Saturday, January 07, 2006

John Cage's 639 Year Concert and the Universe Plays Major Music Millions Octaves Lower


By Elaine Meinel Supkis

John Cage wrote a piece that could be played "forever" but obviously, can't. But some Germans are playing this piece on the world's oldest organ, 639 years into the future. But the universe plays music at millions of octaves lower than our hearing!

From the BBC:
The world’s longest performance of a piece of music is being played in Germany, and it will go on playing for another 639 years.

John Cage's composition ASLSP, or to give it its full title As Slow As Possible, is part of what organisers have described as ‘a revolution in slowness.’ Organ2/ASLSP is due to be performed on the town organ in Halberstadt in northern Germany over a decidedly leisurely 639 years.

Apparently some 360 spectators, paid DM30 (UK£10) to see the recital's organist inflate his instrument's bellows and they'll have to come back in another 18 months time in order to hear him play the first chord - and one each year or so thereafter.
I toured a number of German churches, asking to listen or being allowed to play the organ, an instrument my mother mastered and taught to me when I was a child. I adore organ music in a stone church. The sounds echo and resonate in ways they can't in a concert hall or buildings made of less cave-like materials. In Mainz, it was winter, a light snow was falling and the organist came in to practice early in the morning. I climbed about the ancient Romanesque redstone cathederal while cascades of melodious sounds echoed and rippled throughout. A marvelous time.

Halberstadt is an interesting place.
We took off at 0745 o'clock with a load of 2300 gallons of gasoline, 6000 pounds of bombs, full load of ammunition, and the usual weight of men and equipment. Everything on plane was in perfect working order.

Joined the group formation at 1010 o'clock and flew into target without incident but was forced to use 2400 R.P.M. and 40" at times.

Dropped our bombs at 1152 o'clock, everything still in good shape. At 1200 o'clock we were hit by fighters which stayed with us for one hour and fifty minutes. They attacked us from 5-7 o'clock position at first and gradually, as more enemy fighters joined, they attacked us from 3-9 o'clock positions.
It was bombed a lot during WWII. But the Churches built by so long ago endured all this, the strong stone foundations and walls were built to survive raids and wars, for this church was finished right after the fearful millennium 1000 AD. Happy to see the world didn't end, the barbarian people of Europe went on a cathedral building binge that lasted 500 years.

In 1361 the famous Blockwerk organ was constructed. This organ stood in the cathedral of Halberstadt and was the first one with a claviature of 12 notes. Even this very day the scheme of this claviature is used on our keyboard instruments. So one can say that the cradle of modern music was in Halberstadt. In the year 2000, 639 years have passed after the „fatal day of Halberstadt” (Harry Partch) the play of Cage „as slow as possible” will be performed for 639 years. The place will be St. Burchardi one of the oldest churches of the city. Built around 1050 by Burchard of Nahburg, this church functioned as Cistercian convent for more than 600 years. In the 30 years lasting war, St. Burchardi was partially destroyed but rebuild in 1711 and secularized by Jérome in 1810. For 190 years the church was used as a barn, a hovel, a distillery and a sty.
Note there are few windows on the lower levels. Many buildings from this time, just at the end of the Dark Ages, went without windows because they were defense points during wars and sieges. The continuously playing chords will resound in this abandoned church for the foreseeable future. It is entirely mechanical with clever counterweights running the bellows.

The Universe is resounding with massive chords of unbelievable heft.
The black hole resides in the Perseus cluster of galaxies located 250 million light years from Earth. In 2002, astronomers obtained a deep Chandra observation that shows ripples in the gas filling the cluster. These ripples are evidence for sound waves that have traveled hundreds of thousands of light years away from the cluster's central black hole.

