Saturday, August 30, 2014

Material 2014: Bill Laswell and the Master Musicians of Jajouka

Hindus say that Brahman created the Universe out of sound, the primal sound OM.
A primal sound resplendent in multitudinous variety. Concerts can become great cathedrals of sound lifting spirits to the heights.  Music acts as a carrier wave, a direct connect contact point to the infinite eternal in its multitudinous variety, forging new tunnels into alternate dimensions, gateways into realms of choice-points where magick works most effectively ...when fully present with the sound.

"In the ears of the Buddha as he thus sat in brilliant and sparkling craft of intuition, so that light like Transcendental Milk dazzled in the invisible dimness of his closed eyelids was heard the unvarying pure hush of the sighing sea of hearing, seething, receding, as he more or less recalled the consciousness of the sound, though in itself it was always the same steady sound, only his consciousness of it varied and receded ... (Wake Up by Jack Kerouac p. xxv)

A third force arises when two other elements, forces, or currents combine resulting in a unit far more powerful than the sum of the individual parts.  This effect is known as synergy.  When done intentionally it's magick.

Bill Laswell and his band Material - Hamid Drake, Aiyb Dieng, Peter Apfelbaum, and Graham Haynes will join forces with Bachir Attar and the Master Musicians of Jajouka for two unique concert events, September 14th in Turin, Italy and September 16th in Milan.  The Master Musicians meet master musicians.


Sound can act as a painkiller.  It can also act as a timekiller which also eases pain.
To be fully present with the music, right there with the musicians as they use a rhythmic harmonic sound vibration structure to go out of ordinary time and into space.  Waking up fully kills the chattering associative mind and accelerates consciousness.  Sound can wake you up.  The Tibetan Book of the Dead aka The Bardo Thodol  means liberation by hearing.  Liberation kills pain.

As accelerated consciousness approaches the speed of light, time slows down and can even stop as per Einstein's Relativity observations and conclusions.  This temporarily, however long it lasts, slows down and can even stop the brain's time-released aging program.  Waking up = Life Extension as per my current observations and conclusions.  Come listen to a great concert, get taken on an induction voyage out of time and into space and perhaps live longer!  The formula goes: presence with great music waking up (death of brain chatter) longer life.

The Master Musicians have been conjuring Boujeloud, their representation of Pan, for hundreds of years connecting it to a tradition thousands of years old.  Pan = all  therefore cognate with OM  sometimes known as OM the timekiller.  OM the painkiller.

The Master Musicians connect directly with Sufism.  From their website:

It is generally accepted that Jajouka owes the origins of its magical healing music and continued existence to the learned saint Sidi Ahmed Sheikh, who came from Persia around 800 A.D., to spread Islam to northern Morocco. His tomb is both the spiritual and geographic center of the village of Jajouka. ...

(Sidi Ahmed Sheikh) was invited to Jajouka by the Attar family. He was a great lover of music and formed a close bond with the people of the village and never left. In exchange for teaching him their special music, Sidi Ahmed Sheikh taught the musicians his metaphysical techniques of spiritual healing and blessed them with his baraka, which is now transferred to people through the Masters’ music.

Combine that with Material, expand and transfer it to the world and beyond. An ancient musical tradition alchemically blending with musicians creating future traditions who meet in the present.  "Bill Laswell presents..." as the poster with the Moroccan lion says.  Creating a music that's never been heard before, a once in a lifetime.experience.  Unique, like the Grateful Dead playing at the Pyramids in Egypt, though I don't know how that went?

"... the sound neither outside nor within the ear but everywhere the pure sea of hearing, the Transcendental Sound of Nirvana heard by children in cribs and on the moon and in the heart of howling storms, and in which the young Buddha now heard a teaching going on, a ceaseless instruction wise and clear from all the Buddhas of Old that had come before him and all the Buddhas a-Coming. Beneath the distant cricket howl additional noises like the involuntary peep of sleeping dream birds, or scutters of little fieldmice or a vast breeze in the trees disturbed this peace of this Hearing, but the noises were merely accidental, the Hearing received all noises and accidents in its sea but remained as ever undisturbed, truly unpenetrated and neither replenished nor diminished as self-pure as empty space.  Under blazing stars the King of the Law, enveloped in the divine tranquility of this Transcendental Sound of the Diamond Ecstasy, rested moveless. (Wake Up by Jack Kerouac p. xxv-xxvi)

The Attar lineage, now present in Bachir Attar, the leader of the band, shares its name with another Sufi mystic, Farid al-Din Attar who wrote The Conference of the Birds. No direct connection appears known between the two Attar branches yet this profoundly wise Sufi classic nicely complements the Masters' music and vice versa.  The invocation of Pan and the search for the Simorgh in the book have similarities.  Material also has a healthy Sufi influence.  In the case of a concert, the Simorgh, when experienced = the collective unity of the band and audience.

photo by Cherie Nutting

This excellent photo gives a sense of the multidimensional nature of the music.  

Join Bill Laswell, Material, The Master Musicians of Jajouka, myself, and possibly a harmonically induced Angelic choir in Italy for the next major event in the annals of music.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Aleister Crowley - Magick, Rock and Roll, and The Wickedest Man in the World

Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you is just the nature of my game
- Sympathy for the Devil, The Rolling Stones

Aleister Crowley - Magick, Rock and Roll, and The Wickedest Man in the World, by Gary Lachman is the latest bio on ole Beastie to come out.  I was going to pass on it having read every other bio on Big Al I could get my hands on, but then considered there might be a good look at Crowley's immense influence on rock and roll from a qualified source who had played in a band I liked.  The author is the bass player from Blondie.  I'm very glad I changed my mind.  I'm finding this to be the most engimatic of all the Crowley biographies apart from his own autobiography.

Superficially and ostensibly, this book aggressively brands Crowley in the persona I call " the demon Crowley" ie his popular legend of living as a drug addled black magician pursuing Satanism and Evil without regard for anyone but himself and just all around being an egotistic naughty boy.  This is the Crowley most of the public knows, if they've heard of him at all, due to John Symonds publication of The Great Beast in 1952.  Symonds was clearly biased and prejudiced against Crowley, but nonetheless this image caught on, an image that Crowley had helped foster to some extent.  In this new bio, Lachman calls Symonds' book "flawed" but still feels it's the best Crowley bio out there.  Israel Regardie called Symonds, "that most hostile biographer."

AC -MRRTWMW seems the spiritual heir of Symonds' book, but taken to the next level.  It appears by far the most negative biography about Crowley and everything he stood for.  The demon Crowley gets fully evoked in all its dark and dreary counterglory.  Through very clever selective perception, much judgement and amateur psychological evaluation this perspective paints a picture that seems far blacker than Symonds. Damning comments from his diaries seem taken out of context in this case against him.  Eyewitness accounts by anyone who ever had anything bad to say about Crowley get stacked up against him.  The writing, however, goes far beyond the citation and judgement of bad deeds.  It makes irrational associations to give a worse picture as for instance when talking about another writer who put forth that Cagliostro was a charlatan, the writing in this new bio says One of Crowleys former incarnations, Cagliostoro was considered a charlatan, by such and such.  In fact the negative reinforcement gets so strong and continuous that it seems like the pov of this book operates as a program to get the reader to permanently enter an anti-AC mindset or reality tunnel.  It seems like a form of subtle hypnosis or neuro-linguistic programming.  For example, from p. 177:

"Like Crowley, Randolph used drugs as an aid to mystical states; he has been described by the esoteric scholar Christopher Bamford as " in equal parts authentic and a fake" - again like Crowley. Randolph, an unstable character, blew his brains out in 1875 at the age of 45."

