Stoneholder – “Air” (Stereogum Premiere)

Johanna Warren presented us with one of the most stunning acoustic albums of the year in the form of n?m?n, and though that release earned her a spot on our 50 Best New Bands of 2015 list, she’s been working on a variety of other projects as well. Stoneholder is a collective that Warren labels as a “witches’ healing sound project.” When I interviewed Warren back in May, she had just returned from a vision quest of sorts in Mt. Hood National Forrest. Stoneholder’s first song “Air” is also the result of a spiritual journey into the same park. Warren told me the following about the process that wrought this experimental sound piece:

This is the sound of women and non-binary femmes coming together in a safe, sacred, ceremonial container to channel the power of the elements and connect with the power of their own voices.

STONEHOLDER was born this summer from a music video shoot in which my director, Samantha Ravenna Soley Shay, and I led a group of thirteen women on a ritual journey into the wilderness of Mt. Hood National Forest to a secret waterfall. The original plan was for us to perform one of my songs in the water, but once we arrived at the location it became pretty immediately apparent that that is not what wanted to happen. Standing there in the frigid water and trying to execute this structured composition, there was a palpable awkwardness, a resistance, a latent wildness in the group energy that was aching to be expressed. Sensing that, I ended up discarding the song completely and surrendering to the primal forces that were so ready to take over our bodies. As soon as the impediment of imposed form was removed, we effortlessly fell deep into a trance state for fifteen minutes, vocalizing freely, toning, screaming, cooing, crying, slapping the water with our hands…

The resulting soundscape was some of the most compelling music I had ever heard, and the group energy that was generated was intensely electric (pretty sure we opened a portal to another dimension) so I felt a responsibility to continue to create containers for this kind of exploration and expression to occur. To give that exploration structure, Ravenna and I decided to co-facilitate a series of five rituals corresponding to the five elements (Air, Fire, Water, Earth, and Spirit). These ceremonies, each of which has involved a different cast of participants, have been a potent means for connecting with the essential components of life on Earth/the essential ingredients for magic, and the ancient parts of our souls that resonate with each element.

The name STONEHOLDER emerged the day after our shoot at the waterfall, when we organized an impromptu circle to share and process our experiences of the previous day’s intensity. To pass the talking energy in our circle, we passed around a heart-shaped stone; hence, the person speaking was the “stone holder.” Collectively, when we join our voices in these rituals, we are giving speaking power back to the wild mother Earth and to the divine feminine, whose voices are largely silenced and oppressed. We are committed to making these voices remembered and heard, and encouraging other humans to connect with their own magic and power. We intend for these sounds to serve a healing purpose in the world; we invite you to receive them as a transmission of love, and to curate a listening experience for yourself that will inspire and activate the healing potential in your body, mind and spirit.

Warren included listening instructions:

INSTRUCTIONS FOR LISTENING
Materials:
-headphones or good speakers
-candle*
*= optional/recommended

1) Turn off your phone, or put it in another room.
2) Dim the lights and light a candle.
3) Feel all the air that your skin is touching
4) Press play.
5) Keep breathing / be breathed.

Listen to “Air” below.

“Air” will be available via Stoneholder’s Bandcamp.