Thursday, November 20, 2014

Exploring the Hidden Music - Christopher Janney / Bill Laswell

This looks to be another one of those incredible artistic events that I've been waiting all my life to do.  I highly recommend anyone in the New York area interested in plunging in to an immersive artistic experience to attend.   It's a multi-media performance where every element - the music, the visual and the dance will be of peak artistic expression.  In other words, all participants are extremely talented at what they do and this is a highly interesting, unique combination; a group synergy producing a harmonic order/chaos of light, sound and motion.  Art as negentropy.

Exploring the Hidden Music is the vision of Christopher Janney, an architect of sound, space and light ranging from airport installations to private homes, realized in collaboration with Bill Laswell, an architect/constructor of musical voyages and dimensions of equal depth. Choreography is by Sara Rudner of the Twyla Tharp lineage.  I know a little of Twyla Tharp's work from The Catherine Wheel soundtrack she comissioned  the Talking Heads to do for her.

Heartbeat, one of the central pieces of the show, is the one I'm most looking forward to seeing at the moment.  In it, a dancer, Sunny Hitt in this performance, is wired with wireless contact mics that pick up and transduce the sound of her heartbeat into an electrical signal that's then amplified and fed into the Front of House Soundcraft mixer for broadcast throughout the theater.  Live musicians start to play with her but no one plays on the beat of her heart, the driving force. 

 I'm not making any of this up, by the way, this will actually happen in a few days at 8pm November 25th at The Gramercy Theater, 127 E 23rd St, New York, New York 10010.
Tickets available HERE. The link takes you to the janneysound website which has much more biographical info on Janney.

 Heartbeat as appears one of those serendipitous timing things for me as it perfectly matches the tenor of my recent blog series, To Exercise Will which has Sufi heart opening practices as a main theme.  Christopher Janney's name appears as sheer coincidence.  As I'm writing this I get a vector diagram of the Heartbeat segment from Janney.  He has the most detailed stage plots I've ever seen, works of art in themselves reminding me of blueprints for a battleship or spaceship.

I've been interested in architecture and music for a long time, since reading Robert Fripp's groundbreaking article on the subject in Musician magazine back in the early 80s.  In it he talked about the dimensionality of the sound field: height = frequency response, width = panoramic potentiometer  (ie the pan pot on a mixer) and depth = the dynamic range.  Plotting sound through this dimensional grid reveals that music has geometry.  Not long after, I became very interested in Buckminster Fullers energetic geometry called Synergetics that went beyond Euclidean geometry so I started to apply Fuller's approach to mixing music. I also included a fourth dimension, time = rhythm. 

Another nail in the cross between music and architecture was driven in when reading Gurdjieff describe how architecture alters consciousness in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson.  He said that whenever you go into a building your consciousness will change to some degree due to the architecture of the space just entered.  This in part explains what they went for with the great Cathedrals of Chartres and Notre Dame.  To create a divine, heavenly, enlightened state of being just by walking through the door.  If music has geometry and architecture it can induce similar exalted moods just by listening, walking through that door into the sound describing and defining the space.

I remember once as a studio assistant labelling an SSL mix with the tag "sonic architecture" and seeing Bill take notice of it.  It was then that I thought I might have a future doing interesting things in this business.  Now, here we are. 

When walking into the Gramercy Theater next Tuesday night you will immediately begin exploring the hidden music either consciously or subconsciously as pentatonic music will be playing out of the PA speakers and two additional speaker stacks provided by Bose in the back of the theater to create a surround sound experience.

Details on the musicians and dancers follow, copied from their Facebook page:

Architect/composer Christopher Janney and legendary producer/musician Bill Laswell join as they "explore the hidden music" - found in spaces, the human body and in the meeting of artistic minds. 

This performance includes a new version of Janney’s “HeartBeat” with percussion, electronics and voice accompaniment. "Heartbeat" is a dance/music/cardiology mash-up and was made world-famous when toured internationally by M. Baryshnikov in the 1990's. 

Janney's “Visual Music Project” will also be presented which utilizes his custom "visual synthesizer" exploring his synaesthetic tendencies. 

Both pieces feature world-class musicians including Trilok Gurtu (John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul), Dave Revels (The Persuasions) Sheila E (Solo, Ringo Starr, Santana) and Lynn Mabry (Sly Stone, David Byrne/Talking Talking Heads (official), Bette Midler). 

Choreography by Sara Rudner (Twyla Tharpe). 
Additional Artists include Ed Grenga, Sunny Hitt, Ryan Edwards,, DJ LOGIC just added!!!. 

All this together with one of Janney’s interactive sound/light installations at the door and a new interactive light work “Touch my Light” over DJ Adam Gibbons (Uhuru Afrika) set with live drumming, the result should be a wild ride where, as Bill is known to quote Burroughs, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Creativity - To Exercise Will Part 3

Success is thy proof

-Liber Al  3:42

To recap:

1. Like the physical and intellectual centrums, the emotional centrum can be educated, exercised and developed far beyond it's common undeveloped and not understood use.

2. Different models and metaphors are employed to communicate about the higher emotional body: Tiphareth in the Qabala, Circuit 6 in Leary's language, the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel (KCHGA) in Crowley's system, Gurdjieff's Higher Emotional centrum or real "I", Jung's individuation etc. Robert Anton Wilson calls it the HEAD revolution in The Illuminati Papers.

3. The heart has its own intelligence that has a connection with intuition.  Intuition can also be exercised and developed far beyond ordinary incapacity to the point where it can be relied upon and trusted most of the time.

4.  Qabala acts as a higher-order language of imagery which both exercises intuition and establishes a common language for the Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel.  In other words, qabala helps us to learn to communicate with the subconscious, our deep selves, that huge hidden part of ourselves that remains almost completely unknown until we start diving in.  According to Carl Jung, the unconscious mind communicates to the conscious mind through symbols.  Qabala is a language of symbols therefore ideal for linking the subconscious and conscious minds.  By giving it a language, the subconscious (your HGA)  will talk to you.  Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) expressed it well when he said: Beyond a certain point, the whole universe becomes a continuous process of initiation.
That certain point = KCHGA.

Qabala utilizes a model called the Tree of Life,  a metaphor for everything in life being connected.  Everyone who so chooses makes their own individual Tree of Life based on the traditional form and correspondences combined with associations from personal experience.  These personal associations often derive from cultural artifacts - books, music, films etc.  Qabala has been called a filing cabinet of sorts.  Users create their own lexicon.  You basically get your subconscious to talk to you in different ways - through the environment, coicidences and synchronicities, dreams, self observation etc.   Everyone has a unique subconscious mind though they all seem to connect to what Jung labelled the Collective Unconscious.

5. To activate circuit 6 on a consistent basis requires Will, the Will for higher consciousness (True Will) as opposed to the ordinary will of the lower circuits to stick to their agendas known as the will of the machine.  Concentrated attention helps develop and focus Will.  Both Will and Attention can be exercised and made strong.

6.  Through the method of alchemy a permanent  higher emotional body can get crystallized.  The full lotus blossom of the open heart, a living fountain of waters, gets accessed at will.  Love under will suggests that the blood of the higher body (baraka) can be intentionally focused and placed.  Healers do this.

7.  The possibility of permanently activating C6 is available to anyone sufficiently motivated.  Every man and every woman is a star.  This is for anyone who wants to wash their own selves i.e. program and metaprogram their brains and nervous systems anyway they like.

RAW calls C6 the metaprogramming circuit borrowing the term from John Lilly's Programming and Metaprogramming the Human Biocomputer.  Metaprogramming refers to programming the programming, your basic Operating System to continue the computer metaphor.  RAW stresses the importance of C6 when he writes:

Remember: the nervous system is what pre-scientific primates call the "self" or the "soul."  The "self" at the moment depends on which circuit is activated.  The "soul" or metaprogrammer decides which circuit or "self" to be at each time-juncture.  Do you want to choose your own "self" or do you want your "soul" on ice?
 - Illuminati Papers, p. 41

8.  We will call the four lower centrums - the physical, emotional, intellectual, and their aggregate, the social personality - the human circuits. The higher, mostly undeveloped aspects of those centrums - the somatic, the electric/metaprogramming, the genetic, and the atomic/quantum/ non-local circuits - the Being.  Being = non-human.  Another way to distinguish these two aspects of Spaceship WoMan - Human = animal, Being = spirit.  Raising consciousness = the movement of consciousness away from the animal and toward the Being or spirit.  Being seems more like "becoming," but we optimistically stake our territory in the higher dimensions 'as if" we've established permanent residence there.

9. Obstacles arise largely due to the fact the animal doesn't want the Being to grow too much as it feels threatened.  When Being dominates, the animal disappears, it's no longer in charge.  This dichotomy between spirit and animal is addressed in Crowley's Book of the Law (Liber Al):

Is a God to live in a dog?
No! but the highest are of us

It goes on to describe the qualities of "us":

Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, 
force and fire are of us

II:19 and II:20

In the Tiphareth chapter from Illuminatus!  Shea and/or Wilson mentions a "dogfight" a couple of times (p.344) which suggests puns on the dog/god dichotomy and the struggle to permanently set up camp in Tiphareth.  The third chapter of Liber Al starts out giving strategies for this battle.

Energy and rareified awareness - the waking state - come and and go.  Negative emotions can deplete energy.  However, efforts and the experience made to activate the heart always accrue.  Progress occurs nonlinearly in a spiral fashion.   One reason to keep a lab journal of experiments or a diary is to chart one's progress.  It can be helpful later looking back on it to see how far one has gone.  Progress can seem slow or miniscule when measured day by day.  Looking back on journal entries makes it easier to gauge how far one has gone.

A short interlude on the word "God:"

The magick used to activate C6 is predominantly theurgic as opposed to thaumaturgic.  Thaumaturgic magick concerns itself with changing the environment in some way, casting spells, creating love potions etc. or sometimes doing useful things to aid your theurgic arts.   Theurgic magick concerns itself with raising consciousness though its etymology suggests it as magick involved with contacting/invoking a god of one kind or another.  Many otherwise intelligent people get downright suspicious when they hear the word "god" by automatically associating it with organized religion.  Many of us are still deprogramming ourselves from these associations fostered upon us in our formative years.  I suggest that "god" can  be used like a mathematical coefficient, a symbolic representation of a specific functional use.  No one argues whether a mathematical coefficient is real or not.  It's an abstraction that works.  In this way one can remain a committed atheist or agnostic and still take advantage of the god idea to expand awareness and pull oneself up.  Crowley wrote a poem to demonstrate this which I unfortunately don't recall the title to (maybe someone else can?)  In it he eloquently praises the gods of various religions, adores and worships them profusely then ends the poem with the punchline, "Thank God I'm an atheist."

