Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Art of Listening

I moved into my first apartment on my own about three months after turning 16. Apart from some clothes and a few books, my only possessions were a stereo and record collection. I worked at a nearby fast food joint afternoons and evenings after school, getting back home around midnight. Naturally, for a music-loving kid that age, firing up the stereo and blasting rock albums at full volume late into the night was the first order of business after work. Not surprisingly, the neighbors complained, and after a mere three days I was given the ultimatum to either turn down the music or face eviction. The next night, jonesing for a music fix and not wishing to get kicked out, I put on Jimi Hendrix at a very low level, laid down between the speakers and listened as hard as I could. To my astonishment, I became just as immersed in the music as I did when it was turned up loud. That's when I discovered the role attention plays in the listening process though at the time I had no idea what it was, I only knew of this discovery that music could give an equally powerful experience at a low decibel level if a special effort at listening was made. I lived in that apartment for about 8 months until finding a better place to live with some friends, listening to music around the clock, whenever I could, still playing it loud during acceptable hours, turning down and enjoying it just as much by focusing my attention and diving into the music during the late night and early morning. It seemed, reflecting back on it, that some preliminary training was taking place very useful for a future occupation as a sound engineer.

When I started mixing bar bands on the Western Canadian club circuit I soon realized that training my hearing to acquire the skill of picking out the various instruments and how they could get processed to fit in was essential to getting a good mix. Not knowing where to find ear training programs I decided to devise my own ear training techniques. We're talking ancient times here folks, when there was no computer internet, and that kind of information wasn't as easily available. If anyone knows of some good ear training programs feel free to mention them in the comments.

One of the first things I did was pick up a cassette of popular classical music by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra. Except for the Rusty in Orchestraville children's record I heard as a kid that explained the different instruments, I'd never been exposed to classical music and had no appreciation of it at the time. Whenever chancing upon it, it read to me like a foreign language to be tuned out. But I figured that if I listened closely picking out all the different instruments, that could only help in trying to hear the various sounds in the acoustically challenging venues I worked in every night. Much to my surprise, not only did this help with the ear training but I actually started to enjoy the music. At one point I got so into it that I decided that an orchestra conductor was the ultimate soundman, and that's what I should do. Contemplating the reality of what that would entail, it seemed to require years of schooling and training so I opted to stay with rock'n roll for the time being.

You end up playing a lot of small towns on the bar band circuit. Sitting outside listening to the sounds in the country night air I decided to listen for whatever sound was the most quiet as a way to stretch my ears. Later I applied that when listening to music, trying to pick out and focus on whatever instrument was set furthest back in the mix. Jimmy Page frequently buried instruments way back in the mix. I soon discovered that a similar immersion effect resulted. Everything else in the mix sounded louder and I felt inside the music, surrounded by it and part of it. It seemed an induction, a way to fully enter the space of the music as if it was the whole environment and atmosphere, not something that manifested as just one element of consensual reality. I started having more gnostic type experiences listening in this way. Sudden flashes or realizations of knowledge experienced rather than thought out or arrived at through more conventional forms of logical reasoning. Connecting with the invocation of the music was how I put it after learning magick.

A similar effect occurred when elements of a mix that you would expect to hear up front in the foreground, like lead vocals, were set back in the mix. Carouselambra, a track off of Led Zeppelin's In Through the Out Door album is one example that springs to mind but a lot of rock mixes in the '60s and '70s were like that. Quite a few of the earlier The Rolling Stones catalog have songs where the vocals seemed buried or at least not on top of the track like conventional mixes. This seemed like a trick the producers played to draw the listener's attention inside the song. You strain to hear what the singer is singing about and suddenly the track sounds huge because you've been drawn into it by intently listening.

