The cover of Slowave’s first album, “Circadia.” (Courtesy Slowave)
The cover of Slowave’s first album, “Circadia.” (Courtesy Slowave)

A Sound Project That Recreates the Sonic Landscape of the Womb

Created by Keith Sigel and Mason Ingram, Slowave bases its ambient music on a woman’s resting heart rate to mimic the soundscapes of our earliest days.
By Emily Jiang
January 24, 2022
2 minute read

In the womb, it is calm, quiet, and comfortable. We float about for our first nine months largely unbothered, with noises muffled, and enveloped by the sedative cadence of our mothers’ internal rhythms. It’s no wonder that, postpartum, humans tend to feel most at peace—and achieve the soundest sleep—in environments that imitate these serene, lulling conditions. “As far as sleep is concerned, we’re basically all trying to get back into the womb,” says doctor Keith Sigel, who encountered this phenomenon while studying the effect of aural environments on sleep. “Infants crave the white noise and deep rhythmic pulsations [of the space], and we retain this instinct our whole lives.” Inspired by these findings, Sigel, who’s also a musician, teamed up with drummer Mason Ingram to create Slowave, a New York–based ambient-music project that seeks to recreate the sonic landscape of our earliest days.

The pair began with a woman’s resting heart rate, using an approximated average of 64 beats per minute as the base tempo for their songs. From there, the two layered in sounds suggestive of a soft heartbeat, then added synths resembling the breathing cycle (intending for listeners to inhale and exhale along with them), and weaved in lullaby-like melodies. The result is a meditative aural reverie that grounds the listener, awakening the instinctual links between mind, body, and environment.

Since its debut last year, Slowave has released three albums: Circadia, whose tracks mimic the circadian rhythms of the body and earth; Ataraxia, which takes its name from the Greek word meaning “absolute serenity” and uses drones to create a soothing hum; and Synesthesia, the duo’s first full-length album, out last week. The latter centers on the ways in which sound can trigger chromatic visuals. “We wanted to write music that felt colorful,” Ingram says. The intention comes through in a psychedelic video for the album’s lead single, “Phases,” which entrances with its simultaneous airiness and lilt. The track, and all of Slowave’s music, sounds oddly familiar. Taking it in is to return to a time of deep peace, intimate connection, and profound rest.