Excellent, scientifically-minded ways to use the god concept turn up in John Lilly's book Simulations of God where he approaches it as a form of self-observation, defining god as whatever you invest the most energy in, what you consider the Highest based on actions rather than a professed ideology or belief.   For instance, someone may nominally declare themselves a Christian or Buddhist yet spend the majority of their time and energy in pursuit of making money.  Their real god, what they really worship is money.  For some it's power, status, drugs, sports, music, health, sex, etc. etc. Lilly goes into much more detail in the book with different god simulation scenarios.

In The Illuminati Papers, a collection or writings mostly from the mid to late '70s, Wilson presents several utopian-like scenarios that he predicted would occur before the end of the millenium.  The predictions appear rational, based on science ( he cites all his references) and observations of prevailing trends.  So what happened?  Perhaps the human species as a whole has defense mechanisms blocking the transition from mechanical living to a conscious life of being?  In the Forewords to Cosmic Trigger I Timothy Leary writes:

It has been axiomatic since Haeckel that ontology recapitulates phylogeny - that the individual in Hir development repeats, step-by-step, the evolution of the species.

The Illuminati Papers is highly recommend in connection with this series of blog posts particularly the essays A Few of the Things I Know about Her and From: The Order of the Illuminati, Sirius Section To: Galactic Central.  The latter gives an elegant presentation of Leary's 8  circuit model of the human nervous system through the game of chess. A later essay, The Goddess of Ezra Pound seems related or one influence on A Few of the Things I Know about Her.  Pound's occult credentials get examined there.  Elsewhere, a review of Beethoven rates as a top piece of music writing found anywhere. RAW begins this book with the headline: "Join the HEAD Revolution." 

10.  This method is eclectic.  We use what works and discard what doesn't the criteria being what will help fulfill our aims.  Once more from the Illuminati Papers (p.67):

The point of systems like Tantra, Crowleyanity, and Leary's Neurologic is to detach from all maps - which gives you the freedom to use any map where it works and drop it where it doesn't work.

This applies to all the systems and models given in these blog posts.  

11.  The open heart, the KCHGA, contact with Being, making the subconscious conscious,individuation etc. = synonymous terms that may reveal one's purpose in life, what's been called True Will.

That seems another of the multitudinous ways to get the higher circuits revved up - find out what you really like to do and do that, align yourself with what you want to use this lifetime for. Developing a passion for something will naturally activate the feeling centrum.  A standard joke in the recording studio is to tell the artist after a take, "One more time please, ... with feeling."

Finding something creative you like to do appears one key for discovering True Will.  Creativity, in every aspect, opens the heart.  When engrossed in the process of creation, artists always seem to use the emotional centrum more than usual.  A search for creative ways of doing things in any art, discipline, or task = a search to open new chambers in C6.  Those new chambers/spaces in C6 can get communicated through art, music, literature, theater, film, poetry etc. Thus artists seeking to take their creative endeavors as far out as possible essentially serve the shamanic function of going into deep extra-dimensions (XD) and bringing something back to communicate the experience to the rest of the world.

This isn't anything new.  Frater Progradior, Frank Bennett, one of Crowley's more successful students gave a lecture in 1917 that included the topic The Perpetual Creativeness of Spirit. ( thanks to Progradior and the Beast by Keith Richmond.)

It appears that artists of various kinds respond the most to Crowley's magick especially musicians from Jimmy Page to Jay Z, Jim Morrison, David Bowie, Lennon and McCartney, Richards and Jagger etc. etc. etc. it's a long list.  Creativity and magick go hand in hand.  Magick teaches one how to invoke, how to draw down energies, information, gnosis from above thereby supplying a constant source for creativity if one has an outlet for it, a way to translate it into art of one kind or another.  Basically, creativity = magick.  Creativity naturally activates and uses the higher circuits. 

Magick works best when approached as an art.  Whether practiced alone or with a group it usually involves theater (inner or external) and poetry of some kind.  Some rituals, such as the Star Ruby, the Thelemic banishing ritual of the pentagram, and Liber Resh, the adoration of the Sun, can get run through thousands of times, but will stay fresh and alive with a creative attitude.   In this way, magick can be practiced under any circumstance from the cramped quarters of a transcontinental jet to driving in your car; in the middle of a crowded restaurant or watching TV.  It can be used extemporaneously anywhere anytime.

Gurdjieff said that we need many different alarm clocks to wake up due to the fact that what works one time won't necessarily work again next time.  The shock value won't be the same.  Esoteric schools disseminate many kinds of tools, games and techniques for exercising attention and waking up.   A creative approach from the student will best design an individual program with those resources to suit one's needs.

One reason a varied, eclectic approach is advised stems from the observation that the machine can get bored easily.  Learning a variety of practices gives the alchemist/shaman a bag of tricks to resort to in different situations.  Never underestimate the power of humor to relieve boredom, dispel despair, worry or other various ills of a recalcitrant human machine not the least of which includes taking oneself too seriously.. 

Last installment, to continue this recap, The Book of Lies by Crowley was described as an alchemical masterpiece.  In an earlier blog post I recounted the story of how this book apparently contains a great secret in either chapters 36 or 69 depending on whom you choose to believe.  Common wisdom ( if there is such a beast) holds that it has something to do with sex.  In the book Pearls of Wisdom, James A. Eshelman makes a cogent argument that "the sexual interpretation is not the perspective from which this ritual (ch. 36 = The Star Sapphire) was first written."  What then, could the secret be if not sex?  I don't know, however, we do know that each chapter has numerical significance.  36 = two sixes multiplied by each other.  69 looks like two sixes in a reciprocal relationship with each other.  The principle of synergy tells us that whenever two systems effectively combine the overall effect of their union contains more than the sum of the individual parts. 

Here we see John Cleese in a sketch that illustrates a not uncommon issue on the magickal path.

 To understand what I'm getting at, it's necessary to have a feeling for the four elements of the ancients: Air, Water, Fire and Earth.   Getting to know these elements, not meant literally, but rather as representations of different types of energy, seems fundamental to the practice of magick.  A primary source of my elemental education came from doing the exercises in Franz Bardon's Initiation into Hermetics.  These elements manifest symbolically for practitioners as magical weapons - The Sword or Dagger for Air, the Cup for Water, the Wand for Fire and the Pantacle for Earth.  Part 1 of Crowley's Magick Liber ABA, after the yoga section has essays on each of the weapons which are valuable for learning about the elements.  Homemade Magick: The Musings and Mischief of a Do-It-Yourself Magus by Lon Milo Duquette is another excellent source.  He also has many creative solutions for practical problems that can arise in the course of ritual workings in everyday life.  Practicing the Golden Dawn style of Enochian invocations makes another excellent method for getting to know your elements.  The Enochian World of Aleister Crowley by Crowley, Duquette and Hyatt serves as an easy how-to manual for that kind of work.

Symbols of the four elements get called upon every time the practitioner performs a Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram or one of its variants like the Star Ruby.  This ritual is to a ceremonial magician what practicing paradiddles is to a drummer, rudiments so basic and fundamental that benefit from constant daily practice until its burned into your soul, or more technically, your body of habits.  Your body of habits takes over when your mind gets blown, reflexive responses to the environment when you have no time to think.

We can imagine John Cleese as a magician with a slight imbalance on the Fire side of things.  Equilibrium of the elements appears necessary for effective magick.  All four elements are there - we see a pitcher and a glass of Water on his desk (the altar), there's Air around him as he sits on Earth (the telephone could represent the KCHGA) while at the end of the video we see what happens with the Fire he has conjured.  Air and Earth appear in abundance, but there's far too little Water to balance the Fire.  When Water and Fire are in ideal proportion it produces "steam' a special kind of Air that can produce much motive force.  The dictionary defines steam as: "the vapor into which water is converted when heated, forming a white mist of minute water droplets in the air."  When you heat up water you get steam.  When you heat up something flammable in a closed container you run the risk of explosion.

Successfully crystallizing C6 seems more a matter of dropping whatever impedes this circuit flow rather than trying to create something not already there.  Being resides with us whether we know it or not.  By relinquishing the sleep of the machine we open up to the awareness of Being however tentative at first.  From Wilhelm Reich's perspective, muscular armor and/or character armor blocks full emotional expression and reception.  This armor apparently gets set in place through past traumas.  I remember years ago when trying to figure out exactly where the hell to begin with the exercises in Gurdjieff's catechism seeing him write that a good place to start work is to lay down and deeply relax the body without falling asleep.  Deep relaxation - letting go.  I learned various magick ritual practices from instructional cassette tapes Israel Regardie of Golden Dawn texts.  He had one called The Practice of the Presence of God that consisted entirely of a guided visualization to deeply relax one body part at a time then fill it with light.

The whole business of the Holy Guardian Angel, started with a medieval grimoire called The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage translated in modern times by MacGregor Mathers.  Mathers was an early teacher of Crowley and one of the founders of the Golden Dawn.  The ritual to attain the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel consisted of a 6 month retreat of purification, cleansing and prayer getting more intensive as the retreat progressed. It seems mostly a matter of clearing out what's in the way to allow the light of the Angel to shine through.

Crowley designed a ritual called Liber Samekh for a more concise but no less involved method to invoke the Angel.  He based it on an ancient ritual picked up by the Golden Dawn known as The Bornless Ritual.  It's divided into sections based on the four elements and the fifth element of Spirit.  It might be that this intends to unify the constituent parts of our human nature toward the common aim of invoking the Higher Self.  We require all the centrums aligned and going in the same direction for this to work.

The element of Fire corresponds with C1, the physical centrum, the will of the body to activate C6.  The Water element corresponds to C2, the feeling centrum, the will of the emotions to go beyond.  The Air element represents the intellectual centrum, the will of thought to go higher.  These three types of machine will are effective when  they are quiet, when they are silent, when their centrums rest in quiesence, not acting out.  When the consciousness of C6 pilots the machine, the body disappears from our awareness, the fight or flight reflex gets bypassed; no disturbing emotions ruffle our inner life, the territorial imperative gets bypassed;  the thinking, head brain chatter vanishes replaced by complete presence in the moment and the task at hand.  The Earth element corresponds with C4 a composite and mix  of the first three circuits that makes up our social personality.  Leary and RAW put sexual behavior in C4, but I disagree.  It seems to me that the sexual force comprises a special area of C1, the body. The fifth element, Spirit represents C5, the transitional circuit where the beginnings of learning to alter our realities for fun and profit takes place.  Gurdjieff called this the magnetic centrum for the ease of attraction to either the higher or the lower depending upon whichever holds sway.

