Friday, December 6, 2013

The Archetype of the Troubadour ... is Alive and Well ... all Over the World

... which is more than can be said for some 'archeypes' treated in modern movies and television shows.

Barry McGuire and John York

A few evenings ago I was watching PBS and caught Barry McGuire (with John York of the storied career, includig The Byrds) singing Eve of Destruction. And I thought to myself, since I wasn't thinking to anyone else at that moment, that the archetype of the 'troubadour' is alive and well. Which is a good thing. There are tens of thousands of troubadours singing all over the world, it just happened to be Barry McGuire that pulled at my reflective mind.

The health of our archetypes - i.e. how we treat and dress and give voice to archetypes in our cultural media consumables - is imortant to our health. Degrade our archetypes and we degrade our culture. Which in turn makes us less than what we could be. Since it is our archetypes that inspire and instruct (both of these) us that we are and can be 'bigger' than any of our 'ordinary' moments.

Boy, he has sung that song across a lot of Time, relative to how lasting, across Time, human beings can be.

A Bit of Recent History on the Medieval European Troubadours
"Astonishing in their diversity and grace, the circa four thousand poems of the Occitanian and Catalan troubadours survive by the foresight of a few enlightened patrons who, sensing the end of an epoch, began amassing these precious works in large manuscript codices. Yet the medieval hour was late; poems that had been sung for generations were collected and transcribed at the very end of their general currency in society. And only two hundred or so melodies (preserved in what degree of exactitude?) were ever written down at all."
Joel Cohen's liner notes to Lo Gai Saber: Troubadours et Jongleurs 1100 - 1300, 1991.

You can read more about this recording here.

New Archetypes are not Created
Of course, there were troubadours all over the world before the term was invented in the Middle Ages in Occitania. Then it was largely about 'love' - Divine and of this human plane. I include songs of activism in the troubadour archetype. The 60s and 70s were a rich time for troubadours. The 80s and 90s not so much. But ... the archetype is alive and well today. Hooray! Just as they love love, so we do, and must, love them.

There are no new archetypes created. (Just as there are no new spiritual teachings.) Yes, we can dress and disguise our archetypes, and so empower or disempower them, in the guises of our time and place and the persons around us. To degrade them for entertainment's purposes only is to lose them. To lose them is to lose part of what we are and part of what we can be.

Namaste! I bow to and honor the light within you!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Nora the Piano Cat ... Accompanied by Me Thinking About Animal Sentience

All of us are travelling an evolutionary arc, individually and As One. Many of us don't really know what we believe about many aspects of the fragment of the Universe that we live within. An inquiring mind is a normally functioning mind. For writers of fiction it's important to get to know our own inquiring mind. What do we really believe about this and that? I mean really believe.

Contemplation. Reflection. Hope. Dedication. Resolve. Planning. Intent. Creation ... What do we know about the sentience of some animal species? Elephants, whales, dolphins, horses, dogs ... littleCats? Really, not many of us know very much at all. If you are a writer of stories and your stories include animals as characters - important characters, minor characters, background charactors, it doesn't really matter - then you do need to be clear about what you believe about animals and their consciousness, before you write about them. In this way you can be true to you the artist.

... And So To Nora the Piano Cat

I've been thinking about Nora the cat a lot recently. (Full disclosure: I love Nora!) Nora 'plays the piano'. Which opens the question - are some animals artists? I have blogged about animals as artists.

And I particularly love Nora playing in a piece specially commissioned for her by the Klaipeda Chamber Orchestra, conductor and composer Mindaugas Piecaitis.

What if ... It's a Creation through Interaction?

Coming to know another species' sentience is complex and subtle. Legends tell us about the sentience of other species, other beings. So do fables and parables, teaching stories and true-life stories. So many. So, so many. So many stories. So many animals.

Honoring more full disclusure ... I have two cats here and now, and have had the privilege to have been the 'owner' of many cats over the years. With every one of these littleCats that came to share their life with me I saw an emergence of sentience. Not just a growth in relationship ... but a growth in sentience.

What if ... animal sentience in a littleCat, say, is partly created interactively by me and the littleCat together, and is not 'just there'? In which case ... if this is the case ... then ... what happens to me? For, surely, if the littleCat is growing in sentience then ... 'something' will be happening to me also. Right?

