Saturday, November 19, 2016

Neuromancer, Leary's S.M.I L.E. and the 23 Enigma

"Technology invariably trumps ideology.  We develop ideologies as a way of coping with technologies; technology as drivers, ideologies as attempts to steer."

 - Mass Consensual Hallucinations with William Gibson  

The previous post gave information on the technology of Orb Running; more generally, it gave information on a technology for transformative brain change.  S.M.I.2L.E., an acronym devised by Timothy Leary, formulates an open-ended, endlessly ramifying ideology for the future: Space Migration + Intelligence Increase + Life Extension. It serves as a practical formula for individuals on any kind of evolutionary trajectory as well as providing a conceptual basis for the advancement of collective human endeavor; a reach for the stars.

Neuromancer, by William Gibson, gives a compelling and visceral literary expression of the S.M.I.2L.E. paradigm.  For example, the book populates the L4 and L5 orbital belts, where Gerard K. O'Neil and Timothy Leary wanted to establish space colonies, with worlds that resemble Leary's High Orbital Mini Earths (H.O.M.E.s), but with a realistic, gritty, human portrayal as opposed to Leary's more utopian vision.  That covers Space Migration in the conventional exterior sense. Space Migration also gets implied in the interior sense through the characters adventures in cyberspace.  Life Extension turns up in two prominent ways. The power-elite clan, the Tessier-Ashpools, keep their own meat carcasses frozen in cryogenic suspension with timed intervals of reanimation in order to extend their physical life span.  Online immortality gets a play through the character of Dixie Flatline whose mind and personality managed to get downloaded onto a storage device before his meat carcass died in a cyberspace misadventure.  Dixie seems mentally as sharp as ever when the personality/mind  recording  (a soul recording?) from his deceased body gets uploaded back into the matrix.  He frequently becomes Case's (main protagonist) guide and informant in the cyberspace realm whenever Case jacks into the matrix. Both of these forms of Life Extension get a dystopian treatment in Neuromancer, a radical departure from Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson's hyperbolic optimism on the subject.  The Tessier-Ashpools complain of the cryogenic cold they can feel, the patriarch ends up committing suicide to get away from it.  They are the richest, most powerful family and they are also the coldest.  They're almost all cold.  No social/political/economic metaphor there! Dixie Flatline hints at some dark existential suffering and asks Case to delete him after his duties have been discharged.

The central part of the S.M.I.2L.E. formula, Intelligence Increase, seems the least obvious, the most occult and hidden in the book, yet also the most optimistic.  Most of the events in Neuromancer get put into motion by a huge Artificial Intelligence named Wintermute, a veritable V.A.L.I.S. - a Vast Active Living Intelligence System.  In this regard, it's interesting to hear Gibson in a 2010 interview with Steve Paikin suggest that Google is an Artificial Intelligence; "[it's a] vast hive mind that consists of us."  Wintermute was designed and put into existence by one of the Tessier-Ashpools (3Jane if I remember correctly) to mute the winter, the incessant coldness that seeps into the bones of the cryogenically frozen.  This coldness seems more than physical discomfort and pain, a sense gets conveyed of emotional and existential coldness as well.  That the AI Wintermute becomes a solution to this problem implies that whoever designed it can transfer their awareness and cognitive abilities out of their frozen meat carcasses and into its vast active living intelligence system.  I would call that an increase in intelligence to have that ability.

Gibson borrows the idea of I.C.E., which stands for Intrusion Countermeasure Electronics, from fellow science fiction writer, Tom Maddox, to protect the architectonic structures of propietary corporate data.  To penetrate any large system of data in cyberspace you first have to cut through the ICE.  Qabalistically speaking, ice is frozen water and water always relates to emotions.  In this light, ICE becomes a metaphor for Wilhelm Reich's concept of emotional armor.  The name Wintermute suggests a shedding of this ice, this emotional armor, on a vast scale. Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics seems one of those puns with two completely opposite meanings.  The intelligence increase communicated in Neuromancer primarily concerns emotional intelligence of the higher kind; what Leary and Wilson refer to as circuit 6 in their model.  This emotional intelligence appears refreshingly free of sentimentality; sentimentality = sense the mental, not real emotional intelligence at all.

Gibson seems so tuned in and turned on to Leary's vision that I attempted to find out what kind of influence Leary had on him before he wrote the book.  I couldn't find any evidence that he'd ever read Leary or Wilson, but also didn't have much time to research it. Leary and Gibson certainly bonded after Neuromancer published.  Leary developed the video game Neuromancer based on the book.  He also included the two obvious life extension methods Gibson put in the novel in a 1991 essay for Magical Blend magazine: 22 Alternatives to Involuntary Death.  This got expanded and is currently available as the book Alternatives To Involuntary Death.



In an interview Leary did with Gibson, the good doctor mentioned that the only book he'd ever annotated besides Neuromancer was Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.  He went on to relate how he'd received Gravity's Rainbow in prison after a long spell of no books in solitary confinement; like eating an incredible meal when starving.  No wonder he took a strong imprint with that book.  Gibson related that when he got Gravity's Rainbow he retired from all other activity for several days to read and reread it; voluntary solitary confinement.  Neuromancer and Gravity's Rainbow are two very different books, but what they both have in common is the frequent and visceral portrayal of death, so much so that you could say it becomes a character or an underlying omnipresent condition.  Neuromancer (the name of the book, but also the name of an AI character in the book, Wintermute's twin, thus revealing the book as a form of AI) gives it away in the first sentence, "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."  Leading with, "The sky," ending with "dead channel" suggests viewing death as a transcendent change as opposed to an absolute nihilistic end or some other terrible thing.  The title Gravity's Rainbow commonly gets explained as indicating the rainbow-like trajectory of the V-2 rocket as gravity pulls it to Earth.  Pynchon, known for his multiple meanings and levels of writing as well as his expertise in qabalah (see Against the Day), could just as well have named it Gravity's Rainbow to indicate the trajectory of a person's life as it's brought back down to the ground through gravity of death.  In popular mythology, rainbow means God's promise or just hope, so if we see it as the gravity of death, then the rainbow indicates some kind of transcendent promise or hope.  Again, death appearing as as transcendent change.

In turn, Neuromancer appears to have influenced Pynchon, particularly in his last book, Bleeding Edge, in which the internet and the deep web play as strong a role in the plot's landscape as the matrix did in Neuromancer.  The powerful antagonist putting up great obstacles in Bleeding Edge is named Gabriel Ice. Pynchon would know that Archangel Gabriel represents the element Water in qabalah; Gabriel Ice reinforces the notion of water (emotions) that is frozen.  Pynchon seems to have to same intent as Gibson did with ICE though connecting it more with the everyday human world by making it a main character. 

There are 24 chapters in Neuromancer and there are 24 stages in Leary's 8 Circuit model of consciousness as given in his book The Game of Life.  I remember Leary prefacing a lot of the stages and circuits with neuro: neurosomatic, neuroelectric, neurogenetic, neuroatomic etc. then a few years later out comes Neuromancer which seems like a doctoral thesis on S.M.I.2L.E.

I believe this illustration is by Bobby Campbell, but I'm not certain.

We see more I2 information in the names Gibson gives his characters.  One of them, Finn, is a surrogate used by Wintermute to deliver messages and help out Case.  He seems to pop up at random times throughout such that when he reappears you could say, "There's Finn again." I made the connection to Finnegans Wake in the first post, but there's more.  The initials of the main male character in Finnegans Wake is HCE, in Neuromancer it's HDC (Henry Dorsett Case). The H in Finnegans Wake stands for Humphrey.  We have Humphrey and Henry as the protagonists in the two books. We are told  HCE also stands for Here Comes Everybody in Finnegans Wake suggesting that James Joyce wrote the character to represent everyone or anyone.  Except for one instance, Case is always referred to by his last name.  The pun in his name seems obvious, Case could potentially be anyone, a test subject for the next step.  His middle name, Dorsett = door + set; that appears an obvious qabalistic reference to higher emotional intelligence; door = daleth = the letter "d" = Venus.  The difference between HCE and HDC is the letter D in the latter.  The main female character, Molly Millions, suggests Tiphareth because of the 6 zeroes in the numerical form of her last name.  Except for one mention, her last name is hidden throughout, she's only known as Molly.

