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Birdsong & the Lush spa

‘Wild bird song fills the heart and lifts the spirits. Duetting between musician and bird makes this treatment a pleasure to listen to.’ Lush co-founder Mark Constantine describes The Sound Bath.

It started with Synaesthesia: a treatment which focused on sensory immersion and needed spellbinding music to match. Composer Simon Emmerson orchestrated a score infused with the sounds of the Dorset coastline and rich in birdsong to create a transformative soundscape. During his work on this and subsequent treatments, Simon and folk collective The Imagined Village created a new genre of ‘spa music’ based on a love of folk roots music, ‘Englishness’ and birdsong.

“I wanted to do something that represented cutting edge English culture but was rooted in the past and tradition,” explains Simon. “So we looked at doing an insightful look into Englishness, and what better way to do that than with birdsong?... Birdsong roots you back to the way sounds used to be before sound pollution…It’s a return to the source.”

The musicians involved wove an immersive, sweeping soundtrack to work in harmony with the massage. The soundtrack reads like a spell, decoded by the notes Simon scribbled down at the time. 

'The treatment starts at Corfe castle in Dorset. An idyllic spot. It's Sunday morning, with church bells and thrush song. Very much in the here and now. The picture is being painted on a blank canvas. The location is evoked. Memories return.  The first soft rain brings in a glorious chorus of rooks and jackdaws stirring all around the client before the music sweeps them off on the Synaesthesiac journey.'

Synaesthesia was the first of the Lush spa treatments, and it set a precedent for treatments infused with and indeed choreographed around an evocative, spellbinding soundscape. Birdsong features on nearly every soundtrack and is recorded out in the wild, often on the coast of Dorset.

For The Good Hour and Tailor Made treatments, for example, a collection of sea shanties and sailors' work songs were fused with modern day folk music and the calls of marine birds such as arctic terns, gulls and petrels. These soar past the client immersed in a deep-tissue treatment, building an impression of movement and place.

Voyage deeper into sound and you'll uncover tuning forks, birdsong and even Tibetan singing bowls in The Sound Bath. The buzzing of bees and the gentle clang of goat bells announces the start of a journey deep within, while mistle thrushes and woodlarks step you down from the noise of traffic and high street hustle and bustle. "The petrel recordings are from birds seldom heard by anyone but mariners. The Sound Approach recordist spent a year collecting them. He was shipwrecked in the process but the recordings were safely zipped into waterproofs," notes Lush co-founder, Mark Constantine.

 

Creating layered, personalised soundscapes is increasingly a lost art. As Richard Evans, co-writer and producer of the Golden Globe-nominated score to Rabbit-Proof Fence, notes, “The opportunity to write bespoke music is getting rarer and rarer”, making the composers’ creative, collaborative approach maverick. They work with a number of artists and experts in their field to create the unusual therapeutic scores including renowned folk singer Jackie Oates, The Nightjar Orchestra, and Liverpool-based band, Stealing Sheep. Just as innovative is their treatment of music and sounds as a kind of equal.

“People say that one definition of music is organised sound,” explains Simon Richmond, a member of The Imagined Village. “With the spa music, we want to make it as much of a kind of natural environment that seems just inherently right for what’s going on.

"In everyday life, we’re so imposed upon by sound and sound pollution… and it’s no coincidence that people are increasingly putting headphones on to try and control their own sonic environment, but it internalises it all. In the spa, you get the chance to be in an open space again with almost a sense of dimension. Recording in surround sound supports this, to bring back a natural sense of sound without being imposed upon.”

Working on the Lush spa soundscapes has led to further projects. Simon Emmerson and Mark Constantine entered into another collaboration when they started up ECC Records; a label designed to hark back to the golden days of British vinyl. The label signs quirky, original musicians, some of whom also collaborate with the Lush spa. Mark has also channelled his passion for birdsong into three books on subject, through his company The Sound Approach. 

To experience a taste of the Lush spa soundtracks yourself, free of charge, click here.

 

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