Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lovelace & Byron

Ada Lovelace is honoured with a doodle.

I went to see the 2014 MONA FOMA. A action-packed, fun-filled week of music, art and shenanigans. Like all public events, and many privates ones, foma brought forth some of our modern contradictions. And the source of this article being an apparent (let us be polite and say an inadvertent) sexism.

The recent festival included a performance of the Ada Project. The Ada of this project is Ada Lovelace, a Victorian era mathematician who worked with Charles Babbage to design a mechanical general-purpose computer, called the Analytical Engine. As Ada Lovelace died in 1852 this was an amazing intellectual achievement, even if was never realised.

Sadly there is a preoccupation with her famous father, Lord Byron. A father who was disappointed to sire a daughter, and who left Ada and her mother only one month after the child was born. Rushing off to fight for Greek independence, he like so many others soldiers over the generations, died of fever in camp. He never saw the enemy, let alone fire in anger. It is all rather pathetic, and more than a trifle appropriate.

But let us see some examples of this phenomenon:
It’s the first time I’ve seen an industrial robot dance to an opera about Lord Byron’s daughter, who was diagnosed with hysteria as she died of ovarian cancer (The ADA Project)

An industrial robot, inspired by the life and work of Ada Lovelace, gifted mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron. Lovelace predicted computer-generated music 100 years before it eventuated.

The Guardian, if only parenthetically
They are inspired by two things; first the movements of the machine, and secondly the life of Ada Lovelace, a Victorian mathematician (and daughter of Lord Byron) who Shawcross tells us developed a prototype computer called the Difference Engine.

Prepare to be mesmerised by The ADA Project: four musical commissions inspired by the life and work of Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), the gifted (yet troubled) mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron

There is no arguing that Ada Lovelace was in fact the child of Lord Byron. And I understand the use of this sort of short hand, allowing the reader to quickly orient themselves. There is no doubt that Lord Byron is a famous name, full of bad boy intrigue and eroticism. All this does work to quickly frame Ada Lovelace, but it does it seem to me, if not wrong, at least not right. As Byron abandoned the mother and child, he could not be called her father; as being a father is more than spreading one's seed. Indeed Byron was no more than a negative, a hole in the life of Ada Lovelace. Her mother, embittered by the rut and forget policy of the famous poet, gave Ada a rigorous education in mathematics and science. This was a vain attempt to keep her away from poetry, and all romantic ideas. Ada's mother felt poetry to be a source of insanity. Ada developed ideas of poetical science, ideas which allowed her to ask the right questions about the role of the Analytical Engine, and the relationship between the machine, the individual, and society.

Although some historians doubt her contributions and abilities Ada Lovelace is remembered as a great mathematician, one of the best of her generation. She devised, and again some reject these claims, the first computer program, an algorithm for calculating Bernoulli numbers. - - More importantly she was able to contemplate the idea of the general purpose computer. The idea of a Turing complete machine that can solve any equation. This seems like little when it is written down, but this idea is what allows us a computer to generate music, film and all teh other content that goes with it. Lady Lovelace, with Charles Babbage, also conceived of the idea of the stored program. A calculator is a computer, but one that can only do one thing, to get it to read email would require much effort, and modification. The modern computer allows me to write this with my typesetting software, while changing windows to view my email, or to further research Ada Lovelace.

If we were to compare Lord Byron to Lady Lovelace in their relative importance to our modern world, there is no comparison. One wrote a few good, and some very good poems that allow us to see the mindset of England after the Napoleonic Wars, one of them worked to develop ideas that are only now coming to fruition.

As an aside, and with perhaps some irony, the US Defense Department created a language called Ada This language was defined as ANSI/MIL-STD 1815A, but note the numbering -- 1815, the year Ada Lovelace was born.

