Interview with Byron Metcalf
The Shaman’s Heart II with Hemi-Sync®
MP: Why did you create The Shaman’s Heart II? What is different from the first album?
Byron: I’ve had many requests over the years to create a “long form” shamanic journey CD – a journey that would not be interrupted by separate tracks or even separate tracks that seamlessly flow into each other (crossfading). The award-winning “The Shaman’s Heart w/Hemi Sync” contains 7 tracks and is based on subdivisions of the “classic” shamanic journey tempo of 220 beats per minute (55, 110, 220). The heartbeat rhythm is 55 bpm with the drums and rattles being played at all three tempos at various times during the individual tracks. Although the tracks flow seamlessly into each other using nature sounds and ambient atmospheres, there are clear demarcations between the tracks, which is fine, and in some situations, even preferable. So the idea of creating “The Shaman’s Heart II” emerged as logical way to expand on the original by creating a long form composition that also utilized the subdivisions of 220 bpm and the heartbeat rhythm, but would be a continuous 70 min journey with no individual tracks. The Shaman’s Heart II continually evolves and builds in rhythmic complexity and dynamic intensity and is further expanded by the sonic mastery of Steve Roach, who provides analog and organic textures and atmospheres throughout. The result is a deeply powerful and sustained shamanic journey that culminates in returning safely home to a heart-centered presence.
MP: How does the music help people move into the heart space?
Byron: The continuous heartbeat rhythm, along with the rattles and drums creates a profound mind-body-heart entrainment experience that invites and supports the listener in making direct contact with their heart and heart space in a sustained manner. Steve Roach’s heart oriented analog waves and textures deepen and help hold the space for the listener. The title “The Shaman’s Heart” serves as an “invocation” and the creative focus and intention of the project is infused and embedded in the music and sounds. Of course the addition of Hemi-Sync® serves to further enhance, amplify and support all of the above.
MP: How is this relevant to everyone, even if they are not walking the shaman path?
Byron: I am convinced that developing the primary capacities and essential qualities of the heart is a fundamental component for living an authentic, heart-centered and soul-based life. The Shaman’s Heart andThe Shaman’s Heart II are unique tools specifically designed to support the development of these primary capacities and essential qualities of the heart: Clear and Intelligent; Full and Compassionate; Open and Trusting; Strong and Powerful. So from this perspective, I believe this is relevant to anyone and everyone who is seeking a more fulfilling and satisfying life regardless of orientation or path.
MP: What else is helpful to know when working with it?
Byron: Repeated use of The Shaman’s Heart II will greatly enhance the development of the primary capacities and essential qualities of the heart that I just mentioned. Repetition creates new neural pathways in the brain and the heart and therefore will strengthen the mind-heart connection. In addition, the music can be used for various methods of shamanic journeying, dynamic movement, dance, and meditation practices, breathwork and so on. And it is a perfect companion to The Shaman’s Heart Program where it can be used for advanced exercises and practices.
Steve Roach is the Shaman’s Shaman. Byron Metcalf is an extraordinary spiritual and learned Shamanic practitioner. While Mark Seelig is not as well-known as Byron or Steve, he is also deeply involved in holistic and Shamanic practices.
Steve is also a master multi-instrumentalist, composer, sound designer and a musical icon. Byron is a gifted percussionist and Mark is a consummate bansuri flautist and overtone vocalist.
They have all collaborated on Mantram and with pedigrees like that, listeners expect — and get — a great CD! Steve’s electronics and ethnic acoustics surround Byron’s percussion. Mark’s subtle vocal drones and flute atmospheres complement and complete the soundscape. Three soundworlds become one as these eight movements play as a continuous environment. The music is awesome!
This is also an excellent trance and meditation tool. The atmospheres and pulses enter the listeners’ biosonic feedback devices (brains) and take them on deep journeys of introspection and discovery.
This CD is very highly recommended!
Reviewed by Jim Brenholts for Awareness Magazine
Byron Metcalf with Steve Roach
THE SHAMAN'S HEART is, as the title certainly implies, a very deep spiritual journey choreographed by Byron Metcalf with assistance from Steve Roach.
The best thing about any CD involving these two ambient icons is that it is easy to like. This set opens with some very subtle Shamanic percussion and evolves into full-fledged soundworlds. Steve’s soundworlds blend fluidly with Byron’s to create “their” soundworld. The disc is a 73-minute soundscape divided into seven movements. Each movement has its own integrity – sonic and spiritual – and each interacts with the others. Deep listeners will find themselves chanting and swaying as the healing atmospheres and rhythms surround and devour the neuropathways of their bio-sonic feedback devices.
