By Fr. Auxilior Arti (From Praxis: The Second Book of the Glyph, by Frs. Adsum Iterum, Auxilior Arti and others)
MUSIC Á LA MODE
In the beginning was rhythm . . . voices . . . whistles and the other music of nature. As the musician grew more clever and economics permitted moments of leisure, simple instruments were developed, arguably the most significant of which is the harp. With a harp it is possible to easily sound two or more strings at once and to multiply the number of notes available for the composition by adding more strings to the instrument. We don’t know when the first “scales” were made and we have only a rudimentary guess that they are derived from the oral and musical traditions of various tribes of ancient Greece, each one a bit different from the other, according to their custom. The Dorians like to chant and sing in a slightly different style than the Ionians, differing still from the Phrygians and the Aoleans. Imagine how different must have been the music of Sparta as compared to that of Athens, and you’ll have a sense of what was happening. The tradition of one clan might like to start on one note and proceed up the scale by zig-zags of whole steps and half-steps, while another might like to start on that same note and alter the sequence of whole steps and half-steps to suit, and with very different and immediately noticeable results. So if you already know something about scales, it is important to note that these “modes” as they are called, are not notes, nor keys, but patterns of scales. For those that need refresher, see figure one, a clavier, or keyboard if you prefer.
You see a collection of white keys and black keys grouped in a familiar pattern and if you’ve ever noodled around you quickly notice you can make more musical “sense” by restricting yourself to the white keys, which allow you to play what is called the key of C (What Garrison Keilor calls “the people’s key”). That’s because if you play just the white keys and none of the black ones, every note will be in a proper harmonic relationship with every other and none will sound out of place. If we start with c and ascend the keyboard, we see it goes c-d-e-f-g-a-b and back to c again.
Now, please note that each key, white and black is called a “half-step” and so a half-step up from C is actually that little black one, called C# (C sharp) and the one beyond that is D. So C# is a half step above C and D is a whole step above C. The next key is that little black one to the right of the D and that is D#, one and a half steps above C. Then comes E and F . . wait a minute—there’s no e# between the E and the F . . . (no B# between the B and the C either). That much seems confusing. Just remember to count every key on the keyboard as a half step and you’ll be fine when you are trying to demonstrate a collection of notes and the intervals between them.
Why are the notes this way? Simply put, our western musical scales are derived more or less from an observation of nature. A taut string vibrates at a certain note and along the length of it you can place a light finger or something soft at various places and hear it sing in a most peculiar way, but only at certain portions of the string. Ask a guitarist to play the harmonic on a give string and he or she will gladly pluck out those eerie sounds. You will note that this sound can be made by the technique employed in exactly the middle of the string, but a little to one side or the other and the strings sounds dead, the vibration quickly crashing into chaos, then silence. When you ring on the right spot, the string’s length is divided mathematically and feeds itself from its own vibrations, after a certain sense. There is a place in the middle of the string (1/2), and at the 1/3rd mark, at the Ľ and, dimly, at some other places. Using these as benchmarks, the string is mathematically divided up ultimately into 12 equal portions, which are the keys (black and white) of our keyboard and the familiar frets of a guitar. Whatever the distance from the bridge to the nut (that’s the vibrating length of the string), there is a fret directly under the exact center and the space between that fret and the nut (down there at the skinny end of the guitar) has been divided evenly up into 12. It is not even in distance, mind you, but even in terms of graduating the tones up the scale in relation to those harmonics to which we referred above as benchmarks. Keyboard is easier to visualize, so we’ll stick to that for our illustrative purposes.
