The Integratron's Psychedelic Musical Experience in the SoCal Desert

Categories: Music
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Last week I took a big break from Internets and everything, really, to head down to Joshua Tree. But the one thing I couldn't stay away from was music, especially music that was performed in a dome built by a man who believed in aliens and located his acoustically-perfect creation in some high-energy magnetic field that's supposed to juice your body like a giant battery charge. 

The Integratron is this trippy invention of which I'm speaking. It's an all-wood dome straight out of a crude sci-fi movie from the 50s, located in Landers, California. It was built by George Van Tassel,who worked in the aerospace industry in the 30s and 40s until a UFO fixation sent him chasing another sort of flying object. You can read his full story here, but basically it boils down to this: in August of 1953, Van Tassel claimed aliens from Venus contacted him and gave him the idea for creating the Integratron, "a machine, a high-voltage electrostatic generator that would supply a broad range of frequencies to recharge the cell structure."

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He died before his dream could fully be completed, but his dome is being used. It's open to the public for a very intense performance called a "sound bath." These are 30-minute sessions where you lay down in the loft of the Integratron's "sound chamber" while a sound therapist plays nine quartz crystal singing bowls that are sonically aligned with the body's energy centers. Because of the acoustics of the room, the music of the bowls really penetrates your body, sounding like it's coming from inside your head. Put that together with all the alien paraphernalia all over the place, and the fact that you're in the middle of a desert, and it's probably the most psychedelic experience I've had with music, sans drugs. 

If it sounds a little New Agey, it is--but it's also really damn cool. The Fleet Foxes Robin Pecknold gives the Integratron his blessing, as does Billy Corgan, and I do now as well. 

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Here in San Francisco, we have Audium, another "sound-sculptured space" that does interesting things to your mind. Our local marvel of architecture and sound art has nothing to do with UFOs, however, and everything to do with unlocking memories and ideas through listening to an audio collage in the dark. 

So now I'm curious--what other music spaces are out there built with some sort of brain jolt in mind? How many of these aesthetically, artistically, and sonically unique spaces are out there? Those aliens from Venus can't hold all the secrets. 

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