Saturday, May 25, 2013

Form Follows Function

"It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law." 
~  Louis H. Sullivan

Mage Music 54

Mage Music 54: Form Follows Function
Louis Sullivan (1856-1924) wasn't an occultist, though you might think so from the above quote. He wasn't a theologian or philosopher, either. Mr. Sullivan was an architect. 

Mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright and called "father of the skyscraper", Mr. Sullivan was a visionary who coined the phrase "form ever follows function". The shortened version we are more familiar with, "form follows function", is fully stated as the aesthetic credo quoted above. Things are known by how they manifest in the world.  

When Louis Sullivan put forth his ideas in his article "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered"(Lippincott's Magazine, March 1896: 403-409), he was discussing a new approach to architecture that addressed the engineering problems associated with buildings that went up, way up. He understood that the old ways of doing things could literally not support the new needs.

Form follows function means that to bring about the true manifestation of a thing, the shape should express what its purpose is, but Louis Sullivan was also talking about much more than skyscrapers. New function goes hand in hand with new aesthetic freedom as well. 

More or Less

Obviously the forms of things don't have to be shaped by their functions. We love all the embellishments - the different colors and looks and sizes - knowing they're all just icing on the cake and that none of it has anything to do with the function of the objects that have been so decorated. If we didn't love the flash and the bling, the meaningless difference, we wouldn't crave - much less put up with - all the options for cars, computers, clothes or covers for iPhones.   

In the world of true manifestation, though, even the ornamentation needs to be in alignment with function. Sometimes even a little more is just too much. This is true with music as well as Magick.

I remember thinking, back in the late 1960s, how amazing it was that Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience could put out such a rich and complete sound with just three musicians each. I also remember being very disappointed with bands whose music was full and deep on their albums, but that on stage came across like skim milk compared to the recordings. For them, what was created using multiple tracks and engineering in a studio was not duplicable live. Needless to say, Led Zeppelin wasn't like that - there was just as much live as there was on the albums, if not more.

That's because every component of Led Zeppelin's music, whether on stage or recorded, was an expression of the function of the ritual of the music.  Every beat, every riff was an expression of the song's purpose. Every component of each performance was essential.  And every musician's input was crucial to the construction of the ritual.   

In his comment on the Page/Plant tour of 1998 on (On This Day, May 18), Jimmy Page said: "With a stripped-down line-up ... it gave us more freedom to explore and re-work the songs, without the orchestra and supplementary musicians ..."

Not only can more be too much, more can't always make up for a missing essential.  The Magick of Led Zeppelin was in the alchemy of those four musicians, and adding more musicians down the line could not recreate the true manifestations of the missing members of the band. Life is recognizable in its expression. It can't be simulated; it must be a true manifestation of the purpose.

Designing Ritual

While objects and actions of ritual - Magick or music - that come from elsewhere can be used as inspiration, in fact true manifestation comes from expression of the Mage's own desire and will. That means that using ritual from some other source, no matter how successful it is for the other source, is not necessarily going to manifest anything for the Mage that he intends until all the objects and actions become his own.

Thus, creating a ritual starting from scratch is in a way easier - or at least less risky - than starting with a pre-existing design. When all component parts have to have meaning and form within the function of the intended purpose, using enough of the wrong ones leads to failure.  The notes, pitch and all components of the melodies, riffs and rhythms of music and the ceremonial objects and actions of Magick have to be the right ones in the right quantities and they have to express the function of the performing musician's or Mage's intended purpose - not some other band's or Aleister Crowley's.   

No substitutions!  Original work only!  No grading on a curve!  According to Louis Sullivan, it's the law. 

Note:  As always, use of the masculine gender is not meant to exclude the feminine.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Construction Zone

If the Universe doesn't listen, chances are it doesn't know what you're saying.

Mage Music 53

This post begins my second year of Mage Music. Those of you who have been following it probably realize by now that what I've been writing about is not just the music of Jimmy Page, nor even just the Magick of the music of Jimmy Page. I've been mostly writing about Magick itself - how it works, why it works. How it's not an exclusive, mysterious thing but rather a force of the Universe that can be mastered with sufficient desire, will and skill.

I’m using music because it’s such a perfect vehicle for Magick, and Jimmy Page’s music because it is so lushly Magickal. Plus it’s just great music to listen to.

I plan to continue writing about the how and why of it all this year, too. Note that the past posts here on Mage Music are the foundation for what’s next, so if you don’t understand what you are reading, please go back through the archive. Of course, if you don’t understand, it could just be that I’m not explaining well, in which case just ask for clarification!