Remember the Peoples Key, C? Let’s look at how that looked before we had this even-tempered scale figured out. If you start with C and count up, just on the white keys, expressing that as a sort of formula it would looks like this:
If we count the half steps and whole steps and write it below the letters we get:
You see that from C to D is a whole step, so is from D to E and F to G, G to A, A to B but from E to F and from B to C is only a half step in either case. Count it out and see—but rather than let your mind boggle, just accept it as an example of a mode. The intervals in this mode count one-one-half-one-one-one-half-one-one etc. and this pattern is called the Ionian Mode, this particular example beginning and ending with C. We could start it on D, but when we counted up the scale according to our pattern of whole and half steps, we get a string of notes that look like this:
Same mode because the pattern of steps and half steps is the same, but a different flavor, for it has different notes and will feel like it resolves neatly upon D (you’ll figure out what this means as you place your first few melodies).
So—wouldn’t you know it—there happen to have been 7 traditional modes for the Greeks and many early writers went to great lengths extolling their various virtues and properties. Pythagoras added his share, as is to be expected, and soon enough they were associated with the seven visible heavenly bodies and have remained in some sort of relationship ever since, even as the official count has varied from 7 to 8 to 12, depending upon who was doing the counting and by what inspiration or edict. The reasons for this are technical and political and fairly dull if not even a bit abstract, so we will concentrate on the familiar and the useful, given our present purposes. The chart below contains the basics of the system and probably more than is needed at this stage of our discussion.
This chart may also be found illuminating
THE SEVEN-FOLD NAME OF GOD
There was a theatre in ancient Miletus (Asia Minor) that was discovered by 17th century English explorers that bore a curious inscription.
“This inscription, though damaged, had evidently had seven columns, each headed by a sequence of seven vowels, followed by a prayer that the city of Miletus and all its inhabitants should be preserved. The first column began “a-e-I-o-u-y” then continued with the alphabetical order “y-a-e-I-o-u” . The second column had in the corresponding place “u-y-a-e-I-o” and so on in alphabetical order, starting with each vowel in turn, and continuing: ‘. . . holy one, preserve the city of Miletus and all it’s inhabitants.’ “ (Joscelyn Godwin, The Mystery of the Seven Vowels)
It would seem that this ordering of the seven Greek vowel sounds is not unique to Miletus, for there the historical record offers other sources. A Porphyry (not the neo-platonist with whom you are probably familiar) wrote a commentary on Dionyssus of Thrace wherein he states that: “Alpha is consecrated to Venus, , iota to the Sun, omicron to Mars, upsilon to Jupiter and omega to Saturn. Clearly we have planets an vowels unassigned, but as we sort through other sources, a pattern begins to emerge. Gnostic philosopher Marcus and Porphyry agree more than not, and latter-day academics have filled in the blanks to come up with a chart that looks like this:
“In Egypt the priests, when singing the hymns in praise of the gods, employ the seven vowels, which they utter in due succession; and the sound of these letters is so euphonious that men listen to it in place of aulos and cithara.”
And so we may assume that by Hellenistic times, Egypt was credited with the practice of invoking planetary gods through a sounding of the vowels. For an assignation of the seven-fold name to the modern notes of the scales, we refer to this chart, and begin to understand their use in Denning and Philip’s Planetary magick:
THE GREGORIAN MODES
Much confusion may arise from the indiscriminate use of the word “mode” generally and of the names of the modes in particular, for history has re-invented these systems a few times, each magnifying the error of the last until our own day. As a result, a student can go off to the stacks only to find no real relationship between, say, what Pope Gregory meant by the term “myxodydian” and what Pythagoras meant by the same for term, for although Gregory’s terms are named after the Greek terms, they have been assign differently, owing to the fashions of the day. These fashions would eventually become the official church canon on this matter, delineating what keys are proper for church music, which for secular occasions, and which were not to be played at all (such as most of the minor keys. These were eventually even considered demonic.)
Contrast this chart with the names and assignations given in the previous:
PSYCHOLOGY OF MUSIC
Much has been written about these keys and their known (and alleged) effect upon consciousness and the most modern of these works doesn’t vary significantly from those around in Agrippa’s day. Now that we have more keys too choose from, as it were, some folks have been happy to ascribe various shades of nuance to some of the lesser-used keys, but that need not concern us here, for we should be able to find all we need in the charts above.
