MUSIC AS MEDICINE: DAVID PHIPPS

Music, or perhaps more accurately sound, has existed for at least as long as people have. In fact it is very likely that music has been around even longer than the human race--dwelling in the woods, waters, stars, and atoms. Going back to the birth of the first human heartbeat in Africa, drums along with song and dance have been used in virtually every indigenous culture as medicine. In today's technology-obsessed culture we have lost track of many of the world's most precious gifts; perhaps one of those treasures is the root of music and just what it is capable of.

While we in the West are blinded by what our televisions, doctors, and "presidents" tell us, there are people in the world who are connecting with ancient forms of healing, trying to work with the body not against it, and are not afraid to think outside the cold, sterile environment of the day. One of these men is world-renowned sound healer Fabien Maman. In 1988 Fabien founded Tama-Do - The Academy of Sound, Color and Movement, and through this institution Fabien has dedicated his life to "bring human beings into resonance with nature, community, and the cosmos through the use of sound, color, and movement."


STS9 by Liz O'Keeffe
While Fabien is using Tama-Do there are musicians around the world who, whether they consciously realize it or not, are helping to do the same thing: "bring human beings into resonance with nature, community, and the cosmos through the use of sound, color and, movement." And whether they would be willing to admit it, or if they even in fact believe it, one of the many bands engaged in this alchemy is Sound Tribe Sector 9. Consider a STS9 show, or any other show you have been to recently. There is a community that has gathered for the music (the sound), is bathing in the lights projected from the stage (the color), and are dancing (the movement).

On December 21st at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco, California, this concept will be taken out of the traditional "show" context most of us are familiar with and a true Winter Harmonizing Concert will unfold. Soulstice '03 will feature Fabien Maman with members of Sound Tribe Sector 9, Hamsa Lila, Trance Zen Dance, Sasha Butterfly Band, Foxgluv, Audio Angel, Arjun and Guardians, Shimshai, Tina Malia, and many more.

A main component in bringing this concert to fruition is David Phipps, who is most well known as the keyboardist for Sound Tribe Sector 9. David was kind enough to welcome me to his home in San Francisco to engage in a conversation about music in many of its wonderful forms. From his band and the upcoming highly anticipated album, to Tama-Do and more, we spoke at length. As I entered David's warm room and sat down next to his piano I couldn't help but stare at the Pro-Tools MBOX that sat on his desk and we instantly began talking about STS9's new album.

Kayceman: So have you guys been working on the upcoming album independently?


By Forrest Reda
David Phipps: Yeah we started like seven years ago on this album, [laughing] seems like it anyway. But we did like three weeks in a studio in L.A., it was actually a house. That was really fun, and we got a good start, as much recording as we did we learned about Pro-Tools. And we took these master files from that three weeks and have just been building on top of those. Most of my recording, you know a lot of keyboards and stuff, I've been doing at home. We're trying to get some good guitar sounds out of the house, but we're not really trying to record drums yet outside of the studio. We have a solid foundation.

Kayceman: When do you think it will be done?

David Phipps: It's one of those albums that I feel like we are going to say took a year to make. And when that year started I don't know, but it's not something that we just did in between tours.

Kayceman: Something that I am really fascinated with is this Winter Soulstice Concert coming up and what I've been reading about Tama-Do. I'd like to get a little history on Tama-Do from you if you don't mind.


Fabien Maman
David Phipps: Sure. Fabien Maman founded the Tama-Do Academy in I think 1988 after doing about ten years of research. He was actually a guitarist in a band called Pinja and they played concert halls and he was on world tour in Japan. And his whole band was jet lagged and sick and they called in an acupuncturist. And this was the first time he had ever seen acupuncture go down and it helped his band and he became interested in it and decided he wanted to study acupuncture. Which is actually pretty big in France [where Fabien is from]. But that is a six-year school, so after six years he had an acupuncture degree. And the story he tells is that his first patient was a little kid with a sore throat. And the point for the sore throat is like right next to the fingernail on the pinky or something like that. And he was like; "I have to put this needle in this little kid." And so he had a tuning fork on his shelf and he used the tuning fork instead. And that's where he had the idea, and he took the idea to scientists at universities and they did experiments on the affects of sound on cells and I could show you some pictures of cells being exploded just by sound.

  For this experiment Fabien played the Ionian scale on the xylophone note by note: C-D-E-F-G-A-B and then C and D of the next octave. I took one photograph per minute, looking at the same Hela cells. Fourteen minutes was enough time to explode the cell when I used these nine different frequencies.

And so between the acupuncture and the scientific research it's kind of like he is approaching it as an empirical method of healing through sound as opposed to "find your own song," which is a part of it, but the application of a practitioner who has charts and fundamentals, and concepts that reinforce each other behind it, makes it not so wishy-washy.

How did you get turned onto it?


Body Harp (used in Tama-Do)
I'd always been interested in sound healing and as a school project [at Georgia Tech] I wanted to make an environmental balancing machine, or a body-sound shower kind of thing. So that research led me into chakras or energy centers and what are the tones of those different energy centers. And if you look into that you run into a lot of... Well it starts with C as the root chakra and is a major scale. There are seven tones in the scale, seven chakras in the body so it must be a C Major scale. But this never seemed right to me, but you see this in a lot of different books. But Fabien is like, "No the root is F and it's the Cycle of Fifths." And if you play that... [He plays the piano in the room and demonstrates the difference between a C Major and an F.] So that was the first breakthrough. And if you ask him about that he tells you how F is closer to the resonance of the earth and the whole energy of [plays the F again] opens up the spacing and there's a reason behind that. And then I was on tour and saw that there was a Fabien Maman workshop in New York and I figured I have a friend in New York, go spend the weekend and that's how it all started. And once you meet someone like that, who holds that energy, it's like your guru.

And how long ago was this, when did you do the seminar?

Almost two and a half years ago. There are seven workshops in Level One that are offered as weekend courses, which is also offered in a week intensive program, and then Level Two is seven more but it's only offered in two weeks. It used to be in France but then they moved to Malibu and after you do that you are actually a practitioner.

Now Fabien brought this to light around 1988 but the nature of healing sounds goes back forever. So where is the root of this coming from?

It's ancient. But I think Fabien is the first to bridge it to a scientific method.


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