Mandala making and the individual alchemy of the senses. Interview with Laura Inserra, Samavesha Founder and Artistic Director

1. Please define “sense gates.” Do sense gates work with alchemical tools or processes?

Usually Samavesha’s performances are based in different expressions of art because we want to reach as many sense gates as possible. An event made by music, sculpture and culinary art is a simple example of the opportunity we have to reaching all the five sense gates. Hearing with music, sight and touch with sculpture and smell and taste with food.

Elemental’, Samavesha’s debut project, is a clear example of a performance based on the 5 senses. The score for Elemental was based on the five elements (earth, water, fire, wind, space) and their connection to the 5 senses (smell, taste, sight, touch, hearing). It’s a long talk to explain to you how I made that possible but in short we had widespread the room with ‘palo santo’ (a natural resin wood), food as part of the score, visual art and dance, the head massage to stimulate the sense of touch, sacred poems to evoke the sacred texts and all this with the live musical comment in the background. You can watch the ‘Working on” video where I explain all this in details.

There is a form of alchemy for sure in my events, but the tool is the perception of the audience, the sixth sense. It’s the individual alchemy of the senses that create that unique experience, that one time momentum.

2. Discuss some of your past works and how you integrated the traditional with the contemporary?

I do always integrate the traditional with the contemporary because we have a rich history we want to learn from and an unfolding future to discover. In other words, the art movements embody the historical periods in which they belong but they bringing also the knowledge of the past otherwise they became infertile.

In my past works, for instance ‘Hang Rhapsody’, I do present a site specific performance with a contemporary instrument, the Hang, and a contemporary dance company, Dance Monks, but the structure of the musical and dance score was based on the classical rhapsody form. So in that case you can see how the traditional with the contemporary matches.

‘Mandala’ events are another example. A traditional concept of the Indian tradition developed in a contemporary dimension. Mandala (in Sanskrit maṇḍa ‘essence’ + la ‘having’ or ‘containing’) is a concentric diagram composed of different geometric figures and it has a spiritual and ritual significance. In these events the artists create a ‘mandala’ made by different expressions of art instead of geometric figures. As in the traditional the mandala is destroyed at the end of the ritual to remind us of the impermanence of things, so the ensemble of artists come together just for that evening. I just create the structure of the ‘mandala’, the flow, the dynamism of the performance and thanks to the performers’ skills the magic come true. We can just be channels of the flow of creativity, but only when you have trained yourself so much that now art comes out effortless.

I am really careful in choosing the performers I work with, and even if a lot is based on improvisation and insights, for us these elements are tools, skills, and not only a superficial act. There are musicians who have never improvised and other musicians who have devoted their entire lives to improvisation. I love to work with these last ones even thought I have been working a lot with classical trained musicians as well.

3. SAMAVESHA, or perfect merging of consciousness, sounds impossible? Have you actually experienced this?

Yes, I have experienced a merging of consciousness while a do perform and more important for me is that the audience and the performers during our events are merged and immersed on what we create. This is most of all because you are totally present in that moment, you are that moment, you are in an authentic presence.

4. How are authenticity and the sacred part of art?

Authenticity ‘is’ the sacred part of art. Imagine art as one body manifesting itself in all these different forms. If any form we express hold the quality of being authentic, genuineness, everything we create has the potentiality of being a master piece. Now it depends on how many consensus we get from the outer world, from the historical fashion, if we began famous or not but how many times we have assist to the phenomena of artists becoming famous the fallowing generations because their authenticity was not understood. My point here is that authenticity is a potential element to create art.

5. Has your study of psychology made you a better leader, director?

No it was not. I left my study of psychology before ending them because I understood that the crazy people were among the teachers. Just kidding! I mean somehow psychology is locked in the past and rarely and slowly evolve with the present. What really helps me to be a leader is first of all my passion for what I do, the infinite patience I have, the openness and how I stay tuned with what surround me. I love to give directions to my collaborators but I leave always an open space where they can fully express themselves. I push them until their limits and at the end I ask them to do what is their ‘new’ best, without forcing, just fallow the new flow and capacity they obtain in working together. I think this is the secret formula.

6. Where will the world be in 10 years? Will your integrity and vision play a dominant role?

I hope that my integrity and vision will play an inspiring and positive part in the evolution of the world. We are losing roots and ideals, traditions and high view goals, so I hope I will be an example in maintaining the dignity of being an artist using artistic tools and human creativity. We are losing authenticity, simplicity, spontaneity, elasticity, dynamism in exchange for money, evolution thought technology and computers. I will always bring before everything true art’s values and human beings.

7. How are you creating new myths for the Sustainability Age?

No, I hope to bring to life the ancient ones! In those ones we have all the answers, all the ages, all the knowledge, the religions and beyond. The old myths are immortal and as such they will leave way longer than us.

Laura’s Biography –

I was born in Sicily, Italy. At the age of 15 I started studying classical piano, but my passion for research led me to the improvisation style. I played with different musicians and I explored various musical genres, and within a few years I was able to apply the free improvisation technique on many instruments: bass, soprano sax, classical flute and ethnic percussion instruments.

Thanks to musicians and teachers from various continents, I learned to both play and construct native instruments of the world, like the didgeridoo from Australia, the djembe from Africa, bamboo flutes from India and other instruments created by me.

In 1993 I moved to Rome to study psychology. At this point my research intensified, specializing in ethnic/tribal instruments and cultural anthropology. This is when I also started teaching percussion instruments and didgeridoo.

I attended the Classical Music Conservatory in Italy, where I studied classical orchestral percussion. Thanks to my teacher Gianluca Ruggeri I intensified my skill in minimalist music. These years were very important because they allowed me to develop my personal style.

At 21 I created and directed a theatrical multimedia performance called ‘Apologia della Gioia’, involving a live ensemble of thirty artists as musicians, actors, dancers, poets and performers. This is the vision I hold in all my works: different expressions of art all in a unique event. Now these productions are called SAMAVESHA.
While I was living in Rome, I authored and performed various pieces of music for theater, dance performances, exhibitions and soundtracks for movies with acclaimed musicians from all over the world. ‘Mood’ is an album with different songs from these works. Check also the soundtrack samples…

For almost two years I also collaborated musically and as assistant composer for Paolo Buonvino, one of the most famous Italian movie soundtrack composers.

Currently, I am based out of Berkeley, California, where I create soundtracks, performances and concerts with artists of all genres. I am the fonder and the artistic director of SAMAVESHA, a production that seeks to unite different expressions of Art in beautiful, inspiring and unique events. ‘Maṇḍala’ is a series of artistic events that gather great artists from all over the world.

In the past few years, I have discovered the HANG, a new instrument made in Switzerland. ‘HANG: a collection of works’ and ‘Musical Incense’ are albums dedicated entirely to this instrument. My research is focused primarily on the Hang although I perform with a variety of instruments and I teach percussion and rhythmic improvisation, didgeridoo and circular breathing, Hang and other workshops.

Connections –

Laura Inserra


Info at


About [ open myth source ]

The [open myth source] project gathers conversations, symbols, songs, visual art and stories. Building a house for Myth in the Sustainability Age.
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