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A person is made of love

something so simple and straightforward about this work of listening deeply to another human being and then listening for the song that’s trying to sing its way through me afterward. I think S. really got this; when I asked whether there was any feedback about her song that she’d like me to share, she said, “Can you just write on your website that I f#$%ing love my sonic amulet?” Here goes:

She f#$%ing loves her sonic amulet.

S. also said I could share her amulet with you. So, here it is: “A person is made of love.”

Let me know if you’re ready for an amulet of your own.

a sonic amulet case study

Sonic amulets are a new model of songwriting, meant for the ears of one listener alone. They are custom written just for you. But lots of folks want an example of what that might sound like. While each amulet is as unique as the person I write it for, sometimes folks will allow me to share theirs with you. A. is a rabbi in California who was wrestling with issues of loss, longing, and how to bring the work she dreams of to fruition. After receiving her sonic amulet, “Rooted in Love,” she agreed to let me share it with you. You can read her feedback on the process and listen to “Rooted in Love” here.

Visit the sonic amulets page for another “case study.”

Songs of Soothing: Episode 11 “Ki Hinei KaHomer”

In the Jewish calendar, we are just about ready (or not) to enter into Yom Kippur — a full day of fasting and prayer, expiation and forgiveness. The liturgy for this day is full of many different images of our relationship with the Divine: sometimes imagining a God who is loving and compassionate and sometimes God as Judge. Many of our prayers urge God (and ourselves!) to move from judgment to mercy.

This piyyut (liturgical poem) is a favorite of mine. In it we imagine ourselves as clay in the hands of a potter, as glass worked by a glassblower, as the tiller in the hand of the helmsman. And we ask the Source of Life — that Power-Beyond-Understanding — to shape us, work us, steer us lovingly.

As you will hear, my practice is to sing “Ki Hinei KaHomer” to the tune of “The Water is Wide” — another song of powerlessness in the face of Love.

Songs of Soothing: Episode 10 “Turning Song”

In honor of the New Moon of the Hebrew month of Elul — the month in which we bring our hearts to returning to our truest selves — I wanted to share this “Turning Song” with you. It takes (as in “steals”) most of its lyrics right from the Book of Psalms.

One note: So far, each episode of the podcast has been made by just singing into my iPhone and I love the simple honesty and directness of that. But I also love this version of “Turning Song” that’s on my latest studio album “at the edge of the unknown” so I thought I’d offer this “studio version” of the podcast. If you’d like to know more about the album as a whole, come see me over at minnabromberg.com.

I’d love to know your thoughts, not only on this production choice, but on what helps you come home to your truest self.

Many blessings for turning.

Songs of Soothing: Episode 9 “Nachamu”

We are beginning, in the Jewish calendar, a period of Seven Weeks of Consolation in which we move from commemorating the destruction of the Temple to readying ourselves for the New Year. Each week, in synagogue, we read (sing, really) a selection from the book of Isaiah that offers nechemta¬†or comfort to the people. The first of these offerings of comfort begins with the words “Nachamu, nachamu ami” (Comfort, comfort My people…).

For this episode, I decided to let you hear the first few verses of these ancient words of comfort using the cantillation with which we sing them in synagogue.

When I hear these words that my people has sung to ourselves for centuries, it strengthens my sense of the deep roots of this work of nechemta, the timeless offering of consolation in song. No matter your faith background, I hope you too will feel comforted by these ancient words.

Songs of Soothing: Episode 8 “Far Shore”

Lots of my own songs of soothing start off as private little songs that I write only for myself, everyday amulets to carry with me, written just for what I need today. And most of those songs never make it to public ears. But here is one called “Far Shore.”

Songs of Soothing: Episode 7 “Deep Blue Sea”

Like many traditional songs of soothing, “Deep Blue Sea” is about death. Don’t believe me that this is a pattern? Sing “Rock-a-bye Baby” all the way through. See?

Personally I think this has something to with the fact that the real “audience” for a words of a lullaby is the person singing it. And in those quiet and tired and sometimes desperate hours of trying to soothe a crying baby, it makes sense to me that the person singing the lullaby might feel a certain freedom in letting the words be darker than the melody.

Other ideas: death and sleep are linked in many cultures. Death is seen in some contexts as a form of release.

I welcome your thoughts on this in the comments below.

Songs of Soothing: Episode 6 “My Dear Heart”

I wrote “My Dear Heart” while I was in the dreaming stages of this whole Songs of Soothing project. It is inspired in part by “I was asleep but my heart was awake” which is sung in the Song of Songs.

May your own heart dream loudly!

Songs of Soothing: Episode 5 “Captain’s Lullaby”

Dragged up from the depths of my life as a sailor of big boats, “Captain’s Lullaby” is for all those who have stood watch while the captain (or the baby) sleeps below.

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Songs of Soothing: Episode 4 “Nothing Wrong at all”

A sonic amulet is meant only for the person who commissions it. The sacred and the private have a lot in common and I don’t make a practice of including sonic amulets in the repertoire of songs I share publicly.

At the same time, it makes sense that folks want to hear some “samples of my work.” So I am particularly grateful that Mandy S. agreed to let me share her sonic amulet — “Nothing Wrong at all” — with all of you.

Your story is not hers so you won’t hear in it all that she hears. But perhaps it will resonate in its own way. May it be of comfort.

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