Saturday, May 12, 2018

SIMRIT 2018 Spring Tour Part 1

"The play of the world now expresses one borderless world in which divergent series are endlessly tracing bifurcating paths: "it is a 'chaosmos'" (TF 81). The problem now is how one might be "at home" in the endlessly diverging series of this chaosmos, how one might cultivate a "manner" or "ethos" worthy of its events, movements, folds and becomings.  This finally, is what Deleuze often referred to as the problem of a "new earth" and a "people to come" that would require a "fabulation" no longer tied to particular identities, and communities in time and space, or the myth of an "original" contract, place or people.  This would be a belief in the world in which dwelling would be an ongoing experimentation with new ways of folding and connecting with "things in their wild state," an experiment with the possibilities subsisting beneath the abstract territories of familal, religious, or national identifications." - Keith Robinson/ Deleuze and The Fold: A Critical Reader.
"As Daniel W. Smith points out, Deleuze is interested in art which seeks to gain access to forces or sensations. So,C├ęzanne paints the forces which allow mountains to exist, Van Gogh invents the force of the sunflower and Proust discovers invisible structures of time.  The painter renders visible forces that are not visible, the musician renders audible forces that are not audible, and the philosopher renders thinkable forces that are not thinkable." - John Marks/ Gilles Deleuze, Vitalism and Multiplicity.

April 9, 2018: Sitting in a window seat in row 31 on a flight enroute to Miami.  Waiting at the San Francisco airport I encountered the second coincidence of this young day.  I had begun reading M Train by Patti  Smith and within a few pages Smith and husband Fred "Sonic" Smith catch a flight to Miami.

The first coincidence occurred at the Sacramento airport. I had picked up a copy of "Us" magazine and opened it to the first page before quickly becoming engrossed watching a YouTube video of Last Week Tonight not even clear if it was last night's edition which I was hoping to see.  John Oliver was conducting a  hilarious and insightful interview with Stephen Hawking who had recently abandoned the prison of his terrestrial body. It was heart-warming to see the sardonic British comedian make the paraplegic genius smile. Toward the end Oliver asks, "in all the many parallel worlds do you see one in which Charlize Theron agrees to go on a date with me?" Hawking replies, "no" and the exchange continues with Hawking never admitting the possibility. The first page of the magazine I had left opened showed a photo of Charlize Theron all gussied up in white Givenchy.

I have no interest in Theron, but in the spirit of Crowley's exercise to interpret all phenomena as a particular dealing of The School with my soul (translation modified) I plugged her name into the qabalistic analysis machine and it spit out:  Charlize = Char (The Chariot -tarot) + l (Truth) + ease;
Theron = The (God - theology denotes the study of God) + r (Resh - The Sun) + on ( a magical formula). I regard this as an emblem or a sign for an esoteric work assignment on the SIMRIT tour.

Coincidences and synchronicities often signal bardo navigation instructions. Traveling simulates the bardo experience.  Bardo = the space in-between lives; where conscious awareness goes when the body dies.  The northern California iteration of Oz dies, travels through the bardo on United Airlines and gets reborn into a Miami/SIMRIT assemblage. The whole tour can be seen as a voyage through the bardo.  Much of America that I encounter on this trip looks like the Land of the Dead, to me.  The concerts provide sustenance for a greater life.

Patti Smith's book inspires me to write and to fold in a memory.  I am getting high on black tea.  Even higher than the 30,000 plus feet this body currently travels at.  Smith's poetry set to music has lifted my spirits for many years ever since my early 20's venturing forth on foot all over Calgary with a new, at that time, device called a Sony Walkman.

The tea helps to bring this body back to life. Yesterday afternoon I came down with a slight fever and irritating cough.  I immediately began dosing myself with immune support substances and vitamin C. I felt fine for the 3 am drive to the airport to catch a 6 am flight. Fortunately the travel went smoothly on time and this meat carcass got safely deposited in Miami ready to go.

The whole gang picked me up in a brown rented Mercedes Sprinter van and, after quick warm reunion greetings, we hit the streets back to the air b and b house in Little Cuba where we lived and rehearsed for the next couple of days.

