The intersection of South Market and Eagle streets vibrated with a multitude of healing sounds at the third annual Resonate Asheville festival, held at the YMI Cultural Center Oct. 1-2.
Although it is a relatively new event, Resonate has deep roots in Asheville’s long-standing status as a wellness destination and haven for alternative thinking. “I realized the people doing this work didn’t have the greatest representation and lacked a venue for conscious community,” says Liz Cox, producer of the event and owner of AskLizzE, a booking agency dedicated to holistic wellness and spirituality related services and events.
Cox has an extensive background in event planning and owned the global spirituality shop A Faraway Place, formerly on Battery Park Avenue. “There are 2,000 or 3,000 people in this community practicing in this area already,” she explains. “Resonate was birthed from a desire to unite nationally recognized groups with the local people I connected with who needed exposure.”
By this year, the festival had grown enough to follow an ambitious program that included sound healing, world soul music, organized discussions covering a range of topics from sacred geometry (spiritual beliefs associated with specific patterns and proportions) to mindfulness, as well as related vending. There were more than 24 hours of programming over the course of the weekend, which drew a large portion of Asheville’s alternative wellness community and attendees from as far away as California, Arizona and New York.
The event celebrated the therapeutic power of sound. Billy Zanski, owner of Skinny Beats Drum Shop in downtown Asheville, conducted two sound healing sessions and two workshops during the festival.
What is sound healing? “Any sound that has a beneficial effect is sound therapy,” says Zanski, citing examples like hearing a loved one’s voice, mothers cooing at babies, white-noise machines and music compelling people to dance. He adds, “Physical bodies are penetrated by sound. In recent years, there has been great research into more science-based understanding of how certain frequencies affect our bodies and our minds.” Zanski also points out that ultrasound therapy is used by the medical profession to break up internal anomalies like blood clots, gallstones and scar tissue.
He describes other advantages that cannot be quantified so easily: “It helps us as humans to have an [incredibly empowering] awareness of who we are. … There is deep peace in that liberation from confusion and constant striving to figure things out.”
Zanski has made a study of sound healing for the last 11 years, primarily using instruments like gongs, drums and crystal bowls. He gives free weekly sound healing sessions at Skinny Beats on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at noon. Donations are optional; no RSVP is required. Zanski provides mats, cushions and healing sounds for attendees.
While Zanski offers a traditional sound healing experience, modern instruments can also have therapeutic applications. Electrical engineer, reiki master, tone therapist and Fairview resident August Worley presented his specialized synthesizer, the pyradym, to a full room on the first day of the festival. Pyradym is a pyramid-shaped, quartz-topped sound healing instrument that produces analog sound waves to facilitate physioacoustic healing.
Worley, who moved to Asheville to work with Bob Moog of synthesizer fame, says the instrument was born from a desire to create an electronic version of a Tibetan singing bowl. He presented the idea to Moog, who encouraged him to tackle it himself.
Singing bowls originated in Asia centuries ago but are now found worldwide. Their harmonic overtones are prized for their ability to induce deep relaxation, and by extension, meditative states. Like a singing bowl, the pyradym emits sounds that can be felt in the human body. “The human body is essentially a resonant cavity,” Worley explains. “You’ve got multiple resonance frequencies, so applying specific frequencies to the human body to move energy is very appropriate. Each frequency activates the physical structure of each resonant cavity. You will feel a certain frequency at a certain part of the body, and then you’ll vary the frequency and feel it in a different part of the body.”
As an electronic instrument, the pyradym has several therapeutic advantages over a percussive one. “How does this sound feel? That’s all you need to know to operate this instrument,” Worley says. “Most traditional instruments, like tuning bowls, didgeridoos and tuning forks have a single pitch and have a very limited range of harmonic content. But you can vary the pitch on analog electronics. Being able to vary the pitch makes it easy to find the appropriate resonance to affect the individual.”
There’s also an emotive aspect of pitch change. “Going from a lower pitch up to a higher pitch creates an uplifting feeling,” Worley notes. “Conversely, being able to pitch down can also be very valuable. Cross-culturally, throughout the world, mothers sing to their babies with lullabies that are predominated by descending tones.”
Worley builds pyradyms in his personal workshop between commitments engineering custom equipment and instruments for the music industry, such as a current project for Grammy-winning artist Gotye. He also leads healing sessions with the pyradym on a monthly basis at Crystal Visions in Hendersonville.
Still, there is another type of sound healing that requires only the human voice: vocal toning, the prolonged expression of a single sound. Cox describes the toning experience as an immediate bliss-giving, peace-inviting meditation: “The sound is affecting every single cell of your body. … It’s an instant change. You don’t have to be conditioned in any way. All you’re doing is being and watching. When you’re in that space, it’s a perfect moment. There’s nothing you have to be, do, want, desire. It is just perfect peace. Imagine if we could achieve that on a global level!”
Local vocal toning expert Dale Allen Hoffman conducted two workshops that included group toning as well as the historical and spiritual explanation of each syllable sounded. Hoffman has made a decadeslong study of ancient languages, spirituality and mysticism, and authored the book Echoes of an Ancient Dream, on the healing power of vocal toning.
The Resonate festival offered information and tools for sound healing but was also a celebration of it as well. Nationally touring musical acts Porangui and Paradiso and Ramasayi headlined the event with world soul and sound healing music, respectively. Several other musical acts also performed, and the Asheville Movement Collective, a community for transformative dance, channeled a meditative dance session.
Ideas resonated at the event alongside the sound waves. Speakers such as Dr. Mickra Hamilton of the Apeiron Center for Human Potential delivered lectures centered on developing mindfulness practices to drive all aspects of personal health and even human evolution. As humans, Hamilton said, we obtain coherence of consciousness — and live our best lives — when our thoughts, physiology, emotions, language and intuition are in line and in harmony. “Delete or move your negative thoughts into higher vibrations,” she said. “Retrain your perception.”
Sound healing sessions at Skinny Beats Drum Shop:
Schedule and pricing for pyradrym healing sessions at Crystal Visions:
Private sessions with Dale Allen Hoffman in downtown Asheville:
Resonate Asheville events:
Resonate Asheville will be held again next year on Oct. 7-8. The application for vendors, performers and lecturers opens up in April; performance agreements are finalized by June 21.