There is a certain eloquence and sensibility to the notion of there being seven or eight tones of the naturally divided scale. More than a little research has been done in the last century concerning the manipulations of charkas with sound and the bulk of it readily attests that something is going on, even if it is of a highly subjective nature. I am aware also of research in this sort of para-medical endeavor which is tending to show that exposure to certain sounds can change healing rates, cellular regenerations, etc.
Whatever sound and Music is, it is a thing fundamental to life, not even requiring ears to interact with it. In the ground-breaking plant polygraph studies, we learned that greenhouse plants like Vivaldi better than Van Morrison, but what they probably should have been asking are questions like: Do they like the key of D better than G? Regular radio music with a good boogie beat—or industrial Funk-metal? Is waltz-time or 4/4 better? “Patsy Cline or Paul Kline?” is the last question I’d ask—there’s too much to be learned in conventional directions. I’m perfectly credulous of the notion that certain, sustained vibrations in the air bring about vibratory changes in our physical structure and that this is passed along to the Nephesh and perhaps beyond. It should be a matter of figuring out what buttons to push, should it not? Clearly there is much research to be done in this area.
PSYCHOLOGY OF MUSICIANSHIP
Here we find ourselves nearing the heart of the matter. While it took many centuries of backward and forward steps in science and technology to bring us to this place where we are testing the subtle affects of sound upon the psyche, we’ve been wrestling with other end of the relationship since the first animal puckered his lips (or blow-hole, or syrinx) and blew for the art of it rather than the necessity of it. Music is a kind of power—of that we have always been certain. It is a power of fascination, of healing, of inducing berserker rage, of wooing and brooding. Armies marched by it, boats rowed by it, history was told by it and rulers roundly ridiculed by it. That it had religious function from ancient times is evidenced by tales of the cult of Orpheus as well as numerous other accounts. It is good to remember that anything said about music in the past is pretty much true unto this day, in essence, even if not in degree. I do not think it unlikely that a 21st century youth, jilted by a lover could be calmed down from a homicidal rage by the dulcet tones of a guitar as Pythagoras was alleged to have done with his lyre. And maybe not—the stories are more romantic than reality, more often than not, but there are some things that should be said about the psychology of musicianship that would be of direct import to practitioners of ceremonial crafts.
Firstly, it creates intimacy. I’m not talking about camaraderie, here but a kind of psychological process of surrender that musicians go through in order to play with each other. Musician A wants to jam with musician B so they sit down and figure out what they both know fairly well between them, else something improvisational is initiated. In either case, both musicians assume roles and coordinate their efforts to produce something between which is not theirs to fully express alone. The process of surrender comes about when one person leads another or consents to be so led through the song or improvisation. Leader and follower frequently change sides within the boundaries of a single composition. This entire transaction leads straightaway to a heightened state of awareness because one is placed in the position of performing a fairly complex task (like playing an instrument, singing some words and remembering the order of those words) while keeping ones attention riveted on someone else doing about the same thing all the while watching them for cues.
That is the casual intimacy—there are other degrees of it, some attainable by plenty of hard work, others by a lifetime of dedication. There are states of musical intimacy that are rare and have an almost supernatural feel and substance to them. I worked for 6 years as the soundman for a rock/jazz fusion band comprised of long-time musicians in their 40’s and 50’s and they referred to this latter as “having the UFO guys come out”. They felt “out of themselves”, so caught up in what they were doing that they lost track of their ego-activity and felt merged with each other and with something bigger.
It is my personal belief that the notion of entrainment might apply here. It’s an odd term and not usually applied to music, so I’ll elaborate. Imagine that you are in a machine shop and someone has attached two identical engines to two identical engine stands and placed them some few yards apart. Both engines are tuned right to spec and so should be considered identical in all ways. One engine is started and allowed to run, then the other is started up as well. Clearly, these motors cannot be in synchronization, for they were started at different times by human agency and they could never run at exactly the same speed owing to infinitesimal variances in their parts—and yet they often do. After a short time of running, they will synchronize and this is called entrainment. It is theorized that information is transmitted in the electrical fields surrounding these engines such that it induces the cooperation of two or more units, assuming they are operating closely enough in space.
