The Solu ToneStream––A Deeper Look & Conversation

Here’s a deeper dive into the Tones, how they came to be, what our intention with them is, the effects people report they have on their lives, you know, more macro stuff. This will be a free-write topic.

I don’t have an outline or agenda. But rather will present some ideas as they occur to me. Y’all are welcome, and encouraged, to comment.

Current state of the ToneStream (this private beta) vs upcoming public beta ––

First, for clarity, we call what you hear when you use the Solu app, the “ToneStream”. This helps me think, write and communicate with the development team here. So there is the “sound design” of the ToneStream and there is the User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) of the app itself. In this topic I’ll focus on the ToneStream.

The current ToneStream resembles our existing hardware product n.o.w. Tone Therapy System but has new and additional tone material.

n.o.w. Tone Therapy System uses two identical speakers to deliver a large number of different, chosen-at-random, 3 minute, pre-recorded New Origin Waveform (n.o.w.) tone sequences. Each time a n.o.w. speaker is turned on that speaker independently chooses a “1 of n” (where “n” is a large number) tone sequence at random, then plays it. The result of this random choice, and the fact that the second speaker is turned on, by the user, at some random time after the first speaker, creates a combination of tones that has never been heard before, nor will ever be heard again. A truly unique, in-the-moment experience.

ToneStream builds upon n.o.w. Tone Therapy. The left and right channels you currently hear in ToneStream are the same exact sound files as contained in the n.o.w. Tone Therapy System. But instead of the being limited to the intentional 3 minute duration of n.o.w., the Solu app supports long duration listening of the ToneStream. It’s sorta like a “long n.o.w.” lol.

We do not see the Solu app supplanting n.o.w. which is rather perfect in its intentional, time limited simplicity and its high quality physical embodiment. Rather, we see the Solu app being a complimentary experience. In order to differentiate the Solu app’s ToneStream from n.o.w. and both 1.) honor the integrity of n.o.w.'s 3 minute two-channel experience and 2.) honor listener requests for longer listening times, an inspiration occurred to me: ToneStream would use both the existing n.o.w. left and right program material but it would include new material in the form of a “phantom center” channel. The combination of the original left and right material of n.o.w. Tone Therapy plus the new phantom center material is what gives the current ToneStream its unique (and evolving, as we’ll see later…) sound.

Re: “Phantom Center” –– This is an audio engineering and psychoacoustics term for a virtual 3rd channel heard as distinctly separate from the left and right channels in a stereo soundstage. Listening over near-field speakers (2-3’ away) or via headphones / earbuds will produce a solid, yet virtual sound image that appears directly in front of the listener (using speakers) or in the center of one’s head (headphone or earbuds).

The n.o.w. Tone Therapy System audio content was created in the fall of 2016. The phantom center tone content was created in the spring and summer of 2021 and post production editing of it continues to date. When compared to the original left and right n.o.w. content, the phantom center material is slower, generally deeper in pitch and has new, long-ish “up-swell” volume ramps and fewer immediate “strike attacks” at the start of the tones. My intention was to create a phantom center channel that would be more enveloping, more like an aural “hug” and more grounding. And here’s something I have not talked about yet that I’m really excited about…

…ToneStream is not only live and composed-in-the-moment (thanks to our proprietary head end “composition engine” built by our developer and brain scientist @milton) but it will be (at the time of public beta launch and beyond) a constantly evolving experience. The phantom center and left / right material will continue to evolve as I, and the world evolve.

This is not a new idea. As a young composer and performer I was struck by the work of the Fluxus movment in general and the particular expressions of La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela in their “Dream House”––an “eternal” sound and light installation. So it’s a bit of an homage for me, with ToneStream, to pay respects to the early pioneers of ambient installation sound-process works.

I am currently working on new tone recordings that will be uploaded to our live composition engine. When we announce the public beta of the Solu app in a few weeks you’ll hear the next evolution of ToneStream. Subtle, yes. But an evolution no doubt. And an evolution that will be on-going. So stay tuned to get toned anew!

I’m very thankful for all the help I get that enables me to do this work of “bringing peace and healing through sound” (our mission). Having y’all here as listeners is helpful––it really is service work you’re doing to hold presence as you listen.

