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Thursday, September 16, 2010



John Zorn (Editor)
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Hips Road/Tzadik (July 31, 2010)
List Price: $39.95

Including contributions from Seattle's own William Kiesel!

For centuries musicians have tapped into mysticism, magic and alchemy, embracing ritual, spell, incantation and prayer, and experimenting with esoteric approaches to harmony, pitch and vibration. In recent decades, avant-garde musicians have rediscovered these overlaps, as occultism has reinvented itself--through Buddhist and other Asian influences, Thelema and Chaos Magic--to accommodate cultural strains from psychedelica through Punk and Industrial music. This special edition of John Zorn's much acclaimed Arcana series focuses on the magical aspects of the act of making music. Neither historical overview nor musicological study, it illuminates the sympathies between music and the esoteric tradition with the help of today's finest experimental musicians and occultists. Among these are William Breeze, Gavin Bryars, Alvin Curran, Fred Frith, Sharon Gannon, Larkin Grimm, William Kiesel, Yusef Lateef, Frank London, Meredith Monk, Mark Nauseef, Pauline Oliveros, Genesis P-Orridge, Terry Riley, David Toop, Greg Wall, Peter Lamborn Wilson and Z'ev.

The creative act is a complex and elusive enigma. Shrouded in mystery, largely misunderstood, many attempts have been made to describe, analyze, and define it in an effort to explain the inexplicable. The preceding four volumes of Arcana have presented the voices of 125 creative minds discussing the processes, thinking patterns, idiosyncratic techniques and breakthrough methods involved in the magical act of making music. Ranging from pedagogy and magic squares to extended techniques, chord voicings, advanced technologies, surrealist games, esoteric research, ethnomusicology, dream diaries, structural analysis, acoustics and more, the essays and manifestos included within those tomes help provide clues to how musicians think about their work, the world, and that which they love most—music.

Despite articulate and passionate answers to probing questions, misunderstandings persist, abound and proliferate—and the divide between musicians and the rest of the world remains largely undiminished. The outside world continues to look upon artists and musicians with a strange and complex combination of admiration, jealousy, contempt, love, suspicion, awe, anger and hero worship. The contradiction is quite understandable—creation is an unknowable act. In addition to the the nuts and bolts involved in the craft of sculpting a piece of music, there is the divine spark of inspiration that gives it birth, which often is just as much of a mystery to the artists who experience it as it is to the uninitiated who have not.

This unfathomable element of the creative equation is rarely spoken of by musicians, perhaps out of the belief (or fear) that to speak of it would cause it to vanish, never to return. But it is there, equally veiled as it is vital—at times overwhelming. Described alternately as being in the zone or the flow, channeling the muse, self hypnosis or the piece writing itself, the feeling is a universal yet ineffable one of being in touch with something outside or larger than oneself. The manifestations of this can include unusually intense concentration on one’s work resulting in a lost sense of self, a merging of action and awareness to the extent that successes and failures become immediately apparent, a perfect balance between ability level and challenge, a powerful sense of personal control rendering the process effortless, and often an altered or lost sense of time. Goals become so clear as to be almost absent—one exists inside the hot crucible of creativity itself, connected with a spirit, energy or historical lineage that is overpowering, exhilarating, frightening. One is one’s goal, and the creative act is existence—rewarding in and of itself. At these times freedom (so normally equated with artists) becomes obeisance. One does what one is compelled to do, inevitably resulting in something beyond your known capabilities.

What is this place? Whose is this voice? From whence does it come? How does one make contact? Can it be called upon at will? How long will it stay? Will it ever return? In a recent discussion with a friend, we were both surprised and delighted to learn that we were not alone in our experiences—that we both had heard this voice, been visited by this angel. We also agreed how impossible it would be for the uninitiated to understand or even accept its existence. Is it indeed best to keep these voices private? Are they real or imagined? Who can truly understand how a song can appear complete in a fleeting moment, so quick that you rush to write it down before it disappears, or that a composition can actually write itself. Unless you have actually experienced this remarkable phenomenon, it sounds suspiciously like romantic fantasy.

But it is real. There are places beyond thought, beyond thinking; places where intuition merge with destiny—places of transcendence—and in our newly formed, hi-speed, digitized world of the multitask, it may be that the only way to retain our innate inner-born humanity is in taking on and tapping in to the challenge of the unknowable stream of the eternal.

Mysticism, magic and alchemy all come into play in the creative process. For many centuries composers have accessed things spiritual, embracing ritual, spell, incantation and prayer deeply into their life and work. From Sappho and Hildegard von Bingen to Biber, Bach, Mozart, Liszt, Scriabin, Messiaen, Rudhyar, Sorabji, Coltrane, Ayler, Ito, Pärt, Rautavaara and beyond, the connection of music to mysticism has been consistent, well documented and productive. Far from an historical overview or a musicologist’s study, this Arcana Special Edition illuminates a fascinating and elusive subject via the eloquent voices of today’s most distinguished modern practitioners and greatest occult thinkers, providing insights into the esoteric traditions and mysteries involved in the composition and performance of the most mystical of all arts.

—John Zorn, NYC 2009

Autumnal Equinox Sabbat: A Dionysian Harvest

The Aquarian Tabernacle Church is proud to present this year’s Autumnal Equinox Sabbat: A Dionysian Harvest at Edge of the Circle Books in Seattle, on Wednesday, September 22nd, at 7:00 pm.
This will be the 2nd presentation of this particular ritual, so come join us if you missed it the first time!
This is a public and family-friendly ritual celebrating our works and honoring the blessings of Dionysus. Come revel in the fruits of your harvest, and learn the Mystery of the Sacred Vine!
This service will be at:
Edge of the Circle Books
701 East Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98122-3719
(206) 726-1999
Schedule of Events:
7:00 – 7:30PM – Arrival and Orientation for Ritual
7:30 PM – Ritual Begins (Also, due to the energies involved, latecomers may be declined entrance to circle.)
The ATC requests a $10-$5 contribution for the Cauldron of Prosperity. Funds are tax-deductible and used to provide ritual supplies, and maintain the grounds and shrines at the church.
We look forward to seeing you!

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