of Mythical Human Vessel, the sound of undulating and sweeping frequencies in slow and rapid succession act as a subliminal agent to affect the listener positively and help to create a deeper connection to the songs themselves.
Masvidal and Pigeon: An aural collaboration
While bringing Mythical Human Vessel to fruition, Masvidal reached out to Dr. Stephane Pigeon, the creator of MHV’s Isochronic tones, as a fan of his experimental aural soundscapes, and it turned out the admiration was mutual after Dr. Pigeon heard the material.
“Collaborating with Stephane was nothing less than epic,” says Masvidal. “He’s a sonic genius!”
Pigeon helped Masvidal custom-tailor the tonal landscape for each individual track. “The Isochronics on Mythical Human Vessel cover the entire auditory spectrum,” Pigeon elucidates. “These tones are designed in such a way that the listener’s brain will subtly connect to its own personal resonant frequency within the spectrum. As a result, the audience achieves a higher emotional connection to the music and its meaning.”
Masvidal reflects on the dual purpose of the project: to inspire pure enjoyment and psychic healing at the same time: “I believe in the naked truth from which these songs were birthed, and would never underestimate the healing power of music alone, but integrating the Isochronics brought a radical psychoacoustic dimension to the work. I even made track six of each record a 20-minute isotonic tone sound bath, if you will. It acts as a palette cleanser, and a purely therapeutic offering.”
In addition to Pigeon’s incalculable contribution, Masvidal acknowledges the collaborative contributions of other musical and visual artists who helped realize Mythical Human Vessel .
“I’m inspired by my musical brothers and sisters who make special appearances on this project, including Joshua Grange (Sheryl Crow, k.d. lang) on pedal steel, Sean Malone (Cynic, Gordian Knot), on bass, Alfie Vienneau (Skye Wallace, Ground of Being) on drums/percussion, and Amy Correia (solo artist) on vocals, along with artists JonMar and Igrey, a.k.a. Greymar,” he says. “It’s been one synchronicity after another working on the visual language with Greymar. From numerology, to geometry and colors, the vibration is elevated with those two.”
Mythical Human Vessel was mixed and produced by Warren Riker and mastered by Howie Weinberg. The Isochronic tones were designed by Dr. Stephane Pigeon, creator of the Brian Eno-celebrated website MyNoise.
Masvidal is currently working with experimental artists Greymar to develop Mythical Human Vessel into an immersive live experience using evocative imagery, storytelling and technology as part of an experiential journey into heart-opening and multi-dimensional landscapes.