Crowley wrote an extensive commentary to this ritual within which he acknowledges the creative function.  Referring to the line 1 of section G, The Attainment that says:

 I am He!  the Bornless Spirit!  having sight in the feet: Strong, and the Immortal Fire he says, "The Immortal Fire" is the creative Self; impersonal energy cannot perish, no matter what form it assumes.  Combustion is Love." 

Regarding line 6 of the same section, I am He, whose mouth ever flameth! he writes:

The Adept realizes every breath, every Word of his Angel as charged with creative fire.  Tiphareth is the Sun, and the Angel is the spiritual Sun of the Soul of the adept.  

This tells something about both creativity as well as the nature of fire.

I present this information not because I proselytize the performance of this ritual, although it couldn't hurt, but rather to extrapolate strategies for our invasion of the Higher Dimensions whether through a magick ritual or some other kind of creative endeavor.  The permanent crystallization of C6, the attainment of the KCHGA, seems a gradual process that can include a variety of practices and techniques ranging from something as simple as learning to play the guitar ( if so inclined) to walking across China with a young wife and infant while using concentrated attention to visualize an astral temple for practice of the Bornless Ritual as Crowley did.  

The interference of the lower circuits is known as "dirt" in esoteric circles.  This point shows itself in chapter 57 of The Book of Lies:

Dirt is matter in the wrong place
Thought is mind in the wrong place
Matter is mind so thought is dirt.

Crowley then proceeds to devise a magick formula from the word PLACE to clarify where he's coming from with this statement.  So much of the work to live with a functional C6 consists of cleaning up the anomalies of the lower circuits - distracting thoughts often taking the form of imaginary arguments or debates, strong negative emotions that take over our mood, bad physical habits that take our energy, etc.  While we can chalk much of it up to our own psychology and past traumas, this can get cleaned up relatively quickly.  However, much dirt accrues through contact and contamination with the environment we operate in.  Just as we bathe everyday to clean our physical bodies from the natural dirt of life, we can also a maintain cleaning regimen for our spiritual lives.  It doesn't need to be complicated, sometimes we can clean both our physical and spiritual selves at the same time with the creative use of  attention.

Some people accumulate more dirt from the environment than others depending upon their job description and so may require strong cleaning solutions.  For instance, a coal miner, or someone who works in law enforcement in a big city will inevitably have more to clean due to occupational hazard.  A concept called Uncus focarius - a fire shovel can come in handy.  You whip up a lot of fire and direct that toward psychic cleaning.  Too much fire can interfere, but can be tempered with water returning to the idea of steam  as an effective locomotive engine.  Cleaning this way is called a steambath.  Some people find various Psalms effective for this kind of operation.  An excellent practice can be found in  The Greater Key of Solomon under the title Concerning The Baths, and How They Are To Be Arranged.  This can be creatively modified according to circumstance.

Listening to music seems a good way to experience the effect of the elements.  Of course, this will be subjective, but just to give some idea:  AC/DC is my hard rock go-to when looking for some blazing fire particularly the Mutt Lange produced Back in Black and Highway to Hell albums.  He really got the sound right on these ones.  I didn't like AC/DC in their 80's heyday until a bar band called Blade Runner  I was mixing played Highway to Hell and the room just exploded, you could feel this tremendous energy afterwards.  Some punk rock has the same effect - London Calling by the Clash and Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols come to mind. Caution is always advised when playing with fire of any kind.  Most Rolling Stones live albums and some of their classic studio records, when Jimmy Miller was at the helm, also boosts fiery energy for me.  Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles seems a watery song as does Led Zeppelin's Down by the Seaside.  A few albums by Miles Davis also have a significant watery component such as Sketches of Spain, Kinda Blue and In A Silent WayBitches Brew adds more fire to the mix.  African kora music can sound liquidy like cascading waterfalls.  African drumming can be both earthy and fiery.  African dancers can tell or show you how this music transports them far beyond the ordinary.  The most elementally balanced piece of music I know about remains Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.  Feel free to share any other obvious examples in the comments.  Of course, I am barely touching upon the subject.

I'll finish this rather hotch potch post with a Crowley quote from the commentary on Liber Samekh which emphasizes the importance of activating C6.  I've paraphrased a little to remove the male gender bias language:

This then is the true aim of the Adept in this whole operation, to assimilate themself to their Angel by continual conscious communion.  For their Angel is an intelligible Image of their own True Will, to do which is the whole of the Law of their Being.

Also the Angel appeareth in Tiphareth, which is the heart of the Ruach, and thus the Center of Gravity of the Mind.  It is also directly inspired from Kether, the Ultimate Self, through the Path of "The High Priestess," or initiated intuition.  Hence the Angel is in truth the logos or articulate expression of the whole Being of the Adept, so that as she increases in the perfect understanding of Her Name, she approaches the solution of the ultimate problem: Who she herself truly is.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Through the Atlas Mountains

Volubilis, Morocco

As mentioned at the conclusion of the last installment, we began the day in Volubilis reshooting a scene with Bachir Attar and his brother Mustapha that had been rained out in Jajouka.  To while away the time while they set up, Bachir played a pastoral melody on the bamboo flute that his father had taught him.  This melody was said to sooth and calm the goat-god Boujeloud, a folk incarnation of the ancient Greek God Pan.  Pan personifies male energy in its most chaotic form, hence the term panic when unmitigated.  When we participated in the ritual for Boujeloud the first time to Jajouka in 1991, Boujeloud ran about with a grass stalk trying to whip  women with it.  If he succeeded, legend had it that she would get pregnant.  If Pan represents the fullest expression of material creativity.  Pan also means "all."  In his role of Pan Pangenitor he is the "All-Begetter."

Playing this melody on this morning was auspiciously timed.  The day before had been wild and chaotic.  It had almost been a disaster after I stopped a hurried and frantic electrician from plugging in audio equipment running on 110v into a 220v outlet.  Blindly rushing ahead in a panic without consideration for potential damage.  Today marked the beginning of a new phase in the production.

This day would be the closest approximation to a day off on the whole trip.  It was a  travel day, no filming was scheduled, a short 93 km drive south to the town of Azrou located at the crossroads of the Middle Atlas and High Atlas mountain ranges.  Bill headed off in a different direction, due west to Casablanca on the coast where he would catch a flight back home to spend Christmas with his family.  I was pretty sure he'd been up late the night before trying to manage or maybe just observe the chaos behind the scenes which, according to one of the Producers, happens in one form or another on all film productions.  I would certainly miss his running interference for the audio department ( ie myself and now, since the night before, my assistant Mustapha).  However, he was still very much present in spirit for the remainder of the trip periodically sending emails of advice, aphorisms and graphic illustrations relevant to the work.  Jay called Bill his spiritual mentor.

Not long after we hit the road Jay played a recording over the mini bus sound system they had both collaborated on featuring drummer Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the pianist Jon Batiste and Bill Laswell on bass.  Other musicians included Toshinori Kondo, Killah Priest, Garrison Hawk, Dominic James, Peter Apfelbaum and Tunde Adibimpe.  I think it's safe to say that Jay was the catalyst for this project, which they are calling The Process, with Bill doing the bulk of the production.  It was the perfect soundscape against the landscape of the Atlas mountains.  Smith surprised me with the depth, versatility and musicality of his playing, something I wasn't expecting from a Chili Pepper.  He really got to show his chops at times.  Batiste's otherworldly piano stylings fit right in the with the naturally psychedelic Moroccan ambience.  I'm not going to attempt to describe the music, but will include an excerpt from some notes Bill wrote that conveys the atmosphere of The Process which is scheduled for release very soon:

NEW TERRITORY: The dark secrets of production, sound enhancement and psychomagic…
recombinant energy, sound collage, fusion, hybrid sound clash, simulacra and simulation. With the juxtaposition of recorded music / sound…the results are infinity…there is no exact or perfect statement…no absolute, no finished product, no flawless design nor finite creation…It's all version, timeless, endless…experience, evolution, illumination… Nothing is true, everything is permitted.

We stopped at a small roadside hamlet called Boufekrane on the way to Azrou.  The bustle of hawkers milling about selling all kinds of small cheap products and snacks as Adam, Austin and I sat at an outside table right by the road sipping mint tea.  The smell of meat being cooked on open grills, also outside beside the road, permeates the air.  Austin mentioned that his Grandfather had just passed.  I let him know that I could be of assistance if necessary.  He seemed to be making an effort to be stoic about it.

We arrived at the hotel in Azrou in the early afternoon and enjoyed a delicious lunch.  The mountain air was significantly colder here.  The lobby was nice and toasty with a fire blazing as laptops and smart phones came out, people connecting to the World catching up with their communications. The hotel room, however, was ice cold.   When I complained, a janitor came up, determined that the radiator wasn't working then set me up with a space heater.  I set up the Pro Tools rig in the room and did some file management before taking a late afternoon stroll down the hill into town noting landmarks so as to not get lost.  Most of the other Americans went out shopping, picking up beautiful Morrocan rugs, handcrafts and clothes.

Two journalists on assignment from the Smithsonian magazine joined us in Azrou to begin research for a feature article on the documentary.  Sam Jones is a young, freelance photographer, American born, but currently living in East Africa.  He was very interested in the musical aspects of the film as well as music in general.  He was a fan of Bill's music and asked me a lot of questions in the evening as we walked back into town looking for somewhere to eat.  Nothing in the way of food looked good, so we retreated back to the hotel and joined some of the crew for a meal in the dining room - the two Asmas, Yakout, Thomas, Austin, and a new assistant camera man flown in from Germany to help with some technical issues they were having with one of the very expensive cameras.  A little later we were joined by the print journalist from the Smithsonian, an older, respected fellow whose name currently escapes me.

I stayed up until 3:30 am working.  Tried to do some writing. but only managed one line:
"The dogs are howling at midnight in Azrou, Morocco."  And they did howl for several hours.  The whole atmosphere, with the decrepit, freezing, hotel room ( I wrapped myself in blankets from both beds staying close to the space heater), the moonless, pitch black night and the incessantly crying dogs, felt like some umentionable horror out of a H.P. Lovecraft story.

