The Lab:

Songwrights Apothecary Lab (a.k.a. S.A.L.) seeks to respectfully dip into the healing seas of music/musicianship/song, and distill a few grains of piquancy which carry the life-renewing flavor of the unfathomable ocean of human resiliency, then work those grains into new musical formwelas, to enhance the healing flavors and intentions innate in all works of devoted creatorship. 

In this ongoing lab, we experiment with sprinkling the many distillations of S.A.L. into our song wrighting, and invite you to taste/hear these enhanced essences and flavors. 


(S.A.L. is also a lab esperanza curates at Harvard) 

Half songwrighting workshop, and half guided-research practice, the Songwrights’ Apothecary Lab (S.A.L.), seeks to develop a structure for the collaborative development of new compositions designed to offer enhanced salutary benefit to listeners. 

The course is rooted in a transdisciplinary station, orienting itself towards archives and literature that study healing strategies drawn from a diverse range of music-based creative and therapeutic practices. 

Formwela 1, Formwela 2 and Formwela 3 were composed and developed while residing in Wasco County, OR. The feel and aesthetic of these songs were inspired and encouraged by esperanza’s nourishing encounters with the land and peoples of this arid and sage-drenched region of her home state.


All Formwelas (songs) from the S.A.L. are created through our research, divination, intuition, musicianship, taste, inspiration, and collaborative effort to design songs that enhance a specific salutary affect. 

The formwelas offered here are not presented as potential “solutions”.  Rather, they are responses to the ongoing question guiding the beings collaborating within the Songwrights Apothecary Lab. 


those beings being: 

– the 2020’ and 2021’ cohorts of student songwrights, student researchers (including esperanza), and the practitioners comprising our guiding council. 

Dr. Shorter 

ancestors, and artisans of the lineages informing and doing the real work within this work. 


‘If one of my friends is ill, I’d like to play a certain song and he will be cured’
– John Coltrane 

“us too.”
– esperanza spalding and the S.A.L.


Wasco County, OR

Portal Land, OR

Lower Manhattan, NYC

Bronx, NYC

Selected Resources:

Here are some of the articles explored in the Fall 2020’ iteration of the S.A.L. Guided by Student researchers Ganavya Doraiswamy, Nivi Ravi, and Grant Jones, we studied and discussed these articles to inspire, inform, complicate, and orient the creation of Formwelas 1, 2, and 3:


Coping with Work-Related Stress through Guided Imagery and Music (GIM): Randomized Controlled Trial[Journal of Music Therapy, 52(3), 2015, 323-352]

Bolette Daniels Beck, PhD; Åse Marie Hansen, PhD; Christian Gold, PhD

The polyvagal hypothesis: common mechanisms mediating autonomic regulation, vocalizations and listening

Stephen W. Porges & Gregory F. Lewis
Brain-Body Center, Department of Psychiatry University of Illinois at Chicago

Toward a Psychological Framework of Radical Healing in Communities of Color

[The Counseling Psychologist 1-33, 2019]

Bryana H. French, Jioni A. Lewis, Della V. Mosley, Hector Y. Adames, Nayeli Y. Chavez-Dueñas, Grace A. Chen, and Helen A. Neville

Performing Theory: Playing in the Music Therapy Discourse

[Journal of Music Therapy, 52(4), 2015, 457-486]

Carolyn Kenny, PhD, MT-BC, MTA

Music interventions for improving psychological and psychical outcomes in cancer patients (Review)

Brandt J, Dielo C, Magill L, Teague A

The impact of music therapy versus music medicine on psychological outcomes and pain in cancer patients: a mixed methods study

Joke Bradt, Noah Potvin, Amy Kesslick, Minjung Shim, Donna Radl, Emily Schriver, Edward J Gracely, Lydia T Komarnicky-Kocher

It’s…Complicated: A Theoretical Model of Music-Induced Harm

[Journal of Music Therapy, 57(3), 2020, 251-281]

Michael J Silverman, PhD, MT-BC; Lori F Gooding, PhD, MT-BC; Olivia Yinger, PhD, MT-BC

Ethical Considerations in Music Therapy Private Practice: A Review of the Literature

[Music Therapy Perspectives, 38(1), 2020, 25-33]

Kyle Wilhelm, MA, MT-BC

Active and Passive Rhythmic Music Therapy Interventions Differentially Modulate Sympathetic Autonomic Nervous System Activity

[Journal of Music Therapy, 56(3), 2019, 240-264]

Trevor McPherson, BS, BA; Dortia Berger, PhD, MT-BC; Sankaraleengam Alagapan, PhD; Flavio Frölich, PhD

Exploring the Experience and Effects of Vocal Toning

[Journal of Music Therapy, 55(2), 2018, 221-250]

Shelley Snow, PhD, MTA; Nicoló Francesco Bernardi, PhD; Nilufar Sabet-Kassouf, MA; Danial Moran, MA; Alexandre Lehmann, PhD

Vibroacoustic Therapy: The Therapeutic Effect of Low Frequency Sound on Specific Physical Disorder and Disabilities

Olav Skille, Tony Wigram, Lyn Weekes

The Effects of Long-Term 40-Hz Physioacoustic Vibrations on Motor Impairments in Parkinson’s Disease: A Double-Blinded Randomized Control Trial

Abdullah Mosabbir, Quincy J. Almeida and Heidi Ahonen

Developing Faith in the Transition to Adulthood: An Analysis of Songs Written by Adolescents who have had Adverse Childhood Experiences

Michael Viega

Improvising Using Beat Making Technologies in Music Therapy with Young People

[Music Therapy Perspectives, 37(1), 2019, 55-64]

Alexander Hew Dale Crooke, PHD; Katrina Skewes Mcferran, PHD, RMT