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Musician Provides Meditative Experience at OCF

Brian Bull

The sounds of the Oregon Country Fair are mostly invigorating.  There’s music to get your feet moving, spoken words to stir your soul, and vaudevillian comedy to jar your funny bone.  But one musician provides a special experience for those who want to be transported away from the revelry, if even for just a few minutes. 

A small boy lies on a blanketed cot.  Behind him, Stephen Fandrich uses padded mallets to strike oversize metal bars circling the child, causing resonating, echoing tones.

Each performance lasts just a couple minutes, though that’s enough to put many listeners into a trance.  Fandrich describes the unusual set-up that looks like an oversized, wraparound xylophone that stands at a 45-degree angle.

"These are Gamelan instruments built out of aircraft aluminum and particle board back in 1980, all to relax," he explains.  "And people can have pretty powerful meditative experiences.”

Gamelan music is from Indonesia, largely done with percussion instruments.  Fandrich says he works with this music in his Seattle home, and people who lie down and subject themselves to what he calls a “harmonic bath” respond in different ways.

“People can take 20 minutes to half an hour before they’re ready to get up.  Tears are really common, for whatever reason. It happened a few times yesterday. In just that short little session.”

Here at the fair, several people who subject themselves to Fandrich’s unique instrument look happily dazed or somber after his one-on-one performance.  Rising slowly, they disappear serenely into the more jubilant and raucous din of the fair.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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