To get some idea of the achievement of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, we can look at the contradiction that surrounds her unpleasant death. Aged 37 she died from ovarian cancer, her doctors had resorted to blood letting, and came up with theories that too much science her made her hysterical, causing this debilitating disease. Being an aristocrat, Lady Lovelace would have had access to the height of modern medical thought. These are some of the contradictions of a world, still in the infancy of industrialisation, where Ada Lovelace is imaging machines that can create music, while contemporary medical science is still resorting to sympathetic magic, and superstition for cures.

The final word I leave to Ada Lovelace, to allow the reader to get a feel for her visionary imagery and work: "The Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

to mix art with activism

In the distance is the city, hidden from view.

K9 moved back into the combat area – Standing now in the Chinese youth sent the resistance message jolting clicking tilting through the pinball machine – Enemy plans exploded in a burst of rapid calculations – Clicking in punch cards of redirected orders – Crackling shortwave static – Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeep – Sound of thinking metal – “Calling partisans of all nations – Word falling – Photo falling – Break through in Grey Room – Pinball led streets – Free doorways – Shift coordinate points –”

Nova Express. Burroughs

As a result, therefore, man (the worker) only feels himself freely active in his animal functions – eating, drinking, procreating, or at most in his dwelling and in dressing-up, etc.; and in his human functions he no longer feels himself to be anything but an animal. What is animal becomes human and what is human becomes animal.

Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Estranged Labour. Marx.

My four days of mona foma.

I was fortunate enough to get a festival pass to the 2014 mona foma. And so my thoughts.

Fishing boats high hot summer evening - wave upon wave fractal innumerable myriad. Ole timey working working places. The mystique of the proletariat. Sail boats sailing along the the setting sun wind.

So what did I like about the festival? The bands, the music. While I did not love everything I saw, and while I was not able to see every event, I have to say there was nothing I saw that was terrible; nothing I saw did not deserve to be there.

But the absolute highlights for me had to be Sun Ra Arkestra, The Julie Ruin, and the Ada Project. There were several acts that I was unfamiliar with and I was very glad to have had the exposure. I also greatly enjoyed The Ada Project. So much so that I saw it four times!

There was, as I said, very little I did not like. And the things I did not like, were more my perception as opposed to the music being made. For example I am not a great fan of the techno dance sort of sound. So I tried to understand the acts in what they were trying to do, more than what I would have liked them to do.

It is to the credit of the hundreds of staff that organise these events that very little went wrong. There was a slight hiccup on the first night, when the scanner had difficulties reading my ticket. But on subsequent days there was no issue. I am sure there where a few back stage dramas, but as a viewer I knew nothing of that, and things seemed to flow quite easily from one act to the next. Food and drinks were plentiful if a tad pricey, but not so much that one would think it was out of the ordinary. If one did not care about alcohol, and wanted to get a juice, there was no line and it was easy to purchase. I did notice some very long lines, but as it was not me waiting...

So at best only minor things went wrong, at least from an outsiders point of view, so any complaints are more in the category of quibbles and not complaints. Hats off the the many staff who worked on the stalls, and collected tickets and etc, as much as the musicians, this regiment of staff should be seen as integral to the smooth functioning of the festival. Or as Brecht said in his poem A Worker Reads History, “Caesar beat the Gauls. Was there not even a cook in his army?”

What would I change? I found the MAC Backstage room to be a stuffy, anxiety creating venue. This could have been just me, as the room was often filled with people, digging the music, bopping and having fun. Some people have complained about the ticketing and entry for the Faux Mo nightclub. I admit I did not attend this so I can not comment, but will note it as something I heard.

The smithies, working in the forecourt to create looped beats and a metal sculpture, were a great hit. As much as the work they were doing was interesting in itself, they also provided a focus for the gathering crowd. I was a bit surprised as to how little the forecourt was used by the event. To my mind there seems no reason why it could not be filled with local performers, buskers, fire eaters, spoke word artists and the like. This would provide an outlet for local artists, as well as giving them a bit of encouragement, and would also give spectators more fuel to allow them to speculate, and recharge.

