Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mage Music: Whence Magick?

It was a very successful experiment.
-           Jimmy Page, Guitar World, 1993

Mage Music 12
How magical to get to use the word “whence” – never did I imagine I’d ever have reason to use it, but “Where Does Magic Come From?” is such a boring title for a blog post, don’t you think?

Last week on the official JimmyPage Facebook page, Sara said she can’t listen to more than one version of Tea For One or any Led Zeppelin song one after another because they are so intense she feels like they would stop her heart - she said she has to pace herself. It’s easy to feel that way about such powerful music. For me it’s particularly tough when I first begin to hear a Led Zeppelin song. Like Sara I feel that the act of listening could cause my heart to falter, my blood to cease to circulate, my lungs to be unable to take in oxygen ever again. That’s intense!

Intense… but not mundane.
What we’re reacting to isn't just ordinary music - there's plenty of music out in the world that's really great but it doesn't make anyone feel like they're having a near-death experience.  What we're reacting to is pure Power, and so much of the stuff that it feels like it is too much for a merely physical human being to withstand. Power... but not mundane. It's Magickal Power.

So where does this Magickal Power come from? And how is it that Mage Musicians can not only withstand the Power, but do so performance after performance?

Magick doesn't come from the Mage - let's get that straight. And so sorry, but Magick isn't a Super Power either.

Magick is a process that the Mage is a part of.

The process of Magick involves the Mage's engaging with and essentially becoming an active component of the evolution of the Universal Energy (you could call it Magickal Energy, Source, Great Spirit or just plain Power if you prefer) that everything that exists is made of, in order to bring about some change in the Mage's reality.

Desire, focus and ritual (conscious choice, will and action) bring about alignment with the Universal Energy that manifests as the change the Mage seeks. If the Mage fails in any part of the process, the whole process will fail. Failure means that something else will happen.  It could be good, bad or ugly - once the Mage falls out of alignment something will still happen, but it's the Universe, not the Mage, that "decides" what will happen.  

The Paradox of Control
The process of Magick is about control – having it and letting it go. The Mage has to have absolute control - not over other people or over things, but control of Self: Control of the Mage's own mind, thoughts, emotions and physical body. There needs to be so much control that the Mage can let it go; the goal is to move beyond it to as pure a state of simply being as possible.

In other words, the Mage's goal is to have no control of the process, of the Magick, at all.

This seemingly contradictory state of absolute control and absolute lack of control is like meditation - except that the Buddha had it easy: A Mage can’t do sitting meditation but must be able to perform the Magickal rituals while in the meditative state; a Mage Musician has to play a musical instrument while holding a pure state of being!

And to top it all, the Mage must also let the Power that results in the change in the Mage's reality do what it will.

To maintain sufficient control while giving Self to the music and the Magick and letting them manifest as they will is another seeming contradictory state of no will and free will, of control and no control. This is the true choice that a Mage makes: Choosing the end, then allowing the journey to happen; abandoning Self to the journey, trusting/knowing/believing that it will all come out the way it needs to; controlling to perfection and then letting it go… this is the choice that is made to allow the Power to pass through the Mage and into the Music, and it is the choice that means the Mage Musician is not burned out by the Magick.

A Mage Musician is a pure crystal lens that channels light without interference. No matter how strong the light, the lens is unharmed by it, but oh, beware when you are in the focus of that light! We mere mortal listeners to Mage Music risk frying our souls unless we, too, open ourselves and become lenses that pass the Light  through.

Future post:
Comments on Jimmy Page's playing a bit of Beck's Bolero in How Many More Times

Playlist for 07/29 post: How Many More Times
Please listen to these selections while contemplating what a Mage Musician is actually doing as he channels the Magick. 

Mage Music 12 Full Playlist on YouTube

Individual song versions:

Led Zeppelin Studio - Led Zeppelin 1969
Page & Plant Live Shepherds Bush Empire, London 1998 (How Many More Times begins at 7:00)

Links to other versions are appreciated.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mage Music: No Shortcuts No Substitutions

There’s only one way to do magick – the right way

Mage Music 11:  No Shortcuts No Substitutions

The Mage business is a lonely business. The quest for enlightenment is a one-person job involving one person’s life and soul. Even a Mage Musician performing in front of immense crowds, surrounded by a band, the venue’s crew, the entourage, the groupies and fans, is a solitary figure; the others cannot share directly in the Mage’s ultimate quest.

