Formative Years I


It is not the wolf that chooses the hunting ground, it is the hunter

The Wikipedia type timeline music documentary seems quite prevalent at the moment, which is fine, so I’ll use it, incorporate it, pinch it, and abuse it here.

Who am I? What do I, What can I do? Why do I do? Why do I do as I do? When and where and what did I do? What can I do about it? So many questions at the beginning of either you, or me. As I lay in the hospital bed my body wondering if it should live or die after a heart attack I watched the news that David Bowie had passed at age 69. It later transpired that he too, had suffered heart attack around the same age as I was 57. There were even some rumours that he had had several more attacks in his intervening years before being claimed by cancer.

Biographies are weird. They map out someone’s life in story form in the same way that television makes you gaze on distant strife and everyday peril like an olympian god. What you read, what you gaze upon and listen to is so remote, it can’t damage or hurt you in your comfort. We can compare apples and pears. Without smelling it first, the apple is indistinguishable in taste from an onion, and so now we live forever in a karaoke culture, where an apple or an onion is sold, pandered to us in the right packaging as a passion fruit. If you’d never seen an apple, or an onion, or a passion fruit how’s it you can tell the difference? if you have never smelt them, if you have never touched them,  What is the nature of talent? How individual are we, can we be? Or are we just reconfigurations of the bits, the stuff that makes up and defines nature and nurture? Is it possible to objectively remember? How does this affect what we produce? As i lay there looking and listening to David Bowie;s death I was no closer to the knowledge he spoke of in the track ‘Quicksand’ I heard him sign on the 8-track recorder all those years ago. He told me then:

Don’t believe in yourself, don’t deceive with belief
Knowledge comes with death’s release

Now, he had knowledge, and still, I was no closer. I was still alive. I had survived.

There is more than enough proof to stress the holistic character of human perception, beyond blinkeredness, focusing, sometimes obsessing updanse macabre1979

on one idea over another, one particular skill over another. Interrogating its reasons,sense-making, practicing its motions or process in order to make it a reflex. A notion of synaesthesia, for example, has it that the different senses check each other for calibration. The eyes can prep the ears for a loud noise like a bang, such as when a person holds a lighted cigarette end to a party balloon. The ears can rip the eyes out such as when someone’s screams your name frustratingly from outside the periphery of vision as you doze off. We copy behaviors and gestures, like we mimic words as we learned to talk and walk. These are the formative years.

Where someone is speaking from, how loud, which direction, should register both as a sight and as a sound, if they are tapping their feet, or are very close to our ears as when they whisper ‘sweet nothings’, then possibly their voice can come to us as a physical feeling as well. So it is with the child in the stomach, the child in its crib.

The very 19th century model of art that shaped both our understanding and practice of art lives on every time a street artist charcoals a picture for 5 pounds of a stationary passer-by. Its line and legacy continues every time someone walks into an art gallery, every time someone goes to art school. Everythings being re-hashed or mashed, even me. The Japanese word “Karaoke” means “empty orchestra” – a lifeless musical form unencumbered by creativity and free of responsibility. Simple, cheap essential, clean fun for the millennial nuclear family. You can’t fail in a karaoke world. It’s life by proxy, liberated by hindsight. There’s no risks, they’ve already been taken for you. Its living in Walt Disney’s liberation – Celebration. Authenticity, on the other hand, believes in the dirty, messy, anxious process of creativity. There is no map, no steady button for amateur videorecordists seeking professional results to showoff, it has no guidelines,it has no comparisons superceeding or falling short on the original version – yes, the one not sung by the Pop Idol and criticized by the panel and the audience. It’s unpopular and out of fashion. All it takes is subscription, not only is risk reduced so is labor, so is creativity its absorbed in templates, already created formats, wallpapers, screensavers and dial-tones.

Talent worships failure, regarding it as a romantic and noble pursuit – better to be a flamboyant failure drawing criticism than any kind of benign success. Pre-forma drums beats and stationary, cheap and reproducible. ‘Right’. Recorded sounds recreate the distinct sense of ‘being there’, and reverb in the voice creates the impression of being from somewhere else. In other cases recorded sounds, overdubbed sounds, accent the sense of being there, like sounds effects artists making loud cracking sounds when the hero of the Kung Fu movie connects with their punch or kick. For me its been great, ‘being there’ on the onset of Kung, Fu, Punk Rock, Acid House and the Internet.

The three shouts are divided thus: before, during and after. Shout according to the situation. The voice is a thing of life. We shout against fires and so on, against the wind and the waves. The voice shows energy.
In large-scale strategy, at the start of battle we shout as loudly as possible. During the fight, the voice is low-pitched, shouting out as we attack. After the contest, we shout in the wake of our victory. These are the three shouts.
In single combat, we make as if to cut and shout “Ei!” at the same time to disturb the enemy, then in the wake of our shout we cut with the long sword. We shout after we have cut down the enemy – this is to announce victory. This is called “sen go no koe” (before and after voice). We do not shout simultaneously with flourishing the long sword. We shout during the fight to get into rhythm. Research this deeply.

The baby screams when registered into the world… by the mother’s body or science. The reality emphasized by making loud whacking sounds, such as whacking the baby’s bottom and making them scream more, in such a crisis, sound and adrenaline go together. It creates the same superhuman jumpstart stuff that makes mothers save their children from under runaway cars or causes hearts to beat again under a defibrillator. In the martial arts movie when a fist or foot connected with a head, a reality is emphasized, that core violence, raw human physicality, that can break human bones with a single hit and which comes from the source of sound, applied with the right body movement and stance transmitted into blinkered force.

