Tuesday, December 28, 2010

International Flavors

Work has been going on a global scale much more so these days than ever before here. Yesterday I mastered the soundtrack for a giant video installation going in the lobby of a massive building opening and dedication in Tokyo. The track was produced by Dustone Cinema, Richard Fisher's music and production collective that he's recruited me into. Parts of it remind me of the soundtrack that Ry Cooder did for Paris, Texas.

Just finished mixing and still have to master a Qawali music record from Dildar Hussein and his son Abrar. Dildar played tablas with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for 30 years. The punjabi style of tabla plays smooth and melodius to my ear. I had the great honor and pleasure of recording Dildar at KSK studio out in North San Juan before we went in to Prairie Sun to mix. His playing is extremely funky... fluidly playing around the beat, shifting and sculpting grooves in the 4th Dimension, that of Time.

"Hurry up, please... it's time" - Burroughs at the end of his bardo epic, "The Western Lands."

Dildar's album was recorded in Islamabad, Pakistan. One place he played in Pakistan around the time he was recording got attacked by a suicide bomber 3 hours after he finished playing there and left.

The album was recorded fairly well, all things considered, though there were some technical issues to deal with. It was a completely live Punjabi style party recording. The tones on the tablas were quite good with lots of rich low end providing the only low end on the album. I applied the Kosmos Sub Harmonizer appropriately. The harmonium sounded ok even though it got recorded at about -24 for some reason. The voices were mostly good, sometimes a bit harsh when belting out in a high register. Sometimes the group vocals distorted when peaking out, but after compression and eq they sounded good to me.

The Qawwali are Sufis. I've been told that they sing songs that praise the work of Sufi saints. As I mixed one track, I began to literally feel a sensation that I associate with baraka pouring out of the speakers. Definitely an uplifting music for these ears.

The roots of Qawwali can be traced back to 8th century Persia (today's Iran and Afghanistan). During the first major migration from Persia, in the 11th century, the musical tradition of Sema migrated to South Asia, Turkey and Uzbekistan. Amir Khusro Dehelvi of the Chisti order of Sufis is credited with fusing the Persian and Indian musical traditions to create Qawwali as we know it today in the late 13th century in India (Hindustani classical music is also attributed to him). The word Sama is often still used in Central Asia and Turkey to refer to forms very similar to Qawwali, and in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the formal name used for a session of Qawwali is Mehfil-e-Sama.

Qaul (Arabic: قَوْل) is an "utterance (of the prophet)", Qawwāl is someone who often repeats (sings) a Qaul, Qawwāli is what a Qawwāl sings.


One morning before mixing the Qawwali I had to take a phone meeting with someone in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to arrange the backline for an upcoming Bill Laswell/Gigi/Material concert there in February.

Another current client, Ardalan Payvar, is also Persian. He composes and records his lyrics in Persian.

Phoebe Killdeer, another current client, is originally from Australia but now lives in Berlin. When I sent out mixes to be checked they went to Berlin where she was, Barcelona where her manager lives, and Russia where her Producer was on tour.

And in the midst of this international matrix, I had the great good fortune of recording a local Grass Valley artist, Jeff Clark at Jhon Renoir's excellent sounding all analog studio in town. Jhon is either the Grandson or Great Grandson of the painter.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Rage Against the Dying of the Light

Methods of Defiance are about to go up a notch around here. Both my desktop and laptop computers were taken out by a serious virus yesterday and the day before. The first time it happened was exactly when I sat down and turned on the computer to catch up on this neglected blog. Our phone lines were down for a week. Telecommunications at High Velocity World Headquarters dipped to an all time low. Methods of defiance and the resolve to use the obstacles as a pushing force to break on through, keep me going.

It felt personal the second time when my laptop went down. We were bussed in to the World Wide Web, the laptop and I, doing business in the cybersphere, checking out a potential client's music video when the deadly, "your computer has been infected" message showed up. The instruction from my Computer Advisor had been: turn it off immediately and disconnect it from the internet which is what I did. It felt like I'd been peacefully walking down a street when, out of the blue, the friend I was with suddenly died. Hadn't realized how much sentient life I had granted the laptop.

Feeling angry at Evil Hacker Robots who launch destructive viruses against innocent silicon based matrixes I turned on the radio to hear Rock the Casbah by The Clash playing. It fit and amplified my mood exponentially. Some meta-programming circuit kicked in somewhere that decided to search for an alternate interpretation of the song title . I came up with Rock the Casbah = Crystallize the Holy Place which put a bit of an alchemical spin on my mood.

