The Bloom Series sheds light on transformational festival culture
Date: Jun 12, 2013 (Wednesday)
By: KT Biaz
While a new major summer music festival seems to pop up on the horizon every couple days featuring blockbusting mainstream acts strewn across multiple stages at fairgrounds, racetracks, and arenas across the country, a lot of attention is being paid to the little guys--intimate gatherings of hardcore music fans who assemble not just to hear their favorite DJ drop their favorite song, but to educate, heal, and transform themselves in ways traditional festivals cannot. To that end, a small group of filmmakers is shedding light on just what's going down at this curious little events.
The Bloom Series is an innovative web-series, the brainchild of Akira Chan and Jeet-Kei Leung, the latter of whom is known to many in the festival world for his TED talk on transformational culture. Traveling to 23 festivals worldwide, the incredible production core assembled by this duo is archiving and illuminating an entire culture as it evolves.
By examining 12 core principles across the course of four episodes, the series illuminates the who, how, and why of the evolution of these unique intentional events, and the communities formed and transformations realized as a result. We sat down with Leung, production manager Robin Tala and outreach manager Zac Cirivello to discuss the mission behind The Bloom Series, the incredible collaborative efforts to create evocative soundtracks, and the importance of music in the human evolution and cultural transformation.
The Bloom is, at heart, an ethnography--a study of culture. Only a few decades old, the culture that has evolved within the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) community is just a baby amongst cultures. This culture eventually spread beyond the EDM community to encompass a worldwide network of co-creators and a phenomenon of participative explosions of self expression. This entire mycellium world of interconnected creatives and the events they manifest is tied to the music and to the central ritual of ecstatic dance. This element draws participants and offers unique moments of release and self-expression.
Musical line-ups are often the main attraction for newcomers. Yet many come to find their most profound experiences not directly linked to the music. Comforting community, intense introspection, radical and empowering education, breakthrough awakenings; there is so much more to offer here than an all-night party.
As production manager Robin Tala put it, the team that is bringing the Bloom Series to life decided that "this seemed the logical next step for really helping this culture that [we] believe in rise to the next level... helping to highlight one of the aspects that really can evolve the culture…and encouraging that, rather than festivals as just a big party ."
The series focuses on the powerful experiences people have at these events, because when these transformations spread by word of mouth these events grow, and multiply. As Zac Cirivello, outreach director for the series, notes: "there is a distinction between the events where somebody goes because they [want to] see a headliner and the events somebody goes to because there's gonna be [an] awesome community." It is the variety of other elements that have been added to the mix at many festivals which most often facilitate explosions of consciousness. Intense experiences through music, community and healing impact participants with a potent alchemical formula.
At the heart of these festivals is the participative nature of self-expression. Each attendee contributes to the event through conscious or unconcious self-expression. This truth is at the heart of the transformational aspect of music. When we are moved by music we allow our bodies to flow and to express our emotions, our truths, and our limitations. True ecstatic dance grants release from ego and from our perceptions, offering exciting possibilities for healing. As Leung notes, music is fundamental in cultures around the world and throughout time because music is "making palpable in the world our emotions, the movement of spirit through us. And music is this magical thing that it is actually invisible…It's been that bridge between our inner emotional world and the spiritual invisible world around us. And then the part of dancing is to actually embody that. To allow that spirit to fill our bodies and to express that and to show what that spirit looks like in each of our bodies." Direct vibrational healing also occurs when the digital alchemists of a tribe utilize targeted sound frequencies to effect certain desired effects, such as opening a particular Chakra, or energy center.