Azrou, Morocco

Got up at 6:30 am and felt great despite only a few hours rest.  Had a very short, very cold shower.  Instantly wide awake.  After breakfast we drove for about 45 minutes out of town stopping at the base of a small mountain where two tents were set up for an afternoon wedding. Started setting up Pro Tools and placing mics while Mustapha took the 2 track recorder and boom mic up near the top of the mountain where a few primitive stone huts established human domain on the mountainside.  They were completely bare inside; I had no idea what they were used for when not celebrating a wedding.  The first day's shooting would be in this area.

This small mountain was more of a large hill, certainly much bigger than a molehill.  It was virtually treeless, carpeted with brownish-green grass amongst bare patches of dirt and stone.  A few goats grazed nearby unfazed by all the human activity.  The temperature was on the cool side made cooler by the wind, but it was a sunny day and felt warm when the wind temporarily died down.  A small stream trickled languidly down near where I was setting up the recording area in the open corridor made by the two large tents facing each other.  I was told the musicians would play in this area, but this turned out to be someone's guess rather than accurate information.  I guess there were about 40 - 50 people in attendance by the end not including the film crew which added another 20 or so. 

I was about one third set up with the multi-track when I heard my name summoned by Adam from the top of the hill.  I misheard urgency in the tone and dashed up the hill as fast as possible feeling winded when I got there.  He asked what the rush was?  I laughed to myself.  I guess it was deemed that I should record the first interview with the father and the groom.  It was another hurry up and wait situation, but I didn't mind.  It was a beautiful day here in the mid Atlas range.  I spied Jay seated in a classic meditation pose looking like Buddha director.  He was in a much mellower frame of mind than on previous days, still intense and focused, but a few degrees more relaxed.  The first thing he said to me was, "I guess I'm stuck with you now, Oz," friendly, half-joking.  I replied, "We're stuck with each other," and laughed.

The only thing I remember about the first interview which was in Arabic, was the father passing a bendir drum to his son.  It was explained that by doing so, he was passing on his musical legacy.  Also a nearby goat started to get in on the action "Maaa -ing" loudly once or twice a minute.  After the interview I left them with Mustapha in audio control and went down the hill to continue setting up.  When that was done, I went back up and recorded about 20 woman packed into one of the stone huts chanting loudly and energetically.

The primary music was a troupe of about 14 bendir drummers who also chanted.   The rhythm and singing cycles were repetitive with little variation.  It wasn't what you normally think of as music, no melody to speak of, more like using the repetition of visceral sound - the loud booming drums to carry the baraka of whatever blessings or invocations were being given by the chants.  Unfortunately, they played about 20 feet away from where I had the mics set-up, but it still got picked up.  Fortunately, the wind co-operated.  After 40 minutes or so, they stopped, moved through the corridor by the tents and played even further out in the field on the far side.  The sound was even more distant on the recording so we set Adam up with the 2 track and he recorded inside the circle they now made as they drummed, chanted, and danced around.  I don't have any background on the music, but guess it was from one or another Sufi tradition.

Azrou, Morocco

Today is a travel day, we have a seven hour drive ahead of us south through the High Atlas mountains to the city of M'gouna.  We are promised that it will be warmer down south.

We ate lunch in what looked like a small castle turned into a hotel and restaurant on the edge of a city called Errachidia famous for its wedding festival in September, a nonstop 30 days of wedding celebrations.  Across the road from the castle were two good sized stores selling precious stones.  I picked up a chondrite meteorite and had the proprietor show me on a map where they collected it from. It was near the town, Missour.  Later, as we're about to get back on the road, a boy comes around hawking stones from the rival store.  I get another, larger chondrite for about half the price.  Meteorites have a stronger effect on me than any other stone.

Errachidia seems like the last outpost before going deep into the High Atlas.  Before too long the scenery became very strange giving a surreal feeling like being on another planet.  It seemed there was a purplish tinge now to the surrounding hills and mountains.  It's nothing like any landscape I've seen before and difficult to describe from memory.  It felt like what I imagined Venus would look like if Venus had mountains.  I suspect the light and the air contributed to the surrealness of it all.  At one point Jay exclaimed into the silent bus, " I am the most powerful man in the world!" which on the surface sounds egotistical, but as he said that  I was having an expansive moment and knew exactly where he was coming from.  That's the feeling the High Atlas gave you, of being on top of the world.  His comment also reminded me of Leonardo Dicaprio shouting, "I'm the king of the world" from the stern of the Titanic which Director Jim Cameron got in trouble for when he quoted it at the Academy awards.  Of course, if you continue the metaphor, the Titanic ran into a massive iceberg because it was too huge and going too fast to turn in time.  Water usually represents emotions in Hermetic symbolism so an icerberg would be frozen emotions, a cold heart.  The iceberg in the film world would be those who control the purse-strings like the whole Hollywood film  establishment who halted Jodorowsky's Dune in it's tracks by not funding it.  Not to be too cynical, but the rare times I feel this way I always expect an iceberg in my future, but knowing that helps you not hit it and sink.  You just turn and go a different direction before getting too close.

Before too long we started descending into a huge canyon, very dramatic dark reddish rock formations stretched out in the distance.  By coincidence, a friend sent me a photo card with a very similar look that I saw when I got back home.  We stopped and did some filming before going down into it.  A vendor was set up on the roadside selling cheap metal trinkets and jewelry.  Seloua picked up what looked like a small Alladin's lamp and said, "This is magic.  You rub it 3 times on your wrist then make a wish and it will come true."  So I picked it up, a small souvenir of Morocco's magic.  I haven't tried it yet.  We also stopped and filmed as the sun was sinking low over a broad flat plain with mountain peaks in the distance.  The temptation was to stop and do a lot more filming on the way.  As it was, Austin captured lots of footage on the C300 as we rolled down the road.

Seloua gives us some brief history of the area when we're pretty far south close to the destination:
The towns of Ouarzazate (pronounced "war za za tay") and Goulmime are the two Moroccan doors to the great Sahara desert, called the gates of the Sahara.  Ouarzazate is a popular film location - Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, The Mummy, Game of Thrones season 3, were some of the projects shot there.  We pass through the town of Goulmima - the female version of Goulmime.  On the outskirts of Goulmime, at dusk four Berber woman sit in a semicircle cross-legged Indian style looking like they are meditating or as if they are Guardians of the World, what Gurdjieff call the  "All-Quarter-Maintainers."

M'gouna, Morocco

The hotel is terrible, no heat, no hot water and the toilet doesn't work.  We were going to stay two nights, but fortunately decide to go back to Ourzazate after today's shoot and stay in a good hotel. Today's location is adjacent to an ancient area of M'gouna called Itrane.  The production trucks park beside Kasbah Itrane.  The old area is down a hill which is where the initial filming takes place.  It's largely abandoned brown clay buildings are replete with strange corridors and passageways. and a sense of timelessness.  A bardo space, for sure.

It was far more dramatic than this photo shows, it's not from our trip, but gives some idea.

Today's music was to celebrate a naming ceremony for an eight day old baby.  Started recording some morning birds when we first arrived then gathered ambience when we descended into the ancient ruins to scout and block the first scenes.  Then left Mustapha with the two track while I set up the multitrack and microphones outdoors right beside the Kasbah.  The performers would be drumming, chanting and dancing on two large carpets.  It would turn out to be eight woman and eight men garbed in traditional costume.  The drums were large resonant tambourines with only a few cymbals.  The chanting was call and response.

At lunch Mustapha told me of his life growing up in a Palestinian refugee camp on the West Bank. He found his creativity in a theater group started by a famous Israeli actor who was half Palestinian and who gave up his lucrative career to start this group for the Palestinians which generated much productive goodwill until it got wiped out when the military undertook a police action, or whatever you want to call it.  He said in Palestine you get three kinds of justice, Israeli, Palestinian,  and street.  He told some other stories and talked about his family, a very poignant eye-witness account of political oppression that you never hear about in the media.  Despite growing up under such harsh circumstances he didn't seem at all bitter or hateful.  His way of protest is creatively through his art ie his film making.  I suspect that actor saved his life by getting him into theater.  Though Mustapha is an up and coming Director with at least one film under his belt, his attitude was that he was here to learn and help out, always professional.

The recording went smoothly.  We captured some extra drum samples after the main performance which had some very vigorous dancing, each member taking a solo in the center of the circle.  While I packed up, Mustapha took the two track to record the last music scene of the day.  It was in one of the rooms in the Kasbah.  After the gear was packed I went to find them.  It was about 8pm and dark now.  A group of 8 women were seated in a semicircle on rugs and embroidered pillows singing a hushed lullabye to the baby being held by the mother in the center.  The baby's name is Asma.  Mustapha was stretched out on the rug holding the recorder as close as possible without getting in the frame.  It was the evening of December 24th, Christmas Eve to many in the West, but just another day to the Muslim world.  Yet, this was the most natural, most real nativity scene I had ever experienced, completely free of religious pretense, just the reality of a new life being welcomed into the world - a very touching moment.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Alchemy of the Heart - To Exercise Will part 2

Continued from here

The alchemist must attempt the impossible.  

The truth is not the end of the road, but is the sum of all the actions we perform to get there.
 - Alejandro Jodorowsky

A little before Dawn, the pupil comes to greet his Master, and begs instruction.

Inspired by his Angel he demands the doctrine of being rapt away into the Knowledge and Conversation of him.

The Master discloses the Doctrine of Passive Attention or Waiting.

This seeming hard to the Pupil, it is explained further and the Method of Resignation, Constancy and Patience inculcated.  The Paradox of Equilibrium.  The necessity of giving oneself wholly up to the new element.  Egoism rebuked.
- AHA, Aleister Crowley

Waiting is.
 - Valentine Michael Smith

We speak of Alchemy metaphorically to indicate the slow, then sudden transformation of base raw materials into something of great value.  This derives from experimentation by alchemists in the medieval and renaissance periods to attempt to literally change lead into gold.  Many of these accounts also include codified instructions for transforming ordinary humans into spiritual beings.  They were codified at that time primarily to avoid persecution by the Church, but also to keep the more dangerous practices hidden until the student was ready and prepared for them.  The coding also served to bypass the ordinary intellect and emotions in order to facilitate communication on an archetypal level with the deeper, nonverbal aspects of consciousness.  Many of these instructions took the form of graphic illustrations.

