WXXI AM News

Summer Solstice brings "The Heart Chant" to Rochester

Jun 19, 2019
Originally published on June 18, 2019 3:00 pm

The summer solstice is “Make Music Day,” which is being celebrated in Rochester and around the world.  If you’re downtown on Friday afternoon, you might notice a group of people standing in a circle with their arms linked. 

They’ll be doing the Heart Chant by composer Pauline Oliveros.  


Community volunteer and activist Maggie Symington says Oliveros was an American artist who realized something strange about our modern lives. “We’re often not actually listening to the things that we’re hearing,” Symington says, “so it’s about deep listening.  It’s about being present in the moment and being mindful about what you’re hearing and the sound that you’re putting out.”

Pauline Oliveros originally created the exercise in response to the terrorist attacks of 9-11 and based it on her concept of “deep listening. “

Symington says the Heart Chant is pretty simple. “You get a bunch of people in a circle and everybody puts their right hand over their heart and their left hand on the back of the person next to them and you make a sound together,” she says.

It’s not necessarily music, though it can become musical, Symington says. “You feel the resonating of your own heart and you feel your neighbor’s heart resonating and you feel this connection to everyone in the circle.”

Monica Reifenstein, who’s co-coordinating Make Music Day performances, says she’s tried it and has felt a connection.  “There’s an oneness which is what they always talk about, but it’s true. “

She and members of Concentus Women’s Choir have been practicing it, and because they’re musically inclined people they try to harmonize.  But that’s not the goal, Reinfenstein says.  It’s supposed to just sound like a cacophony.

If you’d like to try Pauline Olivieros’ Heart Chant, arrive at the Liberty Pole downtown Rochester Friday afternoon a little before 5 p.m.  The chant will last at least half an hour.  You’ll be told what to do, and you can move in and out of the circle whenever you like.  There’s no musical training required.  Just your willingness to connect with others and to really, really listen. 

Watch The Heart Chant, recorded in California. 


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