Sunday, November 17, 2019

Traditionally Speaking

Leopold Auer was a great violin teacher in the late eighteen hundreds who trained such stellar artists on the instrument as Mischa Elman, Jascha Heifetz and Efrem Zimbalist, so he must have known a little something about music.
He wrote a small book called ‘Violin Playing As I Teach It.’ This little book contains a wealth of useful information about violin technique and music in general. As to the subject of tradition, he had the following to say;
“Tradition in reality weighs down the living spirit of the present with the dead formalism of the past…. Beauty we must have, tradition we can dispense with.
How is a violinist to conceive the meaning of an older work which he may be studying if his own musical instinct, his freedom of conception, are obfuscated by the dictum: ‘This must be played in such and such a manner, because so and so played it that way two hundred years ago?’ “
He is talking about interpretation here and he makes it clear that any attempt at phrasing or interpretation will fall on its face without a solid technical support.
Too many, in the recent past, have tried to use the idea of breaking with tradition as an excuse to not have the discipline to learn the technique required for what they want to do. These end up simply frustrated.
But now, let’s look at how this view applies to creating. In conservatories, in the composition department, you run into the same things being said; ‘You must write in such and such a manner because so and so wrote this way a hundred years ago, or so and so is writing this way now.’
Tradition accrues pretty darned fast in the arts. I daresay that pop music has been around long enough for it to have its own traditions. Certainly there exists a whole school of guitar technique for pop music with its pentatonic scales and blues chords.
Granted this is the solid technique that I spoke of that you need and should have in playing pop music.
But there are four other chords in a scale and as many other types of scale that you could shake a stick at. There are also quite a number of other meters besides 4/4.
Just take a look in The Beatles or Frank Zappa.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

What I Learned In Music School

In my earliest youth, I was heavy on the classics; a Mozart and Beethoven man mainly. I definitely was fascinated and curious about the pop music and its culture, especially going into high school and starting to get high with my buddies.
It was mostly out of a desire to be ‘cool,’ as violinists and others who played in the school orchestra were classified along with the nerds of the scene.
That was tough.
Of course, I ended up going to a music conservatory called the Peabody (named after the famous philanthropist who started it, not the dog.)
My first acquaintance at the school was my new roommate, Dave (alias ‘Big Nose’,) who became one of my best friends ever.
Dave and I shared the desire to learn about and experience all the strange new changes that had gone on in our society. We lost no time in establishing a counter culture to The Peabody. A conservatory is an institution that is conserving the tradition of so-called Classical music as it goes back several hundred years.
Pop music, at least in the conservatory, tended to be looked down on as a debased form of music. The composition professor there, at the time, was famous for saying that jazz wouldn’t last.
It seems that, in no time, I had turned into a self-styled Hunter S. Thompson; ringleader to the other classically disenfranchised (of which there were quite a number,) taking them on the Magical Mystery Tour and initiating them into the Cave Of The Unknown.
Some survived and some didn’t, what can I say?
Anyway, it kind of started one day when Big Nose and I were tripping and driving around the city in my little Falcon station wagon. (A ‘woody’)
We had the radio on, of course, and suddenly began to decide that pretty much whatever song we were listening to, at the time, was the best music ever and our favorite music.
Big Nose began to make a list, and it ran like so;
‘Please Mr. Postman’
‘Brahms Third Symphony’
‘Back In The USSR,’
and so on.
Next we instigated a weekly event in our dorm room called ‘Music Appreciation.’ This was a highly ritualized activity that may or may not have involved a bong made from a Pringles Potato Chip Can. After the overture, as it were, music that everyone had brought was played with no program structure other than everything would get played no matter what it was. It went on for a couple of hours with a room full of students listening to random selections from all different genres and time periods.
So what did I learn in music school?

That a ‘genre’ is just a label and that there are more similarities to music of diverse genres than there are differences and good music is good music no matter where you find it.   

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Mozart And The British Invasion

