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Sound and Silence

when necessary, use words

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poetry

Self Portrait : David Whyte

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
Or many gods.

I want to know if you belong — or feel abandoned;
If you know despair
Or can see it in others.

I want to know
If you are prepared to live in the world
With its harsh need to change you;
If you can look back with firm eyes
Saying “this is where I stand.”

I want to know if you know how to melt
Into that fierce heat of living
Falling toward the center of your longing.

I want to know if you are willing
To live day by day
With the consequence of love

And the bitter unwanted passion
Of your sure defeat.

I have been told
In that fierce embrace
Even the gods
Speak of God.

Reposted from the Emergent Village Facebook Page

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Is ekke beter as Jack Parow of Die Antwoord? ‘n Soutie praat.

Ek’s original, jy’s ‘n copy, ek’s ‘n flashdrive, jy’s ‘n floppy [Jack Parow]

In English, that’s:

Am I better than Jack Parow or “Die Antwoord”? (“The Answer”)
I’m original, you’re a copy, I’m a flashdrive, you’re a floppy [Jack Parow]

WAARSKU! WARNING! De-tox in progress! If you are easily offended, let what lies in shadow lie… Continue reading “Is ekke beter as Jack Parow of Die Antwoord? ‘n Soutie praat.”

Review: Pádraig Ó Tuama’s “Hymns To Swear By”

“I’ve fucked it up so many times
I’ve fucked it up so many times
I’ve fucked it up so many times
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.” [Maranatha]

These are the facts:

“Pádraig Ó Tuama’s debut album “Hymns To Swear By” blends poetry, spoken word and song in an achingly beautiful way. Many of the poems and songs have been spoken and sung in the context of Ikon in Belfast. They mix prayer and longing and raging in mystical fashion. The album is stripped back with just voice or voice and guitar which somehow makes it all the more potent.”

And here is the truth:

I ache. I yearn. I am comforted. And spellbound. Continue reading “Review: Pádraig Ó Tuama’s “Hymns To Swear By””

the conundrum of inspiration

inspiration creates form,
form institutes habit,
habit dulls inspiration

the conundrum of faith

faith colours experience,
experience risks doubt,
doubt undermines faith

the conundrum of hope

hope requires expectation,
expectation risks failure,
failure undermines hope

The Holy Trickster

Featuring The Jester-Fool, Coyote-Jackal, Br’er Rabbit, Homo Ludens, Hermes-Mercury, Prometheus, and the Serpent.

horse thief cayote from www.carpenoctem.tvI first became aware of the Trickster when at some point in my 30’s, when in order to survive, I was forced to wear a Grey Suit. See, I had been a free spirited musician until that point, and “Suits” represented the Recording Industry and Accountants, who were everything we (the chosen ones) despised. So in the aftermath of the collapse of my artistic career, and with it my notions of God – so earnestly had I taken my vocation – I was joining THE ENEMY. I was succumbing to necessity, I was abandoning the “Keeping of the Faith” (To quote the Wayne’s World rendition of Jim Morrison, who was spared all this by his in/glorious early demise).

So I headed off tie and all, into the City of London, to sell my time to the world’s largest bank. And I thought to myself, “This is kind of cool”, because in my heart I knew I was not in fact becoming one of the enemy, but rather to quote Bruce Cockburn “Dancing in the Dragons Jaws”, more like a spy. I might have appeared to be another hi finance techno-drone, but I realise now, I was in fact an incarnation of the trickster.

To quote mythographer Joseph Campbell, in “The Masks of God Vol 1”:

“This ambiguous, curiously fascinating figure of the trickster appears to have been the chief mythological character of the paleolithic world of story. A fool, and a cruel, lecherous cheat, and epitome of the principle of disorder, he is nevertheless the culture-bringer also. And he appeared under many guises : Coyote, Great Hare, Br’er Rabbit, Raven, Jay, Reynard the Fox, but also, on a more serious plane, he appears as the devil.”

At that time I started having dreams. In one I was (to quote my notes directly) “being sucked down with all manner of dogs”, into a vortex of mud or sand, heading for the funnel and ultimately, the darkness of the earth. Towards the bottom, I saw a figure standing watch over the pit, with a Jackals head and a human body. I awoke just as I took in what I thought was my last breath.

