Archive for August, 2013

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Nights as a child being put to bed before ready – summer, the light nights. A blanket over the window to block out the light.

Then to come awake, find yourself up near the ceiling: a wholly visual experience, you feared for your eyes when the ceiling drew near.

Those nights would be the night-mare nights.

In late teens reading books on Astral Projection. So much was going on those years, though, you just had not the time to put into it. So much to do outside, in those bright nights.

Later to come down with an illness, so try to Heal Thyself. A ready predilection for that type of activity, so use that as a vehicle.

Dig out those books again. Then to discover Robert Monroe’s trilogy ‘Journey Out of the Body’, 1971; ‘Far Journeys’, 1985; ‘Ultimate Journey’, 1994. Devour those.

He wrote one account of travelling across the space of one particular landscape when he encountered a huge shape stationary in the sky. He couldn’t go under it; he could not go around it. It stopped him at every point. For people who remember dreams, this is one they too will remember. It seemed Monroe had tapped into something most knew of in some way.

Read all the books, and it begins to pay off. You have increasingly successful experiences.

The basic activity is to lie/sit and try to quieten the mind to a sleep level, but also to stay alert. The aim is to allow one to sink to the borderline of sleep where the body either falls completely asleep, or can disengage the… spirit or whatever, where the alertness is anchored. This can then rise out of the body and … have adventures, I guess.

You’re after knowledge, to know how to up life levels, get better, become full again.

On one occasion lying on a settee when a space opened above, a hole. In that space was a large yellow room. Faces appeared and looked down, some were smiling, some laughing. Some were gesturing to come up to them. You’re not perturbed by this, but declined; it was far too busy and noisy. You needed somewhere quiet to concentrate on getting the technique right, on learning how to do it, and to get control.

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To read and read. Then one night it happened: woke up and found yourself in the vibration state – between sleep and alertness, a general overall vague fuzzy feeling.

The key to all is remain calm. The books recommend you dip in and out a few times to become familiar with the feeling. You try this but it’s tiring. So you got up – out of yourself.

The dark bedroom was only a little less dark; it was also recommended you look back on yourself. So you do, and, as it says in the books, seeing yourself in bed is not very interesting – just as easily have been a fold in the bedcovers.

Ok, a low state of projection; get yourself to move, but it’s slow. Get out of the room if you’re to do anything.

The door’s shut. Ok, if you concentrated, and kept that concentration you would slide through. But lost concentration half way. The door panel became like rubber around you; you pushed and it bent with you. A massive shove. But it cost too much energy, and although you’re through you lost it, remember nothing else.

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This was great start, surely!

Shortly after though you lose all interest, become disenchanted. Gave the books away.

You’d kept a dream diary – stuck to it, writing everything down. After a while when dreaming you have more control, initiate events, move more. Yes, but too much was going on outside, it was a big world.

Do you remember dreams? Most do. Think back – remember the state of mind in a dream.
Not just the blind panic, the scaring at the slightest object – remember how your mind works. When you dream reasoning becomes vestigial, one’s awareness becomes a shallow, unthinking. The dream experience is fraught with infantile fears and scares, of details suddenly looming into frightening significance, of nothings becoming essential. Remember that state of mind.

Anyone who has worked on visualisation must become aware that whatever one concentrates on becomes fore-grounded, huge, massive.

The minds’ eye magnifies. You concentrate on a fear, it takes over; you concentrate on some everyday object from a different angle, it becomes unknown, threatening.

Out-of-the-body experiences, you realized, if not actual dreams, are so like dreams in every detail, lucid dreams, that they as much use as dreams.

Can dreams tell us anything? Maybe only certain things, overlooked things.

You wanted knowledge, healing. It was not found in dreams.

And it took so much time: time spent lying around to master the techniques – days, weeks, months lost doing what we do every night.

There was your body in the bed. Only, when you got up out of it you were on your back: he was on his side. Irrelevant, dismiss. But very relevant: you only see what you expect to see.

Can we leave our bodies? Probably not.