At some point toward the end of my most recent voyage through Neuromancer I began to wonder if Gibson had ever read Robert Anton Wilson.  I knew he was very influenced by William Burroughs, it becomes quite obvious at times. The 23 Enigma represents one clear point of conjunction between Wilson and Burroughs.  Burroughs first noticed the coincidence of the number 23 in relation to two disasters, a ferry boat sinking and a plane crash he heard about on the radio.  No record of that plane crash has been found so it's possible he made the whole thing up or was implanted with a false memory to get the information out.  It certainly didn't stop synchronicities with 23 from wreaking ontological havoc with many otherwise skeptical minds.  Not long after I began this wondering, actually almost instantly, I came across the following passage on p. 189:

She smiled, but it was gone too quickly, and she gritted her teeth at the stabbing pain in her leg as she began to climb.  The ladder continued up through a metal tube, barely wide enough for her shoulders. She was climbing up out of gravity toward the weightless axis
Her chip pulsed the time.
:04:23:04

The character climbing up is Molly with Case there virtually.  He has a device that lets him switch from the matrix to jack into her nervous system and experience everything she does. This is the first instance we see a time readout, it recurs about 4 or 5 more times though never again with a 23. I couldn't tell if Gibson was hip to the 23 phenomena until I read the first sentence of chapter 23. Most people, after they get afflicted by this condition, ask, "what does it mean, all these 23s?" Wilson writes in Cosmic Trigger, " I accepted the 23 engima as something I should attempt to decipher."  If we consider that this is one of those 23s and that it relates to her climbing out of gravity then a meaning is suggested that connects 23 with some kind of greater or lesser transcendent experience, climbing up the ladder one rung at a time.  I consider it a good sign when I encounter synchs with 23.

The opening sentence of Chapter 23 reads:

Molly fished the key out on its loop of nylon.

I could compose a whole 'nother blog about the qabalistic correspondences in this densely informational innocent looking sentence, but I'll try to restrain this tendency.
fish = Nun = death
both "out" and "on" represent different magick formulas in Crowley's language.
the key = death  ("fished the key") ???
the key = "out" ( the formula of OUT gets explained in Chapter 23 of The Book of Lies) ???
the key = "on" ( see the listing for 120 in 777) ???
the key = out on ???
All of the above, some or none of the above???
Robert Anton Wilson states unequivocally that 23 became an important key for him.

The single name Case always goes by reminded me of Neo from the Matrix trilogy. Case as a prototype, Neo as a prototype.  Molly and Trinity could be twins.  The blatant connection, besides the name, is a Rastafari one: the last human city in the Matrix is Zion, the name of Jah's promised land.  Zion is a small Rasta space colony in Neuromancer.  It's head operator, Maelcum, gives Case much help, eventually rescuing him.  Case has a death/rebirth experience at the end of Chapter 23:

And he woke again thinking he dreamed, to a wide white smile framed with gold incisors, Aerol strapping him into a g-web in Babylon Rocker.
And then the long pulse of Zion dub.

Again, some amazing qabalah.  For instance, "strapping him into a g-web" indicates the path of Gimel which connects Tiphareth and Kether; the heart with Zion.  The High Priestess becomes the guide for that path, in Thelema she is called Babalon and she does become a rock of stability through the nebulous, treacherous terrain of the desert Gimel passes through.  Molly Millions plays  the role of Babalon, the High Priestess, in Neuromancer.  Her last name gives it away. 

Interestingly, Gibson has said that he doesn't care for didactic science fiction stories.  In a 2012 interview with UNCUT posted on YouTube he discusses his writing process:

My job when I write a book is to access a lot of parts of myself that are magical, and they're not particularly remarkable, but they're not available to me ordinarily, they became available to me through the process of writing the book. So I sometimes get the strange sense of sitting there and watching it happening, which is great!  It's good work when you can get it.  I don't get it that often.





Monday, November 7, 2016

Orb Runners: Metaprogramming, Magick and Neuromancer

The metaprogramming world appears mostly blue and very watery.  To activate a different metaprogramming module in this world, to enter a new set of instructions into the Deep Self, one has to swim through a channel of cool clear water; the modules are connected through canals of water. Metaprogramming code doesn't get written on the surface, it gets written in the depths to be played out on the surface.  One has to dive deep into the depths,  a potentially hazardous activity, or bring the depths to the surface in order to reprogram the code; to make a significant change.  Metaprogramming - a computer programming term adapted by Dr. John Lilly for the purposes of self-induced, voluntary evolution.  It means  programming our programming, changing our habits and  ways of functioning, our automatic, reflexive responses, how we habitually see the world.  This is a post about a technology making possible conscious change in the depths and on the surface.

Orb Runners jack into the Virtual Reality (VR) of the Prosperity Path Orbs like Case jacking into the  cyberspace matrix in William Gibson's dystopian Sci-Fi thriller, Neuromancer.  The graphics in these orbs look primitive beside contemporary World of Warcraft-type computer video games, yet they're good enough to provide a doppleganger, a cybernetic body double, a vessel to place conscious attention into that allows the game runner to enter another world: jack into cyberspace.  Cyber originates from an ancient Greek word that means "to steer."  What does that mean, 'to steer space?' Who is driving?  This digs up a memory of the hilarious Abbott and Costello comedy sketch, "Who's on First?" We call it voyaging the Macrodimensions of the Labyrinth, in bardo terminology.  Ariadne's thread becomes the thread of consciousness; maintain the thread of consciousness.

We model orb running after Neuromancer for several obvious reasons.  Just read from the title to the first line in this pdf here  remembering that the metaprogramming world renders blue.  The first line of the book reads:  "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."  Tell your vision Mr. Gibson.  Or check out these initial descriptions of getting jacked in to cyberspace.  They correspond point for point with orb running:

"... jacked in to a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination of the matrix. A thief, he'd worked for other, wealthier thieves, employers who provided the exotic software required to penetrate the bright walls of corporate systems, opening windows into rich fields of data."  (p. 5)

"Corporate systems" = body.

Compare this to when Case (the protagonist) has his Fall (which happens right near the beginning just as in Finnegans Wake, another Book of the Dead):

"For Case, who lived for the bodiless exultation of cyberspace, it was the Fall.  In the bars he frequented as a cowboy hotshot, the elite stance involved a certain relaxed contempt for the flesh.  The body was meat.  Case fell into the prison of his own flesh." (p. 6)

Gibson also has a character named Finn in Neuromancer; Another bardo writer, William Burroughs is another obvious influence as is, I suspect, Thomas Pynchon. On page 49 Case is asked if he's ever worked with the dead.  Then on p. 51 we get another direct connection to orb running:

"The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games," said the voice-over, "in early graphics programs and military experimentation with cranial jacks."

In the audio world, a jack plug is a 1/4" connector.  A jack cable, as they call them in Europe, is a common guitar cable used to plug an electric guitar into an amplifier.  To jack in is to connect.  You jack into an orb with your attention. One thing it shares in common with Magick.

Gibson's brilliant writing and superb descriptive use of language communicates a palpable sense of alternate worlds and virtual realities.  The reader uses their imagination to enter the VR of the story and receives a taste of dimensions outside the consensual human one. In the same way, Orb Runners uses their various attentions - sight, sound, visualization of tactile and aromatic sensations etc. -  to get a full immersion into the Orb; to get an experience of that Virtual Reality and effect change in the process.

The virtual and the actual both seem real; virtual reality, actual reality, both real  The virtual in between the events of the actual = the bardo, the place of choice-points where metaprogramming can occur.  The virtual worlds of the Orbs are not only real and alive in their own way, practical application has shown they can influence and affect the actual world both implicitly and explicitly. Orb running = one kind of magick, ritual magick.  Don't take my word for it, experimentation will verify or refute these propositions.



Most of the orbs are intended to either increase the intensity of a quality that's lacking (eg. the Courage orb) or remove/reduce an excess of an undesireable quality (eg. the Worry, Obsession, Anger Detox orbs.), or perform a specific function (Chakra Cleanse, Karma Burn, Get Well Soon, Clear Light, etc) Some orbs are designed to impart or help strengthen a skill (eg. Astral Trainer) Running orbs becomes a service when the orb is run on behalf of someone or something else. To do this you press the "P" key on the keyboard upon opening the program which brings up a prompt to enter the name of the entity or entities you wish to run.  The benefits of the run still accrue to the proxy runner in the same way as a bardo reading benefits the reader along with the voyager who receives it.

The Orb Selection Portal divides the orbs into 8 categories.  The majority of orbs I run are in the Remedies or Cleansing categories.  The Get Well Soon orb, found in the Power category, has an obvious use for Healers.  One runner I know has recently been running this orb for the United States.  Other frequent fliers are found in the Specialty category: Peace, 6 Worlds, Metaprogramming and Stress Relief are some of those.  Many of the orbs have a similar structural form and/or shared aspects that cut across categories.  For instance the Panic and Find It worlds appear very similar with the main difference being that there are things to find in one of them.  I won't tell you which one.  The titles of the orbs don't necessarily determine the reason for running it.  You don't have to be in a panic to benefit from the Panic orb.  I run this one frequently not because of often getting subject to panic or anxiety attacks, but because it has a nice representation of the 4 Elements, Air, Water, Fire, Earth - good to use for balance.