Another superstitiously extravagant claim holds that some of the mischief Crowley did with his magick back in 1909 helped to cause the disastrous circumstances at the free Rolling Stones concert held at Altamont.  Richards and Jagger studied AC with Kenneth Anger which had something to do with it the book alleges, though it's left unexplained.  Crowley and his philosophy gets compared with  Charles Manson.  He's called an admirer of Adolf Hitler.  It goes on and on never seeming to miss a moment to get a dig in at Crowley.

In fact it begins to feel slanted to the point of ridiculousness.  The bias looks extremely transparent and some of the statements appear to say much more about the author than about AC, like obvious psychological projection - mirror reflection.  It fact, it seems so obvious that I suspect it' s a dodge, a misdirection to get the reader to consider the author in a particular way.  I suspect that behind this  negative Crowley mask the author wears lies an adept communicating genuine teaching.  I suspect this book to be a trick, a teaching device applying shocks in a particular way with a lot more to it beneath the surface.  It seems like something Crowley might do or someone very advanced in his teaching techniques.  I remain open to all possibilities.
This bio started to look like more than it seems when I noticed the author deliberately discredit the source of one of the quotes that opens the book -  not just once, but twice.  It begins with two quotes, a rational, even one from Crowley and a hysterical one from Vittoria Cremers that reads:

"It was sex that rotted him.  It was sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, all the way with Crowley.  He was a sex maniac."

Lachman tells us later that Crowley accused Cremers of embezzlement making her prejudiced against him.  Then we are told that she held a grudge against AC.  These are the only credentials given for her to make that quote, it doesn't even mention if they were lovers.  So why use a quote with dubious truth and no authority to back it?  Well, for one thing, the two quotes by Crowley and Cremers very nicely anticipate and encapsulate the flavor of the book's subject matter - what opening quotes are intended to do - ONLY in those quotations, Crowley sounds totally rational and gives a completely sane explanation for much of the rest of the book, while the accuser here, Vittoria Cremers gets deliberately discredited by the author.  This seems completely opposite to the atttitude of the rest of the book where Crowley seems to take all the blame.  The book starts with Crowley's quote giving a reasonable defence/explanation why people see the demon Crowley.

Another possible reason for the quote - sex sells!  Every advertiser knows that.  I submit that one hidden agenda of this new biography is attract people to the current of the Great Work as Crowley presented it.  Are young people reading about Crowley for the first time going to see that quote and consider, "oh that bad man, he liked sex too much"  or " hey, sex, let's check this guy out."  A kind of bait.  The author practically tells you that in so many words when he comments favorably on the Symonds bio saying it's the best of the lot despite its flaws, then says quite rightfully that The Great Beast was responsible for keeping Crowley's name alive until it he became more widely known.  The public gets attracted to the sensationalism of the demon Crowley legend, but it also gets into the hands of many people who saw through the author's bias and searched further.  Aleister Crowley - Magick, Rock and Roll, and The Wickedest Man in the World will likely have a similar effect, maybe moreso, now that there's rock and roll to help with the marketing!

The bio started to look  like active magical ammunition, when I began experiencing mildly precognitive coincidences.  For instance, I kept  thinking of the Shakespeare line: "Methinks he doth protest too much"  from the constant put downs when to great amusement I read Lachman suggesting the same quote applies to Israel Regardie's so-called protestations of AC's innocence in The Eye in the Triangle then writing: "... and is therefore suspect; at the end of it, Regardie himself admits that it is with real relief that he can unburden himself of the task of exonerating Crowley." The Eye in the Triangle seems pretty balanced with the pros and cons of Crowley.  One wonders if Lachman anticipates real relief from the burden of implicating Crowley?  If he was referring to himself?  This bio does end graciously toward Crowley on a positive note, in my opinion.  It could get read as sarcastic, but I suspect it's genuine maybe because I also agree.  Toward the end I wondered if there would be mention of AC's second most popular saying: "Love is the law, love under will" and discovered it a few pages later with the only explanation that Crowley ended all his correspondence with it.  It gets mentioned again a few pages after that as if the author wants to be sure the reader sees it, but again with little explanation.

Next, I happened to look closely at the front cover which depicts Crowley in magical regalia making horns with his thumbs in front of his ears in the posture called Vir which represents the Hierophant.  The book's title and author's name is printed in a white band across AC's forearms.  A graphic of a dark gold sunburst resides in the center behind the "I" and "S" of Aleister and the "W" of Crowley.  The letters inside the sunburst read IS W.  W = vau = the Hierophant.  Looking at this sun placed over AC's chest made me suddenly realize for the first time that he was making himself into a rough form of the Tree of Life in this photo.  I now saw it as a powerful magical statement.  His upright forearms indicate the twin pillars of Mercy and Severity, his hands and thumbs = Chesed and Geburah, the radiant triangle on his hat = the Supernal Triad, and his eyes and forehead are positioned perfectly to suggest Daath and the Abyss.  Crowley's name in large letters expands out from the Tiphareth region, the subtitle covers Hod (Magick), Netzach ( Rock and Roll) and Yesod ( the Wickedest Man in the World, the foundation of this book).  The author's name. Gary Lachman, appears appropriately in the position of Malkuth, the material world which this book seems mostly to dwell in as you would expect.  I find it interesting that Crowley gets belittled frequently about his physical condition, and the narrative often talks about how he's battling disease or drugs when not engaging in degenerate sex or ruining people's lives yet they use one of his strongest looking photos for the front cover.  He's looking his best.

The sunburst on the cover recalls another Crowley book which has always had a radiant sun graphic on its cover, The Book of Lies.  Perhaps this bio identifies itself as another book of lies, another series of koan type puzzles with great truth underneath?

A qabalist gets trained to see multiple points of view.  Part of that training involves learning to read things backwards or in mirror image; to consider the opposite pov of any communication.  This has a basis in Taoism, a philosophy Crowley was fond of, with the notion that every thing contains the seed of its opposite.  This is shown in the well-known yin/yang symbol.  In Sympathy for the Devil, arguably The Rolling Stones most Crowleyesque song, they sing of this identity of opposites in the bridge : 

Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners Saints ...

A qabalist might apply this same logic to the title and hear it in a whole new way.

Some of the interpretations the writer draws from Crowley's work seems exactly opposite from common understanding by people who have tasted the pudding.  For instance, stating that to 'do what you want' as the highest aim of AC's magical system.  On p. 58 he writes: 

"... Crowley would espouse a philosophy expressing this antinomian rejection of opposites." 

