Thursday, June 28, 2012

In the Center of the Fire

In the Center of the Fire, subtitled, A Memoir of the Occult 1966-1989 by James Wasserman is an extremely fascinating book that I couldn't put down.  Wasserman is more of a book designer than author by trade, yet his writing style is highly engaging, direct, candid and brutally honest.  He has been called one of the "founding fathers" of the modern O.T.O. The Ordo Templi Orientis, or the Order of the Temple of the East to put it in English,  is one of the two organizations Aleister Crowley entrusted to carry out and propagate his vision.  The motto you see to the right below on this page, The method of science; the aim of religion is a motto Crowley wrote for the O.T.O. when he was the O.H.O., the Outer Head of the Order which reads in full:

We place no reliance
On virgin or pigeeon
Our method is science
Our aim is religion

I have never been a member but am sympathetic to their aims and ideals and very grateful for the service they provide.  In the Center of the Fire is essentially a concise autobiography of Wasserman's life with emphasis placed on his spiritual work and studies during those years. In this way, it reminds me a little of Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger Vol I. It seems Wilson had some influence on Wasserman's development for he makes a point to mention on page 83 that he read the Illuminatus trilogy by Wilson and Shea. Much later in the book he mentions hosting an event with Wilson then bringing him back to their group temple where RAW admired the temple paintings then regaled the group with tales for some time.  The magical link may have been formed when Wasserman attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1966.  RAW rented a cabin from the same college and lived nearby just a few years earlier.  For both of them, that locale formed the setting for the initial stages of their psychedelic experimentation albeit a few years apart.

One of the more interesting subplots in this text is the battle for the American copyrights of Crowley's legacy and the pivotal role it played in establishing the modern O.T.O. I had only heard vague and often highly opinionated rumours of this story from a Crowley website forum I used to participate in. This insider's account brings it all out into the light of day. Also informative is Wasserman's portrayals of the key figures involved such as Marcelo Motta, Grady McMurtry, and Donald Weiser. Motta, in particular was a substantial Thelemic force I heard vague stories about both pro and con but didn't know enough to decide whether he was a charlatan, a black magician, or a misunderstood adept. The author was Motta's student, editor, and his representative during the beginning of the controversy over who should take possession of Karl Germer's ( the O.H.O. of the O.T.O. after Crowley's death) library which had been inherited from Crowley. Wasserman reveals both Motta's strengths and his numerous foibles and ends up characterizing him as a kind of Holy Adversary who through his opposition forced the O.T.O. into getting its act together in some respects.

 One quote by Motta really hit home for me, a quote that Wasserman put on the back of a Motta book he was designing, The Commentaries of AL, ie commentaries on The Book of the Law.The quote is Motta's comment on the verses from chapter 3:  

25. This burn: of this make cakes & eat unto me. This hath also another use; let it be laid before me, and kept thick with perfumes of your orison: it shall become full of beetles as it were and creeping things sacred unto me. 

26. These slay, naming your enemies; & they shall fall before you.

 To paraphrase, Motta writes that a profane slew a beetle before Ra-Hoor-Kuit (Horus) naming an enemy and soon after the profane went mad. An Initiate slew a beetle before RHK naming an enemy and the enemy fell. An exempt adept slew a beetle before RHK naming his worst enemy, himself, and became a Master of the Temple. As mentioned in the previous post, "in the bardo you have no enemies, you have yourself."

I gained much more respect for Grady McMurtry, the role he played, the trust Crowley put in him, and his genuine magical ability from reading this book.  Though I had read and enjoyed Jerry Cornelius' excellent biography on McMurtry, Wasserman filled in some crucial details from his perspective.