Common features in the orbs may indicate how this brand of magick works.  Remember that all of the orbs were designed by E.J. Gold aided by his team of programmers.  E.J. Gold demonstrates expert familiarity with qabalah in his books so it behooves us to at least glance in that direction to help grok the orbs.

As soon as you - in the embodiment of your cyberspace avatar brought to life with your attentions - step into many of the orbs, a voice, sometimes female, sometimes male, says:

You are presently Out of Body. Proceed ahead for full HUD boost.

Just as Case "jacked in to a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination of the matrix." HUD stands for Heads Up Display. More explanation on these game details is found in an earlier post.  That post also fleshes out the transformational potential, the magick, of these orbs.

Several orbs have a black Cube with 9 discs on each of the 6 faces.  When you pick it up, the voice of a Guide says:

Your Matrix Attunement was successful, COUPLING FACTOR is in.

Matrix connects with Neuromancer while also suggesting the Matrix trilogy of films which also has much valuable information pertinent to voyaging in computer simulated worlds.   There appear several points of contact and overlap between Neuromancer and the Matrix trilogy.  The electronics definition of coupling factor is given in the earlier post linked to above.  Coupling factor can have several meanings.  I look at it as resonance that communicates energy.  Also see it as a coupling between the virtual reality of the video game and the actual reality of the human playing it.  This makes it possible for events in the game to affect the player playing it. Step into the white fountain spraying blue streams of water with its circular troughs collecting pools of water in the Stress Relief, Pain, Panic, Amy's Beauty Boost, or Find It orbs and experience the sensation of cooling off in the human operator.

We also see a coupling going on between the Sun and the Moon.  The six sides of the Cube indicate Tiphareth, the Sun, while the nine discs correspond with Yesod, The Moon.  In the Thoth tarot, the Nine of Wands portrays this solar/lunar connection; "this brings the Energy back into balance." (The Book of Thoth p.193).  Acquiring the Cube in the orb occultly activates the quality of balance.  The very first book in Aleister Crowley's school found at the beginning of the Equinox Volume I Number I is Liber Librae.  Librae = Libra = the scales of Justice = balance.  The first book Lon Milo Duquette assigned us to read in his online magick course was Liber Librae.  This Cube, found one way or another at the start of almost all the orbs, resonates the note of "balance" with the beginning of the Hermetic path as presented by Crowley and Duquette.  It's worth quoting the opening three verses of Liber Librae:
  
0. Learn first — Oh thou who aspirest unto our ancient Order! — that Equilibrium is the basis of the Work. If thou thyself hast not a sure foundation, whereon wilt thou stand to direct the forces of Nature 

1. Know then, that as man is born into this world amidst the Darkness of Matter, and the strife of contending forces; so must his first endeavor be to seek the Light through their reconciliation.   

2. Thou then, who hast trials and troubles, rejoice because of them, for in them is Strength, and by their means is a pathway opened unto that Light.


"Thou then, who has trials and troubles, rejoice because of them ..." - seems encouraging under almost any circumstances. "... a pathway opened unto that Light." literally describes many of the end runs in the Orbs - what I called the "light wash corridor" in the earlier post in the Color Radiation section. I recommend Orb Runners read the entire short text of Liber Librae.

We find a similar image in Neuromancer:

Lines of faint light began to form, verticals and horizontals sketching an open cube around the stage.  The restaurant's lights had come back up slightly, but the framework surrounding the stage might have been constructed by frozen moonbeams.  Head bowed, eyes closed, arms rigid at his sides, Riviera seemed to quiver with concentration."(p.139)



We identify two essential keys for effective magick running the Orbs.  Jacking in and endurance.  Jacking in means immersing as much as possible all of one's sensory and extra sensory attentions into the Orb environment.  You are not looking at graphics on a screen, rather you are in another world teeming with life just as much as the one you came from.  Feel the weather of the orb, the humidity or dryness of the air on the skin.  Get a sense of the texture of the walls.  Feel the cool stones on the feet in some orbs or the soft grass in others; the fog rising from the cobblestones when starting the Courage or Hero orbs  Scale down visual perceptions to the size of the avatar so that when you encounter huge Buddha or Star Goddess (Nuit) statues, etc. you get a sense of the awesomeness of their size; that same sense of an unexpected vista and grandiose feeling you might get the first time being inside the skyscraper canyons of New York City, seeing the Grand Canyon or a Redwood tree, possibly Niagara Falls; maybe boarding a gigantic ocean liner?  It's the sense of suddenly encountering something infinitely larger.

Just as ritual magick stimulates all the senses to align with the invocation or evocation, we use our imagination in all our senses to immerse our collected presence into the gaming orb.  Smell the sweet pea and vanilla fragrance of Wisteria or tangy lemony smell of Daphnes, or however you picture the flora and fauna in the Peace Orb or any of the other orbs with lush, verdant landscapes.

The music and sounds in these monads contribute a great deal to the magick.  E.J. Gold's flute playing turns up in several orbs especially the cleansing ones.  I wrote elsewhere of West African flautists who played their flutes over our bodies to psychically cleanse our energy fields. This kind of psychic cleansing gets highly recommended on a daily basis to any sensitive who regularly comes into contact with humans.

We get some help from Neuromancer for jacking into an Orb avatar.  This describes Case's awareness when it goes into another body:

The abrupt jolt into the other flesh.  Matrix gone, a wave of sound and color.....She was moving through a crowded street, past stalls vending discount software, prices feltpenned on sheets of plastic, fragments of music from countless speakers.  Smells of urine, free monomers, perfume, patties of frying krill.  For a few frightened seconds he fought hopelessly to control her body.  Then he willed himself into passivity, became the passenger behind her eyes. (p.56)

In the Remedy and Power orbs the player gets a selection of different avatars to choose from between various male, female or animal characters.  Trying on different bodies to run the orbs results in different perceptions and sensations.  It appears a practical way to get the sense of the shamanic practice called shapeshifting.  Ever wonder what it would feel like to travel as a fish?

The second key is endurance.  It seems that the longer a player is able to stay in the Prosperity Path Orbs, the stronger the effect becomes, the greater the magick.  This doesn't mean grimly holding on fighting back tears of boredom just to stay in one world.  Some of the orbs have things to do that encourage a longer stay.  The key to endurance is repetition; run the orbs on a frequent basis.  Repetition in the Deluezian sense where whatever repeats is different.  In other words, run the orbs frequently, but always slightly different.  One can stay interested, and thus attentive, after several thousand runs of any particular orb by noticing what is different about it, or running it in a different way; paying attention to and affirming difference.  For instance, notice the size difference of the Cube in the Anger, Guilt and Energy orbs as compared to others orbs like Stress Relief, Peace or Karma Wash.

Different orb runs can get stacked, played one after the other, to form a series.  I've had success combining the Courage and Hero orbs when preparing for excursions out of the country or even travel outside my zip code.

There exists a class of orbs that require only 1 - 3 minutes to run.  These all end with the colored light wash corridor leading into the Clear Light.  Before this corridor is an area I refer to as the middle antechamber as it denotes a space dividing the outer courtyard from the light wash end run.  Often, you'll see three Buddhas on either side, six in total to suggest Tiphareth.  The two sides appear symmetrical, but often it's possible to discern a subtle difference.  For instance, in Amy's Beauty Boost, the middle antechamber has two "lightfalls" - like waterfalls, but with light - on either side.  If you bring yourself (in the avatar) close to the lightfalls on the left side, she is able to sit at the edge whereas she has to stand when close on the right side.  If the middle antechamber = Tiphareth then the left side would be the Pillar of Mercy and the right side, the Pillar of Severity.  It's more severe to have to stand, merciful to sit.  Subtleties such as this, qabalistic or otherwise, abound through the orbs.

Another way to notice differences in orb run repetitions is to pay attention to the juxtaposition of spoken word statements ("You are now carrying a copy of the American Book of the Dead" etc.) with the musical and environmental soundtrack.  Sometimes you'll pick up something with its statement at the same time a flourish on the flute occurs as if accenting or affirming that event.  Through observation, the various series of sounds can form a disjunctive synthesis between each other determined, in part, by the chance operation of the run trajectory.  The whole soundfield then becomes perceived as a musical event. 


Metaprogramming - one of my favorite runs.  The Metaprogramming orb has seven modules, in common with the Law of Octaves, with the octave note appearing as the Clear Light at the finish.  Each module has qabalistic references - module 2 feels very much like Chokmah, module 3 like Binah, etc.  There are subtle lessons in qabalah in each of them.  Try running through module 6 with diffused vision and see what happens.  Some quite interesting visual effects can be created by going very close and into any of the crystals found in each module. It can encompass the whole screen and look like a completely different world. Or recall the passages in Neuromancer when Case is jacked into the matrix trying to navigate through the ice, the protective software of large cyberspace entities.