This sentence itself seems opposite to Crowley's espousement in that he accepted opposites, or maybe we're just talking semantics, however the next sentence in the book looks very interesting.  It appears the author instantly reverses himself with the opposite attitude.
Almost all skepticism in this bio seems unbalanced against Crowley, and the author usually sounds very sure of himself.  He speaks as if with a voice of authority.  Yet in a paragraph on p. 341 that begins by talking about the inspiration behind The Matrix,  a movie about an illusionary, programmed surface reality, he writes:

 "Today we all live with a sense of reality not being quite what it seems.  Rightly or wrongly we have - at least in the West - grown suspicious of every authority; to borrow a phrase from the philosopher Paul Ricour, we live under the "hermeneutics of suspicion" and the once firm fitting for our beliefs is now little more than thin ice.  This sense of ontological disorientation has reached contemporary pop."

Like Timothy Leary, one of Crowley's successors, the author suggests that his own authority be questioned or at least approached with skepticism.  Again, this seems completely in accordance with Crowley's training of rigorous, but balanced skepticism.

Perhaps this bio appeared with the intention to stimulate a 'sense of ontological disorientation' amongst Crowley true believers or people who regard him as a hell of a holy guru?  Actually, that one person could be so black and horrible yet so profoundly influence a cultural movement based on peace, love and understanding seems another kind of ontological disorientation. 

AC - MRRTWMW will also serve as a filter.  People who unquestioningly believe this account will likely not pursue the subject any further.  I see it as kind of a preliminary test to see if one can get past the mask of the demon Crowley.

Teacher's of Crowley's caliber will deliberately create obstacles for their students to overcome at certain points in the training.  This biography could be serving that purpose by putting the reader in confront with the demon Crowley.  As well as functioning to keep Aleister's name, then his work in the public eye through the vehicle of John Symonds, the demon Crowley also seems the first Guardian of the Temple.  It helps to have a sense of humor.

If AC - MRRTWMW did get written by a student or graduate of Crowley's, then it seems a sheer act of courageous love to slosh through all the pain and misery of constructing the demon Crowley image, faux as it may be, for the benefit of current and future travelers.  It reminds me of an esoteric interpretation by Gurdjieff regarding Judas' betrayal of Christ.

Some more curious things in a bio that seems to have Paint It Black playing in the background for most of it:

1. We are told about Crowley's identification with Christ in his oath for the assumption of his Holy Guardian Angel, the pinnacle of his True Will.  The writer then, very disingenuosuly for a prolific writer and researcher of esoteric subjects, mistakenly confuses Christ with Christianity by way of misdirection/explanation.

2. The author has no problem passing judgement and giving strange moralistic interpretations on statements from The Book of the Law, but says on p. 118 that it requires

"...a knowledge and expertise of Kabbalah and other arcane hermeneutic disciplines most of us do not possess or have the time inclination or inclination to acquire."

Again, it seems the author shows us a rationale for rejecting other statements and conclusions made in the book.  He gives valuable direction on what's needed to fully understand Crowley and The Book of the Law, ie qabalah, while letting us infer that his arguments don't necessarily have that same background.  Yet the front cover depicts a subtle Tree of Life?

3.  This seems only pure coincidence, but some may find it curious - the phrase, " But this was the aim of his entire magical system..."  occur on p. 36.  Chapter 36 from The Book of Lies has The Star Sapphire ritual which definitely speaks to "the aim of his entire magical system."

I recommend anyone interested in Crowley to read  Aleister Crowley - Magick, Rock and Roll, and The Wickedest Man in the World while monitoring their own reactions to some of the more outrageous and salacious commentary.  At times the author shows adeptness at stepping on corns ala Gurdjieff.

Since I like rock and roll even more than Crowley  I will end with Led Zeppelin's  response and commentary, Trampled Underfoot, that I divined earlier today.  It's a longish version but it does nicely illustrate a theurgic invocation via rock and roll especially right at the end of the song.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Massacre - Killing Time In Lisbon!

photo by Márcia Lessa. Caption supplied by Bill Laswell and Yoko Yamabe

Rising out of the ground behind the stage in a lush, verdant, natural forest setting the three musicians that make up Massacre step onto the crisply lit stage, same shade green as the photo, and take up their instruments very casually, understating, and in stark.contrast to the upcoming  musical excursion.  Here to go and kill some time.  We, the mixing board, my Kosmos subharmonizer, and I, - are eleven rows back and elevated in an outdoor stone ampitheater that sounds almost as good as the ancient Roman ampitheaters it was designed after.  Seated in front of me in row ten is Fred and Charles' wives Heika and Lesley lending moral, magical, and mystical support in subtle electrical ways that only women know about.  After the initial applause, a soft silence descends upon the 360 or so passengers that have signed up for this trip.

The concert is part of the Jazz em Agosto 2014 festival sponsored by Gulbenkian Musica.  The mission statement of their Foundation is:

We are an international charitable foundation with cultural, educational, social and scientific interests, based in Lisbon with offices in London and Paris. The purpose of the is to bring about long-term improvements in well-being, particularly for the most vulnerable, by creating connections across boundaries (national borders, communities, disciplines and sectors) which deliver social , cultural and environmental value. 

They got started from a huge amount of money willed to them by Calouste Gulbenkian, an Armenian who made his money with oil.  This garden ampitheater is just one part of a huge complex that also includes  an "auditorium, an exhibition space, a congress area with auditoriums and other rooms as well as a large building that houses the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum and the art library. The entire complex is set in Gulbenkian Park, which was designed by Ribeiro Telles. In 1983, the Modern Art Centre, consisting of a museum and an education centre, was opened at one end of the park. The Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (a science institute) is situated inside a multi-building complex in Oeiras (outskirts of Lisbon), near the palace of the Marquis of Pombal."

They may call it Gulbenkian Park, but I called it Horus Park not knowing it's official name.  Walking with Fred and the band MMM the night before to a fresh seafood restaurant we passed by the front of the park which had a statue of a man seated in a chair in front of a huge, upright hawk, the totem of the Egyptian god Horus said to represent the energies of this new era, the limitless potential of the expanded being.   I asked the festival Promoter about the statue, he said they based it on a photo taken of Gulbenkian in Egypt confirming it as a symbol of Horus.  That got me looking into their Foundation more.  I found out that they also sponsored an Orchestra, a major one in Portugal. 

,,, improvements in well-being, particularly for the most vulnerable, by creating connections across boundaries  

Large amounts of money, time and peoplepower invested in making possible all kinds of cutting edge progressive music from around the planet. A permanent Orchestra, or as Sun Ra calls it, an Arkestra. More on this later.

 Horus also kills time:

"Behold! I am Yesterday, To-day, and Tomorrow!
I am born again and again
I travel upon high!
I tread upon the firmament of Nu"

 - The Great Invocation from Magick p. 673

 in lines likely borrowed from The Papyrus of Ani, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, an old bardo guide book. To kill time by transcending local conditioning/brainwashing of all experience measured by the clock.  Kill the monkey mind and time goes with it.  Kill time and there goes the monkey mind.  No time in the bardo.  To see a Massacre show means to face certain death ... if only temporarily forever, death to clock tempo, death to the mind.  Something else takes its place. 

Killing time also means it's common expression, just killing time, something to do while waiting for the next thing to come along, maybe the Apocalypse, the total collapse of civilization which for the moment seems to be collapsing just fine in Israel, Palestine, Syria, Ukraine, Russia, Nigeria, Mali, Afghanistan, Pakistan with the United States barely holding on.  Perhaps I don't expect civilized people to kill each other and engage in continued violence.    CNN reports that the "most vulnerable" currently ( at the time of the show) seem to be the Palestinians and the Yezidi, an ancient magic based culture that inspired both Gurdjieff and Crowley.  Maybe we won't have long to wait?

