Monday, December 31, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy New Year from Mage Music

Everything is energy.

The light our eyes perceive is energy, although it is an incredibly small part of the electromagnetic spectrum - a tiny little range of energy somewhere in the middle of the immense spectrum between radio and gamma rays. An infinite range of energy exists beyond human knowledge - energy that humans have not imagined and likely will never identify.

Vision and hearing are two of the processes that humans (and other beings) employ to perceive and use energy in very narrow and specific ranges within the infinite spectrum of possible energy that exists.   Magick is another such process. Just like with vision and hearing, some humans can perceive a greater range of Magick than others, and some can use the energy better than others.

Everyone can access the energy of Magick

...but there are vast differences in the ability to use Magick effectively. The difference is power, which from the human and Magickal standpoint we can understand to be the rate at which humans convert energy into use in some way. With the Magickal process, more power means more success in converting the energy of Magick into reality within a given time.

We all have at least a little bit of Magick in us.  Anyone who wishes to can generate sufficient desire, will and some sort of ritual to create Magick to some degree.  Not all can be Mage level, but still this does mean...

You can create Magick.

May you walk in the Light 
find the Magick in your life in 2013

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Magick Muscle

"...improvisation onstage...where the real magic takes place".
                               ~Jimmy Page [1]

Mage Music 32

Improvisation is creating something new on the spot, seemingly without preparation, practice - or even thought. If there is one thing that Jimmy Page is known for, it is his incredible improvised solos.

Improvisation is composition, two sides of the same coin. One takes place over time, the other in the moment. Composition is the creative act of making up something new that has not existed before. If creating something that wasn't there before isn't Magick, it would be hard to understand what could be.

Emphasis on “seemingly”
Just playing any random combination of new notes won’t do it, of course. A musician comes up with great improvisation based on music that has been played before and what is known to work. A first time guitarist is not likely to come up with much more than noise because practice and more practice is needed until the instrument is a seamless part of the creative process rather than another obstacle to it. Thus although the inspiration may pour out from the soul (or, according to Mr. Page – out of the ether [2]) it helps if the musician can perform so well that conscious thought is not involved and the mind is free to create. For this, muscle memory is required.

Muscle memory is a very cool thing. It's what lets you tie your shoe and what totally screws things up if you think about tying your shoe. It’s what allows you to get the forkful of spaghetti in your mouth instead of in your eye. It is what allows an artist to not have to think about the how of creation and instead allows the creation to flow freely.

Automatic behavior
Ouija boards, automatic writing, improvisation, Magickal ritual: They all work best when there is no conscious control of the tools involved. We say that practice “teaches” muscles to perform without conscious control, but what is really happening is that repeated behaviors, ones that are corrected each time in aiming for ideal results, are cemented into different neural pathways than the ones used when learning to perfect them. As the repetition occurs, the brain’s direction of these performance tasks are moved from working (conscious) memory to parts of the brain that handle other automatic tasks, such as breathing, walking, and feeding yourself with silverware (or chopsticks or any other tool), and in doing so free the mind from the need to pay attention to the physical processes involved.  By relegating these tasks to automatic behavior systems, the conscious mind can be involved with other things.

Interestingly – or perhaps unsurprisingly - some of the areas of the brain involved with muscle memory are the same as those involved with ear worms and other behaviors that we have no control over. That limbic system comes into play again, the more primitive part of the brain involved with emotions and emotional behavior. Scientists think that the limbic system plus the other adjacent parts of the brain involved with muscle memory evolved to free us for thinking so that we could use tools for survival purposes such as building shelter and hunting – and the creative processes.

Magick Muscle
A Mage must perform ritual without allowing the ritual to become an obstacle to the desired results. A musician, too, must perform solos without allowing the musical instrument to become an obstacle. Muscle memory frees the Mage Musician to perform the creative arts that result in Magick.

It is muscle memory, too, that allows the musician’s signature sound to remain consistent over time, so that we recognize who it is that is wielding the guitar. It is muscle memory that allows the guitarist to recognize when he is playing outside his identity, outside the ideal that inspires him and that he strives to bring to the light.

"Well, I'm not trying to be flippant here, but I just play the guitar, don't I?", says Jimmy Page in an interview in Guitar World magazine, October 1988. Indeed.