Part of the fascination this book holds for me is the congruencies with my spiritual quest.  Wasserman writes of many intimate encounters with people I've greatly admired some of whom I've been fortunate to work with, if only briefly at times.  People such as Lon Milo Duquette, Ira Cohen, Herman Slater, Alejandro Jodorosky,  Kenneth Grant, and the previously mentioned Robert Anton Wilson.  Others I've never met, but have received significant influence through their works include Allan Miller (aka Christopher Hyatt), Israel Regardie, Harry Smith, and Hymenaeus Beta (aka Bill Breeze).  Some very interesting characters like Angus MacLise and Simon, the author of the infamous Necronomicon,  I met for the first time in these pages

Wasserman got his start in the book business at the fabled Weiser's bookstore when it was located on Broadway in New York.  Weiser's was like Mecca for me when I first traveled to New York in 1982.  It was very difficult, nearly impossible to get Crowley books where I lived at that time in Western Canada. Weiser's not only carried a good selection, they published many of them!  I stocked up on that visit to my great and everlasting delight.  Some years later, after I moved to New York, and Weiser's had moved to its final retail location on Lexington and 24th St., I would visit regularly.  One day I was overjoyed to find three Robert Anton Wilson books I hadn't yet read, two of them from the Historical Illuminatus series.

Wasserman writes of a strong synchronicity involving a hawk when reading a particular edition of the Book of the Law for the first time -  I can't  give it away.  After invoking  Horus in a hotel room in Switzerland for the first time, I turned on the television to find a documentary on Horus being broadcast.  Wasserman's synchronicity is even more startling!

As noted, this book is very candid.  Wasserman drops some useful magical hints from time to time, relays some of his visions and their effects, but also doesn't shy away from detailing the dangers involved which, from what I can tell, consist mainly of unchecked ego inflation on the part of some, and drug misuse.  He doesn't hold back describing his own drug and alcohol experiences.  Some of the stories are quite confessional in nature.  It seems that it took the death of one of their prominent members before the O.T.O. got it together in that regard. 

In the Center of the Fire is well illustrated with photos of the players involved, and contains an excellent glossary. My favorite photo appears on the front cover showing a young James Wasserman and a young Bill Breeze on a fire escape in New York. Seeing Breeze in that photo is, for me, like seeing the fellow behind the curtain playing the part of the Wizard of Oz.  I had long appreciated his Introduction, footnotes and overall editorial work in the classic "blue brick" edition of the book Magick, Liber IV among other things, but had only known him as the mysterious Hymenaeus Beta, the successor as the O.H.O. to Hymenaeus Alpha, Grady McMurtry.  It was only a few years ago that I discovered his conventional name.  The honest portrayal of that photo underscores the honesty in the book. 

The Appendices contain some interesting material as well.  One of them clearly and undeniably shows Crowley's prescience regarding the 1960's, the era in which his ideology really took off.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in this path.  I also found it very inspiring for trying to write my own story.  Autobiographical writing seems an excellent approach to gnothi seauton, a prerequisite to any kind of serious magical work or bardo training.  Much appreciation and gratitude to Mr. Wasserman and all the powers that be for making this material available.  This book has a website which I've yet to peruse but will do so:

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Art of Listening (conclusion)

In the first post of this series I mentioned the exercise of listening for the quietest sound in the environment as a way to stretch the hearing.  It can apply to music by listening for the quietest instrument or sound in the mix with the effect of getting drawn into the soundscape.  A further extension of this exercise is to listen for the silence between the sounds.  When you listen for silence, you hear everything else.  I'll try to explain.

The subject of this post is SILENCE in a variety of forms.  A classic book on avant garde music is by John Cage called SILENCE.  It consists of a collection of lectures and writings.  One of my favorites is the LECTURE ON NOTHING.  I'll quote some of it to either help explain or further obscure the sound/silence dichotomy.  It's graphic layout appears quite unique, I won't attempt to fully recreate it here, it's not necessary for the point, but I will give the introduction to demonstrate the musical intent behind the writing.  The Lecture On Nothing from Silence starts on page 109 of the hardcover edition I have.  Coincidentally, 109 corresponds to both "Quiet" and "Music" in Crowley's Qabalah dictionary.