A musician needs to be in a relationship with music – it’s often a love/hate relationship, but it is a personal one of high intensity. A musician needs also to be master of the instrument used to create the music, be it guitar or voice, drums or keyboard, flute or didgeridoo, and to move beyond the techniques of the music to the artistry of it.

As has been discussed in previous MAGE MUSIC posts, the Mage needs to generate a powerful desire and focus, and to be the master of the ritual used to bring about the magickal transformation. The specific ritual is not the carrier of the Magick, but a way of focusing the Mage’s desire; even so, the ritual must be pure enough that it allows the Mage to focus without distraction, for the Mage, too, must move beyond the techniques in order to achieve the Magick.

The greater the mastery of the instrument and the ritual, the less attention the Mage Musician needs to spend on them, allowing for greater focus on the desire. The music itself is a Mage Musician's ritual.  For any kind of Magery, ritual can be as simple or complex as it needs to be to create the focus. There’s no one perfect ritual for any circumstance, and as discussed in Sorcerer’s Apprentices, Part 1, a Mage can even have help performing rituals.

Still, there are no shortcuts or substitutions for all the required parts. Weak desire cannot be made up for by powerful focus and ritual. No one part can be lacking to generate the Magick. Still, there are ways to multiply a Mage’s efforts to build power where, for instance, apprentice/partners are not available and where the Mage alone cannot generate sufficient power.

Multiplying power 

Like an artist layering paints, a Mage can layer rituals to create one powerful ritual that can carry the desired Magick. When this is done, however, each layered ritual must be as perfect and powerful as possible, so that even though it only focuses a portion of the desire of the Mage, it still does so perfectly: In Magick, the sum can be greater than the parts, but only when the parts are great in themselves.

Tea For One from the studio album, Presence (1976), when compared to a later version of the song by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in Tokyo in 1996, provides an instructional example of this principle (see playlist below). According to Led Zeppelin expert, Dave Lewis in The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, Omnibus Press, 1994* Tea for One was never played live in its entirety at Led Zeppelin concerts. This is simply because Mr. Page layered multiple guitar parts in the studio version, a technique that couldn't be duplicated on stage by the four musicians alone.

More importantly for the understanding of Mage Music, the 1996 version, although masterfully performed by Mr. Page and Mr. Plant and the other musicians, is a very different song - it lacks the Magick. Why? Because instead of layering the Magickal riffs of Jimmy Page one on the other as with the studio version, an orchestra is used as a substitute for the multiple guitar parts.

M.C.Escher: Circle Limit IV
(Heaven and Hell)
"My vocation is more in composition really than anything else - building up harmonies using the guitar, orchestrating the guitar like an army, a guitar army."  Jimmy Page Interview by Steven Rosen , Modern Guitar Magazine, 1977 Tea For One is a clear example of that orchestration, and a powerful example of the difference between music overlaid with and bearing Magickal ritual and music as entertainment.

In the 1976 studio version, Jimmy Page is playing guitar with the very best, including, through his own studio orchestration magic, performing duets with himself. Tea For One is blues at its most classic, loaded with pain and loneliness.  It is a song that carries Magick, which is made clear in comparison to the 1996 version where the immediacy of the pain and loneliness - and the added layer of Magick that uses and amplifies that emotion - is missing. The difference between the songs is that in the two decades later version, the orchestra detracts rather than adds to the Magickal aspect because what the orchestra replaces is not just some guitar layers, but Jimmy Page's layered guitar Magick. 

This is a piece of Mage Music that the Mage cannot carry alone, and where no substitutes will do - not if Magick is going to be accomplished.

Mage Music  YouTube Playlist – Tea For One

As always, additional links are appreciated

*Now available: Updated complete guide to Led Zeppelin, From A Whisper To A Scream by Dave Lewis

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mage Music 11 Playlist: Tea For One

Mage Music playlist for 07/22/12 post: No Shortcuts No Substitutions

As always, additional links are appreciated, although according to Dave Lewis, Tea For One was not performed live in its entirety by Led Zeppelin in concert.  More on that on 07/22/12.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mage Music: Magickal Interlude

Take a deep breath of enlightenment...

