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,Cézanne 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 ...

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Thelema, Deleuze and 68

 "There are dimensions here, times and places, glacial or torrid zones never moderated, the entire exotic geography which characterises a mode of thought as well as a style of life."

Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, p.128

This is a letter that can give only a malfunction to your mind, basically leads straight from the heart to the brain.  Wants you to go insane as you read the intertwining messages. Open up to page one. (echoing one, one, one)

This is a military function information equation coming down straight from A to Z.

 - from Equation by Ramellzee, the sixth track on Material's Seven Souls 

Would you like to dance with me we're doing the Cosmic Slop? 
  - Funkadelic

The hypothesis given here maintains that Gilles Deleuze disseminates an occult transmission through his philosophy.  This transmission appears isomorphic with the Crowley/Gurdjieff currents; the 93 current.  In other words, a different form of the same ideas concerning alchemical transformation and spiritual realization.   Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) popularized this current, mostly in his fictional writings.  We concede that these presentations by Deleuze, Crowley and Gurdjieff represent elaborate fabulations, yet they are fabulations that effectively enable progressive change. These fabulations provide data, maps and technologies for a radical, accelerated evolution of a new humanity

Looking through the Wayback machine, in the post Gematria, I discussed the significance RAW placed on the number 68 in Illuminatus! Not only on the number 68, but also the letter combination "S" and "C" which qabalistically add to 68.  The follow-up to Illuminatus! is Schrodinger's Cat and the protagonist in the Historical Illuminatus trilogy is named Sigismundo Celine, both have the initials "S" and "C." Illuminatus! begins its odyssey by placing the narrator's location "in Central Park, just off Sixty-eighth Street."

Subsequent to this post came a cycle through Illuminatus! with an online reading group over at  Multiple references to 68  both directly and through numerically transposing the letters "s" and "c" were documented in the weekly comments section which can be accessed here.   

The most basic qabalistic interpretation:  6 = Tiphareth, 8 = Hod.  The god Mercury lives in the Sephira Hod .  He is the messenger of the gods, Mercury communicates.  68 = Tiphareth communicated.  Tiphareth = Christ, Osiris, Krishna and all solar gods.  68 = solar energy communicated.    This view seems shared by The Book of the Law 1:6: "Be thou Hadit, my secret center, my heart & my tongue."

"... my heart & my tongue" = Tiphareth, or solar energy, communicated.  The words "... secret center," immediately prior, tips us off with their initials to the "s," "c" combo.  The Book of the Law, or Liber Legis as it's also known to fans of dead languages, occupies a central nexus point of this occult transmission.  Crowley claimed that it was dictated by a non-human intelligence and that qabalistic analysis can prove this.  Whether true or not, this at least indicates his wish that Liber Legis be examined and considered through the qabalistic lens.  Therefore, I find it interesting that the 6th verse (they are all numbered in the text) first gives the 68 meme - yet another level of Tiphareth communicated.

The image recurs in Liber Legis 1:32: (this is the Goddess Nuit speaking) Then the joys of my love will redeem ye from all pain.  This is so: I swear it by the vault of my body; by my sacred heart and tongue; by all I can give, by all I desire of ye all.

Again in 1:53: This shall regenerate the world, the little world my sister, my heart and my tongue, unto whom I send this kiss..." This suggests that the 68 constellation represents a healing force and/or becomes a source of nourishment.  The title of chapter 68 in The Book of Lies is Manna - food from heaven.  Yet another allusion to this theme, if you know your tarot correspondences, appears in II:16: I am the Empress and the Hierophant.

 The ideogram "68" and/or the letters "s" and "c" has a multiplicity of possible directions.  There are other ways to look at it.  Mercury (8) is also charged with the task of the psychopomp, the  guide who leads the soul through the land of the dead after the biological machine, the physical body, dies.  The combination of Tiphareth and death gets explicitly given in The Book of the Law 1:24: "I am Nuit, and my word is six and fifty." 6 = Tiphareth, 50 = death.

Though not as popularly known as some of his other writings, The Paris Working by Aleister Crowley and Victor Neuberg documents one of his most important series of invocations.  Crowley reports that the identical nature of Christ and Mercury got revealed to him during those experiments.  This combination becomes numerically represented by 68.  Again, this is only one angle on the multiplicity of esoteric data 68 signifies.  The Paris Working with relevant passages to the 68 meme is  examined more detail.

* * * * * * 

Deleuze seems a skillful occult writer, hiding the transmission in philosophy and metaphysics.  I had read quite a few of his books, written alone and with Guattari,before discovering that not only does he communicate qabalistically, but that the 68 meme becomes a recurring theme.  Usually he expresses it through the s,c combination.  This combination usually turns up as the initial letters of words in sequence and/or words that have been connected or paired in some way.

It was in the Eighteenth Series of the The Three Images of Philosophers (the chapter title) from one of the most important and underrated books of philosophy in modern times, The Logic of Sense where I first suspected Deleuze of consciously participating in the 68 conspiracy.

The three images are: the transcendental heights of Plato, the burrowing depths of the pre-Socratic philosophers later revived by Nietzsche - these two images, suggests Deleuze, can be replaced or resolved by the image of the surface as presented by the Cynics and Stoics,

"The Cynics and Stoics establish themselves and wrap themselves up with the surface, the curtain, the carpet, and the mantle.  The double sense of the surface, the continuity of the reverse and right sides, replace height and depth.  There is nothing behind the curtain except unnameable mixtures, nothing above the carpet except the empty sky."

 -The Logic of Sense, p.133

 The last paragraph on page 129 from LoS is where the light turned on for me.  It begins: "Nietzsche was able to rediscover depth only after conquering the surfaces."  Further on in this paragraph he quotes Lewis Carroll: "all that is good ... ris(es) from the dawn of Day."  We see a very obvious, blatant pun on Nietzsche's book Dawn of Day.  For the qabalistic detective, this very obvious pun keys in a search for other puns, other signs of multiple meanings.

Immediately following the Dawn of Day pun Deleuze writes:  With the Megarians, Cynics and Stoics we have the beginning of a new philosopher and a new kind of anecdote.  Rereading Diogenes Laertius' most beautiful chapters, those on Diogenes the Cynic and on Chryssipus the Stoic, we witness the development of a curious system of provocations.

The qabalist sees a blatant pun with "beautiful," "Chryssipus" and Tiphareth.
The word "anecdote" in this quote seems interesting.  Deleuze  gave the context for a slightly different definition of this word a little earlier, on page 128, immediately following the quote above that opens this post:

Diogenes Laterius, perhaps, in his best pages, had a foreboding of this method: to find vital Aphorisms which would also be Anecdotes of thought - the gesture of philosophers.

In this reporter's opinion, the "new kind of anecdote" = the 68 image.

