If you think that things of late have seemed a bit absurd, this short music video (see below) might be for you. It’s called “Absurd it Thru the Vape Grind” by Eureka Magicka and the Vape Grind Dancers. If the title seems absurd, it will start to make sense if you watch to the very end. As always, please watch on full screen mode with stereo speakers or headphones for enhanced enjoyment. You can see related videos on the “Art and Zen Today” Youtube Channel.
Most days my wife and I will have several conversations about changes we want to make in the garden; changes in planting or the placement of art objects. Most of the time, I do not have my video camera at hand. The video featured in today’s post consists of those rare times when I did remember to record our efforts. Most of the “collaborations” captured in the video are continuations of earlier conversations and so the full context may not always be evident. However, I hope you enjoy “Eureka Moments #2: Everyday Collaboration”. You can see the video by clicking on the link below: https://youtu.be/z6ncpQcCrvE
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Here are two articles that align themselves very well with the focus of Art and Zen Today. One deals with visual art; the other with music. I hope you enjoy them.
“Many of his paintings are much more dense than this,” said O’Brien, assistant curator of art at the Albuquerque Museum. “Here there are no characters, no letters. The energy of the mark making, inspired by calligraphy, is the message. It is radically non-symbolic.”
Tobey’s painting, tempera on board, is among the 50 works in the Albuquerque Museum show “When Modern Was Contemporary,” which continues through Dec. 31.
“Lyric” is an uninhibited shout out of color – pale yellows, whites, squiggles of red, patches of olive green. The effect on O’Brien is to make him pause for a moment, to reflect.
“It’s painted in difficult colors, weird, strange colors, awkward colors,” he said. “I like paintings that resist you. They are sort of like Zen meditation. It’s not so easy to sit still.”
Integrated and engaged
In O’Brien’s view, all works of art should be objects of meditation. But he noted that this is especially so in the works by artists of the avant-garde movement of the 1940s to the 1960s – painters such as Tobey (1890-1976), Kenzo Okada (1902-1982), Mark Rothko (1903-1970) and Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) and the composer and music theorist John Cage (1912-1992). Unlike artists who poured out their souls onto their canvases, O’Brien said Tobey, Okada, Rothko and Pollock, all of whom have works in “When Modern Was Contemporary,” shifted the emphasis in their paintings from their own feelings to the objects depicted in the work.
He said that’s due in part to the fact that these trailblazers were very much influenced by Asian philosophies and religions, especially Zen Buddhism.
“Zen is about your whole body and your whole mind integrated and engaged,” he said. “Many of the artists in this exhibit were looking for ways to expand beyond materialism, consumerism and militarism. These artists are not depicting the world, they are organizing color, line and shape.”
On Saturday morning,O’Brien will lead a brief guided meditation followed by a tour of select works in “When Modern Was Contemporary.”
He is especially well suited to the task. He is an artist, a sculptor and a painter who does abstracts in casein (milk tempera). But he has also studied Zen for three decades and is an instructor in the Japanese Soto Zen tradition. On most days, he meditates in the morning and again in the evening.
“My tradition is just sitting and allowing sensation and thought to arrive and depart without manipulation and engagement,” he said.
And that works just fine for looking at abstract paintings.
‘Here I am’
O’Brien, 50, grew up in Littleton, Colo., and early on was unsure as to what path he would follow.
“I had a grandfather who was a painter and a grandfather who was a biological scientist,” he said. “I wanted to be both. I was drawn to medicine, and I was also interested in anthropology. But the art won out in high school.”
He earned a bachelor of fine arts from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1991 and master of fine arts from the Yale University School of Art in 1993. He was introduced to Zen when composer Cage was a visiting professor in Kansas City in the late 1980s.
Cage was born in Los Angeles and died in Manhattan, but his major influences were East and South Asian cultures. Cage attended D.T. Suzuki’s lectures on Zen Buddhism in the late 1940s and early 1950s and used the ancient Chinese text the “I Ching’ as a tool for creating his musical compositions.
O’Brien attended lectures Cage presented in Kansas City and interacted with the composer during one of those sessions.
“He was saying really interesting stuff about the non-existence of the self,” O’Brien said. “I said, ‘What do you mean I don’t exist? Here I am.’ He said, ‘Yes, exactly. And what is that?’ My brain couldn’t make anything of it.
“He had this Cheshire cat smile and these twinkling eyes. It was a beautiful, transforming experience. I connected with him very strongly. He was a singular and radiant individual. He singled me out, and he started talking to me about Zen.”