That is the real appeal of this disc! Byron and Steve are passionate sound healers and sonic Shamans. The intensity comes from their hearts and goes to the listeners’ hearts. The music is both psychoactive and bioactive. It is possible to listen at low volumes for background and ambient effect. It is best to listen at high volumes for the fullness of the interactive experience!
– Jim Brenholts
The Wounded Healer begins our journey into the tribal grooves world of Steve Roach and this track is all Steve. The guitar on this selection becomes almost voice like as it drifts along toward the end of this song. Energy Well sees Mark, Steve and Byron joining together to create a rhythmic piece that draws you into the soundworld that these three musicians have created. It seems that they are very comfortable with one another and their musical styles meld to such a degree that it is difficult to pinpoint where one begins and the other leaves off. Even though the music was composed by Steve, the trio moves through the compositions as if it were their own. Mark Seeligs’s flute drifts into and out of the soundscape dominated by frame drums played by Byron and Steve’s hybrid grooves. The listener is drawn deeper into the music and is repaid for their exploratory efforts with an immersive experience that grabs hold of the listener and plunges them into this tribal space that this capable trio has created in this music.
Opening the Space is dominated by Jennifer’s voice and Steve’s agave didgeridoo while Byron sits this one out. She does not sing words but her voice is used as an instrument to guide the listener ever deeper into the mysterious soundworlds that have been created here. Jennifer’s passionate voice cries out into the void and seeks to open the space that will be used for the remainder of this CD. Depending on your point of view the space referred to here is simply an altered state of mind that allows the listener to move with the musicians for a short period of time along this meditative path experiencing some of what the musicians probably go through as they recorded the music.
With Steve’s didgeridoo providing a canvas of droning bass sounds Jennifer’s voice is given ample room to breathe as it focuses the listener’s attention on where the rest of the CD will lead them. I am finding that the more I listen to Steve’s music the more I find that the compositions form a cohesive whole and is the equivalent to an individual journey regardless of whether or not the CD is also the second part of a larger journey that covers all three CD’s of the Fever Dreams quest.
Hearts Core is the next step along the path and again Jennifer’s voice is in fine form. Byron joins Jennifer and Steve to create a driving beat that gives equal focus to all three members of this highly talented trio. Byron’s frame drum has been very clearly defined on this track and is a pleasure to listen to. Steve is the anchor to all of these songs as his grooves, synth soundworlds and his guitar give a foundation for Byron and Jennifer to let their talents flow freely overtop of the rich sound environment that has been provided. While not improvisational per se I can almost imagine that Jennifer is letting the environment guide her voice as it soars in and around the beats that make up the vast majority of the terrain of this song. As the soundworlds fade into the background Jennifer’s voice is left as the guidepost that marks where the piece is headed and beckons the listener to keep on following and keep on going deeper.
Fire Burning slows the pace down with a steady beat while echoes of Steve on guitar float above the landscape and Jennifer’s voice adds some punch to the music at key moments during the song. This piece fades into nothingness as you can still hear the floating guitar fading away at the end of the song.
Most of the songs seem to have an intense opening that eventually leads to a calming ending filled with gentle atmospheric textures that slowly drift away into the darkness of the listener’s mind. It gives the listener a moment to reflect before the next piece begins.
For the final two songs, Metamorphic and Holding the Space it comes down to Steve and Byron going into creative overdrive. You can tell that the two of them have grown closer in understanding of the music that they create and how that sound should be expressed when it comes time to record it. It is also evident when Steve is the guest on Byron’s CD’s that they have come to a point where their music speaks with one voice for the compositions that they choose to apply their talents to.
The longest track on the CD is the final cut entitled Holding the Space and it clocks in at 21:23. This final cut starts off moving the listener ahead at an introspective pace allowing Steve’s guitar and synths to float into and out of the soundscape. With 21 minutes to work with the song is in no hurry to move quickly and has no need to try and force the development to move any faster. Holding the Space can be seen as an anchor for this entire CD with its dense and textured sounds held together with the constant beat provided by Byron’s frame drum and Toms along with Steve’s holding hybrid grooves. The music doesn’t actually end again so much as it fades away and leaves the listener drifting for a few moments afterwards in the otherworldly environment that has been created for the last 21 minutes. It leaves you waiting for more and the silence that comes out of your speakers when every thing is gone seems like an interlude is not an ending but holding point. Kudos to both Steve and Byron on a job well done.