Following the line, "we witness the development of a curious system of provocations," Deleuze proceeds to provoke.  WARNING: this next quote appears quite shocking especially if the mistake gets made to take these provocations literally.  From the context of the 68 anecdote, receiving integrating and transmitting a solar current, they make sense metaphorically:

"On the one hand, the philosopher eats with great gluttony, he stuffs himself; he masturbaastes in public, regretting that hunger cannot be so easily relieved; he does not condemn incest with the mother, the sister, or the daughter; he tolerates cannibalism and anthropophagy - but, in fact, he is also supremely sober and chaste."

Throwing food into the mix connects with the reference to Manna above.

"On the other hand, he keeps quiet when people ask him questions or gives them a blow with his staff.  If you pose abstract and difficult questions, he will respond by designating some bit of food, or will give you a whole box of food which he will then break over you - always with a blow of his staff.  Yet he also holds a new discourse, a new logos animated with paradox and philosophical values and significations which are new."

I considered the frequency of these "s" "c" combinations to be merely coincidental until seeing on the next page, 131, "A few Stoicizing choirs (cœurs stoïcisant) will not suffice to bring about this unity."  This sentence seems whimsical or non sequitur in the context of what he's writing about which is the unification of Stoic thought with tragic thought in the ancient Roman plays by Seneca.  From my research on the internet, it appears that "Stoicizing choirs" was coined by Deleuze based on Seneca the Stoic using a lot of choirs in his tragedies.  We also see a pun in French: "cœur" translates as "heart, " a pun which affirms the 68 fabulation.  Singing hearts = Tiphareth communicated.

That said, I wish to be clear in stating my suspicion that there exists far more interpretations, meanings and sense to the 68 multiplicity than I am presently aware of.

The philosophy of the surface conforms to my notions of Thelemic theurgic magick.  I don't see its primary purpose as climbing the Tree of Life to its heights to transcend all matter, or of descending into psycho-emotional depths like in depth psychology or Kenneth Grant's Typhonian explorations.  Yes, you do go beyond matter and into the dark depths, but whatever is found or learned there gets brought back to communicate at the surface.  I don't wish to abandon Malkuth to live in Kether, rather to bring Kether into Malkuth; to consummate that marriage as some occultists put it.  

Mythologically, Deleuze looks to Hercules as the half god, half mortal, hero of the surface:

Hercules is always situated relative to the three realms of the infernal abyss, the celestial height, and the surface of the earth.  Inside the depths, he comes across only frightening combinations and mixtures; in the sky he finds only emptiness and celestial monsters duplicating those of the inferno.  As for the earth, he is the pacifier and surveyor and even treads over the surface of its waters.  He always ascends or descends to the surface in every conceivable manner.  He brings back the hell-hound and the celestial hound, the serpent of hell and the serpent of the heavens.  It is no longer a question of Dionysus down below, or of Apollo up above, but of Hercules of the surface, in his dual battle against both depth and height: reorientation of the entire thought and a new geography.

- Logic of Sense, p. 131 - 132 

This aligns with Thelemic cosmology: Nuit, the Star Goddess of Infinite Space = the heights; Hadit, the concentrated essential point in the center of all matter, the infinitely small = the depths; their child Ra Hoor Khuit or Horus = the manifested physical universe, i.e. the surface.  Horus is called the "crowned and conquering child" in his poeteic invocation.  Crowned to indicate mastery of the heights (crown = Kether); conquering to indicate mastery of the depths; a child because this new philosophical geography has only recently been born.  Horus is the god who presides over the current age which Thelemites say began in 1904.  In the White Goddess, Robert Graves, connects the etymology of Hercules with Horus.  Horus represents the new philosopher who conquers the surface.  

After becoming alerted to the likely possibility that Deleuze is a card carrying member of the 68 conspiracy I began seeing more examples and other magical innuendo elsewhere in his oeuvre. Interestingly, while writing a recent post on the subject of "home" I discovered the s and c letter combo in the passage that turned me on to Deleuze in the first place:

"I. A child in the dark, gripped with fear, comforts himself by singing under his breath. He walks and halts to his song. Lost, he takes shelter, or orients himself with his little song as best he can. The song is like a rough sketch of a calming and stabilizing, calm and stable, center in the heart of chaos. Perhaps the child skips as he sings, hastens or slows his pace. But the song itself is already a skip: it jumps from chaos to the beginnings of order in chaos and is in danger of breaking apart at any moment. There is always sonority in Ariadne's thread.

- A Thousand Plateaus beginning of the 11th Plateau, p.311

We see "calming and stabilizing, calm and stable" and "child skips" in the quote.  We not only see it, but in he fourth sentence, we get a literal example of the 68 function; what the expended solar energy can do.  It was several years between first reading this passage and observing the linguistic/qabalistic device being used., the 68 beacon.

Capitalism and Schizophrenia

In the world of political activism, Deleuze and his co-writer Felix Guattari were involved and strongly influenced by the pivotal events that occurred in May 1968 in France.  Massive civil unrest and protests resulted in multiple general strikes and the occupation of Universities and factories by activists brought to a halt business as usual.  The government literally feared a revolution.

“May 68” had an impact on French society that resounded for decades afterward. It is considered to this day as a cultural, social and moral turning point in the history of the country. As Alain Geismar—one of the leaders of the time—later pointed out, the movement succeeded “as a social revolution, not as a political one” - Wikipedia

 The two most extensive works Deleuze joined forces with Guattari on are Capitalism and Schizophrenia Volumes I and II.  The first volume, Anti-Oedipus is widely considered to be a response to the May 68 events.  I did a qabalistic analysis of the second volume's title: A Thousand Plateaus here.

And finally, for the moment, let us not forget that all the airlock doors in the bardo classic, The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy are made by the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Reflections On Tour: Magick, Music, Philosophy, and Death

" 'The aesthetic goes beyond every concept because it produces the intuition of another nature than the nature given to us,' Delueze writes. 'Thus invisible beings, the kingdom of the blessed, hell acquire a body; and love, death acquire a dimension to make them adequate to their spiritual sense.' "

 - Gilles Deleuze and the Fabulation of Philosophy, Gregory Flaxman

Why practice magick? Because it works. Speaking now of the thaumaturgic variety, magick intended to change the environment intentionally.  We use it only occasionally after all conventional material means fail to provide working solutions to the problem.  In the case of Alphonse, our recalcitrant Soundcraft digital mixing board, all the stops and tricks had to be pulled out to get him to follow the program.  I'll explain.

I first met Alphonse September 10th in Edmonton, Alberta.  I was in Edmonton to begin rehearsals for the Fall leg of the SIMRIT Songs of Resilience, Global Unity Tour.  The first time I ever spoke to Simrit about touring with her band, she mentioned a problem with the stage sound: whenever the reverb was turned up in the house, it was also boosted in the stage monitors and obscuring the sound. Dynamic reverb rides are a key part of their mix making this a chronic problem.  I thought that the previous sound engineer didn't know what they were doing and wasn't expecting to encounter a malfunctioning mixing board prone to mild acts of chaos.  It was like silicon-based poltergeist phenomena where switches would randomly get turned off, or master faders turned down without the human operator's participation.  That's how it ended up ... in the beginning, it was a real nightmare.

