Having the Void Right in your Face all the Time… makes one send out some desperate transmissions. If you’re picking up this transmission, you’re already in the midst of a lingo-philosophic musical experiment. The lingual part will be over mercifully soon, and the lion’s share of the philosophy will be carried by music, the only language I know that still has metaphysical power amongst the ruins of my inner world.
To speak that kind of language together, though, we must open some kind of shared chamber in the mazes of our thought-worlds, and, when it comes to this kind of thing, I only know how to begin building with a bubbling of words.
bursting light from deep black roils
Rifts… molten signs of a land rising from the sea…
sketches… godhand gestures at articulating desire holy enough to propel life.
The Wheel of Gaia is a living gear in an architect’s drill,
tunnel-chewing, a living spinning wheel,
a muscled skeleton of loom
dancing open halls of veils
hung on nothing but the 7-story glimmer of the insubstantial
slum-scape of the dirty aether.
We’ve grown hunched, small, thick and hard,
but newborn rivulets sketch rifts,
lightning sketches on riversand,
in the light-world of living flow.
(A fragment of a life-rune on a precious memory-cell
of wind and sand on a sun brick wall,
flickerpedals and a search for something…
Moss in the grove down the hill,
And below the grove,
& below the creek?
The bottom of this one slow pool…
Below that? Pray tell?
A void-color that snuffs even the daydream of ground. This is the color that haunts my most vivd moments, when I seahorse anonymous in to the great flow and become a geometric line unfolding as a hope to express some–to express *any* meaning–sometimes in that liquid light I think we all splash into sometimes, though we may not always notice, sometimes the layers of 3D space separate like mysteries of planes in a Viewmaster (remember that red toy?–an interesting insight into space there…) When that magic hour strikes, depths un-drawable open before my eyes and I see that haunting void-color behind everything.
Once one moves beyond the surface of things to the molten place where forms evolve translucently in their full possible depth (Tree of Life users, consider the jump from Malkuth to Yesod…),Void is the ground-coat of the whole artwork. So I weep at the beauty of the light that dares to skate this abyssal canvas. There are intricacies of energy behind the most ordinary things; sparks handstand and pirouette in the architecture of every small resistance to nothingness: an unbleached sidewalk square like a relic of a druid’s chessboard, peaked like a cabin in the torment of the shifting earth, somehow still holds us up above the void below in spite of its broken back… the violent root pulses with the effort of tunneling through that darkness under things projected skins, bloating hard enough to crack concrete in the made euphoria of converting all that darkness to life–
–the mad euphoria of converting darkness into life… ‘Truthflowering’… do we not know it every time we breathe at night? (I know its temple unfolds from the cracked mezzanines of every summer parking lot… void and lights dance with it incarnate in our small-shriveled island layer of being.) Once our consciousness alights on this, how can we ever endure remaining small, thick and hunched enough to suffer the trite trials of brutal monkey economy into the temple of our desires ever again?
I was given this liberation young and tortured by it long, and the urge to share it is insatiable, inscrutable, and ferally anti-rational. It unfolds as best as I can figure out how to let it in this experiment.
The Musical Challenge… I took on here was inventing a technique for converting the elements (old sense of ‘element’) of experience that defy linguistic description into a symbolic musical architecture that would, musical mind to musical mind, communicate this elemental layer of experience.
Initially, I put up a variety of novel harmonic edifices, but none of them supported symbolic weight. That is to say, in the last best maddest way I know how, that contrived, artificial harmonic structures wouldn’t support the magic musical lenses through which visions of hidden, half-remembered worlds appear. The whole compositional experience was mightily frustrating, and surrender of all thought about the matter along with the necessities of the life of street-performing I found myself swept into enveloped me in other adventures.
But then came the sudden recapitulation and the key: Old vocabularies dancing in a liberated syntax could convey a music-physical, rather than conceptual, species of meaning.
This idea became the basis for a hasty samurai flurry of disciplined practice; for the restless busker, failure to communicate meant failure to get out of town, which was always simply unacceptable. Surfing the rivulets of energy in a space with musical Tetris-piece boards made of significant bits of ancient melody-stuff–by embodying this metaphor, I achieved moments of uncanny communion with the human flow on streets from San Francisco to New Orleans. These moments opened springs in this hitherto cold flow that re-nourished my life–one might call the whole affair a certain musical energy work. To challenge and shame myself toward the full realization of the path’s potential, I pet-named the style of playing “the Lyre of Orpheus”–(I’d cling to the beast myth and keep on playing when things started to get dark and rough on the street.)
The beast-taming improv style was limited, though–a street magician’s trick. It was not the sort of thing that’d hold up on the record player over time. It was like a tidepool–lucid on a powerful level, but static… brief in its real growth… a poor mirror to reflect an experiential sea.
I wanted the narrative power of the Composer as well as the Surfer’s full-body expressive freedom. I needed to construct my nostalgic-but-strong-and-free melodic and harmonic ideas into an architecture with enough grit of articulation to it to bear some real, deep musical meaning.
