Of Yew and Hawthorn

I am very pleased to say that Wounded Wolf Press are now dispatching copies of Angelystor, and you can get yours on their website for £12.50, including international p&p. Thanks to Atay for all his hard work in bringing this to fruition, and putting up with my endless typo-spotting.

This edition of Angelystor is a a 72 page hardcover book with narrative, photos by Layla Legard, and graphic score. The book also comes with a CD containing Angelystor and Yew Invocations I-IV, and an insert containing graphic scores of the Yew Invocations. And, to top it all off, the book has a foreword written by cult author Warren Ellis.

abook0abook2abook3abook4The Hawthonn project terminated on December the 1st, and all the blogs, Soundcloud playlists and so on have been archived, while we move toward a limited first edition in 2015 – the image below is a teaser for this (- there will be 20 exemplars, please get in touch if you are interested in one).


Until then, you can read the final post to the project blog here. However, the videos, currently being produced by Ætheric Anomalies, will be posted as they are realised. Here are videos for Aura, Epsilon and Ghosts. The remaining videos for Foxglove and Thanatopsis will be released on the DVD with the limited edition. We’re both very pleased with how this project developed and the music that came out of it over such a short period.


Hawthonn Summer

It’s been quiet here. For the first time in longer than I can remember, my summer wasn’t spent madly scrabbling round for ad hoc jobs and projects and I was able to spend some time with my family – and speaking of which, Layla and I have begun working on a new project called Hawthonn. It takes its inspiration from the landscape of Bassenthwaite, the final resting place for the earthly vessel that hosted Coil’s Jhonn Balance.

While the legacy of Balance’s life, art and death could be called the daemon that is guiding the project, we are keen to stress that this is also very much informed by our own process of engagement with the imaginal landscape of Bassenthwaite and the complex of myth and image currently emerging from this; we hope that the final album will be an oblique (or, rather, ‘occult’?) tribute to a figure whose vision continues to haunt us. Since speaking to friends and acquaintances about this project, I have been humbled by their recollection of the kindness of both Balance and Christopherson during the early years of their project, before the volume of correspondence became impossible to deal with. An example I hope that we will to be able to follow (on my own I am terrible at maintaining correspondence…).

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Kircher & Schott’s Computer Music of the Baroque

Here is a piece of music, which was composed with a sort of 17th century computer called the Organum Mathematicum, devised by Athanasius Kircher and fully described by his pupil and assistant Gaspar Schott:

It was the last post, touching on Robert Fludd’s Temple of Music, which reminded me of my interest in the Organum in around 2007, which is when the above piece was written. Now that I am free of the limitations of LiveJournal, I’d like to use this post to revisit Kircher and Schott’s work.

A surviving Organum Mathematicum (Museo Galileo)

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Robert Fludd: Of Music and Mind

In a recent post about Robert Fludd’s Temple of Music engraving, illustrator John Coulthart made the following observation:

It’s only very recently I’ve paid much attention to the writings of people such as Fludd and Kircher, in the past I’ve been more interested in the illustrations from their books, inevitably when they’ve been used so often for completely frivolous reasons. Looking through the Utriusque Cosmi it’s immediately evident what an astonishing work it is; anyone with that breadth of knowledge is going to make some interesting connections.

Robert Fludd’s Temple of Music.

It’s a shame that Fludd’s Utriusque Cosmi, his encyclopaedic masterwork, has not yet been fully translated into English – for while the engravings are beautiful, they belong to a textually dense work of more than 1,000 pages in length, providing an overview of subjects as diverse as the creation of the universe, music, optics, chemistry, ars memoria, geometry, warfare, geomancy, surveying, drawing and cabala, all unified by an overarching Hermetic worldview that bridges the heritage of Renaissance neoplatonism with 17th century natural philosophy. 

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Imaginal Acoustics: On Subtle Listening, Sound-Shapes and Time

Poster for the 2013 Dark Stations concert.

Last year I invited Kim Cascone to the university for one of his Dark Stations concerts. Dark Stations is a 42-minute piece for a meditating audience based on a 3.1 diffusion system: the listeners sit in darkness within a triangular speaker array, a sub-bass speaker in the centre. The performance last year was one of the most interesting audio experiences I’d had for some time, culminating in a profound experience of auditory pareidolia: frequencies and room acoustics meshed to form phantom speech that I found it impossible to disassociate from the voice of my (then unborn) son, Lovernios.