After setting up in the rehearsal space it was discovered that whenever the reverb and delay returns were turned up in the main speakers, they also increased their volume in the stage monitors.  The entire first day and night was spent working on this problem.  The inability to use the FX dynamically would seriously cramp our style.  I found a pdf of the Soundcraft Expression manual online and nearly sprained my brain spending hours trying to decipher and apply the manual's technical language and proprietary nomenclature.  I viewed numerous YouTube tutorials, yet nothing addressed this problem.  A message was left with Tech Support, but it was Sunday and no callback was expected. I delved deeply into the board's programming trying different things all to no avail.  I was told by Tripp that this board had a colorful history of weirdness, unreliability and rogue programming by its first user.  Legends were told of its nonfunctionality.  It could always be made to work, but not without multiple issues.  Russell, a veteran sound reinforcement engineer, had attempted to completely wipe out its programming - a move I was contemplating until hearing this story - to get back to the tabla rasa of the factory settings only to find that it stopped working with the stage box, the digital snake - the microphone inputs plugged into the stage box didn't make it to the board.  In human nervous system terms, this compares with the heart and sense receptors being unable to communicate with the brain. Coincidentally, the heart being unable to communicate with the brain seems a prime feature of the current U.S. government.

Spent that whole first day in the Chinese Hell of Technical Problems exhausting every material resource I could think of with no luck. As a last resort, I appealed to the appropriate Enochian Angel for help.  No space for any kind of ritual, I just invoked using muscle memory and asked for help.

Powered up the system the next day and discovered the FX monitors boost problem had vanished with absolutely no rational explanation.  This particular issue never returned. Only now, the FX wouldn't feed the monitors at all.  From way too much reverb to none at all.  This recalled the old joke about a guy who goes to a psychoanalyst and tells the doctor that he's in love with his umbrella. One day, after 5 years of therapy he suddenly exclaims, "Doctor, doctor I'm cured ... now I HATE my umbrella!."

Reverb in the monitors is a crucial element in SIMRIT's stage sound and affects how they perform.  No reverb on stage was just as much a problem as too much reverb.  I had a back-up plan involving an external foot pedal reverb, but somehow I was able to program one of the FX banks to send to the monitors, it worked just fine for the second rehearsal day.

The reliable, effective functioning of this Soundcraft Expression mixer was crucial to our mission for several reasons, one of the primary ones being that it had a USB output that I could connect to a laptop and make multitrack recordings of the show with Pro Tools software.  Due to the mixer's unpredictable, irrational behavior, I decided to treat it as if possessed by a goetic being, i. e. acknowledge its sentience as a mischievous, disobedient entity.  You will find suggestions in Goetic literature to treat these kinds of entities like you would an erratic junior business partner or a disobedient child who has to be kept in line.  The first order of business was to discover its name.  The ancient Egyptians said that knowing a person's true name can give you power over it, the power of communication.  Immediately upon forming this intention I silently heard the name, "Alphonse" so went with it.  This name had no meaning or significance that I'm aware of.  I liked its quasi-regal sound thinking this might flatter the entity's vanity.  Stroking a daemon's ego seems an old technique for getting it to faithfully do your bidding.

It would take a little time for Alphonse to get with the program.  The first concert in Edmonton revealed more of it's strange behavior.  Connecting a SMART phone for music to check the sound system resulted in it's signal going out multiple outputs along with the designated channels. Muting every channel didn't stop the music from going out the master output.  Still a ghost in the machine.  The problem was solved by using different Line inputs that functioned correctly.

Reprogramming settings differently from how they'd been saved turned out to be one of Alphonse's more irritating quirks.  Nothing too obvious or drastic - small things such as muting the master fader of a monitor mix or attenuating a mic pre a few dB from its last setting.  The rehabilitation of Alphonse into a reliably consistent sound machine was gradual over the next four or five concerts though some features never returned.

At no time did Alphonse's machinic independence compromise the performance.  Except for the concert in San Francisco's massive Grace Cathedral where our PA was lost in the immensity of the space ... One could hear God laughing ...I was always happy with the Front of House sound and always got high on the music's invocation.  Even in Grace Cathedral, a report came back from a music promoter sitting near front claiming it as the best sound he had ever heard there.

Being as the tour began in Edmonton then went south to Calgary before turning west through British Columbia, my former stomping grounds for four years as a live touring soundman in the early 80's, I anticipated some kind of trip down memory lane.  But it turns out that nostalgia ain't what it used to be.  I love Canada and Canadians yet experienced no real connection to my former homeland.  Except when traveling, my former human manifestation, my past life as it were, lived in Calgary from 1969 - 1983 and again from '85 - '87.

Carlos Castenada talks about the spiritual warrior having no personal history.  I felt so disconnected from my history in Calgary that the memories I do have of living there seem foreign, like they belong to someone else.  The city hadn't changed as much as I had.  More and more, personal identity seems like a con game blocking us from reaching our fullest potential.  I'd been reflecting on the theme of "home" - see my last blog - so was expecting reminiscences of that type that never materialized.

The second show in Calgary made me realize how important the performance space was to the event.  It took place in a professional, technically tricked out theater in the heart of the city.  Theater technicians helped us set-up and we even had union stage-hands helping to move equipment.  Alphonse was plugged into a powerful sound system replete with righteous subwoofers. The lighting system was state-of-the-art..  This proved a sharp contrast from the new age community center in Edmonton though that venue was perfect for the opening performance - like starting a Broadway play at a smaller community theater to work out all the bugs in the performance before debuting on the Great White Way.  SIMRIT shapeshifts with each different venue.  The expression of their music is not completely determined by the musicians, but rather the assemblage of the band and the concert hall or theater.  In Calgary, SIMRIT took full possession and owned that theater space.  Beginning with an amazing opening set by cellist Shannon Hayden I experienced the presence of an high aesthetic, world class act taking all us listeners on an incredible musical voyage through a variety of moods and empirically transcendental spaces.

Someone recently asked how I like touring and I replied that it becomes a combination of heaven and hell.  During the concerts most semblance of personal identity dissolves  with the remaining presence becoming intimately connected and linked to a dynamic musical process; part of the attention aware of the invocation with the rest of it placed upon the technical exigencies of mixing sound while staying alert to any signals from the stage.  I attempt to remain faithful to the advice a friend once gave about paying attention to the invocation.  Just because a high aesthetic force gets drawn down through you, it doesn't guarantee you'll be present to reap the benefit.

The hell of touring comes from the constant traveling and the time demands of setting up and tearing down the production for every show. The best way to travel through hell, in this reporter's opinion, is with friends.  Fortunately, everyone in SIMRIT's touring assemblage counts as a close friend; not in a superficial or sentimental sense, but in a philosophical and practical sense.

Philosophy = philia + sophia -  the love of wisdom.  Philia is an ancient Greek word for a particular type of love commonly known as "brotherly love" (Philadelphia as the city of brotherly love, for example).  In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle fleshes out the concept of philia as a dispassionate, virtuous love expressed as loyalty to friends, family, and community.  Sophia means wisdom. In What Is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari emphasize the importance of friends and their common love for wisdom in the creation and initial development of philosophy.

