Sunday, April 20, 2014

Teddy Bear Talks RAW event in Brighton

The Teddy Bear Talks event held on April 6 at the Black Dove in Brighton, featuring Daisy Eris Campbell and John Higgs, has now been posted on YouTube, making it available to everyone who couldn't make it to Brighton.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Synchronicity in Richard Powers' 'Orfeo'

 American composer William Duckworth (1943-2012), who never inserted musical notation into bacteria and probably is not alluded to in the new Richard Powers novel. 

New news news news news news news has a ... has a ... has a kind of mystery

I recently had a unique reading experience. I read a new novel, Orfeo by Richard Powers, and as I went though it, I had the odd feeling that it was written for me. It’s an interesting experience  of synchronicity,  and as RAW fans are interested in synchronicity, I write about it here.

I'm not crazy enough to think that when famed novelist Richard Powers sat down to write his new novel  that he was aiming for a book that would please his longtime fan, Tom Jackson, out in Ohio. But there are interesting coincidences that gave me an eerie feeling.

Start with the fact that only a fairly narrow audience of readers will get many of the references. Orfeo is a literary novel about a modern composer, Peter Els,  that contains a great many allusions to music. People who listen to modern classical music are a small subset of a relatively small group of listeners.

The words quoted at the top of my blog post, for example, are from an aria that Richard Nixon sings from the John Adams opera, "Nixon in China," about Nixon's historic trip. I recognized the words when one of Adams' characters, a character somewhat reminiscent of director Robert Wilson, sang them words to Els.

A cassette tape of "Nixon in China" was one of the first recordings of modern classical music I ever bought. Although it is famous as modern operas go, I would be surprised if as many as 1 in 100 Americans would get the reference without help. Powers inserts the words I’ve quoted into his novel without explanation. There’s also a joke about spectral music, which you’ll get if you recognize the name “Tristan Murail.”
Powers is that kind of novelist. He never explains in the text, either, why he calls the book Orfeo. And that gets us into why I had the odd feeling the book was written for me.

One of my hobbies, aside from letting a blog about Robert Anton Wilson eat up much of my time and attention, is listening to classical music. Aside from the usual suspects every other classical listener pays attention to, I have a particular interest in modern classical music, including some composers who are considered too “way out” for most people.

One of my favorite composers is William Duckworth, who died of cancer a couple of years ago. I own all three available commercial recordings of “The Time Curve Preludes,” his best-known work. It's a great piece. I own most of his other work that is available on the market. I even knew Duckworth,  in the sense of “knowing” someone you’ve only met on the Internet. I blogged about him, and he sent me an autographed copy of one of his books. Another time, he sent me an unreleased CD of music by his world music/avante garde band. Once he wrote to suggest a blog post, and so on. I was quite upset when he died. His New York Times obit is here.

Anyway, Duckworth, like Peter Els, taught at a Pennsylvania college and lived in a small Pennsylvania city. Like Duckworth, Peter Els was influenced by John Cage, and some of his pieces are very conceptual.

But the clincher in the possible connection of the two is the word Orfeo.

Orteo is Italian for Orpheus, the character in Greek mythology whose music was so powerful he could charm all living things and even rocks with his music. When Els gets into trouble with the federal government for breeding bacteria in his apartment (in a concept that even Duckworth never thought of, Els wants to insert musical notation into the DNA of bacteria, so his music will last for millennia) he goes on a journey, analogous to Orpheus' famous descent into the underground, to recover his own lost loves.

But Orfeo also has a specific meaning for classical music buffs. The opera L’Orfeo  by Monteverdi is one of the earlier operas, and is certainly the first opera still remembered and performed today.

Duckworth also composed a version of the Orpheus story. As Wikipedia explains, “The iPod Opera 2.0: The Myth of Orpheus, the Chronicler and Eurydice, [was] podcast in 26 episodes as MP3 and QuickTime video files. The video episodes may be downloaded and played on many different kinds of computer systems, including Apple OS, Windows and Linux computers, while the MP3 files may be downloaded and burned as an audio disk. The completion of the podcast in February 2007 was timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first performance of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo.” I’ll add that the first number of the Duckworth piece is a rewrite of the overture to Monteverdi’s opera.

The Powers novel has Tweets from Els interspersed throughout the text. Duckworth was active on Twitter, as @Timecurve.

My wife says that a smart guy like Richard Powers probably knows who Duckworth is. My own guess is that I’m outlining coincidences here, and the novel is not, in fact, a long dog whistle to William Duckworth fans.

But I’ll try to write to Powers and ask. If I get past the “email from nuts” filter and obtain a reply, I’ll let you know.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Joey Ramone sings the Finnegans Wake songbook

Okay, despite my title, it's only one song,.

But Joey Ramone did record a tune called "The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs" with the text adapted from Finnegans Wake and the music written by composer John Cage. The excellent Open Culture website has a blog post that allows you to listen to the song. As Josh Jones notes, "Ramone’s interpretation of the piece is enthralling simply as a piece of recorded music.  But it’s also a fascinating piece of cultural history, representing a confluence of the foremost figures in early twentieth century modernist literature, mid-century avant-garde music, and late century punk rock."

The song is from a "various artists" album, Cage/Uncaged  — A Rock/Experimental Homage to John Cage, available on Ubuweb. 

Hat tip, John Merritt.

For a choral piece based on a text from Finnegans Wake, by composer Robert Erickson, go here. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cosmic Trigger play update

Our favorite Englishwoman, Daisy Eris Campbell, has released a new communiqué on her efforts to mount a stage production of Robert Anton Wilson's first "Cosmic Trigger" book.

Some of the big news:

• An excellent new official website has launched. It has real news on the production (much of the cast is locked in) and is a good resource for RAW fans. Go look at it. Also, please note that you can sign up on the site to receive news by email about what's going on.

• The launch of the crowd funding effort has been moved to May 23, but this appears to be a firm date. Lots of cool perks will be listed for donors.

• If you are in England, or plan to be in England in the near future, be aware that a fab launch party for the crowd funding effort will be held in London on May 23.

Here is the full dispatch:

All Hail Discordians,

You're rather overdue an update on the whole Cosmic Trigger caper, I felt.  

A quick catch-up for the as-yet uninitiated:  

Plan is to stage an adaptation of Cosmic Trigger by Robert Anton Wilson, with scenes from Illuminatus! woven through, as well as a dramatised peek backstage at the original Liverpool production (directed by my dad, Ken Campbell). To be funded by crowd, staged by enthusiasts and encircled within a whole Bob-related Cosmic festival.  

And oh boy, it's all happening...  

First exciting thing to tell you is how well the Liverpool "Time to Pull the Cosmic Trigger?" event went on February 23rd. John Higgs explained the true meaning of pulling your cosmic trigger (the releasing of a tsunami of personal meaning, sending you on a journey through Chapel Perilous in order to piece yourself back together); I rainbow-knickered the bust of Jung, invoking cosmic protection for Discordians worldwide; and we staged 'Bob's first acid trip' at the beautiful Kazimier venue.

Suffice to say the resounding response to the question posed in the title, was, "Hell, yeah!" Here's Cat Vincent's write-up as featured on BoingBoing and DailyGrail.

We can also announce that Alan Moore has lent his support to the project and will be voicing the world's most intelligent computer, FUCKUP, originally voiced by John Gielgud. You can watch Alan Moore talking here about the influence Robert Anton Wilson and Illuminatus had on him.

And the marvellous Apple Core can also announce the launch of the swishy new website. You can view more videos, photos and write-ups on the site. 

Finally, we have moved the launch of the crowd-fund to May 23rd (23/5), to fulfil the sacred law of fives (and cos we needed a bit more time to sort out your fabulous perks).

