esperanza spalding mingles therapeutic practice with music on “TRIANGLE” suite

esperanza spalding
Photo by LaMont Hamilton

One of the main focuses of esperanza spalding‘s new Songwrights Apothecary Lab is to incorporate therapeutic practices into the process of songwriting and production: the first fruits of the lab come in the form of the three-song “TRIANGLE” suite composed of songs “formwela 1,” “formwela 2 (feat. Ganavya),” and “formwela 3.” Taking aim at the psychological and emotional strain the pandemic and subsequent quarantine has had on people, spalding consulted practitioners from various disciplines, including music-therapy, neuroscience, Black American music, Sufism, South Indian Carnatic music, and her students and colleagues at Harvard.

Performed by spalding and a talented array of collaborators each song serves a direct purpose and pinpoints a very specific source of anxiety or stress; “formwela 1” is a soothing lilt designed for memorizing or to “self-soothe during an acute moment of stress in the home.” The film, directed by Matthew W. Hayes III, completes the atmospheric tranquility that radiates from the trio seeing spalding wandering around empty rooms with taupe walls and sheets hanging from the ceilings as Ganavya Doraiswamy lends her gorgeous intonations to “formwela 2,” a song designed to be played as background music for dispelling feelings of interpersonal aggression.


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The final piece, “formwela 3,” crescendoes with scattered percussion and rattling snares, piano keys echoing like wind chimes in the breeze, and spalding’s piercing croon, a grounding force that is as sustaining as it is soothing. “While we are stuck inside / Wide atmospheres breathe and surround you,” she offers up as a reminder to those willing enough to let themselves sit long enough with the songs, not just the words, but the entirety of the experience as it unfolds around and in you.

spalding plans on hosting in-person labs in New York City in the summer, where attendees will have the opportunity to interact with the lab and the music created there. There will also be an album release with selections of the songs created in the lab to be released sometimes this fall. Visit spalding’s website and Instagram to stay updated on new releases and announcements.

Listen to and watch the short film below!

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