Thursday, November 19, 2015

Freedom vrs Fascism

 Most of this was written immediately after hearing about the events in Paris.

I am struck at the moment by the curious coincidence of two completely opposite polar expressions, one of freedom, the other of fascism happening on the same day.  We define fascism as anything that imposes a stricture, censorship or limitation on individual expression. "The word of sin is restriction," to quote a famous freedom fighter.  Taking another life or causing injury to another makes for the ultimate act of fascism.  The cowardly attacks on innocent people in the name of some malefic ideology or cause shows how out of control the diseased black hole of fascism has become in recent years.  It's a severe sociopathic disconnect to take innocent lives in justification for some so-called religious viewpoint: a curse upon violent terrorism.

Contrasted with the news of the attacks in Paris is a video of "sacred begging" from Alejandro Jodorowsky to help finish funding his latest film project, Endless Poetry.  It was sent to me earlier today by Yoko Yamabe.  I watched this passionate affirmation of life before resting for a few hours catching up from long hours in the studio this past week.  When I got up I heard the news of the violence in Paris.  The only time I met Jodorowsky was at his apartment in Paris with Bill Laswell and Michael Lemesre.  Paris is a city I love and am deeply influenced by.  The bardo philosopher Gilles Deleuze was born and lived in Paris his whole life after the war.  He pragmatically advocates "lines of flight," often through art and culture outside the fascist rules of any system or authority of control - what he calls "the state". Jodorowsky's film project plea gives a perfect example of what these lines of flight to individual freedom might look like.  My response to the sickness of the recent violence is to highly recommend a viewing of this sacred begging.  Philosopher/magician/hierophant that he is, naturally Jodorowsky communicates on multiple levels transmitting signals far beyond a plea for financing.  For example:

A true piece of art has to change the very spirit of people.  The very soul.  When I go to the theater I should exit a different person.  The movie must give me something, hope, knowledge, a hidden beauty kept inside that I didn't even know was there.  ... We need to make movies that heal, optimistic, joyful, creative marvelous movies.

Again I highly recommend watching the whole video.  It's only six minutes and two seconds long.  At the end you can see Jodorowsky laughing at himself  for the passionate dramatic delivery he just did.

About six weeks ago I wrote: "The amorphous violent war/jihad of terrorism from any kind of ideological fanaticism also declares a war against music."  The attack on music is now as direct and literal as it gets.  We have argued that the will to power of the creative act can effect changes in the world at large starting with rippling strings of quantum entanglement on the sub-molecular scale that eventually surface as alterations of human behavior on the Einsteinian/Newtonian level of everyday reality. Fight fascism with creativity; Endless Poetry.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What Is A Recording Studio?

A specialized environment to record light and/or sound.  A tabla rasa, whatever you want it to be.  A contained vessel for shamanic journeys into sound spaces bringing back a souvenir (the recording) to communicate those spaces.  An experimental laboratory generating compound sonic assemblages with resulting quantum entanglements.  A landing pad for the descent of higher entities, i.e. the living percepts and affects - the sense, feeling and mood of the music; the intuitive ideas it inspires; the baraka it communicates; the gnosis released when lightening strikes.  We'll be looking at a particular sound studio, Ancient Wave, the one I work at locally, the new World Headquarters for High Velocity Sound Engineering.

The intention of a recording studio is to bring great music into the world.  Music can come from anywhere, but certain conditions help increase the odds.  When  I asked Paul Bowles what, if anything, he did to help inspire creativity in the people he recorded his immediate answer was, "make the musicians comfortable."   Usually the first thing people remark about when visiting Ancient Wave studios for the first time refers in some way to the high aesthetic of the space.  That may have something to do with the quality of craftsmanship, planning and tender loving care that went into the construction, design and finish of the studios.  It's warm, organic, and woody.  It also sounds really good in every room.  You can get some idea by visiting the website.  It has a little bit of a Tibetan or Japanese Zen quality to it. A Lamasery or Dojo for sound recording. Dojo translates literally as "place of the way."

All processing done via electronics in a recording studio, everything done in that domain, directly affects and changes things at the quantum level.  Having some recognition and understanding of that level can help get one more inside the music.  The quantum level is where magick occurs; Bell's Theorem and quantum entanglement offer explanations for "spooky action at a distance." The quantum level is a level of forces, intensities and speeds in a riverrun of ever-changing motion; here to go.  Consciousness affects the making and recording of music at the quantum level and music in turn affects consciousness at its quantum level.  The architecture and environment of the studio, the space it creates or allows to be created also affects consciousness. Feng shui for the quantum level, the realm poetically and affirmatively seen as sacred and holy by mystics and explorers of all stripes  because of its far-reaching effects; its power of will to create.   The name Ancient Wave reflects this awareness and sensibility.

Comparison of classical and quantum harmonic oscillator conceptions for a single spinless particle.

The crown jewel of Ancient Wave is the 40 channel vintage Trident TSM desk.  It has a rich, clear analog sound with extraordinary depth and dimension.  Its friendly, musical sounding EQ paints in broad strokes as is common with boards of that era ('70s and early '80s).  The sound is so good out of that desk that it seems to negate any need for tape to get that classic analog sound though a Studer 1/4" analog tape recorder is available for people, like myself sometimes, still in the cult of tape.

I  rely heavily albeit lightly on the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor, a $7.7k boutique unit with a modern, warm sound, and subtle, but effective transparency of operation.  It's the Buddha of compression, a silent, glowing affinity with all sound and vibration.  It cracks me over the head with a stick whenever I fall asleep.  Another machine, a $10k Sony reverb computer (I don't remember model numbers only how much they cost!) has a virtual library simulating some of the best acoustic spaces on this planet: King's College Chapel, Power Station Studio A, Cello, the Parthenon, Sydney Opera House,  etc. etc.  I can add acoustics from spaces all over the world.

 Ancient Wave Studio B

I've been describing Studio B where I work with my Pro Tools HD upgraded by Ancient Wave to accommodate 40 outputs and boosted with increased computer speed on my Mac Pro.  Studio A is the recording room and also features a vintage Trident desk, a Series 24, I believe, with 40 channels.  It's a smaller desk, but still has the trademark rich Trident sound and extra-dimensionality (XD); great vintage sounding mic pres too! All of the microphone food groups are well represented at Ancient Wave - tube, ribbon, condensor, dynamic - and there is an excellent selection of instruments and amplifiers available to use which includes a 1924 Steinway Grand Piano, a Hammond B3 Organ with a Leslie cabinet, and a vintage pump organ from the 1920s.  A full microphone, instrument, and amplifier list is on the website.  Services at Ancient Wave include recording, mixing, mastering and production consultation

Ancient Wave is a labor of love, skill and intelligence assembled by the dyadic cyclone Saul and Elena Rayo, prolific solo recording artists of local, regional, and universal renown.  Together they bring a musician's sensibility and aesthetic to the design and operation of the studios.  Saul, in particular, has a passion for the art of recording.  He is also a talented producer.   Technician and engineer Michael Eaton is the one who literally put it all together and remains a vital cog in day-to-day studio operation.  Miguel is a veteran of the LA and Las Vegas music scenes with a background owning and operating a recording studio.

A few well-known clients already have benefited from the facilities at Ancient Wave.  Evolutionary Minded: Furthering the Legacy of Gil Scott-Heron  produced by Kentyah Fraser was one of the first projects mastered there.  American philosopher Dr. Cornel West called that album "... prophetic art at its highest level."  Rappers and poets featured on that include Dead Prez, Chuck D., Killah Priest and Abiodun Oyewole from The Last Poets.  Another early mastering job was done for the piano jazz trio Too Noisy Fish for their album Fight Eat Sleep, recorded, mixed, mastered and produced by your extremely humble reporter.  New York Jazz Record magazine named it album of the year for 2013. Two albums by the Sufi and psychedelia inspired Neo Folk World Rock ensemble HuDost were mixed at Ancient Wave this year.  The first one, The Word Is... is a collaboration with Steve Kilbey the lead singer from The Church.  One song, Omega, features additional lead vocals from Jon Anderson of Yes.  A personal favorite of mine, a cover of Velvet Underground's Sunday Morning was recorded as a homage to Lou Reed the day he died.  The second HuDost album mixed there is Sufi Kirtan which expands the Sufi practice known as zikr (remembrance) to include prayers and chants from the esoteric side of all the major religions.  It's only been out a few months and is in the running for a Grammy nomination.

 The soundtrack for Retour, a contemporary dance performance by the German dance collective laborgras was mixed and mastered at Ancient Wave in 2014; music composed and arranged by Phoebe Killdeer.  Also, some interestingly evocative soundtrack mixing was recently completed for L.A.'s Blasting Company.  The animated show is called Over the Garden Wall and will air on the Cartoon Network.  New releases were mixed this summer for Austin James and the free jazz trio Bro Jazz.

This summer also saw mixing for a few up and coming rappers with Aja Salvatore for KSK records in Studio B.  These were Cyhi the Prynce (signed to Kanye West's label and a guest on his album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy), Fat Trel (signed to Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group), and Jon Connor (signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermatch label and performs on Dre's new album, Compton).  Aja and I also mixed a track with local singer Deja Solis (Hamsa Lila).  Deja is renowned in burner circles for being the model for the huge statue at Burning Man every year.  She's also an incredibly soulful singer.