While doing graduate work at Yale, O’Brien studied at the New Haven Zen Center. Between 1995 and 2000, he spent time at Zen centers in Rhode Island, Kentucky and Northern California.
“Now, I use the ‘I Ching’ to compose my paintings,” he said.
Just as Cage helped form O’Brien’s zeal for Zen, Tobey’s interest in Eastern religions – he converted to the Bahá’i faith – may have influenced Cage to some degree. The men were friends and Tobey studied piano and music theory with Cage. And there are those who suggest that Tobey’s oriental brushwork and calligraphic strokes prompted Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings.
One of those Pollock paintings, “Number 8, 1949,” is in the show. O’Brien refers to the piece – a roiling, twisted mass of oil, enamel and aluminum paint on canvas – as organized activity.
“All art is a mediation between order and chaos,” he said. “But Pollock was clearly the most chaotic of his generation.”
But that doesn’t mean his work is not Zen.
“Zen tradition is full of rogues, raconteurs and radicals,” he said. “Zen is not just the eternally beatific, monks and monastics.”
Kenzo Okada was born in Yokohama, Japan, and was a realist painter before he moved to New York City in 1950.
“Then he got swept up in the heated, abstract atmosphere,” O’Brien said. Even so, his abstract paintings retain a powerful Japanese sensibility and appreciation of form. His 1953 oil on canvas, “Abstraction No. 7” is part of the exhibit. Large shapes and smaller ones stand out against a desert-sand background.
“Notice the numbered title,” O’Brien said. “You are not supposed to be able to tease out any kind of story. Clearly Okada wants you to view that painting on its own merits. You are approaching these elements in their relationship to each other. He leaves these sort of wonderful negative spaces – landscapes of the mind and heart.”
Floating in space
Okada and Rothko were friends. Did Okada’s Japanese-flavored abstracts influence Rothko? Maybe. Maybe not.
But Rothko’s 1956 oil on canvas, “Old Gold Over White,” might just be the most Zen work in the show. O’Brien describes the painting as hazy rectangles floating in space.
“Do you fall into them, or do they come out and get you?” he said. “The best description of Rothko’s paintings is meditative. They are not promoting any Zen doctrine. They are just inviting you to meditate on them, on your experience with them.
“You can come back to a Rothko painting forever and have different experiences each time. You can say the same of Zen meditation.”
WHAT: “The Zen of Abstraction.” Art curator and Zen practitioner Titus O’Brien guides visitors through a brief meditation, followed by a tour.
WHEN: 10-11:15 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 2
WHERE: Albuquerque Museum, 2000 Mountain NW
COST: Program is free with regular museum admission of $1-$4.
A Few Questions (New blog article)
|Paint as you like and die happy|
* Perception to see your world (inner and outer) as it is
* Discernment to choose a course of action
* Focus to stay the courseThe following questions may help you find this perception, discernment, and focus. Write down your answers in a journal. Some of the challenging questions will ask you to dig deep.
* When are you fully self-expressed and connected as a musician?
+ Identify specific moments. Where were you? Who were you playing with? Who was in the audience? What did the music sound like?
+ How can design more of these experiences?* What artists/performances/
* If not, what can you change about your practice to connect with your own music on a deeper level?
* Imagine yourself ten years from now playing ideal music under perfect conditions. Where are you? Who is there? What does it sound like? What’s stopping you from doing this right now?
* Choose your audience: Who are the people who will connect and resonate with the music you create? What do they value? What type of experience do the seek? Where do they connect with each other?
* If you never performed again, who would miss you?
* What limiting beliefs get in your way? These biases and narratives may be hard to uncover, because they can be ingrained into our view of the world. A few examples:
+ I’m not naturally talented enough to ______ (a.k.a. “fixed mindset” (https://stevetres.us7.list-
+ I’ll never be as good as ______, so why bother
+ “Work” is inherently unenjoyable
+ Artists can’t earn a good living without selling out
* In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield outlines strategies for fighting “the resistance”—our biological need to feel safe and secure. This can sabotage our art. How does the resistance interfering with your best work? Some examples:
+ Talking yourself out of a project because of the fear of failure
+ Avoiding listening to recordings/watching film of your performances
+ Stage fright
+ Obsessive perfectionism
+ Procrastinating because you don’t “feel ready”
* Have you defined success and fulfillment for yourself, or are you stuffing your journey into somebody else’s model/expectations?
* If money wasn’t a barrier, what projects would you initiate?
* What’s an exciting project you initiate with little or no cost?