And of course the main change I would make, would be to somehow make the event more woman friendly. I would like to see, in future festivals, something like one day of the four day festival be given over to only female artists. I know that some will say “ Do we have to have this discussion again?” While others can say the exact same thing, but with a slight change in emphasis and so “Do we have to have this discussion again?” But one only has to look at the program and see the overwhelming preponderance of male artists. Well over half were male, or male dominated performances. With only a few breaking this penile mold. The fact that The Julie Ruin was one of the few shows bent towards women proves in a rather ironic way this truth.

I know that such a suggestion would be controversial. But to me any back lash to the idea of creating a more gender balanced event would again prove the truth.

What did the festival make me think about? One thing that jumbled around my brainpan was the idea of the distinction between (for lack of better words) music driven and word driven music. Music driven seems to flow more organically and more freely, more like the proverbial river. With lyrics there seems to be more of an architectural feel, the music is built up around a scaffolding of words. Maybe a thing to do would be to investigate incorporating improvisational lyrics into songs.

I was to a certain extent disappointed with some of the electronic boyz and the sounds they were making. It seems to me, and I am happy to be proven wrong, that with all the computing power at hand, with the vast of array of electronics willing to due the maestro's bidding that something better than a constant pumping 1,2,3,4 beat could be found. It seems to me that we have the ability to make electric music that sounds like angels signing. There is no need for a beat, as the computer will never miss. I want something to dance to that is different. Of course the crowd went wild, so who the hell do I know. I did, for example, like the poly-rhythmic sounds of HIVE, their use of old and new ways to produce music.

In a similar vein the festival made me think and cower in wonder at the process. A puff of air, the vibration of a string or skin, the rush of electrons. More a way things happen, than a thing. Nothing but vibrations. Resonance. And I can not even find the words to describe the flow of images and thoughts that crowded my mind, like the crowded venue floor, surging and swaying. From almost nothing comes music, in the way that a monsoon is little more than warm moist air rising from the ocean, so to the music is simply the vibrations moving through the air. And both the storm and music emerge from the chaos become so much more.

Over the four days of the festival the temperature rose and fell here in Hobart. Dangerous climate conditions caused distress on the mainland. Bushfires burnt up the east coast of the big island.

Daily the news spoke of increasing confrontation in the northern seas. Shots were fired across the bow of ships filled with children.

Compassion is becoming a dirty word. The assault, the counter revolution, is gathering pace. Education and disability care, and education are all in the firing line. Same sex marriage is being brushed aside, howled down in a mocking chorus of convenient morality. The “be excellent to one another” idea of Jesus is being ignored, and in America anyway there is talk to rewriting the bible more in line with tea party politics.

We are trading our freedoms for the idea of an illusionary choice. Are we to control the machines, or are we to be controlled? Are we to simply be an adjunct to the machine, or the machines to liberate us. Computer technology in many ways starkly shows the Marxist idea of alienation, of working people building a productive capacity is which is then used against them. A vast network of control that can constantly monitor citizens. The greatest, never tiring, surveillance network every made. Is this to be our future? Should we not make the machines work for us? Maybe lower the hours of work to only 20 hours a week, allowing more time for creation of life, family, of art.

The PM is off skiing in France, while the media slumbers contently after a long and tiring campaign of social control.

We live in an age of urgencies. We are hurtling headlong into a crisis, into the abyss. I felt that foma missed the opportunity to highlight these urgencies. I did not see all the bands, so I may have missed some important things. Most of the acts I saw at best only hinted at, or spoke indirectly about what is to be done. From what I saw only The Julie Ruin seemed willing to discuss directly the problems we face, and to offer some sort of a solution.

The solution being to mix art with activism, to build community.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bloody Mainlanders

A physical system can have as many resonant frequencies as it has degrees of freedom; (according to wikipedia)

Kharon: Have you watched the bubbles in the water, gathering and dispersing? And the bubbles gather into foam. Some last for only a short time, some burst as soon as they are born, others a long time. In no other way could it be. So it is with men.