The nomenclaturely effusive Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, or Brian Eno for short, came out in the late 70's and 80's with a series of recordings that he categorized as Ambient, Music for Airports, The Plateaux of Mirror, Day of Radiance, and On Land that seemed like nutrition for the ears to me. The idea, as he stated it, was to have music that was one part of the environment to be listened to or ignored as desired. I used to come home from mixing a loud raucous rock band in a hall with terrible, splashy acoustics, my ears ringing like crazy from the 110 dB sound pressure levels, and put on one of these ambient recordings at a low to moderate volume with the effect of it feeling like my ears were being massaged back to life. A whole genre of music was born, inspired by these albums. I later found out that my mentor, Bill Laswell, contributed significantly to two of these. One day Laswell and Eno were walking through Washington Square Park not far from where Aleister Crowley used to live when Bill spotted a street musician named Laarji playing an electric zither. Bill says to Eno, "check this guy out," and next thing he knows he sees Laarji as the featured and only musician on Ambient 3, Day of Radiance. Later on, in the 90's, I had the opportunity to meet and work with Laarji at a release party for a new version of Material's Seven Souls. Ambient 4, On Land featured the musicians of the original Material and financed Martin Bisi's BC Studio in Brooklyn that played a role in a number of Laswell productions. A little digression, but interesting nonetheless. Eno was strongly influenced by John Cage who is about to make an appearance in this narrative.

It was actually a book that probably had the strongest influence on how I listen. I was working with a band called The Tickets, we were playing in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the only time I've been there. I don't even remember the name of the book which I had checked out from the library but it was on avant garde composers. It was there that I discovered John Cage and his musically revolutionary piece called 4'33 - four minutes 33 seconds. The first performances were by pianist David Tudor in conventional, high culture classical music halls. It consisted of Tudor coming out and sitting at piano for exactly 4'33 and playing absolutely nothing! His only action was to gesture with his arms to indicate the three movements that comprised the piece. Whoever wrote the essay on Cage in this book, which I now regret not making note of, structured it brilliantly because he never out and out stated what the point of it was. When I discovered what it was about, it resulted in an epiphany that completely changed my definition of music and my perception of sound. I won't say either, but will probably give it away to those who don't already know. The writer connected it with the artistic and cultural movement called Dada. The definitions of Dada I just googled seem woefully inadequate but a fairly accurate description is here:

To quote Dona Budd's The Language of Art Knowledge, "Dada was born out of negative reaction to the horrors of World War I. This international movement was begun by a group of artists and poets associated with the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. Dada rejected reason and logic, prizing nonsense, irrationality and intuition. The origin of the name Dada is unclear; some believe that it is a nonsensical word. Others maintain that it originates from the Romanian artists Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco's frequent use of the words da, da, meaning yes, yes in the Romanian language.

I truly "got" Dada and 4'33 during a visit to an art museum in Winnipeg when I couldn't tell if one of the pieces was missing or if it was intentional Dada art. It looked like a frame with nothing in it but the speckled and textured white wall it enclosed. Something flashed and I had what they call an AHA experience, the sudden realization of what this kind of art intended to convey. All at once I saw the connectedness and the intrinsic aesthetic nature of everything, what Thelemites call the Vision of Beatitude. This vision, though not constant, has never left. For instance, not long after, I stood waiting at a bus stop in 20 degree below zero weather in Calgary blissfully looking down the road at a car and the beautiful pattern its exhaust smoke made in the clear crisp air against a background of freshly fallen snow. It looked like a painting. No, I wasn't smoking or taking anything to engender this cognition. A short time after that, a few of us from The Tickets were on a city bus in Vancouver on the way to see a film. We rode in silence and I started to perceive all the mechanical sounds of the bus and its engine as an elaborate symphony of sorts. Nothing appeared mundane anymore, even the most ordinary situation transformed into an artistic experience.

Some time in either the late '80s or early '90's I attended a workshop by Robert Anton Wilson. One of the first exercises he had us do was to close our eyes and do nothing but listen without attempting to identify the sounds for about five minutes. He then asked us to report on the experience. It seems the point of this exercise was to show how we all live in different "reality tunnels." I suspect he picked this exercise up from General Semantics. One commonality we discovered is that we all felt slightly high from this mild meditation of listening without interpreting the identity of the sounds.

I picked up another listening exercise at a workshop I attended at the Fake Sufi School in Northern California. I was weeding in their large vegetable garden in the rural Sierra foothills when a women started telling me about an exercise her teacher had given to her to listen to as many different bird sounds as possible. This seemed both a listening and an attention exercise.

