Monday, March 23, 2015

Bill Laswell

 "Music makes mutations audible"

Music is more than an object of study: it's a way of perceiving the world.  A tool of understanding.

- Jacques Attali

Bill Laswell at the board with pioneering turntablist DXT

The first session I worked on with Bill Laswell involved mixing an album called Taboo by Ronald Shannon Jackson. This was either at the end of 1987 or near the beginning of 1988.  I was assisting Robert Musso in the Platinum Island East room, the SSL room. Platinum Island was on Broadway just south of Great Jones St. (3rdSt) in Greenwich Village, New York.  I remember being told about the gig in advance, I didn't know anything about Laswell, but one of the techs thought highly of his work and considered this a prestigious and important session. The studio also gave it top priority. Though I was the senior assistant engineer at the time, I was out of favor with the Studio Manager who would rather have assigned it to his favorite assistant except that he was already booked with something else. I was also working with Fred Maher at the time on the Information Society record. He knew Bill from drumming with him in Massacre and Material. He dramatically told me in a very serious, hushed voice that Bill was evil.  I flashed on Ouspensky's break with Gurdjieff when he considered Gurdjieff evil and forbade his students from visiting him even though he taught Gurdjieff's system.  I later discovered from this and other experiences that what some people call evil is only a kind of energy or manifestation they don't understand. Aleister Crowley appears the prime cultural example of this misunderstanding.

Bob Musso seemed the most efficient engineer I had worked with, very tech savvy with a professional demeanor of a NASA scientist by way of M.I.T. He let you know in a friendly way that crucial business was going down here. The music was free jazz, by far the most progressive music I'd heard at Platinum Island which had a heavy dance music clientele. Bill would give Bob time to set up the mix. When a good balance was achieved, Bill would get behind the SSL and automate tracks one at a time while Bob operated the SSL computer. The automation was often quite radical creating a performance in itself as well as determining the final song arrangement when it was all done. Each automation pass was an improvised studio performance. The song was run straight through and there wasn't any going back to change something.  A free jazz mix, music born from intuitive technical operation right on the spot. It was the most interesting music I'd heard mixed in that room so far and the first time I saw the SSL “played” like a musical instrument.

The Ronald Shannon Jackson mix was a trial session, a studio audition for Bill and Bob. It worked out so they were back right away recording then mixing tracks for what became Asian Games by Yosuke Yamashita, Bill Laswell and Ryuichi Sakamoto. The style of music has been called Electro, Future Jazz which is about right. Here's an example … it's very atmospheric, a trip through one particular bardo. The piano playing, the guide through this sonic land of the dead is Yosuke. The Fairlight industrial sounds were programmed by Nicky Skopelitis and other metal percussion and bells by Aiyb Dieng. Bass and other sounds by Laswell. 

This album was mixed by Bill and Bob at Platinum Island using a process similar to how they mixed Taboo.  Arrangements and performances created in the mix via Laswell writing it into the computer while Musso was the tonemeister and knob spinner.  With these mixes I started to notice a fundamental difference between their approach and most of the other commercially minded clients.  It's hard to explain except to say that they were striving for utmost artistic integrity, looking to create the next thing in music, creating the future of music without thinking about it.   Doing it for no other apparent reason than it needed to get done, always in motion to go beyond.    A good example of what Crowley means when he writes, “For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect."  

A popular notion in esoteric circles concerns the Secret Chiefs or Hidden Masters, advanced Initiates who influence and guide the evolution of the human species or at least attempt to.  According to Robert Anton Wilson this works as a "useful metaphor."  Perhaps not all the Masters are metaphysical?  True artists, those that communicate transformational information or "data cells" through the medium of their art, help shape the culture and society of their times. 

Not long after Yosuke was the nearly ill-fated mix of Iggy Pop's version of Family Affair, the Sly and the Family Stone song which I wrote about here.  That was the session where the SSL computer crashed about 6 hours into it and lost all their automation.  Of course, all the sound processing and the basic initial mix balance was still there.  Bill and Bob appeared to take the crash in stride and said get it fixed, they'd be back upon the morrow to finish.  Well, the techs couldn't find anything wrong and I had to resort to more magick than usual to ensure it didn't crash again and thankfully, it didn't.

During the years I assisted on sessions with Bill he would introduce me to an incredible number of world class musicians some of whom became lifelong friends:

Aiyb Deng

Sengalese percussionist on any number of Laswell productions.  Responsible for unique
atmospheric sounds with his varied collection of unusual metals, pitched springs, ceremonial bells, gongs and the like.  Also the low liquid hand rhythm of his clay drum Chatans found its way on many records not the least of which is Public Image Limited's Album.

Bernie Worrell  

- keyboard virtuoso and string arranger with Parliament/Funkadelic, sideman with the Talking Heads, various solo albums of his own and Keith Richards, etc. Laswell's go-to for a Hammond B3 organ player and any kind of funk keyboards.

Nicky Skopelitis

 - session guitarist, solo artist, very knowledgeable about certain kinds of folk music from around the world.  At some point he took it upon himself to educate me in World Music with various recordings and concert recommendations.

Bootsy Collins

- played with James Brown at the age of 17 then later with Parliament/Funkadelic as well as being a solo artist.  Watching Bootsy record with his Star bass in front of a semi-circle of various pedals punching them in and out in time on a single pass through the song he seemed like the Jimi Hendrix of bass playing at that moment.  Bootsy is also the living embodiment of funk rhythm guitar playing right up there with or beyond Prince and Nile Rodgers.  We would begin recording Bootsy immediately as soon as the track was up because he would instantly come up with these great ideas for parts that he would almost just as instantly forget being as the music was flowing out of him 'bout as fast as whitewater rapids on the Columbia River.  But we got it all on tape.

L. Shankar

 - best Indian classical violinist I've ever heard, plays with incredible feeling, but that goes for all of these musicians.  A career highlight for me was working with him in Madras, India  for about 10 days.

Trilok Gurtu

 - a very unique drummer, I don't know what you'd call his style.  At a recent show he used 3 bass drums and a pair of tablas as part of his kit along with heavily processed water percussion.

The Ramones

 - didn't spend much time with them, just a few hours while they listened to some mixes of their album Brain Drain, but it felt good to be in the same room with these legends.  Dee Dee came separately as he wasn't getting along with the rest.  Joey was the only one who went to the mastering.  I saw that he was listening while I was speaking with Bill about Aleister Crowley.

Iggy Pop

 - needs no introduction.  Instinct was an important album for me in multiple ways.  I wrote a little bit about it at the end of this post, but intend to expand the comments on it.

William S. Burroughs

- also needs no introduction.  Wrote about working with him here.

Foday Musa Suso

 - griot extraordinaire; collaborator with Philip Glass, Herbie Hancock, and the Kronos String Quartet among others.

Anton Fier

- best known for his group The Golden Palominos as well as being a remarkably tasteful drummer.  I worked on 5 or 6 records with Anton starting as an assistant then engineering.  Also toured Japan and Central Asia with him along with Suso, Bill and Nicky mixing sound for the Flying Mijinko Band.

Akira Sakata

 -  premiere jazz sax player from Japan.  Played in Yosuke Yamashita's group in the '70s. Musical organizer of the Flying Mijinko tour which he named from his training as a marine biologist.

 - probably the best funk/rock drummer from the SF Bay area at the time, I first met Brain on the Limbomaniacs recording of their.Stinky Grooves record. It was one of the first projects where I started engineering for Bill.  Brain introduced us to Buckethead when they both came to New York to record Praxis Transmutation.  More on that later.  In the late '90's, Brain recommended my services to Tom Waits which worked out really well.  I worked again with Brain on Antipop when he was part of Primus.  After that he joined Guns & Roses for awhile.

Ronald Shannon Jackson

- played drums with Ornette Coleman before forming his own group, The Decoding Society.  One of the heaviest dudes I've ever met, a shamanistic musician.  I wrote about him earlier on the occasion of his transition.

Fred Frith

 - I  first met Fred when he played a violin overdub on something.  When I reflect back on it, back then and up to the present, he reminds me of one of the Invisibles ( part of the Invisible College) because at that session I had absolutely no idea of the respected stature of his corpus of work which included being a guiding influence to Brian Eno at one crucial point. 

Stevie Salas

 - a legitimate guitar hero, he astonished me watching him overdub on Shannon Jackson's  Red Warrior album. Played with Rod Stewart at one point.

Bernard Fowler

- incredible singer; background vocalist for the Rolling Stones since 1989.

Michael Gira

- leader of The Swans.  Their Burning World album was an important project for me especially during the mix because that's when I met Jason Corsaro.  Musically, it's  one of my favorite releases and I still listen to it from time to time.  It's an important record with multiple messages from the desert.  Gira was channeling Paul Bowles at the time.

