The culture around meditation can be cloying for those who find gentle voices, snoozy new-age music and platitudes about relaxation in a frenzied world all too easy. So when we heard that the Noise Division of the 57-member avant-garde performance troupe itchy-O was planning to launch an online meditation series, we had our doubts.
How could we find any tranquility while looking at our screens, with all the distractions of the internet and social media? And what business does the frenetic and occasionally unnerving performance troupe best known for crashing events with pounding drums and noise music — and which has managed to pull off spectacular in-person shows, even as the pandemic raged — have trying to ground us in front of screens?
As it turns out, our skepticism was ill-founded. The first edition of Itchy-O's Noise Bath Series of meditative events on April 11 managed to bring calm to our otherwise hectic Sunday and help us find some solace through stroboscopic imagery, optical hallucinations and an irreverent meditation guide that armed us with the inner focus to approach our week boldly.
So boldly that we were inspired to catch up with itchy-O, which speaks as a collective, to find out more about the series.
Westword: What inspired the Noise Bath Series?
Itchy-O: Anyone who’s seen itchy-O live knows there are a lot of factions that come together to form the chaotic phenomena we create. We’ve been inducing trance-like states with our massive drum sections and hypnotic rhythms for over a decade now, so this evolution was only a matter of time.
One of the teams that comprise itchy-O is called the Noise Division — they are the members who roam the audience piping in the noise via an arsenal of electronic wizardry, harnessed on backpacks. For a couple of years now, this team has been experimenting with the effects of frequencies on bio-organisms.
Current events have given us the opportunity to research these effects, and we decided to put it all to the best use we could — helping people stay grounded, practice some mindfulness, and for some, even tap into a higher state of awareness.
Without the live concert experience, sound baths and guided meditations are great tools for becoming our best selves; however, they can also turn folks off. As longtime experimental “witches of tone,” we wanted to do something based upon these proven techniques for our very special fan base of spiritual misfits, inclusive and accessible to everyone as a reset for the week and free of any dogma or “ick” many of us find when searching for tools to practice meditation.
Our lives were already mediated by algorithmic isolation. Distancing and ego have driven an even deeper wedge. A recalibration is needed, now more than ever.
Talk about the frequencies, how you researched which ones would induce what states, and talk about the order you are rolling them out in?
The series has emerged as a course sequence, each session beginning with a guided introduction preparing the traveler for the week’s intention. Different anchor axis points help keep individuals tethered to a physical self to roam and explore in whatever Astral Chowder they find. Combined with rhythmic light sequencing, this can elicit a strong synesthetic and hypnotic response.
Week One featured alpha frequencies in the 8-13 Hz range, associated with a state of deep relaxation. According to Guyton and Hall’s Textbook of Medical Physiology (2006), these frequencies “generally appear in the occipital region of the brain (the visual cortex) when the eyes are closed. In this state, subjects are alert but unfocused, or focused on the interior world.”
Week two will be our THETA DREAM SESSION, featuring a tonal combination of Carrier (4.32Hz), Isochronic (8.88Hz) and custom binaural frequencies (6Hz +8Hz). The resulting combination with visual elements elicits a hypnagogic, dreamlike state.
Future weeks will include sessions specifically geared to unlock focus, restoration and imagination. Our Patreon supporters get first look at what’s coming up each week.
What are the origins of the symbol that rotates throughout the piece? At times it appeared to be moving. Was it?Or was that an optical illusion triggered by the strobe?
These characters or runes are part of itchy-O’s otherworldly ancient/futuristic mystic lore. They’re a talismanic key to unlock alternate dimensions and states of consciousness. Each symbol correlates to a range of frequencies, each range of frequencies a ratio of sequenced visuals, changing with each week’s practice.
I have to confess: I was skeptical about yet another meditative practice in Denver. Can you walk me through why you landed on this approach and how it relates to some of the other meditative offerings from different spiritual traditions?
Noise Bath draws from our own histories, a vast amount of scientific research done on entrainment, the rhythmic brain, Discordianism, Robert Anton Wilson’s writings, Israel Regardie, on and on.... The flashing visual effects are tuned to the week’s assigned frequency ratios and are also akin to the effects a Dreamachine has, while guided constructs and respiratory breathwork are similar to those found in Zen Buddhism and Vedic practices. We encourage everyone to dive down this magic rabbit hole with us.
Talk about how this practice relates to some of Itchy-O's other iterations — as a marching band, your rituals, your stage performances, etc.
Our Noise Division sets a sonic foundation for our live performances: vibrating, screeching, humming, jittering, yowling. It seemed like a natural fit to combine their circuit-bending airwave manipulation as an experimental outgrowth.
And, like we mentioned, we’ve been rocking everyone’s rhythmic brain cradle since we first played Inferno to a live audience. Experimenting with frequencies and their evocative effects is something we’ve been doing for quite some time, usually in an effort to create tension and release inside of an overarching set list. Our 2019 Hallowmass performances began with tonal beds that antagonized the crowd into a frenzy, and if you’re familiar with a Shepard’s Tone, you would have heard that beacon at the last drive-In Hallowmass.
The result is something that’s very different — it’s not a full itchy-O experience, but in its enveloping elevation, very familiar — and still very itchy-O.
How will this relate to the live experience?
It’s not hard to imagine throngs of spiritual misfits finding a center of peace before exploding into ceremony. You’ll just have to come out and see.
Walk us through how readers can get involved in the series.
Attendees can purchase individual sessions for $15 apiece, or $60 for the full series.
Patreon supporters can also access the full series starting at the $6-per-month level with access to pre- and post-session decompression chats (and other exclusive perks for higher levels).
For more details on the series, which continues every Sunday at 6 p.m. through May 16, go to the Noise Bath website.
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