The intense and transcendent experiences of the dance floor may blow open emotional wounds, providing cathartic moments of release and leaving dancers sweaty and emotionally raw. They may also offer moments of spiritual clarity or transcendence that can be shocking and impactful. Sometimes, the wounds ripped open are healed within the course of the dance, but often we wear ourselves down with these intense experiences. Left unattended these wounds may fester and cause upsets in our emotional balance or our interpersonal relationships. Who hasn't seen a happy couple turn to bitter arguments by the end of a hot weekend with very little sleep? Yet in the context of transformational festivals those moments are rarer. This is in part because of the wide array of healing services often offered at these events (everything from massage and chiropractic therapy, to workshops on relationship dynamics, to Reiki and other energy medicine). It also serves as credit to the level of intimate interpersonal relationships and community connection that arises in these pop-up communities.
Powerful lessons are learned at these festivals, when we begin to have the space to confront difficulties in our lives. We begin to do the work to change them. Tala, noting that all spiritual teachers offer one common truth: peace begins with you--adds: "Bloom helped me see the value of transformational festivals as a means of affecting the way that people relate to each other, affecting interpersonal dynamics. Especially for people coming in from the default world….Just the [language] we're using, the container we're creating is providing an example, is modeling how we can interact in a more respectful manner, in a more socially evolved manner, in a generally more compassionate way. And that really is the heart of activism." When we feel safe in our vulnerability, and find comfort in an adoptive family, we heal our wounds together... Surrounding ourselves with nature, and appreciating the beauty of nature's abundant bounty is another way we fill ourselves up during these events. Carrying this connection home with us often impacts lifestyle and personal choices long after the festival has finished and the stages have been dismantled.
The Bloom's use of music is evocative of the emotional journeys and transformations of the festivals depicted. Each episode features a unique soundtrack produced through an impressive collaborative effort. All artists on these soundtracks offer tracks as exclusives for two months and some offer them as permanently exclusive tracks. The first soundtrack is a balanced mix between fun, dance banger vibes and more downtempo and spiritual styles, evoking the ebb and flow of energies and music at a festival.
Released this week, the Episode 2 soundtrack, New World, represents a shift. The feel of this album is largely ethereal and dream-inspired. This soundscape perfectly fits the episode, which is focused on our imagination of new realities and how we come together to co-create them. The coherency of the vision of the series colludes beautifully in these tracks. The energy builds, the vibration rises. The overall feeling is one of lightness, of letting go…of ascending.
Tracks from veterans and newcomers alike converge to communicate a sonic interpretation of the radiant new world, with Mashimon, SHeN, and ill.Gates offering up tasty dream worlds for us to explore. Even the banger on the the album, "Louder" seems to hint as much at the need for silence and introspection as we dismantle our programming. Ballads like "Aloha Ke Akua" offer up the lessons of native wisdom, while G Jones' down low bass teaches us modern alchemy. "Envision Love" by bioLuMigen, brings us right back to the Costa Rican jungle, as a drum and bass tempo is overlaid with thunder claps, tribal vocals and animal sounds, all of which cooperate in an eclectic and luscious patchwork. ill-esha's classically inspired violin and other worldly vocals, set against the the electronic beat's build an break down, create an impressive soundscape that sweeps us in the momentum of "Mountain Opus." This synthesis of ancient knowledge with modern technologies is evolving human kind. May this soundtrack advance that process.
If you haven't yet seen The Bloom Series, you can find it online at thebloom.tv. Episodes 1 and 2 are now available for online viewing through a pay-what you want pay scale. Watch the episode and afterwards, it's your choice to donate what you want to this entirely crowd-funded effort. In addition to the episodes, make sure to check out the "Culture Spotlight" feauturettes that take a brief but in-depth look at topics like Visionary Art and The Greening of Festivals. A spotlight on "The Heartbeat of the Culture," as they define EDM, is sure to be of interest to our readers. Check back on YouTube for its release.
You can also look forward to Episode 3 "New Ways of the Sacred," slated for a Muti Music., with the final installment "Growth Edges of an Evolving Culture" appearing , towards the close of festival season. Be sure to check out a screening in your city for a chance to connect with folks involved with the project, and more with this vibrant and rapidly evolving culture. Pick up the soundtracks while you're at it. They are available on Amazon, Bandcamp, Addictech, Beatport and iTunes from