Mage Music 53: Construction Zone

Constructing ritual

Ritual is the skill part of Magick. It is the "what you see" part (or "what you hear" in the case of music). Driven by desire and will, ritual opens the channel to the energy of the Universe - the Magick. Even though the desire and will are no more and no less important, because ritual is that part that can be most readily perceived, it is what most people consider Magick to be all about. That is a mistake, of course, and one that a Mage can't afford to make. 

That's why Mages aren't a dime a dozen, because with Magick everything counts. And there's a lot of everything to be counted.

Be specific

The biggest cause for Magickal failure is when a Mage is not specific or comprehensive. This means that not only do desire and will have to be powerful and steady, but the ritual has to be perfect.

In nature all component parts of a system work together. Evolution is harsh and anything that doesn't contribute to successful survival won't continue to exist. Anything that is successful - meaning anything that thrives rather than merely survives - is a thing that is comprised of the components most suited for the environmental slot it is in.

So too with Magick. There is not much point in a Mage working with a ritual to create a change in reality that can't survive. The Universe doesn't second-guess what a Mage wants, so not only every aspect of ritual has to be perfect but the change that the Mage wants to manifest must be realistic within the environment it is meant for. A Mage can't manifest a fish without manifesting water and a container for the water - unless the fish is meant for sushi. 

Part of the job of perfect desire is envisioning a specific goal. Even Captain Picard couldn't just say "make it so" without there having been perfect preparation already in place. Thus a Mage must be extraordinarily clear about what he wishes to manifest. The desired change that is the Mage's goal cannot be what isn't or only approximately what is - it must be exactly and fully what is to be.

That's hard enough, but there's more.

Be complete

Magick is tapping into the energy of the Universe, channeling power to create change in the world, shaping a new reality. Specificity of desire and will together are like the starter motor for the engine of Magick, which is ritual. And if ritual is what makes Magick go, then the ritual had better be put together right or it won't get the Mage where he wants to be.
Kirk: Spock, where the hell’s the power you promised?
Spock: One damn minute, Admiral.
 -Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Like an engine out of timing, a tire out of balance or a gear shaft that wobbles, if any one component of Magick is out of whack, the whole thing will eventually fall apart and leave the Mage no closer to manifesting change than if he had done nothing at all. The real world isn't like the Enterprise, that can nearly shake itself to destruction yet still achieve warp speed.  Desire and will plus the physical objects and actions used in a ritual all have to be in tune with each other and be in tune with the end result.

This means that every object and action of ritual must be not only be present but meaningful. There is no extra credit for extra, useless parts because they'll just clog up the works. In fact, the more stuff of a ritual, the more likely the Mage is not going to manifest anything but a mundane mess. In Magick, less is definitely more.

Clarity of purpose, completeness and...

Neatness counts

Just kidding.

YouTube Playlist:  Since I've Been Loving You 
Ten videos, 1970 through 2007.

Next time (or the near future):  Designing a ritual

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Year of Music and Magick

"We had been taken somewhere and brought back and we were different people..."
~ Terry Pratchett, Snuff (Discworld)

Mage Music 52

Mage Music 52: A Year of Magick
A little over a year ago I posted my first article to this Mage Music blog.  I really didn't know what I was going to write about, but I knew that there were questions I had that needed answering.  I was pulled towards the music of Jimmy Page.  There was a depth to it that spoke to me in a language that was beyond words.  It was... vaster, more meaningful.  It was the essence of emotion... primitive, essential and powerful.  I wanted to connect with that, but first I had to know it.

I confess that part of the reason I wanted to write was because I couldn't seem to find anything about what I wanted to learn anywhere else.  There is so much to say about Jimmy Page's work, but I wasn't finding anyone writing about what I was interested in reading about, which wasn't the drugs, sex or excesses, the outfits, his facial expressions or his hair (sorry if that offends or disappoints, but there it is).

And of course, people like to natter on about Mr. Page's connection with the occult, specifically the work of Aleister Crowley. To me that wasn't the right direction.  Yes, there was Magick in the music but it was so obviously Jimmy Page's own Magick - not someone else's - that I didn't see the point of looking to anyone or anywhere else for answers.

So I have spent a year exploring the concepts, delving into understanding the basis of Magick across disciplines and focusing on music as an expression of Magick.  I used Mr. Page's work as inspiration for the words I wrote.  I came to understand that I was translating from not only another language but another reality, and the result could only ever approximate the depth, the beauty and the mystery of what I sought. Still, the music compelled me to keep trying.  Or maybe it's been the Magick doing so.

It took me somewhere and made me grow

Over the course of the year I listened to so much of Jimmy Page's music that I began to hear it in an entirely different way.  The beauty and mystery that had always called to me now was speaking to me with a meaning that I could almost comprehend, but that remained elusive.  I knew I would understand if only I listened just a little more closely, a little more carefully, so I really listened, focusing on what I was hearing at the root rather than at the surface.