This lecture was printed in Incontri Musicali, August, 1959.   There are four measures in each line and twelve lines in each unit of the rhythmic structure.  There are forty-eight such units, each having forty-eight measures.  The whole is divided in five large parts, in the proportion 7, 6, 14, 14, 7.  The forty-eight measures of each unit are likewise so divided.  The text is printed in four columns to facilitate a rhythmic reading.  Each line is to be read across the page from left to right, not down the columns in sequence.  This should not be done in an artificial manner ( which might result from an attempt to be too strictly faithful to the position of the words upon the page), but with the rubato which one uses in everyday speech.


I am here, and there is nothing to say
If among you are, 
those who wish to get somewhere, let them leave at
any moment.  What we re-quire is
silence; but what silence requires
is that I go on talking.
Give any one thought
a push: it falls down easily;
but the pusher and the pushed pro-duce that enter-
tainment called a dis-cussion.
Shall we have one later?

Or, we could simply de-cide not to have a dis-
cussion.  What ever you like.  But
now ............. there are silences ................. and the
words.................. make................ help make....................the 

I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is
poetry........................... as I need it.
This space of time is organized.
We need not fear these silences, --
we may love them.

It goes on for quite awhile combining metaphysical insights with common experiences as for instance:

Each moment is absolute, alive and significant. Blackbirds rise from a field making a sound delicious beyond compare. I heard them because I accepted the limitations of an arts conference in a Virginia girls finishing school which limitations allowed me quite by accident to hear the blackbirds as they flew up overhead. There was a sociaol calendar and hours for breakfast, but one day I saw a cardinal, and the same day heard a woodpecker. I also met America's youngest college president. However she has resigned, and people say she is going into politics. Let her. Why shouldn't she? etc. etc.

The afternote is quite interesting also:

In keeping with the thought expressed above that a discussion is nothing more than an entertainment, I prepared six answers for the six first questions asked, regardless of what they were.  In 1949 or '50, when the lecture was first delivered there were six questions.  In 1960, however when the speech was delivered for the second time, the audience got the point after two questions and, not wishing to be entertained, refrained from asking anything more.

The answers are:

1. That is a very good question.  I should not spoil it with an answer.

2. My head wants to ache.

3.  Had you heard Marya Freund last April singing Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, I doubt whether you would ask that question.

4. According to the Farmer's Almanac this is False Spring.

5.  Please repeat the question. . .
And again . . .
And again . . .

6.  I have no more answers.

Yes, there is a point to this and it does have to do with listening.  When speaking of silence I refer to two distinct aspects: silence that is the absence of sound, and that inner silence when the headbrain chatter fades into the background.  Cage's piece addresses both.  The absurdity of preparing answers no matter what the question seems meant to jolt the listener out of their thinking apparatus, the relentless dialogue inside our minds.  The intended effect of this makes the listener fully present: " I am here and there is nothing to say."
Obviously, you are going to hear more if you are fully present and not thinking about what you're going to have for dinner, or having an imaginary argument with someone, or any number of other thoughts, worries, and concerns that steal the attention away from the here and now.  This is not so easy.

Lecture on Nothing from Silence was also the third in a series of art shows I helped curate in 1992 in New York.  This one was a collaboration between Cage and E.J. Gold and featured artwork inspired by the poetry.  It was held in the H. Heather Edelmann gallery in the Soho area of New York.  I was very excited when I first heard plans of the show for the opportunity to work with John Cage, a profound inspiration for me.  However, he chose to shuffle off of his mortal coil a couple of months before the opening, and I didn't get a chance to meet him.  The artwork was all monumental sized ( 72"x36") abstract portraits of hands and heads in different colors on black gessoed canvases.  I guess there were about 20 - 30 pieces in the fairly compact gallery.  It's hard to describe their effect, they simply radiated presence; you felt much more awake just entering the space... and they felt alive!  Menlo Macfarlane and I performed the Lecture on Nothing one afternoon to a receptive audience.   He read the text and I provided audio manipulations and sound effects with a Roland 201 Space Echo.