I'll leave you with a great video by John Cage on how he listens. Be sure to watch the whole thing, he makes a delightful comparison with music toward the end.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Inside the Solar Lodge

Inside Solar Lodge - Behind the Veil is a reissue of an important book that tells the story of the controversial Solar Lodge, a Thelemic community that flourished for five or six years in the 60's and early 70's in the Los Angeles area. The author is Frater Shiva, an insider and one of the architects of the Lodge. I've not read this book yet due to financially challenging times but mention it now because of an incredible streaming radio broadcast I heard last night which featured a review and discussion of the book and the context it was set in. The broadcast was presented by Poke Runyon, a veteran of the L.A. occult scene, and features commentary by Frater Shiva during the second half of the hour-long program. Runyon gives a no-nonsense and largely favorable overview to this group whose fall lead to being fugitives from the F.B.I. and the recipient of sensationalistic rumors and media harassment. He and Shiva do their best to set the record straight. Runyon calls the Solar Lodge the most successful Thelemic community ever including Cefalu.

I found the talk extremely valuable for learning about some of the history of the L.A. occult scene during that era. You can listen to the program HERE.

Thanks to Jerry Cornelius' Blogeria where I heard about this.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Master Musicians of Joujouka 2012 Festival

Frank Rynne, the manager for the Master Musicians of Joujouka wrote me to help out with crediting photos I used, and reminded me their annual festival is coming up soon, June 8-10th, less than a month away.

The ideology behind the festival  is to allow a very small group of people the opportunity to hang out and live in the village for a few days with the Master Musicians as their hosts.

More about the festival and how to make a reservation for it here

The photo of Boujeloud I used was from the Brian Jones 40th Anniversary Festival held in 2008.  Here's a great article on that event.

Frank also sent me a great slideshow of Jajouka and Brion Gysin related images:

Appropriately enough, Frank was the front man for a band called The Baby Snakes.  Out of the fire and into the frying PAN to bowdlerize a cliche.

I highly recommend attending this years festival for anyone who can swing it.  You are guaranteed a unique experience.  There is magic in the air in Joujouka, but don't take my word for it!

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Note on Qabalistic Interpretation

Modern day practitioners of Qabalah recognizes it as a Relatavistic, not an Absolute system.  Numbers, themselves, don't have an absolute specific meaning.  Effective use of Qabalah works along the lines of what  in quantum physics they call the "Observer Created Universe," meaning in this case, that qabalistic reception is all a matter of interpretation. Everyone builds their own Tree of Life.  It's an individualized system based on a generalized framework that stimulates and encourages spiritual and psychic growth.   Qabalah can help to make contact with the guide that Thelemites call the Holy Guardian Angel.  The numbers and images don't mean anything intrinsically, it's all a matter of how you choose to interpret them.  The same number can have a completely opposite meaning used in another context resulting in a different interpretation.  The fourth line in the Book of the Law makes it clear:

4. Every number is infinite; there is no difference. 

Infinite, meaning that it can have an infinite number of interpretations ... well, that's my interpretation.  Recognizing it as an interpretation and not an objective fact keeps one flexible in regards to certainty.  You can always change your interpretation with more information, and in qabalah, you often do.

 The same image, or qabalistic reference key, can have widely varying meanings in different contexts.  A good example is the use of the Tiphareth image Robert Anton Wilson begins both Illuminatus! and all 3 books of Schrodinger's Cat with.  Because of the context he places it in in Schrodinger's Cat, that same Tiphareth image communicates something much different.  Wilson, a Master in the Thelemic system,  appeared to make these two literary qabalistic masterpieces isomorphic with the two great "crises" in the Thelemic system.  Illuminatus!, on one level, instructs and guides toward the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, while Schrodinger's Cat tackles the "crossing of the abyss."

Since Qabalistic reception is a matter of interpretation, it's possible and quite likely that the same piece of information will get interpreted differently over time as the student's understanding grows and develops.  Aleister Crowley makes this point quite clear in the 6th Chapter of the Book of Lies:


    The Word was uttered: the One exploded into one
      thousand million worlds.
    Each world contained a thousand million spheres.
    Each sphere contained a thousand million planes.
    Each plane contained a thousand million stars.
    Each star contained a many thousand million things.
    Of these the reasoner took six, and, preening, said:
      This is the One and the All.
    These six the Adept harmonised, and said: This is the
      Heart of the One and the All.
    These six were destroyed by the Master of the
      Temple; and he spake not.
    The Ash thereof was burnt up by the Magus into
      The Word.
    Of all this did the Ipsissimus know Nothing.