Other local Ancient Wave projects include Rustler's Moon, the well received, debut release by novelist and singer/songwriter Sands Hall.  This one was produced by Saul Rayo.  The medieval, celtic, pagan, psychedelic folk group Lasher Keen recorded their vinyl limited edition Mantic Poetry, Oracular Prophecy in Studio A.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Electronic Dance, Hip Hop and Rap Music

For an up and coming New York studio engineer in the 80's it seemed impossible not to work a lot in the genre collectively known as Dance Music which included  hip hop, rap, house, and what is now known as EDM - electronic dance music.  It formed the soundtrack and raison d'etre for an urban, underground sub-culture assembling in clubs to dance, drink and drug the night away.  Taking a page out of Rimbaud to instigate a systematic derangement of the senses to reach a visionary space.  Loud, repetitive, hypnotic thundering beats usually synched with flashing, strobing, kaleidoscopic lights creating a contemporary trance music; a platform for activities ranging from shamanic voyaging to inebriated zombie numbness.  Save the Robots was the name of a well-known after-hours club in the East Village at the time.  I worked with artists like Nocera and Mantronix who had huge hits on Billboard's Hot Dance/Club Play charts, but were virtually unknown in the pop world.  This was the scene that Madonna came out of before hooking up with producer Nile Rodgers who made her breakthrough album, Like A Virgin, mixed by my engineering mentor Jason Corsaro.  It was not my preferred kind of music which sounded to me like different versions of disco.

Like much of the world outside of urban America I first encountered rap music from Blondie's song Rapture introducing Fab Five Freddy with a rap in the middle.  A year later while visiting New York for the first time I caught a bus out to the Meadowlands arena in Jersey to catch a Blondie concert (Buster Poindexter aka David Johansen from the New York Dolls warmed them up - incredible show!) and Debbie Harry introduced Fab Five Freddy in living flesh to do a rap of his own in the Rapture extended jam.  Blondie was a lot better and more street than I expected them to be from hearing their slick radio hit productions.  About an hour after getting back to the city someone attempted and failed to mug me while walking around in Times Square.  I was staying on 43rd street and in an elevated, somewhat ecstatic mood from the buzz of the concert, strolling about contemplating art and life while gazing up at the tall buildings and the skyline, definitely not paying attention to what was happening on the street when this guy jumped me on 8th Avenue.  I still had lots of adrenaline flowing from the concert which only increased so the immediate reaction was to shove him off of me and push him into the the wooden wall of the construction zone beside us.  It was only about midnight and there were people around also not paying attention, but the dude appeared to be offended saying "what's wrong with you, what's wrong with this guy," in NY jivese to the nonresponsive passerbys before stalking off in a feigned huff.  An initiation into the musical side and the violent side of NY street life all in one night.

Walking around New York in 1982 exposed me to lots of unknown beats and raps on the street blasting loud, proud and distorted out of boom boxes while kids break-danced to the pounding rhythms.  I could never make out the rhymes, but watching this spontaneous street art felt exhilarating nonetheless. 

My initial foray into proto-EDM as an engineer earned a Gold Record; an auspicious beginning especially considering the first statement on the record.  It was for the self-titled major label debut of Information Society and ended up charting a number one single on the Billboard Dance Charts with a number three on the Pop Charts.  The record was excellently produced and engineered by Fred Maher who seemed to be channeling a Kraftwerk production sensibility.  Fred was a drummer and music programmer who had worked with Massacre, Material, Scritti Politti, and Lou Reed.  It was my impression that he hadn't engineered a record before; my role as second engineer included recording all the vocals.  It's a good record, one of the best in that genre in my opinion.  The very first words you hear are a sample of Spock saying "pure energy"  with other Star Trek samples used liberally throughout.  It became an important record for my career advancement.  Later, I mixed two InSoc singles produced by their main writer, Paul Robb one of which made it onto the Earth Girls Are Easy film soundtrack.  I also engineered a record for the band Red Flag which Robb produced.  The success of the InSoc record scored a steady engineering gig with the Latin freestyle group TKA, fellow label mates on Tommy Boy records.  They were produced by Joey Gardner and the album that resulted was  Louder Than Love.  All of this took place at Platinum Island Recording in Greenwich Village. 

Some of the first rappers I recorded were about as removed from the streets of the Bronx as you can imagine - they were professional wrestlers from the World Wrestling Federation. The song was, If U Only Knew from Piledriver: The Wrestling Album 2 produced by Rick Derringer and David Wolfe (Cyndi Lauper's husband and manager at the time), Tom Edmonds was the engineer.  Most of the songs on the album were well-crafted rock songs with the wrestlers brought in at the end to add vocals.  Derringer recut his hit Rock-n-Roll Hootchie Koo turning it into a duet with himself  and "Mean" Gene OkerlundIt was exciting to witness the original artist rerecording a classic song that I grew up with.  If U Only Knew, a pseudo rock meets rap mashup featured an all-star line-up of wrestlers each contributing one or two lines in the verses, a We Are the World of wrestling.  The wrestlers all showed up the same morning and added their contributions in a three hour session.  Some of them seemed to have partied hard the night before one notable exception being Hollywood Hulk Hogan as he was known at the time.  What surprised me about Hogan was that he was a regular, easy-going nice guy until he got on the mic.  When the cue came for his part he immediately turned into this comic book, larger than life, superhero character just for that moment, delivered his lines, then went back to being a regular, laidback guy.  I'd never seen anyone so quickly turn on a larger than life personae as if at the flick of a switch then turn it back off just as quickly and easily.

In those early years of my recording career I engineered a lot of EDM type music much of it with a producer named Craig Kafton who was eccentrically pleasant to work with. At different times he brought in a couple of the genres top mixers, Roey Shamir and his protege Angela Piva.  Another highlight was a mix I did for Mantronix (Kurtis Mantronik).  I was the the third or fourth engineer who attempted to mix that track and it was successful.  At some point the club dance music sessions were so constant that I began seriously considering alternate career choices.  I didn't want to get locked into a genre that I had little appreciation for even though I was grateful for the work and did enjoy the sessions for the most part.  Things began to look up when I started assisting sessions for Bill Laswell.

I was unaware of Bill Laswell's extremely influential contributions to hip hop and rap.  Two years before Run DMC became famous for combining rap with rock in their cover of Aerosmith's Walk This Way, Laswell created a project called Time Zone that released the rock/rap single, World Destruction featuring John Lydon and Africa Bambaataa.  Musical activism at its best: punk meets rap for a world destruction.  I knew the single Rockit from Herbie Hancock's Future Shock album, but didn't realize that Laswell was the mastermind that put it together.  Rockit is credited with introducing turntable scratching and turntablism - the art of using the turntable as a musical instrument - into mainstream musical consciousness.

Laswell opened the door to my involvement with the politically subversive and revolutionary form of rap music.  What it had started out as before the music industry co-opted and diluted it into a market driven consumer commodity. Seven Souls, the first Material album I assisted on closes with Equation, an abstract, futurist, world music rap jam that has performance artist/poet-philosopher RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ trading lines with a radio-sampled Christian evangelist - the nomadic poet's multiple lines of flight outside the box versus the hellfire, damnation and moral strictures of religious orthodoxy; the algebraic equation of personal freedom.  Ramellzee's fits right in and expands the William Burroughs Western Lands context (guided death and immortality) that informs most of the rest of the album.  Ramellzee lines sound like cut-ups.  His second line: "Take it to the beat," already points the listener in multiple directions acknowledging Sly Dunbar and Laswell's hip hop rhythmic foundation taking off as well as nod to Burroughs' profound influence on beat writers despite not being one himself. Even 25 year plus years after this recording was bound in time it sounds like a next level broadcast.  You get some idea why:

Rammellzee's ... theory of Gothic Futurism, which describes the battle between letters and their symbolic warfare against any standardizations enforced by the rules of the alphabet. His treatise, Ionic treatise Gothic Futurism assassin knowledges of the remanipulated square point's one to 720° to 1440°, details an anarchic plan by which to revise the role and deployment of language in society.

 - Mark Dery

Both Ramellzee and Burroughs intend to deconstruct language.  Burroughs had studied and was strongly influenced by Alfred Korzybski's General Semantics which among other things looks at various ways that language shapes our perceptions and interpretations of reality. 

"... we read unconsciously into the world the structure of the language we use." - Korzybski, Science & Sanity p.60

We do not realize what tremendous power the structure of an habitual use of language has.  It is not an exaggeration to say that it enslaves us through the mechanism of s[emantic] r[eactions] and that the structure which a language exhibits, and impresses upon us unconsciously, is automatically projected upon the world around us." - ibid, p. 90

Apart from Burroughs, General Semantics has influenced a number of cutting edge cultural innovators including Buckminster Fuller, Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Heinlein, Stockhausen, and Richard Bandler (co-originator of Neuro Linguistic Programming).  The idea that language affects consciousness is hardly limited to General Semantics.  Around the same time and independently of Korzybski, Benjamin Whorf introduced the term linguistic relativity to describe the same effect that language has on consciousness. Burroughs and Rammelzee's efforts to subvert the habitual use of language, along with many other experimental writers ( Joyce, Proust, Kafka, Pynchon, Wilson, etc.) seems equivalent to subverting habitual belief systems and tunnel realities; deconstructed language as an effective tool (sledgehammer) for transformation.

Rap music subverts, disconnects and permutates standard English making a new minor language inside the major dominant language, a cultural war machine against the dominant order and its "order-words" of control, judgement and obeyance that enforce the accepted moral code of how to live and be inside the strait-jacket of society. Rap offers lines of flight out.