In another dream, a crazed knife wielding gypsy near a pool with an incomplete flyover in its midst, threw a knife at my wife, and missed; I reacted with rage at this wild, act of irresponsibility.

With the help of some Jungian “divination”, I found out that the Jackal Headed figure was Anubis, Egyptian guardian of the dead. And via the gypsy, I came to appreciate the presence in my mythical life of Hermes, a primary source of this ethos in Greek mythology.

Now Hermes is pretty multi-faceted. He is at once guardian of boundary stones (herms), communication, sport, music and ultimately a pretty shifty figure. From him we get hermeneutics (translation of ideas across cultural boundaries) and in his Roman guise Mercury, the postal insignia with the winged helmet.

The interesting thing for me was, having grown into adulthood characterised by charismatic evangelical piety and its worldview, how this trickster found a place alongside some very powerful “medicine”: the Evil Snake, and the overconfident, unambiguous “clarion call of truth”.

To be less obscure, I am referring to these 2 characteristics of my early belief system:

  • Monotheism’s dualism: christian theological orthodoxy sees Satan as the serpent in the garden having caused mans original sin via Eve’s temptation. The Jewish view of Satan is slightly less polarised, seeing him as an advocate / adversary to the law, rather than a semi-omnipotent being of dread and the father of all evil. And the third member of monotheism – Islam, doesn’t seem that different to the christian view regarding dualising good and evil.
  • Naive Sincerity:  The importance of being earnest – values such as “truth” and “integrity” were deemed absolutely crucial. In this Newtonian world – a predictable machine presided over by a God of Order –  ambiguity was eschewed and all sorts of logical hoops were jumped though to maintain “consistency”. This is not so much a problem with christianity per se as with Greek reductionist thinking. Is our Greek inheritance a good thing? – thoroughly dualistic, yet richly imbued in myth; and a tricky question.

So I rejoice at the presence of the Trickster in a barren land of closed thought, for quite apart from being the bringer of death and destruction, he in fact is a catalyst for life and salvation. I now look at Jesus as embodying (amongst all things divine) this trickster, as well.

  • “Be as wise/sly as serpents and as harmless a doves”. In this metaphor, the serpent is not an outlaw, but something to be actively embraced.
  • “Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”: Conjurers of the world, unite in Christ!
  • “Become as little children”: engage in play, awe, and the space opened up by ambiguity.
  • “I will make myself more foolish in their eyes” – David, shamanic worshipper and “apple of G-d’s eye”.
  • “I become a fool for Christ” – here Paul elevates the Jester role, acknowledging that it is not the highly evolved adult, but those without guile, who will experience G-d.

You may be saying, this is madness; this is exactly what we have come away from – deception and falsehood. I can sympathise with your confusion, because I share it. I too have looked askance at anyone delving into such shadowy arts.

But I am coming to see the Trickster no so much as a threat, but a gift. In fact, I see him as quite central to the core christian truth of incarnation, as well as central to all creativity.

As I now see it, the very call to incarnation involves the trickster. Incarnation can be described as “being in the world but not of it”. All people having undertaken a spiritual path, especially one involving reorienting oneself in the world, will know the difficulty of staying grounded and yet striving for transcendence. All manner of things get in the way, rationalism, craving, habit, apathy, materialism, fear. To live “in the spirit” can be a very difficult task.

The tendency in the search for “holiness” or “purity” is usually to separate our world into the secular/worldly/carnal and the sacred/heavenly/spiritual. We have immense difficulty being “in the world” when we refocus our inner life on the transcendent beyond.

//www.emblibrary.comI suggest that this is where the trickster comes to assist us. His realm includes ambiguity, irony, and play, incompleteness and chaos, holding in tension and suspending belief, generosity and cruelty, imagination, flexibility and cunning shifting of shape, the boundaries between life and death, and making connections where they are not supposed to be.

Clearly the trickster has the potential to destroy. Engaging him is to take a risk. It is the liminal area between right and wrong that is his playground. We should never say as an excuse “The trickster made me do it.” It is up to us to learn what we can from him but never to naively give him our heart.

