(Global Heart | Esther Haasnoot) An Interview with Dean & Dudley Evenson about peace and health through music, their love for the planet, and the release of their new album.
“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece” ― Claude Monet
“New Age” label, Soundings of the Planet, releases the colorful new album MONET’S GARDEN
Dean & Dudley Evenson are the founders of Soundings of the Planet, a New Age record label that spans decades of intentional, peaceful music. Their Peace Through Music recordings and videos have raised awareness about social and environmental issues. Their most recent LP, Monet’s Garden, released in May, was created after a lifelong love affair with the work of the famed French impressionist painter, Claude Monet. To create Monet’s Garden, the two spent a month in France in 2019 to study the impressionist master’s work in Paris museums, while also immersing themselves in his spirit at his lush, colorful, and fragrant gardens in Giverny, France.
The message of Mother Earth and taking care of the planet has been so important in everything we’ve done. It’s the foundation for our work, the rock we live on.”
— Dean Evenson
An Interview with musical and life partners Dean & Dudley Evenson about their new album: Monet’s Garden, by Esther Haasnoot
Esther Haasnoot: Dean and Dudley, you have been together 52 years, and you’re still having fun. When most people your age have retired, you are going full throttle ahead. How did you meet, and what is the secret of this powerful alchemy? What would you say matters most in balancing work life and love?
Dean & Dudley Evenson: We were fortunate to meet in 1968 when we were in our mid-twenties. Dean had just completed his Master’s Degree in Molecular Biology and I (Dudley) had returned to New York after a year of traveling the world and living in Japan studying photography. Dean moved in across the hall from me, and we became fast friends. We shared similar dreams and passions for life and we both wanted to use our art and media in service. Dean became a recording engineer and Dudley worked as a photographer. In 1970, we purchased a Sony Portapack video camera and became involved in the early portable video movement. The ‘60s had shown us what we as a society were against, but the ‘70s were an exploration of what kind of world we wanted to create. Although we are very different kinds of people coming from completely different backgrounds, we each bring our unique gifts together and balance each other. We are spiritual as well as business partners and sharing a common spiritual practice and taking time for yoga, mediation, walks in nature, and of course, playing music together helps keep us healthy and rejuvenated even in the midst of running a successful business, raising a family, and supporting each other’s creative expression. We don’t compete with each other. We are on the same team and knowing that helps keep the harmony. And of course, we love each other. That is the key ingredient.
Esther Haasnoot: Your most recent LP, Monet’s Garden, released in May and was created after a lifelong love affair with the work of the famed French impressionist painter, Claude Monet. In what ways do you feel connected and inspired by Claude Monet?
Dean & Dudley Evenson: We have only recently come to realize how many parallels we have with Monet. He was an innovator who broke boundaries of traditional art at the time. When we started our music label in 1979, people had never heard anything like it and said we would have to create a new music genre. Now, New Age Music is recognized as an important and beneficial genre. We worked hard like Monet and even though we struggled to earn a living, we never gave up, and we, like Monet, actually have enjoyed tremendous success in own lifetimes. We are grateful that our music is so popular and with streaming services allowing millions of people all over the world to listen to our music. Appreciation for nature was important to Monet and to us as well. Monet was a family man raising six kids while still doing his art. We’ve always kept our children close even though we traveled and were deeply involved in our business. And finally, we love living out in the country as Monet did, and interestingly our gardens are very similar to his. Monet painted his gardens, and Dean and I make videos and photographs of our gardens.
Esther Haasnoot: Dudley, throughout the 1970s, you traveled the country in a converted school bus with your growing family, documenting the new consciousness as it was emerging. How was that, and what was the greatest lesson you have learned as a mom?
Dean & Dudley Evenson: Living in the school bus and videotaping all the new ideas and ancient wisdom that we were exposed to at the time was quite an adventure. We interviewed so many interesting and inspiring people, and the spiritual principles that we learned at the time have continued to serve us to this day. Through all our adventures, our children were always with us. I even gave birth to our second daughter in the bus, and of course, Dean videotaped it! Our children didn’t have a permanent home for many years, but we were always together as a family. We learned to make any place we were staying feel like a home. We lived simply, ate healthy food, and had to be extra creative in so many ways. Our kids have grown up to become creative, strong, and resilient beings.
Esther Haasnoot: A specific impetus for founding Soundings of the Planet came about when you recorded a lecture by spiritual teacher, Baba Ram Dass, in Tucson, Arizona. Why was this a pivotal point in your life?