Metaprogramming requires death.  The Sufis say, die before you die. Ordinary programming, the so-called personality or ego, has to get temporarily suspended, in effect, die, before the new code can be imprinted.  Ego death seems necessary to reach the depths where metaprogramming becomes effective.  A gentler approach is to bring the depths closer to the surface where the attentive player can meet them halfway.  If this has the side effect of making the transition through physical death easier, then you'll just have to live with that.

TO BE CONTINUED ...


Friday, October 21, 2016

Recording Diary: Riley Pinkerton and Signs

 And life was black and white; the Technicolor was just around the corner, but it wasn't there yet in 1959.  People really do want to touch each other, to the heart.  That's why you have music.  if you can't say it, sing it. - Keith Richards, Life, p.56 

Every time I tried the lock on the glass door at night, the key wouldn't turn the deadbolt over.  It was like trying to pull Excalibur out of the stone, it wouldn't budge.  There were other doors and other locks guarding the studio so it wasn't a problem until I got back late Saturday night from a dinner in the City and realized the glass door would likely be locked Sunday morning when we were planning to work.  Passing by the studio that night, the door was locked so I thought to try it to see ... and it worked, the sword was pulled from the stone.  It even continued to open the door the next morning allowing us to use the studio.  That's a good sign.

The experiment is to find the most musical (magical) person or group available and allow an assemblage between musicians and recording studio to form over a period of time with the intention of drawing down a musical current, a living presence of higher, non-human intelligence; i.e.  a cool song or 11!  The artist, in this case, Riley Pinkerton, armed with her songs and their performance expression, plays the role of the chief invocant, the magnetic center to which the assemblage assembles.  It's an intuitive leap of faith to travel across the country into an unknown laboratory situation.  You hope Fate isn't rehearsing for a Marx Brothers film at your expense and that the experiment is worth the while, worth the travel.  How do you tell if something that's basically invisible, i.e. the spiritual implications and explications of the event called "recording an album" is bonafide or bogus? Or perhaps a mixture of both?  Maybe by reading the signs?

 Riley Pinkerton
 photo by Bryan Thunderheart Spitzer

When you hear all the details, it appears obvious that something extraordinary was going on, something in the realm that William Burroughs called The Magical Universe.  Last spring, Riley sent me her EP, Do You Have A Car, hoping I'd write a few paragraphs about it. I did a review and told her she should get me to help her with the production on her next recording.  I was a fan of her previous band, The DeCamp Sisters, and told her I'd help out however I could, not really expecting she would take me up on the offer.  There is a lot to organize with recording a record, not to mention all the expenses involved.  Circumstances and human generosity worked out such that I was able to bring the project into Bill Laswell's Orange Music sound studio (OM) for virtually nothing.  Riley organized everything else and made it happen.

I had never known anyone named Riley before.  Within a month of signing on to the project a college student named Riley took an internship at Ancient Wave, the local studio where I mix and master.  I was reading Henry Miller's, Time of the Assassins and came across the expression: "living the life of Reilly" so I asked intern Riley if she was really living the life of Reilly?  She said that her parents seem to think so.  There were a couple of other  strange synchronicities with Riley's name.  I got into the habit of randomly putting on acoustic Dylan from my laptop while getting ready in the morning and got a little startled when choosing Bootleg #2 to hear Dylan bellowing the opening words, "O'Reilly, stole a stallion ..."  Began telling this coincidence in the studio, but only got as far as saying, "first song on Bootleg #2" when Henry, the guitar player broke out into: "O'Reilly stole a stallion...;" it seemed amazing that someone would have instant recall of Dylan lyrics just by hearing the song position or perhaps the energy of the synchronicity with Riley's name invoked the lyrics out of his mouth.  Riley Pinkerton is someone who quite possibly might have stolen a stallion in a former life as you can see from the above photo and the fact that she loves horses in this life.  She is also an artist not unlike a very young Bob Dylan, but different, with her own singular style.

Everything looked fine getting on the flight at the start of the journey to the East until the plane remained motionless on the tarmac waiting for some mechanical indicator to be reset.  The connecting flight in Denver became questionable; the flight arrived at one end of the B gates (B4) with the connecting gate on the opposite side of the airport (B666 or something like that). Traversing that long corridor of B gates felt akin to a subatomic particle crossing the central horizontal path on the Tree of Life from Chesed (Glory) to Geburah (Power).  I made it to the gate just as they called for my boarding group (5); another good sign. 

I stayed in the beautiful, lush,verdant suburbs of West Orange, New Jersey off of Eagle Rock Road at an Air bnb, the first time for me.  Took a nightime jet lagged walk to the Whole Foods to stock up; the air smells sweet and it's quiet, no traffic, human or auto until the mall.  Later I record the silence of of this soundscape on my portable recorder framing it against the balance of crickets and distant traffic to mark its depths.

A morning train into the City to meet Riley for the first time at a small cafe/bar in the East Village.  I get to Penn Station with enough time to make the nostalgic walk there through my old neighborhood, Chelsea, and follow the route I took many times to Platinum Island, the studio where it all began.  Even had time to indulge in a visit to the Strand, one of the best bookstores on Earth.  I found a book I had been looking for, Friedrich Nietzsche's, Twilight of the Idols for $6.

 Riley texted me her location. I arrived right on time; the Virgo in me couldn't help it.  Riley was reserved at first, I was reserved, the table wasn't reserved, but they let us sit there anyway.  We talked some procedural details, options for mixing and I inflicted upon her some of my theories regarding music changing the world. Forget about politics.  Of course, the real communication occurred nonverbally in the spaces and silences in between the conversation, in between the words and phrases of the conversation, just as in music; music occurs in the spaces or the intervals between the notes; it's the relationship of the notes.  I told Riley I was glad we had the time to meet before recording to establish and get to know better the musical connection, the musical relationship.

The East Village remains a music hotspot on this planet.  We ate within a few blocks of where Bill Graham ran his legendary Fillmore East concert venue.  After our days diverged following the meal, I followed my ear up the street to the live music coming from the center of Tompkins Square Park; another trip down bardo memory lane - at the age of 12 in 1972 listening to this new (for me) thing called Underground FM radio; the show was Tom Tompkins from Tompkins Square Park and he would do things like play the entire cut of Inna Gadda Da Vida.  I first heard Stairway to Heaven on that show and remember feeling that it sounded like the music of angels.  Another time, listening live to some great funk band in Tompkins Square Park when living in New York, I saw a middle aged gentleman who strongly resembled G.I. Gurdjieff with the bald cranium and bushy mustache.  It shocked me into a waking state.  The music now, along with the atmosphere of the park, was as good as ever.  I didn't want to leave.

Rimbaud called.  I decided to try to get The Time of the Assassins for Riley.  The subtitle is: a study of Rimbaud by Henry Miller; a concise, easy-to-read book that nicely summarises  much of the artist's misson, a subject I brought up in conversation with Riley.  Rimbaud, the French symbolist poet whose most famous works are A Season In Hell and Illuminations, of course, became a major influence on Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and others. I had forgotten my copy or I would have given it to her.  I did notice a well-used edition on the shelf at the Air bnb room where I was staying.  Some highlights:

We must go through a collective death in order to emerge as genuine individuals.  If it is true, as Lautreamont said, that "poetry must be made by all" then we must find a new language in which one heart speaks to another without intermediation.  Our appeal to one another must be as direct and instantaneous as is the WoMan of God's to God.

Miller rants about his current (1940's and '50's yet still relevant) state of Art:

The cult of art reaches its end when it exists only for a precious handful of men and women.  Then it is no longer art but the cipher language of a secret society for the propagation of meaningless individuality.  Art is something which stirs WoMan's passions, which gives vision, lucidity, courage and faith.  Has any artist of recent years stirred the world as did Hitler? Has any poem shocked the world as did the atomic bomb recently?  Not since the coming of Christ have we seen such vistas unfolding, multiplying dailey.  What weapons has the poet compared to these?  Or what dreams? ... Is there a poet of  even the fifth magnitude visible?  I see none.  I do not call poets those who make verses, rhymed or unrhymed.  I call that woman poet who is capable of profoundly altering the world.  If there be such a poet living in our midst, let hir declare hirself. Let hir raise hir voice.  But it will have to be a voice which can drown the roar of the bomb.  SHe will have to use a language which melt's men's hearts, which makes the blood bubble.

If the mission of poetry is to awaken, we ought to have been awakened long ago.  Some have been awakened, there is no denying that.  But now all WoMan have to be awakened - and immediately - or we perish.

'Ol Henry probably would have been delighted to see Bob Dylan win a Nobel prize for Literature.

