(I first saw a version of this story in a book of folk tales collected by Idries Shah. He probably told the story better than I have here, but I haven’t seen the book for many years, so in re-telling it, I just did the best I could… improvising, as it were.)
A long, long time ago, there was a country priest, or maybe a village Mullah – or probably a parish vicar, actually – who was out taking a walk late one night in the country, under the illumination of a beautiful half-moon. Passing by a very old graveyard, separated from the country lane by an even older broken down stone wall, he was quite content. But just then he heard horses approaching from the distance, and he grew fearful. Thieves? Brigands? He panicked! Instinctively, he immediately vaulted over the stone wall, seeking a place to hide. He spotted an open grave, freshly dug, and somewhat irrationally jumped down into it and lay there, playing possum as it were. Well, the horsemen had already come close enough to observe this odd behavior, and being good honest men – on a mission from the King, actually – they rode into the graveyard to see if this strange-acting man had a problem. Coming upon the open grave, and seeing our nearly terrified holy man trying to open and close his eyes surreptitiously, they started to ask him questions: “Why are you here in this open grave – why did you run away from the good road you were traveling on – can you explain what you’re doing here?” And then, our moon gazer – or village vicar as the case may be – began to catch on to the innocence of the situation. Coming to himself – thanks to years of training and experience – he jumped out of the grave and authoritatively pronounced, in his best basso profundo, “Well, good men of the King, things are not always easy to explain, to the conventional mind. The best I can do is to assure you, now and always, that I am here because of you, and you are here because of me. And that, by the way, is all the explanation we ever need, for whatever comes across – in this world of seeming non sequitur and inexplicability – as absurd or irrational human behavior.”
Prelude to my concert in Portland, Oregon, Oct 27, 2012 – 3 pm – at the Sherman Clay Pianos facility (no tickets necessary): Now I’m really gearing up for the concert this Saturday, which is dedicated to the recent discovery of the Higgs boson. I can’t pretend to follow all the scientific details and speculations about sub-atomic particle physics, what’s next in terms of research into the Higgs boson and how it operates, etc. But I still believe that it’s useful for non-scientists like myself to try to follow the gist of it. And also – as a non-scientist artist, I think that it’s important for members of the society at large to contemplate what these contemporary developments on the frontiers of discovery might mean to us. So, I’m dipping into several books on the topic – even one published just after the Higgs boson discovery was first announced out of CERN in Europe on July 4, 2012. You know, (you may know this) the physicist who’s work was central to predicting the existence of Higgs bosons some 40 years ago, particles which are said to go along with and somehow interact with quarks and gluons… a veritable “zoo” of sub-atomic particles… in order to give them “mass”, a fellow named Peter Higgs, was still alive to see this validation of his theoretical work! That alone is interesting to me, that a person might say to the world that such and such a “thing” must be there, according to his calculations and ideas, somewhere in the virtually unseen world, and then to be validated some decades later when the technology and testing procedures catch up with his predictions. So, I’m enjoying some far out reading, and imagining different ways to make music to match…
Sat, March 24, 2012, 3 pm – no charge, but donations welcome
THE COSMOLOGICAL CONSTANT: DARK ENERGY – Sherman Clay Pianos
131 NW 13th Ave (parking across the street) – Portland, Oregon
The program will consist of improvisations (although not without much hidden preparation) inspired by the notion of the vast unknown. In cosmology, the unknown can be symbolized by the still unexplained “dark energy” that could account for the evidence of recent years showing that the expansion of the universe is accelerating into the future at a remarkable rate. The unknown is also perhaps exemplified in our own lives, by the experience of the interplay in psychological terms between the various levels of personal consciousness and the great, largely unknown collective unconscious postulated by C.G. Jung. With the help of an attentive audience, I’m hoping to musically evoke a sense of relaxing deeply into these cosmological and psychological worlds in ways both restful and exhilarating… this is an artistic/poetic music meditation, of course, not a scientific experiment. Aside from a few suggestive ideas here and there, I leave it to you as to how you will listen to the piano improvisations I create, and as to how the meaning or experience you create for yourself will unfold. I hope you can join us – and feel free to invite your friends!
The free concert at 3 pm, Saturday, October 29, 2011 – “Into the Dark” – at the Sherman Clay Pianos recital hall in Portland feels quite imminent to me now. After all, it’s been coming together as a musical inspiration for about nine months, initiated really by a perhaps offhand comment from my friend Anthony Blake… but it is part of a much longer arc of creativity:
Beyond what I have written elsewhere, let me try to explain… I am on a long-term journey to create musical occasions in which we can get at something deeper than a “spectacle” or an “experience” – both of which are fine, as far as they go. I hold dear the ancient idea of music in various cultures. For instance, I relish the attitudes of the classical Greek culture, which held that “music is a moral law” (Plato) and the ancient Chinese, who expected the Emperor to “set the tone” – as a musical pitch, literally – for the coming year. I am most inspired, however, by a more modern approach as found for instance in Kepler, who was looking for a “harmony of the spheres” corresponding to the actual observational data that was being collected in his time – for the first time, as far as we know, in human history – about the movement of the planets. For much of my life, I myself have been looking at these things as metaphors for new kinds of self-perception for us as individuals and for even the human race as a whole. Years ago I read in a book by a particular musicologist who I greatly respect, about the usefulness of the Ptolemaic point of view (the earth is the center of all things, with various heavens or layers of reality above it) as an aid to meditation, as compared with the post-Copernican model, which is – according to some – less amenable for most of us as a metaphor or picture of spiritual unfolding. This bothered me; why should contemporary meditation or mysticism be dependent on outmoded models of the universe! I suppose that I have always been something of a mystic, but I am also the son of a scientist… and somehow, I have always, also by nature I guess, been looking for progress in mysticism that could be parallel to, and not divorced from, the development of the sciences of our time. These days, due to the immense progress being made “as we speak” in astrophysics and cosmology, much of it having to do with researches into the nature of gravity, and the application of what is called “gravitational lensing” – which has been poetically referred to now as “Einstein’s Telescope” *– there are whole new vistas of understanding and contemplation opening up that are just waiting for us to enter, to appreciate, and to share.
*”Einstein’s Telescope -the hunt for dark matter and dark energy in the universe” is the title of a fine book by Evalyn Gates