Imagine now that we have Musician A beginning his performance and communicating that to Musician B who is actively attempting to entrain himself to the particulars of it. When they have succeeded in doing so, a certain amount of intuition comes into play, some admittedly caused by subtle cues in the performance itself but others where there is no certain mode of transmission. Too, some people are quite adept at forming this link and others must struggle. There are even sorts of musical “bodhisattvas” I think, and merely performing with them or in their presence is sufficient to strengthen ones ”chops” and offer spontaneous revelations or precipitate out a particularly brilliant performance.
I can use a friend of mine--we’ll call him Marc—as a good example of a musician adept at accommodating others. While at an out-of-town gig, some members of our band were staying at Marc’s house and as usual, we stayed up into the night to jam. I marveled at how Marc and our flautist rapidly wove a Caribbean a-go-go sort of tapestry around a quirky improvisation Marc had made up on the spot. I knew that they had never played together before, yet there was instantly a sort of familiarity, of intimacy, expressed in the music as if they’d been playing since the dawn of Time. Being more of a fledgling, I waited my turn then had a go with him and my axe, a mountain dulcimer. I selected a tune of my own that sounded rather like something he was playing and proceeded to plod through it, keeping half an ear open to Marc’s accompaniment.
You must understand a few things about my instrument and I—neither of us plays too well in a guitar-oriented world. The dulcimer is tuned around the Greek modes mentioned earlier and it has to be retuned to get it into different keys. Guitar players rarely understand what to do with this information, but I found Marc had intuited the limitations of the instrument (and of my knowledge) very rapidly. He puzzled over my use of certain chords that related in ways that didn’t seem logical to his instrument or his knowledge of musical forms, but he was right there with me, note for note, anticipating perfectly the flow of the melody that I knew he was hearing for the first time. Later, we got into a less-structured improvisation and he again astounded me with what seemed like little more than mind reading. The lesson I have taken away from all of the above is this: The performance of music can sublimate the ego to the degree that a sort of psychological common ground is made and upon that ground a great variety of information can be shared.
Too, it should be said that this condition is not inevitable, but must be worked at until perfected. Other relationships among performing musicians can exist. I can think of one example, whom we can call “Jay Harris and the Road Rash”. Jay is an ego maniac whose chief delight seems to be his personal gavotte across life and the Stage. It is difficult to imagine that he lowers any boundary in his psyche to operate his particular performance—a chat with some of his former band members convinced me of it. The experience of playing in his band is like unto the experience of playing along with the radio—there is one correct way and that is Jay’s way and everyone had to play to that. Jay created a situation where the backing musicians had to form a precise and expressive rapport among themselves and deliver that to the one guy up front, who added his particular polish, every decision about almost every nuance being made by that last link in the chain. Jay doesn’t play with those guys anymore, and I wonder if it isn’t chiefly because he never really did in the first place.
There is a good lesson here and it is one concerning respect. This particular model works fine in practice, but only if there exists a strong bond of love and respect (and a good cash reward doesn’t hurt) between the band leader and the musicians. The difference hinges around the notion of “band leader” vs. “star of the show”. Lawrence Welk’s Champagne Band used this sort of model. Welk was a perfectionist, but he turned that talent into a vehicle that allowed his entire band to shine without glorifying himself or his own talents overmuch.
Another thing that most musicians come to contend with sooner or later is (oddly enough) The Muse. What is it? By “The Muse” we refer not to a particular deity of the group collectively known as the Muses of the Arts. The term has come to describe the relationship of the player’s psyche to itself and to that other psyche that is sometimes sensed in ensemble performance . . . and alone.