Suggested listening: Outrider (studio album) as well as the Outrider tour.  Forget the vocals, forget the rhythm section.  Just listen to that guitar.

*“The whole improvisational aspect, the riffs coming out of the ether ... it was a magical vehicle collectively soaring into the stratosphere.” Jimmy Page, as quoted by Cameron Crowe in the notes for 
The Song Remains The Same (Remastered / Expanded) (2CD) reissued version, 2007.

Thank you Sue C for the muscle memory suggestion.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ear Worms

I just can't get you out of my head...
     ~ Kylie Minogue, Coldplay, etc.

Mage Music 31: Ear Worms
Mage Music 31

A few weeks ago I couldn't get the chord progressions of Kashmir out of my head. I would wake up in the middle of the night hearing them: up scale, down scale, one phrase at a time that never led to the next, just that same one phrase over and over.

It's not just Kashmir - last week it was Stairway to Heaven.   There's been other songs too:  For instance, just thinking about the chorus for Your Time Is Gonna Come threatens to worm it into my head. Jimmy Page's opening riffs in Tea For One is another example.  Oh, there's many, many more of them.  I'm pretty prone to this phenomenon.

I think you know what I'm talking about: Ear worms.  Fortunately for me, it's most often Led Zeppelin - not, say, a fast-food chain jingle.  So I don't mind it at all… well, not much.

Ear worms? Not something that Khan has inserted in your ear (actually a Ceti eel, not a worm) for his amusement and the re-education of prisoners, but rather a bit of music that is stuck in your mind, a brief phrase or two that you have no control over.  Music you hear in your head, not in the outside world, music that you may even be surprised to discover playing and replaying in your mind, that showed up there unbidden, uncontrolled and often unappreciated and unwanted.

According to some quick research I've done, ear worms are pretty common, although some people never get them or only experience them infrequently.  At the other end of the scale, research has found that musicians seem to experience them a lot, much more often than non-musical people do.

According to Wikipedia, ear worms are common enough that they "may be distinguished from brain damage".  In case you were worried about hearing things that no one else can hear.

Out! Out damn worm!
Scientists who've looked into ear worms have a good idea what's going on in the brain and where it's happening (quite a few places at the same time it turns out, but that's a story for another day).  Science still can't tell us why it is that even one exposure to a bit of advertising jingle that you weren't even conscious you were hearing can end up repeating itself over and over and over in your head without your wanting it to, never ending until something breaks the cycle. It can be like a twitching eye - nothing you seem to do will get rid of it, and you hope it'll just go away eventually before it drives you crazy.

One of the problems with ear worms is that we recognize the pattern as a musical phrase, but there's no context and there's never a climax.  Instead of the music moving on it goes back, like a stuck record (for those who have no experience with LPs, you'll just have to use your imagination). Let's just say there's never a musical statement of conclusion, which, after the crazy-making repetition, is an integral part of the torture.

And getting rid of them?  Not so easy.  Ear worms aren't like habits, since they aren't settled or regular tendency or practices that we really do have control over that are just hard to give up.  And therein lies the problem - if you get an ear worm you don't want to hear, what can you do?

Sorry, this is not a blog about getting rid of ear worms.  You can try listening to some other compelling music (but that doesn't always work)... or just be patient.  No one has ever died from ear worms.  Gone crazy maybe....

Making lemonade
You know what Mr. Plant says about squeezing lemons.  If you get them, you don't need to complain, you instead make use of them.

Wired Magazine had an article almost two years about learning languages  using ear worms.  The idea is that ear worms are compelling and if you can hook onto that, you can learn certain things more quickly*. Results have been mixed, but that doesn't mean the concept couldn't work - give advertising agencies a few more years and they'll have it figured out.

When you've been infected by an ear worm the musical loop you are trapped in is actually resonating in deep parts of the brain that are interconnected in ways that don't occur with language and conscious, logical thought.

The primitive, "reptile mind" part of the brain doesn't have anything to do with the conscious, "logical" part of the brain.  The former has to do with survival on a very basic level, the latter on, well, thinking.  This is a Good Thing:  When the zombie pops out from behind a wall, you don't want to stop to think about it, you want some survival instincts taking over to get your butt out of there.  When panic sets in the reptile mind, the survival part of the brain, is turned on and the part of the brain that deals with conscious thought is literally turned off.  I believe if you've ever encountered a zombie (or it could be a spider, snake or an in-law), you will know just what I mean.

But here's a really interesting fact:  Although the primitive parts of the brain cannot directly connect with the parts of the brain that control logical, conscious thought, music can indirectly bring that connection about.

This is prime territory for learning and for exploiting by advertising agents.  It is also why music can be used as ritual for Magick.

When we hear music, we're also feeling it with our bodies.  It resonates with our guts and our bones and worms its way into our souls.  Add the will and desire of a Mage, and you can see how Magick will result.

There is no YouTube playlist this time.  It would just be too cruel.

More about ear worm foreign language learning:  "Listening to melodious music puts users into a relaxed state of alertness, the 'Alpha state' the ideal condition for learning. The sound patterns of melodies, with rhythmic repetitions from a mesmeric male voice who speaks the English and a native speaker for the target language, 'worm' their way deep into the memory, permanently burning into the aural cortex -- an area of the brain from which words can instantly be recalled."  Note from Mage Music:  Results may vary.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Magick Begins – and Ends – Here

“Cogito ergo sum”   
~ René Descartes

Mage Music 30

Everything is possible in the infinite scheme of things, but from the very finite human viewpoint, there are limitations:  Beginnings and endings, and sideways constraints, too.  Magick is a way of tapping into the infinite but it isn’t infinite itself – possibilities may be endless, but human restrictions still apply.

Magick begins here – or not
The Magick equation always begins with desire.  Desire provides the fuel of emotion, which can either cause a conflagration that lights the world or go pfft – not even a spark.  Without powerful desire there is no Magick… but not just any desire will do.

Hope (wishing) is nothing. It doesn't bring enough power to fuel the Magickal process. Hope is just a statement of preference. On the scale of desire and will, hope carries little weight. The most painstakingly performed ritual will be empty and without impact if hope is used to power it.

Belief (faith) can be a powerful thing, but it isn't good enough for most Magick. That's because belief falls well short of knowing. Disagree? You may believe someone is in a room because you saw him enter and haven't seen him exit, but you don't know unless you open the door and look inside. The person you just saw go into the room might have walked right out a back door. Belief carries more weight than hope on the scale of desire, but nowhere as much as knowing.

Knowing leaves no room for uncertainty - it is about reality for the one who knows. Knowing is about personal identity and relationship to reality. Knowing carries 100% weight on the scale of desire. Knowing is what enables Magick to change reality.

To know is to manifest
To do Magick is to replace one reality with another.  To do Magick a Mage must know the desired to be the actual reality – not believe it, not hope it.  In a sense, this means that the undesired reality that exists and is known must be made "unknown" in order for the new reality to manifest.

This means that during the Magical process, a Mage cannot think about the existing reality, for part of unknowing something is to not focus on it. You know about "don't think about pink elephants"?  That’s what it takes, and to not think about something, to not even thing about not thinking about something, to not even acknowledge the possibility of the old reality is a tough job.

But it can be done and it is done. Anyone with sufficient desire and will and attention to ritual can do Magick. If it was easy, of course, there wouldn't be a special term for those who can do it. "Mage" is a title about ability and success, not a description of those who try.

Magick ends here
The killer of Magick is doubt. When doubt enters into the equation, balance is destroyed and Magick cannot manifest anything.  The most powerful will and the most painstakingly performed ritual will be undermined by the smallest doubt. To doubt is to not know.

Unfortunately, doubt is insidious and lives in us all somewhere, in some form.

Ritual:  Doubt destroyer
The thinking mind is the Mage’s albatross, since thoughts can lead to doubt.  Strong emotion displaces thought by engaging a primitive, survival-oriented part of the brain that literally shuts down the critical thinking facility of the human mind.  It's an On/Off switch:  Powerful desire, guided by a Mage’s will, provides strong emotion that bypasses thought.  Without thought there is no possibility of doubt.

Ritual is the key to Magick – it is the catalyst that transmutes desire and will into the new reality.   Music is the language of emotion - not thought - and as such it is one of the most powerful and accessible forms of Magickal ritual there is.  It uses the seduction of sound to focus the power of a Mage’s desire and will.

There is no room for doubt:  The human mind is hard-wired for emotion and for music.  And, of course, this means that it is wired, also, for Magick.

Future post: Ear worms

YouTube Playlist:  For Your Life