I recently completed a song called “Heart-shaped Hole” for my upcoming album. That song evolved from my understanding that despite a general sense of the world falling apart (it’s hard to ignore the headlines today), that this is a perfect time for us to start moving forward by staying true to ourselves. Be the positive energy in the darkness, per se. There is a direct connection between this song and the idea of people joining together to create a better world and becoming a universe of heart-shaped holes.
Music is one of the most primal and fundamental aspects of human culture with many researchers even arguing that it (at least in a primitive form) pre-dates the emergence of language itself. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once observed, “….music is the universal language of mankind.” That is what was inspired me and finally became the idea of the song—the fact of a “doesn’t really exist” connection within all of us, one allowing us to find that perfect spot, be at peace, be yourself with an intrinsic ability to listen to others. Instead of endless fighting—physically or with words—we have to find common ground before we end up as people from Babylon. It starts from little steps like not overplaying the idea of appropriation by artists from a different culture to express diversity in a song. Instead, lets allow the sharing ofcultural strength by inviting others to treasure these sounds, and end up with ideas that we all come from the same pot, that love and kindness of our neighbors, friends—and animals—is the answer and key to a “Heart-shaped Hole.”
Sonically, “Heart-shaped Hole” stands out from the other tracks on my upcoming album. The rest of my work on the album draws on a mixture of my cultures: I am Russian and have a mix of Asian/Eastern in my blood. Yes, in “Heart-shaped Hole,” I created less ethnic sounds than the other tracks. I had my doubts about it and originally did not plan to release it as the first single, nor even if it even made sense to include it on the album because of its distinct aural essence. But the feedback from those I trust was very strong, and the opening track for the Alya project was born.
The late Robin Williams said: “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
When I left journalism, music and songwriting became my voice, but I was always unsure that it would be loud enough to change anything. With “Heart-shaped Hole” something new came to me. I got that absolutely amazing peace in my soul and clear vision of my path. Given that fact, from now on I try in my own music to illicit in people a desire to do good works in this world, myself included. With my husband we joined Giving Pledge, started by Bill and Melinda Gates, and started focusing on our three family Foundations. Today, we are trying to make higher education more effective and inexpensive, placing textbooks online for college students who cannot afford them, as well as other interactive content. This year, we started to teach in some California colleges and universities an Intellectual Property course. Michelson’s Found Animals Foundation, which runs a website promoting pet adoption and advice on microchips, among other things, is offering $50 million in grant research funds as well as a $25 million prize to scientists who can discover a way to chemically spay and neuter animals with a single, low-cost injection. To this point in its existence, Found Animals has helped approximately 1.5 million pets. And, finally, we are creating a convergent bioscience center at the University of Southern California in hopes of producing medical breakthroughs. We’re going to cure cancer; we’re going to cure heart disease. There’s stuff going on there right now that’s going to change the world. And we here to prove it.