A few weeks ago, on the last leg of a mother daughter trip, my daughter and I made our way to Ojai to top off our music infused journey with some spa and relaxation time. It was our first trip to Ojai, and I had heard so many wonderful things about the food, wine and of course quaintness of this LA getaway. Excited to have these last few moments before the hustle and bustle of Fall, I set out looking for a unique wellness or music infused activity. Our summer had been filled with all types of musical experiences, from the jaw dropping delights of Adele in Vegas to becoming a Swiftie at Sofi Stadium (not to mention a few flavors in-between), I had dubbed this our “summer of music”. So, when the concierge called with the truly unique experience of going to a sound healing with a 60ft harp, named the sonic butterfly, I quickly said “yes”
Not knowing exactly what to expect, we were delighted to be invited into the cosmic butterfly cocoon, a place of healing and transformation by Andrea Brook, creator of this unique experience. We were immediately in awe of the butterfly wings illuminated at the front of the stage and indeed strings attached to it spanning the entire length of the room (and beyond as it turns out). We got cozy, finding a spot under the strings, ready to absorb, listen and learn about this instrument’s medicinal qualities. I was delighted to learn, that the evening was an interplay of story and song. Andrea taught us about her unique journey and how this instrument came to be in-between blocks of music that ranged with collaborative pieces from jazz to techno. A true artist, Andrea, weaved information and healing melodically while dancing between the instrument’s strings. Once an aerial performer, you could see the blending of her craft in the hypnotic way she danced with her instrument. By now you’re probably wondering what the heck does a 60ft harp sound like? Well, let me digress.
The cosmic butterfly is a 60 ft, 26 string, two octave, chromatic long-string harp. Each string is the length of the pitch. We observed butterfly blocks along the various strings, which essential cuts off the vibration at a certain point to create the notes. There is only one pitch per string which it why it’s a harp (other string instruments you can change the pitch by where you place your fingers on the frets). However, it sounds like a blend between a cello, viola, and an acoustic guitar (it also has wooden resonating chamber). Andrea has dubbed the cosmic butterfly “an instrument of transformation” and the reason why, you’ll find as fascinating as I did. Unlike most string instruments which are played by being plucked, this harp is played by wearing gloves and rubbing you fingers over the strings. The strings, like a Tibetan bowl, are made of brass which translates into a warm sound. The resulting difference comes in the vibrational waves that are created. When you pluck an instrument, you get a horizontal vibration. Andrea explains this as why we often bounce to music; we are following the energy of the wave. However, when the strings are rubbed, much like when we use a mallet to rub the size of bowl, we create a longitudinal wave. This vibration penetrates the body, and we hear the root note and the ascending overtones. The harmonic rises, and what this does according to musical medicine, is that it lifts our vibration from a lower state into a higher state. We are becoming elevated. You ever hear someone say, “let’s raise our vibration”, well now you know what that means!
The experience of the laying under these strings, I can only relate to a session on the vibration bed. Eliminating any visuals produced by the light, and solely concentrating on the experience of feeling the vibration of the music itself, a deep level of release and rest can be found. It’s as if the body receives the signal, you are safe you can relax. Moving into this parasympathetic state allows the body to truly go into self-repair mode, the body always working to find homeostasis. The vibrational sound bed, like the cosmic butterfly, puts you into a completely immersive experience, where the constant chattering of the brain can be drowned out. It becomes more and more difficult to not simply attune to the frequency of the music, and by placing our attention on it, we create incredible presence. This presence is where healing can happen.
This unique experience was truly one-of-a-kind, and I loved listening to Andrea’s stories of her own journey and how this instrument, her medicine, evolved. From stories about playing on Richard Branson’s private island, to the Grand Theater in Shanghai, a medieval Italian villa, and my favorite strung to a church in Mexico, it’s clear that her offering is part art installation and part sound therapy. My favorite part of the evening came when Andrea graciously allowed us to play her instrument! I could immediately understand her connection and was drawn to the very approachable and intuitive nature in which it is played. The cosmic butterfly invited me into her magic and demonstrated that we all have music inside us, whether we believe it or not. Music connects us and in-forms us. So, I invite you to listen more. Listen to the music you love, listen to music that makes you feel something, anything. And beyond the music itself, you will hear the melody of your own soul, inviting you to its utterly unique and wildly alive expression.
What is its frequency?
What is its tone?
What story does it want to tell?
Listen, for your medicine, what’s your sonic butterfly?