They are great writers by virtue of this minorization: they make the language take flight, they send it racing along a witch's line, ceaselessly placing it in a state of disequilibrium, making it bifurcate and vary in each of its terms, following an incessant modulation.... This means that a great writer is always like a foreigner in the language in which he expresses himself, even if this is his native tongue.  At the limit, he draws his strength from a mute and unknown minority that belongs only to him.  He is a foreigner in his own language: he does not mix another language with his own language, he carves out a nonpreexistent language within his own language.  He makes the language itself scream, stutter, stammer or murmer." - Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, p. 109-110.

Engineering for The Third Power by Material was the next major chapter in my rap music education.  I recorded Shabba Ranks for the opening track, Reality at Laswell's newly minted Greenpoint studio in Brooklyn. Ranks was there with a crew of about 6 or 8, I could understand about 60% of their thick Island patois; perfect example of a minority language.  He starts the track addressing and thanking the world for making him who he is and all the TLC; as sincerely gracious in person as he sounds on the track; a likeable, affable, professional who had a sense of danger about him.  He lays it down in a few hours complete with ad libs.  Keeping it very real.

Around the time The Third Power was in progress I recorded Cutty Ranks, another Jamaican Dancehall rappper, with Bill immediately after we arrived in Tokyo on a flight from New York.  We took a car from Narita to a hotel on the far outskirts of Tokyo, about a 3 hour drive and met the rapper and his manager shortly after arriving.  The hotel had a studio in the basement and we got right to work.  Cutty Ranks was another total professional, we got what was needed quickly and easily.  My memory has it that this was for a song on The Third Power, but that's wrong, Cutty Ranks doesn't show up in the credits.  I can't remember what it was used for.

The Third Power was where I first encountered the Jungle Brothers - Afrika Baby Bam and Mike G.  The track they contribute their rhymes to, Playin' With Fire, ranks as one of the best and most aesthetic rap songs that I know of.  It's a cautionary, motivating tale set in the 'hood and features a Herbie Hancock electric piano solo.

Later, I engineered a number of sessions for what was to be the Jungle Brothers third album, Crazy Wisdom Masters.  Mike G and Afrika Baby Bam, who in the course of the Crazy Wisdom sessions would change his name to Af Next Man Flip (Lord of the Paradox) were seriously in the thralls of Crazy Wisdom largely due, it seems, to Laswell introducing them to his record collection and turning them on to free jazz and other progressive music.  At one point an attempt was made to recruit Cecil Taylor to overdub, but he wasn't available.  As you might have guessed from his name change, Af really took to this musical awakening like an astronaut to space.  He got on a mission to create the most "out there" rap music ever integrating elements of jazz, chaos, collage and dissonance over more traditional rap forms.  I felt compelled to give him the black djellaba I had used to walk around Tangier incognito at night.  The wisdom turned out to be a little too crazy for Warner Bros. which never released it.

The sessions that I engineered for the Jungle Brothers at Greenpoint were much different than I was used to.  Allowing them to use his studio was the extent of Bill's direct involvement with the tracking when I was around.  They would typically begin about 3 hours after the scheduled start time.  Often the first to show up was Torture, a young kid, maybe 17, who wasn't officially part of the group, but who would go on to guest rap on at least one track.  Torture would get to the studio a good hour before anyone else, get me to put up a track on the tape machine then play around with it on the Neve desk until everyone else showed up.  To be blunt about it, if you catch my drift, the sessions were often painfully slow accustomed as I was to the focus of Laswell produced projects.  I recall spending one entire night programming a hi hat pattern.  A few months later Bill and I did mix enough songs for an album up at Quad Recording in Times Square - not too long after Tupac was attacked and nearly killed in the lobby there - though I don't know if they were ever used for anything.  One track, Simple As That (remixed) found its way onto Excavation, Bill Laswell: Unauthorized Cut-Ups Vol. 1.

I did manage to find a track from the original sessions on You Tube, one that features Torture if you care for a three minute taste of rap far outside the norm:

I met Flavor Flav for the first time on my 34th birthday.  I had engineered a session for Bill in the afternoon and had agreed to stay on to work with Flavor Flav, Hank Shocklee and the Bomb Squad for an evening session.  Flav was the first to show up.  I introduced myself, "I'm Oz, I'll be your engineer tonight."  Hearing my name inspired Flav to go into an impromptu Wizard of Oz oration: "Oz, Oz ... where is my heart ... and  Oz ... where is my brain ... and, and ... where is my ..."  Assuming the role, I told him he already had everything he needed.  Needless to say, I've heard that reference many, many times, but never as colorful as Flav's delivery.

Flav was a total pro, always nice, respectful, easy to work with and stone-cold sober.  He was on his best behavior.  Most of the time we tracked vocals though occasionally Hank and the Bomb Squad would work out a beat.  Flav often, but not always, wore his trademark clock.  I was told we were recording for a Flavor Flav solo project, but the songs ended up getting used for a Public Enemy record, Muse Sick-N-Hour Message.

Digital Underground was the other notable rap group I worked with, doing a mix for them on the SSL in Platinum Island's Studio East, an alternate take of one of their hits. If memory serves, I recall it being a version of The Humpty Dance for the film Nothing But Trouble.  Shock G is the only person I remember dealing with from the band.  He was pleasant, easy to work with and liked the tones; a causal, low key event.  I liked that it was a rap resurrection of Lewis Carrol's Humpty Dumpty complete with the fall and the crack in the egg evoking the Stoics comparison of philosophy to an egg: "The shell is Logic, next comes the white, Ethics, and the yoke in the center is Physics." (Diogenes Laertius).  Common logic gets cracked here in this jam, nonsense surfacing into rhymes creating a sense of a particular joyous, unifying kind. Ethics of breaking down the gangsta lie for a grander, less violent way out. The yoke and joke at the center of this song is definitely physics, transforming at the end to a call for a world dance, ("Underground in the house...") and respect "to the ladies" while acknowledging the shining buddha emptiness at the core of their being - "humptiness" appearing as a Carroll-style portmanteau word combining "hum" and "emptiness;" Hum suggests the repetitious buddhist chant loop "Om mani padme hum".  Run some of the Prosperity Path orbs to experience a virtual reality example of that.

Laswell not only created new directions in the rap/hip hop world, he also helped keep its roots alive and working most notably with various projects for The Last Poets.  "With their politically charged raps, taut rhythms, and dedication to raising African-American consciousness, the Last Poets almost single-handedly laid the groundwork for the emergence of hip-hop." (Jason Ankeny).  I was fortunate to record and mix Bebop or Be Dead, a solo effort by Last Poet Umar Bin Hassan released on Bill's Axiom label.  The poetry is about as real as it gets coming from Umar's lived experience translated into images of revolution, survival, and life on the street.  Musicians playing on the backing tracks include Buddy Miles, Amina Myers, Bootsy Collins, Anton Fier, Foday Musa Suso, Bernie Worrell and Bill Laswell among others.  Fellow Last Poet Abiodun Olewole contributed some vocals.  The blogsite Digital Meltdown wrote: "This release is a true over-looked classic that has somehow remained relatively obscure."  I also did some tracking at Greenpoint for the Last Poets1993 album Holy Terror.  At that point the Last Poets consisted of Umar and Abiodun with guest rapper Grandmaster Melle Mel.

Umar Bin Hassan & Abiodun Olewole
(photo credit unknown) 

Turntablism, the art of turning a turntable and vinyl into a musical instrument got its start in the hip hop culture, but has been deployed by Bill Laswell in a variety of musical contexts beginning with Grandmaster DST's (now DXT) inclusion in Herbie Hancock's Rockit single.  I got to mix live sound for a couple of different versions of Material that included DXT.  At a festival in Gent, Belgium  I recall one lively conversation over dinner where he was spinning Illuminatti conspiracy theories and connecting it to a piece of jewelry worn by a woman at another table. Meanwhile, I was telling him about Finnegans Wake which I was reading for the first time.  At the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee DXT deftly played a theremin along with the turntables.  

DJ Disk is the turntablist I've worked with the most, usually live, though I also recorded and mixed his solo album Live at Slims with musical support from Buckethead, Brain and Les Claypool.  I first met Disk when he was a member of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, a hip hop DJ collective. Bill Laswell asked them to play a show with Praxis.  Later, Disk toured with Praxis on his own before joining another Laswell project, Tabla Beat Science.  The rhythmic interplay between Disk and Zakir Hussein on tablas had many spectacular moments.  One of my favorite shows with Disk was a one off in Frankfurt, Germany with a band that also included Jack DeJohnette, Bill Laswell, and Derek Bailey.

Heavyweight Dub Champion (HDC) is a electronic music/rap based collective I first became involved with in the summer of 2008 when helping to mix their album Rise of the Champion Nation.  Founding members Resurrector (aka Grant Chambers) and Patch were joined by sax and keyboardist Totter Todd and a lot of rappers including KRS-One, Killah Priest, Dr. Israel, A.P.O.S.T.L.E., Lady K and Stero-Lion.  Working out of Prairie Sun's Studio A, I would set up the mix and initial balance, leave Grant and Patch to go at it it for a few hours adding effects (mostly analog and many from the echoplex food group), editing the arrangement, and other sound design considerations.  When they were ready, I would tweak the mix into it's final form.  

Their music is what Mark Goodall calls Heavy Conscious Creation. Grant is an experienced navigator of shamanic spaces having gone on extensive retreats with native shamans in Peru's Amazon Rainforest.  He brings that experience to the music:

The foundation of the band's musical presentation is a method they call "Sonic Shamanistic Alchemy." As defined by Resurector, it involves, "taking a range of vibrational materials, from tribal instruments to electronic instruments, and manipulating them through devices like tape delays and old analog stomp boxes to try to find the personality of each piece... looking for particular voices, particular vibrations that would contribute to the spectrum of sound we're trying to bring forth, a spectrum of liberational revolutionary energy... to change the chemistry of the planet leading to unconditional liberation of the human race."

