THE SONIC SÉANCE
There is a hidden score all around us…
“The Sonic Séance allows me to manifest the true magick and energy of moment and place.
It’s an actual talisman of Time.” JILL TRACY
The Sonic Séance is Jill Tracy’s singular approach to “sonic archeology,” using the energy, frequency, resonant tones, and emotion of an environment to uncover spontaneous music.
“Music is a ghost,” Jill Tracy discloses. “It’s an intangible thing—you can’t touch it, you have to record it to prove it was ever there.
Music is time travel. It only exists moment by moment, note by note. And then vanishes.
We can try to capture it, like a mythical beast or a falling star. But the only way it truly can exist is to archive it— recordings, videos, sheet music.
We can ONLY revisit the archive. It’s a fake!
The real music is a ghost.”
With her affinity for odd history tales, and unexpected inspirations, Jill Tracy is known for traveling to mysterious locales to research and compose. She has conjured music in decrepit gardens, cemeteries, murderous mansions, abandoned asylums, ancient redwoods, and haunted castles.
“My life’s work has always been about “honoring the mystery, the forgotten— those stories and places lost through Time,” she explains. “It’s vital to preserve a sense of marvel and wonder now in a world trying its best to destroy, mock, or debunk it. It’s my purpose to be a beacon, a tether to these places. And the greatest thing I can do is to transport my audience there with me— just by listening.”
Everything (and everyone) vibrates, holds a unique frequency, and maintains a charge— an actual residue of Time.
As humans, we are constantly interacting with, influenced by this energy, but most often fail to realize it.
“One of my greatest loves is immersing myself in unusual locations to compose music, so the environment drives the work and becomes an actual part of it,” explains Jill Tracy to the crowd gathered by candlelight inside a tiny, ornate 1828 chapel inside San Francisco’s haunted Presidio. “I find such beauty and inspiration in the darkness.”
“People ask me if I believe in ghosts, what do I know about the spirit world— for me, it’s all about what we DON’T know— the unexplained, the mystery and emotions we feel.”
“I believe in energy, in hidden frequencies—that grey, shadow place—and ever so often you can tune in. Share the same frequency, if only for a second. It goes beyond Time and Place.
Real magick is there, but you have to be observant enough, brave enough to go into the Quiet.”
“For me, sitting at the piano is the portal, a conduit, Wood not only holds a frequency, but holds memories—between this world and what lay beyond our knowledge.
And the greatest thing for me is to transport myself and others into that netherworld with me.
Finding the hidden score through our collected, connected energy. No two shows are ever alike, we have no control, that’s the rare beauty of it.
We’re lifting the veil—one note at a time… “
Jill Tracy is the first musician in history to receive a grant from the renowned Mütter Museum of medical oddities in Philadelphia. She spent nights alone composing music amidst the Mütter’s vast collection of skeletons and specimens—which include renowned “Siamese Twins” Chang and Eng, Einstein’s brain, Harry Eastlack “The Ossified Man,” books bound in human skin, and The Mermaid Baby. This in-progress project (which began in 2102) is called “The Teratology Lullabies.”
(Photo of Jill Tracy composing at night inside the Mütter Museum by Evi Numen.)
She was invited by San Francisco’s historical Presidio Trust to research its archives and tour abandoned military buildings (dating back to 1776) with old records of supernatural occurrence. She interviewed over 50 Presidio employees revealing their first-hand ghostly encounters spanning decades. This became her stage show “Legends of the Presidio Ghosts,” which premiered in the famed Presidio Officers Club Ballroom, featuring music composed on-site inspired her discoveries. For the past three years, it has developed into a nighttime walking tour for visitors, as Jill Tracy guides them to the haunted locations, shares their stories, and performs a Sonic Séance live.
(Jill Tracy lectures to crowds outside the long-abandoned Civil War area Post Hospital, preparing for a Sonic Séance inside San Francisco’s historical Presidio.)
She is currently in the middle of an another unprecedented project—a musical excavation of mysterious Lily Dale, the famed private town of mediums and Spiritualists in upstate New York. She has recorded her singular piano music channeled at night inside the original 1883 auditorium, site of séances and spirit communication services for over a century. She has captured field recordings from the mystical Leolyn Woods to chilling nighttime rainstorms to create an authentic, never-before-heard sonic journey into this strange, little town that talks to the dead. This will be released as a musical album and accompanying book called “The Secret Music of Lily Dale.”
(Jill Tracy sets up to record inside the 1883 Lily Dale Auditorium, site of séances and spirit communication services for over a century. This is the original grand piano used in these historical services, plus an antique spirit trumpet from a famed Lily Dale medium.)
Her ongoing work with San Francisco Botanical Garden has Jill Tracy conjuring music in the Garden of Fragrance, Ancient Plant Gardens, and her annual Sonic Séances in the captivating 150 year-old Redwood Grove have drawn thousands of spectators, and has become a favorite nighttime feature of the Flower Piano Festival presented each July in Golden Gate Park.
(Twilight approaches in the Ancient Redwoods as Jill Tracy prepares for her Sonic Séance.
Photo by Bill Selby)
“Jill Tracy is the Queen of taking her listeners to another realm”
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
“Sheer magic! Perfection. Improvised… If you’re lucky enough to be there, you realize you’ve just had a hint of something extra-mortal, uber-human, transcendent – maybe the concentrated ghosts of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater or the Commedia Dell’arte of the past are swirling around the room . . . and you think that THIS is the new avant-garde: live, un-censored, living theater.”
V. VALE of RE/Search publications
“Jill Tracy ushers the listener into a dark and magical realm. It’s not safe here, but you won’t be in any hurry to leave.”
Eddie Muller, FILM NOIR FOUNDATION/TURNER MOVIE CLASSICS
“Jill Tracy is the cult darling of the Underworld”
“Jill Tracy creates an elegant netherworld both seductive and terrifying.”
(All photos on this page by David Allen, unless otherwise noted.)
Want to experience your own audio exploration? Have an unusual location to suggest?
Invite Jill Tracy to perform her Sonic Séance, or book a lecture about her fascinating experiences mingling the spiritual, science, and sound.
Inquire by email.
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