(A personal musing from our founder Alexander)
I was so fortunate to have parents that were avid readers. At a very young age, they introduced me to mystery, fantasy, biography and the enchanting art of storytelling. By the age of 5, I was already dragging my mother to the bookstore every month to get the latest edition of the Hardy Boys Case Files, a series of teenage crime capers for kids. I was enthralled by those books, the Hardy boys became my virtual friends and heroes. They enriched my mind, excited my heart and expanded my world.
As I got older I fell in love with science fiction, historical fiction and American classics, especially the work of John Steinbeck, reading his East of Eden no less than three times. During high school I discovered the versatile works of Michael Crichton, and it's difficult to encapsulate the incredible worlds he created for my fertile mind. I used to skip school just to stay in bed and devour his books. How he was able to blend reality and fantasy in so many mind-bending ways, is still a mystery to me. Most authors are thematic, but Crichton was beyond genre. You never knew what he would write about next, you just knew it would be unique, educational and epic. Truly a mark of incredible genius.
However, it was not his fiction, but his biographic book "Travels", which touched...
me the most. In it he shares his personal journey's into mystery, magic, and the occult. It blew the doors off my doubting mind. By then, I had already read New Age books like The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo and the Celestine Prophesy by James Redfield, and while I was deeply moved by those stories, they seemed nothing more than modern myths and mere fantasy. It was Travels that opened my eyes to the possibility that bending spoons and moving objects with the mind is not just a story, but a yet to be accepted science. Afterall, my biggest hero had experienced them firsthand, and I believed him!
I realized much later how big of an influence this had on my own explorations through the spirit world. Looking back now, that was the first of many launch pads that set me off into the uncharted parts of my inner landscape and ultimately catapulted my own travels to India and beyond.
In writing this now, I see how influential it has been in the creation story of Sound & Silence too. How could it not be? There were other influences of course. Witnessing the acrobatic wonderment that is Cirque de Soleil is one. Experiencing the profound effects of Sound Healing (which filled by body with intense volts of electricity) is another. All of them ignited a wish inside me to create a new story. To maybe even revolutionize the way we experience art and the act of storytelling.
Before 2014, I had never been to a festival, I had never organized an event in my life. I can't tell you exactly where the impulse came to create an event like Sound & Silence. It certainly wasn't something I dreamed of as a kid. I believe it was a synthesis of all the ways art moved me since childhood and all the connections made along my path. Witnessing my favorite band playing in a tiny old theater in Los Angeles. Being mesmerized by my poet friend after a retreat in Israel. A love for mythology and astrology, and the archetypes embedded in the signs and their unfolding story in the stars. An adoration for music, a deep appreciation for dance, and a reverence for meditation. Breathwork, ecstatic dance, mantra singing circles were of course all major influences. There were so many.
And yet, if a psychic would have told me back in June of 2013, (when I was a chef in a beautiful retreat center in Greece) that in 6 months time I would leave to become a "festival" organizer, I would have thought they were completely nuts. It could not be fathomed at that time. I liken it to the story of the Dragonfly, from one moment to the next, leaving it's comfortable life under the water to discover it's true purpose in a totally new and unknown environment.
Although now, looking back, it all makes perfect sense. Sound & Silence is a synthesis of all the things I love, offered in the only way I (as a highly sensitive being easily prone to overwhelm) would like to experience it - with a small group of soul family in a peaceful place in nature.
It recently dawned on me that Sound & Silence is a Hero's journey - not so different from the hundreds of books I have read. Only this setting is a week long immersive theater blending varied and yet harmonious elements into one seamless narrative, with YOU as the participant/artist/teacher/healer as the protagonist at the center of it. And everyone, whether it's defined or not, (known or not!) is playing a vital part in the unfolding of this magnificent tale.
Each class is positioned in a time and place in order to elicit the most potent effect. Each artist is carefully chosen and every concert & performance is purposefully placed in an attempt to mesmerize and enchant all in attendance. In the story of Sound & Silence, everything is carefully and lovingly arranged, with just enough flexibility to invite innovation, improvisation and spontaneity. Because we now know that a handful of experienced and courageous artists, holding a frequency of love and having the freedom to play, can and does create extraordinary magic, over and over again. This is why S&S is not only transformational for the participants, it's also often life changing for the artists as well.
At the end of our Opening Ceremony in the summer of 2015, a dear friend who is an accomplished artist, gave me a congratulatory hug and whispered in my ear while gesturing to the stage and all the happy people sitting around, it saying - "Only a few months ago this was just a concept, and now it's a beautiful work of art on a living canvas." I was floored. Until that moment, I had not considered myself an artist. Those words changed me forever. Now I embrace my craft, and role as an artist who's mission it is to support the growth of other artists.
Before the start of every gathering, I invite all of the artists and teachers to sit in a sharing circle. I always start by pointing to our program and saying - "That program over there hanging on the wall is written in ink, not in stone. I would like to invite you all to take that outline as nothing more than a set of suggestions, a safety net. This is not a formal event. You are invited to be courageous and playful. I invite you to support each other and ask for help. All of you have agreed to support of each other in this experiment. All of you know what is possible when we remove the mind and our mental limitations and allow spirit to guide us. I invite you to go off script, often. I invite you to take us beyond our program, take chances and above all, have fun!" After 7 events in 3 countries and 2 continents, we have not been disappointed yet, and I can't imagine we ever will.
There is an ongoing question asking whether Sound & Silence is a festival or retreat. I feel the answer is both and neither. It's not overwhelming, chaotic and scattered like most festivals and it's not structured and inflexible like most retreats. It's more accurate to say that S&S is at the center of those polarities, moving freely between them. In fact, I like to think of S&S as meta theater - an unscripted play unfolding in an organic way, guided by natural law and with the element of surprise around every corner.
So this is what S&S is to me. It's my attempt to take a couple hundred people on a magic carpet ride. To use art as a tool for transformation. To travel outside of our known universe for a brief moment in time and expand on what we believe is possible. These days there is so much talk of humanity moving into the 5th dimension. However, those ravenous readers, those ecstatic artists, they know exactly what it feels like to be outside of space and time. A good story, told in any of a thousand ways, will take you "there" every time.
I hope the story of Sound & Silence will take you there too.
Alexander is the founder and creative director of S&S Gatherings, and he loves to write! Here is a collection of some of his writings, musings and sharings. Feel free to leave a comment, we would love to hear from you!