 COMMENTARY ({Digamma})

      This chapter is presumably called Caviar because
    that substance is composed of many spheres.
      The account given of Creation is the same as that
    familiar to students of the Christian tradition, the
    Logos transforming the unity into the many.
      We then see what different classes of people do with
    the many.
      The Rationalist takes the six Sephiroth of Micro-
    prosopus in a crude state, and declares them to be the
    universe.  This folly is due to the pride of reason.
      The Adept concentrates the Microcosm in Tiphareth,
    recognising an Unity, even in the microcosm, but, qua
    Adept, he can go no further.
      The Master of the Temple destroys all these illusions,
    but remains silent.  See the description of his functions
    in the Equinox, Liber 418 and elsewhere.
      In the next grade, the Word is re-formulated, for the
    Magus in Chokmah, the Dyad, the Logos.
      The Ipsissimus, in the highest grade of the A.'.A.'.,
    is totally unconscious of this process, or, it might be
    better to say, he recognises it as Nothing, in that positive
    sense of the word, which is only intelligible in

One understands only what one is able to understand.  This point looks obvious to people in the habit of rereading information rich books.  You pick up so much more the second and third time through a particular book because you've had the education of already reading it once.  I used to read futurist visionary Buckminster Fuller's books when I had insomnia because the difficulty of the language would put me right out before too long.  One night I was reading, not falling asleep, when I realized, " holy omnidirectional multi-valent vector coordinates, Batman!!"  I can actually understand what this guy is writing about!  I heard this theory, I think it may have been from Leary, that your brain educates itself to the syntax of a new writer even if the conscious mind doesn't comprehend the writing.  So I suggest to people daunted by and wishing to explore such linguistically labyrinthine works as Finnegans Wake that they read it even if they understand very little.  It seems that an unconscious learning process goes on in the brain that will make it easier to comprehend the next time through. 

Keeping track of how you choose to make the interpretations you do provides a kind of mirror into the subconscious mind.  With a multiplicity of interpretations available for any given number or image, why do you choose to make any one particular interpretation?  You will notice patterns emerge that can indicate belief systems and habits of thought or emotion previously buried.  Keeping a diary, a journal, or a laboratory log is encouraged for this reason.  It's all part of the process to "know thyself."

How do you decide if an interpretation is relevant or accurate?  That's an individual decision.  I'm very utilitarian about it - does it communicate or have any practical application for my work or mission in life?  If so, then I regard the information as possibly relevant.  If not, then it's useless to me and passed over.  Sometimes I just don't know so I'll note it for future reference if it seems promising.  The whole qabalistic process has the side effect of training the intuition, a higher cognitive facility  we are normally conditioned to reject.

Friday, May 4, 2012

All Around the World Liner Notes

About eight years ago the Belgium record label Sub Rosa released a collection of ambient recordings I'd made at various locations on Spaceship Earth called All Around the World.  Recently I received a message from Tom Jackson who maintains the excellent - "a window into the writings of Robert Anton Wilson" saying that he had downloaded this collection and wondered if any liner notes existed as none were included with the download.  So I thought to post the liner notes here for anyone else in the same situation.

Before that I'll go a little into the genesis of this album.  The idea for making ambient recordings arose when I attended a workshop in 1990 at the Institute for the Development of the Harmonious Human Being  in California.  E.J. Gold said in that workshop that sound can be used to navigate through the bardo.  He suggested that I experiment with this idea by making recordings of various spaces, street sounds, interesting locations etc.  In particular, he asked me to make recordings of the ambience of markets when traveling abroad.  That's pretty much all he said.  Like other wisdom teachers such as Gurdjieff or Robert Anton Wilson, he suggested a line of work then left me to my own devices as to how to develop and carry that out.  The liner notes indicate how I ran with his suggestion.