Even Robert Monroe came to a similar point, though he either refused to join the dots, or didn’t see them. He got tired of travelling around the solar system, from ‘dead planet’ to ‘dead planet’ (Not an enquiring mind, Mr Monroe). He got fed up. He was aware that he was not actually flying, but being carried – a hairy arm was around him. Ok, he said, to the carrier, you take me from now on. The adventures got better, he had better encounters. He forgot most of it. In effect, he allowed himself to deep dream, rather than sticking to the low state of dream awareness he, and you, had known. It was his own arm he felt: his body-awareness was partial and so, seemed strange, became magnified.

These are the places where the outside interfaces with what is inside, liminal places.

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One has to prime oneself to have these experiences. Even one of the books recommends that if you want to project from your body you must read many accounts beforehand.

You have to learn the codes, the interpretations, to expect certain things. All else that does not fit in with the learned template is dismissed as irrelevant.

Shamen, priests, spend years learning their craft. They learn, in effect, how to read things in a certain way, the traditional takes on one’s ordinary experiences, the different versions of events.

Our contemporary term for this is ‘deep-learning’.

Do meditation techniques, instead of clearing the mind of its concerns, in effect, reformulate them in certain ways, then push them down into the semi and unconscious mind? Motivations etc become altered, coloured by them from then on. If enough ‘scripted’ material is similarly absorbed on a deep level will we then become personalities wholly centred on this.

One has to prime oneself – it is indeed a form of indoctrination.

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When drifting off to sleep, all those patterns, geometric and delicate…. Hang on, aren’t they the same patterns you saw flashed up large, flexing, highly coloured, part of the drug experience? Yes.

Inner states give little more than we experience every day, but dismiss. Concentration techniques magnify the details, fore-ground the minutiae.

But it is still the same old inside-the-head thing.

There is a part of the brain – towards the ear on the side of the brain? – when stimulated produces the effect of being in some great Presence.

– Suddenly you were in a dark place, facing a great overpowering light. You interpreted this as being on the edge of a clearing in a wood, facing a great deity. Was this the Mother Goddess? To feel so insignificant before her, no more interest than a grain of soil you stood on. Look at her – it was very slow and took all your strength. Then you lost it.

Yes but you were primed on Robert Graves’ The White Goddess; you’d had taken the book to heart.

It was all interpretation: a brain event. The darkness was probably you looking out of shut eyes, with the light of day coming in. The rest? Brain events. Even at the time aware you ‘clothed’ the experience, in order to make it bearable. One must indeed choose one’s wardrobe.

You saw through Graves too.

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As a child you knew that bedroom intimately on a visual level – spent so long looking at it waiting for sleep. Still saw it in your mind’s eye – visualising magnifies – so zoom in on the ceiling. Sleep paralysis. Alpha waves fighting with Delta waves. Active mind and tired body spelt disorder in the night.

What is hidden we fetish the most, whether it’s what’s under one’s clothes, closed doors, or behind shut eyes.

 

Coda

This talk of ‘brain events’, or chemical, neuro-pathways etc is not the last word on the subject. It is a subject to occupy people always. And so the terminology will change. Using words, after all, is a metaphorical attempt of the understanding at grasping something that is outside of words. Most things are outside of words.

None of this made you any cleverer, wiser, more ‘mindful’… or healthier.

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Big City Dilemma

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Big City Dilemma is a collaboration between poet Jeremy Reed and music auteur known ubiquitously as Itchy Ear.

The collaboration is called The Ginger Light.

It is a mix of visuals, sound and sonic qualities, of the visual and aural qualities of Jeremy Reed’s poetry.

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This is a cd of their very successful performances, sampling vox pops with studio sounds, reverb and performance-time readings, bringing in sung choral lines, stutter of electronics.

Performances incorporate visuals, lights, film clips to create an all-round sensual experience.

Jeremy Reed has a good voice for this; his preferred technique is intoning the poems, it is non-conversational, a-casual – but he can linger on words, savour the sounds of the language; he performs and you go with him.

Itchy Ear has a wonderful repertoire of sonic effects, a deep sense of rhythm and rightness. I have always been a sucker for electronic music and he saves the wasted years, referencing our ennui and the insistent beat behind our lives underneath it all.