Silence seems a key point in many systems of  spiritual development, alchemy, magick, etc. whatever you want to call it.  For instance the four virtues in Magick, also known as the four powers of the Sphinx are:

To know,
To will,
To dare,
To keep silence

One of the primary basic foundational exercises in Thelemic magick is the Star Ruby which was Aleister Crowley's modification of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram he learned as as student in the Golden Dawn.  One of Crowley's additions to the exercise was the assumption of the godform of Harpocrates, the ancient Greek god of silence, after manifesting a pentagram in each of the four quarters.   The posture of this godform is the one we all know that indicates silence -  the right forefinger pressed against the lips.  This posture also begins and concludes the ritual.  The student breaths in deeply holding this posture then strikes the right hand down with the forefinger extended exclaiming the ancient Greek words Apo Pantos Kakodaimonos which means literally  "all evil demons" with the gesture indicating a banishing ie "go away." These demons or spirits being sent on their way seem nothing more than the chattering thoughts or inner dialogue found in the common state of mind.  In bio-feedback technology these are known as beta waves and have been measured to occur at a rate of 12-40 Hz in the brain.

Harpocrates, the posture of inner silence, is also said to be a god of defence.  My interpretation of this relates to the viewpoint that I see magick as representing a special case of bardo training ie learning how to survive death.  It is said that "in the bardo you have no enemies, you have yourself."  This silence as defence protects you from yourself in at least two ways - from saying or doing stupid things, and from having anxiety-ridden or other kinds of destructive thoughts that can have a debilitating effect on the health of the nervous system.

Crowley seems to have felt this posture so important that he put it in the design of his Tarot in the card The Aeon, Atu XX which graphically displays his cosmology more than any of the other cards.

In The Book of Wisdom and Folly Crowley associates this Silence with The Way of the Tao, the Chinese philosophy he regarded highly.  He writes, rather poetically in the chapter Prolegomena concerning Silence:

This Silence is the Dragon of thine Unconcious Nature, not only the Ecstasy or Death of thine Ego in the Operation of its Organ, but also, in its Unity with thy Lion, the Truth of thy Self.  Thus is thy Silence the Way of the Tao ...

The Lion is his poetic way of describing our animal nature.  He appears to be saying that our true nature emerges when the animal is silent.  The animal will likely object but this is a whole other issue.

This emphasis on silence dates back to ancient times.  One of the spells from the Papyrus of Ani, the Egyptian Book of the Dead adapted for use by the Golden Dawn has the line:

Therefore do Thou come forth unto Me from thine abode in the Silence ...

Before doing any readings from the American Book of the Dead this kind of Silence is invoked in the Obligatory Readers Invocation  meant to precede all bardo readings:

To the divine silence of unreachable endlessness;
To the divine silence of perfected knowledge.
To the divine silence of the soundless voice;
To the divine silence of the Heart of the Labyrinth;
To the divine silence of the ancient mind;
To the divine silence of the unborn guide 
To the divine silence of the unseen guide
                    protector of all sentient life;
To the divine silence of those of perfected knowledge;
To the divine silence of human primate incarnation;
To the divine silence of the labyrinth guides 
                     who sacrifice their liberation for those
                     who have not yet awakened to the truth; 
To the divine silence of the Lord of Death
                     the eternal unborn resident of the labyrinth
                     who has sacrificed his own redemption
                     for the redemption of all voyagers everywhere;
To the divine silence of the primordial being;
To the divine silence of the great sacrifice;
We offer homage, love and hope;
But above all, we give our gratitude.