In my previous two blog posts; Aleister Crowley And TheBritish Invasion and 
Aleister Crowley And The British Invasion Part Two, we examined the connect between Mr. Crowley and many British rock groups such as Led Zepelin and The Beatles who were, if not followers, certainly were familiar with his writings.
We showed how Mr. Crowley was involved with revealing the inner teachings of the Masons, which had traditionally been kept a secret.
Many things can be said about this but keeping knowledge a secret is unquestionably one of the tools of the suppressors or those who wish to stay in power.
We find Mr. Crowley living outside the mores of society, taking drugs and having sexual relations quite freely, elements we find prevalent in the sixties. Unfortunately there was an end result of self-discovery that most people involved did not quite reach.
The vehicles of liberation became an end in themselves, got commercialized and the movement also got mixed up with the revolutionary ideas of Mao and the Red Guard.
But we had revolutions before, so these ideas are obviously not new, even though the commercial end of the movement would have you thing this was the hippest and newest thing under the sun and don’t trust anyone over thirty.
I remember watching something on the television having to do with how cool this all was and turning to my friend and saying ‘this is not new.’
Obviously, something before the French revolution had fanned the flames, so to speak, so I took a look.
I remembered finding a book of Mozart’s letter’s in a library back in high school and my friend John and I were shocked over their content. Once, in the elevator in music school, my violin teacher, completely out of the blue asked me what I thought Mozart was really like.
I said he made Jim Morrison look like Mr. Rogers. My violin teacher just smiled and said ‘good.’
And well, don’t you know that Mozart was a Mason as well and his opera the Magic Flute is, by all accounts about Masonry and full of Masonic symbols.
Interesting that Wikipedia’s article talks about two main sects or orders of the Masons; one enlightened and the other more mystic and occult. Mozart was part of the enlightened group that studied the teachings of Rousseau and Diderot. Said teachings debunked the idea that the ruling class was somehow nobler in spirit, generally speaking.
The Magic Flute does have two characters in it that are kind of diametrically opposed; the Queen of the Night who is evil and Sarastro who is good. In a pdf on this opera from the 
San Francisco Opera Education, the theory is put forward that the Queen of the Night is the empress Maria Theresa and the hero Tamino is the good emperor Joseph.   

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Aleister Crowley And The British Invasion Part Two

So we left off, on part one of this post, with me tripping out in my apartment in Baltimore, while I was in music school. In a completely random act, I had reached over to my roommate’s bookshelf and grabbed the little book with the red cover, called the Book Of The Law.
This book had been dictated to Mr. Crowley by a higher dimensional being that was his ‘Higher Self.’ His Higher Self was using his lady, his Scarlet Woman to speak through. (Quite the via, if you think about it.)
In the broadest of brushstrokes, the book tells about the coming of a new aeon as well as giving a very optimistic account of the potential state of man that could be reached.
I read all this that night, in my state at the time, and understood most of it. In short, this was one of the transformational points in my lifetime.
Allow me to explain; by the age of sixteen or so, I had turned my back on conventional religion. My small circle of friends and I, at that time, half jokingly and half seriously established a cult of Bacchus and we mocked and attacked mainstream religion whenever that opportunity presented itself.
Flash-forwards to Peabody and Baltimore and so many new experiences presented questions for which there seemed to be no answers.
I embraced the Masonic teachings and the Cabbala as they filled that void. I read the writings of Crowley and his peers and I saw this influence on the pop music of the sixties.
I still hadn’t put the connection completely together, although that certainly did look an awful lot like Crowley on the cover of Sargent Pepper’s. What would Crowley be doing on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s?
I also began to think that surely, given the ideas about mankind’s true and ultimate nature, other people in the past must have had these realizations as well.
Well, this brings us to the exposé known as The Magic Flute by Mozart and as this is a topic that deserves its own blog post, we are going to leave it here for now.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Aleister Crowley And The British Invasion

Aleister Crowley was an author, mystic and ‘drug cultist’ in the early part of the nineteen hundreds. He lived decidedly outside the mores of society and his lifestyle choices were occasionally a source of infamy among those who knew him. For example, his personal secretary later wrote that Crowley regularly consumed enough heroin to kill a room full of men, yet he lived into his eighties.
 There are probably as many opinions about the man as there are people who knew him or know of him.
Opinions aside, it is my opinion that Crowley was the culmination of a great conflict that went on within the masonic lodge, probably since the days of ancient Egypt. The crux of this conflict was, should the inner teachings of the masonic lodge remain a secret and only know to a few or should they be shared with the world at large.
Crowley was on the side of sharing them and he disseminated these teachings within the masonic order, which he founded. Later his secretary published the inner teachings, thus bringing an end to this conflict, although those who wish to suppress it are probably still around.
Crowley had disciples and followers, more so perhaps, after his death. Just how far did his influence extend?
Let us take up the following story about the band Led Zeppelin, who took up residence in Crowley’s Bolskine House. The ‘Vintage News’has a rather interesting article about Page trying to get the other band members do perform the same Magickal ritual that Crowley had and claims that this resulted in a curse for Page.
The ritual in question was the central ritual for the masonic order, which had as its purpose, the invocation of the ‘Higher Self,’ a ritual that takes much study and preparation, including a forty-day long fast.
Supposedly Crowley himself gave up on it half way through but it still worked. Crowley’s ‘Higher Self’ dictated a book to him through the medium of his ‘Scarlet Woman.’ The book is called the Book Of The Law.
Then we come to the cover of The Beatle’s Sargent Pepper’s album, where Crowley appears second from the left in the back row and we also find, in the song ‘A Day In The Life Of A Fool,’ the line ‘having read the book.’
Long after all of this but way before I knew about any of it, I was tripping in the living room of my apartment in Baltimore, where I was attending a classical music conservatory. I idly and purely on a whim, reached over a grabbed The Book Of The Law off of my roommate’s bookshelf, not having the slightest idea what it was.
I began to read it. This was one the most surprising things that ever happened in my life because I understood most of it.
I was yet to realize that I had made the connection between this book and the pop music of the sixties.