Jeremy gives us ambi-sexual adventures and city encounters. It is London, it can only be London.  Hidden in the 16 tracks is the concept of the thief as sampler, the culture-exclusion of the outlaw, the liminal world of the hustler , flaneur, and city-survivor. But the thief is king, he is Jean Genet, and the chemical disorder in the nerves; he keeps you pushing on always one step ahead of the fall.

The thief takes – for the huge kick of transgression; but then he dumps his goods. Another thieves to assert his self, different, amongst the more ordinary ruck of us. Genet thieved also for these reasons. The thief is a bit Raffles-ian, boundary crosser, homeless-yet-at home everywhere. The thief questions where our boundaries and borders are: what is ours, can also be his; what is ours and treasured, can be his trash.

On the downside, anyone who has ever been robbed… is never safe again. The thief is a liar and cheat and dirt – that is, when he isn’t a metaphor.

There are poems referencing iconic figures like Rimbaud, Francis Bacon, Garbo, Thom Gunn, of modern peripherals like Peter Doherty.

The insistent electronic pulse pushes on like a compulsive disorder, lit with bell tones, piano timbres that halt – their sound scintillating in the ear, the mind – then back into the city vortex. He brings in brass on Multitrack, girl backing singers intermixed with the slice of a camera taking and re-taking the promised picture to set your name in lights. The voice promises you nothing  of that, but the city Survivor’s Kit. The low tone of the voice, and the held back but wide repertoire of the music set up a cadenced and satisfying experience.

The city is stratified, the layers once more economically sealed from each other – only the thief can move between and within the stifling piled up detention zones of the city. Be warned the city will give you nothing, but if you learn its tricks, its ways, the hidden intersections, you can be a survivor, fully qualified, badged and certified.

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Available from: Cherry Red Records –www.cherryred.co.uk/

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Poets have collaborated with musicians before – we have the pioneering jazz collaborations of Danish poet Inger Christensen. You could go back to Auden and Britten with Night Mail, to Edith Sitwell and Walton on Promenade.

You could even reference Roy Harper with Lifemask’s opening movement of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. John Cooper Clark. Since we are way off track – how about Principal Edward’s Magic Theatre doing Shakespeare?

On track we have Idlewild working with Edwin Morgan, Sorley MacLean collaborating with music and digital media. Eddie Reader singing Burns.

So how about singer-songwriters – how about Leonard Cohen? Even there he had to tone down his language and imagery for the song.

Musicians setting poetry to music is another matter – as was commented at the Leeds Lieder Festival: such experiments hardly ever work: Britten and Owen’s War poems was cited as an example. Why? They are two complete mediums . And they each include their own rhythms and music, their own phrasings and structures. The language has to be read in a certain way to make it work. Music has to be phrased in certain ways to make it work. The two working together is rarely happy.

‘Come into the Garden Maud’ from Tennyson. Maybe it worked for the audiences; did it work for Tennyson?

 

The highlight of 2013 Manchester International Festival was the talk by Matthew Barney and Jonathon Bepler. For the past 7 years they have working on a huge joint project, River of Fundament.

It is, they say, operatic but not opera; musical but not a musical; theatrical, but not theatre. It uses the film medium but is not cinema.

The talk was repeated from 13th on the following day, 14th July, in a huge marquee in Albert Square, outside the Town Hall, Manchester. The slight disadvantage to this was the chiming of the Town Call clock. It was a minor distraction. The main one was the heat; though not the hottest day so far, within the marquee the heat did build considerably. This wasn’t helped by some of the subject matter: see more shortly.

So, what was the project? We were led in gently by an introductory talk from the Matthew Barney and Jonathon Bepler on the work-in-progress.
A little stop and start, a little hesitant and distracted at first, it began to seem they were wary the project would not be understood, or find much of a fair airing with their audience. I attended the last date – could we assume the previous day’s event had not gone off as well as expected? Or were they all talked-out by then?
The talk was followed by a clip from the work in progress. Then another talk, and a longer clip, talk and the last clip. A five-minute Q and A finished it all off. Maybe we could have done without that, but I got the impression it was thrown in either to get some form of feedback and/or to make the audience feel more involved. Who knows. The two did indeed seem wary of the audience reaction to their work; they sat in the audience as the clips showed – to get an idea of audience eye view, and maybe to pick up on the mood of the audience.

