Wellness Wednesdays - Interview with Sonic Starchild
Sound healer Sonic Starchild (Jen Vu) returns to the Skyspace this November for a new wellness series hosted inside James Turrell's The Color Inside. We sat down with Jen to discuss her upcoming sound bath sessions and to learn more about what visitors can expect from the series.
First and foremost, I'm so excited to be back in the Skyspace and partnering with Landmarks on the Wellness Wednesdays program. I have practiced and taught meditation for many years but the stress of the pandemic really amplified mental health awareness and the need for new ways of supporting people's wellness journeys. With Austin being the live music capital and sound being such an integral part our city, it's no surprise that sound bath meditations have risen in popularity as a way for people to relax and relieve stress.
If you haven't been to one before, a sound bath is a deeply immersive, full-body listening experience that uses sound in a therapeutic way to guide the mind, body and spirit back into harmony. You can experience the meditation seated or laying down, in which case it's a good idea to bring a blanket or yoga mat. Each session will begin with a short, guided meditation to help you connect to your breath, before allowing the sound of crystal singing bowls, gongs, chimes and other instruments to take you on a gentle journey.
How does the Skyspace effect the sound experience?
The Skyspace is a perfect container for deep contemplation and self-inquiry. James Turrell explores the connection between light and space in his works, and in my sound bath I invite participants to use the space to connect to their own inner light.
The Skyspace is already a sensory experience, and there is something about adding the sound bath that takes it to another level. The way the sound travels in the space makes you feel completely enveloped by the vibrations, with sound all around you.
You performed this spring as part of Landmarks' Songs in the Skyspace music series. How will Wellness Wednesdays differ or align with that program?
Songs in the Skyspace is a performance series where attendees are expecting a concert experience, and as a concert-goer you are there to watch and listen to the performer. For Wellness Wednesdays, I will invite you to interact with the sound in a different way, using it as a tool to notice and listen to yourself. I will play my instruments in the same way as I did before, but this time we're setting expectations for those who come from the perspective of wellness, which infuses the experience with a different intention. Instead of acting as a performer, I am a facilitator in each person's journey of self-connection and self-discovery.
How does art impact or inspire your practice?
Art that impacts me usually evokes a feeling in me, and stays with me a while. I love taking a journal with me to museums and taking note of what comes up as I sit with the art. It's the same with performative art, I want to feel something!
I've been playing music all of my life. I’m classically trained in a few instruments but I rebelled in my youth against the structure of practicing scales and keeping time. I started getting more into theatre, dance, and other creative arts until I found yoga, which became the way I expressed myself in a very personal practice. Yoga introduced me to sound healing, and now it has all come back full circle back to music and sound. Every sound bath I facilitate is unique and caters to the energy of whomever is in the room.
I first discovered James Turrell when I lived in Dallas 20 years ago. I stumbled upon his Skyspace that used to be sited at the Nasher Sculpture Center. I don't know how long I sat in it, but I remember the feeling of being at complete peace, and I returned many, many times over the years. It's a dream to be doing sound meditations in a work by Turrell and I hope I inspire that feeling of peace for those who come.
Can you speak more about sound healing and what you do?
I remember the challenges I faced as a student at UT many moons ago. There were many times when I struggled under the pressure of it all. I didn't know anything about meditation or self-care, and I wish I had the tools then that I do now to support me. Imagine learning how to deal with stress earlier in life, learning how to connect to your breath, your body, understand your emotions... recognizing when you need help and knowing how and where to ask for it. Imagine how much we would benefit collectively as a society with less anxious, more emotionally balanced people in it! I'm very passionate about making sound baths accessible to everybody, and so excited to offer support to both the University and larger Austin community.
Sound healing may sound a little woo-woo, but there's been a lot of scientific research confirming its benefits and how it works to shift you into your parasympathetic nervous system, where your body naturally repairs and heals. It's a powerful tool to help reduce stress, anxiety, depression; alleviate tension and physical pain in the body, improve blood pressure, heart rate, blood oxygen levels; improve sleep, improve concentration and focus. I could go on and on. I get to see the change in people from when they walk into one of my sound baths and when they leave and it is truly transformational! People say vibration is the medicine of the future and I believe in it, 100%. During the pandemic I really leaned into sound for my own healing and a way to relieve stress. Once I started sharing sound meditations publicly, the community response was incredible and these meditations have taken on a life of their own. I'm so honored to be able to do this work and to support others in their wellness journeys.
I'm deeply grateful for this partnership with Landmarks and the opportunity to make these experiences available to all, creating an intersection for wellness and art. I think it's what the world needs.
We're excited to welcome Sonic Starchild this November as part of Wellness Wednesdays. The Skyspace and companion programming is free and open to all, but reservations are required. Visitors may book tickets online at turrell.utexas.edu. Standby seats available.