Dean & Dudley Evenson: During the ‘70s we made hundreds of videos but the half-inch, black and white, reel to reel format had very little distribution as it predated VCRs, video cassettes, DVDs, YouTube, and of course smartphones. In 1979, we were invited to audio record a lecture in Tucson, Arizona by Baba Ram Dass (aka Richard Alpert). He was the renowned author of Be Here Now and he was a very entertaining speaker, sharing stories about learning meditation from his guru in India. We took orders for the cassette tapes and were excited to get 50 orders. People had audio cassette players, and so we decided to side step back to audio and create our recording label, Soundings of the Planet. We wanted to learn about distribution, and so we also made a tape of our own music to sell along with the Ram Dass tape. Dean spent the night in the desert and then recorded the birds at dawn. We put those natural sounds together with our music of Dean playing flute and Dudley on zither harp to make our first album: “Desert Dawn Song“.
Esther Haasnoot: From the very first song that Dean Evenson recorded in the Arizona desert – to today’s Monet’s Garden – nature has played an important role in how you both have chosen to live your lives – as well as in garnering peace, wellness, and happiness. How does music help us to renew our health and happiness, bring peace, and how is this connected to nature?
Dean & Dudley Evenson: Using the sounds of nature along with the peaceful music we make was a result of what we were learning from Native American wisdom keepers at the time. They taught us to respect nature, and we wanted to share their message to reach people living in urban areas who were making decisions about the planet. Using natural sounds was a way to connect with that respect for Mother Earth. And of course, the peace movement was a big influence. We were also getting into yoga and meditation, so slower-paced music seemed to help people in their healing process. Over the years, we have done a lot of research to try to understand the aspects that make the music have such a beneficial effect. Everyone has stress and that can lead to sickness whether chronic, genetic, or contagious. We do know that our kind of peaceful music helps people relax. In our research, we have discovered that slow rhythms entrain bodily systems to a more natural rhythm, which helps in the relaxation and healing process. The nature sounds give a sense of peace and musical tones are nurturing and gentle. The pace is slow but with a sense of joy and beauty, and the music doesn’t have hooks and repeated refrains that engage the mind. In fact, the flowing feeling of the music is more like nature. The intention of both the musician and the listener are also important. We use the Earth Resonance Frequency 7.83 Hz. (Hertz or cycles-per-second) under the mix of our albums. These sub-audio frequencies are felt, but not heard, and they help entrain the brainwaves to the Alpha/Theta state of relaxation with a person remaining awake and aware, yet receptive to healing.
Esther Haasnoot: How did honoring your own path and following your intuition shape your choices in not only founding “Soundings of the Planet” but also guiding the company to its success.
Dean & Dudley Evenson: We believe everyone is born with a certain set of skills and talents and discovering and developing those gifts is the lifelong quest we are all on. Some people follow a preordained path while others are more courageous and carve out a path that harmonizes with their soul. Dean and I came of age during the 1960s when many chose a more untrodden path. We could have had jobs in the fields we were educated in but decided instead to step into the unknown and develop the artistic and spiritual aspects of our inner being. We struggled financially for many years but we were willing to sacrifice material success to cultivate our true purpose. The music and media we made were in service of a greater good and in the end, it has all been worth it. Soundings of the Planet’s mission simply stated is ‘Peace Through Music’ whether that involves inner peace or peace on the planet. And it all comes back to having a life of purpose and meaning. The music has had such a positive benefit for millions of people and gratefully in our later years, we are also well supported financially. In keeping our business going and not giving up, we have supported the artists we have collaborated with and the many people we have employed to make a good living as well.
Esther Haasnoot: Soundings of the Planet’s music has been used to help build awareness and support a variety of social and environmental concerns. You have a deep love and concern for the natural world, and have dedicated your life and work to elevating awareness and appreciation for the earth, our planet. Since the early 1970s, you have sought inspiration from Native American elders, healers, spiritual gurus, and environmentalists. What insights did you gain? How can we recreate our society based on sustainability and respect for natural systems?
Dean & Dudley Evenson: We have been on a spiritual path of understanding all our lives but since the late ‘60s, the information coming through from Eastern religions, Native American wisdom keepers, environmentalists, healers, artists, gurus, teachers, and everyday people has been incredibly rich and full. What we have learned is that there are universal principles that guide how life works and when we understand them and work with them, we can live healthier and happier lives. Just as principles of physics describe how the physical, material universe functions, so too are there are principles guiding how our spiritual lives unfold. When we can understand and work within the framework of these basic principles, our lives function at their best and highest capacity. In our new book “A Year of Guided Meditations“, we have pulled together 52 of these concepts in the form of affirmations to support people in living their best possible lives. That doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen, but it does give us the opportunity to let negative events or situations flow past us so we can return our focus to living a life of meaning and purpose.
Esther Haasnoot: We really need to turn lemons into lemonade. Change is a constant factor in our world, but few know how to successfully circumnavigate unwanted events or issues that show up in life. Looking at recent events and the societal shifts occurring, you can be seen as elders imparting wisdom on young people today – while also gaining new learning from these young generations. What is your hope and wisdom for this world we live in?