There are totemic trickster figures in many of the more animistic cultures; additionally clowns and jesters, comedians and conjurers, and most if not all practitioners of art play this subversive role in society. Not to forget negotiators and peacemakers; even politicians, theirs being the “art of the possible”, despite their common failings.

Joseph Campbell notes

“They represent, from the point of view of the masters of decorum, the chaos principle, the principle of disorder, the force careless of taboos and shattering bounds. But from the point of view of the deeper realms of being from which the energies of life ultimately spring, this principle is not to be despised.”

And maverick Bruce Cockburn, again, in his rambunctious “Maybe The Poet” observes

Male female slave or free
Peaceful or disorderly
Maybe you and he will not agree
But you need him to show you new ways to see

Don’t let the system fool you
All it wants to do is rule you
Pay attention to the poet
You need him and you know it

What I am concerned with here is the potential of the poet, the prophet, and the shaman, to usher in holiness. To “shatter bounds” and bring us new ways to see.

As we focus on the task of apprehending or worshiping the Divine, wrestle with the complexities or truth, or simply seek to live life more fully, we should imaginatively and openly engage the services of this mythical “holy trickster”.

baptised – a journey

into air 61
into manhood 74
into music 75

into christ son of g-d 79
into spirit and water 80
into fire 82

into justice 85
into matrimony 89

into shadow 94
into mammon 95

into fatherhood 99
into cosmos 06
into jesus son of man 07

baptised
into fullness of life
incarnate, re-incarnate
into a festive g-d
immersed and re-immersed

baptised, rebaptised
towards completeness
towards celebration

towards that abiding joy

Curating Sacred Sound and Image

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”

avj twinstar

AVJ Twinstar here: It’s a good time to summarise the state of my art. Like all things, any given expression of our souls is a meeting of influences. Some joined the river recently, others can be traced back to the beginning…

I have just assembled a fully functioning AVJ rig. You don’t know what this means, because I just made it up. AVJ is a multimedia marriage of the DJ and VJ aesthetics, in short, and Audio-Visual Jockey. It must be said I don’t care for either of these terms. Audio-Visual has a technical ring I’d like to escape, and the role of Jockey I feel might better be described as Curator. But AVJ has a certain je ne c’est quoi, and I’ll keep it.

So for near on 30 years I have been a musician. I have been interested in sound, and the organisation thereof, otherwise called music. I have been through several phases in this: Rock, Jazz, World, African, Songwriter, Electronica, ECM, all totaling 3 decades. I whole heartedly pursued the disciplines of music, the techniques of guitar and saxophone, theory, songwriting, and recording, as a sustained journey. Did I master any? I’ve given up asking that question, and there is no conclusive evidence in either direction.

AVJ twinstar rigBut in recent years and months, I have been exploring image. But I’m no drawer, painter or sculptor. AND my eyes are finding it increasingly hard to see the detail of things without glasses, too. But there is something in imagemaking, in how pictures, photographs, movies, symbols, even words interact with us that has me under its spell.

Further to that I suspect that as we emerge from modernism, the role of words as the dominant carrier of truth is no longer appropriate. Images, in the age of Film, TV and the internet, are at least equal partners in communicating any messages. Theologically, it is equally valid to say “G-d as the Logos, spoke”, or that “G-d as the Light, shone”. I don’t see why the language of words should feel superior to images in a post-modern culture. Or that images are only alright if they support our sales pitches, lectures or sermons. Powerpointism … an illustration must know its place, it is to serve the spoken and written message.

Edirol V4What I have assembled is by no means perfect or the ultimate AVJ rig, but it works for me. By acquiring an Edirol V4 visual mixer, I now have the hub of a large range of visual sources. A mixer takes multiple inputs and routes them to multiple outputs, enabling the seamless switching and creative combining of images.

Photographs, scans, words and texts, moving image, input from microscopes, oscilloscopes, skype-o-scopes (I googled that and guess what I got NO matches – what a relief to know there are places the googlebot has never been), browsers with internet content or Powerpoint shows can all be combined in real time.

But the best thing is how live camera feeds can form an integral part of the projected output. This means that Liturgy – the work of the people – becomes enabled by making the content the participants themselves. What is this show about? It’s about US. It is integral to community.