In, Gilles Deleuze, a biography by Frida Beckman she compiles a selection of the philosopher's thoughts on friendship:

"Deleuze's understanding of friendship is not 'that of a common and ideal bond and can hardly be encapsulated in a neat definition.' ...  - friendship is about pedagogy, it is about thought, it is about the encounter, it is about the comical, the impersonal, the dialogic, about love and distance, about joy and about experimentation.  Friendship, Deleuze says in L'Abécédaire is about perception.  He also uses the notion of charm to describe the basic attraction of friendship - a charm that is impersonal, a charm that is the hum of intensities affects, moods and sensations.  Before we even have time to formulate specific thoughts or opinions about a person, we may perceive a gesture, an opening, an awakening that goes to the very root of perception and this constitutes a friendship.  The charm of a friend is also associated with some degree of madness: 'If you can't grasp the small trace of madness in someone, you can't be their friend.'

But for Deleuze, friendship is also necessarily about friction, about being out of sync. ... The friction of uneven surfaces and the ensuing sparks are what cause the creative hum.  There needs to be joy but also a kind of productive distrust. ... Stival notes how a Deleuze who has worked with Guattari seems to have discovered the necessity of the friend for thinking.  Distress becomes important because it resists the sedimentation of thinking and being.  True friendship is not about two individuals in an established relationship with each other but about pulling each other out of the self."

I am fortunate and blessed to have many such friends to explore music with.

Other tour highlights: driving through the awesome majesty of the Canadian Rockies, a morning drive and hike to an old ski jump site outside Revelstoke - daredevils, in days of yore, seeing how long they could fly without getting hurt.  My mother's attendance at the Vancouver concert.  She arrived at the load-in and stayed until load-out volunteering to pick up the pre-show meal.  She was very animated after the show, blown away by the music, giving me an enthusiastic rundown of what she enjoyed about each musician and the group as a whole and saying  that she didn't expect it to be as incredibly good as she experienced it.

 SIMRIT in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.  photo by Stefan Gosiewski

* * * * * * 

In this nihilist  fin de siècle, he was affirmation. Right through to illness and death.  Why did I speak of him in the past?  He laughed, he is laughing, he is here.  It's your sadness, idiot, he'd say. 

 - Jean-Francois Lyotard on the death of Deleuze.

Affirming death.  Deleuze used to say that affirmation is not acceptance, but rather creation.  If we create our reality in life, why not in death?

You  get immediate feedback from the audience as to whether the invocation succeeded, whether the force produced by the music in concert had strong affects to emotionally move everyone into some form of transcendental empiricism.  Did they get high?  After exiting the stage Simrit and Shannon would go out front to greet people as they were leaving and in the process get direct feedback on the evening's work, often extremely positive.  People got "turned on" by the concert to use the 60's vernacular for an awakened state.

Attempting to expand the forces and healing energy of the event outside of the local domain becomes the work of the theurgic practitioner.  An effort is made to unite the microcosm of the concert space with the macrocosm of everything through a particular application of bhakti yoga.  It's a chance operation, always an experiment, and you rarely get feedback of any effect that may or may not be occurring.  Rarely, but not never.  An unusual constellation of coincidences can suggest either results or the need for theurgic efforts.  In other words, every once in awhile something lets you know you're on track, the resonance from the concert space is getting through.  

On Sept. 29th as the SIMRIT van was pulling up to an L.A. Whole Foods,  a conversation spontaneously erupted about what a horrible place Las Vegas was with a few confirmed stories to that effect.  I didn't join in because the only time I'd  been there was amazing,  a fond memory.  I was mixing sound for Praxis.  We were the first act on a bill that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers headlined.  Two of Petty's sound techs tuned the system before our soundcheck.  That P.A. is one of the best I've ever mixed on; powerful, clean and clear.  Another strong memory from Vegas was being at a stoplight on the strip and saying out loud a sudden realization that Tupac must have been shot near here.  The driver informed us that we were at the exact spot where he died.

Coincidences from a book I was reading started turning up.  The setting for the book was Bob Dylan's tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  It mentioned him doing an annual benefit for a particular Jewish charity organization that an old friend of his was involved with. That charity turned up to be across the street from the Yoga West studio SIMRIT played on September 29th.  I posted a blog on "home" then had the word home in the very next paragraph when I picked up that book.

The Yoga West date wasn't a formal concert.  It was an improvised performance supporting and underscoring a Kundalini workshop given by Jai Dev Singh Khalsa, Simrit's husband.  Quite a special workshop to have a soundtrack like this.  Shannon Hayden alternated between participating in the exercises and playing music.  One fifteen minute passage of cello improv sounded both classical and of the future tapping into something otherworldly in mood.  At one point, Jai Dev spoke of life and death in an unusual way: "when a child is born it exits through a door into this life and when they die they go through a door to the life beyond."  It reminded me of an unusual comment E.J. Gold made years ago that what we call life, what we consider life to be, will seem like death when compared to the life the voyager has after leaving the body at the moment of death.  He has repeated many times what he says is the common expression of the voyager right after leaving the body - "what was I doing in that thing?"

October 1: In the Green Room at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido about 40 minutes before show time Simrit is given a lengthy hand-written note requesting a special chant for someone who has recently died.  She agrees to do it despite it being a departure from the set list.  I believe that it was after the third song that Simrit explained the request to the audience and told them she was going to chant Akal for this person's soul and explained what the chant meant. I don't recall her words verbatim but it was essentially what this review (writer unknown to me) from her website says:

 “Akal…Deathless” introduces a very profound tradition in Kundalini Yoga.  When a person has died, you chant “Akal” a minimum of three times.  Akal means deathless and it helps to release the soul from attachment to the body, the earth and those it left behind.  Simrit’s voice holds a world of power within it; she is an alchemist whose throat, with a simple akal, can take your spirit from grief to love.

I often turn up Simrit's mic a fair amount when she's talking between songs because it's softer than when she sings.  I had the mic gain at a healthy level when she leaned in and intoned "Akal" in a slow, powerful, tenor voice.  In Golden Dawn magic they teach how to vibrate "God names" so that it's not only your voice but rather your whole body that vibrates with the name.  This felt like that, to me.  The whole theater was vibrating "Akal."  Jared and Shannon started droning on their respective instruments underneath Simrit's intonation.  Needless to say, it was an extremely intense space, one of the musicians later reporting that they were on the verge of tears.  I've witnessed and participated in many forms of what you could call "prayers for the dead." This one stands out as one of the strongest and most moving - there was something very real there.

Checked into the hotel late that night, this leg of the tour all said and done with the final show in Escondido.  Turned on CNN - I monitor world events.  It appeared very surrealistic.  I didn't recognize the anchors who seemed a little stunned and confused and spoke with European accents.  It didn't even seem like CNN, my conspiracy brain suggesting that the content was hacked and were just using the CNN logo.  They were talking about a shooter in Las Vegas.  They had very little information at that point airing lots of erratic cellphone footage.  The fear and confusion of an unknown tragedy poured out of the television.  I called my friend Rosa and told her what was happening.  I stayed up as late as I could monitoring the situation.