Buckminster Fuller wrote a book in 1969 called Utopia or Oblivion which basically says that the inhabitants of this planet have to get their act together or face self-destruction, and that they could get their act together so successfully that it would seem like Utopia compared to how it is now.  He makes several good suggestions.  It doesn't look good, the locals can't even figure out how to keep that book in print.

The music is about to start, right on time, 9:30pm local time, 21:30 as they say here.  The audience sees three anonymous figures coming up from the ground, no building around, just stairs emerging from subterranean depths.  The green room is underground.  No wall or backdrop on the back of the amplifiedtheater stage to block the view of the musicians approaching.  Applause, then expectant, pregnant hush.  The music starts, rises vertically more like a stellar vehicle lift-off than a plane ramping up speed on a runway to begin the voyage.  Escape velocity seems to occur almost right away.  The sound is good, dynamically weaving reaching a peak massacre in not much time.  Zero to infinity in the flash of an eye.  I have to turn up the drums to meet the  loud stage volume (LSV, as we professionals call it), fortunately, the drums sound much better turned up - clear, articulate punchy and tight, a cohesive pillar of rhythm, sound, and motion against the bass and guitar's harmonic/noise excursions into Space via chordal, rhythmic dialogues in sound wash tapestries of processing effects, tempo accelerated loops, delays, chorai, harmonic pedals with angelic asian choruses, envelope filters, backwards time modulators, fuzztones, etc. etc, etc.  Worlds created and destroyed while you listen.   Space, Sun Ra quite fervently and cosmelodically wants us to know, is the place.

So far, the decibel watchdogs are leaving me alone.  Issues  and calm but strong words exchanged regarding the subject of volume at soundcheck. Like meter maids of the future, which is now in Lisbon, the decibel cops have SPL and Real Time Spectrum Analyzer apps for their Apple Tablets.  I was clocking in peaks at 103 -104 dB SPL at soundcheck.  The laws in Portugal mandate a maximum of 96 dB SPL so thy said.   I told them I would try to keep it from going over 96.  To me, it was louder in concert.  I did turn up the bass and drums a fair amount, and the guitar when it played quiet and fast.  The Promoter stood to the right of the sound desk for the whole show, absorbed in the music, obviously enjoying it.  He didn't say a word to me about the volume but let me know he was having a good time.   At one point, Joao Paulo Nogueira, the house sound system tech who helped and watched over me, he with the enforcer Apple Tablet app, got up from where he sat beside me, and pointing to the output meters frantically exclaimed, "It's not possible, it's not possible" about four times with little breaks in between.  The meters appeared perfectly fine to me, the sound was clear and clean; by his admission we were doing the impossible.  I put my hand on the master fader but didn't move it, the music moved on as it does, it's very dynamic, maybe the music naturally got a little quieter? The extreme Massacre volume moments don't last all that long unless you're completely involved, time has been killed and you've entered a moment of eternity.  Maybe that's what Joao meant when he said "it's not possible" repeatedly.  He seemed satisfied, sat down and didn't say anything for the rest of the concert. He had been extremely helpful getting me set up with the digital mixing board.

Bass pedals, guitar pedals sometimes used like Burroughs cut-up text, sonically jaunting into a different dimension at the flick of a switch. Jaunting- a futuristic, Horus-like, mode of travel from Alfred Bester's, The Stars, My Destination sf classic where one can teleport vast intergalactic distances instantaneously through visualization ... or changing pedals in this case.  I was adding in big Hall reverbs and killing time delays.  Bill has a pedal with the sound of an Arkestra.

Earlier in the Hotel Acores lobby (named after the volcanic Azores Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean) Bill gave me a treasure trove of new music that includes 8 discs of rare Sun Ra recordings, studio and live from the '50's and '60's which I've been playing whenever possible.  For me, that's like hitting the jackpot!  Sun Ra changed my life when I saw him perform with over a hundred musicians and dancers in a small East Village cabaret in 1982.  I was visiting New York and had never heard of him before, but liked the name.  Besides the music being very loud and powerful, most powerful jazz I'd heard up to that point, it was the first time I'd seen someone doing the whole schmuru/School/teacher trip in the context of a Big Band.  Also, to me, it appeared obvious that he was whipping up and using the energy of the music for some other, far flung magickal motive, I don't know what.  I suspected he was sending the energy somewhere, but who knows?  It did give me ideas.  The music and theater Sun Ra choreographed and created made the event a powerful magick ritual and I felt initiated afterwards.  The cds Bill gave me seem like postcards from an old friend.  I was delighted to read a note regarding Rocket Number Nine Blast Off for the Planet Venus: "covered by NRBQ, this 1966 version was picked by Ra-fan Bob Dylan as his favorite Sun Ra tune, and included it on the third volume of CD compilations from Dylan's radio show "Theme Time Radio Hour."

Much High Definition blood on CNN at this time on this day. Breaking News .... Lots of Palestinian blood. Thousands of Yezidi fleeing up a mountain. Breaking News ... the US bombing again in North Iraq fighting against their own weaponry and they're all just killing time in very boring, repetitive and painful ways. ,,, improvements in well-being, particularly for the most vulnerable, by creating connections across boundaries ... hands across the water, water, heads across the sky; sound can act as painkiller; music can act as a time killer to resurrect another day.

 Soundcheck:  learning exactly what buttons to press to program this Yamaha digital desk.  No outboard except my Kosmos, everything loaded into the Yamaha - dynamics (noise gate and compression) on every channel which sound good and help.  All the effects are also on outboard, they sound non-descript, a little wooly but they do something.  Serious lack of power in the low end is my first impression.  The sound is tight and clear, but lacking punch.  Thankfully, Joao sees what I'm trying to do with the system and has the excellent idea to move the sub woofer cabinets together to create a coupling effect.  There were four cabinets spread out which got moved to two cabinets coupled together on each side of the stage.  After all, the dude brought a subharmonizer halfway across the world, let's give him his money's worth, I hear him thinking.  This changed everything and solved the problem giving me good low frequency response that you could feel.

Second day back home transferring the concert recording this music seems like the most progressive I've ever heard.  After hearing one piece that started slow and kind of funky, starts and stops (around 20: in) then went to a jazz ride cymbal rhythm, a spontaneous subconscious message swam up from below saying that this is the one of the most important documents of music to come out in the last 30 years.  I don't know where I got that number from; this music sounds way far ahead of anything else.  Some of it reminded me of post post Bitches Brew  - where that music could have gone if they had kept going in that direction.  Even that can't adequately describe it.

Statue of a man sitting perfectly still in a chair in front of a giant Horus hawk looks like a Guardian to the entrance of Gulbenkian Park where we are playing.  Charles Hayward seated on his drum throne in constant, driving motion measuring time at the drum kit in front of the entire Universe represented by a pastoral forest glade.  Charles gave a brief post mortem:

almost seems to be something happening beyond the telepathy, like a sort of strobing between sounds, constant interlocking, but with shapes to help the listener make sense. Don't know about you but I know where I am in the structure at the same time as being lost in the waves and pulses.