Then I flashed on something Dub Gabriel had posted on Facebook about Richard Holbrooke's last words to his Pakistani doctor before being sedated - "we've got to end this war." It's amazing what a deathbed perspective can do for one's sanity. How much differently would the political world run if politicians were able to gain that perspective?

Voluntarily gaining and maintaining a perspective of death before one's imminent corporal demise, meaning having the sense that one's death is always there right around the corner, gets recommended in both the Fourth Way teachings of Gurdjieff and in the shamanic tales of Carlos Castaneda. If I recall correctly, Castenada called Death an ally. Death does serve as an ally for accessing more rarefied circuits of consciousness.

"Die before you die" is an instruction found in the most ancient of Mystery Schools. Aleister Crowley gives an excellent exercise to simulate the feeling of one's death and rebirth into the light in the form of Osiris, the Egyptian analog of Christ.

The fader that adjusted my anger level which had been turned down, finally died as I stepped through the Library door. It got replaced with a firm resolve to transmit these communications more frequently and regularly. Communicating methods of defiance defines a method of defiance, for me.

As Richard Holbrooke found out too late, a deathbed perspective can serve as a method of defiance against the violent mechanicality of unconscious human life. Having this perspective also allows one to enjoy one of my favorite poems by Dylan Thomas with gnostic gusto. Dedicated to Don Van Vliet, ie Captain Beefheart who just crossed over.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Painting by Don Van Vliet.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Death of a Beatle

Today is the 30th anniversary of the death of John Lennon.

Driving to work today, 6am, listening to LA based talk radio when they play Howard Cosell's original announcement of Lennon's death during a Monday Night Football broadcast. I hadn't heard it before. Cosell's last words from the statement, "He was dead on arrival," are very chilling. I start to feel an incredibly huge amount of grief, seems like it could be an enveloping, overwhelming black cloud of grief if I allowed my emotional attention to go there, which I don't. It doesn't feel like mine. Maybe an energy field, like one of Sheldrake's Morphogenetic Fields of collective sadness?

Grief is something I have very little use for. I haven't ever seen it actually help anything. Perhaps it serves as a temporary coping mechanism when the shock is too great. To me, the best way to honor our beloved friends, family and inspirational leaders who have died is to live life as fully and as creatively as possible. Lennon was an artist and family man dedicated to spreading a message of peace and love. Continuing his work in some way is the highest form of respect I can imagine.

I do remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. I was 21 and on a break from working as a soundman for a touring rock bar band. I was downstairs cleaning the heads on an expensive cassette deck recently acquired. One of my roomates, Phil French was watching the football game when I heard him loudly say something. Went upstairs to see what was up and he told me the news. At the time I didn't know who John Lennon was apart from being one of the Beatles so I didn't feel sad or upset but it did feel very unreal to me. The next few days I learned who he was from all the media reports on his life that came out. It was a few days before the full impact of his death personally hit me though I was very aware that our society and culture was in deep mourning.

A couple of years ago a psychic friend, very competent in G.'.D.'. magic, told me they were standing outside the Dakota the night before Lennon was shot when they received a strong premonition that someone well known who lived there would die very soon. The nature of the premonition lead me to speculate and wonder if his death might have been serving or connected to a greater purpose of some kind. In Cosmic Trigger I Robert Anton Wilson wonders if John F. Kennedy's assassination might have fulfilled and played out the role of the 'Sacrifice of the Divine King' archetype as described in J.G. Frazer's classic study of folklore, The Golden Bough.

"There was a commotion of primitive terrors loosed upon the national psyche by the Dealy Plaza bullets; Camelot died; the Divine King had been sacrificed; we were caught suddenly in the midst of a Frazer-Freud re-enactment of archetypal anthropological ritual." The national psyche veered dizzily toward Chapel Perilous.

- Cosmic Trigger I p. 32

It did feel very much like Chapel Perilous or the Bardo in the days and weeks after Lennon's passing. It usually does when someone close has died. With his own music and the music of the Beatles, Lennon was close to the hearts of many people.

I haven't a clue as to what ultimate purpose the sacrifice of the Divine King serves except to point out that people like Lennon and Kennedy and the other monumental figures who have been killed for being who they are, need better protection. How ironic that the asshole who shot Lennon, Mark Chapman has a name that indicates a traditional nemesis of the Divine King.

Chapman also fits into conspiracy theories according to a video I saw which said that his brother was having dinner with Jeb Bush on that fateful night.

Yoko Ono seems to have worked through his death in a positive way. Her message today is:

"On this tragic anniversary please join me in remembering John with deep love and respect," Ono said. "In his short lived life of 40 years, he has given so much to the world. The world was lucky to have known him. We still learn so much from him today. John, I love you!"