Musical Collaboration With the Holy

Brett Goldstein
BA, Cognitive Science & Psychology, High Honors
University of California, Berkeley

“This (stay at AZIMVTH residency) has been a profound period of growth both artistically and spiritually and I owe it to Tarun and AZIMVTH…Great introduction (to Yoga and meditation) felt real improvements over the weeks.”

Till a few months before coming for residency at AZIMVTH Ashram, Brett worked for over three years with Google in the USA. There, he lead a team of artists and engineers to build augmented reality experiences that helped people who use YouTube, Android, and other Google apps express themselves emotionally to others. He wishes to switch his career towards music.

At AZIMVTH, he planed on continuing his music composition and production practice focused on infusing the sounds and music of different cultures into modern electronic and pop song formats. He took  inspiration (and direct recordings) from the local culture to guide music while at the residency.

Music made before coming to AZIMVTH

Brett has created scores of songs before coming to AZIMVTH. Three of them are mentioned below.

“Joon” is an anthemic protest song inspired by the US Women’s March of 2017. It is written from the perspective of a father telling his (unborn) daughter about how the problems in the world today can be solved if she persists. Musically, the song includes ukuleles, strings, and even sounds from the actual Women’s March.

“Throw Me Out to Sea” is an exploration of double entendre from a number of different perspectives. The lyrics are heavy with sea metaphors, but in the main motif, the listener is meant to also hear the words “throw me out to see” – the speaker in the song challenges their lover to end their relationship and see what happens. Musically, the song also has sea sounds – one of which is a whale sample that is transformed into a flute (a feminine representation of the lover) through processing.

“Sun Balloons” was commissioned for a wedding by an American couple that was engaged in Cappadocia, Turkey, the land of hot air balloons. The song takes inspiration from the couple’s American roots, following traditional folk melodies and instrumentation, but also includes small departures to Turkish folk music through the use of Turkish instruments. Lyrically, the song follows a conversation the couple was having that was recorded on video moments before the proposal in Cappadocia.

Projects at AZIMVTH

BG Brett testing DholakBrett was introduced to Sun Salutationes Yoga, and various breathing and chanting techniques. He experienced prayers and rituals at the various temples, river-ghats, and recorded some of these as live music. Brett also was taken to various local festivals, birthday celebrations, etc. Chants from a children’s school near AZIMVTH interested him as well. He recorded and incorporated these materials into his creations. Some of the muses were anticipated. Some others presented themselves unannounced, for example a street-vendor of Dholak who was passing by AZIMVTH. A Dholak, the 2 headed Indian drum, mostly used in devotional music, was bought for him by AZIMVTH Ashram.

Scenes below are from Ram-Lila, the dance drama telling story of Lord Rama that happens for about 10 nights when the story progresses each day. This annual festival performace at a dozen places in Haridwar when local amateurs who are small shop-keepers and having usual occupations are transformed to being divine in the nights.

BG BHEL Ram Lila 6

Project A: Learning an Indian Musical Instrument – Dholak

Project B: Mantra Chanting as Music

Following is a rendition of the peace mantra ‘Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah’ (May All Be Happy).

Project C: Creating New Songs

While at residency with AZIMVTH, Brett completed a song that he was working one. He created 2 new songs. Trial versions of the 3 songs – ‘Little Bit’, ‘obsessed w u’, and ‘Remember My Name’ are given below.

‘Little Bit’ – video live singing

‘Little Bit’ – audio

‘obsessed w u’ – complete audio

‘Remember My Name’ – audio clip

Project D: Collaborating with Bollywood

AZIMVTH arranged for Brett to meet and collaborate with an upcoming playback and independent singer active in Bollywood – the India equivalent of Hollywood, in Mumbai. Together, they are making new music.

Impact and Follow-ups

After returning back to the US, Brett hopes to build upon these experiences.

Brett is also very interested in sound healing and digital art. He will be leading his first sound healing practice in August. The residency helped him to finetune his abilities at  by observing how individuals properly guide meditation and yoga practices. For digital art, he takes a lot of inspiration from local culture (like he does with his music).  So he hopes that this immersion in Indian culture will generate interesting artistic explorations further.

Given his technical training in university and later at Google, he is always looking for opportunities to utilize technology to improve people’s lives. While at AZIMVTH, he gained more understanding on how locals live and the problems they face every day. Going back to the US, after a review of his time at AZIMVTH, if he identifies a clear problem, it’s possible that he would start a business to solve it.

When Brett releases new music, he often tells the origin-story of each composition so music bloggers have more context for why he chose the words or the approach. For music I wrote at AZIMVTH, the process should be the same – the story of the song and AZIMVTH will reach fellow musicians, fans, record labels, music publications, and other music institutions.

“You’re incredibly knowledgeable! Very interesting with you.
“I’ve been travelling around the world for 6 months and this has been the highlight!”

Another recent artist-in-residence had an eventful musical residency at AZIMVTH recently. Some information is at the link given below.

Songs to Fauna of the Hills
Nicolaj Wamberg (Denmark)

‘Haridwar Flute Circle’ is with The World Flute Society, Virginia, USA. More information is here.