Chthonic Cathedral Project: Custom dark ambient music playlists
At the Hermitage, I use dark ambient music to facilitate a contemplative practice that I refer to as deep listening. The term was brought to my attention by the late composer Pauline Oliveros, who defines it as:
“…going below the surface of what is heard and also expanding to the whole field of sound whatever one’s usual focus might be.”
Her work in the Dan Harpole cistern (a.k.a. the “Cistern Chapel”) utilized the 45-second reverb time and reflections of sound off the pillars, and brought greater attention to the importance of the performance space in music appreciation. In her TED talk about the difference between hearing and listening, she says:
“In order to play in a cistern environment, we had to learn to listen in a new way. We had no plan, no written score, and had no discussion beforehand. We simply improvised, played, and learned that the cistern was playing with us.”
“To hear is the physical means that enables perception. To listen is to give attention to what is perceived, both acoustically and psychologically.”
“Performance space is as important as voices and instruments.”
My specialty is designing spaces of endarkenment to call forth experiences of the sacred in the context of the everyday. One day, when I’ve found an appropriate space for it, I hope to design and set up an acoustically resonant subterranean deep listening space for the Hermitage.
In the meantime, my deep listening practice consists in listening to dark ambient music in a space that is as acoustically immersive as I can make it (a good subwoofer helps!), and giving it my full attention.
After years of this deep listening practice, and appreciative feedback about it from friends, I started a music advisory service through which I consult with event organizers, yoga instructors, meditation groups, performers, and ritual hosts to provide playlists, albums, or single tracks to suit their specific needs and tastes. This service project is designed to help foster music-based contemplative practices and dark ambient music appreciation in the communities I work with.
I can design a playlist for you around a theme, as a devotional to honor a specific deity or spirit, or for whatever other purpose you can dream up! I can also give your playlist a name, and design an image to accompany it.
See my collection of playlists at Playmoss for a small sampling of my work. I’ve got 30+ themed playlists already compiled – I’ll be adding them on Playmoss as time permits.
A sampling of upcoming playlist titles:
Cacophony: A Noisy Dark Ambient Mix Ominous Portents: Doom Ambient The Inward Eye: Dark Ambient for Solitude Telluric Currents: Dark Ambient for the Spirits of the Stones
To help me come up with the most appropriate tracks for the mood you want to evoke, it’s best if you can provide specific instructions about the intended atmosphere or progression of your event or ritual (e.g., “for the 15-minute intro I want some background music that imparts a sense of spaciousness; then I want something with kind of a harsh noisy edge to jolt us into the next segment”), or about the types of sounds you prefer (e.g., “I need at least 20 minutes of drones, with no voice samples or percussion”). To give me an idea of your tastes, it’s also very helpful if you listen to some of my existing playlists and identify some tracks you like.
Folks for whom I’ve provided custom playlists include:
* Ingrid Kincaid, aka The Rune Woman, who has organized rituals in Portland, OR for Skadi and Mordgud using my music recommendations.
* Bridie Przibram of UK-based Yoga in Black, who became “a total convert” to dark ambient via the first playlist I made for her (yay!)
In keeping with an ethic of reciprocity, I offer this service to my extended communities on a pay-what-you-want or gift basis. This permits me to accommodate a diverse range of budgets without compromising my own needs.
Gift and pay-what-you-want work is made possible through the ongoing support I receive from many kind people. If you’d like to help make it possible for me to offer more of these services to folks who can benefit from them, the best way you can do so is by supporting the Hermitage on Patreon!
Whenever I receive funds from someone who appreciates my playlists, I use a portion of the funds to directly support the musicians whose tracks appear in the playlist, by buying their music or merch on Bandcamp.
Of course, you too can support the musicians directly, by buying their music! For the Bandcamp tracks you can click on the Bandcamp | Buy Now button underneath each track name, and you’ll be taken directly to the page where you can buy the track and download it immediately. When you do that, it will make me happy as well: my appetite for good dark ambient music is near-insatiable, so I want the musicians to receive enough support to enable them to keep making more of it. Lots more of it!
Interested in a custom themed playlist? I’d be happy to make one for you! I’ll need at least 2-3 weeks’ lead time before your event. Email me at: