DR: Do you meditate on a regular basis?
SH: I do meditate on a regular basis. Not for as long as I would like, but every day I start off with at least five or ten minutes, and during the day I take mini-meditation breaks, so it adds up. But I rarely, because of many factors, have had an opportunity to get a good 30 minutes as some people prescribe. But I have found as a good Type A New Yorker, that even five or ten minutes can make a huge difference. If I don't get that, my whole state of being is different. I meditate out in nature a lot, and those are the times that I sit for longer periods, under a tree or by a lake. In my house, I sit in silence. I don't do a mantra. I start off with some of the Japanese temple bowls, crystal bowls, do a little chanting, and then enter the silence. I've been doing this since I first got turned on to meditation at the University of Buffalo in 1966.
DR: You have collaborated with various musicians on some of your albums. Which musicians have you enjoyed collaborating with, and which have you learned the most from?
SH: It has been one of my great joys to work with some extraordinary musicians. I go with my intuitive guidance as to who I should approach, and with whom music-making would be a synergistic and inspirational experience. One of the first people I approached was Paul Horn.
DR: Whose magnificent solo flute album Inside the Taj Mahal is one of the great classics.
SH: He wasn't ready in 1975, but we did record together in 1984. Being in the studio with him was an extraordinary experience. I said, "the first song will be in the key of D minor. Follow me." We meditated for a few minutes before playing. That was our rehearsal, and we were off and running. On our album Connections, those are all first takes. It was effortless. He goes to that place, and I was in that place, and as we were doing our duets the music just flowed out. When we brought in the rest of the band, the bass and the drummer, we got them into this same space, which they had never experienced before, and there was this almost telepathic communication.
I've also recorded a number of albums with Dallas Smith, who plays the lyricon.
DR: What is the lyricon?
SH: It's a wind synthesizer. . . It looks a little like soprano saxophone, but you can get a lot of different sounds out of it. Dallas also plays exquisite flute and bamboo flute. Again, with him, it's going into the studio and saying, "The next one will be in the key of G," and there we go. Or, "Let's call the next one Kyoto 1999," and we go into an Oriental mode.
DR: So there's a great deal of improvisation in the recording studio.
SH: Oh, yes. Much of my background is in jazz and improvisation. But when I was in the studio with Paul [Horn], he said, "Man, where I come from we do an album a day, we hit it and we're out of there." So he wasn't interested in overdubs. In the early days of New Age music you could do that. Typically now things need to be a bit more produced.
DR: Ancient Echoes, which you recorded with the harpist Georgia Kelley, has always been one of my favorites among your albums. It seems to evoke a meditative journey. What are your feelings about that album. And is that your voice doing the chanting?
SH: It is. I had heard Georgia's harp work as well as that of Joel Andrews. Joel is an extraordinary harpist, but doesn't generally play with other musicians. Georgia was more open to that, and we sketched out a couple of arrangements. Very sketchy. We recorded at the full moon in June in 1978, on the beach in Venice, California, at a small studio there. We had done about 40 minutes worth of music, and we thought the album was completed. Then, as I was saying goodnight to Georgia and the engineer, this chant started bubbling out of my mouth. I can tell you that I generally do not sing in public. I was one of those kids that was told in grade school to mouth it, not to sing. So no one was more surprised than me when this thing started coming out of my mouth.