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Tossie Long talks about the impact and importance of sound

Jan 11, 2022



I met Tossie Long three years ago in an online course of Jesse Itzler and I’m so happy that she’s agreed to be a guest on this podcast. Tossie is amazing. Being a sound artist is not only her work but her mission. Tossie vibrates everything that she says and what she says is gold! We talk about the multilayer of sound, the memory of cities, the songs we sang as children and Tossie even shares her ingenious processes to plan the new year! It’s awesome! I wish you loads of joy listening to this unique episode – it’s the perfect start into the new year. : )

Tossie is a Grammy nominated vocalist, ritual and experience sound designer, director and producer from San Francisco. Genres she works with range from heavy metal to afro futuristic productions, although Tossie’s work can hardly be put into the frame of a genre!

“I’m a lover of all things with ease and delight”, Tossie

Tossie says that walking meditations bring her a lot of joy: “I walk and do visualization as I’m walking, I moves through the different chakras of my body, and it literally feels like I’m vibrating once I get back home. It starts me off in the vibration joy, gratefulness and love and then I move into my day.”

The meditation is based on a walking meditation from Dr. Joe Dispenza, but Tossie created her own 30 minutes long version.

Another thing that brings Tossie joy and that helps her start into the new day is her accountability partner. For several years they’ve been speaking on the phone five times a week for fifteen minutes. The calls aren’t about goals for business, they’re about the movements in their life, with questions like:

  • Did you breath more?
  • Did you get outside and get some sunlight?
  • Did you laugh?
  • Did you greet your partner with a big hug?

“We check in to support each other in making our lives more rich by using each other as accountability partners”, Tossie

After this call, Tossie goes on her walking meditation.

 “As with any relationship, the amount of time you invest in it, the richer it becomes”, Tossie

Tossie met her accountability partner in a meditation group: “We committed to meditation and as we kept going our relationship with ourself and with each other just kept expanding and expanding”.

“15 minutes a day, I can really dedicate that much to having rich relationships and having rich relationships is a life value for me”, Tossie

“It’s a win win situation: You get to tap into the genius of that person and she gets to tap into my genius. It’s like a coaching session, often times I get into the call and cry. She helps me to rewire my focus and helps me to see it a little different”, Tossie says. “We ask each other for consent. Do you want me to listen or do you want me to give feedback or do you want both. Sometimes you don’t want feedback, you just need to be heard and seen. Most of the times we just need to be witnessed because we already have the genius inside of us, so we just need to get it out and have someone holding space and we do that for one another and with one another”.

That is so nice, we’re not yet at mid day in a day of Tossie’s life and she already has such beautiful rituals!

We talk about Tossie’s home town San Francisco, the city where she grew up and where she and her family live.

“This place brings me joy, because my memories were formed here. I rebirth myself in the same place that I was birthed”, Tossie

“I can still go to the same places that I went as a little girl and rewrite my story today as an adult woman, that is priceless and it’s quite magical”, Tossie

Tossie studies African Cosmology Music and spiritual practices, so she’s traveling a lot.

“The notion of home, home being body home, home being land, I get to engage with that here, literally walking on the streets where I walked as a little girl but then also taking my body home into other spaces that are home, because home is really within”, Tossie says and adds: “It’s a very intense city for me to live in, because I have went through the transitions with it and my family has went through the transitions. I’m a third generation San Franciscan, so I hear stories from my mother, from my aunts and uncles, from my grandparents, I can hear the stories and I’ve also walked some of the stories”.

Tossie explains that being a sound artist, part of her mission is how to place sound back into spaces that once had a sonic resonance of people, of bodies, of stories. It’s remembering a sonic imprint of a place and how the sonic imprint of this city is rapidly shifting, changing and evolving.

“The sounds never leave, the resonance never leaves”, Tossie

Some of Tossie’s projects contain dirt and old pieces of buildings, that aren’t there anymore. By putting contact mics on the pieces, Tossie can pick up the sonic resonance of those places and create music with it. That’s how she puts story and voice back into the forgotten places.

“A part of it is a remembering, but it’s also a catalyst, because everything in the world begins with sound, everything”, Tossie

“What I believe and what I live is that everything began with sound. By putting the sound – not only remembering it, but putting it back into the city – I am also contributing. I am then an urban planner, I am an architect, I am building this city through the memories of these folks and also planting seeds, sonic seeds for more of us to be here and to have their stories told and heard”, Tossie says.  