Ignore the resistance and start now.
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My guess is that most people answering this question would remove their headphones and provide the name of the bands currently cued up on their listening device. But based on some articles I have been reading lately, the question is somewhat deeper than that (more like “what is the sound of one hand clapping” deep). It points to how we respond to music (and sound in general) and trying to answer it can help us better understand both creative and spiritual practices.
It has been a while since my last post. It’s not that my left brain hasn’t been coming up with stuff to write (maybe I should call it my “Write Brain”). Rather it is that my right brain has been “compelling” me to spend time learning how to use the new music production software I purchased several months ago. I have spend most of my “creative time” playing with this program, happily trying out all kinds of wild stuff, not at all concerned about whether it will ever be heard or liked by others.
Much of what I have come up with in my experimental creations does not neatly fit into most of the categories used to describe music; in fact it is not even clear that it is music. So, recently the left brain started pestering me to find some sort of label for whatever it is I am doing. By the way, this questioning seems to be rooted in the basic left brain concerns about whether what I was doing was worthwhile or “good” or whether it would be understandable to others. Anyway, I started to do some research on the internet and so this, and subsequent blog posts, will be inspired by the reading I have done. I’ll be quoting and paraphrasing heavily from some of the articles I’ve discovered. And, as always, I will try to point to some links with the practice of Zen, where I can.
An article by Robert Worby titled “An Introduction to Sound Art” suggests that maybe what I have been doing is best categorized as “Sound Art”. (http://www.robertworby.com/writing/an-introduction-to-sound-art) In reality, it probably doesn’t matter how my work is labeled. At some point I may post some examples and let you decide what it is, but, for now, let’s look at what Worby has to say about “sound art”. I think his ideas are relevant to those interested in any kind of artistic practice or any kind of spiritual practice where one attempts to be more in touch with the senses.
Worby starts off by examining the nature of sound (it is extremely impermanent as you Zen practioners might suspect) and by differentiating between the process of “hearing” and the process of “listening”. According to Worby:
Sound is constantly pouring into our ears. Most of it goes unnoticed because we are not listening to it. Listening occurs when we become conscious of sound and connect with it. We hear it and we engage our intellect, our emotions, our memory and many other faculties. Hearing is a physical process, listening is a psychological act. And when we listen to sound we are beginning the process of generating meaning with it. If we are listening properly our curiosity is aroused and we might begin to ask questions about the sound; not just the usual questions about what produced the sound but questions about what we are hearing: How loud is it? For how long does it continue? Is it pitched? If it is pitched, how high is it? How low is it? How far away is it? Is it moving? In which direction? How fast? Is it changing? How is it changing? What is changing? And, if there is more than one sound, how many sounds are there? How do they relate to one another? How do individual sounds relate to the mass of sound? There are many, many questions of this type we can ask and, if we ask them, they help us to perceive sounds with greater clarity. This aroused perception generates more detail and raises our consciousness. We have more to say about sound and we can comprehend it in greater detail. All of this may, in turn, help us to generate feelings about what we can hear and it may help to generate meaning from what we are able to hear.(Underlines are mine.)
Listening is an art. It is an art just as composing and performing are arts. Listening involves action, we cannot listen and remain passive. If we are passive and uninvolved then we are only hearing. Listening is creative and it is this auditory creativity that has given rise to what is now called sound art.
Although Worby looks at a variety of historical sources of “sound art”, he pays particular attention to the work of John Cage, who expressly connected his art and his practice of Zen (Search for previous posts on this topic by entering keywords Cage or Duchamp). In general, I think, Cage’s work, even if he called it “music” rather than “sound art” can be seen as raising the kinds of questions that Worby says in the previous quotation are raised when we really start to listen to sounds. According to Worby:
Cage’s most notorious piece is commonly known as ‘4’ 33”’. It is in three movements (a very conventional Western musical structure) and the notation for each movement simply reads ‘Tacet’. This is the musical term meaning ‘Be silent’. Cage is asking the performer to be silent for three consecutive movements. The piece does not instruct the performer to ‘do nothing’ (a common misconception) but it does require the performer to ‘be silent’. During the first performance, in 1952, the pianist, David Tudor, indicated the passage of the three movements by closing the piano lid at the beginning of each movement and opening it at the end. Hopefully he made no sound. But there was plenty to hear. Four minutes thirty three seconds is quite a long time, for an unsuspecting public, to sit and listen. The sound of the audience twitching, coughing and nervously shuffling filled the space and sounds drifted into the auditorium from outside. Cage had outlined a situation in which sound could be heard but he had no control over those sounds. The conventional roles of composer, performer and listener had been completely subverted. It was difficult to say who was the composer or who was the performer or who was the listener. The listeners were making the sounds so, in conventional terms, they were the performers. The performer, David Tudor, was also a listener. The composer had no hand in crafting what was heard, this was done entirely by the listeners, so, in effect, they were the composers. Cage had turned conventional music making inside out.
