Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mage Music: Imagine This

Mage Music: Imagine This

Aubrey Beardsley
Frontispiece to The Wonderful History of
Vergilius the Sorcerer
What exactly makes a mage powerful?  Unlike what is portrayed in fiction, a mage doesn’t have to be a person in black robes, and isn’t a person who has a lot of magic stored up in amulets or who is born with magical power.  A mage doesn’t “have” magic any more than a computer “has” the internet.  Magic is like Yoda’s Force – it is the energy source of life.  Like a Jedi who masters the Force, a true mage is one who has the skill, talent and will to open to that energy and to use it to make changes in the world. 

Think of the relationship of a mage to magic the same way you do of the device you use to access the internet to the internet itself.  The internet is gigantic, so big it is for all practical purposes infinite – there’s no way your device can access it all.  Still, the more powerful the device the better it can access the internet and the more data it can process, providing it isn’t hampered by malware, poor programming or by just not having sufficient capacity.

It’s the same with a mage.  All of us access the energy of the universe without even thinking about it – it’s called being alive.  A mage, however, accesses that energy on purpose, using clarity of mind to visualize the desired outcome, and then ritual of some sort to focus the mind on the desired outcome.

The clarity both comes from and results in enlightenment – literally aligning with the energy of the universe.  The most proficient use of the energy comes through focus.  The actual process is not truly important – alignment with the energy of the universe can be equally achieved through magick, meditation, the sciences, art or, in the case of Jimmy Page, through music.  The product of true enlightenment is readily apparent to anyone who sees experiences it. 

It can be easily seen why Jimmy Page is considered a mage:  He engages purposeful clarity of vision, and focuses through the ritual of the music on a desired outcome.  Music is the ritual of his magic.

Jimmy Page is well known for his attention to detail and his control of all aspects of his vision.  Thus when comparing the John Lennon/Yoko Ono 1972 film, Imagine,  to the Jimmy Page acoustic segment deleted from the 2008 video It Might Get Loud, we must wonder what Mr. Page’s choices meant in the context of the music he was playing.

It would be very hard to believe that Jimmy Page had never seen the Lennon/Ono film, if not when it first came out then sometime over the next thirty-something years, when Mr. Page makes a video of himself playing an unnamed acoustic guitar piece in a room so identical to the one in the Lennon/Ono film that one might only tell the difference by checking out the scenery through the windows and details of the rooms.

A white empty room; a white chair for Jimmy Page, a white piano for John Lennon:  We must believe Jimmy Page didn’t just “happen” to choose that room to be filmed in or that his chair placement, in basically the same location as John Lennon’s piano, was accidental.  We must believe that the video starts and ends with visual focus on a reflection in the floor rather than the guitarist for a reason.  We must believe that there is purpose for everything in this video because control of detail has always been in Jimmy Page’s nature.  He is, after all, a master mage – he is performing ritual - but it is for his own purposes and it is up to us to take meaning from it.

The music
John Lennon’s song is very different from Jimmy Page’s.  Lennon’s is finished and polished.  It has lyrics that carry the meaning; the music is support for the lyrics.  Jimmy Page’s song sounds raw and unfinished.  It doesn’t even seem like it was meant for an acoustic guitar; it sounds very much like he was hearing an electric guitar in his head along with support instruments.  It has no need for lyrics because the music itself carries the meaning.

The visuals
While each song is being played, the music is the focus.  But before and after each song, the visuals are the focus. 

At the beginning of Imagine, Yoko Ono and John Lennon walk together to the room where the music will take place.  At the end they look at each other, then kiss – excluding the viewer and, in making the video be about the two of them, leaving the message of the song behind.  The song is over.

At the beginning of the Jimmy Page acoustic video the camera focuses on the reflective floor before panning to the musician.  At the end, Jimmy Page sits back and looks out the window, redirecting focus out to the world before turning to look at the camera, which then pans to the reflective floor.  The music has been given to the world, and then to the viewer, and then… the reflection.  Has the song, or more importantly the message, actually ended?

This brings us to the message, the intent of the work of the ritual.

The message
No one can read the mind of the artist or the mage, or presume to know what the meaning of a work is.  The inner vision is the artist’s alone and each person brings to a work his or her own life experience, which acts as a filter and framework for interpretation.

Nevertheless, we can make some statements about the message of Jimmy Page’s video.  The setting is meant to evoke another setting.  The beginning and end focus on a reflective surface:  This video is meant to reflect something else.  There are no lyrics, so the music and the video itself convey the message.  Jimmy Page’s song and video have no name, but reflects the Lennon/Ono film and song:  Imagine.  To me the message is just that:  Imagine what this song of Jimmy Page’s - still in process, still more in his head than in the world – will be.  Imagine, because there is so much more than what is seen and heard there.

Of course there is no way to know if any of this interpretation was meant by Jimmy Page. Sometimes, perhaps often, the creator doesn't actually know what the work means - he or she only knows that it must be created.  Still... keep in mind what Albert Einstein said:  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  Technology can come in many forms, can't it?  Science or art, video or music - whatever it is, advanced enough and it is indistinguishable from magic.  

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