We are concerned with the alchemy of the heart.  This can be viewed as the accumulation of  very fine substances or salts until they crystallize into a coherent body.  This is what is meant when Gurdjieff and others talk about the formation of Higher Bodies.  Alchemy was the forerunner of modern chemistry.  It can be regarded just as materialistically as chemistry.  This approach is scientific.  Opening the heart or the heart chakra seems about as vague as you can get in terms of actually discovering how to do this on a permanent basis.  Crystallizing  a higher emotional body or activating C6 into permanent operational realization gives us more precise language to the actual process.  In chemistry:

"The crystallization process consists of two major events, nucleation and crystal growth. Nucleation is the step where the solute molecules dispersed in the solvent start to gather into clusters, on the nanometer scale (elevating solute concentration in a small region), that become stable under the current operating conditions. These stable clusters constitute the nuclei. However, when the clusters are not stable, they dissolve. Therefore, the clusters need to reach a critical size in order to become stable nuclei. Such critical size is dictated by the operating conditions (temperature, supersaturation,  etc.). It is at the stage of nucleation that the atoms arrange in a defined and periodic manner that defines the crystal structure — note that "crystal structure" is a special term that refers to the relative arrangement of the atoms, not the macroscopic properties of the crystal (size and shape), although those are a result of the internal crystal structure." - from Wikipedia

I wrote that the transformational process can start slowly, take a long time, then happen suddenly.  Aleister Crowley applied the metaphor of a mountain snow avalanche to illustrate this slow then sudden shift.  The sun shines on the mountain slopes for awhile, nothing visible seems to be happening until a critical point is reached that triggers the avalanche.  (Book of Lies chapter 84).  A similar and more precise metaphor presents itself in the first chapter of Practical Work on Self by E.J. Gold.  The crystallization process gets compared to making popcorn.  Heat is applied to the corn kernel and at first nothing changes with the structure of the kernel until suddenly a critical point is reached and it "pops" and becomes something completely different - tasty food.  The Big Bang model of the creation of Universe resembles this kind of transformation.  Writer Thomas Pynchon in Against the Day, a book that contains a wealth of alchemical information, managed to use both "avalanche" and "popcorn" in the same sentence to indicate his precedents.  Pynchon does codify alchemical data in the book, but also explicitly explains the code giving ample clues about how to go about deciphering it.

Gurdjieff and his interpreters write about accumulating "higher" (ie  rarefied) substances.  This relates to the chemical process of nucleation described above.  They gather into clusters "that become stable under current operating conditions ... However when the clusters are not stable, they dissolve."
That doesn't sound too bad when referring to an external process, but when applied to one's own alchemical development it can be extremely frustrating, at times devastating, and yes, heart shattering.  One day or one moment you got it, then it's suddenly taken away.  The Greek myth about Prometheus seems relevant to those who can get to C6 , but not stay there permanently.  As punishment for giving fire to humans Prometheus was chained to a rock where an eagle would come and eat out his liver.  Being immortal, he would grow a new liver every night only to have it taken away the next day until he was freed by Hercules.

Bob Dylan, whose music has taught me as much as anyone, refers to this changing chemical valence on his album, Love and Theft:  "Last night I knew you, tonight I don't."  You can work for years only to have everything taken away in an instant through no apparent fault of your own.  Like getting mugged in a dark alley though perhaps you shouldn't have been in that alley in the first place. Protect the heart constitutes a primary instruction in this line of endeavor.  All is not lost when you do get robbed.  Skills learned to accumulate and bond substances together stay with you, and like Prometheus' liver, it will grow back through conscious effort if one doesn't give up.  Eventually you become bullet proof.  Nietzsche's aphorism, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger applies here.  It makes you stronger because you have to work harder and reach deeper to build up the muscle again, and also you learn, perhaps painfully - pain is a great if unpleasant teacher -  to avoid dark alleys or if unavoidable, how to protect yourself in one.  Sometimes they can't be avoided.

I'm getting ahead of myself.  We'll go back and start closer to home looking at the process through the model of Crowley's system of magick with a little Gurdjieff thrown in for spice.  Crowley calls the crystallization of the Higher Emotional centrum the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel (KCHGA) He states that all beginning magick for aspirants to the Great Work should concern itself with this realization.  Anything else, he says, is black magick.

In a short missive to beginning students called Postcards To Probationers ( Equinox Vol. I Number 2 p.196) he writes:

I.  The world progresses by virtue of the appearance of Christs (geniuses).

To understand how Crowley communicates it appears essential to at least have some basic knowledge of the higher order language he used called Qabalah and the framework it rests upon known as the Tree of Life.  Many people get put off by its complexity but elsewhere in this blog stream, much earlier, I give a Lazy WoMan's guide to learning it which basically involves starting at the center and working your way out in all directions.  Christ correlates with the central Sephiroth called Tiphareth. What he states there is that the world progresses through people who have fully activated C6, who have crystallized an expanded open heart.  

Examining the etymology of "genius" also provides a clue: "from Latin, ‘attendant spirit present from one's birth, innate ability or inclination,’ from the root of gignere ‘beget.’"  In Shea and Wilson's magick information dense Illuminatus! trilogy they give a definition of genius as  someone with wide general erudition and comprehension ( I'm paraphrasing from memory).   All of this rings consonantly with the HGA metaphor.

To emphasize that he isn't referring to any particular brand of religious mythology, Crowley goes on to say that both Buddha and St. Ignatius as well as Socrates and Mohammed were Christs.  Interesting choice of examples.  Buddha and St. Ignatius have clear correlations with Tiphareth, Ignatius because he started the Society of Jesus though I also suspect he chose Ignatius because ignis in Latin means fire, an alchemical necessity in this process.  Socrates and Mohammed represent two opposite types, a philosopher and an illiterate goat herder showing there aren't any specific intellectual requirements necessary to acquire genius.  Crowley's conceit is that he felt anyone diligently applying his or similar methods could become a genius.  I agree with him.

The knowledge and conversation aspect of the HGA indicates to me that the intelligence of the heart can function as a Guide long before its full realization.  By that I mean the intelligence of the higher aspect of the emotional centrum, what I've been calling C6 referencing Timothy Leary's 8 circuit model of the nervous system.  It could also be called the intelligence of Tiphareth.  This guide seems almost incomprehensibly far beyond ordinary human intelligence in its scope perhaps explaining why early explorers of this domain modeled it as an Angel.  It should be remembered that the personification into a Holy Guardian Angel comprises a peg to hang a set of extraordinary experiences on related to the activation and function of a new circuit in the nervous system, a circuit with apparent superpowers compared to what we've been conditioned and programmed to accept as the limits of our abilities in the four human circuits and the fifth transistional circuit.  Crowley warns us quite clearly not to attribute any philosophical validity to the HGA or any other supernatural critter we may encounter on the way there.  We are working in Unknown territory here, these models are for convenience sake only, nothing to get hung about.

How this Guide begins to communicate, how the conversation gets started, varies from individual to individual.  It begins with somehow gaining the knowledge that Higher Intelligence exists and that it can communicate with us.  We can apply the scientific method to begin on this path.  Postulate "as if" the HGA exists, "as if" there exists a non-human Guide who can somehow communicate information pertinent to our spiritual ( higher circuit) development, then devise experiments and record instances that point to evidence of such a postulate.  I suggest noting coincidences and keeping a dream journal.  Oracular devices such as Tarot cards or the I Ching are other ways for this communication to get through.  Learning even a little bit of qabala seems, if not essential, at least extremely helpful to the process because the Angel tends to communicate symbolically in images.   The qabala is a dictionary and map of archetypes symbolically expressed in the world's mythologies.  You learn to develop your own symbolic language based both on established references and modern cultural images.

 Receiving and interpreting input in this way requires skillful discernment and intuition.  There seems much noise on the line yet genuine communication will get through if one has the need for it.  Intuition is another ability that develops with use.  It  also can get exercised and made strong like a muscle.  Once one has received a genuine communication directly related to your work that couldn't have come from any human or ordinary source one gains enough knowledge to go further on this course and continue the conversation ... a conversation which seems guaranteed, sooner or later, to blow your mind, break your set - the reality tunnel we got programmed and conditioned to accept as the way things are.

The idea that the emotional centrum has its own intelligence apart from the intellect appears mostly foreign to our culture yet does have precedent in ancient cultures such as the Egyptian, Babylonian, Mesopotamian, Indian as well as many Native American tribes.  I met many Africans when I worked there who appeared to have this kind of intelligence operating, much moreso than in Europe or North America.  The C2 human side of this centrum tends to run its input through a like/dislike filter.  By contrast C6 seemingly has an infinite variety of states and modalities.  Crowley poetically writes of this in AHA:

Had I a million songs,
And every song a million words,
And every word a million meanings,
I could not count the choral throngs
Of Beauty's beatific birds,
Or gather up the paltry gleanings
Of this great harvest of delight!
Hadst thou not heard the word aright?
That world is truly infinite.
Even as a cube is to a square
Is that to this.
Royal and rare!
Infinite light of burning wheels.

It's clear that he speaks of Tiphareth (C6): Beauty is the English translation; the 6 sided cube has much more dimension than the flat square; million is used three times because a million has six zeros.  He gives us three sets of six zeros.

Another key to activating the heart is found in what's known as True Will.  What do you really love to do?  How would you spend this life if money and ordinary obligations weren't an issue?  Why have you been give this life under these unique circumstances?    The HGA is said to be the epitome of True Will.  This corresponds with one meaning of genius as innate ability or inclination.  Obviously, if you're doing something that you love to do it's going to expand and exercise the heart.  Doing anything creative exercises the heart.  It is in this way that finer substances begin to accumulate and collect.

It's been said by Crowley in The Confessions that once one begins this work, all kinds of obstacles and resistance arises both internal and external.  If the work is never begun and one is content to stay in the comfort zone of the four lower human circuits then no problems will come up, there's nothing threatening the status quo.  When the aspirant begins to exercise their spiritual muscles, to reach for the cube beyond the flat square then all kinds of obstacles present themselves.  The ego doesn't want the being to take charge because this threatens its existence.  An excellent example of this can be seen in the Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey.  The spaceship, representing the four lower circuits, what Gurdjieff called the human machine, with the astronauts representing the fifth transitional circuit on a mission, an oddyssey, into the Unknown.  The super computer HAL 9000 ( the highly developed intellect) attempts to take over the mission for it's own reasons by killing the astronauts.  Bowman, the surviving astronaut has to disconnect HAL's core circuitry in order to continue the mission.  This correlates with turning off the mind or bypassing the ego to reach the higher neuro-circuits.  The rest of the mission in 2001, particularly after Bowman goes into the monolith has strong resonance with the mission to activate the 6th circuit as does the final scene representing mission accomplished, though, as the image of the newborn implies, it's not an ending, but a beginning.