It seems that as we can stretch our hearing by listening for the silence underneath music, we can also stretch the morphology of our being, our Deep Self, by reaching for the silence within thereby allowing for contact and communication with the Deep Self of our fellow voyagers. But don't take my word for it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Art of Listening (continued)

Physical factors contribute to the ability to listen well. Early in my career, circa 1980, I was mixing the band Sargent at a bar in the south-side of Edmonton, Alberta when I had a striking demonstration regarding hair length and audio frequency response. But first, to set the stage - Inner Canada seemed about 3-5 years behind the rest of the world in music and fashion trends. The 60's lasted until about 1976 or '77. Punk rock was just starting to catch on in 1980. I first became aware of it when Sargent's drummer, Ian Grant, began sporting short spikey hair and ripped up clothes held together by safety pins as a fashion/lifestyle statement. I became aware of punk fashion before I heard the music. At Ian's insistence, Sargent began incorporating some of the less abrasive punk songs into their Top-40 playlist like Planet Claire and Rock Lobster by the B52s and The Clash's cover of Brand New Cadillac. I began to appreciate the energy of the music but passed on dressing up in the punk uniform. I had very long hair and frequently wore a hat that was a cross between a top hat and a bowler with buttons exclaiming abstract positive statements affixed to it. Yes, I confess, I was a hippie of the chic persuasion in both appearance and ideology. On days off in Calgary, my friend Karen Ralph and I, would go down to the Calgarian Hotel or sometimes The National where the punk bands played and dance all night. I in my hippie get-up and Karen dressed in very original do-it-your-self punk rock attire. Once she crafted a dress out of nothing but black, plastic, garbage bags. We made quite the anomalous looking couple. It was very exciting being in on the birth of a genre in our area. I recall watching one band playing, and thinking that this is what it must have felt like to see The Beatles play at The Cavern Club in Liverpool.

Long hair was anathema to punk rock political correctitude. I was the only one in these clubs who dared to dress like the "dinosaurs" punkers were rebelling against. You could tell pretty quickly  the poseurs jumping on the fashion bandwagon like lemmings at a cliff apart from the individuals searching for unique artistic expression in the punk milieu. So, during the middle of this week long engagement in Edmonton, Ian's girlfriend, Elizabeth, offered to "trim" my hair. Though they both partook of the punk rock aesthetic, they were friends and didn't seem to hold my long hair against me. The trimming she gave me cut about half of it off and was so bad that I went to a barber and had him finish the job into not quite a buzz cut but still very short. In retrospect I'm glad this radical change in hair length took place. It probably wouldn't have happened, at least not then, if Elizabeth hadn't done her Delilah bit to weaken my attachment to hippiedom. As soon as Sargent started playing, I thought that the bass bins weren't working. We had a pretty standard 3-way P.A. for bar bands at that time - 18" subwoofers in bass reflex cabinets, 45-60 mid-range boxes, and radial horns for the high end. I began running around attempting to troubleshoot the problem only to discover no problem existed. The radical change in hair length also radically changed the frequency response/receptivity of my ears. I have kept my hair short ever since. About 10 years ago I grew tired of having to get it cut every week or two to keep the desired length and shaved it off completely. Somehow, a shaved cranium sharpens my listening focus. I can even tell the difference with just a few days growth. I mentioned this once to my assistant, Jonathon Chu, when I did sport a light growth and he jokingly reparteed with, "So does this mean you're not giving us your all?" I'm not advocating for engineers to shave their heads, everyone has their own methodology for listening. It still seems to be how you use your attention to listen along with  physical attributes. The other reason I shave my head is because hair doesn't conduct electricity. A few years ago my head started getting with the program and began thinning considerably on the crown. Now I can add vanity as another reason to go with a hairless head.