Dean & Dudley Evenson: We have high hopes for our world now, even in spite of all the bad news we see and hear that would seem to refute that. The internet is almost like the Akashic records, holding the history for all human information and knowledge. Yes, there are a lot of negative stories and bad news for sure, but for the first time ever, we have access to a tremendous amount of information and wisdom from all cultures and spiritual traditions. By using the universal spiritual principles and best information that are common across all religions and cultures, we can create a better world. We can learn how ancient people survived living in direct relationship with the natural world around them. We can learn how many people today are discovering solutions to problems that exist and we can adapt them for our own needs. We can communicate across the world in an instant and share the best parts of who we are. We can share what we have with those in need, whether material or spiritual. We can learn to take responsibility for healing our own bodies by developing healthy lifestyles. We can protect ourselves from pandemics and enhance our immune systems. Working together, we can help our families, communities, and planet to be more beautiful, healthy, and sustainable.
Esther Haasnoot: You support the non-violent approaches of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. who demonstrated that non-violent, peaceful protest can work to at least begin to create societal transformation. The Peace Through Music recordings and videos have raised awareness about social and environmental issues. How can we reconcile the differences in our world, and contribute to a more compassionate, soul-oriented society?
Dean & Dudley Evenson: We wish we had a simple answer to this question. It seems conflict is a given in human societies and unfortunately, it often leads to negativity or even violence. One of the things we have come to realize is that at the core, most people want the same things so when such situations arise we tend to call it ‘apparent conflict.’ When we can treat each other with respect and really listen to the other instead of always trying to get our own point across, we move closer to harmonious solutions. We also need patience. Change takes time and even though we may be frustrated with the slow pace of correcting our deep social and environmental issues, it can be helpful to look through a historical lens and honor the amazing progress that has been made in areas of civil rights, women’s issues, and environmental awareness. We all play our role in helping to awaken our sleeping humanity. And we need to do it lovingly, without violence, and with a degree of patience and trust.
Esther Haasnoot: For the 40th anniversary of Soundings of the Planet, you put together some incredible videos documenting footage of major historical events. You even won several COVR Visionary Awards. Tell us a bit more about that and your creative projects and how people can get in touch, follow you, and know about your upcoming events?
Dean & Dudley Evenson: We had a wonderful gathering of many of our musicians in 2019 when we celebrated our 40th anniversary. We consider the musicians we have collaborated with to be part of our family and we are still working with many of the same musicians after 40 years. Since we’ve been making videos since 1970, much of our history has actually been documented on video. Currently, we have two YouTube channels. Soundings of the Planet is mainly focused on our music and the nature videos we have created. Soundings Mindful Media focuses on our archival and spoken word videos. On our award-winning Soundings Mindful Media Podcast, we offer interviews and conversations on relevant topics. We recently collaborated with 11th generation Indian sitar master and vocalist Deobrat Mishra on Yoga Mantra which won the Gold COVR Visionary Award in World Fusion music. Our collaboration with Scott Huckabay and Phil Heaven won Bronze for the album Healing Resonance. Our Healthy Living Dreams Blog also won Gold for Best Blog. Our latest book is A Year of Guided Meditations: 52 Weekly Affirmations and we will be doing author events and webinars. People can find our music, books, podcast, blog, videos, and social media links on www.soundings.com. On social media search ‘Dean Evenson’, ‘Dudley Evenson’, and ‘Soundings of the Planet’. We are everywhere!
Dean and Dudley Evenson are sound healing pioneers and co-founders of award-winning record label Soundings of the Planet. With a Masters’ Degree in Molecular Biology and a flute player since he was 10 years old, Dean has been able to combine his scientific and artistic backgrounds to create healing music and video. Dudley brings her visual arts degree, photography, and writing to the expression along with harp, guided meditations, and vocal toning.
Dean and Dudley have been living their dreams since they met in 1968. During the ‘70s, they traveled the country with their young family in a half-sized school bus videotaping the emerging consciousness of the era. In 1979, they founded Soundings of the Planet to share a message of healing and respecting nature through their music. Since then, they have produced over 80 albums and videos and collaborated with outstanding musicians from around the world. Their recent album is Monet’s Garden inspired by their visit to Paris and Giverny, France where they made videos and field recordings of Claude Monet’s historic home and gardens. Dudley’s latest book is A Year of Guided Meditations featuring 52 weekly affirmations and her photography. For more information or to connect with Dean & Dudley Evenson: Soundings of the Planet, Healthy Living Dreams, Spotify Dean Evenson, Spotify Dudley Evenson, Facebook, Instagram.
You may also like: