“I Crave Being Destroyed”

Combing my list of unfinished drafts, I sometimes unearth little gems. This one began as a nod to a certain New Orleans ambient noise band, but quickly veered into a miniature Grand Statement about what I get out of music.

This self portrait is a handy visual metaphor for the words you’re about to read.

IMG_20130124_121652

I was discussing Belong‘s debut album, October Language. I was living in San Francisco and had picked up the album on CD at Aquarius Records. The following is what I wrote almost exactly 4 years ago. I’m sharing because it still applies to my life.

Continue reading

Koyaanisqatsi

So I discovered that the entire groundbreaking, timeless, brilliant film is free on youtube.

Koyaanisqatsi

Instructions for those who have not seen Koyaanisqatsi:

1. Stop what you are doing immediately.

2. Turn volume up high.

3. Watch Koyaanisqatsi.

4. Bask in silent astonishment.

5. Thank me.

Honestly, this is one of those life-changing works of art which you will simply and honestly never forget.  I fondly recall my first viewing, laying prone in front of a laptop in a cabin on a mountain at night and feeling my astonishment overtaking all physical sensation.  This truly begs for the big screen, or at least a reasonably large one, with a reasonable sound system accompanying the visuals.  Yet its artistry thrives in any time, place, or size.  Which is exactly why I am sharing the profound discovery that it is free to anyone willing to pay only time and curiosity.  Hell, if you have firefox with adblock plus, you won’t even see the ads (and honestly, get it – I couldn’t imagine this seamless dream interrupted by commercials) and the only thing you’re missing is the absolute clarity of the original high fidelity print.  You’ll undoubtedly recognize certain elements within this time travelling all-encompassing slice of Life Itself, both stylistically and culturally.  From the frenzied time-lapse shots of nature and city life contrasting with assembly lines and traffic patterns to the impossibly slow motion glimpses of astonishment and banality, the style and content of this film has influenced more than a generation of visual art and storytelling.

The best part is that I haven’t even gotten to the music; the reason this stands 30 years on as the timeless accomplishment it is:  Philip Glass‘ score is the 10 ton monolith blocking out the sun, the elephant in the room, the absolute gravitational pull of this work.  If you are at all familiar with 20th century minimalism via Charlemagne Palestine, Steve Reich, Terry Riley or their contemporaries, or especially Glass’ emotive, often romantic take on the sound, you are likely already familiar with some or all of these sounds; if not you are in for a warm embrace of what will likely become a hermetic world you’ll find easily inhabited and unequivocally addicting.  Call it lazy, but having the film here and ready to watch makes me reluctant to begin ascribing descriptors to the music.  It must be experienced to be grasped.  The marriage of sound and picture is essential for direct, uninhibited understanding, for knowing the intrinsic appeal of minimalism itself, for laying bare the nature of conceptual ourboros, the cyclical existence we’re evolved to respond to.  This score is meant to evoke the cosmic design of life itself from violent beginning to violent end and all of the impossibly close and personal yet gigantic moments in between.

Note: Do not listen before viewing.  Although entirely gorgeous, worthy, and entrancing on its own…  divorced from the imagery at birth, Glass’ score will never reach the same affection and thus should be saved for after-film experience.

Alice Coltrane – Transcendence

Transcendence is my favorite Alice Coltrane album. In my humble opinion, it’s one of the greatest jazz albums of all time, by anyone. I’ll try to concisely extol the many virtues of this wonderfully titular-promise-fulfilling album.

alicecoltrane-transcendence

“Transcendence is the key that unlocks the indelible mystery of Alice Coltrane’s music. It is the unerring creative mission statement, the irresistible driving force that pushes her soul towards your own.

Reaching the listener emotionally, psychologically and spiritually is an essential part of the endeavor but the act of going beyond conventional forms of communication, of acceding to a higher state of consciousness, is the ultimate raison d’être.”

Since the liner notes in my handy CD reissue lay it out so succinctly, I feel the need only to briefly describe the music itself. Divided into two distinct phases, the album starts off with meandering cloud shimmers of Alice’s effortlessly magical harp. At first nearly traditional sounding, emulating the first rumblings of a symphony, the amorphous harp-centric sound winds through the second, more abstract tune, before gathering into a purposeful rhythm by the ending of the third track. The final echoes softly give way to the low end hum of Coltrane’s sublime organ workout, which drives the rest of the album along a hand-clapping gospel singalong evocation of the various names of the gods.

This western gospel/eastern philosophy mashup feels so comfortably entwined that it comes across like the most natural progression of this idea possible. The sharp tonal divide would stand out more if it weren’t the perfect combination of contrast and duration: the buildup feels like meditation, being lost in thought and nothingness, before a moment of clarity snaps the world into focus. The local cohabitants emerge and reach towards the outer edges of the world as the gods’ names are chanted in the communal practice of Sankirtan, Alice’s favorite sacrifice. It’s an elated ride from introspection to vocal providence; such an enjoyable trip that we’re nigh unaware of the spirituality fueling the journey. Turn this on and let it get you high – or get high before turning it on. Transcendence is all that matters.

[purchase this truly essential album via cd universe or amazon]