Sing the Body Electric

Rachel Bagby urges people to perk up their ears and raise up their voices

| January / February 2004

We've got music deep in our bones, says Rachel Bagby. Literally.

'In the physical body,' she says, 'there are many different levels of pulsings, and if you touch various parts of the body, you can feel a syncopated kind of rhythm, if you've developed a sensitivity to it.

'So we're already walking around in a polyrhythmic kind of way. Music is an art form for recognizing the vibe that is the ground of life -- this kind of rhythmic reality.'

Bagby explores this reality in a career so expansive that even multiple labels fail to capture its breadth -- singer, composer, writer, activist, and teacher Bagby lives at Singing Farm, an organic farm and learning community she founded in Virginia. Along with singing in Bobby McFerrin's famed a cappella ensemble Voicestra and recording a 1993 album of chant songs, Full (Outta the Box), she's the author of Divine Daughters, a memoir that traces her struggle to (quite literally) find her voice and come into her own as an artist.

She's got a degree in law and social change from Stanford Law School and often gives talks and conducts workshops on helping people express themselves. What ties it all together is vibe: the continuum of sound that surrounds us, encompassing voice and music but also much more, from those bodily pulsings to burbling creeks to 'the rumbling of elephants across long distances,' she says.

Bagby has even invented a word, vibralingua, to describe the ability to hear, process, and effectively use sound information.