I tend to think there are two sorts of musicians, not mutually exclusive of each other: I call them the Mechanic and the Artist. The Mechanic lacks the full degree of the inspiration that drives the artist, but is usually rather adept at rote skills, memorization and has little trouble with repetition. The Mechanic likes the way his instrument sounds ands wants to excel in his performance with it, but isn’t driven to express himself symbolically or to unburden himself lyrically. These people usually pick up some rudimentary choral or band skills in school, then stick with it long enough to find a suitable station for that sort of activity in adulthood. They are more likely to have formal study of music in their background than to have learned “by ear”. These are the people who form the mortar and bricks out of which our culture’s music is built—they usually stick to themselves and don’t trouble others much.
The Artist has learned music (and other arts, likely) because forces within their psyche make it necessary. They are more likely to learn music by ear than by any instruction. They contribute much to what is theoretical and tend to push the boundaries of the established. The run the gamut from mild-mannered to maniacal, but in all case they are driven.
Summary? The Muse Whispers to the Mechanic, speaks to the Artist and shouts at the Madman. The flautist and I had a conversation once, and at the end of that we agreed that “a musician trains his body to play anything and everything it can, then ultimately surrenders that to the Muse, who then (in so many words) rides you like a horse.” Shades of trance-possession, indeed! It is not always that way, she did hasten to add: “as a human, one has to not only polish the skills, but learn the song, begin to play that song and play it so well that everything else goes way back into the background—then you can transcend yourself for a time.” I had to concur. After playing at my instrument for a few years I sometimes caught my train of thought drifting off from what I was playing while I began to feel somewhat abstracted from myself. “Where’s that lovely music coming from?” I wondered, idly watching my hands perform it. I was jarred back to my senses for a moment, then stopped to consider. I was playing at an improvisation and pretty much just stopped making conscious decisions about what I was going to play next and let the memory of my muscles do it without particular direction. Someone was playing me, I thought, and settled on the notion that music can reach around the corners of one’s psyche in way’s I still don’t understand.
Whether the Muse is a function of one’s Holy Guardian angel or simply of another, more mundane layer of consciousness, the relationship is much the same. It can be evoked ceremonially and brought into play and it must be treated with respect if it is to reveal itself.
One question worth asking is this: Why should there be such a thing as The Muse? What psychological or spiritual function could it serve? Why do people create art? My answers are not those of the anthropologist or the ethnologist—they’re personal and are born of personal experience, and have no more merit than that. I believe that Art means to heal, that it is essentially a spiritual activity that informs and activates the psyche. Some people, for reasons that seem as much Karmic as anything else, have a clear and present need to externalize their thought processes symbolically in order to order them, or to overcome emotional or intellectual crises. This is not limited to the Artist, or even the Mechanic—everybody has this need in greater or lesser degree. Alarming studies have been done to show a parallel between the absence of art education and the rate of violent crime, a fact that should underscore the importance of exploring this relationship with yourself and with others. It’s a kind of theurgy and that’s part of what we do, right?
MUSIC IN RITUAL
In a certain sense, no ritual can be considered to be without music, for even the Hangh Sah song of our breathing is such, a reflection of the Divine Pneuma. It is probably the Battery that stands as the simplest and most essential musical element in a given rite, and has Time’s weight heavily upon it—such things are nearly universal. While the stamping of feet or the clapping of hands may do in a pinch, and may be wholly appropriate, one can be much more elaborate with a modest investment of time and money. In rites of the Companions of the Glyph, a different battery device for each planet is sometimes used, and a perusal of these might serve well:
For Luna, a small silver bell is used, alternately a tuning fork in “A”.
For Mercury, a fife is played, alternately a tuning fork in “B”.
For Venus, a baseball sized copper brazier is struck—it just happens to have excellent acoustic properties. Alternately a tuning fork in “C” could be employed. In the past a flower-shaped sculpture was sounded like a bell.
For the Sun, a small brass cymbal from a modern drum kit is sounded, alternately a tuning fork in “D”. A brass bell and a dorje set have also been pressed into service.
