Sunday, October 01, 2006

Influence on Storm Series?

In the book 'Space is the Place', the life and times account of Sun Ra by John F. Swzed, I came across a possible inspiration for Drexciya's 7 album 'Storm Series' which I would like here to further explore. The relevant lines in the book go thus and are in the context of what was informing the philosophies of Sun Ra. “Theosophy was the force behind Prometheus, “The Poem of Fire,” Scriabin’s fifth symphony, with a chorus (and audience) dressed in white, and an organ which played lights and colours; and the source of what the composer planned as his ultimate work, The Mysterium, a week-long piece that would literally destroy the world and raise the human race to a higher plane at its finale.”

I did some research about this intriguing individual and came up with the following. The Russian composer Alexander Scriabin’s (1872-1915) final unfinished work was to be called 'Mysterium' or 'Preparation for the Final Mystery' and was to be what we would call today a mixed media presentation to be staged over seven days to culminate he was sure with nothing-less than the transformation of the human race into what he termed "nobler beings." He himself described it as follows. "There will not be a single spectator. All will be participants. The work requires special people, special artists and a completely new culture. The cast of performers includes an orchestra, a large mixed choir, an instrument with visual effects, dancers, a procession, incense, and rhythmic textural articulation. The cathedral in which it will take place will not be of one single type of stone but will continually change with the atmosphere and motion of ‘The Mysterium‘. This will be done with the aid of mists and lights, which will modify the architectural contours." The venue he envisaged his masterpiece being performed for what would presumably have been a one-off concert was to be built at the foothills of the Himalayas. One of his commentators elaborates here about some of the more fanciful aspects of the imagined performance, ‘This seven-day-long mega-work would be performed at the foothills of the Himalayas in India, after which the world would dissolve in bliss. Bells suspended from clouds would summon spectators. Sunrises would be preludes and sunsets codas. Flames would erupt in shafts of light and sheets of fire. Perfumes appropriate to the music would change and pervade the air.’

Perhaps your thinking the only obvious and tenuous link here is the seven day duration but I think the piece’s ultimate aim, the transformation of Man, is what really ties it in. I think it’s only natural when any artist hears of any grand unfinished work in their field to consider how they might realise it today, circumstances and technologies having changed with time etc. The movie director Francis Ford Coppola has spoken of how as a film student he was drawn to bringing Josephs Conrad ‘Heart of Darkness’ to the screen partly because the same feat had beaten the genius of Orson Welles. This of course turned out to be his own masterpiece, ‘Apocalypse Now!‘, which in this case perhaps a combination of better funding and a general change in the times played their role in bringing it to fruition. In a similar way once the members of Drexciya came across this reference to Sciabin's unfinished master-work maybe they too briefly considered how this could be realised today and would they themselves be up to the task. I'm postulating that if indeed any of this occurred then this question might have been the first act of this idea gestating in their minds. If so it would take another 3 years for it to emerge as the 'Storm Series' to the public.

So we have Scriabin's seven days condensed to seven albums and all recorded within a year and his concept of the transformation of man into 'nobler beings' brought into line with their own concept of evolution which they had been using since their earliest days. They first used mutation through nuclear radiation as the starting point to this new evolution in what Stinson himself later described as their ‘false start’ on 1992’s 12” as L.A.M. (Life after Mutation). Whether this idea as a concept would have satisfactorily sustained them for a career is unlikely but when they conceived of a mutated aquatic species originating from the babies of African slave’s they must have instinctively known they now had a far more rich and sophisticated evolutionary concept which would sustain them creatively.

Their use of the storm metaphor, its transforming of the surface nature, might have been their acknowledgement of Scriabin’s desire to combine the elements of nature into his piece. Of course Scriabin did not complete or even outline any explanatory content for this unfinished piece so this must also have appeared as a particularly tempting blank canvas for Drexciya to conceive of how exactly this transformation of Man was to occur.

There’s no doubt that this is how idea's can and do ripple through the mass consciousness, in this case reappearing and becoming realised to some extent almost a 100 years later. Drexciya themselves are responsible for creating these ripples of idea’s or re-stirring old ones which can potentially become waves that can sweep people or whole nations along on their current. It strikes me that an even more appropriate metaphor for this, although it may also be a scientific fact also, would be that of an idea being like a butterfly flapping its wings and eventually this having a climatic effect somewhere else on the other side of the world, maybe even causing a storm! Whatever the metaphor, small actions eventually bear fruit and hopefully Drexciya's idea's are still rippling around the world, with you and DRL itself can play our parts in this process. However they can only go further is we expand and build on them because when something stop growing it dies. But this is work for the individual, I will continue to share my own work on this subject, just keep an open mind, don't get fooled by illusion or sweat the small stuff, life is fast ending, so live.

As far as all this goes regarding Scriabins possible influence, as always make up your own minds. I would just say to be on the look out for any precedents to today like Scriabin and Sun Ra and especially those who failed or went unrecognised in their time. A definition of these type of people are those few who dream of a future in opposition to the many who only regurgitate the past. In many cases it was a future in which we have yet to find ourselves, so we can learn from them, to grow and evolve.

Alexander Scriabin at Wikipedia.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a direct Drexciya/Sun Ra connection - One of the tracks on the cd version of the shifted phases album, the cosmic memoirs of the late great rupert j. rosinthrope, is entitled Crossing of the Sun-Ra Nebula. This is a reference to the track Nebulae on Sun Ra's 1965 album, The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra.

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