The full extent of the tragedy was discovered in the morning.  I compared the timeline of events to find that Simrit gave the "Akal" death prayer chant about an hour before the tragedy in Las Vegas began.  I find that synchronicity very interesting. 

Tom Petty had a full cardiac arrest that same morning, October 2, and left his body later that day.  The only professional contact I had with him, albeit very tangential, was when Praxis shared a bill with him in Las Vegas.  No idea what this means, if anything, maybe just freaky coincidences.  

"Akal."  Affirming death.  Going through the door.  Countering tragic events - at least making the attempt.  I am grateful for all the on-the-job training I've had for responding to death.  It inevitably results in a greater appreciation and awareness for the preciousness of this life. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017


My friend Phoebe asked me to write on this topic for research into her next album project.

The subject of "home" has always been one close to my heart, there are multiple ways to see it.  The old saying, "home is where the heart is," rings true for me.  I have a nomadic nature - wherever I go, there I am, so home for me is wherever I'm currently residing; in bardo terms, whatever Chamber currently being passed through.  At the moment, I'm on tour - home for me, as I wrote this, is room 47 in the Banfield Motel in Portland, Oregon, but only for another hour.  I'm about to upscale to a better hotel downtown, my home is packed and ready to move.

At the same time, I see home as a permanent sanctuary space that I have a vague cellular or memetic memory of having once known but can't consciously recall ever having been there.  Perhaps this partially explains the nomadic tendencies, a journey through a lifetime to return home, wherever that is.  This image evokes the archetypal journey of the Odyssey in Greek mythology, Odysseus's long, perilous journey home after the Trojan war; also the protracted wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness before reaching the Promised Land.  Dylan's paradoxical koan-like lyrics: "... no direction home, a complete unknown, like a rolling stone," speak to this feeling as do the lyrics to the Crowley-inspired Led Zeppelin song, Rock-n-Roll.

Like many adolescents, I felt alienated and disconnected from current social expectations and the conventional cultural milieu; any sense of a real kind of home becoming distant, especially after moving out of the parental pod immediately upon turning 16.  Whenever I listened to Led Zeppelin back then, and still to this day, I felt closer to being at home.  A lot of good music in general invokes the home space, the place of sanctuary.

The passage that first turned me on to Deleuze and Guattari nicely articulates the relationship between music and home.  It's the beginning of the 11th chapter in A Thousand Plateaus:

"I. A child in the dark, gripped with fear, comforts himself by singing under his breath. He walks and halts to his song. Lost, he takes shelter, or orients himself with his little song as best he can. The song is like a rough sketch of a calming and stabilizing, calm and stable, center in the heart of chaos. Perhaps the child skips as he sings, hastens or slows his pace. But the song itself is already a skip: it jumps from chaos to the beginnings of order in chaos and is in danger of breaking apart at any moment. There is always sonority in Ariadne's thread. Or the song of Orpheus.

II. Now we are at home.But home does not preexist:it was necessary to draw a circle around that uncertain and fragile center, to organize a limited space...."

It seems an interesting paradox that home doesn't pre-exist, but the sense of it does. Most of us have an idea of how to create a home for ourselves; there usually seems an instinctive direction for going home.

Drawing a circle around an uncertain and fragile center is also a prime instruction in ritual magick.  In ritual magick you learn to create an inner space, a particular mood, of your choosing.  This space can be the home space.  With ritual magick you learn how to go home by creating a home. It is where? "Ritual is to the inner sciences what experiment is to the outer sciences." ( Robert Anton Wilson from 1986 internet chat recently posted by  Building a home, going home appears an endeavor of multiple and prolonged experimentation with perhaps many restarts. The fragile and uncertain center can get wiped out like a sand castle on the beach when the tide rolls in, but there's always lots of sand to construct another;  memory, the collection of data through personal experimentation, makes it easier and stronger next time around.

Hospitality, so important to Sufis, is the art of making the guest feel at home.

I hear the communication in the video below coming more from the guitar playing than the lyrics.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Jason Corsaro - High Fidelity Sound Engineer

A Poet makes himself a visionary through a long, boundless, and systematized disorganization of all the senses. All forms of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he exhausts within himself all poisons and preserves their quintessence's. Unspeakable torment, where he will need the greatest faith, a superhuman strength, where he becomes among all men the great invalid, the great criminal, the great accursed--and the Supreme Scientist!
-  Arthur Rimbaud

The Starlight Lounge, that plane of existence where the best musicians and comedians hang out après-vie, finally got their recording and mix engineer of equal calibre.  Jason Corsaro left his planetary body two weeks ago at the criminally young age of 58, and he is sorely missed.  Jason was to the recording studio what Hendrix was to the guitar, or what Coltrane, Coleman and Davis were to the horn, an innovator of the instrument.  In Jason's case, he used the recording studio to produce and invent new means of musical expression.  This may sound like hyperbole, but it's not, you can check other testimonials around the web where he's getting similar acclaim (" best engineer ever," says one).  The honorific, High Fidelity, doesn't refer to its conventional sense.  Jason created his own fidelity, that of an extremely original, high musical aesthetic that evolved and sometimes devolved, but was always different.  He had a unique sound that always changed.

Jason was larger than life.  Whenever he entered a room, life expanded to accommodate his presence.  That was the first thing I learned from him when we met.  Jason had the natural, unassuming aura of a star. I didn't spend all that much time with him during a short apprenticeship, but I came away from it loving him like a brother.  The longer projects we worked together on, each about a week to ten days, included: The Swans, The Ramones, Ginger Baker, Ronald Shannon Jackson and Stevie Salas.  There were some one-offs: a song by L.A. Guns that never saw the light of day, and a few songs by the French group FFF.  For FFF, he mixed the most important tracks and I took over the rest.  The torch was finally passed on that project and it did very well for the band in France. I also had the great fortune to assist him recording Tony Williams and a group of jazz luminaries.that included Elvin Jones, Sonny Sharrock, Pharoah Saunders and Charnette Moffat.  Each and every of these brief tenures is at the top of my list of most intense life experiences.

In a beautiful tribute to his friend and former collaborator, Nile Rodgers writes to Jason: "In some way you changed the world."  Yes he did.  For instance, it was Jason's mixing skills that temporarily promoted drummer Tony Thompson to a job with Led Zeppelin.

Mixing live sound for bar bands in the early and mid 1980s, every drummer, without exception, would ask me to make the drums sound like Led Zeppelin's John Bonham's kit.  Until, one day in late 1985, the drummer for the bar band Blade Runner requested that his drums sound like the Corsaro engineered Power Station record.  This became my first encounter with Jason's influence and ability to change the music industry.  With Bonham, you could hang one mic in a stairwell (When the Levee Breaks) and get a huge, powerful, drum sound.  The drum sound on the Power Station album started with a powerful hitting drummer but was reached through studio manipulation with Corsaro reportedly punching in and out every reverb move on the drums.  After Bonham died, Zeppelin hired Tony Thompson for their Live Aid reunion.  You can get a good idea of Jason's drum sound on Robert Palmer's hit Addicted to Love, another Thompson/Corsaro sonic collaboration:

 Thompson on that recording experience:

The engineer, Jason Corsaro, took a tube the size of my bass drum and built this tunnel from my bass drum all the way out into the hall and up the stairs. It was this weird thing he hooked up. And it worked.