Gurdjieff  presented a model called the Law of Three to demonstrate the relationship these obstacles present to the aim and how to overcome them.  I understand it to mean that whenever something positive tries to manifest, an equally negative force arises trying to block it.  The third force reconciles the positive and negative.  In our case we could say that activating C6 represents the positive, the obstacles and resistance are the negative force, and our efforts and the education it brings act to reconcile the two.  The three are also known as the affirming, the denying, and the reconciling.  The resistance no matter how strong it gets seems a necessary part of the program.  Solving the problems it presents develops new skill sets for the aspirant as they're forced to solve the problem.  For this reason, the denying has also been called the pushing force.  It can push you into action that you might otherwise not have taken had a particular problem or situation not arisen.  This is evolution brought about by necessity.  

In Regardie's book The Tree of Life he says that the traditional task of the adept after fully apprehending the KCHGA is to confront and subdue the four Princes of Evil, one from each quarter. This terminology appears rather medieval. It seems less gothic to view this in Jungian terms of directly confronting and learning how to live with the Shadow, the dark side of the psyche.  I also view what Jung called individuation as a C6 manifestation.  One can said to truly become an individual with a good understanding of one's purpose in life and the ability to act on it.  It's isomorphic ( ie same organic shape)  with Gurdjieff's real "I."

Jung believed that the exploration and integration of the unconscious part of the psyche with the conscious is key to the process of individuation.  This points to another parallel between individuation and the KCHGA.  Crowley once casually remarked to his student, Frank Bennett something to the effect that communicating with the HGA involves making the subconscious conscious.  Gurdjieff in Beelzebub says that:  "what you call the subconscious, which ought to be in my opinion the real human consciousness."  Elsewhere Crowley says that the HGA can appear as a discrete external intelligence. 

A thorough exploration of the inner self, the so-called subconscious, seems part and parcel for making the alchemy successful, for turning the heart into more than something that only pumps blood, something that pumps a different kind of blood and thereby accumulates the finer substances which will hopefully begin the crystallization process before getting scattered to the wind.  The purpose of this self-exploration/ self-observation is to work out the barriers that get in the way of the True Will thus acting as blockages on the heart.  The purpose is to make the machine more effective.

Crowley said he chose the Holy Guardian Angel appellation because it would be considered too absurd for philosophical debate, but it also seems to suggest the nature of the course.  An Angel that guards, guards against what?  Perhaps just against the vicissitudes of life, but it also seems likely that the intelligence of the heart ( the HGA) can communicate information useful for its own protection.  Classifying it as an Angel provides another strong clue.  Angels are androgenous, in other words, they transcend gender.  For us who work with human biological machines of one gender or another this means balancing the male and female energies each of us possess.  

Robert Anton Wilson gives a concise description of the process:

All epics take the form of a Quest.  Usually the hero undergoes an Underground Journey, or a visit to the realm of Thud where he is afflicted by buzzing and whistling Things from the Pink Dimension, or is somehow violently wrenched from tribal consensus reality.
- Introduction to Visions in the Stone.

Things from the Pink Dimension refers to carnal sexual energy solely directed toward physical bodies rather than spirit.  The energies of the lower chakras that hasn't been raised to the heart level or beyond.  It's considered male in its nature, only concerned with the physical.  In the Bible they symbolize this kind of sexual orientation as "dust."  This quote from the Book of the Law shows how the heart's alchemy can work and also how it can fail.  This is the Egyptian Sky-goddess Nuit speaking:

But to love me is better than all things: if under the night-stars in the desert thou presently burnest mine incense before me, invoking me with a pure heart, and the Serpent flame therein, thou shalt come a little to lie in my bosom.  For one kiss wilt thou willing to give all; but whoso gives one particle of dust shall lose all in that hour.

When she says lose all she's not talking about common earthly possessions, she's referring to the finer substances one accumulates through successful contact with her.  Maybe it sounds a little dramatic, but it does make the point that misapplied sexual energy, raw unspiritualized male energy, unbalanced yang, ( whether from a man or woman)  robs energy from the higher centers. This destructive male energy also manifests as anger, violence, war etc.  Whenever something is figuratively poking something else with a stick, whether that stick be harsh words, gunfire, bombs, rape ( to give extreme examples) or something else, it can be said to be male energy gone amok.

Crowley devotes a whole book, The Book of Lies (falsely so-called), to strategies and techniques for invoking me with a pure heart, and the Serpent flame therein and to cleaning up all the dust.  I would call The Book of Lies a modern alchemical masterpiece.  It's interesting to look at the last chapter, 91 called The Heikle which just has one word written: A.M.E.N.  About the Heikle in the commentary he writes:

But its general nature is of a certain minute whiteness, appearing at the extreme end of a great blackness. 
It is a good title for the last chapter of this book, and it also symbolises the eventual coming out into the light of his that has wandered long in the darkness.
91 is the enumeration of Amen.
The chapter consists of an analysis of this word, but gives no indication as to the result of this analysis, as if to imply this: The final Mystery is always insoluable.

Of course, there is multiple puns and different levels of meaning all throughout the book so it's not a surprise that the last word, insoluble, means both unsolvable, and incapable of dissolving ie crystallized.  It's a very concise and elegant ending to the book.  I interpret this as Crowley's  way of saying that the map is quite a long shot from being the territory - the territory appears far more Unknown and mysterious than our meager maps can cover yet we discover, through much experimentation, that we can learn to live, survive and make our home in that territory.  I see the emergence of pioneer consciousness explorers into C6 as no less difficult a transition as the first amphibians to emerge from water to begin living on land.  It's a completely different life with a different set of conditions.

In an amazing statement made at the close of his documentary, The Untold History of the U.S. Oliver Stone, who seems to have assimilated the same approach says:

A young woman said to me in the 1970s that we need to feminize this planet.  I thought it strange then, but now I realize there is power in love, real power in real love.  There is a way found by remembering the past.  And then we can start, step by step like a baby reaching for the stars.

The alchemy of the heart, the building up of this Higher Body, realizing C6 is another way to look at the ordeal called the Crossing of the Abyss or learning to navigate and survive in the Bardo.  The KCHGA begins in Tiphareth but doesn't end until it goes past Kether into the Veils of Nothingness.

Contemporary books, apart from Crowley and Gurdjieff, that I know which have the Crossing of the Abyss (aka alchemy of the heart) as one of its main themes include: Dune - Frank Herbert, Against the Day - Thomas Pynchon, Visions in the Stone - E.J. Gold, Schrodinger's  Cat - Robert Anton Wilson,  and The Journal of Albion Moonlight - Kenneth Patchen.  Those are the ones I can remember at the moment.

The Prosperity Path computer video game orbs by E.J. Gold can prove helpful in this regard.  A good general description of this ordeal through the Abyss is told in some orbs by an attractively rendered young woman 'bot in one of the antechambers behind the shop.  When approached she tells you: "In this wormhole expedition you will experience transition through several parallel dimensions."   Wormhole is a term from physics to explain instantaneous travel over vast distances.

Alchemy is usually given an etymology that connects it with ancient Egypt.  I prefer to analyze the word as Al + chemy.  Al is a Hebrew word for God but it also means Not; chemy = chemistry  therefore, the chemistry of God or of Not whichever you prefer. Not = the second Veil of Nothingness behind manifest existence on the Tree of Life.  Besides the kabbalists, Nothingness = the final step in both Buddhism and Taoism and it's what theoretical physicists say lies behind it all.  The mystics and scientists agree on this one.  I look at it as no-thingness.  I seem to be a verb, as Bucky Fuller said.

Earlier I used the metaphor of Prometheus to describe the situation of someone who can access C6, but is chained to the earthly rock with his work eaten away every day by a predator until the hero Hercules rescues him, breaks the chains that binds him to the earth.  Hercules, to me, represents the successful crystallization of the Higher Body.  Every time Prometheus is forced to grow back a liver more substance accumulates, he becomes stronger.  The efforts  made every day through the alchemy of the heart slowly eat away and dissolve the chains that bind him to the rock.  Though substance gets stolen every day, the aspirant slowly learns how to protect the heart, how to stop the energy - the rarefied substances - from leaking away every day until the day the hero finally arrives to permanently break the chains.

In this way voluntary evolution appears to progress more like a spiral than a straight linear course.  You see a vision, get a taste of something extraordinary where the feeling centrum functions like it never has before.  You decide that this experience is not some random fluke, but rather the way it should always be, a permanent functioning organ with abilities far beyond the norm.  You find ways to get back there but invariably get thrown back to ordinary consciousness, back into the dream.  Still, every experiment gives some data about what does and does not work for setting up permanent residence in the Higher Dimensions, especially the experiments that don't work, the so-called mistakes.  Sometimes it can seem like everything gets taken away, but it's not, it can't be, the experience can't be taken away.  Some or all of the results of the work might get taken but the experience and the effort that went into it always accrues.  It gets easier and easier to get up, shake off the dust, and get back on the horse.  Crowley guarantees that every aspirant will get there providing they don't quit, they don't give up.  It requires much patience.  This explains one of his more well known magickal mottos: Perdurabo - I will endure unto the end.  One of the merit rewards you get in the Prosperity Path games are points for  "infinite eternal endurance"  Led Zeppelin, who heads up the rock n roll division of the Great Work, puts it this way :

Every little thing that you know, 
everything that's small has to grow
and it always grows ...
 - The Song Remains the Same.

No matter how many times the phoenix gets utterly consumed by the flames, burnt to a crisp, le aspirant du flambe, it always rises from the ashes.  Prometheus rising.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Apocalypse Across the Italian Sky

Material and the Master Musicians of Jajouka going full tilt through the bardo....

From left to right: Graham Haynes - trumpet, Peter Apfelbaum - alto sax, flute, melodica, Aiyb Dieng - percussion, Hamid Drake - drums, Bill Laswell - bass, Bachir Attar - rhaita, gimbri, flute, Ahmed Bakhat -violin, Mustapha Attar - rhaita, dumbek, flute, Mohamed el Attar - tebel drum, Abdellah Bokhzar - tarija drum, rhaita  Not pictured: James Dellatacoma - bass and stage tech. Photo supplied by Ludmilla Faccenda.

