Often it seems with spiritual music, artist either go one hundred percent electronic or one hundred percent analog, forgetting that these types of sound can work together. More producers and artists are working to meld the two music worlds, such as Bjork, companies like Nu Meditation Music on YouTube who use binaural beats and solfeggio tones for their meditation music or our meditative D&B friends across the pond, Breathe & Bass Music, but a lot of that still starts in electronica and brings in instrumental samples, performers, et all, later. Yuval Ron, an award-winning composer and producer born in Israel and now based in Los Angeles, seems to do the opposite with his work.
With his latest Sacred Spiral album, produced with Dr. Richard Gold of Metta Mindfulness Records, Yuval Ron composed for the host of ensemble musicians first, as one might score a symphony piece, and created the vocal melodies for acclaimed vocalist Úyanga Bold. Bold, whose idea it was to structure the around the seven chakras, or energy centers in the body. A celebrated artist in her own right, Bold’s incredible vocals have been featured in major motion pictures like the live-action Mulan and Waiting for the Barbarians with Johnny Depp and Robert Pattinson as well as blockbuster video games like the recently released Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora and the highly lauded Ghost of Tsushima – Legends.
In fact all the artists featured on Sacred Spiral are incredibly accomplished, carrying out Yuval Ron’s scoring and Úyanga Bold’s concept with precision and beautiful emotion. The best summary on the project is from Uyanga Bold herself:
This music is truly stunning and healing. A breathtaking multi-colored and multidimensional journey through the sublime… May many souls benefit. The title Sacred Spiral is powerfully compelling, evoking the mystery, intelligent design, and harmony of creation
So where’s the electronic bit? In fact, to the trained EDM or sound design ear, it should be quite clear upon listening to Sacred Spiral. A grounding line of drone hooks the listener in, connects vox to score to sound design to heart to energy to meditative space. It’s become an important element in a lot of meditative music, this connection in the sound design, and Yuval Ron’s idea to make it the foundation but also the background of a larger-than-life composed meditative score seems to create even more connection in the listener.
As his composition and sound design are so novel both from both sides of the analog/digital divide, we had a few questions for Yuval Ron about how he put it all together and his thoughts about the end result. Even if you’re not interested in meditation, there’s some great tech tips here as well. Listen and read to experience the Sacred Spiral of Yuval Ron’s creation.
What was the biggest inspiration for you to create this album?
It was the idea of having vocalist Uyanga Bold invoke the healing elements of the chakras, and the associated
emotions that come with it.
Why did you want to bring the electronic drone elements into this album? Did the drone help you connect or resonate with you in a certain way that helped you create the vocal melodies?
The drone is an effective element which brings people out of the constant buzz of their lives. It
cultivates inner peace and stability, and has a hint of the energy of oneness. I like to create my drone in a
way which ebbs and flows in itself, so that it is not a mechanical one-dimensional tone. This way, the
listener can feel the flow of the drone and that helps them move into a meditative state of mind.
The drone line that’s present throughout the album seems to be set at a certain frequency. Was this a
Yes, and I’m really glad you noticed that. Each track, including the drone, is set to a different frequency
based on the tonal frequency of the seven chakras. This is because each of these frequencies matches a
chakra and releases a specific healing quality which promotes the flow of the chakra system
Were the vocals done with those frequencies in mind as well?
I wrote the vocal lines for Úyanga and then she added her own interpretation in the singing style, the depth and colors of each track. Some tracks in the album are influenced by the Middle East, while some are more influenced by East Asian sounds. She tailored her voice to suit the style of each track, making it a more nuanced performance.
How did post-production and sound design work here with all the different musicians and moving parts? What did the musicians have to work with that you’d already produced and what elements did you add in post?
All drones and instrumental music were recorded prior with the master musicians. So when Úyanga came into the studio to record, the tracks had already been completely recorded and produced. She came in to layer in her voice on top of the finished tracks. As for the instruments, the musicians played the composed musical notes, all except for the gongs, which were improvised.
To that end of all the moving parts, how was it to put the album together and insure continuity? Flow
is clearly very important to this album.
A lot of listening decisions were made by sitting in my studio and listening to the flow of the music. It wasn’t pre-planned because it’s not organic enough especially for this genre of music. I spent a lot of time meditating to the music, listening to the music and experimenting with different orders of the sections to feel which is the most effective. When I listen, I pay attention to the musical flow within the track, not just the order of the chakras.
How did you think the electronic elements helped contribute to the personal/spiritual journey you
wanted listeners to go on with you in this album?
The electronic elements are there to create a background, or rather, a solid foundation. This allows room for the live musicians to truly shine and give the music their interesting flavors. I make sure that the electronic elements are there for the ambience and atmosphere, while putting in different tones and compositional colors to
create textural interest. This helps the listeners transcend reality into a meditative state of consciousness. Some of the electronic elements support this spiritual journey, but in my opinion the live musicians are the ones who transports listeners to a different realm.
A lot of people in the spiritual community (especially in the US) may feel that electronica doesn’t belong in spiritual music, because it’s not “organic.” Artists like Bjork don’t agree. Having now done this album with the drone and other electronic sound design, how do you feel these two can fit together? What are the benefits?
About 95% of my music has live acoustic elements, and they are always heavily featured. So, to me it’s more about layering electronica and the organic. I want the electronica to be in the background as a grounding element that listeners can anchor to, and when the organic music comes in, it encourages the listeners to breathe with the musicians. In conclusion, the electronica in my music is not as heavily featured as the live instruments because they just don’t breathe like live musicians do. The reason why I use electronic in this “anchor” is because it acts as a complimentary and supportive element, while adding depth to the music. You may also hear pulses weaving in and out the tracks, which are also electronic, but buried in the sound.
What’s coming up next for each of you? Releases, performances, more livestreams or partnerships?
I’m focusing on releasing a special kids’ meditation album, which features music and guided meditation written by Montessori educator Sophie Timers. It’s a really fun album, and we’re going to release it in various languages: English, Mandarin, Spanish, French, and Hebrew. In June I will be teaching at a sacred music retreat in Minnesota at St. John’s University. There will be live Oud music, chanting meditations, storytelling, and poetry.
Sacred Spiral is out now on Metta Mindfulness Records and can be streamed or purchased on multiple platforms by clicking here.