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Reborn Through Art and Ink (a personal essay)

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

The Journey of a Tattoo

The tattoo gun murmurs its Morse code on my Manubrium, the hard bones perched just above soft curves of cleavage.  From the first tip of costal cartilage, down to the fourth Line of Union on my sternum, I feel the tattoo engraved upon my chest and the fusion is finally complete.

When I discovered the tattoo design, I knew it would be mine.  I knew where it would float above my bones and swim inside my skin.  I wondered, only briefly, about the implications of tattooing a corporate logo on my outrageously anti-establishment design.  But the Nippon Gaikku logo was born in the 1800s, and was crafted with integrity, a brand of honor that now chokes on the smog of modern-day mechanization.

The tattoo design on my chest is the progenitor of the Yamaha logo, the very first to establish its presence for proud craftsmanship of elegant musical instruments.  The tattoo-logo is a Hoo (pronounced haw-oh). It’s a Chinese Phoenix with a tuning fork clamped solidly in her beak.  The Hoo and I may have been married through ink and blood only two years ago, but our journey began many years prior to her debut on my chest.

History between this Yamaha Phoenix and I started in elementary school.  Crippled by grade-school awkwardness, I recall gimping into a tiny music room.  My ungainliness swelled at the site of Mrs. Roan.  She was my 3rd grade music teacher and the object of my youthful and bungling adoration.  Her dark beauty, her zeal, her penchant for tailored white suits and black paten leather shoes with killer heels and pointy tips – so exotic, and all so uncharacteristic of the school-marm stereotype.   I remember the silk of her pant suit elegantly shifting as she walked around the stuffy music room, rounding all her students up in a circle.  She passed out a series of musical instruments to each of us, the first of which was a Yamaha French Horn, an instrument Mrs. Roan professed being quite adept at playing.

The horn was passed from one pair of grubby hands to another round the circle.  Each child attempted, unsuccessfully, to birth sound from the bowels of the nickel-plated beast.

Lastly, the bright, silvery horn was passed to me.  Its metallic skin was bruised from peanut butter and jelly smears left by chubby kid fingers, still unwashed from consuming cafeteria lunches.  I cradled the horn lovingly and I remember whispering to it: “I know you’re magic. You’ll play for me.”

My tiny lips pressed against the cold metal mouthpiece.  With the corners of my mouth downturned, brows furrowed, mind honed on the bull’s-eye of sound, I willed my lips to putter quickly through marble-like mouthpiece.   My efforts were rewarded by a crystalline bellow, a clear herald of the horn’s brilliance, a solid ‘middle c’ note emanated from the horn.  Mrs. Roan stood akimbo in response, her cinnamon eyes glowing in approval at my victory; I won her favor, a cold rose plucked in a moment of sun-kissed glory.  I coaxed sound from this mass of twisted tubing and unlikely metal.  Magic was mine.

Standing in the center of that circle, horn in trembling hands, my peers beamed at me with tooth-missing grins.  In that moment I recall feeling gift-wrapped in attunement;  a Yamaha French horn trumpeted the surprise arrival of homeostasis, and magic.

Years passed and I continued to cut my embouchure on dented King’s and tinny Conn’s – all rented French horns of  dubious quality.  But I persistently played these metal beasts – chromatic scales groaning through the walls of school practice rooms and childhood hallways.

The Summer transitioning between junior and senior high school was one of prolonged anxiety;  try-outs for high school concert band were held the first of August, and I was struggling to spin melodic gold from a deflated, barren Elkhart horn.

A fluke of nature intervened. A serious eye infection threatened to take my vision that July, which would make my right eye a vacuous hole of non-sight.  Laying in the hospital, agony scraping at my optic nerves, my dad fidgeted by my bedside.  My awareness flickered between pain and pain-killers, but I remember my dad’s words uttered from the anxiety of his daughter facing a life of half-blindness.  “Make it through this,” he said, “and I’ll buy you the best damn French horn you’ll ever lay hands on.”

I made it out of the procedures with eyesight intact, and dad made good on his promise.  He bought me a Yamaha 668, the elite of the fleet for its day.  A professional horn with seamless nickel streaming like smooth ripples of water in my hands.   It resonated in my arms.  Within this bright horn, there was music tingling, aching, itching to be released.  I was reborn after playing the new horn for the first time.  The sound I could produce was tangible lusciousness, like being robed in musical satin. That horn took me to 1st chair all through high school, prestige in college years, and even serving as a free-lance musician for both symphonic bands and chamber orchestras.

Now, decades later, sitting in a battered dentists chair doubling as a recliner for tattoo initiates, I think on these memories mixed with melodic overtones.  As my friend and tattoo artist coaxes life from ink, etching the Yamaha Chinese Phoenix on my breastbone, I reflect on the appropriateness of the symbolism.  Reborn indeed.