I acquired a Panasonic portable DAT (remember those?) and a Sony ECM stereo condenser mic and made the initial recordings later that year on my first overseas trip with Bill Laswell which was to Paris to record the French group FFF. Upon seeing the frenzied scene around the band in Paris, Bill decided there would be less distractions if we postponed the recording and brought them back to New York.  This basically gave me nearly 10 days to wander around Paris making ambient recordings except for a couple of evenings recording Turkish Saz Master Talip Ozkan at Studio Ferber.

The very first recording I made was the Basilica du Sacre Couer in the Montmartre district located on the highest point of the city.   I noticed right away that because I was making a recording, I became very present in the moment listening intensely to every little detail just as I do when making a studio recording.  After recording for only 10 minutes or so, the monks of Sacre Couer obliged the project by coming out and singing a religious oratory of some kind.  The acoustics in that huge domed space were just awesome.

The second recording was at the crypt underneath Sacre Couer where such famous bad guys as Cardinal Richelieu are entombed.  I captured a great audio scene just outside the crypt as it started to rain lightly along with the resonant church bell tolling.  Bill Laswell used a sample of that clip at the beginning of the Lee Scratch Perry record, Rise Again, he recently produced.

I wrote about some of the adventures in Egypt making these recordings in my blog about the Stele of Revealing  approximately 2/3rds of the way in.

After five years or so of collecting recordings of this sort Gold suggested that I make a compilation of the best ones and that's how the record All Around the World came into being.  After eight years, I'm glad to see it's still in print.  It was intended to be the first in a series of six.  So far I haven't had the funding to release any more but I remain optimistic that they will see the light of day.

So here are the liner notes.  I wrote the first part up to the end of the track descriptions.  Bill Laswell and I wrote the final set.  The unique typesetting here seems a result from pasting from an old Word program.  It doesn't appear fixable so I'm going to leave it rather than type it all in again.

All Around The World

Ambient Recordings I

Oz Fritz

1. What Is Your Job
2. Our Lady
3. Easter Sunday Midnight Mass
4. Temple Drumming
5. Marralyil
6. West African Night
7. Three Gods and a Chariot
8. Bell of Sacre Couer/Showtime at Giza
9. Next Stop Is Bedford Avenue
10. Holy Beggars
11. All Around the World.
Total Time =52:32

Produced by E.J. Gold and Oz Fritz
Recorded on Location 
 Mixed and Arranged  at Cloister Recording Studio 
Executive Producer Bill Laswell

All Around The World is an audio document of sacred spaces with their acoustic and consciousness altering properties.  It is the creation of new ambient environments, new realities, through audio collage, juxtaposition and cut-up techniques. 

All recordings were done on location in various sites including  The King’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid of Giza, Notre Dame Cathedral, Mount St. Thomas and the Theosophical Society World Headquarters in Madras, India, the Australian Outback, Inner Mongolia, West Africa, Tashkent, The City of the Dead in Cairo, a Buddhist temple in Tokyo, the subways of Paris and Brooklyn and more. 

Every space has subtle yet profound effects on the consciousness of anyone who enters into it.  Architecture has a profound effect upon mood most noticeably in a building's acoustics.  Thus temples, mosques, cathedrals and other sacred buildings were designed to elevate a person’s mood and raise their consciousness.  “Wake them up,” to use a Sufi metaphor, and lift them out of their everyday mundane reality (sleep). 

Ambient Recordings I  is an experiment in communication to determine if the atmosphere, the quality and aesthetic of mood found at holy shrines and sacred spaces may be recorded and transmitted. It is my hypothesis that true ambience is a complex wave function not only of audio waves but of quantum waves.  Quantum waves, the harmonic alignment of subatomic particles in direct mathematical ratio to audio waves, may be recorded onto a electromagnetic medium along with sound.  It is these quantum waves that convey the atmosphere and mood altering properties of a space.

All Around The World is strongly influenced by John Cage’s vision of being able to tune in and hear the music that is going on all around you by placing musical value on common sounds and elements of noiseMusic that exists outside the structure of chords, scales and orthodox harmonic patterns.  A new way of hearing music may occur for the attentive listener in much the same way that Edgard Varese broadened the way people heard music by introducing sirens and other found objects of noise into symphonic composition.

