Sunday, August 16, 2015

21st Century Musical Healer Series--Fred Clarke Alvarez

Fred Clarke Alvarez
Tuning the Andes & Nature as Sound Scape

I met the multimedia artist and sound healer Fred Clarke Alvarez on my Linked In group, Musical Healers. His work with healers, musicians, and teachers from the Andes possesses both a compassionate and adventurous patina. Fred builds instruments that hail to further back than the Incan Empire. They include a variety of flutes, lutes, and percussion instruments that most westerners, at least in pop culture, have never encountered.

Fred's approach is to heal others in a more or less shamanic-conscious way that blends the healing power of sound with frequencies found in the natural world. Prior to venturing into music and sound healing, Fred's background is in photography and film making. I personally believe that visual as well as, musical expression have the power to transform society when used correctly and with conscious intention of healing.

With no further ado, here's my e-mail interview with Fred, who at the time was on route in California. 

Whole Music Exp: In your biography on your website you mention that you started out as a photographer and filmmaker and then you discovered Native Peruvian healers and medicine in 1998. When you discovered this medicine, did you also discover sound healing practices related to it?

Fred Clarke Alvarez: I discovered Wachuma (Echinopsis Pachanoi) native medicine from Peru, when I was in the school. But in 1998, I had my first deep experience, which started to change my life in meaningful ways. After that experience by myself, I decided to go further. I lived in the jungle and Andes. During that time I met and learnt through different healing traditions and healers their sound/music healing practices in different rituals and sessions through chants, flutes, drums, rattles, and shells, among other instruments. After that experience I understood the relation sound as medicine = sound healing. 

WME: You also mention that you rebuilt instruments based on ancient Peruvian instruments. When you say ancient, how far back are you going—the the Incan Empire? What sparked your journey with these instruments?

FCA: I went further. I started to explore with Pre-Incan instruments, from cultures like Nasca, Chavin, Mochica, Chincha, Ischma, Inca, among others. I started to explore making flutes and antaras (pan flutes) with bamboo, bones, and feathers. That spark came to me during my early years working with native medicines and healers in the jungle, as wildlife as well. I experienced the magic and healing power of sound and music working in myself, in my life path. A simple flute took me into another step of the spiral, reaching a new understanding, and consciousness about sound healing and Peruvian ancient healing sound traditions. After that I started my sound-healing path, searching about different Peruvian ancient instruments and healing techniques. Meetings with different native healers, musicologists, archeologists, and sound healers inspired my work and research in deep ways.   

WME: You have four recordings featured on your website. I am especially interested in Paqarina (instrumental with nature sounds) and Willka Una al Agua (a studio album) which you play flutes and on the second album a type of lute. What are the main medicine features of these two albums? (I did find them relaxing).

FCA: Both albums are related and inspired by the water. Paqarina and Willka Unu are in Runasimi language, native tongue of the Andes. Paqarina means a source of life. In the Andean culture it could be a spring, a lake, a river, the ocean--where life can emerge. Willka Unu means sacred (willka) water (unu)-- so both of them are working with the water element as a conductor for healing and connection. I like to work with nature sounds as part of the healing process, so I have recorded from jungle, Andes and coast from Peru, rivers, creeks, ocean, birds, rain, storms, blending them with the ancient instruments. In Willka Unu, the nature sounds goes through jungle, Andes and coast doing the circular dynamic of water from the sky to the ocean, giving an “end” with a poem to the water written and spoken in Runasimi language (mistakenly known as Quechua language). 

In Paqarina I used different nature sounds and instruments as well. I used Nasca pan flutes with the sound of waves, as Nasca people are deeply connected to the ocean, pelican quills flute, eagle bone flute, double flute, among others. The charango is a string instrument from the Andes, inspired by the Spanish guitar. There weren’t string instruments in ancient Peru. This instrument became a profound musical symbol of the Peruvian Andes, which I started to work with in my sound healing sessions and in the next albums. 

WME: You also mention that you co-founded a sustainable intentional community, Chirapa Menta Ecolodge. Is this eco-village based around sound healing and music therapy?

FCA: At the beginning of 2005, I was part of a sustainable intentional community effort, which we were trying to put in practice and learn from nature and each other to live in harmony, respect and consciousness. Years later, two of my dear friends continued living there and created Chirapa Manta Eco lodge, a center for healings arts, ecology, sustainability, intercultural exchange, and healthy nutrition. I will offer this year, probably in OCT/NOV 2015, a workshop about sound healing/sacred connection with nature through meditation, sound of nature, walks, energy work among other activities up there in the high jungle/Tarapoto, in Chirapa Manta Eco Lodge.

WME: With your background in music, energy medicine and visual arts, have you ever combined all of that in a healing practice? And how do you feel about movie soundtrack composers who don’t use music mindfully? I ask this since music has the power not only to sway our emotions (manipulation in some instances), but we entrain to it.

FCA: Not yet. I have started to do some short documentaries about inspiring stories of people who work and keep creating a better ways to live in harmony with nature and ourselves, like animal assistance therapy (dogs, llamas, and horses), ethnomusicology, ancient weaving tradition from Peru, sustainability, healthy food, among others topics. I am using my music as well for editing the video. So my intention to combine video and music as a healing tool is to share and open mind/hearts into a new awareness and consciousness--to inspire. One of the next video projects I have in mind is to talk about sound and its healing approaches through different healers and perspectives.  
About the movie soundtrack composers they are musicians doing “their work”. They don’t have any sound healing background and consciousness about it, something that for me is a waste of energy or ignorance/manipulation that in music schools or in most of the educational pedagogies, don’t see and teach music and sound as a healing tool in itself with awareness and responsibility to use it in “better” ways, understanding the huge power and effects of sound and music on people and our whole environment. A huge part of the music and film industry is using music and sound to persuade and manipulate emotions, “to entertain”, to sell and get more material power. It’s an unfortunate reality, but we are changing and trying to bring that harmony, as nature does, finding harmony between chaos and order.