So, what was the work? A huge project using film and music media, and based loosely, they stress, on Norman Mailer’s novel Ancient Evenings. That is the novel set in ancient Egypt, and dealing with a Nobleman’s attempts to rebirth himself continually. He managed the procedure twice but the third time met with failure.
They were searching for an approach, they said, that would not categorise the project. They wanted the work to be agile, supple; to be transgressive, as well acknowledging the parameter’s of people’s lives. They also wanted to keep to the ancient Egypt concepts and characters of the source book as well as being contemporary and grounded in modern technologies.

Preparing the car – it is the vehicle of the spirit, and it is also the body-machine.

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REN-PRESS Matthew Barney and Jonathon Bepler Performance still from REN, 2008
© Matthey Barney Photo: Chris Winger Courtesy Gladstone Gallery New York, Brussels

The source book, Ancient Evenings, is notorious for being unreadable, bombastic, full of ‘Crude thoughts and fierce forces…’ as the opening sentence puts it. It is also notorious for delighting in sodomistic excess and violence, for filling its great length not with storylines and character development, but with exploring the outer margins of the ego.

A reviewer (Harold Bloom, NY Review of Books, 1983) suggested Mailer was trying to out-excess Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland. Those who have not read Mailer’s book can perhaps imagine the raw and crude energy of Celine transmitted through Mailer’s American sensibility and craftsmanship. Encoded here is the Pharaoh as Hemingway, unassailable master, and Mailer the nobleman forever chafing at his status.

The first clip from the work was set in Mailer’s brown-stone apartment. It consisted of a gathering of his friends and peers as they commemorated his death. Elaine Stritch was MC; there was also a collection of musicians: sax, organ, cello, double bass. What was so interesting about this piece was that both musicians and actor were specially chosen because they shared the same tonal timbre: Elaine Stritch’s voice was so in tune with the instruments it was almost uncanny. As she fumbled and erred in her opening address the musicians tuned-up and tried-out bits and pieces. They both came together in the reading she gave from his work, so much so she could sing along with the music – each flowed into each. The effect was sensory, magical, flowing and rhythmically quite exquisite.

Whilst this was going on visual hooks were in motion: a man set up a tiny kiln, separated out its ingredients and fired it up at the table they sat around. At the opposite end of the table Paul Giamatti as very look-a-like Mailer was having his head and neck massaged. Beneath the table someone else removed his shoe then sock and began to massage his right foot with oil.

As the piece built the tiny kiln ran its molten metal into a mould; behind this operation two of the dead had entered the room and stood behind the man watching; they were grey, covered in ashes and ‘detritus’. The Mailer substitute collapsed as the metal ran – it was a highly sexual image. What was the small but intricate object that was tapped out of the mould?

The second clip was entitled the Rebirth/Resurrection of the Body of Osiris. It took place around Henry Ford’s redundant Detroit motor plant. There were a number of enormously high cylinder tanks, each topped by a figure in silver, and before them workmen prepared five smelters. It was in the open air, the scale stupendous. Crowds gathered, and as the light faded the smelters came to life, the music building up from metallic bangs, played stanchion wires. Rain came on but the activity and music built and built until the smelters were ready for metal. An old car had been prepared and was shared out between them. Eventually they spewed huge plumes of sparks into the night sky.
What is the message spelt out by the furnaces? What is encoded in the whole sequence?

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HG1-9063 Matthew Barney and Jonathon Bepler KHU, October 2nd, 2010
Performance Still Photo: Hugo Glendinning
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery New York, Brussels ©Copyright Matthew Barney

The car itself was a hang-over from a previous work, The Guardian of the Veil. The car had been honoured by being transported down river to this destination, like a body on a barque to the land of the dead.
As the clip climaxed the smelters let out their molten metal, it ran down prepared slopes to pool. Each smelter was opened when ready; the pool of metal was eventually let through and filled an enormous mould. The liquid metal, silver and glowing, filled this huge mould – was it an Egyptian hieroglyph? The shape was certainly highly significant. Was it related to that first mould of clip one? It was to be the risen body of Osiris. Isis was expectant, waiting.