As in good conversation, every idea is fair game. If you want to quote Oscar Wilde and you know him, you can. If you want to press a point a little further, you can. If you want to draw people’s attention to a passing cloud formation, you can. In theory any available image can be recalled and combined as desired.

What this takes is someone who sees film as a performance art, and someone who is accepts the curator’s role. A curator in this sense is not just a functionary: the watchman of premises and its contents, with no real feel for or relationship to the collection of works housed at a point in time. A curator is someone who cares for the images of a community.

Further, it is a creative who does not claim exclusive authorship of the content, or may in fact, have no authoring role whatsoever, but who can present sound or images to a gathering in such a way as to read the moods of the room, and in the case of the sacred curator, the will of the spirit too.

The DJ is perhaps the best example of a curator of sounds, songs or perhaps just clips or rhythm. I’ve had a lifelong prejudice against this emblem of our culture, mainly because I saw myself as an author of music, and the DJ was the slaggard who took whatever glory might be inherent in the music with absolutely no role in its creation. I wasn’t surprised but was still amazed to hear this DJ exclaim “Scheesh dude, I suppose now that S*sha is doing it, we will all have to get into production”. Hey, I thought, all I wanted to do for about 10 years before I could afford a Tascam 4-track was record and produce, and you are moaning about having to mimic some vapid pseudo-creator.

VJing comes into the picture on the heels of the fully ascended (but still none the less visually boring) DJ cult, in which randomly accessible images could accompany the music. This form of expression is moving beyond its eye-candy beginnings, with its new and emerging visual language. Nonetheless, almost all VJ activity takes place in clubland, and the idea of the sacred VJ is virtually unknown. Not totally though, The Work of the People is an example of a similar vision.

motion dive tokyoBack to the rigging: I run 2 laptops, one exclusively for (the rather power mad) motion dive tokyo console, a dedicated hardware/software platform for triggering and mixing on-disk images. It contains visual effects too which enable you to composite 2 images in many ways, resulting in hybrid images which are truly fresh.

Most of my material is my own, but I have a library now of natural and urban scenes, notable movie clips, computery graphics, photographs and texts. Always wanted to publicly intersperse your take on what Seal was getting at in “Crazy”, well now you can by fading in your comment or question while he sings “But we’re never going to survive, unless we get a little big.”

It’s about finding truth in unexpected places. You just need the insight to read the poetry in things, and the faith to consecrate that which you believe to bear the sacred. Most moving images are looped – hyper short form film – and can be left to run with great effect.

As in Orthodox worship, some images are iconic, and their very repetition can usher in the sacred. I tend to mute the sound from clips used in this way, as the assumption is the VJ performance will accompany music. However, I can see the potential for using moving image with mime, textual readings, or many other expressions.

Ableton Live 6The other laptop runs both Powerpoint (for clean slideshows, as if) and Ableton Live, a simply superb musical software platform for production, performance and composition. I have used Live for 4 years for songwriting and production of original music, but now it has become a DJ oriented deck for playing my songlists. Additionally, via midi (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) it is able to trigger images on Motion Dive.

Typically I start a song and have the images set up automatically, then VJ live for the rest of the song based on the set up. It’s finding a balance between automation and interaction. I would also like to hook up a USB microscope to this machine so that a gathering might see the ravishing beauty of lichens at 100X or view some sub-visual life form while musing over the wonder of the created order.

Each laptop goes to a V4 input, using dual screen technology so I can retain the Motion dive and Powerpoint master view on their screens. The other 2 inputs are from a live camera and a DVD player. The DVD is really handy for bringing movies or material handed to me in movie format on the spot, into the mix. Also it will play CDs, so one can treat it as a play-all-discs input.

The Camera forms the last source. This is perhaps most important – we are not merely presenting stock footage with which we might have only a vague connection, but much of the input comes from the life and movement, the stories and gestures, of the participants themselves. This presents an opportunity for liturgy – community, creativity and the sacred all working together. By consciously “mediating” – being the medium for – an experience of community, and then projecting these images back to that community, we fill a key role of reflection.

A community should see itself as others see it, and if we bring the classic priestly role into the mix – those who stand between man and G-d – who knows, we might be showing Him-Her to the world.

I’m hopeful that anyone remotely interested in spirituality will see this as a worthy goal.

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