Sonica Hypnotica a rare treat

Saturday evening, August 4th, offered London a rare treat, Sonica Hypnotica: A performance of Sound, Word, Music and Magic.  This tapestry of sound created by London’s former Poet Laureate, Penn Kemp, sound healer, Jocelyn Drainie, and Toronto resident and Master musician, Gary Diggins, filled the Aeolian Hall with ecstasy and delight.  The Aeolian was set with small tables and chairs creating an intimate, café-like atmosphere.

The opening piece was epic: The Electric Folklore Machine, an audio/visual work featuring electroacoustic music by Chris Meloche and vocals by Penn Kemp.  It documented the development of electronic music with a montage of sight and sound.  It explored the concepts of Musique Concrete, using artificially generated sine waves and sounds made from ordinary objects to mirror the digitalization of our daily lives.  Penn Kemp’s scripted sound poetry added coherence, tying the offering together.  It transported us through time and beyond “ordinary” reality, setting the stage for an evening, which ranged from the electronic to the primal.

Using the didgeridoo, an Aboriginal Australian instrument, Gary Diggins opened our hearts and stepped in.  Although the didgeridoo appears to be a long tube, Diggins coaxed a variety of sounds ranging from the familiar drone to bird calls and sighing winds, telling a story of land and sky and life. 

Piece after piece, Penn’s sounds and words soared, weaving through Diggins’ rhythm and soul.  When Jocelyn stepped in to collaborate, the sound reverberated until the Hall itself became part of the music.

Collaboration was the underlying theme. Diggins and Drainie flirted and  conversed musically using the sweet tones of the balafon, a West African percussion instrument.   Workshop participants added depth through individual performances or circulating the Hall with rain sticks.  Notable was Miriam Valhoff’s strong frame drum and presence and Robert McMaster’s versatility.  In and especially joyous moment McMaster and Diggins traded drums for drum stands, swapping rhythms back and forth.  Penn Kemp not only spoke and rang out with sound, she also danced the rhythms of life with palpable joy.

Collaboration reigned once again when Penn Kemp gathered the audience into her poem “Night Orchestra”.  We provided a counterpoint to Kemp’s versatility or sound and word as she brought a summer night to life with humor and awe.

Diggins described Healers Without Borders, the organization that brought him to Africa to work with former child soldiers in Uganda and survivors in Rwanda.  His passion brought their fire circles into the Aeolian and we sang to and with them, supporting their journey towards healing.  Penn Kemp’s improvised sound and words opening our hearts even further.

The evening was moving and, from conversations with the workshop participants, the icing in the cake.  Which was most appropriate as it was Penn Kemp’s birthday.  What a fabulous celebration!

Sophia Bonnie Wodin is a lover of the arts and the mystical.  A recent London resident but a long time writer, she has developed Priestessing Your Life, a thirteen month training in personal and spiritual empowerment.  She can be reached at

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