Another major contribution Jason made towards changing the world, for better or for worse depending upon your perspective, was recording and mixing Madonna's Like A Virgin album, the record that made her a star.  He never once mentioned that to me. 

My second encounter with Jason was also virtual occurring when Bill Laswell played Cold Metal, the first track off of Iggy Pop's Instinct album, in Platinum Island's Studio East control room.  Half of this Laswell produced record was mixed by Corsaro at the Power Station while the other half was mixed by Robert Musso at Platinum Island with yours truly assisting.  From the opening chord the mix of Cold Metal jumped out of the speakers with its energy, intensity, and excitement and made Musso visibly nervous about reaching that standard.  After Bill and company left, as Bob and I began working on the song Easy Rider, Musso lamented that the Power Station studio had beautiful sounding live chambers, how could he match that?  I pointed out that we could set up the recording room in our studio as a live chamber and proceeded to do so.  A live chamber is any acoustic space configured with amplified speakers fed by an auxiliary send from the mixing desk.  This space is miced, often with the mics in a cardiod pattern aimed away from the speakers.  These microphones are routed to return channels on the board to make for a natural reverberation chamber that sounds significantly better than even the most expensive digital reverb devices.

This was the first time Platinum Island's studio was utilized in this way and the room sounded great as a live chamber. I continue to use this mixing technique to this day.  In fact, first on the agenda today when I start mixing the MaMuse record in a couple of hours, is to set up and process tracks through the live chamber at Prairie Sun known as the Waits Room, named for its discoverer as a recording space.  It makes for one of the best small live chambers in the world. This room is another studio on the property that's booked up beginning tomorrow so I'll go through all the songs to send the tracks I want processed through the chamber and record them back into the Pro Tools session.  I inadvertently rediscovered this "old school" method in response to Musso's concern over matching the intensity of Jason's Iggy Pop's mixes.  When Jason started mixing at Platinum Island he used that live chamber all the time.

Bob Musso rose to the occasion and produced comparably powerful mixes on his half of Instinct.  Corsaro's work motivated Musso to reach a higher level in a similar way that Hendrix's guitar virtuosity spurred Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell to play beyond their capacity in the early Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Jason didn't seem particularly keen about sharing his engineering techniques with anyone outside of the sessions yet, as others have also observed, he was very generous about passing on his knowledge and taking proteges under his wing.  The last day of the first project we worked together, The Swans -  The Burning World,  Jason turned me loose to mix the two alternate acoustic tracks giving a short mixing lesson in the process.  I feel it's historically important to the recording community to share some of his techniques and approaches to sound engineering in the same way as it is examining the methodology of any great musician.  No one can take his place and achieve the same results, you would have to be Jason to do that, however, his mixing style can inspire creative, outside-the-box sonic artistry.

Here's a few things I learned from him.  In retrospect, some of these appear quite obvious, but they were revelations to me at the time, and in this day and age where a high percentage of musicians are also amateur engineers, I expect these tips will be useful.

1.  Remember who you are and what you can do.  Bring your full presence of attention and confidence in your ability into the space.  Radiate this confidence like a star.  If you don't feel confident, fake it.

2. Process effects.  Most, nearly all, engineers I assisted prior to Jason would return their reverbs, delays etc. straight back into the board.  On a regular basis, Corsaro would  EQ, compress, gate and route effects into other effects sometimes daisy chaining four or five different processors together to come up with something previously unheard of in this space/time continuum; detune the live drum chamber, add a dash of chorus, flange or phase shifting to a reverb, etc.  Something as simple as low passing a reverb return (i.e. rolling off the high frequencies) can make a big difference.  Darker reverbs sound more natural.  I wish I had saved all the recall notes for Jason's sessions to give specific examples.

3.  Be fully present in the moment.  The moment that the mix is being printed is when the invocation is landing into a corporeal form; when it assumes a morphology taking a material shape.  As much as possible, Jason would make the creation of the mix a live event.  After getting all the sounds and setting up a balance of the tracks, he would assign all the major food groups (drums, bass, keys guitars, vocals etc.) to the eight subgroup faders in the middle of the SSL console.  Then he'd mix the song in one pass as a live performance.  He might do a few or several passes, like a guitar player trying to nail the perfect solo, but, in my experience with him, it was always the whole song in one go.  He wasn't the type of mixer to work on tweaking a section one fader at a time before moving to the next section. Not to say that he wouldn't embellish and tweak this first basic pass, but the idea was to do the whole thing at once, to create a live mix performance in the studio.

A great example to hear that is the aforementioned Iggy Pop song, Cold Metal.  Jason told me that just when that track was going to print, the SSL computer automation broke down and wouldn't work.  All the sounds were set, everything was routed to the central subgroup faders so Jason mixed it live to the two track mixdown recorder.  When working in this fashion, you are mixing from the heart and soul - intuitively and on  the fly.  There isn't time to mentally think about getting everything in its "proper" place.  Any great artistic creation bypasses the rational mind and its worries, concerns and editorial censorship.  The guitar solo in Cold Metal is slightly inside the track, a little lower in volume level than where you'd commonly place a solo, but the energy and excitement of the track is undeniable.  It's the only song from Instinct that made it onto an Iggy Pop Greatest Hits compilation.  Contrast that with the guitar solo level in another Corsaro mixed song from Instinct, Strong Girl which sounds a little louder than your average solo.  There's a couple of syncrhonicities going on here.  First of all, the album is called Instinct; Jason mixed from instinct and intuition - heart and soul, not from his rational mind.  The first line in Cold Metal is: "I play tag in the auto graveyard..." - the SSL computer automation was in the graveyard when Jason materialized that mix into the world.

4. Mix as if it's life or death. This seems the difference between an artist attempting to create something that's never been seen or heard before and a craftsperson producing a socially and culturally accepted artifact according to a standard formula.  Quoting from a much earlier post: "One thing I really picked up from Jason was his intensity, focus and commitment to the work. He aimed for mixes that broke barriers and reached for new levels of sonic expression. It's hard to get across just how intense the space was when he was working. You had to be at your highest degree of presence and attention, more so than you ever thought possible because that's where he was at. He was going for sounds, especially in the low end, that would present ground-breaking music, such as the Ginger Baker album, Middle Passage, more powerfully than ever before; to strike a Universal Chord, create a vibrational pattern that could and would, perhaps, resonate throughout the planet. At times it would seem that Jason would mix as if the fate of the World hung in the balance. He intensely loved what he was doing which probably contributed significantly to the success his work enjoyed."

