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David Hykes

David Hykes (1953 - ) is a composer, singer, musician, author, and meditation teacher. He is founder of Harmonic Chant, a musical system for exploring harmonics of sound, listening, consciousness and harmony. An original pioneer in the modern harmonic, healing sounds and contemplative chant movements, he founded Harmonic Chant as a universal sacred music in New York in 1975, the year he also founded The Harmonic Choir, the first of his pioneering groups, considered by many to be the western world's pre-eminent overtone ensemble. He created the terms "harmonic singing", "overtone singing" and "overtone chanting" to describe the new forms of universal music he began to develop with the group. These terms are now generic and Hykes' music and ideas have influenced countless musicians, composers and "sound healers."

He was born in Taos, New Mexico and currently divides his time between France where he directs Harmonique/Centre, a music and meditation center near Paris, and the USA, where he runs the Harmonic Presence Foundation, the first modern organization dedicated to study of the harmonics of sound, consciousness, medicine and meditation.


Educated at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio where he studied with avant-garde experimental filmmakersTony Conrad and Paul Sharits, free jazz with the Cecil Taylor Unit, and contemporary, classical and medieval music with John Ronsheim and David Stock. He received an M.F.A. from Columbia University in New York. For many years he studied North Indian raga singing and the history of Indian music with Smt. Sheila Dhar.

David Hykes is a Dharma student of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, who gave him the name Shenpen Yeshe, "the Primordial Wisdom that brings happiness to beings," and Tsoknyi Rinpoche. He completed twenty years of spiritual studies in the Gurdjieff Foundations in New York, San Francisco, and Paris, as a student of Gurdjieff's successors Lord John Pentland and Dr. Michel de Salzmann. Over the years he received teachings from Tibetan Buddhist masters Dhuksey Rinpoché, His Holiness the XVI Karmapa, as well as the Gyuto and Gyume Monks, whom he helped bring to the United States for the first time in 1985-86.


Harmonic Chant, founded and developed by Hykes as a universal sacred music, is based upon the natural harmonic overtones present in all musical sound and throughout the universe. Harmonic sound waves are fundamental to many natural systems in the cosmos. They were part of the Big Bang and reverberate to this day; science calls them the Cosmic Microwave Background. Hykes was partly inspired by traditional world music of Tibet, Mongolia and Tuva, and was the first westerner to deeply explore these three traditions. He was also influenced by medievalGregorian chant, North Indian Raga music and singer Sheila Dhar, Just Intonation composers La Monte Young and Terry Riley, and primordial polyphonic singing traditions of Europe.

"Harmonic Presence" is the meditative system Hykes has developed combining music, contemplative awareness practices, and healing sounds. He teaches sacred music and meditation at leading retreat centers such as Esalen Institute and The Breathing Project.

He began experimenting with harmonic or overtone singing in 1974; his first musical composition, "Harmonic Tissues," 1971, explored in 4-part harmony the full-spectrum universe of possible harmonic overtones, undertones, chords and beating tones, through slowly ascending and descending cycles of 4 sine waves, which he manually dialed from lowest to highest and back, one track at a time. He incorporated his activities in New York as a not-for-profit arts organization called the Harmonic Arts Society Inc. on September 11, 1981.

Notable appearances and contributions

Hykes founded the global contemporary harmonic singing movement with his first New York City performances starting in 1975. His discography begins with the recording, "Harmonic Singing," recorded as a healing sounds offering to his gravely ill spiritual teacher, Lord Pentland, head of the Gurdjieff Foundation in the U.S. After building his group The Harmonic Choir during the period 1975-1979, he brought them to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where he was Artist-in-Residence from 1979-1987, when he moved to France.

His first widely distributed recording, "Hearing Solar Winds," released in 1983 by Ocora/Radio France and re-released by Signature/Radio France, has sold over 300,000 copies, and is the most successful vocal overtone record of all time. Hykes has co-hosted evenings with His Holiness the Dalai Lama (1989) and the Gyuto and Gyume Monks, during their first visit to the United States (1985-6). He was invited by revered incarnate lama Dzongsar Khyentse to contribute music to his feature film "Travellers and Magicians".

Hykes collaborated twice with the English theater and film director Peter Brook, contributing film music for Meetings with Remarkable Men (1979) and training Brook's French Mahabharata cast. Hykes has also composed and performed original music for the films Travellers and Magicians by incarnate Tibetan lama Dzongsar Khyentse; Dharma River, "Vajra Sky Over Tibet" and "Prajna Earth" by John Bush; as well as Dead Poets Society,Ghost, and Baraka, among many others.

He has been awarded numerous grants and fellowships for his work, notably from: UNESCO's Fund for the Promotion of Culture, several grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, three composition grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (USA), and the New York State Council on the Arts. In October of 2005, he was awarded a $50,000 Flying Elephants Foundation Fellowship for his work developing a universal sacred music.

David Hykes Discography

  • "HARMONIC WORLDS", label: Harmonic Presence Foundation (November, 2006)
  • HARMONIC MEDITATIONS, label: Sounds True (Spring 2005)
  • HEARING SOLAR WINDS, label: Signature(Radio France), distributed by (2003)
  • RAINBOW DANCES (for your rainbow heart), label: Fonix Musik (2002)
  • EARTH TO THE UNKNOWN POWER, label: BMG Classics/Catalyst (1996).09026-68347-2 recorded at The Kitchen
  • TRUE TO THE TIMES (How to Be?) David Hykes with Bruno Caillat and Peter Biffin, label: New Albion (1993)
  • LET THE LOVER BE, David Hykes with Persian zarb master Djamchid Chemirani; label: Auvidis (1991)
  • WINDHORSE RIDERS, David Hykes with Persian zarb master Djamchid Chemirani; label: New Albion (1989)
  • HARMONIC MEETINGS, label: Celestial Harmonies (1986)
  • CURRENT CIRCULATION, label: Celestial Harmonies (1984)
  • HEARING SOLAR WINDS, label: Ocora(Radio France), distributed by Harmonia Mundi (1983)

David Hykes

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