Jason Corsaro

- working with him was a game-changer, the best thing that ever happened to this engineering career apart from meeting Bill.  I wrote about my experience working with him here and continued here.

This is a good selection of people I met through working with Bill Laswell at Platinum Island.  I recall early on Bill, Bob and Nicky had just arrived for a session and were sitting in Platinum Island West waiting for another musician.  They were talking amongst themselves passing along the latest news, all having to do with other highly respected musicians and projects.  Ryuichi Sakamoto, John Lydon, Ginger Baker, Sly and Robbie, Bootsy Collins etc.; speaking informally of familiar friends, colleagues and what they were doing.    I don't remember the exact details, but do remember a sudden realization when I grokked what they were discussing, a moment of crystal clarity, that this was the real deal.  In other words, this was the part of the music industry I had listened to but never had direct contact with until now.  Music that strives to go beyond boundaries to ever re-create and redefine, de-territorialize and re-territorialize its content and expression.  This experience was like waking up, i.e. a transition into a space of real intent and extreme awareness.  I was here, I had made it to the chamber where real music was made.  Not pop music or club dance music, rather music intended as a springboard into unknown territories; music with multiplicities of intention; multiplicities of becomings.

Later, I realized that through his work Bill had assembled an informal community and network of musicians and technicians that cohered around his endless forward motion in the studio and the dollar bills this evoked.  You can call this assemblage Material, an extension of Laswell's ever-changing group of the same name.  The money was a byproduct of serious shamanistic work in the realm of music, but it helped a lot of people stay alive doing what they loved and staying somewhat out of the Corporate/State economic slavery system.  Any group that gathers together regularly for the purpose of invocation - music, when it happens, can be a powerful invocation - is a "School" in the esoteric, Sufi-like sense.  It seems accurate to call Material an informal shamanistic School with Bill Laswell as the primary musical invocant.  The recording session spaces at all times had the cleanliness and sanctity of invocational chambers one associates with a School.  Everyone always reaching for maximum presence, attention and creative endeavor.  Setting new levels of penetration into the mystery, new tracks into the unknown, then stretching to go beyond that.  Maximum velocity and alertness, I felt totally in my element.

I would describe this Material network as a rhizome, a nonlinear, underground mass of roots branching out laterally in all directions as opposed to the arborescent model which would define it as a singular, static identity of some kind.

"A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo.  The tree is filiation, but the rhizome is alliance, uniquely alliance."

- A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guttari p.25

The tree is filiation refers to the arborescent model and, in this case, means music derived vertically from its preceding caste and culture.  Bill liked to break those barriers and was all about alliance frequently coming up with unusual combinations that ignored genre boundaries such as, for instance, introducing Cecil Taylor to the Jungle Brothers; Pharoah Saunders with Moroccan Gnawa music; forming Praxis which combined a rapper/turntablist - Af, Next Man Flip Lord of the Paradox from Jungle Brothers, with a rock guitar prodigy - Buckethead, two funk legends - Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell with Brain to rhythmically tie it together, etc.

"...the rhizome connects any point to any other point, and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature; it brings into play very different regimes of signs and even nonsign states.
... The coordinates are not determined by theoretical analyses implying universals but by a pragmatics composing multiplicities or aggregates of intensities."

- ibid

In NOISE, The Political Economy of Music, Jacques Atalli presents the idea that in times past, before it became a commodity, music commonly served the societal function of channeling and sublimating violence regulating ancient society as a result.  Atalli makes a good case though on one hand I am skeptical of his logic and conclusions, on the other hand, the height of the Axiom period, Bill's label courtesy of Chris Blackwell and Island Records, coincided with the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.  The extreme fundamentalism of certain Islamic cults bans music, and those appear to be the most violent cultures of all.  You know there is no music scene in the Islamic State or probably anywhere in Syria to speak of.  Violence and music don't co-exist except when the music is violent and then the violence is taken off the street and turned into something else sometimes.  Turn up the music if we want less violence.  Fund music production and performance, increase funding to all of the arts and see what happens.  Building more efficient killing devices doesn't appear to be working to de-escalate the violence in the world, quite the opposite.  Anyone in a position to present good music of any kind might take to heart Atalli's idea that music reduces violence through ritual re-enactment.

Laswell released several significant recordings around the time of the dissolution of the Cold War and before Bush I invaded Iraq.  Hear No Evil - his solo record, Material's Seven Souls with William Burroughs, Ramellzee and Suso, Next to Nothing by Nicky Skopelitis, Middle Passage with Ginger Baker, Talip Ozkan's The Dark Fire, the list goes on.  The band Painkiller with Bill, John Zorn and Mick Harris which formed and recorded coinciding with the start of the first Gulf War definitely channeled violence in their music quite literally and psychically.  One only needs to hear any Painkiller recording to verify that.  I vividly remember recording Mick Harris screaming nonsense vocalizations hardcore style and he kept repeating this one sound: "scud, scud, scud, SCUD, SCUD!!!" and within a few days, the phrase scud missiles, something I'd hadn't heard before, was all over the news.  Harris hit a precognitive space with that one. A little more on Painkiller here.  That took place at Bill's Greenpoint studio.  More about that when we continue.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Massacre Live in Paris

 all photos from French blogs, provided by Yoko

On Friday the Thirteenth of October 1307, France's King Philip IV took down the Knights Templar with multiple arrests including its leader, Jaques de Molay, followed by forced confessions and executions.  It's been said that this gave rise to the Friday the Thirteenth superstition of bad luck.  History records the Knights Templar as a secret society originally formed to protect travelers to the Holy Land and to guard the relics at Jerusalem's Temple Mount, the site of the temple King Solomon built.  They were involved in the Crusades and later, after evolving into a wealthy organization, became the precursors to the modern banking system - probably a large contributing factor to why they were taken down.  Much folklore has arisen over the years regarding their esoteric activities.  It does appear they were strongly influenced by Hassan I Sabbah's Order of the Assassins.  Legend has it that the Assassins were the link that transmitted the knowledge and practice of ritual sex magick from the Sufis to the Knights Templar finally making its way to the O.T.O.   The Templars were accused of worshiping a pagan deity called Baphomet, an image later revived by Eliphas Levi then subsequently adopted with full gusto by Aleister Crowley who used it as his motto in the O.T.O. ( the Order of the Temple of the Orient.  The Knights Templar were originally simply known as the Order of the Temple.)  Crowley described Baphomet as an androgynous figure.  His occult research, consisting of communication with a disincarnate entity they referred to as "the Wizard" -  indicated that "Baphomet was Father Mithras, the cubical stone which was the corner of the Temple. " ( Confessions, p. 833)

Over 707 years later, on Friday the Thirteenth of February 2015,  Massacre, the free improvised music trio of Frith, Laswell, and Hayward played the Son le Hive festival on the outskirts of Paris.  Apart from the Friday the Thirteenth in France resonance, the connection between Massacre and the Knights Templar is that they both transmit esoteric information; the Templars with all the Holy Grail legends associated with them among other things.  In Delueze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus by Eugene W. Holland he says "the task of modern music is to render audible the silent forces of the cosmos."

Earlier, in the same book Holland compares Delueze and Guttari's philosophy with free jazz:

Free jazz, operating at the extreme without chord charts, and even without respect to recognizable key signatures, is an instance of continuous absolute de-territorialization of a song, while nonetheless maintaining its consistency as a piece of music.  Indeed maintaining or creating consistency without imposing unity, identity or organization - without resorting to bare repetitions of the same - might be said to constitute the holy grail of all of Delueze and Guttari's work, in ethics, politics, as well as aesthetics.

Apocryphal legend says that immediately after Louis XVI was executed a freemason leapt up, rubbed blood on his crown and cried out "Jaques de Molay, thou art avenged."  Massacre kind of did the same thing in concert.

 Deleuze and Guttari present a metaphysics of complex science, a metaphysics that accounts for the virtual as well as the actual.  It works well as a metaphysics of magick, alchemy and bardo training.  It  describes a metaphysics of free jazz, and of music in general.  One of the primary questions they ask is: how do you make a 'Body without Organs'? - a term they appropriated from avant garde playwright Antonin Artaud.  How do you make a non-organic body?  Parallels with alchemy seem obvious.  In  their magnum opus A Thousand Plateaus - Capitalism and Schizophrenia - my new Bible - Deleauze and Guttari massacre linearity and causality in an eclectic variety of subjects from Evolution to Sorcery, Psychoanalysis to Lycanthropy.  Theirs is a metaphysics of transformation, of the Process, and especially of Here to Go.  When searching the web for an introduction to D & G, I found one reviewer who suggested reading William Burroughs' cut-up novels and listening to Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica to get a feel for the nonlinearity of their approach.  Hakim Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zone has a strong D & G influence.They seem the ultimate guerilla ontologists, upending assumptions you never knew you had.