What I was hearing was the Magick that was speaking through Mr. Page's guitar, of course.  I came to understand that I was never going to understand it with my thinking brain, because Magick is meant for a deeper part of a human than that.

I'm no musician, I'm a listener and I'm a writer, so I finally just let the mystery of the music flow past my brain and into my heart and soul to inspire me and push my own creative process.  I found myself writing much more than I ever had before, and about things that that I didn't know I knew.  The music of Jimmy Page has taken me to times and places I'd never been before in my own work - a process so exciting and so inspiring that I plan to keep going there.

The job of the artist is to recognize the truth of All That Is and to fairly represent it to the best of his ability. The tragedy of the artist's lot is knowing that, no matter how skilled he is, the artist's creation can only ever be an infinitesimal aspect of All That Is.  And the triumph of the artist is that he keeps doing it anyway.
Here is a Kashmir playlist - because the Magick is right there.

I hope you have enjoyed reading these posts as much as I've enjoyed writing them this past year.  I hope you won't mind if I keep on writing them, too.  I've got another big project in the works that I'll be talking about in upcoming months, but you can count on Mage Music posts every week as long as the music has Magick. I guess that'll be for a while.

Mage Music 52: One Year of Magick
As always, thank you Jimmy Page

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Accidental Mage

The fact that [certain mages] were famous in mainstream circles was just a strike against them. By the standards of magical society they'd fallen at the first hurdle: they hadn't had the basic good sense to keep their shit to themselves.
~ Lev Grossman, The Magicians: A Novel
Mage Music 51: Accidental Mage

Mage Music 51

Not everyone who seems to be a Mage is really a Mage.
These things do not mean a person is a Mage:
  1. Other people think that person is a Mage.
  2. A person follows a particular philosophy that focuses on or embraces Magick or the occult (e.g. Thelema, Wicca, Kabbalah).
  3. A person engages in practices associated with Magick or the occult (e.g. augury, fortune telling, scrying, tarot reading, rituals).
  4. A person can actually use Magick to change reality.

Not Mage

Not everyone who is popularly thought of as being a Mage is really a Mage. Being a Mage is a whole person thing, not a job or hobby. "Mage" is a description of a person's state of a being, not his skill set.

A Mage is merged with Magick, and in his mind the difference between the inner world of Magick and outer world of reality is necessarily rather fuzzy. Just because a person studies Magickal theory or performs the practices doesn't mean that Magick has infused his very soul, any more than just having an MD makes a person a healer.

A person isn't necessarily a Mage even if clear acts of altering reality are witnessed. What would have been seen is one instance of Magick, not necessarily the act of a Mage.  After all, ordinary people are able to do Magick, too - Mages don't have a monopoly on Magick.

You can't just ask the person in question, because if he's real he probably won't want to tell you.  And of course, even if he was willing to admit it he might not understand that he is a Mage, particularly if the Magick comes through the act of creation known as art.

Accidental Mages

The principles of Magick hold true across all disciplines and rituals that are used to change reality, but nowhere is Magick so unconsciously and accidentally evoked as within the area of creative arts, particularly music.

Music that carries Magick is produced by a very few musicians. Even fewer of those who do so are aware they are doing it - or care. Any artists' purpose is art, not the practice or the study of Magick. However, when an artist sufficiently merges himself with the music (or painting or whatever medium) and his desire and will are powerful enough, the act of creation is ultimately no different than any formal ritual of Magick.

Intense desire and will applied to any ritual submerges the performer into the ritual so that nothing else exists but the now of the Work. This is what it takes to change reality, whether it's the alchemy of chemicals or of musical notes.

The beauty of Magick is that anyone can do it, but like with a great musical performance, not everyone can do it so consistently and so well that they live it in their bones, their cells, their soul. The difference between the person who can perform discrete acts of Magick and a Mage is the difference between oh, you and me and Jimmy Page.

Mr. Page has always maintained that his music says everything there needs to be said about him.  If he is a Mage, he has the good sense to keep that to himself and let the music be the Magick.

Can you hear the Magick?  Case closed.

Nattering on:

I listened to Led Zeppelin's Madison Square Garden show of Wednesday Feb 12, 1975 while working on this post. That made writing the post a very slow process, indeed, since I kept stopping to listen closely to the music.

That show was just prior to the release of  Physical Graffiti and when Mr. Plant introduces Kashmir, the audience doesn't go wild because they didn't really know what it was.  That seems so strange now!

"We came four blocks in the snow to get here, do you realize that?" says Robert Plant.  Funny guy.

By the way - gives free MP3 downloads when you buy CDs. A good deal - 2 for the price of one with no copyright guilt.