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Sunday, January 27, 2013

RAW fans = serious music people?

 I just finished my Schroedinger's Cat class at Maybe Logic Academy under the tutelage of Eric Wagner.

Everyone in the class was very good and made useful comments in the forums. I noticed that one of my classmates in particular, Colin MacDonald, was particularly prolific in commenting and always offered insights.

Colin MacDonald, it turns out, is a modern classical music composer, classically trained saxophone player and music teacher. His Web site is here.

The  more I thought about it, I more I realized that many of Robert Anton Wilson's biggest fans and top scholars have a serious interest in music. Michael Johnson is a musician who has played in rock bands and has wide-ranging tastes. Eric Wagner is a Beethoven expert and seems to know quite a bit about classical and jazz. He easily could have become a musicologist. Many of author Lewis Shiner's novels are about rock music. Steve Pratt plays in a band and seems to be very familiar with rock, electronic music, blues and jazz. PDQ writes about rap music. Oz Fritz is a professional recording engineer who often writes about the intersection of magick and music on his blog. Jesse Walker worked at a student radio station at the University of Michigan. I'm sure I'm forgetting many folks.  I listen to everything. I'm particularly interested in classical music thetse days, but I went through a jazz obsession a few years ago, followed rock very closely for many years (I read "Cream" and used to tape MTV's "120 Minutes" every week)  and also have blues, ska, and other stuff in my collection. I notice most of the other folks are music neophiliacs, too. What should we make of this?


michael said...

Indeed: I've thought about this also. Good Q! Could it be that many other writers attract as many musical people? It could be, but so far it still seems like RAW's deeply-embedded-in-music audience is extra-ordinary.

Brian Shields (BS) of San Francisco knows more about the current metal scene than anyone I know.

At RAW's Meme-Orial in Santa Cruz, a month after he died, I had dinner with Mike Gathers (who doesn't seem as involved in a musical world as everyone else mentioned so far), and his friend - whose name I forget but he'd studied with a sufi in Iran, IIRC - who had had uber-informed opinions about countless classical recordings and conductors, why the tempo was too fast in the 3rd movement, but still dynamically more exciting and crisp than conductors and recordings for Composer X's 4th Symphony, on and on and on.

RAW, not being a musician, does something I think a lot of writers have trouble with: he writes well about the effects of music, in a subjective way, not so much with "objective" language at all, at all. The effects, whether on him or his characters (who must be considered partly RAW) seem like a type of writing that's challenging to the writer. (Who was it? Zappa? who said that writing about music was like dancing about architecture? I don't think it's that ridiculous, but it does seem difficult.)

It could be that this is what attracts so many musicians and more-than-ordinary musically-oriented types, but I don't think this is the reason. When I fell in love with RAW, it was for other reasons: the sheer wonder about the world that I felt after reading him. He makes ordinary life ineffable for me. It could be that music does this to certain readers - it should! - but those in hyper tune with both worlds - an embrace of uncertainty and weirdness AND the ineffableness of the power of music, find RAW's writing most congenial?

Alas, I think I've barely touched on a sufficient answer, if at all.

fyreflye said...

Though good music follows an inner logic necessary to its own development it's essentially non-rational. And only someone who is open to non-rational experience can enjoy
Illuminatus! and RAW's earliest books. The people who don't get it always complain that Illuminatus! makes no sense and they just can't follow it. But it makes perfect sense to musicians, music lovers and stoners.

michael said...

fyreflye: you said it better than I could, and in far fewer words.

Anonymous said...

I am an exception. I liked 50s and 60s rock & roll, and never developed advanced tastes.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...


As it happens, I'm reading Alex Ross' book of critical essays, "Listen to This," and he says the origin of the "dancing about architecture" quote is disputed. It is sometimes attributed to Elvis Costello. Ross, by the way, is very good at talking about the subjective effect of music -- he's not just a technician.

I've been reading a lot about Beethoven lately, and I think RAW's "Beethoven as Information" essay in "The Illuminatus Papers," although short, is very valuable.


As I understand it, you only listen to oldies stations, and they better not play that "new" 1970s stuff? I knew a classical buff in Ohio who griped that there wasn't any good music after about 1770.

fyreflye said...

I've heard the line about no good music " after about 1770" as "after 1750" - the year JS Bach died.

Anonymous said...

The 70s were the liminal stage between music and the postmusical era, so that was what I listened to. These days my hearing is so shot that I don't listen to the radio because it would keep me from hearing anything else.

Unknown said...

About 2004 I finished
>> compiling my list of my votes for the greatest 26 albums of all time.
>> All but 2 of them are ARGUABLY progressive music. I not only welcome but
>> request comments, requests for commentary, recommendations, and others
>> "votes" (your own list), (as long as they are 26 or less [as this
>> narrowing was not at all easy for me, and I don't see why anyone else
>> should have any fun, therefore]).
>> 1)Discipline-King Crimson
>> 2)The Return of the Manticore-ELP
>> 3)Close to the Edge-Yes
>> 4)Fragile-Yes
>> 5)Love, Devotion, Surrender-McLaughlin/Santana
>> 6)Song x-Methaney/Coleman
>> 7)Your Under Arrest-Miles Davis
>> 8)No cure for Cancer-Denis Leary*
>> 9)United States-Laurie Anderson
>> 10)Venus / Mars-Paul McCartney
>> 11)U.T.F.O-U.T.F.O.
>> 12)Adventures in Radio Land-Mahavishnu
>> 13)Shakti-John McLaughlin
>> 14)Night of the Living Dregs-Dixie dregs**
>> 15)Visions of the Emerald Beyond-2nd Mahavishnu Orchestra
>> 16)Thick as a brick-Jethro Tull
>> 17)The Lost Trident sessions-Mahavishnu Orchestra
>> 18)Introducing Larry Coryel/the 11th House-Larry Coryell/the 11th
>> House
>> 19)A Wizard; a true Star-Todd Rundgren
>> 20)Animals-Pink Floyd
>> 21)Pink World-Planet P Project
>> 22)Purple Rain-Prince
>> 23)Promise-Sade
>> 24)The Essentials-Devo
>> 25)Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band-Beatles
>> 26)"My '13' favorite beatles songs"-Beatles***
>> *The Only non-music album
>> **This list is in no particular order. If I had to choose 1 of these
>> albums as best, or die. I'd probably settle on this one.
>> ***Not an actual album, but merely my 13 favorite Beatles songs

The ordering of the lis is partially based on astrology (an abandoned astrological order, but the parts that are in an astrological order remain so, since it makes it easier for me to remember the list on the fly, when necessary.

I suppose it's up to y'all to decide if I'm serious about music or not.

I suspect I will add an album by Gong @ some point, as I am recently more certain than any time since more formative years that I have found "THE" band that is the most glaring hole in my musical education.