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Thursday, July 26, 2018

What Is Radical?

Throughout the history of Western classical music there has been an inexorable drive towards expansion and complexity. The modernism of the last century saw a dramatic acceleration of this tendency. It is as if some utopian goal was being raced towards, some hoped-for if vague transcendence, through an increasing radicalizaion of ways and means. An example would be the pursuit of "extended techniques" in acoustic instrumental performance practice. This often amounted to demands on the the instruments that were never intended by their original creators, with diminishing returns as the resulting distortion violated the very nature of the insturments. It would seem to point a problem with the notion of what might be called "transcendence by ordeal." We get the ordeal but not the transcendecne. From my perspective, true transcendence is not the result of generating more and extreme content of a materialistic nature, but to reveal and illuminate the "container" in which such phenomona arise. We are venturing into metaphisical waters here. That container or context has been called by many names: consciousness, pure awareness, satchitananda, Buddha Mind, Big Mind, etc., as well as the familiar names for the deity in monotheistic religions, at least in their mystical manifestations. In Buddhism, the Heart Sutra states that "emptiness is form, form is emptiness." We could think of form as the material content of music, and emptiness as that ineffable essence of many names that I feel form must point towards and embody. But in the radical new music of this and the last century there seems to have been an overemphasis on form as readicalized content. With the labyrinthmusic I am concerned with restoring the balance of musical content and formless essence. So rather than pursue extreme novelty at any cost, we might consider using more accessible means explicitly directed towards a higher end. That to me would be a new kind of "radical," one whose time has surely come.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

What I Am Doing And What I Am Doing It For

The musical language of the repertoire I have created for the labyrinth has salient features that distinguish it from conventional concert music. These characteristics are the result of pragmatic considerations that are not generally part of the accepted ethos of contemporary concert music.

What I have tried to do is to be clear as possible about the effect that I wish the music to have on the listener, and then to work backwards to devise the most effective means of carrying that through. Although I am committed to creating an optimal aesthetic experience for the listener, as all musicians are, I wish to go further and take responsibility for the spiritual, energetic and psychological effects on the listener, which may or may not be a function of the aesthetic dimension at all.

The tonal language of the repertoire displays what is known in music theory as pandiatonicism. This results in a generally consonant effect, but on a pregressive spectrum from very consonant, to relatively consonant, back to very consonant. This consonant nature fo the material is solely a practical consideration of making the music accessible to a generaly audience, rather than any ideological stance regarding modernist dissononance and its discontents. Similarly, the rhythmic language tends towards a repertitive, reductive profile, not out of any ideological adherence to that ethos, but as a practical means of inducing a certain effect of trance. The classical minimalism of Reich and Glass has been loosely dubbed "trance music," based on it unrelenting repetition. Yet this "trance" is an effect, an artefact, an epiphenomenon without psychospiritual intention or telos. My music, on the other hand, is an implement for functionally inducing a trance state for the purpose of rendering the psyche more porous to insight and transformation, as is the case with shamanic drumming and the traditional music of animist cultures, such as gamelan and African drumming. The transformation in question is based on the aspiration that the constant recycling of the circular journey embedded in the music will, subliminally and by osmosis, entrain an analogous journey in the listener's psyche.

So given its prescriptive orientation, the labyrinthmusic is to be assessed on its pyschospiritual merits, rather than on any criteria based on historical-ideological exigencies. In fact it lies outside the realm of what can be critiqued in terms of conventional aesthetic phenomenology, in the same way that shamanic drumming lies outside the orbit of what in the West would be considered "percussion music." This changes everything: it eliminates fractious "new music" polemics that are theory driven, and effectively shuts down the role of the critic. Most importantly, it realigns - rectifies - the role of the composer and the musicians who play his or her music. The latter are now no longer cogs in a musical machine, but active facilitators of the collective human process unfolding on the labyrinth itself. They in effect become sound healers, healing others as they heal themselves, by entraining their own process with that of the labyrinth pilgrims in what is neither concert not ritual, but a third thing, greater than the sum of its parts. Crucially, the music they are playing must uniquely embody an authentic presence and intention for the alchemy to happen. Thus the role of the labyrinthmusic, which aspires to the role of the shaman - the wounded healer - in indigenous cultures.