I was pleased to be able to invite Kim back this year for a reprise of Dark Stations, preceded by a two-day Subtle Listening workshop. The workshop, subtitled “Inner Ear Training for Sound Artists” takes a highly reflective approach to sound, sound design and composition, designed to take participants beyond the technical ‘how to’s that education in music technology and production often dwells on, and toward a more creative, intuitive relationship with sound and what might be called, to coin a term in academese, ‘the sonic imaginary’, or possibly more accurately ‘imaginal acoustics’.

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Ceremonies of the Horsemen

I recently put together a very quick mix of materials relating to the ‘Society of the Horseman’s Word’, a sort of rural, quasi-Masonic trade union that was particularly active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The most commonly regarded element of the lore of the society is the use of the ‘toad bone’ or ‘frog bone’ to control horses. The mix includes material from interviews with two of George Ewart Evans’ informants who provided material for his classic book Horse Power and Magic, as well as a few brief lines borrowed from ‘traditional witch’ Andrew Chumbley’s ONE: Grimoire of the Golden Toad (see also the recent publication of his The Leaper Between).

The Horseman's Word by Larkfall on Mixcloud


To accompany the mix, I have appended my transcription of an article that originally appeared in The Pall Mall Gazette, January 31, 1896. This article is unusual in that it was written by an initiate to the Society willing to speak publically about the ‘secret science of horesemanship’. Continue reading

Josef Hauer’s Eternal, Atonal Universe

Josef Matthias Hauer

Josef Matthias Hauer

Over the last few weeks, I’ve become increasingly preoccupied with the atonal mysticism of the Viennese composer Josef Matthias Hauer (1883-1959), a marginalised figure in 20th century music. If he is mentioned at all it is usually as a footnote to the work of Arnold Schoenberg, for Hauer himself developed a method of composing with all twelve tones shortly before Schoenberg’s ‘emancipation of dissonance.’

Although both composers corresponded and planned to co-author a work on atonal composition, differences in their respective musical philosophies soon led to animosity between the pair, leading Hauer to stamp his correspondence:

The spiritual father and 
(in spite of many imitators!) 
still the only 
master and connoisseur 
of twelve-note music.

Hauer’s own theories of atonal music, underpinned by mystical hypotheses, stand in opposition to the type of strict statistical unity that Schoenberg’s ‘method of composing with twelve tones’ ensured (- in which all tones will be represented an equal number of times in the piece). Such a disconcertingly ‘modern’ conception of ‘unity’ is absent from Hauer’s approach, which scholar and composer Dominik Šedivý has called ‘anti-expressionistic.’ Continue reading

Three Mind-Expanding Discographies

Following a query from a friend about the tarot and music, I thought I’d re-work series of posts from my old blog that I called Mind-Expanding Discographies, culled from a number of books that I’d been reading on music and spirituality.

The first selection comes from Peter Michael Hamel’s Through Music to the Self (1976), which I first found on the shelves of a composer whose music I was engraving in around 2006. Hamel is, to me, a profound musician and composer, and he succeeded Ligeti as professor of composition Hochschule für Musik und Theater – big boots to fill! Much of his own work is in the a new age/minimalist style, some electronic, some for ensembles such as his group Between.

The book includes a great primer on how to ‘listen’ to Indian classical music, as well as some illuminating material on vowel singing, and a number of meditative exercises and ‘social practice methods’. The discography itself is fairly mainstream (as far as these things go…), but there are a couple of unsung gems in there:

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Past/Present: New Recorder Music

The Famulus has recently published an audio journal on the theme of ‘everyday magic’, to which I’ve contributed a recording of Ten Meditative Fragments [pdf], played on treble recorder with effects.

Ten Meditative Fragments (2007)

Ten Meditative Fragments (2007)

Here’s the accompanying note:

The music of Ten Meditative Fragments was written in 2007 using chance procedures to compose ten musical fragments, which could then be freely interpreted as an improvisation on a monophonic instrument. While I have played the piece privately countless times over the past few years, it was The Famulus’ call for contributions that compelled me to record a version. 

Where is the ‘everyday magic’ here? To me it comes from the process of being able to combine disparate materials into a cohesive whole; to enter a state in which connections can be made between the seemingly disconnected atoms that comprise the piece and in which they appear to make sense. I feel this is akin to the special experience of looking out onto a landscape and being overtaken by the feeling of numinous unity that it expresses. If that’s not a magical feeling, I don’t know what is.

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