I stopped in at the Barnes and Noble off of Union Square.  The music department grabbed my attention first.  Prominently displayed on a magazine rack at the entrance to the music section was a cover photo of an old friend, Tom Waits, tipping his hat in greeting.  The photo appeared to have been taken in the era when I worked with him; the byline read: The bizarre secrets of his greatest albums.  Well, that was something I could fact check so I picked up a copy along with cds of The Ramones first album and David Bowie's Station to Station.  It proved an interesting article but the "secrets" on the albums I recorded with him appear exaggerated, inaccurate, and sometimes completely wrong.  The magazine came with a compilation cd called Ones From The Heart.  One of the artists on it is Ryley Walker.  The store had a good Henry Miller selection that didn't include The Time of the Assassins.  I've never read anything else by Miller, have never been interested in his popular titles, but I did pick up a slim volume by him that looked intriguing called The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder.

The first day of recording was with Riley and drummer Dylan Sevey.  We met in the parking lot outside the Orange studio.  On the way up to the third floor I told Dylan that a famous jazz drummer, Joe Morelleo, used to give lessons on the second floor.  Morello played on Dave Brubek's jazz hit, Take 5 that appeared on the 1959 album Time Out,written to showcase Morello's mastery of the 5/4 time signature; drummer's resonance, connect with the morphogenetic field of great drumming.  It can't hurt to invoke the masters.  Dylan told me a dream he's had a couple of times relating to a song I recorded for Tom Waits called Filipino Box Spring Hog.  In the dream he gets a call from his 5 year old son's kindergarten teacher telling him that his son is disturbing the other children by singing Filipino Box Spring Hog.  This sounded a little farfetched to me, but Dylan swore it was true and recounted the dream again.  The drum sound on that track is one of the secrets from recording Mule Variations, another coincidence.

We met staff engineer and old friend James Dellatacoma in the studio and started setting up mics and the foam baffling I would use to shape the acoustic space to isolate Riley's vocal and acoustic guitar mics from the drums. Riley:  "My guitar is a 1962 Gibson LG-1 that I grabbed for a steal from a weird pawn shop in Michigan."  They would be tracking live together in the same room.  Before starting, James gave us a brief history of the studio prior to Bill Laswell moving in.  Built for Frankie Vali and the Four Seasons, recordings for Jethro Tull, Carole King, The Kinks and Aerosmith had been done there.

Dylan Sevey at Orange Music
photo by Riley Pinkerton

Everything sounded good almost right away as soon as I brought up the mics.  There were a few mic placement adjustments to make, but technically everything was quick and easy.  Dylan played on a drum kit belonging to Steve Jordan.  The drums sounded great, the room sounded great, I was incredibly happy to be back in the driver's seat in the Orange Music studio, a totally professional studio with great gear that all works.  I had forgotten how good that room sounded.  I last recorded there in 2009 with John Hammond Jr. the son of the legendary Columbia A & R man who had first signed Bob Dylan to a record contract.  Hammond Sr. had been alerted to Bob Dylan through his son who was friends with Dylan.  Now I was recording a drummer named Dylan, who was well aware, and took inspiration from his namesake.  

Riley and Dylan had great chemistry in the studio.  I don't think they had much of a history playing together, yet Dylan perfectly complemented Riley's musical sensibility like they were siblings.  She brings a strong Beatles influence to her songwriting  while Dylan rates Ringo Starr as one of his favorite drummers.  I remember us working on one of his drum fills to get it sounding more Ringoesque.  We got four master takes that first day, a good count as we had also spent a few hours setting up.  James and I catching up had probably taken at least a half hour before we even started.  Riley seemed relaxed, collected and focused throughout despite having stayed up late to bake lemon cookies which made for incredible studio snacks.  She dressed elegantly as if performing on stage.  A total professional, so it came as a complete surprise to me that this occasioned her first time in a real recording studio.

 Riley checking out a take
photo by Bryan Thunderheart Spitzer 


On Day 2 of the recording we were joined by a bass player, Bryan Spitzer, and cut 5 more master takes.  Bryan is a music professional who mostly works on a computer these days so he mildly lamented about being out of practice with the physicality of playing a bass guitar.  I'd heard this refrain once before when recording Stewart Copeland for Oysterhead.  Stewart hadn't played drums for 10 years prior to making that record, but still sounded amazing to me, I certainly never would have known.  I once caught him over-editing his drums to change the timing of some snare notes and had to remind him, "Don't you know that you're Stewart Copeland?!" Spitzer was the same; a very solid bass player who came up with great bass lines; melodic, fluid, foundational.  You would never know, although he did, that he didn't play the instrument every day. You can tell by a musician's tone, how they touch their strings to make the notes, whether they're legit or not.  Bryan had a great tone, warm and well-defined.  He had a Fender Musicmaster bass which we ran direct and paralleled into the studio's Ampeg B15 bass amp combo reissue.  These are the old flip-top amps, if anybody remembers.  Recording through Neve 1073 mic preamps directly into Pro Tools, no compression, no muss, no fuss.  Bryan was another total pro - had practiced the songs, made chord charts for himself and played with a critical ear, not letting any mistakes get by.  He knew what he was doing.  In the world of D.I.Y. indie music, a musician like Bryan Thunderheart Spitzer is a godsend.  I didn't know his middle name when we worked, but it certainly fits. This project was becoming more fun every day to record due to the excellent songs, great performances, and the collective high level of expertise from everyone including the recording studio itself.  It felt like a canvass was being painted, a collage of songs, though I didn't know who or what was holding the brush.

Bryan gave us a strong warning on the neighborhood, concerned for our safety after dark.  I wasn't that concerned about the area in the immediate vicinity of the studio figuring that James would have mentioned something.  It being Jersey, we took ubers everywhere, no wandering around questionable neighborhoods.  As we were clearing out on the last night, we ended up on the street at about 2am waiting for our cars.  Within seconds a police cruiser drove into the gas station across the street and parked directly facing us, then turned off its lights.  The anarchist in me had an instinctive paranoid reflex, but, remembering Spitzer's warning, I decided to take the opposing view that the cops were positioned there to protect us until the uber cars arrived and we departed safely; and that's what happened.  I regarded this as a particularly good sign.  The quasi-cause of the giver of signs in the Thelemic system goes by the name, Holy Guardian Angel, the knowledge and conversation of which communicates with signs.  The bardo guards (the cops) protecting our transition to going mobile seems the kind of business a guardian angel would be up to if such a thing exists.

On break, the conversation drifted around to the American and Tibetan Books of the Dead.  That's where the word "bardo" originates, it's the space between lives.  I gave my standard rap to Riley about singing as if she was delivering bardo instructions to the dead.  The point being that there is a certain kind of intensity of emotive force needed to make being to being contact through the veil of death.  Bryan expressed interest in this area which he hadn't heard of before and knew nothing about. I promised to send more information at a later point - I promise I still have to keep!  Even with time dilation, the subject was too vast for our short break.

Day 3 saw the arrival at different times of musicians Riley called her posse - musicians she had met at "open mics" and other performances since moving to New York a year ago.  Her posse all lived in Harlem.  First to arrive was Henry Black who added some very tasty electric guitar rhythms and  atmospheric slide guitar embellishments.  He played a G&L ASAT Classic guitar and we alternated between a Fender Princeton and an old Beatles era Vox amp and cabinet.  We also took full advantage of the studio's beautiful tremolo pedal called a "Tremvelope." Henry played in the control with a tie line feeding his signal to the amp in the studio - the better for us to distract him with direction!  All his parts were made up/improvised/invoked on the spot with encouragement/interference from the production team (aka "the peanut gallery").  He did a great job!

Arriving with Henry in the morning.was the infamous "Reggie" aka Ryan Servis a friend and musical collaborator of Rileys from Michigan.  He had been dispatched by Riley to stay with her people in Harlem after getting into LaGuardia on a late flight from Denver. I had spent time with Reggie a few years back in the recording trenches of Prairie Sun working on a Jack and the Bear production which came out exceptionally well.  Reggie had composed string arrangements for at least five of the songs and would also contribute keyboards - Orange's Hammond C3 organ with Leslie cabinet, and a Rhodes electric piano.  He has a great ear, I was happy to have him as a co-conspirator on the production team.  Of course, Reggie's name figured into the synchronicities.  I had thought Reggie was Ryan's given name, but it turned out to be a nom de guerre he had acquired when the band played at a club called Reggies in Chicago.  There were two Ryans in the band so he became Reggie, a persona born at that club so to speak.   Riley always knew him as Reggie too.  Coincidentally, there was a small show poster from that same club by the door at Bill's studio.  Without knowing any of this or meeting Reggie, Bill Laswell told a story about John Zorn playing that same venue, Reggies, at dinner a few nights later.