Mage Music 10: A Magickal Interlude

I turned on the radio while driving home from Colorado last weekend, after getting within range of a decently strong station.  I had forgotten to bring my iPod so was otherwise without music for most of the 12 hour drive as I can’t stand commercial radio, but after this many hours on the road I was getting tired and needed something to keep me going.  As usual I was listening for hints of Mage Music – it’s something I always do, though of course I rarely come across it.  Doesn't mean that the music I hear carries no hint of Magick – it could be there, it’s just that I'm not open to hearing it from those sources.  We all have favorite bands, after all!

Anyway, I'm listening hour after hour to stuff that sounds pretty much the same: That fuzzy, high-gain guitar distortion effect, the vocalists belting out lyrics that are a full stop musically, not meant for more.  Song after song, the music was so much the same that it all ended up being white noise after a while.  Truly - I was hearing the same music no matter what the song and what the band, all of it sounding like it could be one group with one big playlist, some songs marginally better than others at best.

The annoyance factor alone was keeping me awake.

Then, a couple hours into this drek, I heard the first chords of Kashmir.  It was like an electric shock. It was like the whole world stopped and took a cleansing breath.  It was clarity, precision, meaning, all there in one soaring, wide-open, no-fooling around Magickal package.  I felt like the sun had come out when I hadn't realized it was cloudy.  I felt like I could breathe again freely when I hadn't known I had been holding my breath.    I felt emotions loosen that had been wound up tightly, and a crazy grin plastered itself across my face.

I felt like I had been sucker punched in the psyche.  It felt good.

I've always loved Kashmir; even though there's no extensive Jimmy Page solos in it.  Still, the melody is based on Mr. Page’s unique and immediately identifiable chord progression, a riff so gripping that it entrances and practically pries open the soul of the willing listener to the Magick.  A riff so powerful, too, that it has been adopted by other guitarists who play it in their own songs, never realizing that that the Magick isn’t in the notes but in the soul of the Mage who conjures the music.

Physical Graffiti
album cover
I've always felt Kashmir is Led Zeppelin's best work ever, and an example of a Mage Musician's work beyond the guitar - precise and incredibly powerful orchestration and production that supports the higher-level content above the notes to produce music that is On Purpose.  Led Zeppelin expert Dave Lewis describes Kashmir as “the finest example of the sheer majesty of Zeppelin's special chemistry”.  [Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin (1994)]

"Let me take you there. Let me take you there..." Robert Plant sings.  I heard the lyrics totally differently as I drove down the road.  I realized it wasn't an offer to take me to some mythological Shangri-La at all, but rather to a much higher plane. I all but stopped my truck and let myself go.

And then it was over, the silly grin still pasted on my face as the next awful muddle of metal pedal buzz came on.  The ray of light shining through the spiritual cloud of music had been obscured again.  But I had heard.  I had been taken through both time and space for a few moments while driving down the freeway.

Direct links to Kashmir
No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded with the London Metropolitan Orchestra & Hossam Ramzy Ensemble 1994 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

MAGE MUSIC 10 Playlist: Kashmir

Mage Music 10 YouTube playlist for Kashmir.  Take note of the evolution of the music.  Additional links for this song would be appreciated.

The Mage Music blog post will be up Sunday morning 07/15/12 as usual.

Direct links to Kashmir
No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded with the London Metropolitan Orchestra & Hossam Ramzy Ensemble 1994 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Just what is Mage Music Anyway?

Just a few thoughts written from on the road...  

Mage Music 09: Just what is Mage Music anyway?

I got to thinking about it the other day as I was driving - thinking about the fact that I've been writing here about Mage Music assuming that everyone would of course know exactly what Mage Music is - but it seems that ain't necessarily so.  

But first...
Let's start from this basic premise:  Not all music is created equal.  Not only that, but not all Mage Music is going to be music that everyone likes.  And not all music that everyone likes is Mage Music.

