Sunday, November 6, 2005

Disco Mystic

I'm unwinding, after a weekend spent writing a proposal I knew I had to do for months but left til the last second anyway so I'd have the full measure of panic needed to write it. And I did something horrible to my arm, holding it stretched out for two days pushing and clicking that mouse; it feels like I just did 5000 one-handed pushups.

I'm listening to Metal Machine Music, as I needed some noise to clear the cerebral cisterns--nice noise, not Merzbow or Peter Brötzmann (who I don't even like, all you record store employees out there), and since I lack anything better to write about I'm gonna say a few words about this album and its role in The Stuff This Blog Is About.

As a rock n' roll geek, I'd a) heard about it for years and b) just about convinced myself that Lou Reed was the Jesus of Cool. Him and Nick Cave--and really more the latter, but you had to be there for that 80s 60s resurgence. Around the time
New York came out, though, I really had to wonder about ol' Lou. I am the only known human being in history not to just love that album, but you'll hear no apologies on that score. It's just that the guy I worked with at my McJob always had to put on New York every single day and to me it was Garrison Keillor in leather... and I'd played every available Velvet Underground record into--under--the ground. And...I needed a Reed fix?

There was this punk rock 'zine that had an ad in the back for cheap bootleg cassettes of
Metal Machine Music, which was long out of print and pretty pricey if you could find it. So I sent off my money order, and the minute I unwrapped the brown paper bubble-mailer I popped that tape in my car stereo and--zooo00m. Off we went down the freeway.



That "music" put me in a trance heavy enough that I felt drunk, and even I, the Duke of Decadence, don't drive while impaired. So disappointedly I took the tape out to listen to at home later. I thought it was pretty. To me, musical ugliness is "LA Blues" by the Stooges or anything sung by Sheryl Crow. I don't know how long it took me to make the connection between the sounds on
MMM and the alpha brain state, but it seems now in retrospect that I've always known the record was an alpha-wave generator (again, like Brion Gysin's Dream Machine, mentioned in an earlier post). The hundreds of layers of sound on MMM oscillate right in that range of 8-13 cycles a second and the effect, as I've said, is unmistakable.

Alpha waves aren't the only inner source of joy and bliss and goodly wondrousness. I mean, you've got your endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, your temporal lobes, estrogen and/or testosterone, which in the right amounts can be get the idea. But it's so easy, via flickering lights or meditation or a certain obscure 1970s confrontational-antirock album, to induce that alpha state, which in my experience is a light, rosy trance sort of like the one provided by certain pain medications you can't buy over the counter in the US of A...but with no heaviness or mental fuzziness. When I was a witch, I was taught that the activity the profane called "magic" was none other than the willed entering of alpha and the attendant change in one's outlook and the possible changes in the physical world resulting therefrom.

Or, as a bona fide Science Project found:

"Twenty-one individuals who abused alcohol or other substances were selected for [the] study. Each completed at least 30 [biofeedback] sessions to increase alpha and theta levels. They also learned to visualize rejection of alcohol or drugs.

[The researcher] contacted 16 of these individuals after they had been out of treatment for at least one year. Seventy-seven percent had abstained from using alcohol or drugs or had significantly changed their drinking habits so that they were no longer dysfunctional."

Admittedly this is a small N, but anyone who's hung around AA meetings or the right moonlit clearing for long enough has plenty of anecdotal support for this kind of "magic."

In addition to MMM, I have tried to collect as much magical/ mind-altering music as I can find, and may from time to time post a few "greatest hits" of sonic consciousness alteration for your amusement.

P.S. Part III is my favorite. It's playing now, as I've just completed not the whole post yet but up to the end of the paragraph that mentions Brion Gysin. This is how I always feel when I'm around my guru--the inside of my head is this enormous, blue-sky chilled Himalayan space aburst with joy. It's much stronger around Her--but Lou did not at all do badly for himself.

P.P.S. It's # 71,830 in music sales at!


  1. I can identify with the do not play while driving a car caution. I simply must turn off the radio if Enescu's Romanian Rhapsody (#1, I think) comes on, or Prokofiev's Lt. Kije Suite.

    I'm currently on the prowl for Herbie Hancock's Theme From Blow-Out, which I recently heard on the wonderful all-night jazz show gracing the airwaves here and which held me in thrall -- part of Bobby Hutcherson's remastered album Oblique.

    Be interesting to see what waves that stuff generates. I know folks who adore the music of early Mozart, which rubs me the wrong way entirely, though I enjoy some of his more mature stuff. And I get blown away by pieces other folks can't stand, like Ginastera's Harp Concerto.

  2. You know a lot of classical music, so you've probably heard Strauss's Metamorphosen. My friend Fiorenza turned me on to this--it's a steamroller of beauty & (redemptive) melancholy.

    As far as Mozart--I bought the complete piano concertos one time (Alfred Brendel, whom I prefer to that other guy) and that was all I played for weeks and I was doin' fine on cloud 9--I was SO happy. I'll have to hear this harp concerto...