With much gratitude, here’s to a great 2022!

How Solu helps reduce fear and its permutations––

I believe there are only two basic, root, emotions––love or fear. Our bodies can tell the difference between them immediately. Think of sharing a smile with a toddler. Think of being called into an unscheduled performance review meeting. These scenarios feel different in the body.

Solu helps build recognition of the feelings of safety, security, repose (and their relaxed open-heartedness) while diminishing feelings of fear––low grade anxiety, negative anticipation, perceptions of threat that, in some people are nearly constant companions, so much so that low grade fear may go unrecognized. Perhaps only noticed when absence of love is noticed.

Solu uses pure sine wave tones played simultaneously and in sequence. The vertical pitch intervals are derived from the naturally-occurring harmonic series while the moment to moment changes are highly randomized. This provides a blend of familiarity (a predictable harmonic ordering of the tonal material) and surprise (the quasi random appearance of new tones). In this post I’ll focus on the comforting aspects of the harmonically related tones and how this lessens fear and allows the experience of love to bloom in its place.

When we hear pure tones (single frequency, low distortion, not carrying mental “intent”) arising one after another (or simultaneously) with harmonic series relationships, we are hearing truth-in-sound. The harmonic series (1,2,3 …) just is. One of those simple facts of nature, or Source, if you will, that is part of the natural world.

Pluck a string, blow across a bottle, sing a note…all will produce a series of tones with a rising series of frequency components that have 1:1, 2:1, 3:2 etc. relationships. Just happens. The intensity of the constituent frequencies vary over time and have different amplitudes relative to one another. This is what makes a flute sound different than a saxophone when both are playing the same, sustained note––they have a different harmonic component mix.

Because of the Solu ToneStream’s simplicity––pure harmonically related sine waves, no voices, no recognizable melodies, no chord progression, no driving percussion…there is clearly audible emphasis on the essential harmonic relationships. Normal music, of any genre, is just so busy with musical devices, structure and intent that pure harmonies are mostly obscured by the composer, performer and producers musical parlour tricks. lol.

The Solu ToneStream strips all that away, It leaves an emphasis on the simplest intervals of the harmonic series 1:1 (Unison), 2:1 (the Octave) and 3:2 (the Perfect Fifth). I’ll write at length about the metaphysical implications of these intervals in another post, but for now let’s just leave at this: the 1:1 “unison” ratio expresses unity, Oneness or Source observing itself; the 2:1 “octave” ratio express infinity (either in so-called “time” or “space”), or Source observing itself across “time and space”; and the 3:2 “perfect fifth” express the idea of the first “entity” that is differentiated from Source. As I said, I’ll talk more about this in another post. For now…

…when we hear sounds with more prominently displayed harmonic relationships than normal walking around sounds (noises, voices or normal music) we are hearing the order of the universe presented in a clear way. There is comfort in that. All is right with the universe is the feeling I get. I feel like Source did an excellent job at making the reality we perceive have some underlying order, all is not chaos.

So imagine sitting at home, safe. Comfortable. Perhaps with a nice cup of tea, a little cacao ceremony going on, a favorite pet nearby…whatever you use to amplify safety, security and coziness at home. You’re listening to the Solu tones, they become a part of your security and repose at home. You begin to associate the tones with those cozy home qualities.

Now take the tones for a walk or drive with you. You will be layering the tones on top of the sounds of the world. Some of these sounds (and sights) might be of a nature that they would normally trigger low grade anxiety or an undefined ill at ease feeling. But the strong harmonic “ordering” qualities inherent in Solu, and your own previous experience of combining the tones with your cozy home practices enhance a perception of the the real world experienced anew––safer, more familiar. Behold, you have made the world new.

And when fear and its myriad permutations are dispelled, what is left?



ToneStream––always on, streaming, composed in the moment, and…evolving

Yes, evolving. Many users of the Solu app understand it is an always-on streaming service (the audio is streamed to you over the Internet, not resident on your phone) and the moment to moment tone sequences heard are being composed in the moment by our Solu composition engine (listeners hear a unique sonic moment not heard before, nor will ever be heard again).

These engineering and compositional features create an experience that, ultimately, millions of people world-wide will be able to experience at the same time. Today I’d like to talk about the evolving qualities of ToneStream.

