Floating offers sound baths, musical events in LA parks

by Danielle F. Winter

It feels like joining a secret society – that is when secret societies are open to everyone.

“Send a cloud emoji to this song,” instructs the Instagram bio of Floating, an LA collective that presents good experiences in natural settings. Before long, your phone will be pinging several times a week with invitations to events such as a singer-songwriter performance at a historic art ranch in the San Gabriel Mountains, a new moon sound bath at a Pasadena botanical garden, or a ceremonial improv from a Mexico ethnomusicologist. in Montecito Heights.

On a recent Sunday at Storrier-Stearns Japanese Garden in Pasadena, Argentine DJ Barbarella and electronic composer Byron Westbrook played up the already idyllic atmosphere of the historic property.

Floating offers sound baths, musical events in LA parks

As their surrounding soundscapes seeped through the leafy, multi-level garden where turtles and koi fish swam through rock formations, attendees gathered on picnic blankets and settled under the dappled golden light. Some were families with children who enjoyed exploring the bridges and trails in space. Other guests wandered alone and found private places to read or meditate.

Barbarella completes a musical set in Storrier-Stearns Japanese Garden.

(Alisha Jucevic/For The Times)

Launched last August, Floating’s eclectic events are rooted in nature’s healing power, allowing us to be. Founder Brian Schopfel, who faced “a crippling case of burnout” after working for years in commercial production, said that nature was the fastest and most sustainable path to recovery for him, so he wanted to help create this kind of connection; for others.

After starting Haven Nature Studio, a hilltop sanctuary in Montecito Heights offering regular yoga and meditation classes, breathwork sessions, sound baths, and music performances, in 2020, he realized that sound-related activities attracted the most people and repeated visits. He also personally enjoyed these events the most, as they couldn’t possibly go wrong.

At the time, Schopfel was working with musician Noah Klein, an LA-born and certified naturalist. Klein had worked with local conservation organizations such as Outward Bound Adventures, Tree People, and Heal the Bay and was familiar with the many unknown or underutilized amphitheaters and gathering places of the LA park system. Klein helped crystallize the Floating concept by associating it with the practice of “deep listening” – a term coined by composer and UC San Diego music professor Pauline Oliveros to connect listening with healing and activism.

Floating team members: Adrian Garcia, from left, Brian Schopfel, May Rose Smeback, Tate Chavez, Noah Klein, and Alice Parker.

(Alisha Jucevic/For The Times)

After hosting a few events on the hilltop of Montecito Heights, they expanded Floating’s geographic and artistic footprint. Typically, Floating presents one to three occasions per week in various outdoor settings (the current number as of last August is 200).

Some locations, such as the Malibu movie ranch where soul singer Jimetta Rose will perform on July 3, or the Mayan revival-style courtyard of the Philosophical Research Society in Los Feliz, which celebrates Sun Ra on July 14, are rare collaborations.

Meanwhile, Bronson Canyon in Griffith Park has hosted performances by the local psychedelic, classically Indian-inspired collective Liberate Elemental Forces and experimental duo Lucky Dragons. Queer ranchera singer San Cha, whose three-part Floating residency has just been completed at the Audubon Center in the Ernest E. Debs Regional Park in Montecito Heights, also brought her emotional, stunning show to the Los Angeles State Historic Park in Chinatown, and the Storrier-Stearns Japanese Garden, which regularly welcomes floating people.

People relax during a floating event at Storrier-Stearns Japanese Garden in Pasadena.

(Alisha Jucevic/For The Times)

People relax on the ground.

(Alisha Jucevic/For The Times)

Consistency has always been part of the mission. “I think consistency in itself is comforting and comforting,” says Schopfel. “It’s there for you like a therapist would be, or some kind of studio or gym.”

In addition to encouraging people to visit artists or spaces they may not know about, memberships also help support the workforce. The floating business model offers two tiers of membership, $11 or $22 per month, which allows members to attend one or two events and get 50% off all the others. Drop-in donations are also welcome, and floating organizers say no one will be turned away if they can’t afford the suggested amount.

Barbarella rests as she enjoys a second musical set at a Floating event.

(Alisha Jucevic/For The Times)

In the Floating Space, the encouragement to be ordinary applies to all forms of self-expression. “We make a conscious effort to make it a place where people can come and feel their identities respected and affirmed,” said May Rose Smeback, the group’s production manager, who identifies as non-binary.

Schopfel makes an important distinction between ‘wellness’ and actual well-being-. He says: “I feel that wellness, because it’s positioned in the market, is very task-oriented and tied. … Wellbeing is about simply existing and enjoying the space around you, without expectations. That’s what we are trying to create.” Although the first seeds were planted pre-pandemic, COVID brought a more pressing need for safe outdoor spaces where people could heal together.

The promise – and the fun – of Floating is that one day it will hopefully come to a park near you. Tate Chavez, who handles the permits, notes that Floating ” really aligns with many of the fundamental purposes of these spaces.” Most park managers are excited when, for example, an amphitheater is used for its original mission. Floating organizers hope to hold beach events this summer but are still working on the logistics.

All events are listed on Floating’s website with detailed descriptions of the performers and the environments (and whether the event is pet-friendly). But getting on the text list is the best way to stay informed. Each event is for all ages.

Marissa Longstreet reads next to a waterfall at a Floating event.

(Alisha Jucevic/For The Times)

“As we go out and try to pay more attention to the environment or bioregion in which we live, we begin to place a deeper sense of care and attention in our environment. Once we’ve done that, we’ll fight for conservation,” says Klein, who leads the floating nature walks in Griffith Park.

For example, Arlington Gardens in Pasadena, a public botanical garden with an orange grove of 48 trees, has consisted of selling its signature marmalade and private donations. Now Floating’s weekly sound baths have added a new revenue stream there. The Floating team also plans to help organize Arlington’s annual Fall Fundraising Gala this year.

Light Liu, Floating’s community platform manager, describes each event as “a time. They are beautiful and magical events, but they are short-lived.”

“You want to be present and absorb as much as possible and be a part of the gathering as it takes place. Then you leave with a feeling, and that feeling stays.”

Children play on the rocks like music plays at a Floating event.

(Alisha Jucevic/For The Times)

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