For Mars, a drum is played, but a fife and drum is not out of hand, alternately a tuning fork in “E”. In the past a rusty iron bell, crudely welded together, was used.
For Jove, we have stamped, clapped hands, and used rosewood claves. Of course a tuning fork in “F” could be used.
For Saturn, a large brass cymbal from a modern drum kit (a “crash-ride” with the rivets removed), is sounded very slowly with a padded beater. Alternately, a tuning fork in “G” could be used to effect. We would like a gong for such things, but with a suitable technique, one can almost approximate it.
I give the tuning fork alternates above as a means of sparking some experimentation. I suggest that they be limited in use such that they might be used all together, and not mixed with other types of batteries. Note that a variety of small and relatively inexpensive variety of musical instruments have been used, all taken from the collections of but a few people. Of course, a single instrument could also be used, and this would probably most often be the case outside of pursuits in planetary magick.
Moving along from simple batteries, consider too that there are various other uses for musical interlude or cueing. Examples might include a horn sounded in connection with a summoning of the four quarters, a gunshot fire near a blindfolded candidate undergoing a historical reenactment initiation drama (as happened in some 18th century Masonic lodges) or a “Greek chorus” of voices to underscore a particular “scene”.
William G. Gray has given an interesting account of his ritual music notions in Magick Ritual Methods (Helios, 1971), where he ranges over the territory from human voice to a 1000-voice organ. Generally speaking, he is less than adequate on this subject, at least for my taste, but he more than makes up for it in the sheer breadth of his scope. The chart below was arranged by Mr. Gray and details his musical assessment of the Tree of Life. It is a good springboard for work of this kind:
The voice is in many ways the purest essence of music as we are capable of making it, and has played the central role in the world’s corpus of ceremony from time immemorial. It stands to reason that one should spend a good amount of time on perfecting it as one would any instrument, but we find that is more the exception than the rule.
It absolutely pays one to attend theatre of one sort or another, even a small, local playhouse of perhaps a few score participants. I am fortunate enough to live in a town with a vibrant and broad-ranging theatre tradition and can attend a professional touring event on one night and hit a small college play on the next. Theatre isn’t as popular as it once was, and a lot of people (myself included) don’t ever think about it much, but every time I get trapped into going to one by some inescapable social pressure, I typically ignore the nuances of the plot and instead simply marvel at the stagecraft, the acting, delivery and gestures themselves.
On the stage, one’s gestures need to be large and sweeping enough to convey meaning to the people in the back seats yet not appear lugubrious or unnatural to those seated only a few yards away. The study of that particular skill alone will carry one far, but there is a whole bag of tricks from which a successful actor can pull a surprising, penetrating performance. We are not talking about the William Shatner school of acting, either. Our scale is typically smaller than a TV studio set, and our bag of tricks needn’t be as broad or as dramatic. What we can carry away from the actor’s craft are things like an appreciation of timing, memorization skills and how to project to an audience with conviction. Simply practicing the art of reading slowly and clearly aloud is an excellent, entry-level exercise. A perusal of the liberal arts section in a public library can yield a surprising amount of useful information, too.
And where do we make use of these skills once we’ve been exposed to them? I should think the first place would be in the development of the “magickal personality”, for it is very much like developing a certain character by examining the nuances of the way one goes about things (and how one would like to), then selectively polishing them to a comfortable, easy performance. Your magickal personality is different from your usual personality, and there are things you’d never think of doing in one persona that you might do in the other, although I think maturity and practice in our arts will bring the two together over time. In the assumption of the magickal personality, one should be aware and conscious of the distinct and willful change in one’s behavior and examine it as objectively as possible. It will become easier with time, and it will become richer.
