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Music in My Life  

The music I create comes through my heart, and I give it to the world with love and for healing. My path includes giving guidance, I have followed the stars, danced, painted, and now I am making healing sound paintings in the form of videos which include my music. Singing bowls entered my life in the early 1990's, playing stringed instruments has been a passion since I was in my early teens. Mantras crossed my path after the millennium, everything has come together to create something new and unique.
The path of music has been winding through my entire life. My given name is Carol Judith Herzer, song of the expanding heart. A Carol is a song, Judith is Jupiter and expansion, and Herz is vibration or heart.

Me, 6 years old

 When I was little, 6, 7 years old, I loved to dance on tip toes through the house, singing in a high voice, I thought I wanted to be a ballerina and an opera singer, both at once. I believed in fairies, and my mother made me magical costumes that I loved.
When I was about 9 and 10 years old I sang in the church choir. I loved it. During that time a nearby friend had a piano, and when my mother heard about it that I was having fun playing it, she asked me if I wanted take music lessons. I wanted to explore on my own, not be told what to do, and I was not interested. As my school years progressed I was in the scouts, we were always singing, especially at camp, night and day, learning many folk songs. Back then most of us got ukuleles, and some of us progressed to guitars. I got a banjo too. I took guitar lessons in my last two years of high school from a jazz guitarist, Bill Osborne, who had learned the "secrets" of theory from jazz musicians in New Orleans in the 40's. He taught me about chords and harmony, and I ate it up, spending my boring study hall hours in my senior year drawing chord diagrams for guitar.. I learned to transpose, compose, but I never really got a handle on reading music. I think I was a musician in a past life, and this time I was going to keep it free. By now it was the early 60's and the folk music explosion. My very favorite was Joan Baez, and I sang her songs, in college went to all night sing outs, hootenannies. Somewhere around 1967 or so I bought a very good sounding, but not fancy sitar and started playing it, improvising. We listened to a lot of east Indian music, of course Ravi Shankar was the favorite.

On a flying carpet

 I was in art school at the University of Washington, and took two classes in the music department when I was there, one in Indian vocal music, and the other Japanese koto playing. I also had an old Chinese cymbal type gong, bought it a the public market in Seattle. I still have it. It has a hole in the center, I would hold it up by my thumb, and play it, going deep into the sounds. Not everybody around me understood, but I thought the sounds were wonderful so I played it for myself. In 1970 I moved from Seattle to the east coast, to Woodstock. I arrived to the sounds of Terry Riley, we listened to "In C" constantly that first summer. My sitar came with me and the guitar got left behind, borrowed by my younger brother, also a musician. Didn't get that back until the late 70's. Painting was my main focus through these years, and my partner was also a painter. We spent time in California, even lived for a summer on the Grateful Dead ranch in Novato, and were involved with some of the very first very early experimental music video work. My sitar went with me there too. I also had a small koto type harp, and it was with me in California. I remember wandering through Golden Gate park playing it as I walked.

Me and my citar 

 My two children were born in the mid 70's. When they were younger I used to play my guitar and sing to them at bedtime. We lived in a loft in New York city, and the upstairs neighbors were musicians, Glen Velez, a fantastic drummer, was practicing several times a week directly above my kitchen and I could hear it all. I loved what he was doing! During that time I also was influenced by the music of the group Oregon, and spent some time with one of them one summer, out in Oregon. I left the city in 1983, and for several years I was very close friends with Billy Faier, a folk musician known for his banjo playing. He is a very real, disciplined, serious musician, and I learned a lot from him. He even let me keep one of his two long necked banjos at my house to play for a year or more. But it was too hard for me to play, you have to hold your arm way up for a long time, and I did not have the strength for it. Billy is a very creative soul, you can find him online. Banjos Birdsong and Mother Earth was created when I was spending time with him. In the later 80's I got into Beatles songs, creating my own chord arrangements for them on my guitar, and spent a lot of time singing, once more.

Carol with singing bowls 

Somewhere around 1990 I was introduced to the Tibetan singing bowls. My now husband Dirk and I were getting to know each other through letters, he in Belgium and me in Woodstock. This went on for three years, and eventually he came here, and we got together. I started buying bowls from the shop in Woodstock, Dharmaware, with extra money I was earning working night and day on the Psychic Friends Network. Back then there were lots of really good bowls available and not overly expensive either. I just loved the bowls. Far and beyond the cymbal-gong. I kept buying bowls. Meanwhile Dirk was collecting too, and now we are together and our two collections have merged, giving me all the bowls I need to do the music I know I was born to do. At first I just played the bowls and listened. Then I started to use them with my yoga, I had started with that long ago, in 1965. I learned about Kundalini yoga and started doing that. In Kundalini yoga some mantras are given, and I tried one with a bowl. Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo. Then somewhere in the very early 2000's I found a tape with some mantras on it, called Prasad's Bajahns. Included were two pieces by Deva Premal, which I liked best. I bought her CD's and started listening, while I was painting, and sang along with it. The yoga was getting intense and more and more energy was coming through me. I would listen to the CD while doing yoga. One that I liked best for that was the Gate mantra. By now I was also involved in painting Tara and others, and it all fit together. Soon I tried putting mantras together with the bowls. I was taking the bowls outside with me every morning to do my yoga in the meadow, sing, and play the bowls. The birdies loved it.