Hermes: You comparison is not inferior to Homer, when he compared men to leaves.

Kharon 19.1 ~ Lucian of Samosata.

Hobart had recovered from the heat and had returned to that raw river front feel that we all know and love and admire. I check the news in the morning to make sure we had not gone to war while I slept.

I had not planned on writing about the Colin Stetson show on the last drab gray Sunday afternoon of 2014 mona foma. But then I read in the Guardian that “his thing seems to be to play, at deafening volume, a few notes over and over, drench them in reverb and the repeat relentlessly for what seemed like hours.”

A little harsh I thought. While Colin plays a few notes (more than a few!) over and over, and while they were drenched in reverb, and while it did repeat relentlessly, to make this criticism is like saying than Jimi Hendrix just played a bunch of notes real fast, or that Bob Dylan writes a bunch of rhymes. True, but missing the depth. And of course I understand that not everyone can like everything.

So if Colin Stetson plays a few notes, adds filter (directly to sax and man), and repeats what can we say about his music. The first thing we most note, is that he meant to bring two saxophones to play, but the bass sax was misplaced coming out of Sydney Airport. Bloody Mainlanders, always trying to sabotage Tasmania! If he had the instruments there would have been more variety.

To me this show captured the mystery and power of music. A puff of air, a vibration, carried by electrickery, waves shaking the thin eardrum film of skin, nerve impulses surge and spread that mass of hot blood loving brain fat. And this puff of air has the power to transport, to transform. This puff of air can recall memories, can inspire dreams and tears, can move one to abandon, can drop one into despair.

For myself I was carried away with this strange, bubble popping sound, this flowing Dantesque soundscape of wailing cries in the distance. I was standing off to one side, and could look behind the performer and see out the industrial windows to the harbour outside. The wild wailing of the sax, the occasional sweeping roaring rush of agony or ecstasy (for at a distance, with no context, they can be confused) released from some sort of unknown depths surrounded me as I watched the birds circle and hover. The birds were reflected back and forth, up and down, darting, sweeping, moving through the air. Like the waves of sound formed from a puff of air, rumbling down the shiny metal tube, glowing yellow red in the false light of radiating waves, the birds split the air and swam in a atmospheric sea of freedom we can only dream about, only for a moment touch.

And he played one tune called “Dream of Water,” and all my dreams of stepping into rivers and the bubbles forming foam fell and tumbled. A sound track to dreams. A column of air. As many resonant frequencies as degrees of freedom. The birds circle and then -- that is all.

Heavy Discipline

With their diseases and orgasm drugs and their sexless parasite life forms—Heavy Metal People of Uranus wrapped in cool blue mist of vaporized bank notes—And The Insect People of Minraud with metal music. Nova Express 112 ~ WSB

Until day four of mona foma I was ignorant as to the existence of Psycroptic. It has been a long time since I have seen a metal band play live. Needless to say I no longer make the scene metal-wise.

But the great thing about festivals, about these sorts of anthology of acts is that one gets to hear things they did not know that wanted to hear. Even though I no longer make the scene, I still enjoy listening to good metal. To me it is one of those types of music that forces you to move. Metal is still the best fuck off to parents and squares everywhere music, to all authority!

The band had just started their set as I walked up the street towards Macquarie Wharf. Louder and louder the music rumbled and echoed, calling to me. I was a bit wary when I walked into old MAC2 warehouse cavern with a tech-death metal playing. But I chose to keep an open mind. I wanted to judge the band on what they are trying to do, not what I would have liked them to do. I am glad I did.

Before the end of the song I had moved my way to the front of the crowd and was, if not head banging, at least grooving in my own way. For after all were not the Sex Pistols a type of metal band?

Psycroptic is a Hobart band, they have released five albums to much acclaim in the metal community and have won an international fan base playing tech-death metal. I know this because after the show I was waiting in line for a coffee and spoke with a fan.