Reuben was His Name

By the way ... I once had a littleCat who wanted to play the piano. He was an older cat. Long life lived so not much of 'Time' left to him to live. I watched him tentatively jump up onto my piano stool and reach with a forepaw and touch the keys and make sound. Several times. Each time I saw him do this I felt in that space of reverant resonace within me a sense his 'intent to aspire'. Reuben was his name. 'Death' is not the end of the thread of life that each of us is. Thus 'aspiring' to be 'more' is evolutionary within the arc.

I never encouraged him or mentored him. I think now I should have. Reuben was the littleCat who also shared with me one of his dreams. I 'dreamt' it, but it was his. The shapes were 'spikey'. The colors were 'different'. As was the dance of movements together. Other littleCats, indeed all of them, have taught me the privilege of loving. Not the privilege of being loved ... but the privilege of giving love, of loving. That is a great teaching to be Given.

Whales ... and Crickets ...

Thousands of composers integrate songs of animals, and of Mother Nature Herself, into their compositions. Whale songs are pervasively popular. My favorite is Ocean Odyssey by Adam Goddard. Robbie Robertson, the great American musician and composer of Mowhawk heritage has slowed-down crickets on a track called Twisted Hair on his album Music for the Native Americans. You can listen to that below. His Facebook page explains a little of what was done to integrate the choir of the crickets - "... the crickets were recorded and pitched down/slowed down. Native American opera singer Bonnie Jo Hunt accompanies Robbie and the crickets."

And Back to Writers

Right now I have some characters who are animals come to visit me or find me. And so I have been thinking about animals and their sentience. For, I want the voice that I give them to be true to the story that came to find me.

Namaste! I bow to and honor the light within you!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Bay Psalm Book ... and Ends of Eras for New First Editions, and More

The End and the Future ...

On Tuesday a copy of the Bay Psalm Book was auctioned for $14.2 million. This is a new world record for any printed book. This little book (it is little) was the first book printed in what was to become the United States. It was published in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts - so soon after the Plymouth colony was established in Massachusetts in 1620. The print run was about 1700 copies. Only 11 copies survive in the world. It's full title is - The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre. With a subtitle of - Whereunto is prefixed a discourse declaring not only the lawfullnes, but also the necessity of the heavenly Ordinance of singing Scripture Psalmes in the Churches of God. [all sics apply]

So Many Evolutionary Arcs

And then ... my mind began to 'think'. And so 'I' went along with it. (Why not?) It seems to me that the end of an era has already happened. I doubt that any 'first editions' of fiction published from today onwards will ever be sold at any auction for any price.

Works of fiction, stories, have travelled a long arc in how they are transmitted from the inspired (or not) author to the consciousness of the one being storyTold to. First there was oral transmission (and of course memory) only, to both storytellers and those being Told to ... and then handwritten script given to printers (oh what fun that iterative cycle must have been - just ask James Joyce!) ... and then we story creators had typewriters (hooray!) for both ourselves and those who typed for us ... then word processing (cool and now ubiquitous and taken-for-normal) ... publication outside 'paper' begins with audio and fiction on the early web ... then we have voice recognition on the input side ... and, on the production side digital books (and some digital books are digital-only, so the concept of 'first edition' is truly conceptually gone (going, going, gone, gone, gone)) ... and let's factor in that 'stories' were originally told (only told) ... and then told or read ... and then told, read or watched/viewed (bearing in mind that most of the latter stories have never been available in told or written formats) ...

... so ... what does the future bring? Virtual reality stories? May be. Where the experience will be storyLived as opposed to storyTold to. And then we will have joint creation, between the story receiver in the virtual world and the creators of the virtual world. Games are the joint creation of a story, because they are the creation of an outcome. We already have shared authorship of novels - especially in the SF/Fantasy realm. And, of course, multi-participent games create stories jointly. StorySourcing is bound to come, for some, if it has not already - an interative play on the games I played as a youngster where we would (drink) and write a line and pass it on to the next in the round at the party. Hah! That was fun at the time!

Story, Daydreams, and Culture

And steady state in all of this is Story itself and our 'need' for Story and stories. Just as mammal biology needs breath ... so consciousness (it seems) needs ... stories.

There are billions of stories told by ourselves to ourselves together, collectively, on Mother EAerth every hour. They are often called 'daydreams'. Because they never 'happen'. And the collective of daydreams, growing exponentially, is only one layer in the collective consciousness of thoughts that encircle us. Just as there is an atmosphere that is breathed ... so ... there is an aether (to deliberately choose to use an old-fashioned word for technical reasons) that is 'received' by each of us.

Once upon a time, long gone, stories were planted upon Mother EAerth to serve a purpose. The 'template' of Story was also planted. By Seeders and Caretakers. We do need to be careful of our consumption of Story. For, like all food and drink, we need to be careful of what we consume. Artificial ingredients create bad health. Consuming too much 'bad' food/Story causes ...

Namaste! I bow to and honor the light within you!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Bridge - The Landfill Harmonic and the Irresistability of Creating

Music and the love of music does not necessarily by iteslf change personal issues of poverty or health (acknowledging the many exceptions that are shamanic and miraculous, where it does). But it does change consciousness. Watching people create is inspiring to us all for we are all innately, intrinsically, and Divinely (since we are all of the Divine) creative.

... and so to the Landfill Harmonic. ... once upon a time (in our time) ...

It has a name. Some might fnd that strange. But then, we name everything ... that we need to share or think about. So ... it is named Cateura, this place where creativity and creation bloom in the most unexpected place (on Earth). Cateura is Paraguay's largest landfill.

Luis Szaran, Director of 'Sonidos de la Tierra', was called (inspired) to a mission. He took his love of music and his understanding of what music gives to the children of Cateura.

So Many Children ... So Few Instruments

In the beginning there were only five violins and fifty children ... and so some talented and huge-hearted people began to make instruments from the garbage sent to Cateura. As one lad says ...

"The cello is made from an oil can and wood that was thrown away in the garbage. The pegs are made out of an old tool used to tenderize beef, and this was used to make gnocchi."

And it sounds beautiful ... since it is heartfully played.

These children know (truly know) what they are doing.

"For me, the music is the smile of the soul. ... I love it because you can convey everything with it. You can tell if you're angry, if you're happy, if you're sad, if you're in love. ... As Maestro Szaran says, we need to make intelligence hip, instead of clothes and cell phones."
Landfill Harmonic on Tour

... and here are these young people telling their story through playing orchestral music. And also telling the bigger story of the Bridge - the relationship to 'inspiration' - that we all have as our birthright, regardless of whether we dance with that partner-in-Existence or not.

The Bridge is Always Open

'Bridge' is the core concept, the core understanding. The Bridge is not especially/particularly an 'archetype'. Rather, and simply, it is a basic fact of life. The Bridge is a way, from 'Inspiration' (whatever you may want to call it, and define it to yourself) to each of us. The Bridge is always open. It is our end of the Bridge that is often not. Locally closed, one might say. There are a million ways for us to open to our end of the bridge. But the way of ways is simply to surrender to our desire to 'create'. Yes, there may be quieting down needed from us, and a learning to 'listen' to the choir that sings to us, unceasingly, from the other side of the Bridge.

What is true about music, as above, is also true of writing. This is the way it is and there is no other way.

Namaste! I bow to and honor the light within you!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Musicians Who Paint - Herb Alpert

Once upon a lo-ong time ago I was a musician. Once upon a time yet to come ... I will be an abstract painter. (As for "why abstract painting" ... it's a lo-ong story ... all to do with acknowledging that the universe that we 'see' is painted by biological perceptive organs and in its 'isness' it bears no relation to what we 'see' ... 'abstract' painting is one way to honor this Divine fact.)

This weekend just past there was a fascinating piece in the Wall Street Journal on Herb Alpert, who started painting in 1970, and his art.

Just fascinating ... and there was a gorgeous photo of his studio, by Annie Tritt, showing some of his paintings using organic coffee on gesso. You can read more on Herb Alpert's website here.

The Artist At Work - Honesty

Albert talks about his work on this video featured on Vimeo. (permissions don't let me embed it here - you will have to click to Vimeo to view.)

"There's a running thread to all good artists and it's 'honesty'. ... I don't have a goal in mind apart from form. I'm looking for that form that touches me. It's a real mystical art form. There's someting that feeds me internally. ... This sounds a little mysterious. There's a voice in me that tells me what to do. It definitely tells me when to stop and when to keep going."

For those who love watching artists actually at work there is a wonderful scene of him making one of his organic coffee on gesso paintings, pouring coffee on the canvas (beginning 5.23).

Oneness vs. Poverty Consciousness

Creation is a oneness thing. Music ... painting ... writing. All art forms aim and intend to manifest into our world something that was not manifest before. And the only thing worth creating is that which is from your own truth. Forcing yourself to copy or emulate - "otherwise I won't make it!" - is poverty consciousness. Honesty ... to the life that life that we have been Given.