Carol playing singing bowls




Recording the sound of the singing bowls

 The recording started in 2006. I had been wanting to do it for a while, over a year, I had wanted to make a CD to send to a friend for when she gave birth to her baby. But I did not get it done in time for that. Nevertheless I still wanted to record my music. I told my son Damian, and he said his friend Mike Schirmer had equipment. Then it all came together. Mike had been wanting to record bowls for some time. He is a musician as well as an excellent, gifted recording engineer, and he loves the sounds. The first session was a two day session in the house at the bottom of the meadow where Damian was living, he had just gotten married, and was away on a honeymoon, and Mike was house-sitting there. I carried my bowls down, and we went to work for two days. A week or so later Mike brought me CD's with "rough mixes". I played those and studied them intensely, for two months, saw what I needed to do to make it a whole lot better. In August we did a second session, this time in my studio. It was light years better. We did several more sessions on through 2007, each one ahead of the last. I just loved doing it. It was so magical! I was driven to it like nothing else in my life. Just incredible passion for it. I spent more and more time developing the mantras, arrangements of the bowls, and learning from each session. But I really hoped and dreamed of being able to do my own recording. I knew that if I watched and waited the technology would be there so I could do it. In 2008 I heard about the Zoom H-4 recorder and got one. But the sound was not good enough. Mike guided me to get a good pre-amp, and ART Gold, and two good condenser mics. It worked. I started doing my own sessions. It took a while to learn, in fact I am still learning. At first I edited on the computer with a free program called Audacity. Now I have graduated to Nuendo, a much better quality tool. I am re-editing a lot of my material, and am using it with my videos.

Carol recording


I am now also working with the sounds of open tuned autoharps together with the bowls. The cascading harmonics of the harps blend in with the multi leveled harmonics of the bowls. I see a similarity between the two. My first old autoharp came to me somewhere back in the 90's. Dirk found it one day at a church rummage sale for $5. It is an old Oscar Schmidt Appalachian, with a painting on it, it had some missing strings, but has a good sound. I right away, first thing, took off the chord bars, and open tuned it. This was years before even thinking of using it together with the bowls. That inspiration was not until 2008. Before that I played the harp by itself, and there was a time when I was playing it a lot, taking it out to the meadow. Those birdies out there are lots of fun to play with. But then after a while the harp was forgotten, the singing bowls took over, and it stood in a corner in my studio waiting. One day I was looking at it just standing there getting dusty, and decided to tune it up to the bowls and see how it worked. I was flying!! This was just way too much fun!!! Soon I was on Ebay buying more harps.
As time went by I discovered the old zithers, they never had chord bars, and they have chords as well as the melody strings. My biggest one has 91 stings. It can take some real concentration to get a group of harps all tuned up to be harmonically open tuned to match with the singing bowls. This is a different king of music. I do it all by hearing, it is not calculated by theory or tuned to a particular scale. It's all purely intuitive. But I am sure my early years of chord theory and improv on my guitar is kicking in.

Carol playing the harps

As you may have noticed, I do not do mantras in the usual way. At a certain point I started creating words in English. This is evolving and some of the songs are taking on a life of their own. The Gate mantra is one of them. I have done more than one session with some of the mantras, each time is unique, so you will find several versions of some of them. When I do a session I just keep on working until I am too tired to stay up any later, and then sometimes I just shift gears go outside my body and do one more. Some of these have been the best ones, other times I could have gone to bed earlier. I write new words partly because I feel we need to not just do it as in the past, but change things for our present time and experience.
The music I am doing could never be notated, written down. The sounds of the bowls are complex overlays of wave forms, and the playing of the harps is many notes blending, sometimes percussively, impossible to define. It is spontaneous, of the moment, an intuitive blend of what I am hearing as I play. Maybe this is why I never wanted to pursue the traditional western path of music, and did not learn to read music. The music I create is more in the nature of a sound painting. It can not be repeated. I gave up on that long ago. Someone remarked how my music is so in the moment, and present. In this way it is very meditative and brings you into the present moment. When I create it I am totally into the moment of creation, each time I play and record it is unique, I do not know exactly what I am going to do, how the harps are going to end up being tuned, and it all is never to be repeated. Tuning up harps can take days. I tune to the bowls. I do not perform, the logistics of all this is too complex for that, with different grouping of bowls for different mantras. So sound-paintings it is, each one never to be duplicated, a reflection of a moment in space and time. I am not thinking about trying to make one track to go with another. Some people would tell me, oh, you should first record the bowls and then do the voice on a separate track. They do not understand what I am doing. I know they see things from their own experience, and just want to share with me what they think is good, but it is not my way of working. There always is more, more ways to go, but believe me, I have plenty to work with with the bowls and harps and voice together. Since I am not doing my music for money, I don't have to worry about doing things to fit in with the new age trends, or whatever is expected these days, for example drum tracks. To me that is noise and a distraction. I like to keep it more natural and pure. I give it from my heart , with love.