Technical metal refers to the technical ability of the musicians. The Guardian described this type of metal “death metal with complicated bits in the vein of prog rock.” This is not the sort of band where one can recruit a friend because they look the part, one has to be able to play their instruments. If technical ability is the key, then Psycroptic deserve their position as leaders in this type of metal.

Drummer Dave Haley first captured my attention with his relentless, powerful, driving drum work. Brother Joe Haley played guitar, and like his brother he played with a savage power and speed. A replacement bass guitarist was needed for this gig. He was introduced as Sam. Like the rest of the band he was a demon on his instrument. Thumping bass lines and jumping about with the best of them. Lead singer Jason Peppiatt rounded out the band. He strode about the stage exhorting his troops to battle, inspiring frenzy in band and crowd alike. The younger ones in the front rocked hard. Long Lacedaemon hair giving them strength. The singer reminded me a bit of Brad Pitt in the movie Troy. And to my drug addled rock and roll fantasy mind his death metal screams and wails echoed down the ages the screams of the Danaans before the walls of Troy. The angry refusal to follow those who are your inferior. Screaming out the pain, horror and sorrow of ten years of futile war.

Screaming and hollering the rage and energy of working people.

I still have problems with this type of music -- but to have been there, to have been in that moment, I would not have missed it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Julie Ruin

Men make art, Men make music. For women to make art and music is in itself (sadly still true) a political statement. For women to make killer rock and roll with a Smash The State, Smash The Patriarchy power that The Julie Ruin brings to the stage is a revelation, a revaluation, and a revolution.

On the third day of visiting the 2014 MONA FOMA I was lamenting to myself the lack of political engagement of the artists. Sure there were many cool things to see, and hear, and taste, and there were many cool folk to mingle with and to chat. But in terms of anything that faced the urgencies of our time, there was very little.

And I wandered about the auditoriums and court yards and thought of Nietzsche:

This future speaks even now in a hundred signs, this destiny announces itself everywhere; for this music of the future all ears are cocked even now. For some time now, our whole European culture has been moving as toward a catastrophe, with a tortured tension that is growing from decade to decade: restlessly, violently, headlong, like a river that wants to reach the end, that no longer reflects, that is afraid to reflect.

Where was this music? Where was this reflection?

Art is enough singer Kathleen Hanna told the crowd, mix art with activism, with community building she further suggested to the audience. She discussed the need for unity, the need to get over that that false leftie sort of idea that we should be pure, and we should constantly cut down those who; for example, still drink milk in their fair trade tea, as opposed to the purity of soy milk. This is all crap and what is needed at this time is unity.

The band spoke warmly and honestly to the audience, and they were able to engage the usually passive Hobart crowd. Anyone that missed this show, missed a lesson in music and a lesson in politics and most vitally the missed a lesson in how music and politics can be fused as we dance round the grave about Kapital.

On a side note I thought it was of interest that the keyboard player was a bloke, was this a happy coincidence or a statement on the fact that many times there are bands in which the keyboard player is the only woman.

During the final song of the set the crowd was able to witness all the actual nature of class and gender relations in our “ freedom.” Two young women, rock and rollers and full of passion and energy, and desirous of change hurdled the barrier, into that special space between audience and performer, that space reserved for the elite few photographers and their bully boy escorts. Of course the big burly he-men bouncers pounced and man handled the women back into the seething mass, where they obviously belong.

One could see exactly what The Julie Ruin were saying. Any divergence, any deviation of the rules can not be allowed, can not be tolerated. There can be no dancing, save in the nominated places. Much like the horrid free speech areas which are popping up all over the Western World, which do no more than silence dissent.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Hermes: Can you see the crowd dear Kharon?
Kharon: I see a rolling tumult, a life full of confusion, and their cities like hives - each one has a stinger to sting their neighbour.
Kharon 15.1ff ~ Lucian of Samosata

New York based experimental composer Tyondai Braxton played two performances at MONA FOMA on Friday night; I only say the first show. He led a party of five called HIVE in a brave new world of composition and looping experimentation.