Carefully monitoring the nervous system's bio-chemistry through food and drink intake, and exercise has helped considerably. I refer people to Stage14, the Neurosomatic Engineer in Timothy Leary's The Game of Life for a comprehensive and extensive study in this department.  I can only say what has worked for me, everyone is different.  All generalizations seem wrong in the long run and that likely includes the statement that "all generalizations seem wrong" though I don't know never having encountered one appearing absolutely right.  A generalization consists of an abstraction made by the human mind.  No specific case exactly matches any generalization it might be grouped under, and you always can find an exception to the rule.  I preface my remarks hoping to not be misunderstood as advocating or eschewing any particular health regimen or morality.  Generally, "whatever gets you through the night, it's all right, it's all right" as the song goes.

For me, alcohol doesn't work for concentrated listening.  I never minded the effects in moderation and sometimes not, and never had a problem apart from the occasional nasty hangover.  It just simply doesn't help me hear better.  The science of what alcohol does to the nervous system bears this out.  I've worked with many producers and engineers mostly in New York and California, but  also all over the world, and no one drinks when they're working in the studio except maybe the occasional beer, but even that is rare.  Sometimes artists will use alcohol to help stimulate a mood but they are not as involved with critical listening. I found that good ginseng helped with hearing and endurance.  Marijuana can enhance the hearing but it can also space one out.  Again, any generalization about it is wrong for a variety of reasons.  There's no such thing as generic marijuana just like there's no such thing as a generic person.  It's effect has to be taken into the context of however else you operate your nervous system.  It does classify as a psychedelic therefore the guidelines of set, setting and dosage apply.  I would suggest a homeopathic size dosage if it's felt to be necessary.  I recommend not using it at all when producing or engineering.  Most clients don't like it, and you can get arrested.  All the positive attributes can be had in other, healthier ways through yoga, martial arts, meditation or through using a floatation tank.

Standing on your head for 5 minutes is a quick way to completely rejuvenate your hearing.  I used to find it ironic when mixing that the moment you needed to listen most critically, when you were committing the mix to tape, was when your ears were the most fatigued.  We sometimes got around this by leaving the mix set up over night and coming in with fresh ears to make the final evaluation the next morning.  That only worked with projects that had a budget to support this.  I remember mixing Blind Idiot God several years ago at the Hit Factory in New York, many of the songs  featuring Andy Hawkin's massively loud guitar sound.  We mixed about 4 tracks per day.  In between, I would go into a quiet room and do a headstand to get my hearing back into shape while my assistant set up the next song.  Well, ... I hear objections, I can't do a headstand.  Neither could I, it took me about two weeks of trying everyday at yoga classes and with people spotting me before I got the balance of it.  Once you get up there, the body never forgets, like falling off a bicycle.  Once you fall off a bike, the body never forgets how to get back up there and fall off again, heh heh. But you don't even have to do a headstand to achieve this effect.  What recharges the hearing is the anti-gravity result of the blood flowing to the head and ears.  The same result is possible simply by lying down with your feet above your head.  I just find a headstand more fun, but each to his own.  Revitalized hearing in this way is represented in the tarot by the Hanged Man card ... c'mon, don't give me a hard time, I've heard far wackier interpretations.

This leads right into a long-held belief of mine: that the most significant piece of audio processing equipment in the recording studio is the brain and nervous system of the producer(s) and engineer(s), what I now call the "human biological machine," a term that E.J. Gold likely adapted from John Lilly's  Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer.  The proof of this pudding is in the eating of it, ie the rapid advancement of my audio career.  I got into using a floatation tank right around the time I began my internship at Platinum Island Recording in New York's Greenwhich Village.  I also lived at the Sivananda Yoga Center on 24th Street because the rent was cheap, and included all the hatha yoga classes you cared to take.  I wasn't a disciple or devotee of their guru, Swami Vishnudevananda, but, unlike some religious practitioners, the staff was very tolerant of my Crowleyian/Gurdjieffian studies and experiments.  I took to floating like a fish to water.  Part of the yoga center deal was that you had to participate in their six o'clock morning obligatory which began with a half hour of seated meditation - pretty much torture, for me.  Meditating and deeply relaxing in the gravity-free, sensory attenuated environment of the floatation tank felt natural and enjoyable.  After emerging from an hour of floating, I felt energized and alert with all my senses sharpened much more than usual.  The "floatation tank" link above goes to a page with a testimonial I gave about 10 or so years ago.  This wasn't intended.  I was searching for a definition and thought to go to the website of my friends who own and operate the Samadhi Tank Company, and there it was.  When you start invoking John Lilly, Coincidence Control won't be far behind, it seems.