In recent years, Heavyweight Dub Champion changed personal and morphed into Liberation Movement.  Patch retired to New Mexico to pursue solo music, domestic bliss, and the precision craft of a luthier.  The most prominent new member is Sasha Rose, a recognized favorite on the Rainbow Gathering circuit and now Resurector's better half. I recently mixed for them at two festivals in California and Oregon.  The MC/ rapping duties were held down by Noah King with additional assistance from Wailer B at Symbiosis.  A chorus of chanting Peruvian shamen made sonorous appearances via electronic sampling.  Soriah, a live Tuvan throat singer also performed at Symbiosis, further uniting world music and electronic, trance dance music for a potent transformative cocktail.  Audience response was extremely positive; it got across!  Liberation Movement is scheduled to go into Prairie Sun in December to mix their first release with yours truly.

Elsewhere and elsewhen, Dr. Israel fronted Method of Defiance (MOD), a Bill Laswell musical force of expression willed to life - something Che Guevara might have put together if he were a musician  and not an armed revolutionary with attendant dire results.  Method of Defiance shapeshifts band members from performance to performance, but most of the time I mixed them apart from Bill and Doc they consisted of Bernie Worrell, DJ Krush, Toshinori Kondo, Garrison Hawk and Guy Licata. Hawk adds a mellifluous contrast and Jamaican dancehall rhyming to Israel's street revolution delivery.  Doc also operated an 8 channel Mackie mixer fed by SM57's placed strategically about the stage to dub out and fold in random sounds generating multiplicities of rhythms with feedback delays and the occasional reverb bomb exclamation point.  Licata is the best live "drum & bass" drummer I've mixed.

Krush scratches in a softer (less saw-tooth waves) more sustained style than DJs who scratch fast and always rhythmic.  He is the most musically diverse and melodic turntablist I've worked with made quite evident at a trio gig in Milan with Bernie and Bill.  Imagine a combination of players on the scale of Beethoven, Mingus and Dr. Dre with a sensibility of infinite Japanese depths, heights and surface tensions to suggest some idea of his musically coded soundscaping that night.

At a 2009 MOD gig at the Montreaux Jazz Festival I got a short live mix review from industry icon Chris Blackwell via Bill Laswell.  "He said it was loud ... but good."  Here's a clip featuring Garrison Hawk from that show:

Gil Scott-Heron was a radical poet and musician credited as a seminal influence on hip hop and with raising social and political awareness in the African-American community.  I didn't ever meet him or get to work with him, but I did master a post-mortem tribute project Kentyah Fraser put together with Scott-Heron's longtime musical collaborator, Brian Jackson, called Evolutionary Minded: Furthering the Legacy of Gil Scott-Heron.  Rappers and poets featured on that include Dead Prez, Chuck D., Killah Priest and Abiodun Oyewole.  There's also some incredible historical recording samples from Bobby Seale and Scott-Heron.  Cornel West gave it a positive review saying, "This is prophetic art at its highest level."  This was the first project at my new local studio, Ancient Wave in 2013.

I first met Kentyah a few years earlier when he organized a live tribute to Miles Davis' electric years  featuring some of the musicians who had played on those sessions including guitarist Mike Stern and Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira.  Killah Priest and Brian Jackson were also on hand for that tribute.  Other musicians included Mike Clark ( Headhunters and Brand X) and Vince Wilburn ( Miles' nephew).  I was hired to mix the Front of House and to make a multitrack recording.  To my knowledge, that recording hasn't been mixed.

More recent hip hop/rap style projects to have come my way include tracking Les Nubians with producer Aja Salvatore for an alternative take on one of their recent releases which hasn't seen the light of day so far.  Aja also records up and coming rappers which I've had the privilege to mix at Ancient Wave.  These include Cyhi the Prynce (signed to Kanye West's label and a guest on his album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy), Fat Trel (signed to Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group), and Jon Connor (signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermatch label and performs on Dre's new album, Compton).

My favorite rap song is Subterranean Homesick Blues.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mixing Part 3: Nietzsche, Crowley and the Will to Power

This episode of Learning To Mix is an overview looking at the mixer as an artist and how that might affect the world at large. 

 In the codes that structure noise and its mutations [i.e. music] we glimpse a new theoretical practice and meaning: establishing relations between the history of people and the dynamics of economy on one hand, and the history of the ordering of noise in codes [music] in the other; predicting the evolution of one by the forms of the other; combining economics and aesthetics; demonstrating that music is prophetic and that social organization echoes it.
 - Attali, Noise

We affirm the ability of music to produce large and small scale changes in the world; actual changes.  The amorphous violent war/jihad of terrorism from any kind of ideological fanaticism also declares a war against music.  This is vividly shown toward the end of the documentary, Music In Mali: Life Is Hard, Music Is Good in the segment on the takeover of the north in Mali by Islamic fundamentalists.   We see that imposition of Sharia law attacks, arrests and stops the production and playing of music there. A singer gets told, " we will cut out your tongue if you continue to sing," so she flees to the south. This exposure of  musicians reacting to life in a country going through coup d'etats and fighting a war poignantly illustrates the inverse relationship between music and war.

Music that becomes Art acts, it doesn't react.  It acts by staying true to its creative, exploratory aesthetic, staying true to itself, forging new tracks, lines of flight to other realities.  Music can act as a non-bloody, non-killing war machine against terrorism and other destructive insanities and pathologies just by existing and proliferating, generating affective force.  How this might get accomplished follows below.   In Noise, The Political Economy of Music, Attali hypothesizes that at one time in pre-history music was ritually used to channel violence away from war and destruction  into sound spaces of equal intensity.  To verify that he says would require an in-depth analysis of music and myth and admits that virtually nothing is known about the status of music in society during that period. I do know that you can't play or fully listen to music when local human bodies are busy fighting something.  Music requires physical non-violence to be made and heard.

My instrument is a tool, an object… used to build, construct and deconstruct…
used to express ideas, options, light, dark, make it rain…
Art is not a mirror, it is a hammer.

                                                              - Bill Laswell, 2015

Music of a certain aesthetic becomes a powerful weapon against the facism and strictures of the State, any State of  Control upon others, in that, among other things, music inspires individual will and self-determination over one's destiny, freedom and liberty. Music provides the opportunity for gnostic breakthroughs - direct experiences of profound wisdom and understanding that greatly accelerates spiritual intelligence.  A gnostic moment at a Who concert is documented here.  Obviously music has a multiplicity of uses, functions and possibilities.  It can act as a legominism, an artifact encoded with esoteric data which can be unlocked with the right combination of mood, posture and emotion - finding the right mode of receptivity to receive the encoded data.  In other words, music can be psychometrized to great advantage.

We note with interest the Amnesty International music concerts organized by Bill Graham  that brought an All Star show of Western rock music to the Soviet Union and Poland about 6 months or so before the Solidarity movement accelerated that lead to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.  Those concerts apparently contributed significantly to opening the floodgates of Western culture and goods into the Eastern Bloc.  Hilary Clinton remarked to a CNN interviewer that Solidarity leader Lech Walsea told her that the desire for Western culture is what ultimately brought the change, the people demanded the freedom to participate in the world economy.  The instigation of the collapse of the Soviet empire seemingly had nothing to do with political diplomacy which only facilitated it after it was in motion.   It started with the will of the people who somehow, for some reason ( rock concerts?) took it upon themselves to create and follow enough avenues demanding freedom that the politicians had no choice but to respond.

Will to Power

"Will, this is what the liberator and the messenger of joy is called '
- Thus Spake Zarathustra

Nietzsche expanded upon Percy Shelley's line, "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world" to include all artists.

In Nietzsche, "we the artists" = "we the seekers after knowledge or truth" = 'we the inventors of new possibilities of life."

... art is a "stimulant of the will to power", "something that excites willing."
 - Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche & Philosophy

In his philosophy, Friedrich Nietzsche viewed the world as a dynamic play of forces ("all sensibility is a becoming of forces") beneath the phenomenal world habitually represented to ourselves through various linguistic models, maps and metaphors.  This view of forces looks at 'things' as constantly changing processes in motion in energetic states that more closely follow the models described by Relativistic and Quantum physics than the block-like "objects" of the Newtonian world.

The "will to power" seems a commonly misunderstood concept.  Power used in this sense has nothing to do with dominance over others.  It also has nothing to do with desiring or accumulating power.  The will to power  is what Nietzsche called the genus or originator of forces.  In other words, the will to power = the true creative act that brings forces into being, into play.  Consider it as the will to power up forces in the electrical sense, to turn them on.  Mixing music can be a "will to power," a truly creative act that brings to life a multiplicity of affective forces both virtually and actually to reach a broad audience.  If combined with an intention of some kind, however specific or abstract, the song mix can cause change to occur in accordance with will, Aleister Crowley's definition of Magick.