What it is not
Mage Music is not a value judgment about music.  Just because it's Mage Music doesn't mean it's good or bad.  The term "Mage Music" is simply a description of a kind of music, music with a certain additional quality not present in other music (more on this in a moment).  Thus, the following are not qualities that make a song Mage Music:
  • You really, really love a song 
  • Everyone you know really, really loves a song
  • A song has "meaningful" lyrics
  • A song is performed by a great musician or band
  • A song is a hit, on top of the charts, goes Platinum
  • A song gets played on the radio a lot
  • A song is covered by other bands a lot
  • A song wins awards
The realities of Mage Music are that it can move your heart but it can also - even at the same time - be hard to listen to, it can be unpopular, unsuccessful, and/or unnoticed even while it is powerfully and undoubtably Mage Music.

Conversely, just because a song isn't Mage Music doesn't mean it is some kind of lesser music.  It’s OK for music to just be entertainment – in fact, that’s pretty much what music is for and what most music you listen to is.

What It Is
Mage Music contains a quality beyond the usual musical attributes such as pitch, tone, timbre, melody, brilliance, rhythm and the rest, beyond even  "meaning".  This additional quality of Mage Music is connection with the infinite, with God or the gods, with the ineffable energy of All That Is.  If there is a message conveyed in this connection, it is nothing that humans can use words to describe.  This connection is a communion with something fundamental to and greater than humanity that we instinctively seek but rarely ever know.  It is the Force, it is the Light in enlightenment.

Mage Music is music that carries Magick with it to to deliver to our souls.  Magick is another word for the energy or higher power of the Universe (which is why there is no such thing as black magic, by the way: Magick simply IS;).  All things carry some level of this energy, but some things - particularly human art - may carry more of this concentrated, pure, focused and Purposeful energy of the Universe.  Enough of the stuff in music and you have Mage Music.

Mage Music Identification
But still, how can you tell Mage Music from any other music, especially when one person so often disagrees with the next on whether a song is even good music, much less whether it carries Magick?   

Here's a list of things that can help you determine whether there's Magick in a song.  Consider this a "starter" list - some of these may not apply to you, or your  experience of Mage Music may be very different.
  • You can’t not pay attention when you hear Mage Music - it''s not possible for it to be background music; your attention is pulled to it
  • It thrills you each and every time you hear it, no matter how often you've heard it
  • You aren't quite always sure if you actually enjoy the song even as you feel compelled to listen to it
  • You experience some sort of hugeness or weight to the song beyond the music itself
  • Sometimes you can't listen to it because it's too huge or heavy
  • It doesn't matter if anyone  around you is digging the music - in fact, it might be easier if they don't even notice the song is playing
  • The Magickal part may not be – probably is not – carried in the lyrics
  • You can’t predict from the musical score, the lyrics or reviews, or anyone else's comments whether it is Mage Music – the Magick must be experienced by you personally
  • When you hear the song, you "listen" with more than your ears.  It feels like the music resonates in your heart and soul, and that your whole body is on alert and paying attention
  • When the song is over, you feel like your soul has been dazed and confused and otherwise well-used - not an entirely comfortable feeling but one you seek over and over again.
People have their own individual reactions to Mage Music.  One for me is that I get a sort of shiver up my spine when I'm hearing it.  I'd be interested in finding out how other people know it when they hear it.

And so what?
Why does it matter if music is Mage Music? Maybe not much from the musician's perspective, since carrying Magick doesn't translate directly into sales, though it can help.  From the mage’s perspective, given that music is one of the most powerful and most accessible forms of affecting human beings there is, then Mage Music is one of the most powerful tools there is for impacting certain aspects of the human soul.  The trick is, however, that not just anyone can get the Magick into the music.  You might be the worlds greatest musician, but that doesn't make you a mage.

Hmmm - that does bring up the question of what a mage is, doesn't it?


I'm recommending listening to Jimmy Page's solos for Thank You that he's played over the years - not because they are particularly relevant to this week's Mage Music blog topic but because I like the song very much.  Any additional links to Thank You would be appreciated.

Individual versions:

Friday, July 6, 2012

MAGE MUSIC 09 playlist: Thank You

Mage Music 09 YouTube playlist for Thank You.  Take note of the evolution of Jimmy Page's solos.  Additional links for this song would be appreciated.

The Mage Music blog post will be up Sunday morning 07/08/12 as usual.

Thank You YouTube Playlist