Fighting slows down in Gaza the day after Massacre plays.  A 3 day truce gets signed a day after that which is still holding.  I guess that situation rings closer to home from just having worked in Israel.  The contact still feels strong.  I remember my friend, Mustapha, and wonder how he's doing?

The environment helps shape the music. Always seem to have amazing shows in Lisbon. My favorite Painkiller show was here years ago in an airplane hanger when all the theaters were dark from a strike. Now, the beautifully landscaped glens and gardens and balmy Mediterranean air evokes for me the naturalist poetry of Walt Whitman to describe the Massacre concert:

I have heard what the talkers were talking ... the talk of the 
               beginning and the end, 
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

There is never more any inception than there is now, 
Nor any more youth or age than there is now; 
And never will be any more perfection than there is now, 
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now. 

Urge and urge and urge, 
Always the procreant urge of the world. 

Out of the dimness opposite equals advance ... Always substance
                 and increase, 

Always a knit of identity ... always distinction ... always a breed of life. 
To elaborate is no avail ... Learned and unlearned feel that it is so. 

Sure as the most certain sure ... plumb in the uprights, well 
                 entretied, braced in the beams,
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical, 
I and this mystery here we stand. 

Clear and sweet is my soul ... and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul. 

Lack one lacks both ... and the unseen is proved by the seen, Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn. 

- Leaves of Grass

One  theme of  Jazz Em Agosto 2014 was guitar players.  They presented concerts by James "Blood" Ulmer with Vernon Reid, Marc Ribot and two trios and a quartet with Fred Frith.  Now, a qabalist might look at the genre "Guitarist" or the word "Guitar" and decide that this discipline could correspond with the path called Gimel which connects Tiphareth with Kether on the Tree of Life.  Gimel, which translates as "camel", travels across a barren desert called the Abyss, known to be difficult, chaotic, and treacherous.  Especially so those guitarists who used the instrument experimentally to explore different spaces with sound like Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Robert Fripp, Townshend, or Fred. It can be seen as an elaborate metaphor for exploring the Unknown, breaking new ground.  Guitar playing guided tours across the sandstorm, dry, dusty desert of the dark night.  The whole principle of creative excursions into the Abyss gets an explanation in Chapter 42 from The Book of Lies.

Returning from the soundcheck Bill gives each of us blue envelopes that contain mastered cd copies of last year's second Massacre concert in Tokyo.  Blueprints for the future of music ... one future of music, one that goes out beyond planetary considerations and suggests new modes of space travel.  Aural documentation of jaunts to different worlds.  Time also dies in Tokyo, goes off the grid.  I wrote about that show here.  Charles wrote:

The Tokyo gig CD Bill gave me is on the player all the time, it seems to just move into the next arena like shifting gear/tape splice/ hairpin bend. Total excitement, strangely emotional. Tunes stuck in my head. Sounds great. 

8:30pm August 8, The day before the Massacre concert I go down to the lobby to meet Pedro for a ride to the venue. I'd already been there a couple of hours before to get a lay of the land.  I meet Fred and Heika for the first time in Lisbon and ride over with them catching up.  Fred will perform with the  M.M.M.Quartet: Joelle Leandre- double Bass and voice, Urs Leimgruber - tenor and soprano sax, Alvin Curran - piano, keys and samples.

I had arrived in Lisbon that morning coming from Grass Valley, Sacramento, LA, and Philadelphia.  Got to rest for a few hours so was in a pleasant, slightly nonlinear jet lag space.  Waiting for the show, Heika turned into a Friendly Bardo Guide and told me about an exercise called "Morning Pages" from a book called The Artist's Way.  This involves writing 3 pages of stream of consciouness, no matter what, as a way to create the habit of writing.

I've never heard anything like M.M.M. before, futuristic, post modern, post present, past pluperfect, as non-linear as Finnegans Wake except with instruments making sounds not word flow sound generation.  It's so far out that I wonder how music like this is allowed to be performed, but grateful for it ... there is still hope.  A plane flies over at the start of the 2nd piece fitting right in to the soundscape. Reading nearly an entire biography on Madame Blavatsky on the flights over has my head swimming with thoughts about the music of the Hidden Masters sounding like M.M.M., and later a 4th M - Massacre.  The music reminded me of dreams I've had where a lot of information has been downloaded to me, but I only understand a little of it.  Same feeling the first and second times reading Finnegans Wake (hasn't been a third time yet). Heika points out a tree she likes swaying in the wind on a hill behind the audience. Through her eyes I can see its personality, its dryad spirit dancing with life.

I am amazed by the way M.M.M. improvises that the music always stays in the same key.  Usually music as "free" as this has moments of dissonance and atonality, but I don't hear any of that.  I remark about this to Fred afterwards as we walk to the restaurant and without hesitation he says, " I'm a rock musician, I play changes, it's my job to establish a key."  I look to the right and see a statue of a man seated hierophantically in a chair like Abraham Lincoln without the beard.  Behind him stands a giant bird statue; the head gives it away as a hawk.  I wonder if this relates to Egyptian mythology?

In the restaurant there is some speculation from the band about what M.M.M. could stand for.  I forgot the one that sounded most logical, but there was a consensus that M.M.M. didn't stand for anything in particular.  That night I read  that Aleister Crowley named his first O.T.O. order with the initials M.M.M. which stood for Mysteria Mystical Maxima.  Back home the shirt I randomly choose to wear the next day is from a John Zorn/Bill Laswell O.T.O. event called Musica Mystica Maxima.

Post Massacre: talking a bit with Fred about his days going on long walks and talks with Brian Eno in  London.  Eno still is a big inspiration for me and has been almost from the start.  I discovered in his biography, On Some Faraway Beach by David Sheppard that Fred had done a lot of work on Before and After Science.  Fred said that Eno was always someone you wanted to talk to because he always had interesting ideas on all kinds of things.  I mentioned the rumor that Eno experimented with altering the tape chemically.  Fred said that he and other collaborators had tried physically altering tape in a variety of ways including burying it underground once for 3 days.  He said it's amazing how resilient the tape was, it never changed appreciably.

Last instruction from Heika while saying goodbye - "Do the morning pages exercise, ritualize it."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Concert in Volubilis

The jewel in the crown of Morocco's Roman ruins is certainly Volubilis, located at the foot of the Atlas mountains in a sweeping valley filled with olive and almond trees.

This city of 20,000 was the westernmost extremity of an empire that once stretched to the gates of Persia. The sprawling floor plans of its buildings and brilliant floor mosaics suggest great wealth.
The site is dominated by the remains of the grand public buildings around the forum, with the impressive arches of the Basilica courthouse arrayed in front of pillars of the temple to the god Jupiter – now topped by bushy stork nests. 

Every old ruin in Morocco appears to host its own of population of the large black and white birds, which soar over the sites or preen in their nests as tourists snap away with cameras.

When they start clacking their beaks in chorus, it sends an eerie chattering noise across the ancient stones.