While most of the songs can be looked at individually they are also very recognizable as part of the entire journey. You can pull out any track on this CD and play it completely apart from the whole that is Fever Dreams but when combined they offer you wonderful textures and lush landscapes of sound that would be missed if you took them out of context. I found Holding the Space: Fever Dreams II to be a very listenable CD and one that I could do repeat listenings to without tiring of the music. It is also something that commands your attention when you focus on it and something that will also allow it to be in the background just out of conscious reach. I found the overall effect of adding Jennifer’s vocals to the project to be very pleasing and more than that they were essential for the journey to be as good as it was. Steve Roach and company have completed the 2nd part of a 3 part journey and I must say that the quality here is excellent. Steve Roach’s tribal fans will find this CD to be very much what they are hoping to hear. Fever Dreams II is a must have disc for those fans who intend to buy the entire trilogy but it will also appeal to those who just want to buy it as a stand alone disc and don’t intend to purchase all three discs. Fever Dreams II gets high ratings in my book and definitely earns a highly recommended nod from this reviewer.
Reviewed by Michael Foster
In THE SHAMAN'S HEART, virtuoso percussionist and soundscape sculptor Byron Metcalf takes us on a potent journey into the archetypal depths of shamanic awakening. Blending poly-rhythmic percussion and the hot spark of shaman's rattles with rainsticks, didjeridoos, the sound of wind and the grokking of ravens, THE SHAMAN'S HEART will carry the listener into that place of ancestral memory where the Ancient Ones beckon us to remember the crackling fires, deep forests, and ceremonial caverns where the shaman's heart was originally born. Regardless of time, space, culture, and gender, there is only one shaman in many hearts. And the beat goes on.
Disc 1 teems with throbbing, distended rhythms, diaphanous synth threads delicate as a spider web and Metcalf¹s polyrhythmic drumming. There are moments of contemplative moods, yet those are rare as the majority of hour one is that of upbeat, ritualistic soirees. Here, Metcalf, lays down percussive configurations of intense complexity offset by assorted shakers, rattles and other sundry implements while Roach injects waves on undulating synth, chugging sequences and the odd sonic embellishment.
Whereas disc one is a formative composition of ambient art, it is disc two that plumbs the depths of the Other; taking the listener into sound worlds of such mind-boggling proportions that it begs to be heard. Roach's vitreous sound patches gracefully adorn the works as facets on a Faberge egg scrupulously detailed beyond one's usual acuity. Beginning unassumingly - the music similar to that of side one - there is nothing to prepare the listener for what will soon transpire. Track two sets in motion an eerie, unearthly descent into the void a sound-world filled with shadowed reverberations, metallic clattering and smooth, oblique drones trailing off into infinite space. There is a feeling of immense space; simultaneously creating gelled-like parameters that pulse to the vibrations. Track three drops the listener into the unknown, a swirling mass wrapped in sonic wind, haunting, ethereal chanting and drum cycles that implode only to form new, more intricate configurations. The result is one of ambiguity, loneliness and self-reflection. A peace-filled atmosphere develops, only to lead the listener through yet another doorway not quite as foreboding filled with overtone chant, and stillness backed by an array of gently beating percussives. The cycle complete, "Serpent" ends on an affirmative note one of emerging from a cave to witness a surreal sunrise of magnificent depth-of-colour. Phased instruments briefly swirl amidst water sounds, whisperings and gently chanting female voice.
There is, in "Serpent", so much to wholly assimilate that it requires many plays to suitably grasp just how essential this release really is. Once again, Roach amazes with his delft styles forging ahead and carving new paths in sonic architecture. "The Serpent¹s Lair" is a stunningly beautiful, otherworldly and deeply satisfying listen.
There are recordings that are more readily reviewed than others, allowing readers to a glimpse of the music, while there remains that which language fails at doing justice. Shivkumar Sharma, Arvo Part and many other Classical, World and Sacred music falls into this category. It is when music slides beyond the written word and into the psyche¹s emotional area that all words become trite and nearly meaningless, able only to describe the sonic goings on. "Serpent" falls into this category with deep listening techniques a requirement to fully obtain all this recording has to proffer.
Lloyd Barde, Backroads Music, November, 2001
[Not Without Risk] is another in Byron Metcalf's successful endeavors with shamanic music... it answers the very important question, "where this work fits into world music programming?"....there is a driving quality about all that is in this work that is an extension of his earlier CD "Helpers, Guides & Allies."
