Thought For The Day
Thought For The Day
The Invisible Opera Company Of Tibet
The Invisible Opera Company of Tibet, a concept created by poet and musician Daevid Allen of Gong, is dedicated to the proposition that it might be possible to create 'an international ideological / spiritual / aesthetic communications network for artists of all kinds who share the common vision of warm-hearted, pan-stylistic, inclusive art forms which serve the drive towards conscious evolution'.
Right on, man! Welcome to The Pangalactic Arts Loft, Williamsburg. Today we're transforming the whole space into an arena for the The Invisible Opera Company of Tibet. If we can sparkle, they may land tonight! If we all concentrate very hard, the mothership may dock. Like Josef Beuys and his Free International University, it's a state of mind, a state of spirit. A collective illusion, if you like. A meme freak. All you have to do is tune in.
Who can love pop music without loving, at one time or another, and possibly one after the other, each one of its many subcultures? After going folky, why not go folky-hippy? Call me promiscuous or call me Prometheus. But I love this river, man, and all its tributaries.
O wizard of changes
Teach me the lesson
Where would the 12 year-old me be without Tyrannosaurus Rex? Where could the fabulously oblique lyrics of Wire have come from if not early Floyd? It all flows, man, like water. Maybe that's why, after doing my folk album, I feel like I'm entering my hippy folk period. Maybe that's why I can't stop listening to 'The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter' by The Incredible String Band.
The Invisible University Of Williamsburg
Hippiedom can be incredibly seductive. Most beautiful young girls are hippies, at least while they're going through college. As Peter Sellers in 'What's New Pussycat' realised, a hippy wig can do wonders for your love life. Hippies are super-organic and environmentally friendly, which is an important corrective to Bush's America. Hippies are tall, superior, Aquarian, gentle. And gentleness, man, is a turn-on. My friend Toog is the dippiest hippy I know, a left-handed Aquarian, and super-gentle.
You're in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It feels like a campus town. The air is thick with joss smoke. You don't have to do much thrifting before you find a sheepskin jacket, a pair of bell bottom flares, and a woolly al paca jersey. Go on, try them on!
You don't have to rummage long in Earwax, the record shop in Williamburg's hippy arcade, before you discover the magical early works of Marc Bolan, Daevid Allen, Brigitte Fontaine, Syd Barrett, Robert Wyatt, Nick Drake, David Bowie and The Incredible String Band. These are the beautiful people of thirty years ago, the art hippies, the people of the happening and the overland-to-India spliff trek. They cast a long shadow, all the way down to our world of money, cars, spurious retro Gulf Wars and environmental disaster. We can only wonder at their lovely insanity, their other-worldly beauty.
You don't have to spend long in the bookstores of Williamsburg before discovering the spiritual glamour of a well-thumbed copy of 'Siddharta' by Hermann Hesse. You don't have to walk far down Bedford Avenue to sense that this is the central hub of a university campus. Let's call it The Invisible University of Williamsburg. There is no university here, just a huge population of twenty-something creative people into art, drugs, sex and loft happenings.
All it takes to make the Invisible University exist is our belief in it. And once it exists, it will be with us wherever we are. Right on!
You know I've got this record label, American Patchwork? Well, I want to tell you about some of the trippy bands I'm going to sign. Some of them might not exist right now, but they will, right, because that's the way the wind is blowing.
I'm gonna sign:
Kommune: They're Kraftwerk on a commune. They record naked like Faust. They can hear the sound of yoghurt fermenting (that's a slow sound, man) and they know how to reproduce it on an Arp Odyssey.
Infodeco: They make glitch folk. They combine 'Klick' by Thomas Brinkmann with micro-fragments of the Steeleye Span back catalogue. Horton processes shit through a broken Waldorf Pole filter. Midge twangs on a prepared sitar.
Arthur ASCII: He's a HAL 9000 Series computer with the repertoire of an old limey vaudevillian. Please remember that the HAL 9000 Series is infallible. It does not sing any mistaken songs or tell jokes which fail to be funny. Heavy.
Cantronic: They're where Can meets Cantonese opera. They're my favourite caterwaul, a sine wave waterfall, with a few bongs and bashes thrown in. They wear a lot of pink and white make up on their skin.
The Experimental Druid Orchestra
The wind is blowing and the water is flowing and the sky is glowing, my friends. There's a piper at the gates of dawn and out on the sea it's raining. I can see it and hear it all. It's, like, totally beautiful. Lord Byron would've wept. Peel has been heard mumbling again in the Perfumed Garden. I'm three and a half minutes into the future, man, floating a clear 16 inches above the futon. I've been seeing the signs, see. The leaves are coming onto the tree, the spirits are blossoming around me. It's dawn, and a few birds are beginning to sing. The hippy-trippy-flowery-flippy-dandy-dippy shit... it's back. Down in the Beehive Tomb there are bees again. The Don, the dude, prepares to ride again. Sancho Panza saddles up.
Look at this girl, right, on the platform of the L train at Bedford Avenue. She's a student at the Invisible University, she's a Williamsburgher all right. That place, man, I'll tell you, it's the tristate Tibet. It's stiff with joss smoke there, man. I can hear the monks chanting.
The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
Hang on, man, while I put a record on. It's The Incredible String Band playing 'A Very Cellular Song'. God, I love this record! These guys come from my home town, Edinburgh. You know, when I was young punk was the thing, bands thrashed on three chords about local problems. But just ten years before it was these beautiful guys, who made trips to Marrakesh and Afghanistan and came back with ethnic instruments and made these totally flipped, wigged, wandering records.
You know those weird bits in early Tyrannosaurus Rex, on 'My Children Were Fair And Wore Sky In Their Hair...'? You know that flipped bit in Bowie's 'All The Madmen' that says: 'She followed behind me' and goes on about organic growth in a funny varispeed voice? Well, The Incredible String Band made entire records like that. They were folkies who went hippy. I've been a folky, man, I've sung the labour songs about web designers ground down by the boss man. I've done my time. But there comes a moment when the folky stops jumping freight trains and starts taking jet planes instead. When the folky goes global, when the folky does drugs, that's when everything gets interesting. There's a great learning. There's Cornelius Cardew in a Mao jacket.There's a fight to be mad with all your might.
Ivor Cutler, Viv Stanshall, Robert Wyatt in Matching Mole, the Canterbury art school collective, there's a whole history of this loopy hippy art school whimsy, right? There's Gong, who believed we were from the planet Gong and would return soon in a giant teapot. They spent time in Paris and Spanish communes. Brigitte Fontaine teamed up with the Art Ensemble of Chicago. They were in Paris too, we're talking late sixties here. Paris did the hippy ethnic thing full on, man. Or there's Dory Previn, a space cake who sang about moon rocks. I used to listen to Dory a lot. Yoko Ono, man, inside a bag! But don't think it went away, don't think it died at the hands of Altamont and Manson. There are still people today who smoke dope and wear flares. At least in their minds. It's a free country, man.
Just look at the Beastie Boys with their Free Tibet concert. Just watched that on DVD, man. It was crystal clear to me, right, that Bjork is a hippy chick. Like, totally. Check out The Boredoms and all their Japafarian side projects, man. Natty dreads, free jazz. Have you seen the kids in the woolly hats at Glastonbury? At the Mount Fuji Festival? At Roskilde? Come the equinox they're queuing down the ley lines, far as the eye can see. Just because Syd flipped doesn't mean the revolution failed. We're still here, man, and our name is legion. We're still here, and we're coming out.
So if your band is called The Experimental Druid Orchestra, right, I wanna know, man. If you're planning an album called 'Whole Earth Catalog', right, send me a quarter inch four track. Plug in that Revox down in the basement, man, make a joyous noise unto the Creator. Get the girlfriends with the finger cymbals and the stringy matty hair involved. Round up all the kids with the funny names. Untie the goat, tape it. Try a bit of laying on of hands. Don't tidy the stuff up later, I like to keep shit organic. Got fruit, man? I wanna hear the sound of fruit.
It Would Be So Easy To Scoff
Don't make fun. Oh, that would be so easy, right? Just put on a Neil of the Young Ones voice and make hippies funny. Ha ha ha.
Thing is, the reason the symbolism is still around is that there's some kind of untapped utopian vision in the hippy dream that speaks to people, speaks deeply of beauty and Otherness. How could The Invisible Opera Company Of Tibet be just a passing fad when it has the whole beauty of traditional culture on its side, and the mystery of Asia? And think about it, man, Daevid gave it that name because the Chinese are still jackbooting Tibet on a daily basis. Beauty and spiritual dignity are inherently subversive, you see. Holding out for them makes you a pain in authority's ass. Even now.
We Are Only In The Foothills Of Reality, Whose Head Is In The Clouds
Did you ever see Ginsberg chanting? Did you ever gaze in wonder at an Indian erotic watercolour, and wonder why your own society is so much uglier? Were your eyes ever opened by acid? Did you make a pilgrimage to Canterbury? Did you start an Arts Lab? Why the hell not, man?
Did you read Erich Fromm's 'To Have Or To Be'? That book changed my life. We live in a world where everything's geared around possession and acquisition. But that's bullshit, man, meaningless. Life is really a Be-In. It's about Being, Experience, not Having. And I'll tell you another thing....
We are only in the foothills of Reality, whose head is in the clouds. Musicians, right, are like Sherpas on the climb.
The attempt to go further into otherness and elsewhereness, in search of Reality, is at one and the same time a disappearance and an approach. You disappear from here, you approach there.
The Utter Other
Put on ethnic robes, embrace medievalism, ride a white swan. You are approaching the Utter Other. True hippies have a little of the extra-terrestrial about them. They are not like us, they are beyond, they are real. And wherever they are is real too. Lennon could be stuck in a bag, and yet everything that came out of his mouth spoke of enlightenment and lucidity.
This is where I'm gonna get weird on you man. But it's only weird because you haven't set your mind free enough to understand it. One day this will all make perfect sense. It's a raga starting up, in accord with the hour of the day. His Holiness the Mahavishra Gopal is on drums. Sri Pranesh is playing drone and Caitlin is wailing softly, ringing finger bells. You're aware of something magical and special unfolding, in this simple community hall decked out with white sheets and flowers. It's a Happening. A Be-In.
In comes a herd of goats, coaxed by a long haired poet in a sheepskin coat with two day stubble. Cups of sweet Arabic tea are passed around, and there's the burbling bubble of hookah pipes. Fingerbowls and flowers dot the Tunisian carpet. The dust and sunshine of
1970 swarm in moted sunbars across the room. The raga continues, increasing in sweet intensity.
Somehow, the room fills with the smell of the sea in the mountains. Don't try to understand, just relax. It's not frightening, although it should be. It's soothing and smooth. Look around, you're in the mountains. Kick the pebbles of this path up the pass and you'll see shells. You can hear goat bells rising up from the valley.
The hippy shepherd is dancing, archaic dances to archaic scales. Maybe he's the god Pan. Your mind is blowing, oh so softly and sweetly, man. And a reel to reel is spinning, recording it all.
A puritan Epicurus is binding up the vine. Vine, wine, swine. A donkey brays. The goats have chased a herd of swine over the cliffs, labyrinthine, they fall, the swine, it blows your mind, they fall in a line into the brine of the Mediterranean, Byzantine. The Minotaur is there, he tries to dream but stands forlorn, he can hardly dream because of his horns. Will they sink or swim, the goats? Sing a lament to them upon your mandolin, hippy baba Maroccaine. Hey, are we in Utter Pradesh, or Nepal, or Capri? Hard to know, difficult to see. But the Minotaur has a hard on.
The Orientalist is an immoralist. He snorts cocaine. The rest are smoking spliffs and forking kefta. The Japanese chick is in her kimono. Now she's one of us, she accepts her heritage better. She's wearing keta. They make a woody clack clack on the hard cobbles of the alleys of Marrakesh. Over her shoulder she carries a Ziggurat bag, and inside there's a cassette tape recorder.
At the next table sit the Sodomite archeologues. They're French, they're excavating the ruins, under the palms. From the minaret comes the wail which means it's time for evening prayers. Or aperitifs.
At the Pangalactic Arts Loft, Williamsburg, they're listening to tapes of these weird occurrences we've been witnessing. Call it evidence of time travel. They're working on machine transcendence. They all have Apple Macs. An Apple Mac is what happens when you put acid in an IBM. The galaxy is Gaian, the galaxy is giant. The sun is Cyclopean. The encyclopaedias have all become heliocentric. Transcendence is dawning, it's in the ordinances, it's in the mind of the ordinateur. HAL 9000 is recording a new album.
Sri Banwad Hanmesh is our spiritual guide. We wear a Biorhythm Wristband Calculator. We are practising Spiritual Migrations by means of the Pilgrim Jet. We are humming. We are human.
Take control of your own pulse, your own heartbeat. Follow in the footsteps of Alexander, make for Asia. Stop, rest, chant, and remember your posture. Empty your mind. Remember we use only a quarter of our psychic powers. Divest yourself of your habits and your possessions. When you get to The Place Beyond The Hill, grow a small Chinese beard in the manner of the sage Lao Tse. Tell them you're doing fieldwork for American Patchwork. Tell them Momus sent you.
What's it like to be a loon? I liken it to a balloon.