Tossie explains how she channels and how she has been called to use her voice to honor some of our great spiritual leaders during lifes greatest experiences; death: “I am called to use my voice, I create new life through voice, through sound, to atomize and conjure and to honor them in the realm of transition and death, to hear them and be with them, sonically. I can feel them sonically and then I give birth to something new with my voice and my sound”.

“It’s a part of my daily practice”, Tossie adds. She often meditates throughout the day, that’s when she can feel spirit churning and moving. “I sing songs that I’ve learned from all the different spiritual cosmologies that I’ve studied, they honor the dead, they honor life and growth”.

There was a time when Tossie performed on stage and couldn’t remember her performances afterwards: “I had to relive my performance through what people would say to me afterwards. What I now know is that spirit is speaking to me, so what I always do before going on stage is saying: In anything that I do, use me as a vessel”.

“Fall fresh on me, mold me, make me, I am the potter and I am the clay”, Tossie

“You have to study yourself to get better in what you do”, Tossie

“I believe that all musicians are channelers in their own way”, Tossie

“The musicians that we have, know how to hold the sonic resonance so that I can vocally dance on the music”, Tossie

“One things is to have a concept, but do you have it in your body?”, Tossie

Yes, there are a lot of quotes and citations in these shownotes, but it’s just so hard to do Tossie’s words justice in this text. Please listen or watch to the episode, okay?
Tossie says that a lot of her work is done in ritual settings, which is why some of them are closed up. Her music is mostly available on her website and on Socials, as well as in her newsletter, where she shares not only her creations but also other artists, that she’s aligned with.

“I’m an introvert. In intimate audiences I just feel more charged and a little bit more comfortable in those spaces, my yummy spot is when it’s intimate”, Tossie

She comes from a musical family, Tossie says. The first thing she would hear in the morning was her mother playing piano. Family reunions are often filled with music, spontaneously singing together when somebody starts humming. It’s the same in my family. I used to sing with my father and mother as well, I even recorded their voices of a song, that we used to sing together, so that I can sing it “with them” to my daughter at night.

“The experience of harmonies is so beautiful”, Ronja

“Everyone can sing”, Tossie

“We create memory and we make meaning through our voice. We plant seeds for the future through our voice, we hear it and let those seeds, that are deep down inside of us and that need to bloom, get out. I’m here to get those things out in that way”, Tossie says.

“Some songs are so old that they can’t be translated, but they are inside the ritual practice which I think is fascinating”, Tossie

Tossie studies with master teachers around music, ritual and culture. Vodou music is one of her fields. Tossie tells, that Vodou is an earth based culture about which there is an absolutely wrong understanding about it in the western world.

“Vodou is about liberation, it’s all about being liberated”, Tossie

“All the spirit is, is love, all the spirit is, is goodness”, Tossie’s

When Tossie first came in touch with Vodou music from Ayiti (Haiti is the colonized spelling), she said that she couldn’t understand what they were singing, because she didn’t speak Creole, but that she could feel it. So she knew she could sing it. “I can feel the sonic imprint of what these songs are about”, Tossie explains.

“I travel to different places to understand and connect with people throughout the world. I engage them through music and their rituals to connect with each other and spirit”, Tossie

Tossie says that in the world today, there are so many things to keep us separated, not just from each other but from ourselves: “We’re so disconnected from ourselves, so I use these songs, this music to return home to me and to return home to those that I’m around. It’s a study of culture, it’s a study of spirit, it’s a seed of magnitude. All this time has passed and the songs survived, all this pain, all these celebrations, through all of these things the songs survived. Those people, those voices, when I sing these songs I can hear them singing with me, with us from way back”.

“I want to connect with people and find my home with them because we’re all one. It’s the way how I do my own decolonizing process, decolonizing my body, decolonizing my voice, my thoughts. When I see and when I speak and when I hear, it actually changes what’s in front of me”, Tossie says.

When you live like this, life is so much more colorful and with more layers.