Bricks, concrete blocks, boards of wood all collapse under the pressure of this fist and shout. We’ve seen the masters. In the cabaret, the drum roll emphasizes the comedian’s punch line climaxing with a crash of a cymbal. Catharsis, an enthusiastic clapping of hands, all under a gunmetal sky meeting the audience’s approval or delight, the screams, the football crowd’s appreciation of goal, or the audience’s shock and horror, or screams of attack, or of or of cutting one’s finger, or of the young girls’ intense love of their favorite pop idols parading around so sexily in front of them?

The shout and battle cry when shooting a power palm emphasizes that vigor, the vigor which is the driving force that comes from that beyond, from that behind, from that at the edges, from the source beyond the physical, from the spiritual, from the void. Can such a voice come from karaoke?

In the 1920s people entering a record store were asked to try the Edison Realism Test. It was introduced to demonstrate the similarity between concert and record experience: People were asked to take a seat in a quiet space near a phonograph, surrounded by photographs of musicians and concerts. Then they had to choose a record, close their eyes and try to remember the last time they listened to that kind of music in a live situation. When the pictured scene was clearly in mind the record started. “If you follow those directions exactly, you will supposedly get the same emotional reaction experienced when you last heard the same kind of voice or instrument.” It was a kind of guided meditation which aimed to operating your use, or rather experience, of using gramophone. It wished for participants to explore that space, that disjuncture lying between a recorded, mediated experience and a real live direct experience. Many people were nervous of the machine of that time. Just people walking down the road apparently shouting to themselves was a peculiar sight in the onset of mobile telephony, disembodied voices emanating from a box set in the corner of the living were deemed more akin to the séance, the occult and supernatural, than anything to do with science and entertainment.

“…[music] explores, much faster than material reality can, the entire range of possibilities in a given code. It makes audible the new world that will gradually become visible, that will impose itself and regulate the order of things; it is not only the image of things, but the transcending of the everyday, the herald of the future…Music…is intuition, a path to knowledge.” [Jacques Attali, Noise: the Political Economy of Music, trans. B. Massumi (University of Minnesota Press, 1985), pp. 11,

From birth, first love, life’s highs and lows, through to death – through television, radio, CD/MP3-player, through PA systems, through the phone – music acts as soundtrack to our lives. Music’s transcendence will continue to be championed and argued for so as to ensure all of music’s superiority over all of the arts. It is the most abstract art and yet the most accessible. Recently released papers by the UK’s Home Office reveal In the event of all-out nuclear war, the BBC was to distract the nation by broadcasting a mix of music and light entertainment shows. Hundreds of security-vetted BBC staff and a select band of unnamed radio artistes were to be clandestinely dispatched to transmission sites across the country at the first signs of international tension. This is the curious way in which governments give information (and instructions) to the public. Maintained that we are born without innate ideas, and that knowledge is instead determined only by experience derived from sense perception.

Piaget is the child psychologist who carried out studies which showed that in the first three years of life, babies go through what he termed the ‘sensori-motor’ phase of thinking. They react to events around them verbatim without stopping to think. In evolutionary terms and beyond humans this is how many beings in this world think, and by grafting a Mid-Brain onto a simple creature which functions merely by stimulus and response, and accords to a genetic pattern of behaviour enables the new creature to profit by its experience and alter its responses to suit certain circumstances which had occurred in the past. All those bits and pieces, fragments, distributed artists, fractals of memories, speech narratives, lives, diatribes, pigs squealing in pens, discourses, stuff you did or did not listen to at school or watching TV, a theme track, advertising theme tune, or saying. The stuff which makes that trip to Spain, being in Spain. All the contents of life, everything you ever heard, saw, tasted, touched and thought, all of creating, contributing to what you see, taste, touch, think and feel now. This is why biographies are weird.

It is said that transmigrating souls en transit, prior to being incarnated yet again, enter a ‘library’ and view the pages associated with a life they may be considering. The pages are not necessarily sequential; they can be discombobulated – all over the place, lending only a vague impressionistic idea of what characteristics, which situations, what potentialities. How they link, how they connect will seem random, although there may be definitive milestones dotting the road map of the life, our free will can change paths, events and outcomes. As the soul prepares for a life with the intent of learning a particular lesson or satisfying some karmic debt, the soul will also choose a family, friends, career and a body that will help them with the lessons for this particular incarnation.

For many, some of those images survive “birth amnesia” and become our intuition serving them during their lives. They leak into and contaminate, inform and challenge experience. I experienced this. In reality it is a suggestion that it is a game with different levels/rewards. I so hate those words “souls” “karmic debt”. But it happened to me anyway. It is my earliest known thought. I tried to hold on to my first thought on this earth, it was: “I must remember this.” “I must remember this.” “I must remember this.” But largely I didn’t, I couldn’t, I came to earth, and had to learn most things again, anew. Just the memory of the singular thought: “I must remember this,” I had persisted to focus consciousness as if all life depended upon it; and it was accompanied with a visual/feeling of flow, like gentle movements under a microscope. But that was all that was left, all that was left, the memory of the thought. I wonder if on exit I will experience this again, this constant, again. Maybe this time it’s hell. I’ve killed a few things, I let myself stray on the path relative to some things and value systems, but most of my time has been spent on meditation.


About Dr. Derek W. Nicoll Ph.D.

My interests lie in technology, creativity, learning, and management - probably in that order...
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