An assemblage forms the night before the show in the lounge of the Novotel Hotel on the River Sienne in the Bercy section of Paris.  The people who form the molecular constituents have arrived from New York, San Francisco, Sacramento, London and locally to assemble at this focal point for a brief few hours of unwinding, eating and catching up.  You wouldn't know it to look at it, but this place functions as a communication hot spot, a 'power spot' in the sense Carlos Castenada writes about.  I suspect this because seven years ago at this exact location, sitting in the exact same chair, Bill introduced me to Gordon, an Irishman with down-to-earth aristocratic bearing who sometimes traveled with U2s entourage.  He had just purchased a major Brion Gysin painting and I suggested it was very likely a reading artifact.  I asked him if he knew of a good English bookstore in Paris where I could pick up a copy of Moby Dick.  Gordon directed me to one in the Tuileries, the former residence of France's monarchy, where I found a copy.  Starting reading Moby Dick on the Metro ride back and saw the Tuileries mentioned on the first page.  I was at the beginning of the story both inside and outside the book.

Tonight's body without organs collective lounge assemblage ebbs and flows, changes shape, individuals and dyads depart/return, overseas calls come in with birthday greetings, news of art and music and soul development.
"Could you not have changed the name of the band Massacre for just this one show?," a Parisian asks still painfully mindful of the Charlie Hebdo brute world attack.  The question is answered with silence.  Take a violent signifier like massacre, de-territorialize it by putting it into a different context like a post-structural music assemblage, then re-territorialize Massacre as a progressive, life expanding music concert.  Massacre got its name by having its first ever gig on St. Valentine's Day.  The concert here in Paris is on February 13th so you could call it a birthday anniversary show though I don't know for how many years, my guess is that it's in the neighborhood of 30.  Figuratively speaking, if it was St. Valentine doing the massacring what would he massacre? 

A large flat screen constantly plays footage of advanced military planes and faces of generals gathered in their masses just like witches at black masses the whole time we are there.  A 50 billion euro sale of these from France to Egypt has just gone down and the media analysts can't stop re-reporting it; lots of talking heads and delighted hawks.  Perhaps this subconsciously contributes to an apocalyptic turn of the conversation: " gamma rays firing toward the Earth from deep space; the world is in a rough place; a child suggested that dystopian books such as Brave New World, 1984, and Farenheit 451 contributed to the reality of those bleak visions"
"But what are you going to do about it? .... keep playing, keep drumming."  Do the math on the word "drum" for the magick of this answer.  "Drum" and "Gurdjieff" are mathematically equivalent.

1984 reminded me of a scene from the movie JOBS, the Steve Jobs movie with Ashton Kutchner I recently viewed where he's introducing the Mac II with a famous ad that features scenes from the movie 1984 with Apple saying that would never happen because they made a tool, the personal computer, intended to bring out the heart in people (actually a conflation of two scenes).

Friday the Thirteenth, February 1970, Black Sabbath release their first, self-titled album which would reach #23 on the Billboard 200 music chart.  This Heat, one of Charles Hayward's early bands released their debut on a Friday the Thirteenth.  Music ignores human superstitions.  After soundcheck we have a few hours before the show, traffic is too heavy to go back to the hotel.  Backstage conversation:  "Lots of interesting things going on in physics, we're now picking up information from before the Big Bang.  The Universe appears structured like a Fibonacci Series.  CERN's 27 km Large Hadron Collider subatomic particle accelerator is partly in Switzerland, partly in France."  Subatomic particles ignore human boundaries. 
"Two books I tell all my students to read, Noise - A Political Economy of Music by Jaques Attali and Silence by John Cage."

Seb El Zin turns up around dinnertime with his cd Anarchist Republic of Bzzzz ( post- apocalyptic electro noise punk rap) looking for Bill.  He's putting together a recording studio in a mansion in Normandy with an old friend, Nicktus, the bass player for FFF,  Fédération Française de Funk whom I haven't seen for 24 years, but whom I have an appointment to visit with the next night at a small dinner party given by Martin Bergeaud.  Martin leads Dark Blue Orchestra, a group I mixed at Prairie Sun last year.

The opening band seems about as exactly opposite to Massacre as you could possibly get.  Sedate traditional jazz delivered inside the lines.  They seemed well received by the conservative audience.

Massacre ranged from soft aerial ambient spatialness to powerful rock without getting sonically overbearing.  It was a fairly large hall, maybe 1500 capacity, with a very high ceiling and clear acoustics without much reverberant reflection.  The sharply tiered rising rows does strange things to the low end from the front to back rows, but tonight it was sold out and all the people, with their collective sound absorption properties, made the low end just right.  At soundcheck, Pierre and his sound company had the PA dialed and all ready to go with more than sufficient headroom.  The stage was large and spacious, the light show very well done as you can see from the photos.  In other words, the perfect venue.  Mixing went well, I had a lot of fun and tried some different things with effects panning.  About 1/3rd into the show, an excited usher holding a device that looked like a tricorder with a wand on the front pointed to it and said it had gone up to 107 dB SPL exceeding the legal limit of 105 by 2 dB.  I apologized profusely and begged for forgiveness and not to be taken to jail ..., actually that's not true, I just acknowledged him and looked at the meter which read 102 at that moment.  I didn't have to change anything.  He walked away and didn't bother me for the rest of the show. 

Listening to the recording of this show, it completely blows me away i.e. de-territorialzation of all preconceptions about anything, purely here in this moment with all possibilities, parallel worlds, and alternate realities stretched out in all directions, hallways of choicepoints.  Infinity times infinity makes it's own Time playing with a drummer sworn to hele all.  Swiftnesses and slownesses, driving rhythms, dub rhythms and ambient space expanse.  There exist no words or literary writing style I know of that can adequately describe the experience with the music I'm hearing right now, Massacre in Paris 2015.  Music like this seems way ahead of painting and literature.  We'll let Deleauze and Gutarri have a go at it from A Thousand Plateaus, p. 313:

Chaos is not without it's own directional components, which are its own ecstasies.  We have seen elsewhere how all kinds of milieus, each defined by a component, slide in relation to one another, over one another.  Each milieu is a vibratory, in other words, a block of space-time constituted by the periodic repetition of the component.  Thus the living thing has an exterior milieu of materials, an interior milieu of composing elements and composed substances, an intermediary milieu of membranes and limits, and an annexed milieu of energy sources and actions-perceptions.  Every milieu is coded, a code being defined by periodic repetition; but each code is in a perpetual state of transcoding or transduction.  Transcoding or transduction is the manner in which one milieu serves as the basis for another , or conversely is established on top of another milieu, dissipates in it or is constituted in it.  The notion of the milieu is not unitary; not only does the living thing continually pass from one milieu to another, but the milieus pass into one another; they are essentially communicating.  The milieus are open to chaos, which threatens them with exhaustion or intrusion.  Rhythm is the milieus' answer to chaos.

Or in other words:

BAS-AUMGN:  "Ye that are Gods going forth uttering AUMGN ( the Word that goeth from
                              (A) Free Breath
                              (U) through Willed Breath
                              (M) and stopped Breath
                              (GN) to Continuous Breath
                               thus symbolizing the whole course of spiritual life. A is the formless Zero;
                               U is the six-fold solar sound of physical life, the triangle of Soul being entwined
                               with that of Body; M is the silence of "death"; GN is the nasal sound of knowledge
                               and generation.
                                                                                    - Crowley from Liber Samekh

Fortunately, it's looking good that this recording and other recent Massacre shows will be released relatively soon.  These descriptions might be clearer when you hear the music.

Saturday the Fourteenth, February, 2015, Valentine's Day, was a relaxing day off to accommadate transportation schedules.  Breakfast with Charles before he catches a train to London, he being the exception to the day off.  Met Bill and Michael Lemesre at the lounge communication post in the early afternoon.  Lemesre still works for Alan Douglas's company making sure that projects Douglas started get properly taken care of and finished.  He kindly gifted me with one of these projects, a book about Jimi Hendrix called Starting at Zero told entirely in Hendrix's own words.  There's also a film coming out by Peter Neal with the same title narrated in his own words.  Neal made a film, Experience in 1967 the only film about Jimi Hendrix released during his lifetime and the only film made with Jimiʼs full collaboration.

After the show last night Fred gave everyone a copy of his new cd, The Natural Order, a duet collaboration with saxophonist John Butchner.  However, to say that Fred plays guitar and Butchner plays sax is a massive understatement as both instruments are thoroughly de-territorialized from their conventional uses and re-territorialzed in a huge range of sonorities, textures, articulated noise with wormholes tunneling and jaunts instantly transporting the listener somewhere outside known territory.  At times the two musical assemblages sound like extraterrestrial or extradimensional nonhuman entities in a dialog with each other, or sometimes telling jokes.  Highly recommended, it's on Northern Spy Records.