“Composing is one thing, performing is another, listening is yet a third. What can they have to do with one another?” John Cage
From today’s perspective, the performance of Cage’s 4′ 33″ seems rather contrived and passé, much like Duchamp’s hanging of an urinal at an art show (Search for previous posts on this topic using the keyword “Cage” or “Duchamp”). Although those attending the first performance of Cage’s piece may have been shocked into pondering questions about the nature of sound and music, most people today would attend because it was the cool thing to do. However contrived they seem now, both Cage and Duchamp managed to call attention to the importance of the mental attitude of the audience and both had a profound effect on how artists approached their practices since then. I think that it is no accident that both of these guys were influenced by their knowledge of Buddhist philosophy and practice.
Cage with D. T. Suzuki
It’s not clear to me whether Cage actually used the term “sound art” to describe his work but the term has consistently been used that way by others. So, exactly what is sound art?
At this point it appears that the term “sound art” refers to a diverse set of practices (ranging from Dada nonsense poetry to recording of natural sounds at various sites) and there is still no clear distinction between “sound art” and “music”. (Below I have links to 3 short videos to provide some examples of “sound art”.) The term “experimental music” is often used to characterize musical compositions that veer away from conventional ideas about music, but I would be hard pressed to describe the distinction. In Worby’s words:
The multiple threads of sound art practice weave a fabulously rich tapestry. It celebrates the ear in a world that we mostly perceive with our eyes. Language, our tool for thought, is very much orientated towards what we can see. Sound art encourages us to listen, it sharpens the ears and the imagination and so develops what it is to be human.
Cage at the Piano
While any piece of music can have these effects, it seems that “sound artists” see the main goal of their creative endeavor as encouraging real listening. Whether someone truly “listens” to music or any other sounds depends upon the person’s mental set. Sound art, as I understand it, is designed to make it induce listening as Worby has defined it. In future posts I will consider the writings of other authors who have used the terms “deep listening” and “mindful listening” to seemly capture the essence of what Worby is saying.
Since Zen and other spiritual disciplines encourage practioners to be mindfully present and aware and a wide variety of situations, I would suggest that these disciplines share a common goals with much of what might be called sound art (this is most clear in the case of John Cage). In future post’s I’ll be exploring how music/sound can become a mindfulness practice and looking material suggesting that mindfulness practice can enhance our listening to sounds/music and that listening can increase our mindfulness.
Personally, although I can appreciate the goal of making me more active in the process of listening, I find a lot of sound art and experimental music to be rather irritating; I’m sure I would have been one of the first people out the door at the first performance of Cage’s 4′ 33″. Doing all of this reading and thinking (thanks left brain!) has led me to wonder whether I can create sounds that are musical and yet can raise listerner’s awareness in the manner that Worby has described. That is, can sound art be engaging/entertaining and still be consciousness expanding? Maybe it really doesn’t matter as long as I am having fun doing it (thank you right brain!)
Check out these short videos showing some examples of “sound art”. Also see my previous post titled “Border Music by Glenn Weyant”
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STILL FROM VIDEO “MODERN MUD MEN”
Over the past month I received numerous announcements that artists were invited to submit work for consideration by the curators of the 2014 International Artexpo in Spain. I usually ignore such calls for submissions but the description of the theme for this year’s exhibit captured my interest: Borderland – Hidden Identities & Forbidden Desires
The reason my interest was piqued is that this was the first exhibit where I felt my video “Modern Mud Men” might fit in. Apparently the curators felt that way also because the video was accepted to be shown. The exhibit will be held in Zaragoza (Spain) at Club Nàutico De Zaragoza, from the 05 to the 13 of April 2014, and in Almeria (Spain), at MECA Mediterráneo Centro Artístico, during the 11 and the 26 of April 2014 (video screening only). Since I realize that most of my readers have probably already booked their annual trips to Europe for this year, I made arrangements for you to see “Modern Mud Men” free on this site.
