Healing in Music: Lavender Suarez Sound Healing
Lavender Suarez. / Photo by Jenn Morse
Lavender Suarez has made music as an experimental improviser for over a dozen years as C. Lavender and studied the philosophy of “deep listening” with composer Pauline Oliveros, which helped her understand the greater impact of sound in our daily lives. But it was seeing fellow artists and friends experience burnout from touring and stress that inspired her to launch her own sound healing practice in 2014.
“Many artists are uninsured, and I wanted to help them recognize the importance of acknowledging and tending to their health,” she said. “It felt like a natural progression to go into sound healing after many years of being a musician and studying psychology and art therapy in college.”
Suarez defines sound healing as “the therapeutic application of sound frequencies to the body and mind of a person with the intention of bringing them into a state of harmony and health.” Suarez received her certification as a sound healer from Jonathan Goldman, the leader of the Sound Healers Association. She recently published the book Transcendent Waves: How Listening Shapes Our Creative Lives (2020, Anthology Editions), which showcases how listening can help us tap into our creative practices. She also has presented sound healing workshops at institutions like New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art and Washington, D.C.’s Hirshhorn Museum.
Peek inside Suarez’s book Transcendent Waves in this video from the publisher. / YouTube
“I love bringing meditation to museums because it’s a space with people who appreciate art and beauty but who might be the kind of person that’s never stepped foot in a yoga studio before, never thought about mindfulness, never thought about what they can do in their lives to slow down,” she said.
To create rhythmic but meditative tones, Suarez uses neurological software as well as synthesizers and acoustic instruments like gongs, singing bowls, and tuning forks (which can be used directly on the body for pain release by creating vibrations at acupressure points).
“I’m very interested in rhythmic sounds and the phenomenon known as brain wave entrainment, which is when your brain waves sync with the external stimuli of either light or sound,” she said. “I work with electronic tones that are actually pulsing very quickly, and your brain waves sort of sync into these rapidly moving tones because they set a certain level of familiarity where your brain can kind of go into more of an autopilot zone because it knows to expect these sounds.”
Lavender Suarez often uses acoustic instruments such as gongs during her sound healing sessions to create rhythmic, meditative tones that can facilitate wellness. / Photo by Experimental Sound Studio
The changing speeds and intensity of the rhythms she plays, as well as the acceleration and deceleration of digital tones, guide her listener’s meditative experience. “I’m creating sounds to facilitate that person’s wellness,” she said. “Some people are really attracted to the digital tones and respond really well to them, while for others the acoustic sounds work much better. Being able to create a dialogue between how we experience digital music and how we experience acoustic music is really interesting to me and not something that I’ve really seen other sound healers investigating.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic may have paused group gatherings like the museum workshops, Suarez has adapted her sound healing practice to a successful online experience. A session with Suarez is a bit like having a private concert. “When you have an appointment with me, it’s not just about the sounds you’re hearing. It’s about the communication I have with you to create a live presentation of music that’s distinctly catered to your needs,” she said. “Our whole body is a listening being—it’s not just what goes into our ears.”
Mike Rubin is a writer living in Brooklyn. This post was adapted from “Where Can Sound Take Us?,” an article in the June–December 2021 issue of The Henry Ford Magazine.
healthcare, by Mike Rubin, The Henry Ford Magazine, women's history, music