There is also an underlying theme running throughout.  This theme is a practical technology for preparation and survival of bodily death.  The sonic motifs and collages contained here are designed to simulate the environment of the post mortem journey through various afterlife scenarios.  The between lives spaces called bardos as illustrated in works such as The Tibetan Book of the Dead,  The Egyptian Book of the Dead and the American Book of the Dead by E. J. Gold. 


 1.      What Is Your Job? We find out as we voyage from the Australian Outback to a prayer call in Tashkent and then on to an Arabic horse show next to the Great Pyramid in Giza fading in and out to Tamil priests and chanting Monks at the Basilica de Sacre Couer in Paris.

2.      Our Lady features the pipe organ at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

3.      Easter Sunday Midnight Mass is a recording of a Tamil hymn from that mass at Mt. St. Thomas in Madras, India.  It’s the shrine where the apostle “Doubting Thomas” lived and was martyred after Christ died.

4.      Temple Drumming at the Ayuppa Temple morning ritual in Madras against a backdrop of crows and nature ambience from the Theosophical Society World Headquarters in India.

5.      Marralyil – recorded at Elko Island in the far north of the Australian Outback.

6.      West African Night - a collage of African scenes, nightlife in Brikama, Gambia and the early morning chant of a Mussulman in Senegal.

7.      Three Gods and a Chariot – a spoken word tour of the ancient village of Pallavaram, India

8.      Bell of Sacre Couer/Showtime at Giza – The door opens to reveal different sonic chambers:  a bell tolls outside the crypt at Sacre Couer, Paris containing the remains of holy men and saints, a street scene in Tashkent, the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid, a walk through the City of the Dead, Cairo with Bill Laswell and Janet Rienstra and a dramatic nighttime show at Giza.  The careful listener will hear  Bill Laswell  reveal  the theme of this recording.

9.      Next Stop Is Bedford Avenue.  A journey through the Metro of Paris is juxtaposed against a subway in Brooklyn, NY

10.  Holy Beggars.  Chanting beggars pray for alms in Tokyo, Tashkent and India.

11.  All Around The World.  Bells from the Theosophical Society World Headquarters in Madras and Japanese toys provide the rhythmic foundation. On top of that we hear various street sounds and a hymn from St. Thomas Basilica (built over the body of the dead saint) with quick cuts to a Mongolian string orchestra, a distorted Arabic boom box and finally back to Australia.

All Around The World

Sound can be used to navigate through
after-life (bardo) spaces
and create alternative real-time
living environments
Voyaging beyond death
bardo chambers with breathing walls
sonic visions remembered, recalled,
reshaped, sound is the one constant ...
In the dream.  In the life... interchangeable...
It can always be replaced.  But only
By another sound...

Only the tape can rewind.  Return to the time
the place...sonic history.
As life feeds forward into the past - and
Technology is much more than the means.

Acoustics in sacred sites
intentionally designed by adepts
to alter consciousness
induce out-of-body
post-biological realities.

Landscape and architecture resonates with
its own sound and evocation,
music and ambience
These recordings represent time,
space and sound reimagined
Transmission of all signals received.

Relocated, reconfigured, this soundtrack reflects
the environment in ways that
are incorporated into
the music's structure and purpose.

                                                                   - Bill Laswell

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Recording the Master Musicians of Jajouka part 3

Hymn to Pan

Thrill with lissome lust of the light,
O man ! My man !
Come careering out of the night
Of Pan ! Io Pan .
Io Pan ! Io Pan ! Come over the sea
From Sicily and from Arcady !
Roaming as Bacchus, with fauns and pards
And nymphs and satyrs for thy guards,
On a milk-white ass, come over the sea
To me, to me,
                                                                                             -Aleister Crowley

The following two paragraphs below are reprinted from the recent blog on drummers.  The are included here for the sake of continuity.

 We left Tangier in the early afternoon for what I thought was going to be a 50 or 60 mile drive to Jajouka. For some reason it took all afternoon to get to where you leave the road and climb up the mountain to the village. At that time, maybe still is, Jajouka was completely off the grid in every way, no electricity, no roads going to it, no telephones, nothing resembling anything of modern civilization except a battery operated P.A. system used for prayer calls. There wasn't even a sign from the road we drove in on to indicate how to get to Jajouka. You have to know someone who knows or you would never get there. It was dusk when we arrived at the spot to climb the mountain. We rode up on horses which they had waiting for us. The equipment was put on a large flatbed trailer and pulled up the mountain by a huge, ancient-looking tractor via a rocky, treeless ravine that served as a road.