The night scenes disturb our sense of perspective continuously. We see from different angles of the performance area and mesh together a scene of huge extent. The onset of full night is lit up by the furnaces and arc lights; we see tiny silver particles atop the tanks – they are people, and yet they are presiding spirits. Jonathon Beplers’ sound structures build the scenes for us almost subliminally.

You can certainly travel with the intent and images. You didn’t need to believe – a piece of well-constructed work does that for you.
The last clip I will pass over quickly, it was too complex and intimate – Maggie Gyllenhaal, the daughter, was to receive her father’s spirit for his next birth. As the spirits entered the room they prepared their ceremonies of the receiving womb: different forms of expression, we were informed, of the body relating to the world, issuing its inner content. As the daughter considered her role in this ceremony her aria turned against him. Was it that life was not really worth all the sacrifices and hurt, in the last resort? Why should she continue to be part of his ridiculous and sham performance? Free-will and pre-destination brush their lustre onto us in passing as we watch the intricate and interlaced activities of the participants.

The enclosed and encoded referencing of the piece does impart the atmosphere of a rite, one that is as mired in bodily reality as in any more meta-physical intent.

At the present time Matthew Barney and Jonathon Bepler envisage a 6 hour performance piece. In small pieces it works extremely well – by using readings from the novel, that is crafted prose, the substance of the piece holds together. The richness of text and concept images match richness of visual and audial mediums. One does not over-ride another – this is the fine skill and eye of Matthew Barney. Without any one of these it could so easily become ridiculous.

That it does not is very much due to the eye and ear of Matthew Barney and Jonathon Bepler. The project is due for completion and release in 2014.

Pigeons – 2: Making Whoopee

Posted: August 10, 2013 in Chat

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Eventually it becomes clear that all these waifs and strays were waifs and strays for a reason. They are all a little incapable; in a safe environment they’re fine – but outside, in the big bad world?

Coupled with the hand-reared aspect the possibility of them ever going free becomes ever more remote.

Stuck with them. Ok.

They are very endearing. Those ragamuffins on the city streets, some with deformed feet, some with no feet – they’re all capable of this. It is now known that a high percentage of urban pigeons were bred from racers who didn’t make it back home. That is, nearly all of them have a hand-reared aspect about them. People tend to despise them because they hang around people – some kind of ‘that’s not how a wild bird should act, they’re just camp-followers, parasites!’

I’m afraid it looks like a heritage of human contact more than anything else, guys.

So, aren’t they, like… really messy? Don’t bears crap in the woods? Don’t we have huge sewage plants? Everything is messy! Well fed pigeons are, for want of a better, better-messy: easier-to-clean messy. Ok?

Fine with their food now, though. The first one, the littlest, can still only eat Junior pigeon grain, when the rest are nearly all on the big stuff. And another peculiarity, how they relish anything with aniseed in! Mostly anise used now, I am informed. No matter, the hunger for it is the same. We also hear it is this the racers were lured back into their coops with – starved a little beforehand then released in some godforsaken place: home for tea, and delicious anise, boys!

We’ve met hawked ones. The hawk drops on them to try and break their backs. When it doesn’t work the pigoens tend to lose the skin and feathers on their backs, like a burn. If they survive, a worthy breeder will have them back, thanks: phone number under a wing. Some don’t care less, though. Some birds can be expensive; but don’t think of holding them for ransom – not that kind of expensive!

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So, we spend time with them – we are now a part of their colony. There are four of them and they have split into two groups. Each partnering another, oblivious of gender. They have divided the room clearly down the centre, each couple having a half each. They watch out for each other but strictly guard their territory. Everday day there are territory scraps and fights, tussles, sometimes fierce and relentless. It is mostly ground space they fight over, if one from the other area flies in and rests high up there is eventual ousting, but on the ground it is immediate. They are very ground-based for such good and agile fliers – a lot of time is spent toddling around on floor space.

There are times during the year the borders are relaxed a little, a little incursion is allowed. Especially at night. But then there are nesting times. Every little scrap if foraged: that written note you were looking high and low for? That screw you meant for the whatsit? Anything and everything is filched. Given the means they can end up with a big sprawling and deep mass of papers tucked into a space.