Nietzsche describes two general types of forces operant in the world, active and reactive. Active forces = affirmation, reactive forces = negation. "Affirmation takes us into the glorious world of Dionysis, the being of becoming and negation hurls us down into the disquieting depths from which reactive forces emerge." (Deleuze N&P ).  The great majority of human behavior now and down through recorded history describes a tangle of reactive forces.  Reactive forces interfere with active forces and prevent them from going as far as they could.  That's one definition of a reactive force - a force that blocks an active force from full expression.  Music that becomes a superficial consumer commodity, i.e. most or all contemporary pop music, expresses forces reacting to and determined by the formulas and demands of the marketplace.  Music that becomes Art creates active forces, but, of course, subject to the interference of reactive forces.  The difficulty of making active forces either in Art or in one's life lead Gurdjieff to say that "WoMan's chief delusion is her conviction that she can DO.  Most humans appear to spend much of their lives reacting to external stimuli according to the programming and conditioning of the belief systems they've been fed and have assimilated unless actively finding a way out - Ariadne's thread.  The phrase synonymous with Aleister Crowley, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law," echoes Gurdjieff's meaning of "do" emphasizing the primacy of creating affirmative, active forces as genuine expression.

Crowley thought highly of Nietzsche,  "Nietzsche to me was almost an avatar of Thoth, the god of wisdom" ( Confessions, p. 746).  Both identified with the anti-Christ and both had deeply held notions regarding the reconciliation and unity of opposites, Crowley through Taoism and Nietzsche via his ideas about the creation of the Overman through one form of nihilism.  Both also advocated strenuously and forcefully against the restrictive conditioning of organized religions.

Viewing all phenomena as the dynamic play of forces reflects Crowley's vision which declared in one instance that the only stability is change:

 Know that the Universe is not at rest, but in extreme motion whose sum is Rest. And this understanding that Stability is Change, and Change Stability, that Being is Becoming, and Becoming Being, is the Key to the Golden Palace of this Law. 
- Liber CL 

This also seems how William Burroughs and  Brion Gysin saw things as epitomized in their statement, "we are Here To Go," ( also the name of a book they co-wrote).  It appears cognate with Buckminster Fuller's observation, " I seem to be a verb."  Constantly changing, always in motion.  This view describes the space known as the Bardo in the Tibetan and American Books of the Dead. It's also called the Transit space due to the feeling and sensation of always traveling, always in motion.  We have been programmed and conditioned in this culture to inherit a world view that only sees solid matter formed into static discrete objects which we represent to ourselves in different ways through different maps and models and then usually mistake the representation for the actuality, the map for the territory.

We can change this common view of the world to see things more continuously as a play of interconnected forces by taking the perspective of a subatomic particle.  The last time I saw Timothy Leary talk he urged the audience to see like a quark would see, view life as a quark might.  This vision, described in the ABD as "the key that opens the door of solid form" has a liquid, malleable feel to it as forms appear to dissolve in energetic undulations.  This might explain one reason James Joyce began Finnegans Wake with the word "riverrun" that succinctly and perfectly describes this liquid view of forces in motion.  As is well known, the book's ending cycles back to the beginning, back to riverrun implying the whole book as a symbolic river flowing.  Less well known is the function of Finnegans Wake as a book of the dead.  It is suggested to always assume we are in the Bardo and from the perspective beyond solid form, it appears true.  Even without that perspective it seems obviously so when considering that bardo means the space in-between, the space in-between death and rebirth.  Anyone actively engaged in brain change experimentation of any kind always seems ever in-between the death of what they once were and the rebirth of what they are becoming. 

Certain films accurately illustrate the vision of continuous energetic flow.  Two that spring to mind: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure when they time travel in the phone booth and the cult classic Buckeroo Banzai Through the 8th Dimension when he penetrates the wall of solid matter and goes through a mountain near the start of the film.  Different kinds of music can simulate the dynamic flux of forces tearing down the wall of solid matter and can help to get you in that zone.  A Love Supreme, Cosmic Music and Om by Coltrane all have a flowing continuity of different, sometimes extreme intensities of sound coding.  The music seems greatly aided to reach a continuous liquid state by the constantly moving drum patterns, the swirling brush stir, riding the cymbals, micro-rhythms within each beat; walking bass lines also help.  My Favorite Things gets to the liquid state in a cool, gentle familiar way, more like a plunge in cool water as opposed to the sometimes  fiery, volcanic intensities of the three other albums. Two more recent cds by Bill Laswell, Arc of the Testimony and Space/Time Redemption will also key in to the transit spaces of forces in motion.  They both also feature incredible jazz drummers, Tony Williams and Milford Graves respectively.

The present is the point of power.
                                                   - Jane Roberts, The Nature of Personal Reality

The ultimate point of power of a mix is the moment it's recorded, finalized for posterity, bound across time.  Of course, every moment while working on the mix can be a point of power, a will to power in Nietzsche's sense as the creator of active forces.  Music can profoundly affect and change someone's life.  How a song is mixed bears a direct relationship with how much musical content is conveyed.  This content can consist of a various mixture of percepts (sensations), affects (feelings) and ideas or concepts.

Gyms, physical fitness books, sports, exercise - activities and institutions of that nature develop, maintain and educate the physical body.  Universities, libraries, research centers, technical schools are places that can do the same for the intellect.  The feeling centrum, the heart, can receive an education, development and maintenance from the fine arts: literature, painting, music, films etc.  Playing and/or listening to music can help to activate Gurdjieff's Higher Emotional Center, what Timothy Leary called Circuit 6 in his schematics of personal evolution.

The overman is defined by a new way of feeling: he is a different subject from man, something other than the human type. 
                                              - Deleuze, N & P

Nietzsche shares the alchemist's perspective regarding the possibility of creating higher forms of life out of ordinary humankind; the activation and eventual crystalization of spiritual bodies. Zarathustra gives the Übermensch as the next step in spiritual development.   Übermensch translates more accurately as Overman than as Superman because it descibes a mode of becoming beyond "man" both as a gender and as a species.  The Overman = Leary's E.T. circuits ( 5 - 8) and also designates the level of initiation that Crowley calls NEMO ( No Man).  The job of Nemo is to "tend the garden" (Vision & the Voice 13th Aeyther).  Crowley reveals the job in the spelling of the name:

 NEMO = Death, The Star, The Hanged Man and Pan through tarot associations.

Death means death of the "man," temporary death of the "human," the ego, the personality, the machine, Leary's terrestrial circuits (1-4), whatever you want to call it.  Death of the ego, the ordinary identity, however temporary (seconds, minutes, hours, days) appears requisite in both Nietzsche's and Deleuze's philosophies as well as in virtually every mystical system.  The Star's function appears in The Book of Thoth - definitely worth looking up.  It relates to the third line of the Book of the Law, "Every man and every woman is a star."  The Hanged Man appears in conjunction with the death of man angle and correlates to the element Water (Yin).  Pan means all and everything and also signifies primal creative male energy.  Look up The Devil Atu in The Book of Thoth.  Male, yang force isn't discarded or repressed in this formula, but rather is qualified, transformed and used for fuel.  This describes a process aligned with the will to power, a process that can generate strong affective forces, forces that can get recorded along with music, also when the mix is recorded; these affects and percepts translate as mood, feel, and atmosphere; they work in the domain described by quantum and relativistic physics, the Quantum and Einsteinian worlds (more on this later).

"... for Nietzsche, the capacity for being affected is not necessarily a passivity but an affectivity, a sensibility, a sensation.  It is in this sense that Nietzsche, even before elaborating the concept of the will to power and giving it its full significance, was already speaking of a feeling of power.  Before treating power as a matter of will he treated it as a matter of feeling and sensibility.  But when he had elaborated the full concept of the will to power this first characteristic did not disappear - it became the manifestation of  the will to power.  This is why Nietzsche always says that the will to power is the "primitive affective form" from which all other feelings derive.
  - Deleuze, N & P, p.62

The heart when activated, maybe through being affected by the last amazing mix you did, begins to harmonize and helps to power the other centrums.  Real will, according to Gurdjieff, occurs when the centrums are all going in the same direction aligned to a mutual aim.  It seems that the growth of a spiritual body forms around the activation, of the Higher Emotional Center, it starts in the middle (C6) then expands out (C5, C7 and beyond) which Deleuze observes is how various morphogenetic processes begin - starting from the middle.  This might explain why many ancient cultures ascribe the heart as the seat of the soul.  The feeling centrum when turned on provokes the growth of Conscience.  Certain actions become impossible to even consider when active empathy for the well-being of others comes into play.

It's my belief that music has a strong role to play for the survival of the planet. The economic climate has turned against the production of new music compared to what it was up through the 1990s while worldwide wars have amped up since 9/11.  If all or even half of all the funding given to political campaigns was channeled into the production of music and performances as well as other programs supporting the proliferation of the Fine Arts then we'd be living in a vastly different world.  I realize that's a fantasy, the point being that it's at least as equally valid to do music as it is to engage in political causes for the betterment of life on Earth.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Learning To Mix Part 2: Percepts, Affects and the Sixth Sense

 Yeah, you got to mix it child
You got to fix it must be love, it's a bitch
Yeah, you got to mix it child
You got to fix it, but the love, it's a bitch, all right.
- the Stones, Live in Texas, 1972

Experienced engineers develop a sixth sense about their mixes.  They can tell when it sounds good, when it's working in a way that goes beyond  the physical sound waves coming out of the speakers. They know, or at least begin to suspect, when the tracks they've been mixing turn into music.  They can be completely fatigued from long hours of concentrated listening, their ears verging on meltdown and still know when a mix feels good or not.  It goes beyond hearing; mix engineers experience the music with their whole body, feel the mood and atmosphere it creates and whatever sensations might arise. Developing this sixth sense seems crucial to understanding when the musical aesthetic has arrived or descended into the mix.  It's the same sense musicians tap into when playing together, especially improvising musicians who create as they go.  They necessarily tune into a musical telepathy to keep the entity afloat, alive and moving.  Improvising music, getting familiar with the zen of that skill can definitely help in the creative mixing situation which has it's own kind of improvisation.  A good look at various kinds of improvisation can be found in Derek Bailey's book, Improvisation: It's Nature and Practice in Music.  Some examples from this book that apply to mixing:

"... means that the exact size of the sruti is in many instances purely a matter of personal choice, a choice depending upon the musician's knowledge, experience and instinct." -p. 2

Sruti, a Sanskrit word,meaning to 'to hear' is the smallest interval used in Indian music.  Substitute 'exact size of the sruti' with 'exact nature of the mix.'

