ROAM Om: Sonic Spirit Quests for Armchair Bodhisattvas and Yogis-in-Training

[Editor’s Note: As always, Hear Nebraska is very happy that the producers of the monthly experimental podcast ROAM have agreed to let us run their pieces on Here’s the dispatch for September.]

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The time has come to light the flame. The scent of sulphur from spent matches hangs in the air, mingling with that of fresh cut flowers. You can’t say how long the drummers have been drumming. You anticipate the commencement of the ritual with excitement and trepidation. Who will I be in the morning when the fire has exhausted itself? The figure crouching at your side, face obscured by a mask with exaggerated features, shakes a rattle, which sounds exactly like a swarm of insects. He motions at you. And you begin to dance as if for the first time in your life…  

For this 12th installment of the ROAM audiozine series we invited contributors to explore the topics of spirituality and ritual in all of their many manifestations.

In order to place these metaphysical reflections into conversation with each other, the ROAM Staff devised an aural ritual all its own.

For ease of listening, the movements of this ritual in sound can be broken into three major events:

1. Setting the Fire

Sometimes the vacuum of skepticism provides the most profound opportunities for spiritual growth. And this is precisely where ROAM OM’s ritual begins. Incited by the sparking of the pyre, we pivot from a space of playful doubt (Katie Robertson) into a celebration of our spiritual heritages (Ben Coleman) that then gives way to a depiction of a private ritual (Will Mitchell). This first movement is punctuated by recordings of religious ceremonies documented in Haiti by a special pair of world-traveling truth-seekers (Orenda and Todd Fink).

2. The Fire Blazes

But perhaps we’ve let our guard down too soon, allowing spirituality’s grandiose promises of peace and prosperity to lull us into complacency? Our ritual’s midpoint is a confrontation with the darker sides of orthodoxy and the seductive power of religious rhetoric. Recasting the febrile speech of sanctified televangelizers, our sound artists (Aaron King and John Hannah) invite us to listen closely to these feverish exhortations. With the flame’s forked tongues lapping at the night sky, our sonic spiritual quest reaches its fever pitch with a satirical subversion of the fire-and-brimstone oration that preceded it (Mike Morgan).

3. The Flame Dissipates

With our palates now thoroughly cleansed our final movement commences. We’re able to re-enter the cathedral with open hearts and clear minds as an organ-steeped neo-hymn transports us into transcendent contemplative realms (Thayer Sarrano). For some the sheer act of listening is the most solemnly spiritual gesture of them all. As the fuel for our fire dwindles, we pause to absorb the “music” that our environments make irrespective of our wishes and intentions (Meta Gary). At the final leg of our journey we find not a conclusion but a return to our immediate surroundings and the notion that “religion” is not something we must seek after but is a phenomenon that always envelops us.

Many thanks to all of our yogis-in-training who made this episode of ROAM a third ear-opening experience. Catch y’all under the bodhi tree.