The rest of Riley's posse that would record on this album, Jesse Flammond and Jeremy Rompala, got there in the late afternoon to add a variety of background vocal harmony parts both individually and with a group that included Henry and Reggie.  Henry added a harmony on his own for one song in a very distinctive, americana sounding voice.  These kids all had great ears for pitch and timing and just had to be coached a little on how near or far from the mic to stand for an optimal blend.  I recorded the group vocals with two ADK mics (U87 clones) facing each other about ten feet apart set to a cardiod proximity pattern.  The parts were arranged and practiced a bit beforehand so it all flowed smoothly with no mystery about what to do - a very good use of studio time.  Their warmth and presence with obvious love and respect for Riley's songs translated into the music.  They were indeed her crew, her assemblage, her family.

Florence Wallis arrived a couple of days later on a train from Providence, Road Island. Armed with a violin and bow, through the magic of multitrack recording she became our string section, overdubbing all the parts of the 3 -  5 voice string arrangements Reggie had composed, layering one on top of another.   Florence is in the group, The Low Anthem who just began an English and European tour to support their theatrical concept album Eyeland.  Riley had met her through a mutual friend somewhere on the road.  Some of the violin parts seemed like they would be hard to play, but Florence mastered everything skillfully.  She was of the same professional caliber, and had as strong a connection with Riley's music as everyone else.  Rimbaud was mentioned again.  Florence confessed to having run through the English woods when she lived there reciting Arthur's words in French to the trees. No word on the reaction from the trees.

 Control room view of Florence Wallis recording underneath a Neumann U47
photo by Riley Pinkerton

Riley set Florence up to stay the night at a Jersey Air bnb, there were more parts to record the following day.  She asked Riley for a book to read, hers was almost done.  Riley loaned her The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder which lead down a rabbit hole of synchronicity to some small degree.  I had picked up Miller's book because it reminded me of Timothy Leary's S.M.I.2L.E. formula: Space Migration + Intelligence Increase + Life Extension.  On the surface, this formula usually gets interpreted as outer space exploration as for example Obama's recent call for a manned mission to Mars + getting smarter, unlocking latent potentials, concsciousness studying itself + prolonging the human life span.  We see alternate interpretations that dive into the depths of this formula, such as this one.  But, also, in my opinion: Music = Space Migration (changing moods, going into different interior spaces) + Intelligence Increase (gnostic experiences, etc) + Life Extension (time dilation; temporal effects).  Music = S.M.I.2L.E.

The book begins with:

Nothing could diminish the lustre of that extraordinary smile which was engraved on Auguste's sad countenance. In the ring this smile took on a quality of it's own, detached, magnified, expressing the ineffable.

The synchronicity of The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder, first published in 1959, beginning with a smile on a character named Auguste with the event of my birth in August of 1959 was another reason for the purchase.  Florence and I took the bus into the city after the next day's session swapping music industry stories for the 50 minute ride.  I was going to meet Bill Laswell, Yoko Yamabe and Mike Sopko for dinner.  Florence was on her way back to Rhode Island.  She told me she was a literary writer as well.  Later, when I saw an example on her wordpress blog, the phrase: smiling, smiling, smiling, near the top stood out to me.  The last synchronicity came about a week after the session when Florence told me the engineer at the pre-tour rehearsal studio her band was using in England had pasted a copy of my sound engineering manifesto on the wall.

We met for dinner at a sushi restaurant on 23rd Street and 8th Avenue.  Meeting up with Bill was one of the reasons I had taken this job out east.  Mike Sopko drove in from Cleveland and managed to get Bill to tell the story of how the classic electro funk song Rockit by Herbie Hancock came about.  Bill said of the restaurant ambience that it felt like being in a time machine.  The neon pastel lights and Japanese atmosphere had me flashing on Tokyo in the late 80's.

Mike Sopko, Bill Laswell and myself on 23rd Street.
photo by Yoko Yamabe

The last day of recording at Orange Music was spent mainly with Riley nailing four or five lead vocal overdubs.  She also played a part on an electric guitar going through a pedal that emulated a mellotron.  We finished in time to catch a train into the City to meet up with Riley's father, John McCurry at another sushi restaurant in Alphabet City.  Riley's nonstage name is Riley Pinkerton-McCurry.  John McCurry is a longtime New York resident and worked as a top session guitar player for many years including a 6 year tenure in Cyndy Lauper's band.  We had mutual close friends in the business including Jason Corsaro and Jeff Bova, both old time Laswell cohorts.  He had worked at Platinum Island studios where I had started out.  McCurry had that paradoxical Irish quality of genuine sincerity mixed in with a bit 'o the blarney to much good humor.  He treated Riley, Reggie and myself to dinner along with an uber ride back to Jersey.  It was a dinner of celebration.

Gilles Deleuze constructs  a taxonomy of signs in Proust & Signs, his study of Marcel Proust's magnum opus, In Search of Lost Time.  Signs, nonverbal communications, can run from the mundane to the extraordinary.  Odors can be signs - it smells like rain becomes a sign that it could rain.  The cheese smells funky is a sign that it's not good to eat.  According to Deleuze, the intelligence of the heart communicates in signs.  He connects it with the path of Initiation:

The scent of a flower, when it constitutes a sign, transcends at once the laws of matter and the categories of mind.  We are not physicists or metaphysicians; we must be Egyptologists ... Everything exists in those obscure zones that we penetrate as into crypts, in order to decipher hieroglyphs and secret languages.  The Egyptologist, in all things, is the person who undergoes an initiation - the apprentice."

Interpreting the language of signs from the environment hardly seems new.  In The History of Magic, Eliphas Levi tells us that Oswald Crollius, an alchemist in the 14th Century wrote The Book of Signatures, or True and Vital Anatomy of the Greater and Lesser World.  Levi writes:

Crollius seeks to demonstrate that God and Nature have, so to speak, signed all their works, that every product of a given natural force bears the stamp of that force printed in indelible characters so that she who is initiated n the occult writings can read, as in an open book, the sympathies and antipathies of things, the properties of substance and all other secrets of creation. ... an attempt to discover the fundamental principles obtaining in the universal language of the creative Word.

Levi expresses skepticism with Crollius' conclusion and indeed one is advised to be armed with a healthy but balanced amount of skepticism when interpreting signs.  It's very easy and tempting to read too much into things, on the other hand, it's just as easy to reject any form of this type of communication.  The adepts at reading signs that I have studied, Aleister Crowley, Robert Anton Wilson and Gilles Deleuze all acquired strong influence from the 18th Century Scottish philosopher David Hume, one of the main proponents of stringent philospohical skepticism. Deleuze's first book was on David Hume.



I've said nothing about the actual music because it's still in process awaiting final overdubs and a mix.  Why saddle it with representation (i.e. a classification or even a description) before it has been born?

I  had very little idea of who Riley was before agreeing to the project and certainly wasn't doing it for a big payday; just going on intuition.  By the end of the recording I was having dinner with her father who was a good friend of Jason Corsaro, the engineer, more than any other, who showed me to how to mix and put me on track as a professional mixer.  There was almost like a family connection going on way before I knew about it.  Yet another good sign.  Watching this whole process unfold made me realize how much independent MUSICIANS TAKE CARE OF THEIR OWN!!

ps  On the train ride into New York for our last supper Reggie asked me to recommend some books to read.  The ones I can remember suggesting are:

1. Cosmic Trigger, The Final Secret of the Illuminati by Robert Anton Wilson
2. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
3. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
4.  A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.



Florence, Oz, Riley, Reggie

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Financing the Production of Music

How to do it?  Record company budgets for developing new artists are virtually nonexistent compared to 25 years ago before the internet changed the way music reproduction gets monetized.  Prior to that, a certain percentage of profits got fed back into the music making machine. This allowed the process to continue as well as providing funds for new artist development.  The profits from one hugely successful group could finance a whole roster of less commercial, but aesthetically brilliant artists.  That all changed with the advent of free, downloadable music files.  The previous model may have been far from ideal - the nature of Capitalism exploits and dupes the unaware - but at least it sustained an economy of music with enough leeway to finance more adventurous, esoteric, and experimental projects.

We live in challenging times.  There appears far less optimism in the world for a progressively greater humanity now then in the 60's and 70's when it seemed that anything was possible.  Music with the intention of causing change to occur, either in self or in the world, was prevalent back then.  The Grateful Dead passionately sang to Turn On Your Love Light while Led Zeppelin suggested building a Stairway To Heaven in their ode to "becoming-woman" - the first shamanic step away from Maya, Samsara, or World Illusion.  Songs could change your life, and they did.  The right song heard at the the right time becomes extremely potent magick - causes change to occur.  Not so much now in the mainstream where music panders to the lowest common denominator.  Yet, this isn't a call for nostalgia. Outside the mainstream, a diverse sub-culture of talented musicians are able to make music that catalyzes change of all different kinds. The current problem is to adequately supply them with the resources so they can do that.