Upon meeting us in the lobby of the Majestic Star Hotel in Torino, Italy, magician musician Bachir Attar pulled out 3 or 4 buttons showing the Jajouka Moroccan lion calligraphy design, each one a different color, and asked us to choose.  I saw this same forward thrust of energy the next day when he began playing the raspy high-pitched rhaita, the Moroccan mountain horn, introducing a musical induction and voyage through space. The drums kick in right away shaking the room without excessive volume, a second rhiata weaves in and around, along with and counter to Bachir. The rhaitas sound like different currents and eddies in a river of sound; the violin echoing and underscoring the melodic line, a nice warm opposite texture to the rhaitas.  Hamid and Aiyb join in on drums and percussion immediately opening up the rhythm to new dimensions of depth while keeping the same beat; they slide in and lift up the groove; sax and trumpet start with James Brownish melodic punctuations, a precursor of the funk that's about to unleash when Bill starts a bass line that ties everything together into a strong, coherent motion forward driving this musical engine through the night.  

These musicians, never having played together in this configuration, became a solid unit, a living musical entity with nothing more than about a half hour to forty minutes of playing together at soundcheck, and that was more about making sure the stage sounded right.  Bill had drawn up a structure of ideas for a set list.  Everything was improvised on the spot. There were shaky moments once or twice, but they always stayed aloft and kept going.  It did turn into magic, I lost all track of time.  When they stopped I thought it was way too soon, I couldn't believe that much time had gone by.

The Master Musicians, particularly Bachir,  know how to use their instruments to play calls - calls for whatever, there are a variety like the Enochian Angelic calls of Elizabethan and Golden Dawn fame.  Calls can be a special kind of prayer - not for the person making the call, for something else.  E.J. Gold has been playing calls on the didgeridoo every morning for the past few weeks.  I heard Bachir say, " I think it can make a difference" around the time he gave out the magic lion discs.

The rhaitas, flutes or gimbri make the calls with the violin support, though the violin will take the lead at times.  The drums greatly expand their capacity and throw with the Material drums and percussion like an overdrive thruster reaching much further and beyond.  The trumpet and sax become two tonal support pillars and alternate funkster melody corridors; sometimes they'll take the lead and play the call.  Sometimes even the bass will play a call.  Through strongly coherent low frequency communication the bass expands the whole operation planet wide.  I'll tell you how.

Humpback and blue whales can communicate thousands of miles using low frequency "whale songs" combined with an innate acoustical knowledge or map of the ocean's geological features to resonate and bounce the sound off of.  It's been said that a whale can communicate to another one on the other side of the world in under 9 minutes. I run the bass and drums through a  Kosmos Subharmonic synthesizer which amplifies the same 10 - 40Hz range that whales communicate in.  I love my work.

Music playing, word falling, photo falling breakthrough on the planet of violent robots; a temporary respite, but you have to start somewhere.  CNN reports the day after the Torino concert: "The truce in Eastern Ukraine is holding. (news anchor sounding pleasantly surprised)." The government in Kiev passes resolutions giving concessions to the rebels described as holding out an olive branch.  Italy is famous for it's olive groves rife with branches.  Ginger Baker, another world drummer with strong African roots, retired to an olive farm atop a hill until called back into service by John Lydon and Bill Laswell.   Michael Corleone finds a little peace on his family's olive farm in Italy in the Godfather.  Livia is an Italian girls name derived from Olive or Olivia as in Anna Livia Plurabelle, the overarching female presence in Finnegans Wake.  At the end of the documentary series, The Untold History of the U.S., Oliver Stone, remarking on the disease of constant war, says that we need to feminize the world.  Associations across the sky like meandering rhaita lines calling healing baraka force into manifest existence.

It began with the Moroccan lion.  At the Egypytian Museum in Torino, the largest outside of Cairo, I discover its collection had dozens of  large statues of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet housed in two dark rooms with walls of black mirrors creating an atmosphere of infinite dark corridors through the underworld. The statues lit up standing in majestic silent presence.  They came from the temple of a Pharoah who had commissioned 365 seated and 365 standing statues of Sekhmet, one for each day of the year.  Now that's what I call protection. She was a warrior goddess, a healer, and  a protector of Pharoahs especially in war.  Pharoah Saunders was originally booked to play these shows, but couldn't make it.  He would have felt right at home.

Minutes before Bachir arrived with the lion buttons, just after saying hello to Cherie Nutting and James, Bill Laswell gave me four more Sun Ra cds: Sun Ra Visits Egypt, John Cage meets Sun Ra, Cosmo Funkmythology - The Last Studio Recordings, and Second Star to the Right ( Salute to Walt Disney) as well as new book by Alejandro Jodorowsky, The Dance of Reality - A Psychomagical Autobiography.  On page 3 Jodorowsky talks about his introduction to the tarot which would become such an important vehicle for him:

"...but what fascinated me most was a rectangle inside which a princess, wearing a three-pointed crown and seated on a throne, was carresing a lion that rested its head on her knees.  The animal had an expression of profound intelligence combined with an extreme gentleness... Concealed beneath a floorboard the card STRENGTH became my secret treasure.  In the strength of my innocence, I fell in love with the princess.

The next page, Jodorowsky tells a story of going to "the circus of the Human Eagles" with his father who had been a performer at one time.  One of the clowns placed a lion cub in his arms that lead to a strong experience which he recounts.  Jodo says that he absorbed his animal energy.  These coincidences with lions recalls Robert Anton Wilson's Coincidance - A Head Test where lion symbolism pops up here and there in regard to it's designation as one of the animals of Tiphareth.

If a tape recorder had been running the first night at dinner an incredible book of inside music stories could have been written.  Graham Haynes, automatically jazz royalty being the son of drummer Roy Haynes and, according to Bill, perhaps currently the best trumpet player around these days, tells a number of Coltrane and Ornette Coleman stories.  Alice Coltrane told Graham about the  three month process John had gone through writing A Love Supreme.  Another time Coltrane took a harmony lesson from Ornette paying him $100 by check.  Ornette kept and framed the check.  Bill mentions seeing B3 organist Larry Young play in Lifetime, Emergency!  The description of Young's playing in the encyclopedia also helps describe the music of Material/Jajouka so I'll include it here:

His characteristic sound involved management of the stops on the Hammond organ, producing overtone series that caused an ethereal, drifting effect; a sound that is simultaneously lead and background

Later, Bill was at a club in New York waiting to hear Larry Young debut with his new band when word came that he had died enroute to the gig.

The evening ended for me shortly after Ludmilla Faccenda, the promoter of these shows, and general guide to our time in Italy told me about the Egyptian treasures and the Shroud of Turin both within walking distance of the hotel.

The Egyptian Museum had several original hieroglyphic scrolls from the ancient texts collectively known as the Papyrus of Ani, popularly called The Egyptian Book of the Dead.  The ancient Egyptian name for these writings transliterates into English as Utterances of Going Forth By Day.  Another translation calls it The Book of Emerging Forth into the Light.  They were in very good condition for the most part, much color still present.  These writings played a significant role inspiring the Hermetic Magic of the Golden Dawn.  I scanned some of the instructions ( they call them spells) into my tricorder for possible use as navigational guidance for tonight's concert. 

The museum also had a carved stone block from the temple of the renegade Pharoah Akenhaten.  It had a large hieroglyph of a hawk carved into it among a few other figures, the solar Horus hawk was the most prominent.  I tried to psychometrize it with no apparent success... or so I thought at the time.

On the way to the museum, up a narrow side-street which turned into a pedestrian walkway, I cast an audio net fishing for sound with two silver omnidirectional microphones attached to a portable Tascam PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) recorder.  Recording street sounds you often hear nothing unusual then suddenly an interesting bell will strike, or some random poetic conversation will drift by, perhaps a loud boom with great natural reverb will sound out and you will have captured a rare audio event, landed a fish in your net.  The walk to Ancient Egypt was particularly musical that day - a string quartet playing Beethoven's 5th in front of a fashion shop, a guitarist playing Andres Segovia guitar runs on a quiet, but overdriven electric guitar.  A trumpet player with a clean, pure tone had found a post on the far side of the ground level museum entrance where the walkway becomes very narrow before opening up into a small square.  He would play some phrases down the narrow corridor then swing his horn 180 degrees to play into the square.  I recorded both sides. 

The audio net was out in the museum, pcm'ed ambience the whole time in it and also read the catalog descriptions of the Egyptian Book of the Dead texts into the record.  Thankfully, there were English translations.

Mine is the radiance wherin Ptah floateth over his firmament.  I travel upon high!  I tread upon the firmament of Nu!  I raise a flashing flame with the lightening of my eye, ever rushing onward in the splendor of the daily glorified Ra, giving my life to the dwellers on Earth.

Found a large square two streets over on the way back to the hotel, a medieval church with ornate statutory at one end, and a percussion troupe doing it's thing at the other. People, not a whole lot, milling about or drinking cappucinos in one of the outdoor cafes.  I recorded these drummers at varying distances from right up close to the other end of the square for a variety of acoustical pictures.  The weather was perfect this day. 

Teatro Regio Torino ( the Royal Theater) is a 1500 seat venue that normally hosts operas and symphonic concerts.  They rarely use sound reinforcement I was told.  I can believe it, the Front of House sound mixing area was at the very back, but you could hear someone whispering on stage when it was quiet.  The sound projected well.  This made for a loud stage volume, but it wasn't so bad as all the instruments were acoustic except for the bass which carried everything.  The slightly domed ceiling had what looked like a few hundred narrow glass tubes of varying lengths attached to disperse standing waves. 

The concert starts with Bachir's rhaita calling, a secular muezzin call instantly transforming (trance forming) the chamber into a sacred mosque inner sanctum holy ground space vehicle. The theater is instantly alive as one unified entity begins jelling into motion slowly but surely lifting itself across the sky -  another Funkadelic Mothership Connection this time via North Africa.  Music is one way for God to say, "here I am."  The sound is rumbling, cavernous, but also defined and clear, crystalline percussion, warm, solid articulate drum kit; the low end of the bass reaching subterranean depths but never boomy or obscuring.  When the appreciative audience claps their approval they sound like a crowd of thousands roaring from a distant city thanks to the echoing acoustics.

Hamid Drake, Bill Laswell, Bachir Attar, Ahmed Bakhat, and Mustapha Attar.
photo by Cherie Nutting

The music is dynamic, sometimes apocalyptically loud, then later it gets tender, as delicate as a butterfly's gossamer wings when the Moroccans pull out their bamboo flutes weaving hypnotic melodies then joined by Peter playing a western transverse flute with its clear, angelic tone.  Bachir pulls out a gimbri for one song, its rich warm plucked tone guiding the spaceship in another direction.  Naturally, there were dub beats and bass lines which the Jajoukans sounded right at home with.