Personally, I begin with a simple relaxation technique and practice it until I stop thinking about anything but the task at hand and I remember why I wished to be there doing what it was that I wished to do. I know of people who use a particular CD or taped collection of musical selections reserved solely for this purpose to the same end. I feel as if the assumption comes about as a process of the physical activities carried out to ready one’s temple space or person. I also feel fairly justified in saying that if your rites are informal in nature (as the rites of the Companions of the Glyph often are, owing to their performance in public places) one must spend even more time in the assumption of the magickal personality. There is an easy temptation to “walk through” a familiar rite with a less-than-dignified air—recognize that and the “assumption” becomes something more akin to the “emergence” of a magickal personality.
I do know that when I have donned all the usual paraphernalia of the Art Magick, I am much of the way to my goal. My mind is quiet, settled on the task at hand, yet I feel spontaneous enough to deal with what might come my way with humor and strength. My magickal personality is again strengthened when I first use my voice, for I strive to maintain the magickal voice from the earliest possible moment. To that end, I usually sing my words of power during the Calyx and the setting of the wards. While I’ve not been at it long enough to feel as if there are any hard and fast rules, a glance through the tables I’ve already given in this document should serve to show the obvious directions one would take if they wanted to assign certain notes to certain letters, energy centers or names. In this regard, doing what feels right is probably the best confirmation. It is not out of the question to use alternate invocations, complete with honorifics and suitable beseeching, all carried out in song. I am fortunate enough to have witnessed someone doing exactly that, at a Church of All Worlds Beltane function some years back. The young lady’s vocal talents were nothing short of operatic in quality and she stirred a lot of very noticeable force in our vicinity, lending me to believe that singing is probably more effective than the usual forms of addressing the quarters.
Of course, we would be remiss not to discuss the incredible opportunities offered by the modern tools of our information-rich age. A discrete little boom-box at low volume can add immeasurable value to the experience at only the cost of some careful listening and a few rehearsals with the music. Upon a time, I thought it a rather absurd notion for such a portable device to have a remote supplied with it, but when CDs became the dominant medium such a thing became a necessity. How did we live without them? I have used this and similar methods to cue batteries, musical and otherwise, short pieces with planetary themes and ordinary incidental music. When I was performing the selection of rites called “Contacting the Power Deeps” from the Planetary Magick book, I experimentally flipped on the radio, tuned to the local University’s classical station, as the need arose for the meditation. In every instance (and that would be seven) I was offered something quite worthy, and occasionally rewarded with what was precisely needed, as when I was given Ravel’s Bolero in the rite of the Sun and Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony in—yep! Jupiter.
Drawing on my background as an armchair audio engineer, I explored multi-track territory as well. I wondered how best to get my local group of Companions to learn the basic forms of the Setting of the Wards, the Clavis Reii 1 and 2 as well as to manage longer and more complex rites with associated musical passages, such as those detailed in Planetary Magick. At the beginning, I would gather up those individuals who wished to participate and have them read the all the various invocations, orisons and such into a microphone. That microphone was attached to my soundcard (via my 4-track, so I had an amplification stage that I could independently control as well as some noise reduction) and the computer was running a popular sound editing program called Sound Forge which I used to capture and edit the “clips”. Too, I recorded various batteries, the musical portions and my own voice narrating the rite in the second person. Some logical modifications of the script were made, of course, to render it’s performance smooth and timely.
The effect was truly interesting and held forth a certain depth of quality I didn’t expect. I surmise that what usually happens prior to the rote memorization of a given ceremony interferes somewhat with the achievement of the desired depth. There is a shuffling of papers, the need to keep one’s thumb on one’s place, to direct one’s attention inward and outward, all while manipulating various symbolic objects--taking the script out of the equation makes sense. Too, the hearing of one’s own voice and those of their companions has a very personal sort of effect upon the hearers. Everyone who has tried this method reports the technique to support clearer and brighter visualizations and a path to memorization without peer. I soon put The Gnostic, The Magician, Transubstantiation, and The Seven-fold Glyph Invocation into the same sort of format, though just for my own use. I don’t believe that it is always appropriate to use these techniques, but for small groups or individual work I’ve found them to be indispensable.