Many people seek a political solution to world problems, or lament that one appears unlikely.  I stand with Shelley, Nietszche, Deleuze, John Lennon and a host of others (a veritable Communion of Saints, Radicals and Miscreants) in acknowledging that Music, Poetry and the Arts in general can make a significant and affirmative difference in the world. We propose an experiment to test this hypothesis that Music and Magick can make both an immediate and long-term difference in the World.

Last year I was fortunate to meet Sarah Nutting and Karisha Longaker of Ma Muse when  they toured Ancient Wave Studio.  I didn't know of them until then.  I heard Sarah's voice from the other room before I met her and instantly recognized that sound as something very familiar.  Reflexive skepticism inherited from my scientist father instantly dismissed any significance.  After getting the lowdown on Ancient Wave from owner Saul Rayo, they presented the studio with their latest cd, Heart Nouveau.  I saw Ma Muse written on the cover and a light turned on as I finally understood their name.  I told them that I got what they were trying to do with their music, though that may have been more of a prognostication than actually true at that point.  I meant that I get their invocational work.

Sarah is recording a solo album and I'm helping with the production.  A crowd funding campaign has been initiated to finance this project: Wild Belonging: A Song Pilgrimage.  As I write this, there are 30 days left in the campaign with 25% of the goal raised, so far.  The pilgrimage is literal; it's a 3 week, 200 mile walk in Southern California from Mono Lake to Los Angeles, for the general purpose, as I understand it, of healing the environment through prayers and actions in support of Water.


The songs on Wild Belonging connect with the spirit and intent of the Walking Water pilgrimage.

Here's a preview from the new album, a live version of Little Baby:


I first heard about the Walking Water project last fall at a Ma Muse concert in Occidental, California. I drove to the coast basically to see if they were for real or not.  I've worked with bands who display all kinds of occult signs without a clue they're putting their fingers in the socket.  The show started with percussionist Mike Wolfchuck giving a brief talk on the Walking Water movement connecting it to the recent rain bringing relief to the worst drought in recorded California history.  He noted that many efforts were being made by healers, ritualists, and other like-minded spiritual activists (including yours truly) for an abundant economy of water.  Indicating the rain periodically pouring from the sky that night, Wolfchuck pointed out that it seems to be working.

No matter how much success experienced in the past with magic, I still get wonderfully astonished  whenever it works.  The amount of skepticism regarding the efficacy of magic seems inversely proportional to the quantity and quality of experiments made.  Speaking of transcendental empiricism, I experienced an extremely delicate, fragile, vulnerable, and celebratory space, at the Ma Muse concert, a very high feminine chamber as the name suggests.  I thought, if only you could transplant the peace and undercurrent of joy in this space to Iraq, Syria or the whole World.

John Lilly mentions in Center of the Cyclone that his father told him at one point that if he wanted to be a serious scientific researcher, he'd have to learn how to ask for money to fund it.  This crowd funding campaign supports my ongoing research into the Aesthetic Arts and their influence on the general condition.  None of this money raised goes to me, it all goes toward supporting the record production - studio and musician fees, cd production etc., and to covering the expenses for the walking water trek through the desert. 

And for a final proof of concept, I give you this video, Just Fine.  It's a simple folk song remedy for shedding your worries.  For further proof, do a You Tube search for Ma Muse, Calling All Angels at California World Fest 2010.  Anyone in the field will recognize this as powerfully invocational.  I've used it for lift off repeatedly.




Friday, August 5, 2016

An African girl and the North Sea

Exactly a year ago today a young girl, Jessica Phiri on vacation from Zambia, tragically died off the coast of Holland.  My friend, Ruud Houweling, a longtime resident of the resort town where the family was staying, wrote Night Falls On The Town to mark the mood and atmosphere of the the three days that Rescue Crews searched the Sea in vain.  Ruud's story of the song's genesis is here.

We recorded Night Falls On The Town and the other songs that make up Houweling's forthcoming album release, Erasing Mountains, at E-Sound Studio in a suburb of Amsterdam and mixed it at Prairie Sun.  It's an ambitious artistic endeavor that's been successfully realized, we'll go into that another time.  This one song will give a strong clue of the poignant affectivity of this music.

Interestingly enough, just after we mastered the album, shortly after Ruud returned from California, Jessica's family traveled from Zambia to Zandvoort to attempt more explanation and get a sense of closure with her death.  Together with the German family host Jessica had lived with for a year, and a delegation from the student exchange program, Ruud informed the authorities about the song.  They invited him to be a part of a meeting between the mayor and the families. He hoped that sharing the song would show them the accident had an impact on the local community, as well.  Houweling, being a local veteran windsurfer, was also able to explain to the parents the nature of the rip currents on the Dutch coast.  It was a very special meeting resulting in new friendships.

The video does an outstanding job of visually reinforcing the bardo space Night Falls On The Town evokes.  The story contrasts the carefree life of the tourists against tragic death and what goes in between:


Friday, July 15, 2016

Atomic Love Bomb and other Synchronicities

We are in the dog days of summer, I'm active in a Cosmic Trigger online discussion and Coincidence Control is working overtime (over time) on the case.  Cosmic Trigger, for those who may not know, is a richly entertaining classic in the literature of High Intelligence and Alchemical Transformation.  Among its multiplicities, the various avenues of spiritual research author Robert Anton Wilson reported on in the book, is a look at synchronicities, meaningful coincidences - but meaningful for what?  Wilson reports on the '23 enigma,' a phenomena he first heard about from William Burroughs where the number 23 pops up more often then usual and in surprising, unexpected ways. Wilson compared his experience with the 23  enigma to the key for cracking the genetic code of DNA.  This insightful observation suggests paying more attention to coincidences as a form of spiritual guidance.  Cosmic Trigger is perhaps the first, and still one of the only philosophical treatises I know of that valorises synchronicities, but not without much cautious skepticism.  It's also one of the most lucid and rational introductions to the work and mission of Aleister Crowley - to turn the switch ON i.e. illuminate the world.  Not only does it make Crowley's work known, Cosmic Trigger provides key data for penetrating into and practically applying this work such as the enigmatic Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, or, as I call it, the lazy person's approach to finding a spiritual guide.

Went to look at studios yesterday.  When asked how long he'd been in business, the first studio owner replied, "almost exactly 23 years." One meaning of 23 = "a new life," which bodes well for a new project - see the Iggy Pop quote below. As we were meeting the second studio owner, he heard a hawk cry above us and mentioned it in the introductory flow.  Hawks are familiar to me as a symbol of the life force; the will-to-power as the power to create or heal. The hawk-headed God is Horus.  The first time I experimented with invoking Horus was in a hotel room in Zurich.  After the ritual, I turned on the television to find a documentary on Horus in English; synchronicities as affirmations.

Joe Mitch brought his neo-psychedelic, alternative rock band, The Atomic Love Bombs into Ancient Wave a few weeks ago to record their next album.  Up to this second, I thought they were called Atomic Love Bomb thinking one was enough, but plural atomic love bombs couldn't hurt in these troubled times.  As Spinoza put it, passions and feelings directed by reason create affects of active joy that increase our ability and power to act; love under will. "The word blessedness should be reserved for these active joys: they appear to conquer and extend themselves within duration.", (Deleuze, Spinoza, Practical Philosophy p. 51) Love under will means that these affects can get directed. Spinoza's first name, Baruch, means blessed.

Joe was familiar with Cosmic Trigger.  He also had the air of connection with some kind of occult conspiracy though I don't know exactly what.  It could also be my projecting imagination, nevertheless, it cannot be denied that for three days, just before the solstice in June, visionary music of a powerfuly affective nature found its way out of the virtual and into the audio reproduction realm courtesy of the Atomic Love Bombs assemblage.  Guitarist Rich Williamson had a style that reminded me of Gang of Four, Joy Division, and Sisters of Mercy really raising the energy level in thoughtful riffing trance.  I had specific lyrics and song titles to quote, lost those notes.  I do remember the first song suggesting to build a sun machine.  That should give an idea of our shared vision.


 Atomic Love Bomb drummer Mike Brown setting-up

To get a vocal sound I asked singer Courtney Ballardo to sing a verse acapella.  She surprised me with the first verse of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, a song that carries a powerful association with death, for me.  The first time I really heard that song occurred when mixing a cover of it by West African artist Wasis Diop on 1/11/07, the day Robert Anton Wilson died.  I didn't know that until afterwards, yet when mixing the song, I felt a strong sense of sacredness and holiness every time the chorus played; didn't even understand the lyrics in the verses, they were in French.  Not much later, I heard Jeff Buckley's version tastefully used in a death montage scene in the television show West Wing.  The best version of Cohen's Hallelujah, for my money, is the one Courtney sang for Atomic Love Bomb for this new lp.  Segue to an Iggy Pop quote: "A good lp is a Being, it is not a product.  It has a life force, a personality and a history just like you and me.  It can be your friend."  This is what their lp is shaping up to become.