I had breakfast with Peter that morning and he reminisced about when Timothy Leary, a family friend, used to visit when Peter was a child growing up in Berkeley.  Leary would bring a bamboo flute and play with Peter on the drums.  I suspect this had some kind of subliminal influence on Peter's flute playing.  This is the first I've heard of Leary playing a musical instrument.  Apfelbaum has warm memories of his time with Tim, he was like a friendly Uncle who made time to be with the kids.  It's nice to hear something positive and human about this controversial figure who would later get demonized by the media as the LSD guru.  Leary visited Jajouka, so its fitting to my associative mind that Peter would eventually share the stage with the Master Musicians.  Leary's other significant contribution to planetary evolution the SMI2LE formula (Space Migration + Intelligence Increase + Life Extension) also describes the metaphysical effect that these Material shows had.

This band was challenging to mix especially at the start partly because it was a new combination of musicians playing improvised music; they were finding their own mix on stage.  It was made easier by the fact that the instruments had distinct ranges, distinct frequency bands of their own.  Everything sounded clear and separated, but cohesive.  I suspect that not having any electric guitars helped.

Random comments: Hamid and Ayib often play like twins who came out of the same womb, four hands and four feet, two central nervous systems energetically linked to form a single drum and percussion entity.  More of a media event than I am used to; rave reviews in the papers the next day.  The audience looks older and conservative yet they respond enthusiastically establishing a strong rapport; looks can be deceiving.  No one complains about the volume even when it's thundering across the sky.

Post concert dinner begins at midnight, a restaurant stays open specially for us run by a short gregarious Italian matron and two younger staff who might be her son and daughter.  We are seated at a single very long table.  Across from me are the four Jajoukans who are not Bachir.  We don't have a common verbal language, they speak Arabic yet there is communication of sorts between us.  As everyone else makes conversation, they sit silently and patiently not even talking amongst themselves, nor do they look bored.  They remind me of monks with that kind of reserve and discipline.  They are master musicians even offstage.

Bachir, with the help of Cherie talks about all the musicians who have made the pilgrimage to Morocco to meet him and his musical family and soak in the Jajouka vibe.  It started with Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones who was brought there by Brion Gysin.  Later Bill remarks that if Gysin hadn't liked the music of Jajouka we might never have heard of them. Several years later Mick and Keith and the rest of the Stones made it as far as Tangier.  Ornette Coleman recorded in Jajouka; recently the Jajoukans reciprocated playing at the tribute to Ornette held at Prospect Park in Brooklyn as part of Celebrate Brooklyn.  Donovan made it to Jajouka and became friends with Bachir and Cherie.  A band called Happy Mondays holed up there for awhile and they were expecting another one called Zero Magnetic Attraction to visit not long after returning home.  Bachir tells a story of the time Jimmy Page visited, in the early '70s I guess, and no one knew who he was.  Page drove up in an expensive black car got out, pulled out a bunch of hash which he set on a table then was immediately asked to leave.  He didn't identify himself and the villagers thought he was a drug dealer, so he left without a fuss.  Some years later Bachir  recognized him at a restaurant in Paris and walked up to him saying, "I know you, you were in Jajouka."  Page just laughed.  Someone told  Bachir who it was and that's when he discovered the identity of this mysterious visitor to his home village some time ago.

The next morning we drive to Milan for a concert the following night.  I spend the afternoon writing then take a long walk in the Chinatown neighborhood around the hotel fishing for sound.  A short poem by Kerouac from Some of the Dharma illustrates this scene:

It's Saturday morning in China, and I see the fantastic blossom
          sparkling in the emptiness,
              and intuition smiles brightly everywhere -
                  the jewel in the lotus,
                       the transparent crystal clearness of the world.

Another gorgeous day of perfect weather.

Before soundcheck the next afternoon I give Graham, Aiyb and Hamid copies of a cd I recorded and produced of the piano jazz trio Too Noisy Fish.  Hamid reads the lettering as God Noisy Fish, not an inappropriate mistake likely a result of years of zikhr and music; what might whimsically get called a Jungian slip. 

A new guide from the Milano festival organization, Francesca Scarinci, joins us in Milan to escort the group to the theater.  Francesca resembles the woman in Jodorowsky's STRENGTH card, the same eyes. Flirting has been outlawed in the Higher Dimensions, but spiritual contact goes beyond gender and says hello to the night. I tread upon the firmament of Nu. 

We play this night at Teatro Manzoni situated in the center of Milan's fashion district and tonight is the first night of Fashion Week.  The street in front of the theater is closed to automobile traffic.  We have about a 3 hour break after the soundcheck so I go for a walk.  If there's a prevailing new fashion I can't tell what it is from the celebrants in the street.  Lots of people looking very original in this low key European festival atmosphere.  It didn't feel at all pretentious, frivolous or overly serious.  I took a respite outside a jogging park eating a fish sandwich, drinking cappuccinos, writing poetry and taking notes.  Mother Notte showing her finest wares in a pageant of color and style - "the beauty parlor is filled with sailors, the circus is in town."

I left through the backstage doors with assurances that I could easily get back in.  Upon returning the doors were locked, no one was around and there wasn't a buzzer or intercom in sight.  The main entrance to the Manzoni is accessed through a gallery on another street.  It could have taken some time to find it in the festive chaos of the fashionistas.  As I was banging on the doors, an Ethiopian live sound engineer now living in Rome, alas I didn't note his name, asked if I needed help and directed me to the entrance. The concert T-shirt I was wearing clued him in to my intention.

It's been my experience that when something positive is trying to manifest a certain amount of resistance springs up presenting an obstacle to overcome.  This happened right away for me when a nail punctured my tire less than five minutes after I left for the San Francisco airport.  The tires had been rotated and check just the day before.  I went to put a spare on, but there was no jack to be found in the vehicle.  Drove back to the farm where I live, borrowed a jack from Patricia and was soon on my way.  As I was leaving she said, "That's it, no more bad travel karma for you on this trip." Her words proved to be right, travel for the rest of the trip went unusually smoothly.  There wasn't even any air turblance along the roughly 12,000 miles I flew there and back.

The other major piece of resistance occurred at the start of the concert in Milan.  When the full band kicked in the sound was much brighter and louder than at soundcheck.  I adjust to compensate for this.  Five minutes into the concert, Max, the house sound tech tells me I have to turn down because people are leaving.  This sounds like BS to me, people will say anything to you to get you to do what they want, but I attempt to compromise.  Not good enough though, Ludmilla steps into the booth and very nicely asks me to turn it down.  By this time the band is naturally playing a little quieter made obvious to me by the fact that she's talking to me in at a normal conversational level and I can hear her easily a few feet away.  Then I notice LED lights on a processor activating to indicate that the whole system is being compressed.  That wasn't happening at the soundcheck.  I look at this piece of gear and see that it's a TC Finalizer which is normally used to master recordings at the final stage before manufacturing them enmasse.    I work with the software version of this box, the TC Masterworks when mastering in the studio and I know that when you lower the threshold to bring on more compression, the sound actually gets louder and brighter.  Basically, what's going on is that while I'm trying to contain the volume, he is making it louder and brighter while believing that the added compression will lower the volume.  So I lean close to him and calmly say in a command tone, "will you please back off the compression?"  Max gets a little agitated and reaches over pushing a button on the box saying, "there, I've bypassed it, no more compression at all!"  As soon as the bypass switch activated the sound immediately got quieter, warmer and the mix sounded much more open.  I was very grateful, this was more than I asked for.  When the mix got a bit more settled I took a walk around the theater, nearly going right up to the stage to hear for myself how loud it sounded.  I was admittedly mixing at rock concert  (but not heavy metal) levels, however the Master Musicians have been called a 4000 year old rock 'n roll by no less than William Burroughs and who am I, or anyone, to argue with Burroughs on this point?

If I may be permitted a slight rant.  I see the volume issue as another indication that eyesight has a far more dominant role than hearing in our culture by the fact that no one thinks twice about wearing sunglasses when the light is too bright yet most people can't even conceive that the same kind of sensory attenuation can reduce sound pressure levels by wearing ear plugs and adjusting them for optimal volume.  Maybe it's because sunglasses make a fashion statement while reducing light that's too loud.  So I call upon the fashion designers of the world to make ear plugs a fashion accessory ... ok, maybe that's ridiculous, but it doesn't seem absurd to ask people to learn how to change their own reality in this regard instead of expecting something external to do it for them.  If going to a concert that might get too loud for you, bring ear plugs and don't be afraid to use them if necessary.

The concert was completely different from the one in Torino.  Just as powerful, intense and time warping, but musically something else.  I have recordings of both shows.  Audience response felt even more enthusiastic in the sold-out house  No one seemed put off by the volume and it seemed like the theater was just as full as the start of the show. One notable difference between the two shows occurred when the Master Musicians left the stage and walked through the audience playing while Material held the groove.  The last time I saw that was at a Sun Ra concert in the East Village circa early '80s.

The Milan concert was even more of a media event.  Bill and Bachir shot a pre-concert interview segment with a popular Italian TV personality who seemed genuinely interested in the music.  Imagine seeing something like this on David Letterman ... I don't think so, not yet anyway.  Two camera crews shared the sound booth with me one for Web TV, the other for the mainstream network running the interview.  They were both provided audio feeds from the board.   There was another clip made for the internet that unfortunately sounds like they used the camera mic to record the sound and the video image is much more low resolution.  Here's a clip with the good audio and picture:

Despite not having much rest the past few days and being jet lagged, I felt incredibly energized.  Stayed up all night writing then packed for an early pick-up to the airport.  Said goodbye to Bill, James and Aiyb in the lobby, we were going to different airports.  Aiyb got a little emotional, but then so did I.

Stopped at a traffic light alone in the back seat of the taxi, the early morning sun  shining through, my state calm, but definitely altered from the music and working all night, everything combined in that moment to produce an experience I've only felt this completely a few times before.  It only lasted the minute or so we stayed at the light, but seemed much longer when I was there,  I can't describe it, but Jack Kerouac comes close:

The form of emptiness which has taken the form of form, is what you see and hear and feel right now, and what you taste and think as you read this.  Wait awhile, close your eyes, let your breathing stop three seconds or so, listen to the inside silence in the womb of the world, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, re-recognize the bliss you forgot, the emptiness and essence and ecstasy of ever having been and ever to be the golden eternity.  This is the lesson you forgot.

 - Sutra 14, The Scripture of the Golden Eternity.

Until next time ...