The Solu ToneStream is a virtual 3-track experience. The left and right audio channels heard in your phones or on your speakers deliver left and right tracks of audio plus a 3rd, virtual, or what is commonly called “phantom center” track. Let’s look at how we got here…

In the fall of 2017 I created a large number of approximately 3 minute tone sequences that were performed on specially-tuned metalphone type instruments. These performances were recorded using a special microphone created in my days as a microphone designer.

Each 3 minute take was recorded while I maintained a no-thought state of mind. If I found that thoughts had entered my mind while recording I would immediately delete the take and start again. Over the course of a weekend in Alene Sibley’s funky family cottage deep in the woods in West Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass. I recorded a large number of takes.

These takes, recorded in 2017 are the recordings that form the basis of n.o.w. Tone Therapy System (our hardware product) program material. n.o.w. has not had any program content changes since it was released in late 2017, nor have any been necessary (why, is the subject of a post that belongs at our website, not here).

By the spring of 2021 the team at Solu was beginning to get inspired thoughts about producing a (working title) “long n.o.w.” product. It took me from 2017 to 2021 to find a way to honor the integrity of the original n.o.w. Tone Therapy System’s 3 minute duration AND honor what people were asking for––a longer duration Tone Therapy experience. The solution that came to me was to include both the original n.o.w. Tone Therapy program material and create new program material that would be delivered as a phantom center track and allow for user-selectable listening duration.

What you currently hear in the Solu app ToneStream (private beta) is a mix of the original 2017 n.o.w. Tone Therapy sequences delivered by the left and right channels AND new tone sequence material I recorded in the spring of 2021. Similarly to n.o.w. Tone Therapy, the Solu ToneStream composition engine chooses, at random, in the moment of play, tone sequences from the left, right and center channel libraries, mixes them together and sends to listeners as a live stream.

Today, I set up my studio to record new Center channel tone sequences. These tone sequences are “of their time and place”. A lot of energetic water has passed under the bridge since the first n.o.w. Tone Therapy tone sequences were recorded in 2017. And today is different than almost a year ago when I recorded the first group of Center channel sequences. My intention is to keep learning, keep trying to be ever more present, and keep making new Center channel tone sequences to feed into our composition that will be mixed and sent to listeners.

One of the important, non-obvious aspects of the Solu app and its source ToneStream, is that this is an “open form” work. It is not closed-form, like a song recording. ToneStream is more like a living and evolving work, influenced by, and influencing the times and places it is touched by, and touches.

This is exciting and constantly evolving work for me. I hope you’ll stay tuned for more toning!

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As of Wednesday, 2:00 PM Eastern US time or so, the Center channel content of the Solu ToneStream was updated with an additional batch of tone sequence files (expanding the center channel content in other words). Its very subtle, but there will now be more low frequency energy, and more long upward volume swells heard.

In the future these updates will on going, almost on a daily basis––more tied to the ever-evolving qualities of the present moment. Happy Toning!

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People often tell us: “I love n.o.w. Tone Therapy, but can you make it last longer than 3 minutes?”.

We have answered this question many times, and in many way (@Alene55 with wonderfully kind humor, @Ruane with beautiful love and compassion. I tend to be more of Zen-stick whacker, omg) since we launched in November 2017.

Below is an answer I wrote today in response to the latest Amazon question about n.o.w. In my answer I differentiate n.o.w. Tone Therapy from the Solu ToneStream app––but not until I state with humble assurance that n.o.w. Tone Therapy System is perfect, as it is…and really, the question is one of accepting the “is-ness” of n.o.w., not asking for it to be different.

Upon reviewing my response, here, I believe I should have concluded my Amazon post with a personal note. I’ll add it now…“I am learning that it is my desiring that causes my suffering, not the absence of what I desire”.

In response to an Amazon question:

n.o.w. Tone Therapy System was intentionally developed to be a 3 minute aid to awakening––and with that comes a reduction in stress and anxiety and improved focus as one increasingly begins to accept the “is-ness” of the present moment. n.o.w. will continue to be a 3 minute experience. We will not change it.