Three days before getting keyed into the memory of Robert Anton Wilson's death through Hallelujah, a post appeared on the RAWIllumination.net blog called RAW's Poignant Goodbye. One week later, a very close friend died. It was expected, but still surprising and very shocking when it happened. Synchronicities can prognosticate though often that can't be seen until after the fact.  I listened to a synchronicity 22 years ago and rushed to a hospital in Canada to spend one last night and a moment in the morning with my father before he transitioned 12 hours later post-surgery.

After one of those horrific school shootings a few years back I wrote a position paper advocating for occult atomic love bombs, in so many words.  It also presents a scientific argument for spooky action at a distance.  I absolutely had to respond at that time, it seemed like emergency conditions.  Looking at the news of the latest tragedy in France coupled with the racial violence in America ( and all the rest of it)  brings up the same necessity to respond.  By "atomic" it means not so much a big explosion, but the supposition that magick occurs on the atomic and subatomic scales.  Magick finds material explanations in some models of quantum physics.  Magick finds verification through experimentation and observation.  Tell someone (verbally, emotionally, thoughtfully, musically, etc. -however you communicate) across the country, or across the ocean or across the room that you love them and you've practiced love under will.  It doesn't have to be a big explosion - to quote Led Zeppelin, "everything that's small has to grow, and it always grows."

I mixed a set for Ma Muse at the World Music Festival today, we went on at 10 am.  One of the songs they did for soundcheck was their song Hallelujah, completely different than Cohen's though equally as poignant and moving.  When they opened their set with a song sounding like a prayer or invocation, I had the sensation that all activity in the fairgrounds, all activity known to me, stopped and was listening silently.  There had been a loud soundcheck happening and lots of chatter immediately prior that all suddenly stopped.

They didn't play this today, but it fits the theme of this post, so I leave you with this:

 







Friday, July 1, 2016

Bernie Worrell

Bernie Worrell could play keyboards like Jack Kerouac could write or Robin Williams could do comedy, it flowed out of him spontaneously and effortlessly.  It was almost always brilliant the first time, first take.I don't remember doing a lot of retakes with him.  He was a master of improvisation, only it didn't seem like improvisation more like tapping into an immanent field of musical choices  he could directly access.  He was a storyteller in song.  This was demonstrated in the many concerts he opened with a 10 - 15 minute tour of the musical universe quoting a range of references from Bach to Cosmic Slop, from Monk to the theme from Ghostbusters, or the current top 40 pop hit.  It always sent you on a journey at the speed of sound, musical affect and the imagination.

Bernie makes a good argument for reincarnation.  He gave his first concert at the age of 4, wrote a piano concerto at 8, and performed with a Symphony Orchestra when he was 10.  These two quotes from an excellent interview by Torsten Schmidt candidly describes Bernie's approach and talent in his own words:


I don't deal with realization. I was born with perfect pitch, so anything I hear I can play. Whatever the gift God gave me, I don't sit and decipher; I just do it. And the way I hear - everyone has a different way of hearing - so the way I hear, I can hear the relationships. I can hear the same scale or mode in a classical piece, you can find the same mode in a gospel hymn. Same mode in a Indian raga, same mode in a Irish ditty, same mode in a Scottish ditty, or whatever you wanna call it. Same mode in Latin music, African. It's all related. It's how you hear it. And then on hearing and recognising, "Oh, yeah. I heard that in a pop song." Same chord progression, you know? Everything is related. I just happen to be able to hear that.

Bernie on his influences:

I didn't look up to them, I was influenced. No one should look up to anybody. What's that mean? OK, Ray Charles, Keith Emerson, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock. Victor Borge, he was this Danish keyboardist who's one of my favorite, my antics on-stage now, where I get a lot of my stuff from, because he'd be a serious classical piece and then fall off the bench. Just stuff. And that's my other way of... I guess... so serious. Have some fun. Put some humor into it. That's what I like to do. I play, ’Nah nah nah nah', in the middle of a classical piece. I'll do it on purpose, just to, "Man, wow, where'd that come from?" Make you think. "Don't be so uptight, we have a song now. If you want things to be alright, stop being so uptight and move on." Part of the uptightness in you, if you don't let it go, you're gonna be... It's like a P-Funk song: "Free your ass and your mind will follow" Breathe

Bernie had a thing for purple, always wearing either a purple scarf, hat, jacket or something else.  I don't know why. He was wearing a purple cowboy hat when a small group of us went to Disneyland in Tokyo. Spike Lee was criticized for wearing a purple outfit to an awards ceremony a day or two after Bernie moved on. The media reported as being a tribute to Prince, but I suspect it was just as much an homage to G. Bernard Worrell Jr.

 Coincidentally enough, today I read a summary of Goethe's color theory and how figure comes into existence:

From Goethe's color theory, then, we can extract a three-tiered genesis of the visible, a passage from an invisible, blinding pure light, through an indistinct halo or atmosphere of black and white to the colors and contours of distinct figures, white darkening into yellow, black into blue, yellow and blue reaching their maximum intensity in purple. 
                                                                         - Ronald Bogue, Deleuze on Literature

Purple is the royal color.  It served as an important signifier in the magick I used to become a better engineer; it corresponds on the King Scale to Mercury, the Roman trickster god of communication and psychopomp to the dead.  Bernie could be a trickster.

 Worrell moves to the organ and plays a long, improvisational sequence that blends big dynamic moments with nursery rhymes and other musical references, ending with snatches of "Let It Be" and "The Wind Cries Mary." Worrell goes back to the couch and sits down / applause
(from Schmidt's interview )
"I communicate better through music and song than I do with words," to paraphrase from the interview.

With his connection to purple and that fact he had quite a lot of genius mojo going on, it hardly surprises me to find him wearing a winged Mercury helmet, flashing the famous Worrell grin.

photo credit unknown
 
Don't know if it was somehow due to this archetypal connection we shared with purple, but he always seemed interested in my extracurricular activities and did what he could to support them.  For instance, there was a day of press interviews while Material was touring Japan.  Bernie asked me to sit with him.  The journalists would start to ask the same predictable questions, whereupon he would say something like, "What I'm really excited about and want to talk about today is my friend Oz's art gallery."  A big chunk of the Bernie Worrell interview would then be about the gallery."  He could care less about self-promotion.  They sent me the magazines when the articles were published.  They were in Japanese, obviously, so I couldn't tell how they segued from Mr. Worrell's music career to his friend's art gallery in Brooklyn.

In the early days of working with Bernie at Platinum Island and Greenpoint I frequently experimented with placing art images around the studio and control room.  At some point I acquired a shoebox full of Alien All-Stars bardo trading cards.  These were laminated, baseball-card sized abstract drawings of aliens by E. J. Gold.  I gave a dozen or so of these to Bernie and later, from a photo, saw that he had placed these around his Hammond B3 at a gig in similar fashion that I did at the mixing desk.

By bardo trading cards, it indicates that the images had one intention of subtly familiarizing the viewer to the intensity consciousness faces after the body and brain permanently die.  In other words, the space Bernie might hang out in right now according to several ancient traditions ranging from Tibet to Egypt to Peru.  Who fucking knows, really?  The point is that Bernie took to this material like a fish to water, not because he needed it - I suspect he was well-prepared for death long before I met him - but from some kind of resonance or recognition.  Out of any musician I've ever worked with, he seems the most equipped to deal with the high stresses and intensities of life without a body and brain.  Still, I do Clear Light bardo runs for him with the PP Orbs.  It's a video game-like environment on a platform hovering in a virtual sky.  Colors serve as important signifiers and mood changers in these orbs.  Got a sense of surprised recognition to observe that the platform that holds the whole thing up is purple.

Bernie seemed like he could cross over between the two worlds with ease.  He would draw out musical ideas, atmospheres, moods, textures, dialogue, etc. from some wholly Other place as easily as flipping a switch.  Though it couldn't be proven, in my opinion, he's the best example of how a life devoted to music and its mastery can alchemize a powerful spiritual being, a force of nature.   

It felt like he might have taken me over to the other side one night in Europe, or perhaps we visited it together? Late at night, after eating, after a gig, a group of us walking to the hotel.  Bernie tells me I can go to the studio to meet Keith Richards when he's recording with him in the near future in NY ( I never made it.)  Somehow, we start talking about UFOs and possible Intelligence from Outer Space, that kind of thing.  I start to tell him something along those lines when I get this realization that he already knows what I'm talking about, I say something like that to him adding: "because you are a Space Brother!"  He just flashes the famous Worrell grin and we both laugh.

Bill Laswell wrote this for him (ingenio ingenium in):