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


  1. Even though I already had the notes, I'm glad you posted this and provided the additional background information. I think the recordings are very stimulating.

    Have you ever heard a piece called "Christian Zeal and Activity" by composer John Adams? It's a composed piece for strings, but it also uses a recording of a sermon.

  2. Thanks for the comment on the album, Tom. I haven't heard the Adams piece but that sounds interesting, I'll check it out.

    The album that convinced me to become a recording engineer was "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" by Brian Eno & David Byrne. One track has a sample of a Baptist preacher giving an impassioned sermon. It was considered one of the earliest uses of sampling, using found sound, in the commercial music genre. It was very, very effective at creating what I call a bardo space is the whole album.

  3. I have the album too but had not read the notes properly so that made interesting reading. The album is effective at evoking states of mind IMHO and very unusual. I would be good to hear more.

    MLITBOG was a seminal album but I wonder if John Adams was the very first to use a recorded sample?