But it seems to me like Byron has narrowed his focus a bit and concentrated more on trance inducing music this time out...in reading the liner notes one can see that Byron and his wife/partner Shawn Cardinal use this music in some way in their transpersonal therapy work...I like the idea that good world music as we hear in this CD can be used in a healing practice....that just seems very exciting to me....
Favorite cuts here at KFCF 88.1 FM, Fresno are cut 1. title cut, cut 2. "Fields of Intention", cut #5 "Spirit Gathering", and cut #6 "Dark Brew." aaaaah nuts, I liked it all!!!
Any CD that includes some of the work of Steve Roach (and here on didgeridoo to boot) has to have that "I could listen to this music all night long" quality....
NOT WITHOUT RISK is his third CD. (His second CD was a collaboration with Steve Roach.) It is truly a worthwhile endeavor. (To quote Byron, "Any worthwhile endeavor is not without risk.")
Byron's soundworlds are deep and rhythmic journeys into the self. His intention is to give his listeners the opportunity to heal. He does not do the healing. Like any good counselor, Byron merely provides guidance and safety.
And Byron has assembled a stellar cast of supporters to assist him. Appearing with Byron are Steve Roach (Didg, spirit voice, ocarina, loops, processing, "Serpent Groove Alchemy"), Ron Oates (keyboards, soundworlds), Jack Coddington (didgeridoo), Richard Blum (Native American flute), Rian McGonigal (didgeridoo), Lena Stevens (vocals), Jamie Keehan (soprano voice), Michael Keehan (spirit voice) and Byron's wife and partner, Shawn Cardinal (spirit voice).
The set runs the gamut from intense rhythmic head music to gentle Native American minimalism. Byron weaves his magic throughout the disc. His percussion carries the flow and guides listeners to the healing touch. That touch comes from within each listener. It can be spiritual, emotional and/or personal. It is always powerful!
This album is good stuff. It begins with a powerful drum session, the first and title track "Not Without Risk." It continues loudly for a couple more tracks before settling into mysterious nocturnal rattling, tooting, whispering, and slow beats (track 4, "Medicine Story" and track 5, "Spirit Gathering"). The pace picks up again with track 6, "Dark Brew" and track 7, "Clan Travelers," which chugs along with a steady rhythm for about 10 minutes.
Then for the last track there's a major change of pace. This piece is credited to Ron Oates, rather than Byron Metcalf. Throughout the album up to this track, the drums have ruled, and melody and tone have been minimal. But here, in "Light from a Burning Bridge," the drums fall to a soft tapping, and floating, melancholy, wistful minor chords take over. The title is poignant, and made even sadder by events that Metcalf and Oates, when they made this music, could not foresee (light from burning skyscrapers). It's a moving finale to a 74-minute shamanic sound journey.
Another good thing I wanted to mention was technical excellence: how well the album was recorded. The big drums really came through, and the highs were clear and bright. A lot of percussion albums lose bass and volume and "attack" somehow, but this recording preserved the sound.
Byron combines his skills as a drummer/percussionist with his background as a psychologist and shamanic practitioner creating visionary soundscapes. Beginning with his 1998 debut release of Helpers, Guides & Allies, Byron's music has been used extensively in experiential shamanism and journey work, various meditation practices, breathwork, trance dance, bodywork and other healing arts.
In the process of creating NOT WITHOUT RISK, Byron fused layers of organiCDums and percussion, didgeridoo, soundworlds and sonic atmospheres, various indigenous instruments and voice to create a powerful musical experience.
The album also features Steve Roach on didgeridoo, spirit voice, loops and processing; Rian McGonigal on didgeridoo; Ron Oates on keyboards and soundworlds, Jack Coddington on digeridoo, Lena Stevens vocal on' Medicine Story'; Richard Blum Native American flutes on 'Spirit Gathering'; Shawn Cardinal (Byron's wife) and Michael Keehan, offer their spirt voices on 'Spirit Gathering', and Jamie Keehan's soprano voice is featured on 'Light from a Burning Bridge'.
NOT WITHOUT RISK is about communication beyond words, beyond language. It resides within the realm of pure sound, and natural rhythm. It is a multicultural, shamanic, percussive treat for the senses. NOT WITHOUT RISK can both evoke and create a mind-altering, transformative experience in listeners that are open to its deep, mysterious and sensuous grooves. The eight compositions that comprise NOT WITHOUT RISK stretch out over a period of almost 74 minutes, leaving the listener mesmerized as the last notes of 'Light from a Burning Bridge' echo off into the distance.