It was completely dark when we reached Jajouka, but still early, 7 or 8 pm maybe. We enjoyed a simple meal of lamb, fresh bread and mint tea before unpacking and setting up the gear. The plan was to get it set up, make sure it all worked so it would be ready to start recording the next day. The film crew had arrived earlier in the day, driving down from France the past few days, and had their lighting and generator all set up providing ample illumination in the Moroccan night. The musicians were hanging about so no better way to test the gear than do a run through with the actual players. Everything worked fine, much to my relief. The musicians kept playing and playing, they didn't want to stop, and we didn't want them to stop. I was surprised to hear the 5 am prayer calls sound off. We had worked all night though it only seemed a few hours, and I had a tremendous amount of energy. The musicians ignored the calls, they wanted to keep playing. We told them we had to wait because they would bleed onto the tracks. The group had about 6 -8 drummers and about the same number of ghaita (a simple double reed horn with a very bright timbre) players. Their music definitely warped consciousness in interesting ways.

We rested  for about 6 hours or so, got about around noon and enjoyed a light breakfast of fresh bread and olives.  The next session was scheduled for 4pm that afternoon giving us a few hours of free time.  I chose to hike to the nearby cave where it all began which was a little less than a mile away.

photo by Cherie Nutting

legend assigns the origins of the music to a cave in the hills of Jajouka. When the first Attar arrived in the region, he fell asleep in the cave of Boujeloud where the “father of skins” appeared to him in a dream playing the most beautiful music he had ever heard. Boujeloud, for whom Boujeloudia is played, returned to teach the villagers a special form of music they could pass down through the generations. - from the history page of the Jajouka website.

 In the liner notes to the album we recorded, Apocalypse Across the Sky,  William S. Burroughs writes:

Just as I did not at first appreciate Brion's extraordinary personality, the music of Jajouka was lost on me at first hearing, in 1957.  But in Paris a year later, Brion played me the tapes of his music and explained (anthropologist Edward) Westermark's theory that the annual festival at Jajouka coinciding with the Moslem lunar calendar feast of Aid el Kebir was in fact a reenactment of the ancient Roman Rites of Pan, the Lupercalia, ensuring fertility and ensuring the age-old balance of power between men and women.  And then at last I could hear the music and understand.

I had discovered this association prior to the trip so thought it would be interesting to record the Hymn to Pan by Aleister Crowley in the cave.  I brought a copy of Magick in Theory and Practice, a portable DAT recorder and a microphone and recorded it a couple of times.

The session that day went well into the night.  The next day the session started at 3pm only going until 7pm, by then we had everything we needed.  Four different styles of music were represented, three of them played by the same musicians but with different instruments playing the melodies.  The music most associated with Jajouka is called Boujeloudia and features the double reed piercing horns called ghaita or rhaita.  Many people unfamiliar with the Master Musicians of Jajouka would have heard this instrument in Howard Shore's score for the Lord of the Rings films, in particular the Mordor theme.  The second style features a primitive lute-like instrument called a Gimbri  accompanied with their version of a violin called a Kamanja played uprite on the knee.  This style includes singing whereas Boujeloudia does not.  The third style, also purely instrumental, features a group playing Liras which are their homemade flutes.  They sound much airier than a conventional flute.  As a matter of fact, all of their instruments are homemade.  These three styles include a drum group keeping time.  The fourth style of music comes from an all women's group consisting of six women, all from the Attar clan, playing drums and singing.  We were lucky to record them because they never play for outsiders but made an exception for us.  As I was playing back their first track on a small pair of portable Fostex monitors I'd brought some of them stared giggling.  They had never heard themselves recorded before.