- Rebecca Dolan, The Huntington Post

December 20, 2013
Volubilis, Morocco

A powerful place and location still reverberating across time from when it was an Administrative Center for the Roman Empire. The appellation Volubilis has at least 3 meanings:

 1. turning, spinning, whirling, rolling, revolving - like the inside of an atom.
2.  rapid, fluent, voluble
3. changeable, mutable

Breakfast with Bill in the large, hushed dining area.  Mostly empty, all the tables covered with white tablecloths, crystal glassware and gleaming utensils making it a little unnaturally bright reflecting the sunlight pouring in through the tall windows.  Outside, the air looks very clean and clear, the sky incredibly blue. You can see the ruins down the mountain a mile and a half away.

 I don't notice at first, but then see Bill wearing a fine-art Aleister Crowley shirt under a vest - the famous image of a robed Crowley wearing an illuminated eye in the triangle hat making horns with his thumbs at the side of his head in a posture called Vir.  In the Star Ruby operation this posture symbolizes the Hierophant who functions to communicate the secrets of the Temple.  The advice when going into this posture says to take an attitude of Pan, Bacchus etc.  Seems appropriate since later in this rapidly fluent mutable Volubilis day Bill will be introduced by none other than Boujeloud, an incarnation of Pan himself,  for an historic performance with The Master Musicians of Jajouka.  It will be the first time they ever play together publicly.  Before that happened, yours truly went through much spinning, whirling, rolling, revolving and getting turned right around by events to be told - so much so that it seems, once again, entirely miraculous we got a decent recording.

First order of business was to scout the location - go there, look around, decide what you're going to do, how you're going to shoot the scenes at this location, etc.  I went along to scope out the recording parameters and to record some location ambience.  When we got to the ruins I remembered hearing this was where Scorcese shot The Last Temptation of Christ.  As we're walking through the ruins I ask Adil, who had been an AD on that film, if this was true?  He said, "Yes, that's where Jesus spoke."  He points to a spot we're now passing by.  Just happened to be right there when the question got asked.  I stopped and recorded five minutes of ambience at this historically resonant spot while the party moved ahead.  A little earlier, a local guide, perhaps an official connected to the site, told us of a floor mosaic dedicated to Orpheus, the Roman God of Music.  Recorded five minutes of ambience there, as well.  Boujeloud, a reincarnation of Pan would have a prominent role in tonight's concert.  Later, I considered how nice it was that Christians and Pagans could play in the same sandbox albeit at different times.  Time was created so that everything doesn't happen at once according to a line from E.J. Gold's play, Creation Story Verbatim.

After lunch, two laborers and I hauled the recording equipment about a quarter mile down a muddy gulley, across a small stream, and up a hill on the other side to the ruins.  David, (Art Director) went over the musician's staging with me for the concert tonight.  The large front area had two rows of six pedestals facing each other.  The plan was to have each Jajoukan musician play standing on a pedestal.  There were 10 musicians.  I began setting up and micing them accordingly.  While setting up I considered how windy it was, it had been like that all day.  Wind plays havock with sound at a certain point even with sufficient windscreens on the microphones.  I recalled an experiment Aleister Crowley had made to divert a storm that would ruin his cousin's crop while staying with him in Florida.  The storm successfully dissipated before causing harm.  In that spirit, I set an intention for the wind to die down, not really expecting it to work, but knowing that it couldn't hurt.  Coincidentally, a half hour later the wind did noticeably die down and stayed that way more or less until late in the night when we were back at the hotel.

About halfway through the set up, I got a call to go to the front gate of this location where Jay and crew were preparing to film an interview with Bachir Attar and his brother in the back of a car while driving.  I hurried over leaving the locals to guard the equipment.  All the production trucks were there by the front gate.  The small baby monkey I'd seen earlier while getting the audio gear was still running around being mischievous and providing comic relief for the crew.  Someone said it had been abandoned.  When seated in the backseat of the car wiring it up, the monkey quickly jumped in without warning, perched on top of the seat in front of me, and gave me an intense look.  It was a small car so the monkey was quite close.  Looking into its eyes, I could see that it had its own deep intelligence, visibly more than many people I've seen.

The car interview recording was a fast paced, high stress guerilla theater operation approached with the same kind of intensity as a life or death situation.   To my relief, the recording worked out, I'm still here to tell the tale.  This proceeded until dusk whereupon I rushed back to the concert site to finish setting up. 

Got everything connected  then discovered that the electrical feed I'd been given had been turned off,  I needed electricity to set up the Pro Tools session and check the mics.  The electricians were being slow about it, I don't know why, there may have been a problem.  I yelled at everyone or no one an  instant demand for electrical juice.  Time waits for no one especially the Audio Department on a film shoot.  I was running around the stage making sure the mics and cabling were all good to go.  The control room area was in a separate room off the main courtyard staging area.  Walking around doing several tasks, I checked in  the control room  and caught an electrician with the male end of the 110v AC strip that all the American gear was plugged into trying to connect it directly into my 220v power supply bypassing the step-down transformer.  He could have succeeded, that strip accommodated both European and American plugs, and if he did, it would have instantly and permanently fried all our audio gear including some of the mics.  Fortunately, I stopped him in time.

Amidst all the chaos I was introduced to Mustapha, a young rising film-maker flown in to be my assistant.  The Audio Department doubled in size! It had taken Mustapha 26 hours to get here from Palestine where he lived.  From the distance involved one would think it would only be a 3 or 4 hour flight and maybe a few hours more to drive to Volubilis from the airport.  Palestine, of course, has severe restrictions even without active warfare because the backwards humans of Planet Earth don't know how to tolerate and get along with each other.  That area in their feeling apparatus called 'empathy for all life' seems atrophied, dormant or undeveloped.  To get to Morocco, Mustapha first had to travel to Jordan then fly out of there.  I had an immediate good first impression of him and gave him some tasks to do.

We are nearly ready to go when David informs me that they have a rule forbidding standing on the pedestals making it necessary to change the concert staging which means half my mics are now out of range.  I dash out to move them to a better position, not as easy as it sounds as I'm always having to take into account their invisibility to the camera.  By now my body and brain are running beyond maximum racing to get everything ready in time.  This is sometimes called a 'wind-up' in bardo lingo when things start speeding up.  I also hadn't eaten anything for 7 hours.  Sandwiches were passed around about 15 minutes before shooting.  I stuffed a couple of bites into the ole gullet while bouncing around the set like an atom on course in a particle accelerator.  The taste of garlic - kryptonite to me - came through (food allergy), but I took a couple more bites anyway.  I knew the energy coming from whatever biochemical cocktail I was on - adrenaline, necessity, the usual anxiety and nervousness before trying to pull off an Earth shaking event that's never happened before, etc. - would make insignificant any adverse effects from whatever garlic may have been in whatever food.

In addition to the regular close and ambient mics for the Master Musicians, we set up a Direct Input for the bass guitar and miced his speaker cabinet with a 421.  They found Bill a small Marshall combo amp and a 12" speaker with sufficient tone to make it sound like a bass; enough power to get him loud and clean enough to match the thundering drums and loud reeds of Jajouka.  The first DI I checked ( an active Countryman) had a loud ground buzz and distorted on peaks.  Fortunately, the spare worked just fine.