Earlier, Bill had presented copies of his new cd Space/Time Redemption, another duo album with Bill and Milford Graves.  This music can also take one very far out, but subtly and gently until you don't realize how de-territorialized out of habitual perceptions you get.  This music is powerfully shamanic, and that should get taken as a warning.  I hear strong African magic, ascension or "out-cension" through the sound of ritual forms, astral bells, hints of Coltrane circa Cosmic Music and A Love Supreme, a flavoring of Sun Ra, also Bas-Aumgn to a strong degree, panoramic sustainer and psychopomp.  It lives up to its name and song titles: Eternal Signs, Sonny Sharrock, Another Space, Autopossession, Another Time.  Also highly recommended for altering consciousness, this music could be used to accompany what some schools call Objective Prayer.  It can act as a carrier wave. Tum Records.

After lunch I headed outdoors to a cool, not quite drizzily overcast, sun spot, beautiful Paris day. Underground to the Metro to Montparnasse capturing local street/atmosphere assemblages on video for a future project.  Then again vectoring below the streets,  Metro to Opera, a historic building built in 1669 for the National Opera.  It's right around the corner from Cafe de la Paix which I also videotaped from a variety of angles.  This cafe is where Gurdjieff did a lot of writing.  It's also the site of the one plausible meeting between Gurdjieff and Crowley.  I thought it interesting that on the side of the Opera building was inscribed Académie Royale de Musique, its official name shortly after it was built, and that it was right beside a primary communication spot for Gurdjieff.

"For Attali, music is not simply a reflection of culture, but a harbinger of change, an anticipatory abstraction of the shape of things to come.  The book's title refers specifically to the reception of musics that sonically rival normative social orders.  Noise is Attali's metaphor for a broad, historical vanguardism, for the radical soundscapes of the western continuum that express structurally the course of social development."

- Ethnomusicology writing about Noise, The Political Economy of Music.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

New Thelema Books and Pynchon

The Angel & the Abyss

by J. Daniel Gunther

This consists of books II and III of the trilogy The Inward Journey.  The first book, Initiation in the Aeon of the Child, came out in 2009.

The Angel & the Abyss immediately grabbed and held my attention from the very first sentence:  "One of the primary goals of the Neophyte of the A.'. A.'. consists in a resurrection from a Death which the world calls Life."  I remember first hearing this idea from E.J.  Gold shortly after moving to California.  The subject and importance of Death in post-Crowley Thelemic literature seems to have been largely overlooked.  Gunther remedies this and then some in the book's first chapter, The Self-Slain.  I thought I knew most of the references to Death in AC's writings and it's relevance on the path of Initiation, but I was wrong.  The first chapter reveals much more than I knew existed and backs it up with a coherent, well-referenced  narrative that inspires and feeds work along these lines, the lines of  using Death as an extremely effective method of initiation.

Gunther appears an extremely knowledgeable scholar in a multiplicity of traditions in the areas of religion, mythology, psychology and philosophy as well as being a foremost Thelemic authority.  He's adept at pulling out obscure references making cogent points that explicate Thelemic theory and practice.  This gives a lot of backbone and strongly establishes the high probability that Thelema presents a new formulation of an ancient tradition.  Gunther's scholarly discourse always engaged me, it never got dry or boring due to the sense conveyed that he lived it, he speaks with the authority of experience.  Not that I always agree, but his thinking always appears original, stimulating and creative.  If anything can make Crowley and Thelema academically respectable it would likely be this trilogy.  Many of the quotes from ancient writings are reproduced in their original languages in the footnotes which include Coptic, Greek, Latin, Egyptian Hieroglyphs, and Sanskrit.  Some might find this pedantic, but I suspect future researchers will delight with the depth and broad scope this brings.

The content of The Angel & the Abyss resembles what the radical post-structuralist philosophers Deleuze and Guttari call a rhizome.  A rhizome is a metaphor borrowed from botany where it describes an underground mass of roots that  mostly grow roots laterally though they can still grow shoots upwards.  In D & G's model, rhizomes represent an aggregate of multiplicities that communicate laterally to other multiplicities.  In other words, there appears no set program or specific goal apart from the broad framework labelled the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.  Since this will manifest uniquely different for everyone there endeavors to be a realization of multiplicities both in the sense of many individuals and of the multiplicities of experience in any one individual.  The KCHGA seems more of a dynamic endless becoming than a static being which agrees with the rhizome view.  As mentioned, this book transmits a multiplicity of information: historical footnotes, obscure religious rituals, archetypes, Egyptology, tarot, interesting cross-references in Thelemic writings to name a few.  All of the diagrams included look great communicating useful nonverbal data.

A more comprehensive review of this book is HERE

Gunther not only supplies a strong foundational background and context for Thelema, he not only brings to light much that seemed obscure in Crowley's writings, but he also expands upon Thelema proving that it exists as a living dynamic school open to new creative insight. 

Homemade Magick

The Musings & Mischief of a Do-It-Yourself Magus

by Lon Milo Duquette

This book nicely complements the previous one as it seems as practical, straight-forward and down to earth as the other is theoretical and esoteric.  Duquette shows you how to get  down to business from right where you are sitting now.  Though ostensibly a beginner's guide to practicing magick, and it is an excellent one at that, I find that Homemade Magick can be read on more than one level of interpretation.  To my eye it offers useful information to the experienced practitioner as well as the beginner.  It's always useful to review the basics, but there also appears multiplicities of meaning that transmits advanced knowlege on deeper levels.  Something gets invoked here that goes beyond an experienced Magician instructing students.  Perhaps this is the mischief part?  For instance, the first real page of content starts with a quote:

Intent is the mechanics through which spirit
transforms itself into material reality

Deepak Chopra

This has a footnote which reads:

1. Deepak Chopra, The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004) p. 115

Below Chopra's quote is a photo of a collage of inspirational words and phrases with the caption:

"Constances "dream board" placed squarely over the washing machine.

To me this page looks like a deceptively simple yet powerfully effective opening dedication which underscores the homemade aesthetic of the whole book.  Strong magick.

The first sentence of the Prologue and the book reads:

Like my father and brother before me, I was born in Southern California and journeyed to rural Nebraska to find a bride.

As seems obvious already, Duquette is extremely generous with inviting us readers into his life, his family and home revealing many practical details of functioning as a magician in contemporary society.  The book is engaging, easy to read yet has a lot of depth.  It could have easily been subtitled Autobiography of a DIY Magus.  I particularly liked the section on Magical Weapons.  It sparked some new insights.

A more detailed review lives HERE

I recommend Homemade Magick unreservedly.  There appears a lot more to it that will eventually meet the eye.

Progradior & THE BEAST and The Magical Record of Frater Progradior

 both by Keith Richmond

These have both been out since 2004, but are now out of print and often expensive on the used market.  I was fortunate to find these recently at a decent price.  Frater Progradior is Frank Bennett, an Englishman who relocated to Australia spearheading magick and esoteric practice into that continent first with Theosophy then with Thelema.  He spent time with Crowley at the Abbey in Cefalu.  His record of that time reveals what it was like to live and work there, a valuable addition to other accounts by different residents and visitors.  Bennett is the person whom Crowley was discussing the HGA with relative to the subconscious mind when something Crowley said triggered a profound epiphany in him that lasted a few days at its peak intensity.  Crowley then suggested that he go on a magical retirement to consolidate the experience.  It encouraged Crowley to work diligently and furiously at completing Liber Samekh which was his adaptation and expansion of the Bornless Ritual for the purpose of attaining the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.  Crowley did finish it in time for Progradior's retirement and dedicated it to him.

Frater Progradior could safely be called one of Crowley's senior students.  Richmond does an excellent job creating a vivid portrait of him without a whole lot to go by.  Much of his personal archives were destroyed by a crazed son who objected to and completely misunderstood his lifestyle.  I find these kinds of accounts helpful for getting a sense of the atmosphere of the Hermetic mileau back in that day; useful history.  Richmond includes a copy of Liber Samekh in The Magical Record.  That kindled my interest in that ritual which I'd never really explored before.  I found a good synergy with reading Liber Samekh while listening to John Coltrane's A Love Supreme.  His Cosmic Music also works well.  They seem like twin recordings.  The bass line for A Love Supreme sounds very similar to the bass pattern in Lord, Help Me To Be from Cosmic Music.

Another REVIEW

Mason & Dixon

 by Thomas Pynchon

This is by no means a review.  Mason & Dixon is included here because it appears a powerful magickal text worthy of serious study and application.  Yes, the book certainly seems multi-level, a rhizome of multiplicities, and I'm only focusing on one, rather extensive, strata of the assemblage, but this strata, the layer of magick,  seems rarely touched upon by Pynchon exegesists though it appears blatantly obvious to me; also blatantly obvious that TP writes with as much hierophantic authority as the other authors mentioned here.  If you like first rate literature, superb dry humor, whimsy, history, political opinions, puzzle solving and much else thrown in with subtle and wise magick instruction then you might, as I do, find Mason & Dixon in your library alongside other classics on the subject.