Sam Zeiger, who runs Blue Light Floatation ( still in business from what I understand, located on 23rd St, between 6th and 7th Avenues) where I initially floated, and I quickly became friends.  Sam also introduced me to various consciousness inducing materials released by E.J. Gold and associates.   When Zeiger upgraded from a Samadhi tank to a floatation room, he gave me a great deal on the tank.  I was now able to float everyday before going to work at Platinum Island.  I remember the first time, as an intern, that I was allowed into the Control Room of their smaller studio.  I thought, there's no way I'm ever going to able to learn to run all this gear, it looked so complex and daunting.  Sure, I had finished a year and graduated from the Institute of Audio Research (mostly theory, very little practice) and spent four years before that on the road mixing live sound, but it still seemed way beyond my grasp.  Less than three years later I was setting up a portable recording studio in the hills of Morocco and recording the Master Musicians of Jajouka amongst quite a few other incredible projects.  It wasn't just from fine tuning the nervous system, Coincidence Control certainly helped - meeting Bill Laswell, and even getting hired at Platinum Island which was up and coming when I joined so hadn't solidified their staff.  At more established New York studios you can languish as an intern anywhere from 6 - 18 months because all the assistant spots were filled.  I began assisting after only a 3 month internship.  But I do believe that floating and other consciousness raising practices gave me an edge up and played a factor in Bill's gamble to place me in situations of great responsibility incommensurate with my experience.

In 2003 I was asked to participate on a panel of engineers and producers at the 2nd annual Tape Op Convention in Sacramento.  Tape Op is my favorite recording industry magazine.  It was there that I met Larry Crane, the Editor, and discovered that he grew up in the Grass Valley area where I've been living since 1993.  I was already friends with John Baccigaluppi, publisher Tape Op, from working at his studio in Sacramento, The Hanger.  I don't exactly remember the subject of the panel but do remember talking about the role attention plays in the hearing process.  I gave the example of being at a crowded party and hearing something in the din, like your name, that grabs your attention.  If the people are close enough, you can then tune out the roar of chatter surrounding you and hear their conversation should you wish to do so.  It's selective attention that allows this ability.  I'm not aware if either John or Larry attended that panel, or if they might have heard the recording made of it, but I was recently quite delighted to see a quote about the use of attention in the recording studio in Tape Op.  A few weeks ago, I was working at Mighty Dave Pelliccaro's Lucky Devil Sound in Oakland mixing his band Materialized when, on a listening break,  I flipped open an old Tape Op to a Brain Eno interview conducted by Larry and John and saw this quote from Eno that had been highlighted and pulled out from the main text:

I come to think that attention is the most important thing in a studio situation.  The attention to notice when something new was starting, the attention to pick up on the mood in a room and not be emotionally clumsy, the attention to see what is actually needed before it is actually needed, the attention that arises from staying awake while you're working instead of lazing into autopilot.

 - from Tape Op No. 85

Of course, I would add the attention to detailed and focused listening, and the attention to know when to give your ears a rest.  I try to break at least 5 minutes every hour when mixing. In the old days back in the Neolithic Age when analog abounded, your were guaranteed a couple of minutes away from the music while the tape rewound at the end of the song.  Now, with Loop Playback, you can listen constantly until deciding to stop.  I whimsically conceptualized the "rewind plug-in" which would force you to periodically take short breaks.  Kudos to Eno for realizing the role of attention and kudos to John and Larry for noticing the importance of what he said and bringing it to the forefront.

More on the art of listening when we get back from wherever we are going...