"Most musicians learn to improvise by accident; or by a series of observed accidents; by trial and error.  And there is of course an appropriateness about this method, a natural correspondence between improvisation and empiricism.  Learning improvisation is a practical matter: there is no exclusively theoretical side to improvisation.  Appreciating and understanding how improvisation works is achieved through the failures and successes involved in attempting to do it."   - p.8

" Ours is a very intuitive music, you learn intuitively, the feeling for a raga (or a mix) is acquired intuitively." - p.9

You can hasten the development of this sixth sense by opening up the nervous system to receive more input becoming increasingly sensitive to subtler energies.  The specifics of how to do this appear largely individual, everyone figures it out for themselves depending upon inclinations, circumstances and other factors.  I've been using a floatation tank for years to aid this; in my younger days I did a lot of yoga that had the same effect; practicing Magick.  There are thousands of techniques and practices and you can make up your own.  You just want to ensure that the nervous system is opening up to more received signal not closing down.  One way to tell is to look at a piece of art before and after an expansion practice.  You will notice more, receive more of the artwork, input a clearer, more direct signal after a successful experiment; your perceptions will be heightened.  The same principle applies to music.  I used to float for an hour before going to the studio and this definitely improved the job performance.  Conversely, you should be able to notice when the nervous system's sensory apparatus narrows or closes down - fatigue being one common cause of that.  

Everything that you do in this regard, all the work, all the pain for the gain, accrues.  In fact, any effort, discipline, practice you do to become a better engineer accrues, it adds up, no effort is wasted even the so-called mistakes; you automatically get better in the studio by doing it a lot.  Not long after I started recording my first record with The Now Feeling in 1985 I realized that I needed to basically camp out in a recording studio for a period of months or years to get the knowledge and experience seeping deep down into my bones, to saturate my body with studio savvy so that this wisdom became instinctual, not something I had to think about.  That's what I did.  I relocated to New York City and got hired on at Platinum Island working constantly, up to 120 hour weeks for a period of about three years.  It illustrates a principle I noticed a long time ago, namely that you will get better at anything by doing it regularly, consistently and as frequently as possible.  The corollary of this in an open-ended, constantly changing and expanding discipline like mixing music is that you never stop learning, you can, and do, always get better.

I said in the previous post that mixing is almost always collaborative.  That means learning how to communicate with the Producer and Artist, learning how they communicate their musical vision, what metaphors they use to describe it and translating that into a technical approach.  It doesn't hurt to ask if they have any musical references they'd like to play to give an idea of the direction and sound.  Comparing a mix to a painting, putting the sound into a visual context becomes a common referent.  The mix can have a foreground, midground and background.  It can range in multiple intensities from dark to bright, warm or cold i. e. bass to treble.  It can get described in colors - someone once asked me to make their rhythm guitar sound more brown.  I knew exactly what they meant, more lower mids.

Collaboration encounters disagreements from time to time.  My practice is to get a mix to a point that I like, print it, then let the Artist or Producer have me change things to their heart's content.  You will save every mix.  Most often their changes make a definite improvement.  I'll also let them know if I think they're making a bad choice or if they're obsessing over detail, but I'll always apply their request if I don't convince them otherwise.  The credo of High Velocity Sound Engineering is the effective interpretation of the artist's vision.  If the artist gets in the way of their own vision or if your vision of what it could be goes further, you have to put that aside if they're not open to your input; go with what they say or drop out.  Ultimately, they are paying for it and they're going to have to live with it forever while you nomadically move on.  Finding a way to become detached from the end result, setting aside the mask called the engineer's ego can prove helpful in such situations.  Empathy for what the artist is going through doesn't hurt either.  It can prove helpful to remember that you're doing this all the time; you are comfortable and at home in the recording studio whereas the studio can get intimidating to people less accustomed to it.  However comfortable they are, the artist opens up, goes deep and bares their creative soul in the studio.  You want to respect and be sensitive to that soul-searching to protect the intimacy of the space.  Clients can tell when you respect their art.

Why mix music?  What is it about music that moves us so?  How is it that a specific arrangement of sound vibrations can dramatically lift our mood, make us feel better, even inspire creative activities?  If we had some inkling of a direction to go in to answer these questions it might aid us in our job of mixing, of formulating and defining that specific arrangement or assemblage of audio and quantum wave vibrations and intensities.

In between the loudspeakers and the brain something happens that engenders these reactions, that affects us sometimes quite profoundly.   Gilles Deleuze wrote prominently as a philosopher of the in-between.  He is pragmatic and considers effective philosophy always to be an attempt at a solution to one kind of problem or another.  For the purposes of this essay we will say the problem looked at here is how to mix a piece of music most effectively and most affectively.  Affects and percepts are terms Deleuze introduced and used to describe the feelings and sensations produced by art of all kinds. 

  "Art thinks no less than philosophy, but it thinks through affects and percepts."
 -Deleuze and Gutttari, What Is Philosophy, p. 66 

"What is preserved - the thing or work of art ( the mix) is a bloc of sensations, that is to say a compound of percepts and affects.  Percepts are no longer perceptions; they are independent of a state of those who experience them.  Affects are no longer feelings or affections, they go beyond the strength of those who undergo them.  Sensations, percepts and affects are beings whose validity lies in themselves and exceeds any lived.... The work of art is a being of sensation and nothing else: it exists in itself."
 - op cit. p. 164

The second quote agrees with both the tenets of Magick and of Taoism.  In Magick, percepts, affects and thoughts are known as spirits, angels, archangels, demons, elementals and various other archiac sounding names.  The point being that music contains a realm of non-human entities that you, the mixer, help to bring into sensible focus.  Music appears alive; it gets brought to life by musicians. This apparency of life, this assemblage of percepts and affects with varying discernability depending upon the sensitivity of the sensory apparatus might help explain why we can listen to a favorite piece of music multiple times over a period of years and still get something new out of it.   That life can be recorded, replicated, distributed and broadcast around the world by audio technicians and a marketing network.

High Velocity Sound Engineering views the recording studio as a landing pad for the descent of higher entities.  This requires an invocational approach.  Regarding music as a living non-human Intelligence involves a much different approach than treating it as another commercial disposable product for mass consumption.  The studio that Bill Laswell and I recorded classical violinist L. Shankar in Madras (now Chennai) India made you remove your shoes at the front door.  The only other places in India with the same rule were Hindu Temples.  When you entered the Control Room from the foyer you passed through an antechamber containing a large altar filled with portraits and statues of deities and gurus, garlands of flowers and a constantly lighted oil lamp.  Incense seemed always burning with a fragrance resembling jasmine orange.  A female employee was present whose only job was attending this altar.  I'm not advocating this same approach here in the West, but a healthy respect for the sacredness of the music-making endeavor can't hurt.  An interesting coincidence happened when we started on the first day.  There was a movie voiceover session running late when it was our scheduled time.  A large screen projected the film behind the actor reading his lines in the darkened studio..  After about 20 minutes with no end in sight, the movie's dialogue read, "get out, get out now!!!," and they abruptly stopped.  I guess they took the hint from Coincidence Control.

Mixers can be considered special case musicians.  How a mix gets constructed and balanced bears a direct relationship to how musical the piece turns out; it has a direct relationship to the nature, quantity and strength of the percepts and affects that generate from it. Tuning in and paying more attention to the mood altering aspects of a mix relates to the development of the sixth sense, the mixing intuition mentioned earlier - opening the nervous system to getting more affected by music, receiving increased signal,  helps to create mixes strong and resonant with mood and atmosphere.  When successful, it becomes a transmission of a range of percepts and affects, actual and virtual; actual in the moment of listening, virtual in that they always appear different to a greater or lesser extent with every different moment of listening.  The virtual field with its multiplicity of combinations of percepts and affects offers one explanation of  why we can listen to a great piece of music hundreds of times in a lifetime and continue to get different and new things, new gnosis from it.

Musical intuition also naturally develops through  long time spent mixing.  Music itself shows how to unlock the nervous system to receiving greater and more subtle forces and energies.  The theory behind these gnostic awakenings applies the idea of entering the space/mood/atmosphere of a piece of music - the chamber that music exists in.  The mix is one critical determinate of that chamber; or even the mix = the chamber.  The chamber is alive, a singular entity containing  a diversity of everything in it.  Consider it a non-human teacher.  It generates percepts and affects creating an electrical circuit between the music and the receiving apparati in the listener.  Music that affects you strongly can change and alter different parts of the nervous system; it can increase sensations, feelings, and intuitive ideas.  The next time you hear the same piece of music, even a recording of the same performance, you will hear it differently, both because the context of listening will be different, and because your nervous may be changed from the previous listening, slightly more sensitive and aware of the deeper layers the music has to offer.  Listening to music attentively creates an alchemical feedback loop; by alchemical we mean, among other things, the growth and expansion of spiritual functioning ( to use a vague general phrase) or what Deleuze called transcendental empiricism.  Opening up the nervous system to receive and transmit greater signal.
The affect is not the passage from one lived state to another but wo-man's nonhuman becoming.
- op cit. p.173 (slightly paraphrased)

We at HVSE regard the printing of the mix as the most critical juncture point of the mixing process.