Five space age, futuristic tables lined up in a row. Each with a matrix of holes cut into them. Slow clouds of aerosol rose, twisting and helixing, up to ceiling. The murmuring forest sounds of the expectant crowd rises and falls, punctuated by staccato beats of laughter and coughs, and tinny mobile phone tunes. Outside the sun fell and entered the river stream, while lights came on one by one in the houses, on the hill, across the river. And darkness spread over the ways of the world.

The performers climbed onto their tables and settled in, like cosmonauts in the capsule of a Soyuz rocket. And there was a pause and a hush as the band members organised themselves, arranging scores, making themselves comfortable, fiddling with electronic bits and bobs. Apple laptops glowed waking from sleep mode.

And then a beat and a rhythm, which quickly rushed into focus and tore around the room like a cloud of locusts devouring the villagers grain supply.

An assortment of noises ply upon ply. Clicks and clacks and beats and bumps. Sitting and basking in the extreme-summer heat, the cicada rests on the spear point of Athena and sings loudly, while we gather in parks and bars and cafes and clubs and schools and law courts and sing endlessly. Kalahari computer tenderhearted Khoisan sounds vie with simple stick on wood sound in the noisy emporium.

Indeed I am mesmerised by the flashing drum stick cutting the dense smoking air. And the bass drum sound surged like a crashing wave on the sea side shore, and the bass vibrations made the hairs on my dance, and made my insides move and squish.

No lyrics, no singing, bar some half heard sounds which may or may not have been speech. Wide varying smoke and light constant changing and intersecting, a sixth member of the group. No interaction with the audience. Just the five perched like the singing cicadas on the spear point never smiling, always grim focused. Only the layered texture of sounds. And I turned over in my mind, thinking to myself about the various ways and roads of freedom. Some can find freedom in precision, other in improvisation. And as abrupt as that the show was over.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Enchantress of Numbers

The Enchantress of Numbers
Princess of Parallelograms
with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO;
procedure Hello is
   Put_Line ("Hello WORLD!");
end Hello;

The ancient Greek smithy god Hephaestus built tripods that would aid him in this work. With the Ada Project Conrad Shawcross takes this one step further, in that he has made a tripod which aids in generating inspiration. Conrad Shawcross and Ken Farmer designed and built a five metre high robot arm that when programmed will trace intricate mathematical designs and three dimensional shapes. The large metal arm can stretch out, and never tiring, never forgetting repeating the dance shape over and over ad infinitum.

The name of this project comes from the Ada Lovelace the Victorian pioneer of the general purpose computer. Extending the idea of the Jacquard card Ada and her colleague Charles Babbage designed an 'analytical engine' that could solve equations. An early type of computer. Ada Lovelace went on to write the first computer program. This program calculated Bernoulli numbers. She was able however to see that with the ability to write and store programs on cards the engine could perform a great many tasks, saying “The Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns, just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves.”

The Ada Project has given us a machine which weaves inspiration. A hypnotic machine that moves and sways through three dimensional space producing a specific pattern. A bright light is attached to the robot arm. This allows the movements to be captured on film, showing the completed shape. This moving light casts strange ebbing and flowing shadows as the robot dances.

Composers were invited to live with and immerse themselves in the choreography of the robot arm. Composing a piece of music for a binary dance. The result was the world premier of four short scores to compliment and interpret the jerky grace of the robot.

From a slow sinuous glacial arc to the soaring purity of the soprano voice, each piece was an attempt to interpret the splines made. Each response as unique as the robot actions are controlled.

Beatrice Dillion & Rupert Clervaux built up a percussive tachycardia crescendo combining recursive (F(n) = F(n − 1) + F(n − 2)) recordings of the re-imagined welding robot working with drum with piano with harpsichord.