One review I read closed the piece with the statement: "Simplicity and clarity, I presume, would bore him..." implying that Pynchon never writes simply and clearly,  Au contraire, I must respond.  If one recognizes that the strata of magick exists in full force inside this tome then some statements do appear blatantly obvious as when magick first gets explicitly introduced ( it appears implicit from the get go) on p. 67:

Mason makes quick Head-Turns, to the Left and Right, and lowers his Voice.  Whilst you've been out rollicking with your Malays and Pygmies, ... what have you heard of the various sorts of Magick, that they are said to possess?"

This paragraph reflects the range of esoteric communication and reference from the explicit question at the end to the qabalaisticly significant correspondences at the beginning.  This same range even turns up on the front cover with an explicit image in the center and two word fragments above and below that carry qabalistic relevance related to the central sign.  

If the image portrayed by the stylized ampersand still mystifies you can always turn to the top of p.261 for a straightforward explanation of the cover.  

The writing style of novel ostensibly reflects the style of the period it writes about.  In that time, mid 18th Century, it seemed common for all nouns to get capitalized.  Pynchon doesn't do this to them all, but it does afford him license to capitalize much more than normal thus allowing much freedom to place emphasis on different things.  Some reviewers find this an annoying kind of affectation while the alert qabalist correctly recognizes this as another method of communication.  He also apparently uses common spelling and vernacular of the period allowing him to get away with things like adding a "k" to magic.

Notariqon is a branch of Qabala that derives messages from acronyms.  Pynchon seems to make capitalization choices along these lines frequently.  For instance, in the paragraph mentioned above from p.261 that explicitly describes the front cover, one sentence begins: " Even Quakers are out in the Street, ..."  When you add the caps, E+Q+S you get 165 which has one meaning in Crowley's dictionary ( 777 and other Qabalistic Writings) of "to make them know," exactly what this paragraph accomplishes with the front cover.

Three years ago I wrote a blog on Gematria that concluded with a look at the significance of the number 68 in Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy.  I also mentioned that Robert Anton Wilson used the SC notariqon prominently in his fiction oeuvre - Schrodinger's Cat, Sigismundo Celine, Celine's System.  SC = 68.  Both Eric Wagner and RAW had the impression that Pynchon read at least some of Wilson's Historical Illuminatus books before writing Mason & Dixon.  I don't doubt this as I've seen clear references to Wilson in other Pynchon books.  The Historical Illuminatus trilogy also transmits qabala and the strata of magick both explicitly and obliquely.  I mention this now because Mason & Dixon shows the SC combination to what can only get called an excessive degree.

In that blog I wrote:

The most simple interpretation:

68 = 6 and 8

6 = Tiphareth, 8 = Hod, the Sephiroth which relates to communication or transmission. Therefore 68 could mean the communication/transmission of Tiphareth.

68 also relates to the realization Crowley made in  The Paris Working about the identity of Christ and Mercury.  In the Book of Lies chapter 68 he associates this with Manna, divine food.  Within the first sentence of M & D Pynchon takes us into "the great Kitchen"  and describes the tantalizing food cooking there.  In certain Sufi schools the kitchen is considered the heart of the community.

Not that there don't exist other interpretations for the prevalence of the SC combo.  Like any qabalistic motif, it appears a rhizome i.e. multiplicities sending out roots of significance to other multiplicities.  It might be beneficial to study the tarot cards associated with S & C, Art and the Chariot in the Thoth deck, and note how they synergestically relate and create.

On p. 479 a clear description of Gematria is given, a glance at the inner workings of the magick strata in this novel.

The overarching story of two surveyors/astronomers, Mason and Dixon, exploring and scientifically  mapping out unknown territory metaphorically resonates with the practice of Magick.  The archetype of twins turns up prominently.  Mason and Dixon are twins in their vocation.  The context of the novel is that their story is being told by Reverend Cherrycoke to a family gathering.  Two of the children are twins named Pitt and Pliny so that either one could be the Elder or the Younger, in imitation of historical figures, and because no one knows who was born first.  "Twins" is the last word on the first page.  In the Thelemic pantheon, Horus, the guiding force of this aga, is said to be a twin god comprised of an active aspect, Ra Hoor Kuit, and a passive or silent aspect, Hoor Pa Kraat.

By their names, Mason and Dixon suggest a male/female, yin/yang type of binary unit.
Ma-son = yin, Dix-son = yang through common slang.  Charles Mason does appear the more introverted and reserved of the two while Jeremiah Dixon seems far more outgoing.  He likes to party and chase women.  The famous line they charted, the Mason/Dixon line was commissioned to draw a border between the then Provinces of Pennsylvania and Maryland.  The names of those territories also suggest a male/female binary unit by the same logic, in this case one that gets separated and divided.  This seems a very apt metaphor for the internal process of an Aspirant making their way through the desert of the Abyss.

Another yin/yang binary unit presents itself in the first page as he describes a piece of furniture:

"... excepting a sinister and wonderful Card Table which exhibits the cheaper sinusoidal Grain known in  the Trade as Wand'ring Heart, causing an illusion of Depth into which for years children have gazed as into the illustrated Page of Books..."

Wand'ring - wand = yang, ring = yin.

I am just scratching the surface, but I think you get the drift.  A thick volume of commentary could easily be written on the strata of Alchemy and Magick that exists in the Pynchon novels Mason & Dixon, Against the Day, and Bleeding Edge which all connect with each other on that level.

The ending looks very nice and continues the theme of exploration:

"We can get jobs said William, "save enough to go out where you were," said Doc.
"The Stars are so close you won't need a Telescope."
"The Fish jump into your Arms.  The Indians know Magick."
"We'll go there.  We'll live there."
"We'll fish there.  And you too."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Prosperity Path Metaprogramming Orbs

I've mentioned these before, now it's time for an update.  Prosperity Path orbs are computer video game-like environments created by E.J. Gold and his team of designers.  They were made and play back on the G.O.D.D.(Gamemaker Of Diabolical Distinction) engine. 

For me, these runs through alternate cyberspace worlds represent the leading edge of bardo/magick/consciousness technology.  There are currently over a hundred orbs with a variety of intentions anywhere from simply feeling better to promoting world peace or helping someone transition into the afterlife; learn how to fly or astral project.  They don't take a lot of time either.  It's unusual to do a run for more than 10 minutes though a few of them can go awhile.  Several orbs take 2 - 3 minutes or less.

What follows are rough notes I've made from recent research.  I've been working with these daily for about 2 and 1/2 years.

It helps to adopt the viewpoint that these worlds have their own reality as valid and  meaningful as anything else.  You, the player, are out of body, but your avatar is your body in that world so try to experience the cyberworld as your avatar does and realize that what happens to your avatar happens to you.  Enter that virtual reality.  A page called How to Run a Prosperity Path Level  expands on this.

These orbs can be studied like Tarot cards.  Some people have written detailed books on the symbolism in the Tarot even going so far as to examine details of the card with a magnifying glass.  The P.P. orbs can yield much information when observed with the same attention to detail.  Sometimes the orbs read like a 3D Tarot card.  

The first important action at the beginning is to name the player who will run the orb.  It can be yourself or someone else.  It's common to run levels for other people. It sends them good wishes at the subatomic quantum level.

The Buddha Is in the Park

I was setting up to mix a project when the tragic news arrived of a death in the band.  I had my laptop with me and immediately ran the Clear Light orb for him.  Observing the graphics, the assistant engineer remarked, " Cool, a spiritual video game."

Buddha, in classic repose, turns up again and again in these game modules.  It helps to have some familiarity with the symbols encountered.   Anyone who has studied Buddhism of any kind or just read about it will be reminded of something when seeing these images.  Strong mood of Buddhaspace whatever that means to you.  My Buddhism got recently recharged reading Kerouac:

As thinking nothing of herself, a mother's love unfolds and cherishes her only son, so now through the world let they compassion move, and cover everyone.

Even robbers will permeate with stream of loving thought unfailing; and forth from them proceeding, enfold and permeate the whole wide world with constant thoughts of loving-kindness, ample, expanding, full of divine approval, joyously free from enmity, free from all suspicious fear.  Yea, verily, thus my disciples, thus must you school yourselves.

 - Jack Kerouac, Wake Up  - A Life of the Buddha

Kerouac's ecstatic description of Buddhism in general (not only the quote above) resembles Crowley's theurgic magick in some ways.

The Buddha is in the park in the Peace orb.  Actually there are 11 Buddhas in 4 different park areas.  

You start out facing a large, broad and deep park environment, very green and woody, lots of trees and foliage, that has 6 Buddhas, 3 on each side, just before the entrance to the light wash corridor on the other side.  On the right is the entrance to a park with two fountains spraying water in front of three Buddhas.  To the left is another park housing a single large Buddha with white light water falls on either side.  All the spaces have audio clues, you hear the water flowing out of the fountains and waterfalls along with the sound of  the outdoors.  Behind you is a fourth park area with a large Buddha statue set in the middle of a pond.  In the far corners on either side are floating bezels with images worth checking out.  Shining emptiness of pure femininity.  