Joined by a supporting cast of nine musicians, Metcalf creates a true celebration of life. The rhythms are bold and evocative. Not only has he blended traditional world music influences into his own distinctive style, but he has also mastered playing each instrument using authentic techniques and rhythms. Listening to NOT WITHOUT RISK is an experience that warms the heart and soul. It is an exotic and personal musical statement. Metcalf has brought together a fabulous ensemble of players, accenting his inventive handling of rhythm, texture and pitch. It is upbeat and exciting collection of traditional and modern influences.
Track 1: "Not Without Risk" The title track of the CD, "Not Without Risk" opens up with a thunderous and potent soniCDiving beat that issues a kind of declaration of sorts: "Hey, you, pay attention! This is the journey you've been meaning to take but haven't until now. It is a road of knowledge, but it is not without risk."
Technically the piece is a nice induction into liminal space and in-between consciousness. In some ways it struck me as being like an initiatory celebration. A rich, full-bodied and bold track (I feel as though I am describing a good beer or a meal) the listener will feel just that: fed. It is an initiatory feast.
Track 2: "Fields of Intention: Track 2 reminds me of Gabrielle Roth's "Stacatto" in her 5 Rhythms work. It is a profound reminder to not forget the body in otherworldly and visionary work. In Celtic tradition we think of the body as the soul-shrine. "Fields of Intention" is imbued with a sense of integration and acknowledgment that the body is how we experience our earthiness. A good piece for movement.
Track 3: "Primordial Recognition" Track 3 opens with a haunting multi-textured weave of ocarina, spirit breath, didgeridoo and various rattles and percussive instruments. The overall mood of this piece speaks of expectancy, as if we are being carried through a never-before-seen yet somehow familiar landscape to meet up with an ancestor. The smooth, even, and unrushed quality of "Primordial Recognition" is a refreshing change from so many recordings that have a tendency to blind the voyager with overly frenetic energy. This has its place, no doubt, but too much energy that never lets up prevents absorption. "Primordial Recognition" is superb in its ability to deliver remembrance.
Track 4: "Medicine Story" One of my absolute favorites, Track 4 is an astonishing recording. It is, no doubt, the product of seasoned journeyers who ears know as much as their eyes. Lena Stevens' contagious vocals gives the impression that we are accompanied. I felt her voice like an ancient grandmother telling a story, weaving a new dream from a cave. A standing rhythm sings forth from a frame drum, providing a trustworthy and reliable formulaic beat upon which soundworlds, chant and other spirit-breath sounds could germinate. At once filled with sensuality and mystery, as well as a feeling of home, "Medicine Story" conjures it all: birth, passage, sexual union, death, totemic awareness and arrival. *****
Track 5: "Spirit Gathering" "Spirit Gathering" is an apt name for this glorious piece. The blending of Native American flutes, drums, breath-sounds and nature sounds (tree frogs/crickets) ushers us to a center point of primal power, a veritable seed-pod from which all mysticism is born. My mind was filled with images of Buddhist prayers being uttered in a swirl of incense, Pueblo people wandering on Salt Pilgrimage, pilgrims making their way to Chimayo as well as up the side of Crough Padhraig in Ireland. The cyclic appearance, eclipse and reappearance of the deep earth drum beat from a frame drum offers the psyche a moment to catch up to itself, a time to integrate. Nice touch.
Track 6: "Dark Brew" The opening synthesizer soundworlds of Ron Oates on "Dark Brew" is subtle. It is laCDwith the emotion of hope. . . . hope that this grand experiment of humanity is leading somewhere. A feeling of a "future earth culture" stands out in this dance of and dialogue of didgeridoo and percussion. Snakes shedding skins, banished serpents from Ireland's shores returning, Ayahuasca teachings from writhing membranes, mortality, choicemaking.
Track 7: "Clan Travelers" African shaman Malidoma Some' once said, "It is a sign of impending illness if a person hears the drums and does not dance or does not fly." Enough said. Track 7 went straight to my feet and a druid night-dance spilled out onto the wood planks of the floor. This track comes with a prerequisite: move, fly or die.
Track 8: "Light From A Burning Bridge" The tapestry of Jamie Keehan's heart-melting voice aswirl with Ron Oates' soundsworlds, punctuated with drumbeats from Byron Metcalf that felt like rhythmic acupuncture needles in the soul, and the spirit cannot help but expand. A profound reattunement to one's place in the grand shape of things.