For Good Measure, by Ensemble for These Times (E4TT)
Episode 12: Sea Novaa (part 1)
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In this week’s episode, we talk to Sea Novaa about her life journey, returning to music after practicing law, and her experience working with sound healing. If you enjoyed today’s conversation and want to know more about Sea Novaa, check them out here: www.seanovaa.com. Parts of this episode originally premiered on July 2021, found on Youtube, click here.
This podcast is made possible in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and generous donors, like you. Want to support For Good Measure and E4TT? Make a tax-deductible donation or sign up for our newsletter, and subscribe to the podcast!
Intro music: “Trifolium” by Gabriela Ortiz, performed by E4TT (Ilana Blumberg, violin; Abigail Monroe, cello; Margaret Halbig, piano), as part of “Below the Surface: Music by Women Composers,” January 29, 2022
Outro music: “Lake Turkana” by Marcus Norris, performed by E4TT (Margaret Halbig, piano), as part of “Alchemy,” October 15, 2021
Transcription courtesy of Otter.ai.
Producer, Host, and E4TT co-founder: Nanette McGuinness
Audio Engineer: Stephanie M. Neumann
Podcast Cover Art: Brennan Stokes
Interns: Roziht Edwards and Merve Tokar
[INTRO MUSIC] Welcome to For Good Measure, an interview series celebrating diverse composers and other creative artists sponsored by grant from the California Arts Council. I'm Nanette McGuinness, artistic executive director of Ensemble For These Times. In this week's episode, we're joined by Sea Novaa, who we spoke to in July 2021. [INTRO MUSIC ENDS] Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. You studied music as a child, became a lawyer and returned to music. That sounds fascinating. Could you talk about your journey?Sea Novaa:
Yeah, um, I feel, I feel very thankful to kind of come full circle. And I painfully remember the moments when my mom forced me to go to piano lessons, first at our church and then at a conservatory. And I didn't practice. So my progress was limited. And then I eventually persuaded her to let me learn the saxophone instead. The reason why the reason why that that moment is so meaningful to me is because now as a comoposer I'm using piano as my main instrument. And I'm literally two years ago, taking piano lessons in Berlin, starting from scratch. And, you know, from there, progressing and now, for me, it's, it's more of an issue of like, dexterity, so no, so no Rachmaninoff pieces anytime soon. But at least you know, for for the purpose of composing and getting the harmonies and the melody. You know, I'm able to pick that up now. But you know, had I gone with my mom's suggestion, I, it would be a breeze, the composing aspect, or essentially bringing the sounds from in my head out, you know, it's been the journey where I, I played music in high school and I was in the marching band. I saw music purely as a recreational I was, in essence mimicking an older cousin, who was also he played tenor sax in the marching band, and I ended up playing alto sax, and, and then I was in other bands, their concert band, jazz band, and because I had a, just a naturally good armature, still lacking dexterity what because of the armature the conductor put me on oboe, bassoon and bass clarinet just to fill in wherever what's needed. So say I did that. But you know, I have to say you, to me, you're using two very different parts of the brain when you're playing other people's music versus composing. So really, when I when I decided after practicing law, and then six months I tried to really learn music theory and continue being a very good lawyer. And I found it incredibly challenging because there's a there's a quote that the law is a jealous mistress and since it's so demanding, and so when I found myself kind of faltering on both ends, I decided I needed to really decide which one I wanted to continue in and I decided music and an old music aspect came with surprise as I was getting over heartbreak. One evening, I was walking down Elston Street in New York City, and I just started filming something that I really enjoyed, and it brought tears to my eyes and I recorded it and I that was like the the beginning of the end of my legal career. But yeah, so it's, um, it's kind of been this process where so that was like 2017 where I decided I wanted to learn music and then by 2019, I was able to we have become a full time composer and means to my time I remember learn, I was able to make my vocation also, my livelihood.Nanette McGuinness:
You said that listening is a form of Sonic activism and meditation that sound can heal and expand one's consciousness. Can you tell us more about this?Sea Novaa:
We'll start with the premise that I'm, I'm a meditation practitioner. And I discovered that 1015 and Chelsea in New York, and by way of like, I think it was the seventh person that told me I should go to meditation. I finally relented. And, and so it brought an immense amount of clarity and kind of just like, the sense that the stars aligned. And kinda like how ripeness comes to a fruit. I don't know how it happened, but it did happen. And so this clarity and this idea of being present, particularly my practices as in Buddhism, and I wanted to bring that into my, my music practice. So I would say I have two, two separate practices, mine is more of a composer performer. The more classical or avant garde classical type music to be enjoyed, for entertainment purposes. And to me the other, the other aspect is to be as present with music, as present with yourself as possible when, when listening. So after someone kind of saw kind of what I was doing with the music as far as being still, and I would have these rooms in Berlin, where I would invite people to come and listen, actively, actively listen, they would find a space on the ground, most of the time lie down, and just tell him to be with the music in a way that we're not when we're listening to Spotify, or on YouTube, or we're either judging a sound Oh, it's as good as just remind me of this time, can I see myself driving a Ferrari and listening to this, like, all these places, except for the here and now so when I do instruct the participants to to be as present with the sound and a little acknowledge, whatever makes you feel, until always kind of reintroduce yourself to the, to the rhythm of the breath, and kind of like that, it really changes the, their interaction with with sound. And it honestly, it could be a Frank Sinatra song, you do this too. But it's, it's really how you do it and why that that really affects the people I work with in this regard. And it also I use this practice myself when I'm listening to music, and so activism through the, to the point of helping people be as present as they can while listening to sound appreciating even when you're walking down the street, and you pay attention to the various sounds coming word sounds, the car tires on the streets, being incredibly present, allowing for clarity to come and finding peace. You know, it's really about just finding peace with yourself and with your surroundings. So yeah, so to me, this is this is I don't see this practice going anywhere. It's, it's something I want to expand and invite people to do this. And also what I love about this, this particular practice of, of kind of active listening or sound healing, is that it can be done anywhere, anyplace. At any time, honestly, by anyone. The way that people focus on the sensations of the breath while they're meditating to me, you can do that with what sound and it can be from, you know, from music to just a sound coming from the room or outside outside of the space outside of a building or something like that. I haven't know how I'm helping people, but I've done these sound healing sessions, where these listening sessions and people come up to me afterwards and just tell me what an incredible experience they've had and after the first time I very first time I did it, and I had people come up to me and even security guard said, Oh yeah, I heard people saying was life changing, I was just completely bewildered. Because here I am, I mean, I'm going through my own my own process of creating the music live. So I basically perform live sets a lot of electronic music. And just that people come with this awareness. So I don't know how I help others. But I'm happy to create these sessions, where people do feel that they're connecting with some type of higher power or connecting with themselves.Nanette McGuinness:
[OUTRO MUSIC] Thank you for listening to For Good Measure, and a special thank you to our guests, Sea Novaa for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to our podcast by clicking on the subscribe button and support us by sharing it with your friends, posting about it on social media and leaving us a rating and a review. To learn more about E4TT Our concert season online and in the Bay Area where to make a tax deductible donation, please visit us at www.E4TT.org. This podcast is made possible in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and generous donors like you. "For Good Measure" is produced by Nanette McGuinness and Ensemble for These Times, and designed by Brennan Stokes. With special thanks to audio engineer extraordinaire Stephanie Neumann. Remember to keep supporting equity in the arts and tune in next week "for good measure." [OUTRO MUSIC ENDS]