 In the midst of the getting the bass signal the musicians starting rehearsing.  I sent Mustapha out to record with the Tascam 2 track.  About 10 minutes later Jay directed me to wire up Adil now adorned in the goatskin of Boujeloud.  He said they were going to shoot something with Boujeloud.  In my mind that meant they were doing a scene with him before the concert, but nothing was specifically said.  I got Adil to put the Tascam in his back pocket, clipped on a lavalier and put the machine into record after getting him to do a few test howls and screams for level.  Hurried back to what I was doing getting all the mics to work.  I was working on fixing one last mic signal path when I heard Adil's voice form the far side of the lot call out the prerequisites to shooting a scene which included "ROLL SOUND."  I thought, sound is rolling, I had put the Tascam in record, and that they were shooting a scene with Boujeloud prior to the concert.   No one from the Production asked me if I was ready though they had every time before.  I had no sight line to the stage when situated at the recording control spot.  Hearing the Master Musicians play broke my concentration from solving the last problem.  I realized they had started the concert and the multitrack audio was not rolling so quickly flipped it into record then told Jay about the delay - he was at the visual monitors right beside the audio. 

On some evening, for instance, when the unsophisticated tourist has retired from our economic nightmares, a master's hand makes the harpsichord of the fields come alive, they're playing cards at the bottom of a pool, a mirror which brings to mind a few queens and call-girls; they've got saints, veils, threads of harmony, and legendary irridescence out there in the sunset.

- Arthur Rimbaud, Illuminations

The Earth did shake that night for me, and for everyone else it seems.  Jay seemed ecstatic afterwards and told me how he would fix the issue at the beginning.  The concert started with the 10 Master Musicians, 5 on drums, 5 playing rhaitas, led by Bachir Attar the spiritual and familial heir of this ancient, psychedelic sufi music.  The floor mosiac to Orpheus began to glow as the music, acoustically amplified by the stone ruins, echoed and bounced off the hills filling the valley with sound.  After about 20 minutes they stopped playing.  Boujeloud made an appearance to introduce Bill Laswell.  Everything was rolling, this was it.  The first thing I noticed  monitoring with headphones, and was pleasantly surprised by, was that Bill had his characteristic heavy, thick, low bass sound.  It seemed like physics was being defied or else Orpheus provided some unseen processing.  He was playing a cheap Fender imitation bass through a rehearsal size guitar amp combo without any pedals.  I had no sweet eq or compression to record with, just straight through the Presonus mic pre into the convertors.  Yet it sounded as heavy as Dazed and Confused.  Later, when making a rough mix, I realized that the rich bass tone was due to the amp sound leaking into the ambient live mics.  The Romans simply knew how make buildings sound incredible, that used the reflective properties of stone, size, shape and overall architecture to amplify the sound in a clear, even, acoustically pleasant way with punchy, tight low end.  That's been my experience every time mixing in a Roman ampitheater - an apt name as the whole stage gets acoustically amplified.  They probably picked up the technology from the Greeks or Egyptians somewhere down the line or maybe it all came from Vitruvius, I don't know.  Now it seemed to have the same excellent sound reflection qualities even in the ruins. 

Everything, all the musical instrument sound generation was acoustic, non-electrified, except for the bass amp.  The mix of the bass with Jajouka sounded exactly right just naturally in the space.  The musicians balanced themselves  It sounded loud, powerful and clear.  Exploratory.  If I was poetic, I would say it felt like the music reached across space and time. Crossing universes and parallel worlds.  Though it marked the first time for this configuration, it seemed like it had happened before or that it was always meant to be.  Music of the ages ... nice to hear it again for the first time ever.

Someone had made a 5 foot high bonfire in the center of the square in front of the band that blazed while the music played.  They won't let you stand on  3 foot pedestals but building a huge fire in the middle of a monument is totally ok in Morocco.  I'm sure Boujeloud was in effect, getting his fertile, creative, panoramic energy amplified and broadcast out by the Roman stones and the revolving, cycling, spiralling music.  I tell ya,that's one God with a great soundtrack!  I didn't get to watch, being on the job and all; I'll have to wait until the movie comes out!  For me, there was a palpable glow on the set afterwards that something profoundly different had occurred, such that you can hardly believe we pulled it off.

Concert afterimage silencing my nervous system, still in engineer mode; language turned off, hyperaware; reverberations still rumbling inside ...  like what just happened??  Something opened up, some kind of spatial shift. New tracks into the Unknown, cracking open the door -  to be continued... soon, with upcoming concerts in Italy this September.  More on that, later.

Breaking the set and packing up once again started out at the speed of a military drill getting out of unknown territory after a brief incursion there.  A lot of local laborors on hand hauling all the cases away as soon as they were packed.  Seloua and Mustapha were helping collect mics and wrap cables.  A location manager told me two or three times to make sure to check that all the audio cases make it back into the truck.  I dropped my guard and made the mistake of letting them take my personal duffel bag that contained the hard drives with all the music files.  When Seloua and I got to the truck, there were no audio cases there?!  I started to get anxious, with no gear in sight, including all the music, and no clue as to when it might arrive.  It was now about 10 pm, the rest of the production crew was long gone.  I hadn't eaten since noon.  Ripe for the tweaking.  A small white pick-up truck pulled up with lighting equipment, but no audio.  These guys were obviously in no hurry.  Seloua tried to keep me calm and on Earth, but it still shook for me, especially now that the whereabouts of the hard drives was temporarily unknown to me.  There was a courtesy van there to take us back to the hotel, but I wouldn't leave without my bag.  I asked them to wait, Seloua said they would, while I hiked back to get the bag.  It took a minute to locate, everything had been moved to another staging area.  I was nearly back at the gate,  about 100 meters away from the van, when it started to drive away.  I yelled and unsuccessfully tried to chase it while at the same time getting a distinct feeling of being in a Keystone Kops film short.  With the laptop in my backpack and the hard drives in my duffel, I started hiking up the mile and a half to the hotel, pissed off at being left behind,  but happy that I had the files and a direction to go in.  To great joy, the van returned shortly and rescued me from being abandoned in the night, though I was still pissed when I got back.  I gradually wound down after getting food and some ice-cold Coca Cola which tasted incredible.  A return to a more regular, if permanently offset, reality.

For some, a celebratory party raged into the night, while many of us like myself chose to wind down in our rooms.  The movie channel had Die Hard 4 playing (released in the States as Live Free or Die Hard)  always good for comic relief after a long day at the office.  I was amused when a computer hacker named 'Warlock" discovers the code to access the data a master NSA facility and that code turns out to be 666 which reminded me of Crowley and how the secrets of the Temple got communicated tonight.

December 21, 2013
Volubilis, Morocco

Breakfast with Bill and Andy who impresses me with a story about having lunch with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening.  Yakout says hello, golden smiles eye contact.  Some people are going separate ways - the Master Musicians back to Jajouka to await their next call for song, for the next chance to have their horns ring through the hills awakening  the "eld of the All- Father"

Thrill with lissome lust of the light,
O man!, My man!
Come careering out of the night
Of Pan! Io Pan! 

- Hymn to Pan, Crowley

Bill is going to Casablanca on his way back to New York.  I'll be going with the film crew on a road trip through the Atlas Mountains with the first stop at a town called Azrou.  I have another eight days to go on this project, though the days here seem much longer - not tedious, just loooooonnnnnger. ... in a good way.