The SIMRIT touring assemblage includes the same musicians as last year with the exception of drummer Devon Ashley replacing the previous percussionist.  Devon looked immediately familiar, to me and he said that I did to him also.  The assemblage becomes far stronger than any individual or even the sum of individuals.

"What is an assemblage? It is a multiplicity which is made up of many heterogenous terms and which establishes liaisons, relations between them, across ages, sexes and different natures.  Thus, the assemblage's only unity is that of co-functioning: it is a symbiosis, a 'sympathy' ... alliances, alloys... Magicians are well aware of this. An animal is defined less by its genus, its species, its organs, and its functions, than by the assemblages into which it enters.  - Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet / Dialogues.

An assemblage includes everything in whatever room or space it happens to be in whether it be animate or  inanimate, organic or not.  Thus the SIMRIT concert assemblage consists of the 5 musicians and 2 crew plus the audience and environment of the venue the group is playing in. In bardo terms, this is called a chamber. The ever changing and varying environment on tour, the transition in, out and through a succession of chambers, means that the SIMRIT assemblage is constantly in flux.  This flux portrays a bardo journey.

The boot hold in the back of the Sprinter contained the sound system we would use.  I was especially excited to meet and introduce myself to the brand new  Midas M32 digital mixer which nominally turned all sound waves run through it into gold.  Prior to picking me up, the group had spent hours at a somewhat inept local Guitar Center renting the powered stage monitors, and mains that would transduce the musical electrical voltages into acoustic audio sound waves.

My first priority was to conjoin my intelligence with the M32 so I could learn how to use it. I was fluent on other digital mixers so this seemed like learning a new OS.  Significant differences between the Midas and the Soundcraft Impact board that I knew had to get resolved.

I started the Vulcan mind meld with the M32 setting up the mixer on the dining room table with my laptop right beside it.  I downloaded the manual and digested several YouTube tutorial videos on the subject of programming and operating this board.  This became a far from easy and straightforward process.  After a few hours of cross-referencing the videos with the manual and trying things out on the board I reached a degree of confidence that we could work together.

By 11 pm eastern time I felt mildly feverish again.  I burned some Tibetan incense Matt had given me in response to a copy of  The American Book of the Dead I had sent him and called it a night.

April 10: In the morning before the rehearsal I connected the M32 to the digital stage box to make sure they would talk to each other.  This box connects the microphones and inputs on stage to the Midas via a CAT 5 digital snake.  I plugged in a SM58 to the stage box and got zero input.  This did not bode well.  A quick perusal of the internet revealed that the Midas mixer wouldn't synch up with the Soundcraft stage box.  The condoned insanity of capitalistic schizophrenia resulted in these two audio equipment manufacturers making these devices proprietary.  We had our first concert in two days and no way to connect the stage inputs with the mixer.

Upon being informed of the situation, Simrit immediately called the dealer who had sold her the Midas.  An assistant there had incorrectly told her that the two devices would work together.  To their credit, they acknowledged the mistake, gave her a discount on the Midas stage box and over-nighted it from their warehouse to our rehearsal house.  It arrived at about 10 am the next morning.  Fortunately, we had no need of a stage box to rehearse.  I plugged in everything that needed amplification directly into the back of the mixer.

The band rehearsed from about noon until midnight with breaks for food and to give Jared a chance to rest.  He had a much worse version of the flu, or whatever it was that I had.  Before they started I had a chance to walk to a local supermarket to get groceries and a supplies for a remedy my girlfriend Paula had suggested.  The sunshine and 80 degree temperature felt great.

April 12: In the bardo one can encounter other apparently sentient intelligences that play the role of Guides.  The American Book of the Dead speaks of Friendly Guides and Unresponsive Guides.  The Guitar Center staff that took hours to rent us a sound system tend toward the area of Unresponsive Guides.  Shaun Mitchell, the house sound tech at our first show in Coral Gables, Florida was a bonafide Friendly Guide, but not without some drama.