In musical terms, the pitch of the sound generated by the black hole translates into the note of B flat. But, a human would have no chance of hearing this cosmic performance because the note is 57 octaves lower than middle-C. For comparison, a typical piano contains only about seven octaves. At a frequency over a million billion times deeper than the limits of human hearing, this is the deepest note ever detected from an object in the Universe.
The ripples from central black hole of the mega-galaxy that all the neighboring galaxies are falling into, as they merge, the resounding clash reverberates throughout the dust, gasses and debrie that litters the cosmos.

In the news this week, also, is the astonishing information that our very own Milky Way is also making celestial music. In this case, a few million octaves low C major. A merrier, lighter melody!

Here is a map showing the C major wave effect below the Galactic Center. Elephants, we now know, can make rumbling or bellowing sounds with wave lengths our ears can't catch by the gigantic ears of the elephant can hear it perfectly well much further away, but even an elephant can't pick up sounds at millions of octaves lower!
The warp, seen most clearly in the thin disk of hydrogen gas permeating the galaxy, extends across the entire 200,000-light year diameter of the Milky Way, with the sun and earth sitting somewhere near the crease. Leo Blitz, professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues, Evan Levine and Carl Heiles, have charted this warp and analyzed it in detail for the first time, based on a new galactic map of hydrogen gas (HI) emissions.

They found that the atomic gas layer is vibrating like a drum, and that the vibration consists almost entirely of three notes, or modes.
Like the bellows of the mightiest Wurlitzer, like an eternal Kettle Drum, the gods play with music on an inimaginable scale. Our galaxy isn't some stationary object. It travels through space and time. It warps both as it moves, it moves internally, rotating on the axis of an innermost black hole and we glide along towards Andromeda, and all are sliding towards the Great Attractor who plays even greater instruments than our little galaxy. And as we rip apart a smaller, stray galaxy, it makes our skirts ripple and wave in a Dionysian display of energy and destruction.

Play it again, Milk.
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LSD On the Mind


By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Happy 100th Birthday to the Swiss scientist who discovered LSD. Time to remember and explain the lyrical acidian revelations of this intresting drug which the CIA tried to use, driving people to suicide or insanity. It was a key to my own past, a very incredible key.

From the New York Times:
"It's very, very dangerous to lose contact with living nature," he said, listing to the right in a green armchair that looked out over frost-dusted fields and snow-laced trees. A glass pitcher held a bouquet of roses on the coffee table before him. "In the big cities, there are people who have never seen living nature, all things are products of humans," he said. "The bigger the town, the less they see and understand nature." And, yes, he said, LSD, which he calls his "problem child," could help reconnect people to the universe."
Of course, the connection to the Universe comes from the Dream World and our subconscious. This is where our big brains can go to work, forging connections, opening doors, figuring things out, the creative genius within lives here, not the conscious mind. Most people are denied even the slightest interaction with this part of their own minds. Terror Incognita.

The conscious mind actively works to not remember bad stuff. It works as the guardian, keeping dark memories at bay. It is a narcotic, designed to lull the host human into feeling reasonably good. It doesn't always work. Indeed, it can be a menace, because it can't, itself, see the unconscious mind which often takes over and drives events in the waking world, causing a person to commit crimes, do self destructive actions, horrible things. This is why understanding and knowing one's own dark unconscious was supposed to be the cure, according to Dr. Freud.

Unfortunately, when people use Freudian analysis to discover their own other halves, this doesn't work since that half doesn't really speak the same language as the waking mind. I can attest to my own self's attempts, the imposition of language tames what is going on there and alters it so much, it barely begins to resemble the real actuality.

Indeed, perhaps much of our language abilities revolve around our ancestor's attempts at explaining and naming these unnamable things.
Mr. Hofmann participated in tests in a Sandoz laboratory, but found the experience frightening and realized that the drug should be used only under carefully controlled circumstances. In 1951, he wrote to the German novelist Ernst Junger, who had experimented with mescaline, and proposed that they take LSD together. They each took 0.05 milligrams of pure LSD at Mr. Hofmann's home accompanied by roses, music by Mozart and burning Japanese incense. "That was the first planned psychedelic test," Mr. Hofmann said.