After the final session the feast began marking the beginning of the Boujeloud ritual, the ancient rites of Pan.  It begins with a sheep getting sacrificed then roasted on an open fire to provide the pre-ritual meal.  Another legend says that seeing this sheep led off to slaughter unhinged Brian Jones when he went there in 1968 to record the Master Musicians.  Being the only fair-skinned person amongst the darker Moroccans, he supposedly identified with the white sheep and became very paranoid that they were out to get him, too.  This began a year-long descent into confusion and chaos for him leading to his departure from the Rolling Stones, then his death.  I don't know the source of this story and have doubts about it, but you never know.  Something led to him falling off the deep end, and don't think  it can be attributed to drug abuse alone.  As his friend, Bob Dylan famously sang about him a few years earlier, "There's something happening here and you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?"  However, it seems that line could apply to nearly everyone in one way or another though, perhaps, many wouldn't admit it.  The Jajoukians only have fond memories of Mr. Jones, from what I gathered.  Bachir Attar, a child at the time, remembers him dancing joyfully with the headphones on as he recorded their music.  It's unlikely we would have ever gone if Brian Jones hadn't blazed the trail.

The rites began after the evening meal at dusk as the sky began to darken into the night.  The musicians assembled out in a large field playing Boujeloudia style in front of a large bonfire.  A designated youth, I would guess in his late teens or early 20s, donned the goat-skin costume of Boujeloud.  It's always the same youth who holds this post until he passes it on.  The music puts him into a trance causing him to dance wildly about with a swatch of long grass with which he tries to swat people. Legend holds that if he catches a girl off guard and hits here with the grass, she'll become pregnant.  The musicians play all night long, the horn players employing circular breathing to maintain a constant sound.  They do not take a break except, one at a time, they'll stop to take a draw on a pipe of hash.  I noticed an elderly man, he looked at least 75, was the caretaker of the pipe.  He would load it, then bring it to each musician one at a time.   I saw that before he passed the pipe to the musician, he would smoke from it first ... every single time!  I was amazed at his tolerance to smoke that much of the strong Moroccan hash where one or two tokes works for hours.

I was out in the field watching and listening to this age-old celebration keeping my eye out for Boujeloud when I suddenly felt a stinging slap on my arm.  My attention had momentarily strayed so I got caught by the goat-god Invocant.  This modified my view of the ritual for it now seemed Boujeloud's intent was to keep people awake through the long night.  The shock into the present seemed similar to getting wacked by a Zen master with a stick.

 photo by Jill Furmanovsky/
and appears courtesy of the Master Musicians of Joujouka

I came to agree with the theory that this ritual is a rite of Pan.  In the Book of Thoth, Alesiter Crowley identifies Pan as the most extreme manifestation of male energy.  This explains the women getting pregnant if they are caught by him.  It also could explain a shamanic technique called "tickling the dragon" that has to do with carefully waking up the energy that Hindus call kundalini.  It's a powerful source of energy when handled judiciously but can get rather painful if unleashed to quickly, it you get caught by it like getting caught and swatted by Boujeloud.  Somewhere in Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger I the story is told of a yogi, whose name I don't recall, who activated his kundalini too quickly and faced painful consequences.

The musicians played and played and played that night.  As I closed my eyes to get a few hours rest somewhere around 3 am, they were still going at it off in the distance.  Next morning at breakfast the Jajouka guest book was passed around for us to sign.  We all glanced through it noting the various travelers who had come before: Gysin, Burroughs, Ornette, Leary, Robert Palmer and a host of others.  I didn't see Brian Jones' autograph in there, perhaps the tradition started later?

The tracks were mixed by Bill Laswell and myself at The Hit Factory in New York.  A highlight for me was playing the flute piece for Ornette Coleman back at Bill's Greenpoint studio and getting his blessing.  The next album we recorded was a Bachir Attar solo record done at Greenpoint.  A couple of months later I went to Paris to mix the film soundtrack, stayed at the Grand Hotel, and ate dinner at a restaurant that Gurdjieff used to frequent.  The film came out great, it included some early footage made by Burroughs and Gysin, just classic!  Unfortunately, it never came out due to some business or rights issue, I don't know the real reason.

The Master Musicians are quite active to this day actively touring and collaborating with various musicians around the world something they had yet to realize when we worked with them.  More information can be found here. 

As William Burroughs writes in the Apocalypse Across the Sky liner notes:  But the Pipes of Pan survive to this day.  Listen to this music, the primordial sounds of a 4,000-year old rock'n'roll band ... listen with your whole body.  Let the music penetrate you and move you, and you will connect with the oldest music on earth.