Holly Herndan found a different, more alien sounding palette, making a science fiction sound which tumbled a jumble of falling down sort of rhythm beat and half heard phrases carried by the wind.

Tamara & Mylo combined voice and machine to explore the incurable cancer laudanum hallucinations of the last years of Ada Lovelace's short, unhappy, exhilarating, visionary life. Hallucinating the ecstasy of number.

Mira Calix explored the tension arising from the machine being able to do only what it is told and no more, and our dreamy desire to make a machine that can surprise, or enjoy strawberries & cream. This poem was sung by soprano Teresa Duddy.

The machine whirs and comes to life the arm swings up, the great noontide, and the arms swings down singing an end of the day song. The machines moves casting steel shadows on the walls. The clouds chase the sun across the beach.

Sun Ra

A large chunk of the country sweltered in a merciless heat wave, fruit bats and possums falling dead from trees. The RAN fired across the bow of a boat carrying desperate refugees. In was in this background that I went to see the Sun Ra Arkestra on the first night of the 2014 MONA FOMA festival.

Beautiful warm high summer evening I went down to an old wharf reclaimed warehouse on reclaimed from the sea Hunter Street. Having seen Sun Ra once many years ago -- sometime last century -- and knowing what to expect, I was still blown away by the joy, by the sonic oscillation, by the wild fire jazz bebop rave burning free across interplanetary space. The juxtaposed rhythms, chaos of vibrating space.

And as I was driving home, I was struck by the beauty of the moon reflecting off the waves. The Sun endlessly explodes and flames, radiating heat and light and all manner of energy. After seven minutes or so these expanding wave vibrations bounce off and make the moon glow. And the light then falls the surging endless wave upon wave of the lagoon. The light strikes sensitive cells in my eyes and is then relayed, in a effort to make sense, to my brain.

And so with Sun Ra Arkestra. This cold, empty, outer space depth of an idea struck me as a way to make sense of the band. Sun Ra used to speak of being transported to the planet Saturn. This transportation is the unifying idea for the band. Sum Ra created, and the Arkestra continues this science fiction mythos as a theme for their performances. This is seen in the Eygptian flavored space age customs, in lyrics which sing of other worlds and dimensions, of interplanetary harmony. And when they play the music rolls and swirls and bounces around and at times is reinforced to make bigger and stronger waves, while at other times the sound is undercutting and making stationary waves. Sound rises from the vibrations and mingles to bring forth new sounds that have never been played. These future echoes come to life and fall away.

Horns sounded, drums and piano and guitar and bass and an assortment of voices filled the hall. The audience swayed and danced and clapped along. The band encouraged the audience to become part of the band, part of sound, part of the cosmic harmony. The band played the Hobart Blues and I closed my eyes and swayed and dreamt down, dirty, ballsy Chicago brothel blues. Strippers glistening in the light half covered by feather boas, pasties blinking reflected diamonte crystals. In my reverie it was appropriate for the Arkestra to play “When You Wish Upon a Star,” as music, like dreams, builds our desires from the void, melting them away in an instant. And I thought that if Finnegans Wake is the book of the night, the book of dreams, then Sun Ra Arkestra is the song of the night, a vast endless soundtrack to dreaming.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Driving the heat wave afternoon
Shimmering highway false lake
The pitiless sun fades the paddocks
Cows stand in the Iron Creek,
Like grandparents at the beach.

Distorting angles and images
Upside down
And it is up to
The viewer
Car driver
To make sense...

Sunday, January 5, 2014


Callimachus: Epigram 64
A lament at the door ( paraklausithyron ).

So may you sleep, Konopion.
You force me to
Keep watch all night
On this chilly porch
Outside your door.

So may you sleep, most stubborn one,
And your lover you put to rest.
You do not come close to pity,
Not even in a dream.

The neighbours take pity on me.
But you, not even in a dream.

Soon your hair will grow grey
And you will recall
All of this.