I went to Desert Rocks – a smaller scale Burning Man music festival—when I was 22. A group of us caravanned from Park City to Moab under the cover of night. To get to the festival we had to drive up a large rock formation in snakelike patterns until we found a camp site. I peered around and saw dark rock formations surrounding us but little else. My friend set up our tent while I assisted with a flashlight. What would have taken me over an hour to figure out took him under ten minutes, just in time for us to hear the last two concerts of the night. The next morning I unzipped our tent to discover a world similar to Mars, or at least what I imagine Mars to be. The hot desert sun radiated off piles and layers of red rocks and sand without a patch of green or tree in sight. Along the sides of the rocks were curious craters. Surrounding our tent on higher ground were festival goers also greeting the day. Two women stood on the edge of a rock pouring water to wash each others hair. To the right, a few rock formations over, were two guys wrapped in sarongs passing a joint between them and a little ways over was a yogi doing a sun salutation. The air was arid and already hot. I quickly zipped back the tent and gasped, “Where are we?”
That night I got separated from my friends and found myself aimlessly wondering through a shanty town of tents, campers, RVs and repurposed school buses when I heard the resonance of a powerful, unknown instrument sounding through the air. My feet, without consulting my mind, turned in the direction of the sound leading me to the base of two gongs and an ancient bearded man with a beater drum stick.
He nodded at me, reached for my hand and led me to a seat sandwiched between two enormous gongs. Then he moved behind me and started playing an angelic assortment of sounds, beating the left and right side, the reverberations passed between and through me. Then out they went on either side expanding wider and wider. As I sat there taking in the vastness of the sky I felt my senses expand, widen and travel along the wavelengths of the gongs. Above the moon was almost full illuminating a clear, star-studded night sky. All the while my insides and heartbeat calmed to a rate that I rarely experience. After the song I stood up and bowed my head at the bearded man thanking him in silence.
This story I rarely mention as it’s hard to encapsulate in words a journey through sound. But the other day a friend shared the below video with me and the resonance and quality to this drum brought me right back to Desert Rocks, to that seat between the two gongs where my worldview expanded, as my senses explored realms not often felt in the everyday routines life.
A Warrior Princess