There will be a crowd-fund launch party in London: The Meeting of the Mindfuck Operatives, at which you will receive instruction on how to pull your own cosmic trigger from Eris herself, along with cabaret, live bands and all manner of mayhem. Details to be announced soon... save the date 23/05/14.

If you're in Brighton for the festival I'll be talking at the Speigeltent on May 14th and if you are Nottingham way, I'll be part of a Cosmic Cabaret on May 17th.

That'll do you for now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

RAW event in Nottingham, England

One of our English correspondents, Adrian Reynolds, writes to tell me about the gala "Pulling Your Cosmic Trigger" event scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday, May 17, in Nottingham. See above. Donations are being accepted to aid "Sister Daisy's outreach work," e.g. her upcoming dramatic production of RAW's Cosmic Trigger.

The all-star show will feature Daisy Eris Campbell, author John Higgs, Adrian Reynolds, storyteller and performance coach Anna Reynolds and Nottingham improv comedy outfit Missimp. (I had guessed that the Reynoldses were a couple. In one of those coincidences that RAW enjoyed, Mr. Reynolds in fact has never met Ms. Reynolds, except online. Be sure to check out Anna's bio at the link. "My earliest memory is bouncing up and down in a cot in hospital, vomiting, then bouncing some more. And motivating the other kids around me to bounce.")

Adrian Reynolds is a scriptwriter and  a coach for other creative folks. "Recent projects include Making Sparks, a supernatural thriller serial about to launch as an app.

"Dragon Run Saga, a fantasy adventure audio serial again in app form.

"White Lily, a short film about love, memory, and comets.

"Coming up are two collaborations with an Emmy-nominated American filmmaker."

I asked Adrian a few questions:

Can you tell me a little bit about this event, and what you will be talking about in your talk?

The event is a celebration of Robert Anton Wilson in various forms, from Daisy Eris Campbell discussing the impact of his work in her life and which has taken her to staging Cosmic Trigger later in the year, through to a comedy impro group who are familiar with Illuminatus and have who knows what in store for us.

I'll be discussing a variety of incidents connected by being off the map that mainstream media encourages, from experiences of what seems to be telepathy to adventures in the mental health system, and how they might be connected with what is considered acceptable or verboten within medical and scientific discourse as it's popularly — and poorly — presented. It's not anti-scientific, just looking to present those fields as what they are — human endeavours as flawed and politicised as any other.

Did you put this together to support Daisy's efforts?

Very much so. I was massively inspired by the Liverpool show that Daisy put together in February, and wanted to offer a sequel of sorts in Nottingham, where I've lived for a long time. And I was aided in this by the wonderful Robert Howie Smith, who does an amazing job turning underused buildings in the city over to community and creative groups, and who had started on that path partly through arranging a cinema and theatre space for Ken and Daisy Campbell in London some years ago.

I was also very taken with John Higgs, more so since when I was reading his KLF book on a tram, I'd just finished the Dr Who section and looked up from the page to see a vehicle with TARDIS written on it as I approached my stop. Clearly, John's mojo is working.

The idea for the show was hatched outside what will be the venue for Pulling Your Cosmic Trigger, where I ran into Rob who was more than keen to do something. And as I wandered away I realised I'd be doing my first spoken word performance as part of it. Clearly, we were in the right place and time for the right thing to occur.

Anyway, the event will be happening a week before Daisy's Kickstarter goes live, and the funds raised will go towards that, minus money spent on printing flyers and keeping us suitably caffeinated on the day.

Did you have to get a permit from the sheriff of Nottingham to put this event on? Is Sherwood Forest nearby?

The Sheriff isn't the force he once was in town. Other areas of the country are starting to lay claim to Robin Hood for reasons not unrelated to tourism, and he doesn't seem to have done much about that, which is pretty poor given their mutual antagonism: you'd think he'd be against a proliferation of Robins.