My mother is a musician and once she went to a flute-course, someone was playing on stage and the teacher held different colored scarfs behind her. She didn’t see them but the sound of her play changed with the colors behind her. I find that so fascinating! There are so many more layers to life than we can grasp but that are there and that make our life even more beautiful and blissful.

Tossie tells that her nickname is “The Bone Rattler”: “I want to rattle your bones and if I can crack you, so be it. If I can crack your bones I’m tapping into your humanity. So whatever your ancestors and whatever your spirits, higher beings or whatever you want to call them -  they now have room to come in and mend those bones back with the good, the healing and the messages.”

One of the practices that Tossie does in her workshops is to have you think about the sound of when you call on your mother. When you need her, when you’re surprised, when you’re angry, when you’re afraid… There are so many sounds in which the word “mama” can be expressed and one of them is the sound of joy. It doesn’t have to be linked to your mother, it can also be something or someone else, you can even create a new feeling of joy around sound!

“Conjure up the feeling of Joy because your body knows that sound. It can be something that gives you the frequency of joy, the frequency of safety, of love, of “you’re cared for”, call it out and bring that into your moment, wherever you may be”, Tossie

I ask Tossie if she plans her year and yes, she does! Be prepared for some grand insights into Tossie’s planning work.

“I love planning and I have two processes that work for me”, Tossie says.

Look over your whole past year:

  1. Take a sheet and make two columns on it.
  2. Go week by week through your calendar or phone, wherever you keep track of what you’re doing and take note of the things that made you feel really good, that made you feel empowered, that gave you the spark, on one side of the paper.
  3. On the other side, note down all the things that sucked your energy out, that you hated, that didn’t feel good. It may be a person, place or thing.
  4. Go to the 2022 calendar and set the things that felt good into that calendar.

One of Tossie’s examples:  

She looks up artist that she adores, checks when they’re in the city (lucky if you live in San Francisco ; )), plan the date and if possible already buys tickets. “I already booked joy into my year”, Tossie explains happily.  

“Going to concerts is my biggest joy”, Tossie

Another thing is family brunches. Last year her family met three times for a family brunch and because they all liked it a lot, they decided to do it once a month this year, so that was booked into the calendar at the beginning of the year.  

If there are things that bring you joy, put it into your calendar immediately.
If you can buy a ticket, buy it now.
If you can schedule time with a friend, book it now.
If you can schedule a spa day, do it now”, Tossie

The things that you don’t enjoy go on a “do not engage with” list. This helps saying no if you for example receive an invitation from a person that is on that list. You can check back and know, that that’s something that didn’t spark joy for you in the past.
 
“The next practice is, I do my year in quarters”, Tossie says.

“One of my keywords is: Keep it agile. You have to be agile in this world that is forever changing, that is forever moving”, Tossie

A great tip that Tossie shares is the following rule: “If I have a project and keep pushing it off, after three pushes I ask myself “do you really want to do this or you don’t”, maybe I just transitioned, maybe I’m complete”.

“If I push a project over three times I’m like “ok there is not a fourth, you need to make a decision now”, Tossie says.

If you want to do the project, maybe you have to move it to the fourth quarter or to the next year.

“I need a lot of support when it comes to get things done. I like to be in a creative flow”, Tossie

The weekly planning goes on a whiteboard, the daily planning goes into the journal that Tossie takes with her. Tossie says that having her week visible on a whiteboard helps her monitoring her energy input and output. She would find herself sitting at the desk, not knowing what’s wrong with her, until she realized that she didn’t take care of her energy reserves. “I see how I need to be energetically to set up my week and then I manage it in my daily's”, Tossie adds.  

“I’m so analog, I need to use pen and paper”, Tossie

Tossie’s message to the world

“Everything begins with sound: Use your voice, speak, say, make noise, plant the seeds of the new world that you’re designing, we need your sound”.

What an incredible and powerful conversation! Tossie is a piece of art with everything she is and does, thank you so much for this hour!

This is where you can find Tossie:

Website: https://tossielong.com/
Instagram: https://instagram.com/tossielong
Facebook: https://facebook.com/TossieLong
Newsletter: www.redclaysoundhaus.com and www.tossielong.com 

But I love when people connect with me directly in my DM’s … I like the intimacy!

Ressources we mentioned in the podcast:

Dr. Joe Dispenza

Me and my family singing in Swiss German in our mountain cabin : )

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