I began running this level for the Gaza strip last summer after hearing about too many horrific acts of war happening there.  They finally figured out a lasting ceasefire about a week to ten days after running Peace every day.  It's a coincidence to be sure, but I'll take it.  I felt a strong connection with both Israel and Palestine from working and making friends with people who lived there only a few months before the unrest.  You can run orbs for places that cover large populations as well as running them for individuals or yourself.

Prosperity Path Magick

In all of the Cleansing orbs and in some of the Specialty levels you'll see a rotating CUBE on a pedestal that when you tag it says

 "Your matrix attunement was successful, COUPLING FACTOR is in." 

A tuning into the nonlocal circuit where communication occurs instantly and magick takes place, perhaps the subatomic world of quantum physics.  Technically coupling factor means:

Depending on the distance between the transmit and receive coils, only a fraction of the magnetic flux generated by the transmitter coil penetrates the receiver coil and contributes to the power transmission. The more flux reaches the receiver, the better the coils are coupled. The grade of coupling is expressed by the coupling factor k


'Coupling factor is in' means the connection exists between the player and something beyond the player (the matrix) that allows change to occur according to will.  Coupling factor also relates to the esoteric idea that one requires a mediator of some kind to experience absolute reality.  In qabalistic terms this mediator exists in the domain of Tiphareth, the central sephira on the Tree of Life.  Cubes have 6 sides and the key number for Tiphareth is 6.  The cubes in these orbs have 9 circular ports on  4 sides, not the top or bottom, making a total of 36 rotating ports.  36 = 6 x 6 and herein lies another clue.  A coupla sixes.  Also, Buddha is a character from Tiphareth so all the Buddhas encountered could be seen as coupling factors or mediators.

At the bottom of the screen in every game are two rows of attributes that increase or decrease as you go through.  Qualities such as: Protect, Healing, Shakti, Clarity, Endurance, Karma, etc. etc.  These will vary from level to level.  As a whole it's called a Heads Up Display ( HUD) which is "any transparent display that presents data without requiring users to look away from their usual viewpoints"  Many of the levels have a point that triggers a full HUD i.e. all attributes automatically set to maximum.

Above the entrance to the final wind-up in the Clear Light orb is a sign that says: "Have You Spent Your Life Wisely?"  I can't see how this question wouldn't arise in anyone's life at some point especially as one gets older.  Wisely adds to 121. 121 = 11 x 11.  11 is the general number of magick, energy tending to change.

The Black and White Cats

In many of the orbs, at the end of the run, you see a target image like a Buddha, a Lady in White, or a large Crystal that represents the finish.  On either side of this final image, posted like sentries, is a black and a white cat.  In other orbs, the remedy orbs for instance, the cats are stationed in front of the woman who tells you that you're out of body and to choose an astral body.  The cats also turn up on pedestals in one of the chambers on the run.  I associate these cats with the black and white sphinx's that pull the Chariot in the Golden Dawn Tarot.  The way I see it, these sphinxes or cats signify the animal component of the body/mind complex that when harnessed and going in the same direction provides the power or motive force to drive the Chariot.  Crowley modifies the card to include four sphinx to represent the 4 lower centrums, the physical, emotional, intellectual and the social.  It never hurts to read up on the Chariot card in Crowley's Book of Thoth for major info on the Work.  He called the Chariot the formula of the aeon of Horus, in other words, a guiding set of instructions for enabling the fruits of this age, Life, Love, Liberty and Light.  The path of the Chariot connects Geburah with Binah, Horus with the Mother, the sephira of force and fire with the one of Universal Emptiness.  The black and white cats that you have to run past to get to the end or the ones in front of the Astral Body Guide all seem to indicate that it's necessary to go through and past the animal nature to get to the higher levels; no other way to do it.

Color Radiation

Gold once remarked offhand that the colors found in these levels have a significant effect.  One of the coolest orbs, in the sense of cooling down, is called Panic.  This level invokes for me the element Water more than any other even though you see lots of water in many orbs.  I suspect the particular shade of blue used has something to do with that along with the solo flute music that plays.  I also like taking a dip in the huge fountain at one end. 

Many of the Cleansing and Specialty orbs end with a run down a light wash corridor.  I call it a light wash because the first time I saw it was in a level called Karma Wash.  The light corridor is set up like a car wash where you proceed through rows of different colored, bright intense lights.  It even has a car wash soundscape.  It can be interesting to stop at the end of the light corridor, don't go into the very last chamber where the run ends, but hold the space bar and go through the light corridor in reverse.  When you move forward through it again it seem  that much more intense.  There's a very intense light tunnel of a different kind about 1/3rd as long in the Conflict orb.  A large sign that says LIFT marks the entrance.  Going back and forth through it a few times can be effective.

Immerse yourself in the light from yours and the avatar's points of view.  One of my favorite orbs is Six Worlds which not only gives the feeling of flying, but also provides an experiential education into the Six Worlds of current Bardo research.  It seems this education primarily comes from the different, piercingly intense colors of each world.  Before "beaming up" you get stopped and asked by descending female Guides several times if you're ready.  If you are then you get sent to a vortex that beams you up to sky level, and voilà, you're flying.  The "tab" button keeps you airborn, the "caps lock" will let you descend.  On either side will be three large Palaces of different colors representing the Six Worlds.  You enter each Palace and tag a spinning disc to gain access to that world.  The worlds from the lowest up:

Brute - a gray/blue castle with multicolored lights, lots of white mixed with red, green and yellow in a way that looks superficial.

Purgatory - intensely green

Hungry Ghost - mostly red with a bit of yellow coming in through the windows, reminds a bit of Halloween

Human - bright, intense and rich yellow.

Hell - a gray castle with mostly white light light in the interior, but with smatterings of other colors mixed in.

Sun Absolute - deep rich dazzling blue.

New ways of showing old models; entering the Color Scheme of each  World gives an experiential feel that sinks in deeper than only reading about it.

 Stress Relief  is another favorite orb that I run regularly.  It has a Chamber of Thoughts where you get to shoot down all your thoughts which appear as floating crystals of different colors.  There's a Chamber of the Stars, a dark expansive space with celestial lights and patterns floating about.  Every morning in the dead of the night I walk about a quarter mile through the Sierra Nevada wilderness to go to a floatation tank room.  The  Chamber of the Stars has a very similar mood.

To be continued ...

You can download Prosperity Path Orbs HERE.  They are $.99 each and run best on a PC.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Making Life Brighter Interview

On Dec. 8, 2014 the internet radio show Making Life Brighter broadcast an interview with Yours Truly by host Winifred Adams.  The show transmits on the Health and Wellness Channel of the Voice America Talk Radio Network.  Healing and Consciousness are the threads that connect the weekly shows.

 Winifred Adams, apart from being an excellent interviewer, is an experienced healer in a variety of ways. Her email signature sums it up:

Medical Intuitive | Radio Show Host | Professional Wellness Speaker Official Guide To John of God | Herbologist/Iridologist | 

"Successfully helping people heal from the inside out for 20 years!" 

The interview is HERE:  It's an hour program.  On the right of this page under Episode Directory are the archives of all the previous and subsequent shows.  Lots of interesting guests of different kinds worth checking out.  

Subjects of the interview include the recent Exploring the Hidden Music show and its centerpiece Heartbeat, a short history of my humble roots in sound, influences, memorable moments, setting up the space for a session, the power of music, changes in technology, in the music industry and more.

I know Winifred as an excellent singer and songwriter.  We were introduced when John Wooler flew me down to LA to record her and the musicians he'd assembled to back her up.  We talk a little bit about that session in the interview.  I wrote a blog about it almost exactly 4 years ago called Who Will Shall Attain from a Crowley poem that closes it which reminded me of Winifred and also served as my New Year's greeting that year ... or any other year including this one for that matter.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Finding the Hidden Music

O Silver trumpets be you lifted up
And cry to the great race that is yet to come.
Long-throated swans upon the waves of time
Sing loudly far beyond the wall of the world
That race may hear our music and awake. 

