Andrew Noethiger will immerse you in a soundscape — with gongs
MIDDLEBURY — Usually if someone falls asleep within 90 seconds at your performance, you might be embarrassed. But not Andrew Noethiger.
“If someone’s snoring, I’m doing my job,” he said in an interview last month.
So what exactly does he do that he’s happy when his audience not only dozes off, but is so relaxed that they share their unencumbered cacophony?
“I create sonic soundscapes, sound immersions for people to experience,” said Noethiger, who describes himself as a drummer, percussionist and a sound enthusiast.
Unless you’ve been in the room with Noethiger for one of these sound immersions, you’re probably a little confused. Here’s what happens: people gather in a room, where Noethiger has set up a varied assortment of crystal and Tibetan bowls, chimes, drums, gongs and other percussion instruments. You settle into a comfortable position with blankets, chairs, sleeping bags, pillows… whatever you need, and then Noethiger begins.
At first it’s quiet, and you’re attentive to each new sound and vibration. Then it builds. For some this is energizing, for others it beacons a transcendental meditation — for yours truly, it was a kind of lucid, out-of-body experience. Whatever it is, it’s awesome.
Go and see for yourself. Noethiger is coming to Illuminate, the integrative massage and collective space shared by several wellness providers in Middlebury on Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. He plays at this studio in the Marble Works, owned by Samantha Isenberger, about every other month.
“I build the sound up to a peak and then bring it gradually back down,” said the 45-year-old who lives in Winooski. “I’m known for my subtle endings… I can’t leave people hanging on the ledge; I have to make sure they’re back on the ground.”
Yes, much appreciated.
“I do tell people at the end, that they might feel different… The frequencies and tones of the sounds massage your brain and the vibrations massage your body,” Noethiger said, putting his hands up with a stiff disclaimer that he’s no doctor. “And I don’t call myself a sound healer.”
But he does recognize that there’s something here.
A COUPLE OF Noethiger’s mallets. Photo by Oliver Parini
Noethiger began drumming at age one. He grew up in Long Island, N.Y., in a neighborhood with nine drummers on his block — they liked to coach him and Noethiger liked to learn. As he grew up, his enthusiasm didn’t wane.
Instead of pursuing percussion in college, Noethiger began working in IT for large financial institutions in Wilmington, Del. Collecting and playing percussion instruments became his — ahem, very serious — hobby. That was Noethiger’s life for the better part of two decades.
“I had a massive drum collection,” he said. “I’d been collecting and hoarding for 25 years — to say I had some of the most sought after instruments would be an understatement.”
In 2012, he decided to move up to Vermont — following one of his favorite bands, Strangefolk, and a great beer scene — and realized he had “way too many drums.” So he sold some and used the $25,000-$30,000 to purchase gong equipment. It’s all Pieste, by the way — a top-of-the-line Swiss company that makes gongs.
At that point, Noethiger had taken a job as a mail carrier in Bristol. After walking the 10 miles of his mail route, he’d come home exhausted — especially if it was in deep snow.
“I would play the gongs for 20-30 minutes and would feel recharged,” he remembered. “I thought, ‘Why am I feeling this way?’ So I had some friends come over and I played for them. I was just experimenting, and then I realized that I had something I needed to take out and share with other people.”
Noethiger got his first gig playing for a yoga studio in Montpelier, then one at The Village Shala yoga and wellness studio in Bristol. His list of venues grew as word spread (by mouth and email, he has no website or Facebook or anything like that). Noethiger now plays regularly at All Souls Interfaith Gathering in Shelburne, Purple Sage in Essex, Illuminate in Middlebury and for private parties.
Most of his gigs are $20 suggested donation (except the one in Essex — that’s in a Himalayan salt cave, costs $55 and requires a reservation.)
“I can’t make a living doing this, unless I’m really traveling around,” said Noethiger, who left his post as a mail carrier a couple years ago and is now working for Blodgett Ovens in Jericho. “I like to look forward to my gigs. I want it to be inspiring for me too.”
The money basically pays for gas and some equipment wear and tear.
“I just want to play these instruments and have others experience them,” Noethiger said. “I never dreamed of having so much command over a room.”
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