But Mr. Hofmann calls LSD "medicine for the soul" and is frustrated by the worldwide prohibition that has pushed it underground. "It was used very successfully for 10 years in psychoanalysis," he said, adding that the drug was hijacked by the youth movement of the 1960's and then demonized by the establishment that the movement opposed. He said LSD could be dangerous and called its distribution by Timothy Leary and others "a crime."
I have used real Sandoz LSD. It is radically different from most of the later concoctions cooked in labs in San Francisco. Tim Leary gave me the pills.

This was way back when everyone was very ernest about how one had to trip with a guide in order to not suffer from the effects of the drug. The psychological effects are very powerful. Dr. Hoffman knew, like Freud, that exploring the mind is like any artistic enterprise. Namely, surrounding oneself with the appropriate things, one can ease the soul as one enjoys the waking dream as the unconscious mind awakens and takes over everything. Dreaming while awake.

The esthetics of LSD are interesting. It isn't like other hallucinagenics, it literally blinds oneself when it is at the most intense. You can't "see" anything, people who can recall dreams all note how attempts at reading text is nearly impossible because the letters cease to be groups the eye glides over but rather, become individuals who trigger all sorts of memories and associations which are most distracting. The more one tries to read, the more impossible it becomes.

Psychiatrists in Europe and researchers in America discovered that Freudian analysis was a real hoot when using small doses of LSD. The doors to the past flew open and people reacted to memories long buried. Only it is, like all things from the World of Dreams, dangerous, for the mind makes up things, makes up stories, decieves itself all the time. It is addicted to doing this, and the unconscious mind is particularily prone to this since no one is around to supervise it.

Thus, the only way one can discover one's own past is to be able to argue with one's own treasonous mind.

You can't gull yourself. Every pretty thing the sleeping mind hands over, one has to patiently prod for more things. Research to discover the truth or falseness of claims the darker half reveals is essential. I am proud of the fact that every detail I uncovered upon using LSD turned out to be true to reality. It took twenty years to confirm some of the data.

It strikes me as very funny that the creator of LSD who used it many times until he had a bummer trip when his psychiatrist friend gave him speed!---Hahaha. A lot of acid in SF in the old days was speed laced with some hallucinagenics!---He called people like me names for succeeding at what he attempted?

Indeed.

For he changed very little around himself except for himself whereas I and my friends tried to change the world. The roots of the enviromental movement are laced with LSD. We thank him for this but we also want to be saluted for actually doing something about what we learned! LSD look alikes were bad for the brains, bad for people. Many people including Tim Leary, used it too much. This was because they couldn't walk in and out of the Sleeping World on their own. They never really sought out the Keys to that Kingdom which lie beyond the Gates of Death.

Just like Tolkien and CS Lewis shuddering at those who loved their books, freaked out that we actually did what they only dreamed of, hating us for not being uptight, annoyed, straightlaced bougeoise. They wanted us to affirm their constricted, constipated lifestyles, unable to pick up a sword and ride a horse like we did, to climb mountains and sail the seven seas. To reach for the stars or walk around the earth on foot.

They wanted to take the tremendous, amazing powers of the mind and lock it right back up in the narrow closet that penned it in! It is all so very sad. I bet, Dr. Hofmann would not want to admit he was wrong about my taking LSD. It was my mind, my trip, my desire, my victory. It made my art possible. It made my dances on stage magical. It is a very dangerous drug but also a very great drug.

Unlike most people, I didn't use it to party, to mess around, to make the mind even more deranged. This is why it was made illegal. This is also why we fall into the same trap all the time, whatever we use to pry open the Door to the Sleeping Self, we are punished by the gods who happen to live there, you know.

They are really dangerous. We are them.
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Einstein and Shroedinger and the Big Box Universe Paradox
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