  - William Butler Yeats

Clockwise from left to right: Lynn Mabry, Dave Revels, Sheila E., Ryan Edwards, Sunny Hitt, Trilok Gurtu, Bill Laswell, Christopher Janney.  The heartbeat machine is between Sunny and Bill.  Photo by Yoko Yamabe

Immediately upon finishing the Exploring the Hidden Music show at the Gramercy Theater Tuesday night, Philipo turned to me and asked, "SO WHAT EXACTLY IS THE HIDDEN MUSIC ?!?!  Philipo, who hasn't emailed me yet with his last name, works as Trilok Gurtu's drum technician and sound engineer.  He had seen a run through of the show in various stages of development 4 times in the last 3 days including tonight's performance.  He asked the question several times and seemed quite serious, even a little distressed to the point where I felt compelled to respond even though I didn't have an adequate answer for him.  I told him to read the last blog, various people had told me it was a good description, but I knew it doesn't really say what the hidden music is.  I also told him that I didn't know, and said there was an English word people use to label the indescribable - "ineffable."  The hidden music seems ineffable, I told him.  Then I mentioned that "ineffable" is also used by people who don't know what they're talking about.  They use it to get by, to give an answer when no easy answer can be given.

So this blog is partly to give Philipo another set of choices to get an answer or direction from.  To eff the ineffable.  I realized what the hidden music meant for me flying 30,000 + feet over Middle America watching a documentary on the artist Ralph Steadman who is most well known for his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson.

The hidden music requires tuning in to it.  First you have to know it's there.  The hidden music is demonstrable to serious listeners.  Anyone who has listened extensively to music recordings will likely tell you that some music they heard for the first time did absolutely nothing for them.  It might have sounded like noise or just flat and uninteresting.  Later it can happen that the same recording will be heard and appreciated as a great piece of music.  It's the same exact recording in both instances, but the musicality of it was hidden the first time or first several times until finally heard.  The recording didn't change, but obviously the consciousness of the listener did to reveal the previously hidden music.

The hidden music extends far beyond organized sound structures though music can be the basis to see it in other spectrums such as light and motion as amply demonstrated at the Hidden Music performance by the use of a video synthesizer, a state-of-the art light show, and modern dance.  Music provides the fulcrum for the visuals and dance to take off.

Buddhists call experiencing hidden music satori. John Cage's piece 4'33' reigns as the number one all time hit on the Hidden Music charts.  If you find the music hidden in that it then becomes much easier to experience it everywhere else.  Hidden music might be why our G star planet ended up at the exact sweet spot to support life.  An inch or two different in either direction and it might not have worked as far as human life is concerned.

That kind of critical balance seemed to also be in effect as one explored the hidden music with the Janney/Laswell production.  This exploration began for me the minute I touched down in New York from the taxi ride in to the movie star Rolls limo out, and included all the rehearsals where it naturally and intuitively assembled and took shape,  directed primarily by Janney,  Laswell and Gurtu.

November 23, 2014.

The first rehearsal I attended was at the Alvin Ailey Dance Studio on 55th Street just off of 9th Ave.  The building holds a large dance school and repertory company.  It was clean and new with the mood of a comfortable monastery for the art of modern dance.  Our rehearsal studio was 5B, on the fifth floor, a large, empty, rectangular space with two of the walls completely full length windows and a third, length-wise wall, all mirrors.  The view out the windows showed the city of New York pulsing below, people and cars ever moving through the arteries of the street.  The room had five white circular pillars on the walls running the length, 3 on the window side, 2 on the mirror side.  In front of the two pillars nearest the door, Trilok Gurtu and Bill Laswell set up their respective stations.  D.J. Logic set up his turntables and mixer on a table behind them visually forming a triad.  Flanked on either side of Bill and Trilok was keyboard player Ed Grenga on Bill's side with reed player Peter Apfelbaum by Trilok.  Janney set up his heartbeat machine a little forward from Peter.  It seemed obvious right away, just by how they looked physically in the room, that Bill and Trilok would form the musical pillars of the show.

The idea is for continuous music, Janney told them at one point.  Transitions were worked out so that each piece flowed into the next for a continuous bed of sound.

Sunny Hitt arrived; strong, ethereal, butterfly presence, and began warming up at the quiet end of the space.  Later, Janney attached the medical contact mics and velcroed a small wireless transmitter pack to her back.  The mic signal is received by a medical monitor which has an audio out that feeds a custom designed step-down transformer and eq.  From there it goes into a dbx noise gate which feeds a Crown amp and two banks of what looked like 6 or 8" speakers.  We only had two mics feeding a 4 channel mixer going into the room PA, so one mic went on the heartbeat while the other picked up Trilok's tablas.  Sunny danced to the sound and rhythm of her heartbeat while Janney worked on the form of the piece with the musicians and singers.  I was in a chair by the heartbeat machine.  This was the one time I really got to see her dance, a highlight for me.  Every other time I would be preoccupied with mixing the sound.  She also had much more space to move around in.  Several times it looked like she fully became the heart, expressing its life through a human body.  That looked like hidden music.

The rehearsal went well and ended exactly on time at 6pm.  Trilok, Janney and Bill were going out to eat and Bill invited me to join them.  The four of us left the building together.  Shortly before this trip I had been turned on to a Hemp Root Salve by Rockhouse Remedies for topical and deep tissue healing that I really liked and made great small gifts.  I had intended to give one to each of these three principles in appreciation for my involvement and now was the perfect opportunity.  Janney would only accept his if I had one for Trilok which, of course, I did.  Trilok said it was just what he needed.  What drummer doesn't get sore muscles?  I waited to give Bill his until after dinner where Yoko joined us as I had one for her too..  I didn't consider until later the possible quantum connectivity and morphic resonance field made by the five of us having the same remedy, a remedy also made with hidden music in its ingredients.

Back in room 1508 at the Four Points Sheraton on West 25th Street I open a window allowing in an ocean of musical street noise to wash through the room filling it with random sound that always seems a musical work in progress searching for harmonic order and structure, fractal fossil compositions emerging for a moment from the soup then merging back in to the hum and roar.  All distinction awash in the sea, a general blended cacophony that harbors no threat, but holds no hope of redemption.  Just a timeless moment suspended in the animation of the  neurons vibrating raw diamond sound in the eternity of the present.  Depth sirens stretch out echoing off the corridors of concrete and steel buildings.  Car engine symphonies ebb and flow, peak and valley, whirling eddies of sound always changing in unpredictable pitch, dynamics and timbre with strange harmonics and dissonant polytonals.  The sound of the Shekinah sighing at night, hidden beauty in her randomity, always an uncertainty.  A gong has struck and reverberated in the chord of New York.  Horns play with various sustain, 1/16th note, 1/8th note, 1/4 note, 1/2 note even a full measure in whatever time signature the astrological night registers in. 

November 24th, 2014

9 am load-in at the Gramercy Theater.  We have a good sound crew to work with, Ryan and Anastasia, FOH and monitors respectively.  I am reunited with Anne Militello, the LD from Tom Wait's Mule Variations tour where I mixed FOH.  The sound system is decent, 6 folded horn enclosures loaded with 18s for the low end.  I had to back them down a bit. The PA is controlled by a Soundcraft vi1 digital mixer, touch screen control.  The digital lighting mixer brought in appears even more elaborate and side by side it looks like the bridge of a Starship.  The stage set-up waits while a massive video screen for Janney's video synthesizer gets installed followed by Anne's lighting towers.  I ducked out for a half hour and walked down to the massive Barnes and Noble in Union Square and picked up Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut.

From the bridge we see Philipo, myself, Lighting Guy whose name I will get, and Anne Militello'  Photo by Yoko Yamabe.

I hadn't read Slaughterhouse 5 since the age of 15 or 16.  E.J. Gold mentioned it recently a couple of times and I only vaguely remembered it.  Its two main themes are: 1. Becoming unstuck in time. 2. Death.  Every paragraph tells a self-contained story and exists as an individual unit, its own abstract prose poem of sorts. The book is all these paragraphs strung together.   Every time he writes something about death it's followed by the phrase, "So it goes."  Every single time.  They get quite frequent as the book progresses.  The other phrase he uses, "And so on," gets less frequent as the book progresses.  They are magick formulae.  "So it goes" relates to the experience consciousness goes through when the body dies.  In the Bardo, the between-lives state, the experience appears one of "here to go."  Consciousness speeds up ... a lot, giving an apparency of extreme motion.

Audio starts setting up around 1:30.  I run a DI (direct injection) box for the Heartbeat machine and Sunny gets set with the mics.  At first it sounds great, but then something causes a voltage spike that blows up the line.  We change the DI and cables and it's steady.  Every once in awhile there's a hint of a crackle, some kind of static interference, but it's very slight and infrequent.  Both Janney and I hear it and deem it acceptable.  The next morning the noise is much worse, loud and constant.  Another cable is changed and it's fixed.  Always resistance when something positive tries to manifest.  There was another phenomena with the Heartbeat machine which is that sometimes it would go from the regular heartbeat pulse to a louder, chaotic low frequency rumble when one of the body mics lost contact.  It would also self-correct out of the rumble and back to the steady pulse.  Trying to broadcast the human heart is a delicate matter on any level.  We had a backup loop in case something went wrong during the show, but didn't have to use it.