We at solu have written often about why n.o.w.'s 3 minute duration is an ideal length (I’ll recap this in a moment) but we fully understand the natural desire for a longer experience (and I’ll touch on this desire in a moment as well).

While n.o.w. Tone Therapy System will remain a 3 minute experience. We are currently beta testing a new Solu ToneStream app for mobile phones. The 2nd revision of this app will be available to testers around Feb 1, 2022 and we’re aiming for a February 18, 2022 release of the Solu app to the Apple App store and Google play. The new Solu app will offer user-selectable listening duration.

Before I speak more about the soon-to-be-available Solu app, I want to speak about the perfection (and I mean that with humble seriousness), of the n.o.w. Tone Therapy System.

n.o.w. Tone Therapy System is the most gentle teacher of acceptance of “is-ness” of the present moment I personally have ever encountered. It is almost absurd to repeat this…but there is no past, there is no future, there is only the present moment to be experienced now. Wanting n.o.w. Tone Therapy System to be longer than 3 minutes is like sitting in the present moment wanting one’s life to be longer than it destined to be––a futile distraction from the moment one is currently experiencing.

n.o.w. came to us (that is Alene Sibley, co-developer and myself) as a kind of inspired series of intuitive impressions. It is more like a channeled teaching than a “product”. Yes, when viewed from the perspective of the material world of consumer electronics, it is simply a speaker set with sounds and it is technically possible to make a speaker set with sounds play longer. That is not the teaching of n.o.w. Tone Therapy.

n.o.w. Tone Therapy System came to us as the most direct, most succinct, easiest-to-access teacher of presence imaginable. It’s ease-of-use makes it easy for people to use. Its short duration transcends the objection to meditation many folks have––that they “do not have the time to meditate”. The fact that n.o.w. Tone Therapy System uses pure tone sequences, not language, allows it to transcend subject-object dualism and encourage the recognition of unity beyond language (I like to say…“to the eyes, n.o.w. looks like two separate things. But to the ears n.o.w. is a singular experience of Oneness”).

If n.o.w. Tone Therapy System was longer it would not be n.o.w. If a blue car was red, it would not be a blue car. Wanting n.o.w. to be longer is like saying, “I like my blue car but I’d like it to be red”. Wanting n.o.w. to be longer is like saying “I’d like my life to be 95 (or whatever) years long”.

To everyone who wishes n.o.w. Tone Therapy System to be longer, I gently implore you, please just accept the is-ness of n.o.w., not for my sake, not for the sake of our company solu, but for your own sake. Your ability to accept the is-ness of the present moment, in a non-reactive way (“I wish for a longer playing time” is a reaction) will transform your life just as this practice has transformed mine. If you cannot accept the is-ness of n.o.w.’s 3 minute duration do not buy it. It is not for you, at this time.

Re: the Solu app and user-adjustable playing duration––

The upcoming Solu mobile app is completely different than n.o.w. Tone Therapy System. n.o.w. is a quick and easy prompt, or aid to awakening. The Solu app is an aid to connection with others and a way of “making all things new”. I’ll explain…

…The Solu app is a live, composed-in-the-moment, “ToneStream” consisting of 3 channels of tone sequence content (n.o.w. Tone Therapy is a 2-channel experience). Every person who listens to Solu will be listening to the same ToneStream experience as all other people who are connected to the stream at that time. There is a palpable sense of “connection to others” with the Solu app (whereas n.o.w. Tone Therapy System is largely a personal experience). We are supporting long duration play in the Solu app because we want people to take Solu with them into the world. The Solu app is not just for “sitting meditation”, it is a way of layering peace and order over the apparent chaos of the world, all of it, wherever you encounter it. And because the world desperately needs to be re-known in new ways, we have created Solu to help people hear the world in a new way. This will become more apparent when you’re able to try it for yourself.

So…n.o.w. Tone Therapy System–forever a 3 minute, easy-to-use, aid to awakening to the is-ness of the present moment. The Solu app, a live, continuous ToneStream way to re-tune or re-hear the world in peace.

Hope this helps, Michael Joly

I will be saving this one. I love then descriptions of the relationships.

Extraordinary Michael. I am so inspired by the mindfulness in action.

Thank you Chad. “…mindfulness in action”. nice phrase. This really is all about the lived experience, now.