What does the Earth need most right now? For me, the answer is: listening.
To listen to an Earth shouting out in pain, to hear the voices of humanity expressing their distress. Can we truly find any solutions to the multitude of problems we face without first listening? That was the core question and motivation behind my latest film, Song of the New Earth.
Of all the senses, listening is the most intimate to me. It was set deeply in Alaska where I lived for seven years in a remote cabin called Shakri-la, between two waters, a waterfall on one side and a bay on the other. The sounds of these two waterways opened me up in ways I could not imagine. Listening changed me. It made me more aware of myself and my impact on others and the world.
I set out looking for a film that could blend the concept of listening and nature. So when my wife and co-producer Sophie and I met Tom Kenyon in the south of France in 2010, we embarked on a four-year journey that would culminate in a film about the power of sound and the incredible transformative story of a musician, turned scientist-shaman-sound healer.
On his way to possible fame as a singer in Nashville, Tom began to experience uninvited psychic, spiritual or paranormal events that most of us would consider crazy — visits from angels, messages from other realms, and psychoactive experiences without the drugs. He experienced what is described in Buddhism, Hinduism and yogic schools as samadhi, or in Christianity as the “mystic marriage.” He felt a deep and peaceful love that united him with the substance of all things, a profound seeing with the whole body and mind.
These experiences propelled him to begin a search into many mystical traditions around the world on a quest to discover what had happened to him. He found references to mystical states similar to his in alchemical texts from Egypt, Tibet, India and China. Yet, these descriptions of spiritual effulgence did not satisfy him. Analytical by nature, he began to study neurophysiology and discovered in science a language that might explain his own mystical states.
He began to work with sound as a tool to change brain states and consciousness. He began to travel with sound as an ally.
Abandoning all conventional musical forms, Tom has pioneered a way of chanting or “toning” using his nearly four-octave voice that takes audiences on journeys to deeper states of consciousness. Many report profound healings from psychological and physical maladies listening to his music.
As a filmmaker, I was intrigued to make a film about this man’s relationship to, and use of, sound. Secondly, I saw a film that might normalize psychic experiences. Thirdly, I wanted to make a film that might challenge an audience to go within for some insight, while avoiding New Age clichés. And lastly, I saw a film that carried a profound message for a planet in peril.
One does not have to look very far to find trouble in this world, to find a place or person that needs healing. Environmental imbalance faces us every way we turn. Many avenues of activism are available to each of us to help. But for me, what is missing from the conversation of activism is the potential impact if we stop and listen and connect in with ourselves first.
Can sound raise our consciousness (make us more peaceful, more loving, more creative)? If so, would we not then be of better service to the world? That is the experiment with Song of the New Earth.
In the end, my greatest interest with this film is not to tell just a great story but to also invite audiences to have an experience with sound that transcends the story. And with that experience, might it alter their worldview a bit, mysteriously and in some way large or small, help this great old earth of ours and our own heart to heal. Listen.
I am immensely curious about what will happen.