Was it happenstance that my eyesight was saved?  I don’t think so.  Rather, I believe it was the restorative power of my heartfelt devotion for creating good music, and my love of the French horn rescued me from  living a half-blind life (physically and metaphorically).

Thankfully, it’s not the first time artistic expression has lifted me out of a pile of life’s potentially suffocating ashes.  Good music, played rightly, is nothing short of pure enlightenment and I’m lucky (despite my uber-awkward youth)  I found illumination that day long ago while rendering clear tones from that sticky silver horn in the third grade.

The tattoo gun finally ceases hammering at my breast plate, and I walk to the mirror to behold the new scenery on my skin.    Looking in the mirror, I could swear the phoenix winks back at me – a knowing wink, a shared acknowledgement of restored vision, a confirmation how the drive for creative expression can give way to ascension, leading a willing heart out of the dark.

Avia V.
11/28/10

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Introducing Valerie of Pacific Sound and Voice

Saturday, June 4th, 2011
Valerie Piacenti of Pacific Sound And Voice

Valerie Piacenti of Pacific Sound And Voice

Part of the thrill of being involved in an online tribe is meeting incredibly gifted souls along the way.  One such bright soul is Valerie Piacenti.  We’ve known each other for a few years now, and it’s been an utter pleasure to share life’s journey with her.  Valerie has been a beacon in my life for her refreshing outlook and her consistently uplifting perspectives.  Her passion is in sharing the gift of music as a catalyst for healing, expression and expanding awareness.  It’s clear I adore Valerie, her music, and her mission.  Everybody knows a good thing becomes great when it’s shared with others, so I’d like to take this opportunity to share a little bit about Valerie and the value she offers.  Check out her info, contact her, ask her questions – she’s a gem to chat with!  And feel free to leave comments, I know she’ll relish the feedback!


Valerie Piacenti has long been interested in how music, sound and voice can be used to soothe, inspire and heal. She is a certified Cross Cultural Music in Healing Practitioner and Founder of Pacific Sound and Voice, having completed a two-year course of study in Therapeutic Applications of Cross-Cultural Sound and Music with Pat Moffitt Cook, Ph.D. and Director of the Open Ear Center on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Valerie has been involved in extensive personal transformation, spiritual work and meditation for over thirty years, over six of them in sacred sound. Last year, she completed the program Spiritual Health Through Sound and Music, also taught by Pat Moffitt Cook and continues with this program several times throughout the year.

In addition to sound healing, Valerie uses her vocal talents as a professional singer and performer, having appearing on stages from Broadway to London.

Pacific Sound and Voice is a company focusing on the many applications and therapeutic benefits of using sound and music. Current services available for both individual and group clients include sound programs, chant and mantra meditation, prescriptive music and vocal coaching.


The practice of sound and music for health and well-being is ancient. It can easily be traced back 3,000 years and more than likely, it stems from thousands of years earlier.

Throughout history, the use of music and sound have been used successfully to reduce stress, control pain, to entertain, provide a shift in mood and emotion, induce and enhance awareness, as well as provide complimentary techniques to medical practices.

Using the tools of the voice through humming, toning, chant and mantra, the singing bowl, and prescriptive music we can help bring about increased health and well-being.

Some of the benefits of using sound, music and voice include:

  • Focus, clarity and calm
  • Stress and emotional relief
  • Increased breath and lung capacity
  • Synchronize and balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain
  • Balance the chakras or energy centers
  • Improvement of overall health, energy and well-being
  • Enhance meditation or spiritual practice

Are you intrigued?  You should be!  Valerie is a powerhouse of knowledge, talent, and intuitive excellence.  In fact, I have several of her CDs and they are a delight and a joy to experience. The instrumentation she chooses for her pieces are truly soothing and obviously crafted with care.  Furthermore, Valerie’s voice and musical affinity is superior in my opinion.

Check out Valerie’s website here (and check back on her website in a few weeks, because she’s working on adding new information).  If you want to talk to Valerie about her melodic awakening practice, here’s how to reach her at:  valerie{at}pacificsoundandvoice.com -or- give her a call at: 206-931-3771.  When you talk to her, tell her Avia says “hi”! :)

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Prose for Jimi

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

 
 

God bless you Hendrix.  
Are you live, or are you Memorex?  

Your oozing twang-jive that you bled back then
is a whole-blood transfusion for my head.

Electric riffs rip my seams. 
My skull peels apart, banana splits for the brain. 

I’m stripped by your soul. 
I listen naked to your howling legend.

I howl too. 
You get me Jimi. 

From jagged fang to soft underbelly,
My parts are just as feral as yours.

______________________________________

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Ode to Joe Cocker

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