Sherwood Forest isn't too far away, and at this point in time is the only one of that name. A few years ago, I was in town with friends and offered a job as Little John by a man dressed as Friar Tuck, but I had other plans. I still wonder what would have happened if I'd taken him up on it, but I'm very glad that the path I'm on has taken me to bringing Pulling Your Cosmic Trigger to Nottingham.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday links

"If You're Bored, Don't Read This" From the seldom bored (or boring) Michael Johnson.

John Clute and David Langford on the Science Fiction Encyclopedia. It's online now, and has entries on Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. It's a great resource, check it out. Hat tip, Arthur Hlavaty.

Original version of Greg Hill's article for Shea's "No Governor."

Short film about Jack Parsons' second wife.  Robert Anton Wilson wrote the introduction for this book about Parsons. 

New Age bullshit generator.

10 Questions Libertarians Can't Answer, and Hope You Won't Ask!  This is a humorous parody of the Alternet and Salon articles I mentioned Friday, but many libertarians did not get the joke and are bitterly complaining in the comments that Jason Brennan's piece ("Which Koch brother has more authority over you?") misrepresents libertarianism.

Pulitzer winners include the Guardian and the Washington Post, for their NSA stories. Also a composer I like, one I once exchanged emails with.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Illuminatus reading group, Week Eight

This week: Page 73 ("Suddenly tired and discouraged") to Page 82 ("Mavis pointed to a door that looked like an entrance to an elevator.")

This section might be entitled, "George Dorn meets the libertarians." He also gets to encounter a yellow submarine!

"Sudden tired and discouraged .... " Page 73, James Joyce fans will recognize this paragraph as a kind of parody of the famous scene in the "Nausicaa" section of Ulysses.

"Heroes of fiction ...." Page 73. But of course, Leopold Bloom does. Dorn does not not think of Joyce until a couple of paragraphs later.

"And then the explosion came ..." Page 74. Compare with the explosions Gerty is watching during her "sex scene" with Leopold Bloom: "And then a rocket sprang and bang shot blind blank and O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and everyone cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all greeny dewy stars falling with golden, O so lovely, O, soft, sweet, soft!"

"Earwicker, Bloom and Craft," parody of Ewige Blumenkraft.

"Schlangenkraft," page 75,  is German for serpent power. For RAW on serpent power, go here. "Hanf" is German for cannabis, so the slogan Dorn is reading is "Yesterday pot, today pot, always pot."

"Yossarian," page 77, hero of Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.

"I believe that government governs best" etc., Page 78. Mavis is a free market anarchist, still the most radical wing of the libertarian movement. The movement encompasses right wing Ayn Rand types (hence Mavis mentions Atlas Shrugged) and left wing types.

George Dorn, by the way, is getting a full dose of what it's like to encounter a libertarian; Wilson and Shea are offering an affectionate, not entirely satirical portrait of a type they knew well. (When I first took Bryan Caplan's "Libertarian purity test," I scored as only a moderate libertarian, but the answer key said, "Your friends probably encourage you to quit talking about your views so much.")

It's worth noting that this section was written in the early days of the Libertarian Party, which fielded its first presidential ticket in 1972.  It holds up rather well as a portrait of the movement today.

"Your kind of capitalist woman was a Nixonette in 1972, and she believes in that half-ass corporate socialist bastard fascist mixed economy Frank Roosevelt blessed these United States with." Page 79. Liberarians hate being associated with big government, corporatist capitalism, hence the vehemence.

" ... material that was gold in color." Page 79. As a hard core libertarian, Mavis embraces the gold standard in an intimate, personal way.

"It was a submarine — a golden submarine ..." Reference to a quintessential Sixties tune; Lennon and McCartney wrote it, but Donovan helped.

Scene from the Libertarian Party's 1996 national convention, as depicted in the Onion.  

For more on the roots of Robert Anton Wilson's libertarianism, see Brian Doherty's excellent Radicals for Capitalism.  For my commentary on the meme among RAW's leftist admirers that Wilson wasn't a libertarian,  see my blog post (and please see the comments, also). 

(Next week: Page 82, "You go that way," she said, to Page 92, "the funny business that he and Simon had in mind ...")