We only had time this day to get a line check in, but it gave me a good idea of how the room would sound.  Philipo checked Trilok's drums and James played Bill's bass.  It was a complicated set up, but was coming together.  I felt good about where we were at.  Soundcheck was scheduled to begin at 9:30 tomorrow morning.

No art is possible without a dance with death. 

 - Céline, as quoted in Slaughterhouse Five

November 25th, 2014

Soundcheck begins with Philipo setting Trilok's monitors.  Philipo's assistance proved invaluable for Trilok's idiosyncratic drum kit ( 3 bass drums, two played with sticks, tablas, djembe, water percussion along with the more conventional snare drum, ride cymbal, hi hat and rack tom.)  He also does tabla bols, vocalizations into a wireless mic that imitates tabla rhythms.  Philipo rode shotgun with me at the FOH mix position during the show keeping his eyes glued to Trilok letting me know when he was about to play tablas or the water percussion so I could open those mics.  In all my years of live mixing Philipo is the only one who has ever been able to assist in that way without being a serious annoyance.  I was grateful for his help.

Soundcheck was followed by a run through of the show.  There would be another full dress rehearsal from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. Janney's main audio instruction to me , "Oz, there is loud and there is too loud..."  The dot dot dot was the unspoken "we don't want it too loud."  It was already my intention not to mix it loud like a rock concert, but more as the theater piece it was.  We were both on the same page in that regard. The Gramercy theater is on the small side, holds approximately 500 capacity, but is long and narrow with a high ceiling and tiered seating making it sound cavernous when empty.

Hidden music can also turn up as a friendly guide, an angel to take care of potential difficulties.  They seem to either show up serendipitously or you're on your own.  My difficulty was that I couldn't eat the food catered in.  Libby Mislan, one of Janney's extended family of helpers, saw what was going on and immediately took care of the problem for the duration of the project.  I work best when my biological machine is properly fed, and thanks to Libby I was able to get to the level of functioning called for by the invocation.  Later, she mentioned that her day job was teaching creative writing to teenagers.

Dinner was served after the dress rehearsal in the lounge downstairs which was acting as the production office/backstage area.  I found myself talking with Zoe Rappaport who was working on a project about the heart and art for her MFA degree.  It is partly inspired by her father who died from a heart condition when she was very young.  We exchanged the circumstances behind each of our father's deaths, both from heart disease; definitely not your average preshow backstage banter.  Janney's father had also succumbed to a heart condition.  His death had served as a strong inspiration for the creation of the Heartbeat piece.

After eating I had about 90 minutes so I headed down 23rd Street for the 5 block walk back to the hotel.  The street was buzzing with energy.  This was the evening that the Grand Jury announced their decision not to indite in the Ferguson, Missouri case.  Lots of cops on the street and sidewalks, but things seemed relaxed.  I only saw one protester with a Stop Police Brutality sign on her way somewhere.  Later I heard on the news that the New York protests began a little east of the theater on 23rd Street and proceeded to block traffic on the FDR.  At the hotel I had just enough time to get myself ready.

The event began outside the theater with a small version of Christopher Janney's Sonic Forest set up in front of the doors. These are a series of eight foot aluminum columns outfitted with speakers and lights triggered by sensors.  A precursor of sound  and vision environments yet to come.  I could easily imagine a sign over the door reading:


An ambient drone programmed in quad called Cybermonks greeted the audience filing in to the theater.  Cyber derives from an ancient Greek word meaning "self-directed."  White noise transient swooshing sounds panned across the speakers suggesting movement into a space and environment far outside the ordinary.  To dance with death is to die to the ordinary self with its egoistic worries and concerns.  The drone subtly and gently guided the passengers (ie the audience) into a new space.  It evoked a safe and upbeat feeling of exploration, a solid, foundational diving board to launch into the Unknown. 

The drone segued seamlessly into the first piece called Enter the Now.  The horns and Trilok picked up the ambient thread and moved it forward.  Bill began playing subtle lead phrases setting an invocational direction and was soon joined by DJ Logic with soft delayed scratch textures on the turntable.  It built from there.  Everything was musically incredible, everyone locking into the collective groove seamlessly and as if they always played together.  Apfelbaum and Bernstein, horn players I've had the pleasure to mix several times, sounded the best I've ever heard them especially after the ambient section; open and more  experimentally taking chances.  Throughout the concert Bill played at a level I've never heard before, best ever, for me.  Truly amazing ...there is a multi-track recording by Mark Wong, you will have to hear it to believe it.  And, of course, Trilok carried and rhythmically drove the whole thing with absolute finesse and world music taste.  Logic fit in like silk; like an extra-dimensional space visitor bringing new information and sonic corridors.  Without stopping they transitioned to the 2nd piece, Violin Violence that featured a Miles-like head theme played by the horns and joined by keyboardist Ed Grenga.  Sheila E. also joined at this point slowly sliding into Trilok's beat.  Sheila definitely carries her own weight in rhythmic gravitas in a completely different way, but very complementary to Gurtu's style.  Absolutely a highlight seeing them both up there on risers being the rhythmic rudders of the ship, playing with time in a variety of subtle ways.  Even more so when they soloed to start up the post-Hearbeat encore.  Truly a highlight of anyone's musical experience.  At one point she was on the kit, a little later he was playing one of her congas.  I don't think you ever see musicians connect that fast that often.  I believe they met for the first time that day or the day before and now they were creating a new definition of a drum solo.  You have never heard anything like it.  This production brought out the best in everyone... beyond limits.

Violin Violence also dramatically upped the visual aspect of the show when Christopher Janney started playing his video synthesizer projecting images onto a huge hi-tech light wall that served as the stage's backdrop.  I used to watch a TV show growing up called Time Tunnel in which the main characters would jump into this tunnel of swirling light and end up at a different point in time.  Janney's video synthesis screen had a similar effect when I looked at it.  Rapidly changing, mutating, images geometrical, abstract and representational creating a sense of motion and tunneling into different dimensions.  Always in flux, a visual stream of consciousness riffing off the music.  I could only watch 20% of the time, if that, having a show to mix and all, but I did notice one moment of incredible synchronicity between the video and music when the band as whole made a dramatic change into a slower tempo at the same moment that  a dramatic environmental image, the collapsing of a mountain and forest into the water is what I remember, lit the video screen.  I also remember a whole series of images of eyes of all kinds morphing and fluxing in and out of perceptible existence.  Janney achieved the same goal with the video art that Alejandro Jodorowsky had set for Dune, to create the psychedelic experience without having to take the drug. 

Heartbeat started with the audio dropping to the sound of Sunny Hitt's amplified heart thumping through the hall.  She was all in red, projecting form, posture and motion well, a somatic language which told a story of the heart.  Sunny is a good storyteller.  Janney read an anatomical description of the heart that had an eerie resonance set against the sound of the pumping heart. Bill began with high harmonic noises that you'd never expect from a bass while Trilok played ambiently through the water percussion mics.  The second movement of Heartbeat featured a collage of vocalizing and counting starting with a whisper and gradually crescendoing.  The vocals were led by Dave Revels and Lynn Mabry, he sang with the Persuasions, she sang with Sly Stone, two of the finest singers I've ever worked with and sounding as sweet as ever tonight.  Sheila E. joined them on vocals and the three part harmonies they gave had a surrealistically perfect Motown sound.  I had never heard it live that good before.  Janney and Ryan Edwards also were singing and counting, nicely fleshing out the vocal ensemble.

Heartbeat made the implicit explicit.  Normally you don't hear and aren't aware of the sound the heart makes pumping life sustaining blood and oxygen to the brain and nervous system.  Even less do we consider the musicality of that sound.  The hidden music of the heart always playing in our body.

As above, so below,  a primary axiom of magic attributed to the quasi-mythical Egyptian teacher Hermes Trismegistus means that you can make a model of something in the microcosm that has sympathetic resonance with the macrocosm.  In the microcosm of the Gramercy Theater, Sunny Hitt's heartbeat pumped life into the music of that chamber, it was the driving force.  By the principle of As below, so above the same would have occurred in the macrocosm.  The planet survived another night without going up in flames.  Despite high emotions, all the protests of the Ferguson verdict throughout the country stayed peaceful. 

Heartbeat concluded the first part of the show.  Everyone stepped out and took a bow.  The audience gave them a standing ovation.  Emotions ran high here too, but of a far different, transcendental nature.  Next up was DJ Adam Gibbons and his world music dance beats.  People began dancing.  The lighting crew had a blast letting loose with their rig following the DJs beat.

The end finale stayed at the plateau reached by Heartbeat and went up from there.  I already mentioned the percussion solo that reintroduced the live musicians.  That was followed by Bill soloing on his fretless bass while Janney projected a kaleidoscope of Laswell images as if to portray the multidimensional aspects of Being.  Everyone else joined in, horns, singers, keys, Logic, Ryan Edwards now on djembe, everyone listening to each other, sounding cohesive and exuberant with life.  They found the hidden music.