To step beyond these suggestions is to step into the territory of live musical reinforcement, and that’s a pretty scary place at first glance. To begin with, a given ceremony or similar event will have a certain number of participants in the usual active roles and another body in service of the orphic component. It may suit the need very well if the music is kept light and can be performed by a “strolling” accompanist, or it may rise beyond that. It is my opinion that a duet or a trio of the right instruments with ordinary musical interpretive skills can add a great deal. I would compose such a trio from a percussionist (armed with say, a Bodhran, some bells, a gong, claves and a tone drum) a string player (armed with a harp, lyre, dulcimer, guitar, psaltry, etc.) and a horn player (pennywhistle, simple flute, recorder) and expect them to be able to provide discrete accompaniment.
It’s not as difficult to picture as one might think: A plaintive call is made upon a simple flute, answered by some chimes as participants enter the space. A silence dawns and is held as expectation rises until the Setting of the Wards has begun. A crescendo from our trio heralds the entrance of the Archons, each in their turn. As the light is stirred, a languid march is struck up, perhaps with the trio joining in for a circuit and then returning to their starting positions. Batteries are given in the same way. Voices might be added to portions of the rite where extra vocal strength is needed. Such a thing is rehearsed like any other performance, yet it must also be flexible to the needs of the moment. It is not hard to get to this point in one’s musical training, but experience shows that it is almost always more difficult to begin upon such a road than to excel, once one has begun.
MUSIC AS RITUAL
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING A MUSICIAN AND A MAGICIAN
A magician alters consciousness in order to bring about changes in his or her consciousness and the reality with which it interacts by the manipulation of symbols in sacred space, and with the assistance of those beings in the universe that can be summoned into his presence.
A musician alters consciousness in order to bring about changes in his or her consciousness and the reality with which it interacts by the manipulation of tone, pitch and rhythm, and with the assistance of whatever Muse can express itself through the music played.
They do much the same thing really, each after their own fashion. The magician lays out his collection of symbols, arranges his sacred space and dons his garb while the musician sets up and tunes his instrument, trims the nails and arranges his or her mind in such a manner as to play. While the magician surrenders the ego to the Work, the musician surrenders to the Muse, or at the very least enters into that state of consciousness he or she knows will yield the best performance. Both individuals change their characters at a fundamental level in order to do their work. The principle difference seems to be when we involve others in what is at its heart a private experience. People will line up to see a musician, but a lot less often for a magician!
Deeper experiences await, I’m sure. As an example, I would give the story of how I found my friends at a very crowded fair: I knew that the flautist from our band and her percussionist husband were attending the barter fair that annually sprang up just outside the gates of the Oregon Country Fair on the last day of that huge festival. I would surmise that there were still at least 6000 people in the immediate vicinity, 1000 more in the huge wheel of blankets that was growing in the field. Approaching that mess, I shielded my eyes with my hand and tried to pick out a familiar form and strained with my ears to hear a familiar voice in the throng, but gave it up as hopeless. Instead, purely on a whim, I called out to them in my mind, using the familiar cry of the very person I was looking for. I really tried to project . . . Instantly she stood up, giving an answering call, looking about to see me waving from 600 feet away. She swears she heard a call . . . Music brings you closer to the people with whom you play.
MUSIC AS REALITY
At some point, one comes to believe that perhaps music is but another map of reality like the Tree of Life or the Cube of Space. As the universe sings around us, it weaves a song that thrums through our being in ways that can unlock, imitate, energize and educate our beings. In a very real sense, our lives are notes in a grand symphony, each of certain modulation, pitch and duration, briefly appearing and disappearing at the Will or Need of the Great Composer. It behooves us to study the model in whatever way we can, both to better understand who we are in the scheme of things and to actually be that person.
The phrase “Renaissance Man” was coined to describe the sort of person who excelled at a variety of studies, be they musical, martial or intellectual. While marketing factors prevailing in our own times would turn us away from such a path, there has never been a better time to tread upon it.