Don’t tell anyone, but… sat with them – they tend to land on you and climb all over you, sit on you for ages when they’re tired – one day, a pigeon was climbing over my hand whilst I was doing something else. All of a sudden I heard a loud Hu! from the other end of the room. Turning I saw the other pigeon’s partner tearing down the room towards us, looking furious. It was then I noticed the pigeon on me was… ahem, on my hand. The other pigeon fluttered up, and walloped the pigeon off me!

Monogamy, fidelity, in pigeons! Surprising. Jealousy, outrage and anger too! It was the look, his whole demeanor, as he came tearing down the room – never seen him move so fast!

And then we noticed that one pair were being more than usually intent on guarding their nest. We managed a peek – eggs. Two of them! That was a dark moment. That was the last thing we needed.

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What to do? Those two were bonded as a pair. They were both incapable of going free. What to do? We could not be having more!

After a tense two weeks still no sound. Three weeks nothing – no cheeping. The birds themselves were getting restless. The spent more time away from the nest. We knew then that nothing was going to come from it. We managed to take the eggs with no repercussions. We’ve got artificial eggs now in case any get broody – they are supposed to confuse their body systems into thinking they have already laid… or something like that. Will it work? It had better!

Pigeons – For Whom the Telephone Rings

Posted: August 3, 2013 in Chat
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We have this long-standing agreement with the local Vet – if there is anything small, preferably feathery, they are having difficulty placing or need help with… we’re here.

So, I got a phone call.

I was tired, didn’t want to take anything else on. I made this plain, but said I’d have a look anyway. It was tiny, a baby pigeon someone had picked up off the floor. It should not really have been out yet. ‘It’d be no trouble, something that small.’ I thought. Brought it home.

We snuggled it down in an old cat carrier, with a warming mat underneath. We built up a higher and higher roosting platform, as it got stronger. Pigeons don’t seem to like roosting low down.

Authorities had recommended baby foods, so we tried this, that – didn’t take to them. Rice definitely not. Then we came across Egg Food: Quiko Classic Eggfood. Excellent. Never without it these days.

Ok, feeding him up – every four hours throughout the day, though: hold him lightly but securely with one had while with the other roll a small bolus of egg food, grain and grit, then prise open his beak and push as far back as comfortable so that he has to swallow it. Otherwise it gets shaken free and spat out. Sometimes stroking his throat downwards aids the swallowing. To check it is actually down there and not spat out all over the place (!) you can tell by finding and then checking how full his crop is getting. Not a natural way for a bird to feed or be fed, but needs must.

Pigeons are one of those birds that drink by sucking, as opposed to say, hens, crows, blackbirds etc who fill their beaks then lift to drain it down. No, pigeons drink like us. And don’t they drink!

Over the weeks his beak changed shape from a flatter bumpy light coloured beak to more grown up dark and adult. His nostrils actually seemed to retreat down his beak from about half way, to the base. He lost his yellow baby fluffy look. Our boy was growing up.
His feathers were a bit of a mess, with food stuck here and there. We tried to bathe him. We eventually managed to clean him up. He got the hang of it and started his own grooming. And bathing – they love bathing. It goes everywhere but that’s the fun of it. It is, isn’t it?

He hasn’t grown very big, though. Usually stunted growth is due to parasites at an early age. He had been checked and found to be free. It probably means he was a runt or has something a bit askew.

So, growing up meant he was readyfor big-boy food. We actually had to teach him how to take on large seeds from pigeon feed. Online sources recommend we start him on peas and sweetcorn. Frozen, then thawed but not warm or hot. We got him to take these easily enough.

The difficult bit, the most risky time, is when he has to learn for himself how to manipulate food from his beak tip to the back to be swallowed. No easy thing; it involves correct use of tongue in combination with slight throws back up the beak. While all this is going on they’re out of the nest, so early flying lessons and independent eating are going on concurrently.

We got it right.

 

Then one of us came home a few days before Christmas with a little bundle: another one! This one was drenched to the skin in freezing December rain and sleet. It seemed he had given up. Warmth and food did the trick. The same procedures all over again: every four hours during the day with the egg food, then getting the big stuff down. Then the risky times.

Ok, now there are four!

I had said No, that’s enough! Then the Vet rang that first time.

Beware for whom the telephone rings – it rings for you, your time and your patience