The chamber, the space, mood and atmosphere of the moment when the mix is printed also gets recorded, it's not just the audio. 

This can get experimentally verified.  Take a two track recorder of any kind and record the ambience of any intense space - a shamanic or magick ritual, a house burning down, an intense meeting of some kind, then play it back later to someone who wasn't there, but who is able to listen attentively and get their reaction. 

Awareness of the zen moment the mix is printed when the Invocation occurs, naturally creates an aversion to recalling the mix and making changes at a later date.  Sometimes this can't be helped if the client or producer isn't present at the recording of the mix.  If the changes are minor then the integrity of the initial pass doesn't seemed adversely affected.  Mixes that get recalled and tweaked to death (both a figurative and literal phrase) seriously hinders the invocational affects.  Ideally, the final decision makers of the mixes future prolongation and use are present when the mix is printed.  The first few years working with Bill Laswell I engineered a lot of mixes he did and we never recalled a  mix, not once ever.  That's because there was always full presence at the moment of printing; never a need to go back and fix something later.  Expanding the nervous system to receive more signal, more percepts and affects, more communication from the music can also be viewed as a penetration into the present.

To put it in less philosophical terms, it's simply understanding when the mix feels right.  That doesn't always mean when every element is perfectly processed and balanced.  I can vividly recall mixing Nicky Skopelitis' Ekstasis project with Bill and Nicky.  I was not quite ready of getting a balance on one of the songs when Bill suddenly said, "this feels great."  I said something to the effect that I wasn't ready with the mix and he told me not to do anything else to it, "whatever is going on, it feels really great."    Nicky also got way into it when he heard it.  We printed it in that moment as it was.  I'd been too busy doing all the proper things you're supposed to do to a mix to pay attention to the strong feeling and presence it had in that moment.

And now for something completely different...


Recently I looked at a number of youtube videos of more well-known mix engineers taking questions on their craft.  Many of them were from the Mixing with the Masters workshop series.  It was interesting and informative to see the different approaches they take.  One of them, I don't remember who sponsored it,  was a Q & A session with Chris Lord Alge and Bob Clearmountain.  They were asked what three unique qualities they brought to the mixing sessions to make them better and Lord Alge's response was " CONFIDENCE CONFIDENCE CONFIDENCE!!!"   I  find CLA highly entertaining when he talks about engineering.  I think he's absolutely right on this point.  Confidence in your abilities to get the best possible mix goes a long way.  When you're confident, you're not worried or intimidated which are basically fear reactions and make you less present in the moment.  When you're confident and on top of it, the well-equipped recording studio can feel like a sports car that you rev up to a smooth cruising speed; high velocity.  The presence and attention a mixer brings to their job cannot be underestimated.  Confidence in what you're doing helps put you solidly in the moment.  The first time I met Jason Corsaro at the beginning of the mix sessions for The Swans, The Burning World album he immediately struck me as someone with the large presence of a star engineer and I instinctively knew it for a significant quality to bring to a session.  Just confidence that he could do the job better than anyone else; not arrogance or ego which confidence sometimes gets mistaken for.

It's So Easy

Here's a mix I really like, I don't know who did it.  It's a great garage band performance by Paul McCartney of Buddy Holly's, It's So Easy from the Rave On tribute album released in 2011.  The mix noticeably highlights the garage band aspect with overdriven vocals, massively compressed drums and exaggerated solo levels.  I love it!

Optional listening exercise: find a copy of John Coltrane's, My Favorite Things, the studio album, and for at least one pass listen closely to Coltrane's saxophone tone.  He subtly bends notes for emotional emphasis almost like an Indian musician searching for the exact right sruti to play -  the smallest interval of indeterminate size.  This seems particularly evident in the first two pieces, the title track and Everytime We Say Goodbye.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chaos Across the Sky

Material with The Master Musicians of Jajouka 
Live In Belgium and Warsaw.

The rhythms driving the lives of animals and humans are a means of countering chaos and its threats of extinction.  This arrangement of an environment responding to chaos gives rise to a chaos-rhythm or chaosmos.

 - Deleuze & Gutarri, Mille Plateaux

 courtesy of Yoko Yamabe

photo by Cherie Nutting 

The task of art, philosophy, and science involves confronting chaos according to Deleuze and Guttari in What Is Philosophy?  This dates back at least as far as the ancient Greeks, the first philosophers, who endeavored to put systems of order over the apparent randomity of the natural world.  Chaos, however, does not go down without a fight. It resists order.  The jungle takes back its own - chaos always comes back to break down order.  Science calls that entropy.

Magick mixes elements of art, science and philosophy into a singular approach diving deep into chaos for negentropic purposes.  Powerful music = powerful magick.  This might explain the inevitable chaos that arises when two vigorous musical entities such as Material and the Master Musicians of Jajouka combine forces.  It should come as no surprise.  As Bill Laswell remarked on the way to the Warsaw soundcheck, "When you ride with Jesse James you can expect that you might get shot."  We didn't get shot in that instance, but the drivers did leave three of our musicians back at the hotel. Later, Laswell talked about using chaos as part of the process.  You don't run and hide from it or curse its calamity.  Chaos isn't the enemy, complacency is the enemy.  Art, science, philosophy, and their bastard child magick stay in motion creating coherent trajectories of flight through the chaos endeavoring to stay one step ahead. Always keep the Void at your back is the advice they give you when you get your wings.  The see-saw struggle between order and disorder makes for the chaos-rhythm mentioned in the opening quote, the chaosmos - a word borrowed from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, literature's epic confrontation with chaos. 

Where do I begin?  The efforts to get the proper traveling visas for the Moroccan musicians began months in advance for this latest musical deployment.  They were finally issued days before we had to leave.  The Arabic names probably didn't help along with all their passports showing the same birthday, January 1, due to the common practice in Africa at the time of not recording the day a child is born.  Payments from the promoters were delayed because of their reluctance to fund the operation if half the group couldn't make it.  I received my plane ticket the day before departure.  I was flying on United which had a widespread systems crash with their computers the morning I flew out that fortunately had been straightened out in time for my afternoon flight.  The promoter of the festival in Gent, Belgium had gone to extra lengths and expense to organize a soundcheck and rehearsal the day before our concert, but due to the chaos, half the band couldn't make it.  Material with Jajouka were the headliners for the festival's first night yet we had to go on with a minimal soundcheck, and no rehearsal.  They hadn't played together since the shows in Italy last year.  Its difficult to get together in advance when the group lives on three different continents.

The chaos apparently affected Lady Gaga who headlined the third night of the festival with Tony Bennett.  A story was circulating amongst the festival staff that she requested a Rolls Royce to pick her up to make the 40 minute transit from the Brussels airport to Gent.  Nary a Rolls could be found so they asked for a Bentley instead - also unavailable, but they were able to hire a Maserati for the drive.  When chaos strikes, it really hits hard.  Trooper that she is, Gaga settled for the Maserati.

The performance venue in Gent was situated underneath an extremely large white tent beside a cultural arts building built in the 16th century as a monastery and used as a maternity ward.  It looked to hold about 2 - 3000 people.  I was delighted to discover two front of house sound desks, an analog Midas Heritage board (my favorite)  for the headliner acts and a digital one for the support groups.  I only had Aiyb, Peter and Graham (percussion and horns) for the soundcheck and a stage tech enlisted to bang on the drums.  I pleaded with the Stage Manager and Promoter for a soundcheck the next day before doors opened, and was rewarded with a lecture regarding all the chaos involved in arranging time for us the day before the show.  The Promoter did agree to allow us to check the bass rig and the Jajoukans in the 45 minute change-over between acts.  When it came time to do that, the Stage Manager attempted to block it by saying we couldn't check through the P.A.  I argued with him vehemently, so the two of us marched off like children to the Principal's office, in this case the Promoters trailer, to have him resolve the dispute, which he did in my favor.

I made sure to get to the site early enough to catch some of Jack Dejohnette's group, Made In Chicago that, besides Jack on drums consisted of Muhal Richard Abrams (piano), Roscoe Mitchell (saxophone), and Larry Gray (contrabass and cello).  I loved what little I've heard of Dejohnette's drumming from Bitches Brew (Miles Davis) and from a show I mixed in Frankfurt with him, Laswell, guitarist Derek Bailey, and DJ Disk formerly of the Invisibl Skratch Picklz.  Perhaps it was the mood I was in, but Made In Chicago did absolutely nothing for me - staid, subdued, lackluster except when they took unaccompanied solos, I could really feel the soul in Muhal's piano playing.  By contrast, a strong vital current infused the Green Room  - located far from the stage in the former maternity ward - where Material was working out its set.  Bachir and Mustapha were playing their rhaitas, banishing the chaos.  The acoustics in the stone-walled Green Room, that was actually white, reverberating making them sound like a whole orchestra.

When it came time for the change-over, James was on top of it getting the bass rig checked out and up - the SVT classic head had to be swapped out due to a faulty screaming tube, but the backline company had a spare that worked.  My biggest concern was getting levels for the Jajoukans; to start with, only four chairs were in place for the five musicians.  Straightening, that out, I dashed back to the Green Room to find them outside furiously inhaling nicotine and drinking coffee for their pre-concert stimulants.  They obviously didn't share my sense of urgency, but I was able to get them to the stage and soundchecked before we started.