Before leaving we have to reshoot the scene with Bachir and his brother that was rained out in Jajouka.  The story on that is in the last installment here.  The scene starts with Bachir playing a beautiful passage on the bamboo flute.  It's soothing and hypnotic.  In between takes he tells me that it's an old melody he learned from his father to change Boujeloud.

To be continued ...

Friday, August 1, 2014

Jodorosky's Dune

"What is to give light
               must endure burning"

- Viktor E. Frankl

Jodorosky's Dune begins with the quote above.  Bill Laswell told me a few weeks ago that it was absolutely essential I see this.  I finally got the chance to view it last night so will pass on the message.  Anyone in any kind of creative art, anyone on any kind of spiritual path, course, direction, or inclination, anyone with the wish to be more alive, will benefit immensely from this documentary.  It inspires and challenges everyone to not hold back and reach for their wildest hopes and dreams.  Jodorosky's story excellently illustrates Will in action.  Not only Will in action but a Master's Will in action.  This despite the fact that in the superficial, "Hollywood," valuation of things, the project failed.  Jodorosky's Dune, the film not the documentary, never got made.  Jodorosky's Dune, the recently released documentary, is about the making of a film that never got made.  In the underground, culturally effective valuation of things the project reaped tremendous success over the years with it's influence on subsequent blockbuster science fiction films.  A montage towards the end compares ideas initially presented in the Dune storyboards with their realization in films like Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Arc, and even as recently as Ridley Scott's Prometheus.

Who is Jodorosky, what is Dune, and why should anyone care?  Alejandro Jodorosky is best known as director and actor in the surrealist classics, El Topo and The Holy Mountain.  Both exemplify strong spiritual themes though not always coherently or easily understandable - they explicitly show the influence of alchemy, Buddhism, and tarot, particularly in The Holy Mountain which got partially financed by John  Lennon and Yoko Ono.   Jodorosky's background is in experimental theater, producing and directing over a hundred shows in Mexico before getting into film-making.  He studied and practiced Zen Buddhism intensely for 5 years with a Japanese roshi in Mexico.  While making The Holy Mountain, Jodorosky became involved with Oscar Ichazo whom he described as his guru.  Ichazo, started an esoteric School called Arica influenced by Gurdjieff and Sufism among other things.  He initiated and ran a famous retreat in the Chilean desert that John Lilly recounts in The Center of the Cyclone.  I have heard that Jodorosky attended at least part of this intense training though have to get that verified.  My friend Lily Nova remembers him from his Arica days.  Jodo (as he signs his graphic novels) also received intensive training from one of Gurdjieff's daughters as told in his autobiographical The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorosky.  In short, Jodorosky seems one of the most spiritually equipped film directors/storytellers on this planet as made evident in this doc.

Alejandro Jodorosky

Dune, published in 1965 by Frank Herbert unquestionably rates as a Science Fiction classic of the first order.   It claims to be the world's best selling Science Fiction book of all time.   The Library Journal declared that "Dune is to science fiction what The Lord of the Rings is to fantasy." E.J. Gold, who knew Herbert through his father, science fiction editor H.L. Gold, told me that Herbert and he once met in a restaurant for several hours discussing an idea they both had independently arrived at.  Gold left the meeting and wrote The American Book of the Dead inspired by that idea while Herbert left the meeting and wrote Dune based on the same idea.  Whether or not this literally happened, the story certainly points to something.  Gold and Jodorosky share a mutually close friend, Claudio Naranjo known for his presentation of the Enneagram diagram/map of energetic and psychological processes, and for the School he started called Seekers After Truth.

Making a film of Dune was set to be the pinnacle of Jodorosky's film-making career, his Citizen Kane, his Apocalypse Now.  After The Holy Mountain was released he was approached by a producer, Michael Seydoux who told him that The Holy Mountain was a success, that he could now have the money to make any film he wanted.  Jodorosky told him he wanted to make a film of Dune, amazingly, without ever having read the book.  He decided using pure intuition and the story perfectly fit the vision he had to tell though he did change the ending.  Dune, the book continues on into several sequels   Jodorosky wanted the film to have an ending.  He wanted to create a picture that would change people's perceptions, to give them an acid experience without the drug.  He said that he wanted to "create a Prophet."  In effect, he wanted to create a piece of art that could change the world.

Jodorosky's method of realizing his vision was no holds barred, reach for the sky, think big, anything seems possible with the correct application of Will.  He berated Pink Floyd when they appeared distracted and disinterested while on a lunch break from mixing Dark Side of the Moon and got them to pay attention and get on board.  He wanted and got Salvador Dali and Orson Welles each of whom were reluctant and had to be persuaded in unique individual ways.  In fact, a fun part of this doc are the stories told of how Jodo convinced the separate members of his team to participate going so far as to apparently demonstrate psychic abilities according his Special FX man Dan O'Bannon when they first met.  How he found O'Bannon makes a great story in itself after rejecting the guy who did the FX for 2001. 

Jodo's approach to everyone was different but the passion and focus he had looked quite apparent to all.  He says in the doc that at that time he would have cut off his arm if that was necessary.  He cast his son in the lead role of Paul Arteides, as he didn't know anyone else he could trust with the part, then hired a martial arts master to give him intensive training for two years to make him a Spiritual Warrior.

Moebius, the now well-known illustrator was hired to storyboard every single camera shot.  Jodo says he shot the entire movie in storyboard.  I don't remember the name of the famous artist he approached to design some of the set pieces - have to watch it again - that artist wasn't available, but he recommended H.R. Giger, virtually unknown at the time, beginning Giger's career in film.

It's not made apparent in the doc, but rumor has it that Jodorosky spent money without concern, some might say recklessly.   They reached a point where a major investment was needed to continue.  A large book was made containing all the storyboards and everything detailing exactly how the film would get made and distributed to all the Hollywood studios.  They all said they loved the ideas and the whole thing, but hated the Director, Jodorosky.  They don't really say why,  probably felt that he couldn't be controlled.  Ironic, because the whole vision which the studios liked had come from Jodo and the team he assembled.  As a result, it didn't get funding and was shelved.

It's interesting to see how Jodorosky dealt with this huge setback.  It didn't break him, rather got him to drastically change directions.  His next foray went into the world of graphic novels where he could tell stories and use themes originally intended for Dune.  He definitely has a few words for the film industry, I'm glad he publicly gets to have his say.

Dino de Laurentis hired David Lynch to direct a completely different version of Dune a few years later.  The segment of Jodo handling that shows his Spiritual Warrior graciousness.  He has tremendous respect for Lynch, " the only other director who could do it,"  but is greatly relieved when the movie turns out to be terrible, not an uncommon opinion.  Even then, he says it couldn't have been  Lynch's fault, sloughing the blame off on the producers.

Someone recently said to me that Jodorosky's Dune may have been the most influential movie that never got made.  Ridley Scott used most of the key production people Jodo assembled for Dune and had a huge hit a few years later with Alien.  A number of other examples are given in the aforementioned montage along with a few testimonies from film people.

I suggest anyone having anything to do with creative arts see this documentary to experience the passion and Will one person devoted to his life's work.  Jodo said he wanted to make something sacred.

Jodorosky's final message in the doc can't help but leave one inspired.  He's essentially saying, this is what I did now lets see what you can do.  Don't be afraid to try, I wasn't, don't be afraid to reach for the sky.