The first concert was at The Miracle Theater - 280 Miracle Mile.  I plugged the outputs of the Midas into the house sound system.  Shaun owned a sound company and was intimately familiar with programming the Behringer x32, a forerunner and downscale version of the Midas M32. He showed me how to insert a  virtual Klark Teknik 32 band graphic equalizer across the main output.  I already had a parametric eq there, but being old school, much preferred the layout of the graphic eq.  He also showed me how to save all the settings of a show light years faster than if I would have had to resort to a YouTube video.  There were also some channel configuration changes I wanted to make that had been possible with the Soundcraft, but that I couldn't figure out on the Midas. Shawn determined that the reason I couldn't figure it out was because, at the present time, it isn't possible.  Specifically, I hoped to put some of the FX returns on the top page with all the stage inputs so I could ride the returns alongside mixing the band.  I eventually solved the problem by riding the FX sends which was able to be on the top page beside the instrument channels.

The drama came about when I couldn't get input into Pro Tools to multitrack record the show.  I had set it up at rehearsal with absolutely no issues - plug it in, open the program and select the playback engine.  The inputs came up automatically.  Not so before the first show, wtf? Shaun, who didn't know Pro Tools, changed some things in my MacBook Pro internal settings and we took a little tour through chaos.  I tried opening a regular Pro Tools session, it wouldn't respond. After about 20 minutes in this particular form of hell, between the two of us, and with some luck, we managed to get everything working.  It turned out to be an I/O set up issue.  I had to manually create a new I/O template and saved it to import in the future.  No further problems with recording occurred for the rest of the tour.

Simrit debuted an elaborate new headdress recently designed for her based on the Greek God Hermes. Hermes may appear more familiar in his Roman form, Mercury. He serves as the messenger of the Gods, the link between the Immortals and the mortal humans. I call him the god of communication and invoked often his presence in the 80's and 90's to help with the sound engineering efforts.  I guess he never really goes away.  Mercury also functions as a pyschopomp - the guide for the Souls of the recently deceased through the Land of the Dead.  Getting fully inducted with the music at a SIMRIT concert, temporarily dying to personal identity and concerns, has a similar effect - giving the listener a taste of the bardo.  She wears the headdress of a psychopomp and communicator for a reason.

Simrit with new headdress
photo by Mel Bartel

Simrit said after the show that it was the best first show of a tour she had experienced.  It was, by far, the top first show of the three tours I've been on.  I remember telling them last year that the set had several slower tempo songs in a row. The set this year felt more upbeat and lively partly due to the inclusion of a great new song called Just A Glance. It was very well paced, still a healthy amount of the devotional, ecstatic (ex statis = out of body), trance music along with many songs where dancing in the aisles broke out.

The sound sounded much more solid and tight in the low end.  Though only a small, cocktail kit kick drum that relied heavily on a loud subwoofer, Devon's foot was strong and well defined.  Circumstances allowed me to use a noise gate on it this year which further helped the punchiness and definition. The bass drum drives the music through space by articulating the time. The snare drum had a dark, deep sound with a lower midrange ring that occasionally needed taming.  It reminded me of New Orleans. Overall the drumming was soulful, dynamic and foundational; becoming forte when called for while never overpowering.

Midas is renowned for the sound of their preamps.  I could hear the difference right away.  The kora sounded the best I'd ever heard it in this context and the definition on Shannon's fast rhythmic cello bowing was extremely clear.  Her electrified acoustic guitar sound was warmer and sounded more natural than before, and her effects sounded more transparent and audible.  Simrit and Jared's vocals also benefited from the improved definition, warmth, and transparency. You could hear a lot more subtleties in Simrit's voice and the halo of reverb and delay that surrounded it was warmer while also being clearer.  In general, the FX, and all of the digital signal processing was a huge step up in quality.  A good example was the channel compression on the bass guitar.  By dialing it in, I was able to get a thick, rich low end without it ever becoming excessive or boomy.

The opening concert was well received with a portion of the audience appearing to have experiences bordering on the religious.  This quote from Magick Without Tears (Crowley. p.387) attempts to put this kind of experience into words.

Life is to be a continuous vibration of ecstasy; and so it is for the Adept, whenever her work allows her time to consider the matter, consciously, and even when her work prempts her attention, is an eternal fountain of pure joy springing a crystal fragrance of reverberating light from the most inmost caverns of the Heart. It secretly informs one's dullest thought with sparkling wine radiant in the Aeyther - see well!  the least excuse, since it is always there, and champing at its bit, to turn the dreary cart-horse drudge into proud Pegasus himself!

To be continued ...

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