Suggested listening:  I haven't had the chance to listen Jason's to entire oeuvre, but I do intend to catch up with some of his classic mixes as points of study.  Here is a selection of tracks that I know about with a few comments:

1. Public Image Limited, the entire generic Album.  Jason once relayed a story of recording Ginger Baker's drums for this album.  One Sunday at the Power Station recording studio, when most of the staff wasn't around, he somehow managed to stop the elevator, place a sheet of thick plywood for a platform on top of the elevator and set up the drums in the elevator shaft.  Later on he got in a lot of trouble from the Power Station management.  If anyone got hurt, insurance wouldn't have covered it and they would have been liable for any potential lawsuits.

2.  Swans - The Burning World.  In particular, the tracks The River That Runs with Love Won't Run Dry, Let It Come Down, Can't Find My Way Home,(She's A) Universal Emptiness, and Saved. From the earlier post:

"For the first two sessions (of this project) I did the standard assistant's job of patching, keeping notes, etc while also hanging back, staying out of Jason's way and not saying much, which was the politically correct way of working as an assistant - not offering any input or opinion unless asked or if something drastically wrong was occurring.

At the end of the second night, Corsaro had, a 'let's get real' talk with me that was kind of a kick in the ass. I don't remember exactly what he said, but something to the effect that I could either continue working as any other stay-in-the-lines assistant engineer jerk or I could seriously help him mix the record as a co-pilot. From then on I was right beside him at the board watching his every move like a hawk, making suggestions when appropriate, even helping with automation moves when his hands were full."

From another post about this recording:

"One example of how strong the mood became for me was during the mix of the Swans cover of Can't Find My Way Home written by Steve Winwood and originally performed by Blind Faith, the 'super-group' with Winwood, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Ric Grech.

Come down off your throne and leave your body alone
Somebody must change

You are the reason I've been waiting so long

Somebody holds the key

Well I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time

And I'm wasted and I can't find my way home...

Somehow, the combination of the way Jarboe sang it, the music, and the fact of living the song from the inside out by helping Jason set-up the mix and hearing it over and over again, put me in a mood where, within the confines of the control room, it really felt like a life or death situation. I was mindful of the song's context and history, and the self-destructive excesses it was obviously addressing. I really felt it could go either way, toward life or to death. Trilok's pitch bending, slower tabla rhythm helped produce this effect. Karl Berger, founder of the influential Woodstock based Creative Music Studio, had added a nice bell like counter line on a xylophone that seemed to draw in an angelic presence to guard the vulnerability of balancing on the edge that came through Jarboe's vocal delivery. Even as the lyrics look hopeless, the music, the performance, and the haunting dreamy nature of the audio space Jason created, gave the effect of seeing a distant light at the end of a long dark tunnel suggesting the possibility of transformation, redemption and change."

3.  Ginger Baker - Middle Passage.  This remains one of the most sonically powerful  recording expressions I've ever been a part of.  Quoting about the drum solo:

"The peak of watching Jason work occurred during the mix of the 5th track, Basil, a 4:21 drum solo by Baker. Through extreme, but parallel processing, he created radically different textures in the drum sound which he then, using the SSL automation, brought in and out to create different dynamic sections. I'm hesitant to be more specific about the effects used but I can say that when Jason worked the automation to create or emphasize the different sections, it was like watching a virtuoso musical performance. Both Bill Laswell and I were sitting with Jason at the SSL while he made multiple passes to get the automation just right. I had the feeling that Bill was equally aware that we were watching a master at the top of his game. It's a memory that I'll never forget. I highly recommend checking out Basil, it's some of the most powerful drumming you'll ever hear. It's about the only drum recording I know of that musically and sonically compares with John Bonham's Moby Dick for a powerfully melodic drum composition, brought to the forefront through Jason's mix."

I do remember one of the effects he used for it - a triggered flanged autopan program from the Eventide H3000 SE which he ran the tom toms through.

Bill Laswell and Yoko Yamabe put this together to honor his memory:

To the being of Jason Corsaro: bon voyage, mon ami, you changed my life. Your work and legacy live on.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Butterfly Language, Sumer, and the Plane of Immanence, (Slight Return)

Butterfly Language is an excellent blog that readers of the Oz Mix will likely want to check out on a regular basis.  It's written, constructed and published by Valerie D’Orazio frequently.  It came across my radar when posted a link to the first installment in a series about Jack Parsons, one of Aleister Crowley's magical sons and the inventor of solid rocket fuel, titled: An Alternate History of Jack Parsons, Part I: Warrior Lord of the Forties.  Ms. D'Orazio uses a technique called Imaginative Cognition (IC), she learned writer Walter Stein, to intuitively embellish the narrative and offer insights.  The writing is entertaining, engaging, and thought provoking.  I'm reminded of one the more enjoyable Crowley biographies: Magician of the Golden Dawn: the story of Aleister Crowley, by Susan Roberts which took great liberties imagining the Magus' interior states, thoughts and emotions.  D'Orazio is more transparent about her process and that honesty makes for a stronger invocation.  Another interesting and novel feature are the links to popular culture images and tropes to illustrate this alternate history.  I would like to see more writing like this in Thelemic literature because it seems a creative and valid way to effectively explore, expand and communicate the 93 current.  After all, I suspect much of Crowley's artistic output could accurately be described as Imaginative Cognition.

* * * * * *
Well, I stand up next to a mountain, chop it down with the edge of my hand.

 - Jimmi Hendrix, Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

Earlier we spoke of the plane of immanence as an open-ended environment, a framework where concepts arise, live and proliferate; meet up, connect, and give birth to experimental offspring; mutatis mutandis  Every major thinker posits their own plane of immanence for ideas and thought experiments to flourish and find means of expression. The introductory linguistics of Crowley's and Gurdjieff's systems were presented as examples.  Deleuze conceives of a plane of immanence of the age.  We will observe what that looks like from here: the plane of immanence as it encompasses systems of Initiation; the transformation into the all-worlds sympathetic, post-human condition.

Some Deleuzian commentators make note that the French word plan means both plane - as in a geometrical plane, and plan - forming a strategy, and suggest that Deleuze intends the pun.  We see Deleuze's pun and raise him a gravity defying vehicle, to wit: the plane of immanence = an airplane for traveling through the macrodimensions of the labyrinth, the hidden recesses of the soul, the parts of the brain we don't use because they are mostly dormant, however, they appear immanent, always there, if unseen and unnoticed.  This reads like what they say about bardo spaces - we are always there, always in the bardo, in a between-lives state moving from one relative point of stability to another; like being on a subway train or an airplane flying over the ocean.  We acknowledge at least 3 meanings of the phrase "plane of immanence:" 1) the abstract geometrical plane where concepts are born, grow up and procreate, 2) a plan, a strategy for evoking and invoking the limitless possibilities of our future becomings, 3) an airplane of immanence, a vehicle for traveling anywhere and everywhere the mind can conceive and beyond. " A vehicle for Deleuze's " lines of flight."  I had a dream, crazy dream ... anything I wanted to know, any place I needed to go." (Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains the Same, a musical expression of the plane of immanence)  We note the magical pun with the element Air = intellect; the airplane of immanence = a linguistic plane- we get there with language.