I approached each piece in more or less the same way a lucid dreaming might progressively explore a certain relatively stable dreamscape over a series of dreams. The trick was in keeping a simple distinction in mind: between the improvisational and compositional approaches to fiddling with melodies. The latter flows primarily from the composer’s architectural mind; the former flows primarily from the dance of the instrumentalists’ musical body-mind. I believe that improvisation can let slip the hidden truths of physicality in a way that composition never can, but the trick is articulating any truth with any narrative detail and development through improvisation. “Self-quotation” [a-la many lead guitarists] or “writing in the head and repeating” is, for all these reasons, absolutely distinct from what I started calling “long-evolved”, “deep core” or, even, after the tree-art, “banzai” improvisation. Instead of writing a piece, keeping it, and improving on that object with craft, I’ve turned my craft on improving my musical subject. I explore the pathways out from a theme, let that exploration deepen my internal, soul-understanding of that theme’s architectural implications. I let the resultant musical object slip away like a face in a sacred monastic sand painting. Next time I unfold that theme, the flow will be deeper, because my own musical understanding of the source of that river will be deeper.
Once this distinction in musical attitudes (the objective chiseling and the subjective channeling) clicked in my head, the rest was practice–syntactic depth attained through faithfully exploring and re-exploring certain melodic and harmonic “haunts”… Really, distilled, one musician to another, none of this is to say any more than that this is my *flow*. I’ve shaped it with a banzai trimmer’s care. Dig it.
The Fingerpainter’s Metaphysics of it all… are like this: 0n account of the whole great-whirlwind-of-the-primal-genesis-of-form-and-meaning-being-just-below-the-surface-of-my-perception thing, I can barely look at arrays of stairs and landings (the kind that make you want to Nerf-gun fight across their spans…) without misting up; every alteration of the relationship between body and space possible within any edifice opens up something strange. (Angels save me from thoughts of fire-escapes… I once knocked a flower pot off a Manhattan fire escape and it smashed below on a porn-star’s patio; the delicious humor of the sheer depth of the spatiality of it all nearly broke my heart!) The twists and turns of space create “mezzanines” between worlds where a true dance of being plays out, and, crazy as it may sound, I know because I see it. Because I’ve seen this vision, I believe the runic significance of the possible fluid positions of bodies in space is the most primal alphabet of our life stories.
If we are to write, and not only suffer, these stories, we must learn this alphabet. Musicians: do you remember the liberation of first coming face to face without he elements of music, and seeing that you could make newness out of them? Children: do you remember the shift in perception when the shiny click-shapes became, not a toybuilding kit (a thing with use and rules) but a creative stuff, a fluid extra part of your self that helped you share your dreams and make them real? Imagine feeling that connection in a face-to-face with the being itself. Imagine how you could potentially feel and wield each moment and movement of life afterwards.
I have been given this. But I have not been given the ability to write about it, so there’s really no way for me to expect you to know what I’m talking about yet. This is the Catch-22 we share when we speak together of such things. This block of words is no more or less a failure than the other hundreds like it I’ve written: It is an infinite failure.
Yet I pray with a fox’s grin that those of you who swear yourselves to adventure’s love and beauty will pass through my madness along your way. My childish heart knows you won’t be disappointed in it. So, from the bridge of my studio (the closest thing to a space-spelunking craft I’ve ever known) I’ve tried to fingerpaint and lightproject you pathmarks with my instruments and wizard-of-oz toys. Listen, move, and maybe you, like me will slip into betweenworlds where riftsketches unfold in molten nakedness the runic alphabet of body-world.
But, as Sappho once wrote, “If you’re squeamish, don’t prod the beach rubble.” From an Earthling’s perspective, this is dark music. After a lifetime of living in the tenuous fire-glade of this cosmic pencil play, I am, by many Earthly definitions, broken. I am, for sure, chronically broke. I have no career of my own to speak of. I prowl in thunderstorms like a sacred invalid to watch the births of rivulets on hidden slopes. I sleep most nights in a tent that is the deepest home I’ve ever made. I shake off frigid mountain dew most mornings. I explore the tunnels of the moosey swamp just to know the color green more fully. In high meadows, I gather sage in old ways I believe to have learned in waking dreams. I acknowledge my mortal obligation to die, but I also walk in the clear light of the happiness that is the primal and just reward for daring to undertake this three-dimensional space-game called “flesh” and “mind” and “self”. I don’t think anyone has a right to charge me money for it. I become irrationally irritable when people expect me to handle money or legalities. Older men get angry with me when I try to talk about these things. During fiery droughts, I carry water to wildflowers from a spring a mile away. This too strikes most as comically anti-economic. (“Why not use tapwater?” … “I’m an old priest born out of time. Sorry.”) I pass my fools time on creek-rocks in comical “extreme” balance-games that are comical because they are only extreme at all if you see space as the crazy waterfall maze I do. I waste time while everyone else is locking up their bikes circling any extra-3D parking lots, playing at “gyropiracy” (Piracy from a gyroscope–think about it!). I consider “space-spelunking” my true profession, so I most certainly will not teach your children anything that will grow them up. I spend more time looking for good climbing trees than paying gigs. My cello only has strings on it by the charity of my friends. Compared with most young men who were given my kind of advantages, I am a socio-economic loser. But… oh… *but*: I share winks face to face with both true love of life and death most every day. As Kalil Gibran once advised, I laugh all of my laughter and cry all of my tears. The river of this is what animates me; it’s why I still move, even though it hurts so much so much of the time.
In these recording sessions, I’ve tried to throw enough rosin dust into the air to give all this indescribable flickering a chance to, like the spirit in the Solomonic ritual, well, *appear*. It’ll probably only work if you already know her, so maybe this is just a musical space-probe, prowling the canyon-rifts and mezzanines between the worlds, searching for Others who might Live there. Listen up, all you beautiful Spacebeasts. I’m playing as hard as I can down here.