Namaste! I bow to and honor the light within you!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

What Did It Sound Like? - To Play the Oldest Known Music Notation in the World

As a writer of stories, long and short, in the genre of historical fantasy I am fascinated by all the facets I need to create a world for my characters which seduces my readers. And more ... which bedazzles and successfully invites them inside. One of these facets is music. Music is integral to the world in my novel Alba - not only is it integral, it is a 'shamanic' doorway. Thus essential.

The oldest currently-known notated music in the world (or, this set of civilizations upon the breast of Mother EAerth) comes from Ugarit, on the coast of present-day Syria, and is dated around 1400 BCE. Acknowledging that there may well be older music currently played, today and even tomorrow, that was transmitted by lineage of teacher/pupil learning ... This music, known today as the Hurrian songs, was inscribed onto clay tablets. What has so far been discovered is incomplete - clay is a fragle material.

What did it sound like?

Well ... here would be no elements of today. No technobeats ... no sampling ... no overdubbing and multi-tracking ... no electronic instruments. The 'true' tones of Western music not at all necessary. Voices and ... handsonics ... and ... reeds, strings, skins and metals, No recordings. No greatest hits. No accompanying twerking (I strongly intuit/suspect, but cannot be certain). Optional hotpants very unlikely.

What did it sound like?

Well ... we will never know. But that does not stop us from enjoying the joyful wonder of the fact that way back then, in that tribe, musicians composed and notated their music so that is could be shared and so that it could endure, at least for as long as the culture did endure.

Malek Jandali

There are some inspirational extrapolations from these Hurrian songs. The Syrian-born Malek Jandali has an album called Echoes from Ugarit released a couple of years ago written for piano and Western orchestra.

Why is this important to writers?

Why is this important?

Well ... It is important to be able to access a state of 'personal' wonder about this creation upon this planet and these experiences that 'we' have. It is right and natural to have wonder about these ancient civilizations - that in the galactic scheme of time are just the last heartbeat away. A sense of wonder is natural. A lack of a sense of wonder is not.

Why is this important to writers?

Music is a huge part of every culture, down through all of 'history'. Sure, we can all write stories that don't need the facet of music to create the world in which the story takes place. However, for myself, the more I want to incorporate the essence of a culture in a story setting the more likely I will introduce music into that world. Of course, if I want to introduce any facet that is the slightest 'shamanic' then I likely need music.

For writers of historical fantasy and historical fiction it depends how far back in time you are setting your story. If you have gone back as far as the Baroque Period - 1600-1750, or so - then you are in reasonably well-documented territory. Though bear in mind that there are periodic huge controversies in the early music communities about what early music actually sounded like.

Once we are in historical settings that are way back, like the Dark Ages and before in Europe, and their equivalent periods in other parts of this world, then where are we going to find inspiration to be able to write and create the musical backdrops in our stories?

Over the next few months I will share some of the music I have listened to, and become drunk upon, in the quest to meet inspiration for the musical facets of my ancient worlds.

Malek Jandali is currently giving great Service to the world through activist work on behalf of all children caught up in the current conflict in Syria. You can read more about his work here

Namaste! I bow to and honor the light with you!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Learning from the Underrated Masterpieces of Sci-fi

On a personal note I consider myself a very technical writer (as in practicing scales on the piano ... endlessly) as well as an 'inspirational' (improvisational music and absract painting) writer. I love watching movies from the point of view of being a story writer (and not, most certainly not, a script writer.). As a writer I enjoy movies that not only please me but also give me food for thought in regards to my writing 'techniques' and writing craft. I enjoy honing the techniques I have and discovering new-to-me ones.

'Underrated masterpieces' for me are special. I just have that kind of personality. The underrated and forgotten is a great realm to travel to - to enjoy inspiration and, maybe, be inspired.

Steven James Snyder of techland recently released a list, with commentary, of "The Five Most Underrated Sci-Fi Masterpieces".

Two of them I have seen ... a very long time ago - Silent Running and Dark City. I'm not sure that I have even heard of the other three - Gottaca, Serentiy, Primer. But now I am very inspired to have a Watching Underrated Masterpieces weekend - with some of my favorite wines. And to see what I can learn as a writer.

Anyway, I commend the list to writers of fantasy and magical realism. And, maybe even more, the short list of twenty from which the five were distilled.

Interestingly, another list i found by 'serendipity' also had Dark City in the top five.

Namaste! I bow to and honor the light within you!