The media was all over both festivals, the one in Gent broadcast the show on television late at night, probably the same in Warsaw as there was a mobile TV studio in a long truck that someone said was worth $10,000,000 parked behind the venue.  Bill gave several interviews it seemed.  In one of them I heard him give the well-known quote, "writing about music is like dancing about architecture," an interesting thing to say to a music journalist!  I'm not up to dancing about architecture so here's a short clip to give a feel for the music.  The sound isn't high fidelity by any means, recorded on someone's camera mic - I don't know who to credit - but, rest assured, this is just a teaser for the live album to come.  I got a good 96k digital  mix board recording of both concerts.

The spirit of Ornette Coleman was in attendance for both shows, especially in Gent when Bachir Attar gave a passionate account of playing in the procession that brought in Ornette's coffin at his funeral then treated to audience to the same music.  The whole group also played an extensive improvisation of the main theme from Dancing in Your Head, Ornette's 1977 album that included a 1973 recording of Ornette playing with the Master Musicians in Jajouka with William Burroughs present.  That piece is called Midnight Sunrise.  The show in Gent was an overwhelming success and for a few short hours the chaos abated, subsumed by the music.

Our set in Gent ended at midnight. Catering had left us some good food for a post show meal.  We arrived back to the hotel around 2 am.  The Moroccans had a lobby call for 4 am - hardcore!  Bill got a phone call from them at 5 am saying, "We are at the airport, they don't have tickets for us. What should we do, return to the hotel?"  Bill told them that they did indeed have tickets and that going back to the hotel wouldn't do any good.  The confusion stemmed from the budget airline's policy that boarding passes be printed out before going to the airport.  They figured it out and even got their extra luggage on board without charge, but were told to sit near the front of the plane to balance out the load.  I guess they took that advice because the plane successfully got off the ground.  More chaos at the hotel in Warsaw, a problem with currency exchange.  The hotel only accepted Euros in exchange for Polish Zlotys, American dollars were verboten except at the official Currency Exchange vendor down the street.  That's where I went, but it was closed by the time they realized the need for local money.  How are we going to eat?  Room service was a last resort due to the pricy hotel.  Somehow the problem got solved.

The venue in Warsaw was a converted industrial factory that reminded me of a small airplane hanger.  There wasn't any house lights.  All illumination came from theatrical lights.  A bank of lights were placed on the floor in a semi-circle behind the stage bathing the space in the same shade of blue as the winged saxophone in the photo.  The mixing desk was a digital SSL  which I hadn't used before.  I told the PA tech that I would need a guided tour of the board.  He said he was learning it too; had only used it for three days ...  uh oh!  Fortunately, there was a younger assistant who knew it and patiently ran me through its uniquely obtuse protocol until I had it down.  SSL desks sounds great, but they love complexity.  For instance, it's a five step procedure to turn up an auxilliary send ( i.e. an effects send like reverb, delay, or my Kosmos low end machine) whereas on an analog mixing board, like the Midas one in Gent, it's only a matter of reaching over and turning a knob.  It was interesting to compare the board mix recordings from the two shows, one from an analog, the other from a digital desk.  They both sound good with the analog one being distinctly warmer.  Analog still rules in this case, however I doubt the average listener will know the difference after they've both been mastered.

During our set-up I noticed an old friend walk in, Nils Petter Molvaer, a Norwegian jazz trumpet player who has played with Material in the past.  He was part of the support act, billed as Sly & Robbie meet Nils Petter Molvar - Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, the archetypal reggae rhythm section who became known to the world when they anchored Black Uhuru in the late '70s, early '80s.  The name of this group had me flashing on old monster movies - Godzilla meets King Kong, two musical heavyweights destroy Warsaw.  That's an exaggeration, metaphors only go so far; sometimes the map only suggests the territory.

The real destruction came when  Bill Laswell began playing his bass at the start of the Material set.  Backstage, Bill reminded me of the Sierra Nevada reggae festival we played at years ago with Tabla Beat Science when I'd been instructed to make sure the bass sound shook the foundations, a task I was only too happy to oblige.  I had checked out Shakespeare's sound, also quite huge as is his style.  I made sure the factory performance space was filled with low end when Bill began playing and was rewarded with about five people coming up to the mix position distressed by the massiveness, the other 995 or so attendees seemed ok with it, I scan the audience for reactions.  It remained in context with the music and varied dynamically throughout the set.  I was fortunate not to have a tech standing over me with an SPL meter (sound pressure, measures loudness) as was the case in Gent where they were trying to enforce a ridiculous 93 dB limit.  By comparison, the street traffic in New York averages around 90 dB.

When I initially said hello to Nils, he said, " Oh, we were just talking about you regarding mixing Painkiller (John Zorn, Bill Laswell, Mick Harris) concerts."  I felt a little ambivalent hearing that, but took it as an indication to go for the volume. 

Lots of media at this event too.  I overheard Bill being interviewed by an intense individual asking weighty questions like, "What is the purpose of music?"  Didn't hear Bill's answer, but at another point he was talking about watching an old horror film very late at night in Ethiopia with the typical kind of soundtrack that genre has.  As the end credits rolled, the prayer calls from the Koran started up outside blending with the soundtrack to form a unique musical moment.  Now if you had a recording of that... then he mentioned my ambient field recordings.  It's true, I look for those moments.

Conversations in the car: Bill and Peter driving back to the hotel after soundcheck, started with a discussion of what keys to play in to match the untempered pitches of the rhaitas, the Jajoukan horns and the liras, their flutes.  Untempered music, free from the prison of the piano with its fixed tonal center notes not allowing pitches in-between.  Polytonal might be another way to describe it.  At one point while listening to the recording I thought I heard 3 different keys going on.  We cross a bridge and Peter mentions an architect who made a bridge design he has seen in different places that resembles a harp.  They are called Cable-Stayed bridges and were orignally designed by a 16th Century architect named Faust Vrancic.  I don't recall if that's the architect he mentioned, might have been someone more contemporary.  Driving to the airport the following day with Hamid and Graham I am treated to a short explication, history and conflicts of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) a group formed in the mid 60's in Chicago.  Muhal Richard Abrams, the pianist who played with Dejohnette before us in Gent was one of its founders.  I sensed I was privy to some inside information that won't make it into the history books.

The MC for Warsaw was the head promoter who looked like a cross between Dr. John and Roy Rogers for his physical appearance and his white Western suit complete with an arty cowboy hat that would have fit in perfectly with the old Wild Wild West TV show.  I remember him from years ago when we started playing in Warsaw, at first with Praxis and later with Ekstasis.  At that time we played in a formal theater otherwise used as an opera hall from what I remember.  He seemed the same as ever though I don't recall the Western attire back then.

Ten minutes before showtime chaos struck when Cherie announced that the Jajoukans didn't have plane tickets out of Warsaw the next day.  I had given her their plane tickets the day before at the hotel after Yoko had forwarded them to me to print out.  I don't know what happened, but expect Cherie got distracted by the currency exchange/food crisis.  I was at the sound board by then so don't know exactly what went down, but it didn't detract them from the music, and might have even contributed.  Sometimes a little shot of chaos stirs things up forcing one to lock into the presence of the moment to shake it off and move forward - move forward or sink into chaotic dispersion.  For whatever reason or contributing factors, the concert was once again incredible.  Sufi trance music meets American jazz, though jazz seems an inadequate term.  I'll let those who can dance about architecture come up with a suitable genre label.  Maybe something like post-structural jazz which is only saying we don't know what it is except that it's beyond jazz.

Personally, I managed to avoid most of the direct hits of chaos until the shows were over and we were flying home.  I will cop to calling upon occult assistance in the hotel room each show day, something I've done for years and is probably the main reason I've survived long enough on these crazy musical adventures to relate these tales.  Going through security at the Warsaw airport I passed the metal detector okay yet they made me go back to take the Kosmos out of its bag and run it through the X-ray machine again; first time I've ever had to do that.  This time going through the metal detector I set it off even though I was exactly the same when I passed through a moment before.  So they frisked me and in all the confusion I didn't see my small, non-electronic notebook, not realizing it was missing until a few minutes later when buying some tea.  I rushed back, but it had vanished.  It had all my notes for this blog.  No big deal, I remembered most of them anyway and started writing them down again.  The chaos really hit two days later checking into a motel in Ojai, California to begin supervising mixes for a Johnny Boyd record  still in progress.  My laptop computer was perched on my roll away suitcase like many times before when gravity beckoned and the suitcase toppled.  I thought the laptop would be undamaged, it was in a padded case and it fell on carpet, but when I powered it up the monitor display was crazy and unreadable despite no visible sign of damage.  My laptop and cell phone constitute my office on the road so it was a bit of a setback.

When you ride with Jesse James you can expect you might get shot.  What doesn't kill you makes you stronger (quotes from Bill Laswell and Fred Nietzsche respectively).  If you survive riding with the James gang you might get to share in the loot.  Powerful creative types attract chaos.  Bachir Attar and the Master Musicians of Jajouka, Sufi heirs to the musicians of the Sultan's Royal Court of Morocco, profoundly influencing counter-cultural giants such as Brion Gysin, Paul Bowles, William Burroughs, Brian Jones and the Rolling Stones among many others can be expected to leave chaos in their wake.  Chaos doesn't seems nihilst or evil to a vital creative endeavor.  Its resistance acts as a pushing force, pushing one ahead to stay above it.  Pushing the artist to the edge to either sink or swim.  Chaos-rhythm, chaosmos.

photo by Cherie Nutting, Warsaw

 photo by Cherie Nutting