What follows is a quick sketch, albeit a very incomplete fragment, of the plane of immanence as it regards Initiation, from this biased reporter.  In modern times, this plane begins to assume its current reach with the emergence of works by Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Rimbaud in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century.

As I attempt to thumbnail on paper this plane of initiatory immanence, a young women walks into the coffee shop sporting a large hawk with outspread wings tattooed across her upper back and shoulders.  The hawk being a foremost iconic symbol of Thelema: "I am the Hawk-Headed Lord of Silence & of Strength; my nemyss shrouds the night-blue sky." Liber Al 3:70.

Synchronicity as affirmation.

Nietzsche conceived a new form of humanity, perhaps a life beyond the human.  He suggested that a vast gulf, or abyss exists between what we are now and what we can become.  He also suggested a revaluation of all values.  Contemporaneously, Arthur Rimbaud, steeped with knowledge of the Hermetic Arts, poetically fleshes out and describes this abyss in A Season in Hell with glimpses and snapshots of the life beyond in Illuminations. Rimbaud recognized the power of linguistics: "Rimbaud had outlined his fantastic self-ordained mission to 'change life itself' by means of a totally new kind of language, by means of magic." (Bertrand Mathieu).  Bob Dylan and Patti Smith are two contemporary artists profoundly influenced by Rimbaud and his mission.

Crowley made "Crossing the Abyss" the second and final attainment in his magical system of making the immanent actual. This follows upon the "Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel", magickspeak for learning how to communicate with a highly intelligent, non-human guide.  Scientific materialists might call it learning to active different parts of the brain or unlocking hidden strands in the DNA code, and they could be right.

Apart from Crowley, this abyss has been explored in literature by Robert Anton Wilson, Thomas Pynchon, Phillip K. Dick, Kenneth Patchen, James Joyce, Kenneth Grant, Flann O'Brien and probably others that I'm leaving out.

Nietzsche also referred to the revaluation of values as transvaluation because they are values that go far beyond the current ones.  Crowley made the transvaluation of values a primary theme in his Book of Lies.  Looking for that quote, I became startled with another hawk synch:

Zoroaster describes God as having the head of the Hawk, and a spiral force. It will be difficult to understand this chapter without some experience in the transvaluation of values, which occur throughout the whole of this book, in nearly every other sentence. Transvaluation of values is only the moral aspect of the method

- Book of Lies, commentary on chapter 42

Slight return to the plane of immanence timeline: Madame Blavatsky formed the Theosophical Society in 1875, the same year Aleister Crowley was born. This began the process of making the spiritual path more democratic and self-reliant; advocating an eclectic approach to esoteric practices and strategies for the genesis of the post human animal condition.  Crowley first published his system in the Equinox beginning in in 1909.  In it, right near the beginning in Postcards To Probationers, he claimed to be able to produce "Christs" (Leary's C6) with his methods.  If you entertain the notion that this is possible, then you're open to the plane of immanence.

Right around the same time, or shortly after, G.I. Gurdjieff emerged upon the scene in St. Petersburg and Moscow, introduced to the intelligentsia by P.D. Ouspensky.  Both men absorbed Nietzsche. Using and expanding upon many of the philosopher's ideas, Gurdjieff takes up the production and development of a new kind of human in a completely different, but complementary fashion than Crowley.  Cross-referencing the two radically different systems can prove very useful to understanding both of them.  Once, in a monastery, I saw a drawing of the Enneagram superimposed upon the Tree of Life.

Lady of Largest Heart

The slight return of the plane of immanence refers to the fact that both Crowley and Gurdjieff said that they were presenting a revival of an ancient tradition.  Both these teachers crossed paths with the Yezidi, an extremely ancient culture that archeologists have dated back to at least 12,000 B.C.  Crowley was very specific about the ancient influence: "Aiwaz is not (as I had supposed) a mere formula like many angelic names, but it is the true most ancient name of the God of the Yezidis, and thus returns to the highest Antiquity. Our work is therefore historically authentic, the rediscovery of the Sumerian Tradition."  Aiwaz or Aiwass was the name of the non-human entity that dictated the Book of the Law to Crowley.  He referred to this entity as his Holy Guardian Angel.

Lady of Largest Heart is the name of second oldest known poem in the world.  It was composed by Enheduanna, a High Priestess of Sumer and daughter of the first ruler in that land, Sargon, in homage to the Goddess, Inanna.  I recently discovered this in a wonderful book called: Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna by Betty De Shong Meador.  Enheduanna was passionately devoted to Inanna her whole life and was responsible for elevating her  to the position of supreme deity.  The first poem ever recorded, also by Enheduanna, Inanna and Ebih, tells how Inanna put down an uppity male god challenging her domain who manifested as a mountain. The Hendrix quote above encapsulates what Inanna does in the poem.  I am fascinated by the coincidence that the first verse of Voodoo Child (Slight Return) channels the world's oldest poem.  The poem was translated well after his death so he couldn't possibly have been consciously influenced by it.

The first lines that Meador quotes from Enheduanna greatly resembles Crowley's image of Babalon as she appears in the Thoth Tarot XI called Lust or Strength:

child of the Moon God
a soft bud swelling
her queen's robe cloaks the slender stem

             * * *

 steps, yes she steps her narrow foot
on the furred back 
of a wild lapis lazuli bull

and she goes out
white-sparked, radiant
in the dark vault of evening's sky
star-steps in the street
through the Gate of Wonder

In her poems and hymns, Enheduanna reveals Inanna as a complex goddess with multiple natures. Describing how Inanna was understood by the Sumerians, Meador writes:

"In these poems we see that the very being of this goddess infuses and vivifies all nature and natural processes.  She is the divine in matter,  As such, she sustains the ebb and flow, the relentless paradoxical reality of the natural world.  She exists between blessing and curse, light and dark, plenty and want, goodness and malevolence, life and death.  Harsh is her reality may seem, it is the Real every living being must encounter."

Cosmic Trigger, the book where I first encountered the dynamic duo, Crowley and Gurdjieff, begins with parables from traditions that strongly influenced author Robert Anton Wilson. The first anecdote comes from the Sufis.  The second story tells of the goddess Ishtar's descent into the Underworld.  Ishtar is the Babylonian version of Inanna.

On page 156 of Betty Meador's book, she traces the Tree of Life to the second poem, Lady of Largest Heart:

Inanna in this poem 'spans the tree of heaven / trunk to crown.' Likewise the central symbol of the Assyrian Ishtar is the tree that Parpola says 'contained the secret key to the psychic structure of the perfect man and thus to eternal life.'  The tree appears in medieval Judaism as the Tree of Life of Kabbalah, a primary symbol of Jewish mysticism.

Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart is a must read for anyone interested in studying the roots of Thelema or for anyone interested in seeing how the power of the active feminine can change the world.  "Well I stand up next to a mountain, chop it down with the edge of my hand.  Pick up all the pieces and make an island, might even raise a little sand."