The “Modern Mud Men” video came about after I read a review of a video that someone made about the Mud Men of New Guinea (see picture above). I set out to try to find this video on the internet but never found it. What I did find instead are the self-recorded video clips that make up “Modern Mud Men”. This video is a composite of mostly self-recorded experiences of men enjoying the sensual/auto-erotic pleasures of wallowing in mud. It provides a rare look at men engaging in an activity that seemly allows them self-indulgent pleasures usually reserved for females. Although I found videos of women wallowing in mud on the internet, they were never alone and do not display the earnestness of the men shown in these clips. In most cases the enjoyment of mud is carried out away from the public’s eye and yet the videos were made public. The original music that accompanies the video was inspired by the strangeness and yet naturalness and beauty of this kind of play. Click on link below:
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Here is another Art and Zen Today Exclusive; a video of singer Mo King b’s performance at the Grammys that was deleted because he was supposedly not well received by the audience.
You may never have heard of Mo King b and that suits the producers of the Grammy Awards just fine. Mo King b’s music was showcased in an earlier video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCiVNF-SfPA ) a couple of years ago and I was shocked to learn that his performance at this year’s Awards was deleted from the tape feed at the last moment. According to the producers Mo’s performance did not air because “Mo King’s performance was way too experimental and inaccessible for the Grammy audience”. Paradoxically, Gilbert Mothworthy, of the Dronington Post wrote “b’s music was shockingly imitative and unoriginal causing many people in the theater that night to fall into an altered state of consciousness”. Click on the link below for this never before seen video of King’s short performance. For best results listen in stereo, preferably using headphones.
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Equipment used: Video camera, Ableton Live 9
Today’s post features a socially conscious musician/artist who raises interesting questions about art, music, social activism and spiritual practice. You will be introduced to Glenn Weyant in a couple of short videos. This feature is the beginning of a shift in my approach to this blog. Up to now, most post have mainly been devoted to exploring the interrelationship between art and Zen practice. In the future, I will not spend so much time with theory and focus instead on actual art and actual artists. There is so much interesting work going on out there, locally as well as globally, and I aim to make my readers aware of it.
I have always used the terms “art” and “spiritual” in the widest possible ways and will continue to do so in the future. To my mind, almost any activity can be approached as an art and so if you know of some art or artists who you think should be covered in my blog posts, please let me know. For now, enjoy the videos below. For those familiar with the work of John Cage, be sure to listen to the last part of the second video.
This post starts off with a visual and auditory experience for you that will work best if I don’t provide any “up front” information. Below you will see a link to a short video that will provide that experience. It is best if you watch the video before reading on.
To view video, click on link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Now that you’ve watched the video, please take a moment to briefly let James, the artist, know what you experienced. It would be helpful for him to know what you thought or felt at various points in the video. You can provide this feedback by clicking on the bubble at the right of the picture at the top of the post. If you want your comment to remain anonymous, just write in “anonymous” when prompted for a name.
Below is an interview with James which I think you will find interesting. My intention was to find out more about how this particular artistic experience came about.
A&Z TODAY: Most of your current music, music videos, and of course your visual device, “The Adagio”, seem to tap into a sort of slow motion in conjunction with music. How did you get started along this line of thinking?
James: I can remember the circumstances pretty vividly. It was a while ago, probably around 1966 or 1967 when I was a music student at Boston University. One evening, a weekend night I’m pretty sure since I had nothing pending the next day, I was chilling out at my apartment with some friends, listening to jazz, mainly Miles Davis. One of my friends shared some weed, and I probably had had a few beers by that point in the evening. I think it is pretty common when “high”, either on just life or with the assistance of some mind-altering substance, one gets into a state of mind where he/she is somewhat removed from oneself; almost like you become an “observer” observing oneself.
Miles was playing “Solea” from his “Sketches of Spain” album. I was very much in the “observer” state of mind at the time, and looked down to notice my hand was moving very slowly to the music, kind of in an up and down fashion along with the characteristic “arcs” that Miles plays during his solos. ( If you listen carefully to this piece in particular, you will notice that he hits high points, then his trumpet lines slowly descend to a low point. He then begins to build the tension, and overall pitch, back up, etc. etc. ) My hand was following that, the up and down motion, but also moving very slowly in a smooth arc, not at all as part of any of the rhythmic elements of the piece. I was hearing/feeling some other motion in the music that no one was talking about. It was not anything you could consider “rhythmic”.
Fortunately, I hadn’t partied too hearty that night, and the next day I remembered the evening’s experience pretty vividly. I thought about it off and on for the next several years, and in 1969 I built the first prototype of “The Adagio”. It was pretty crude, but it worked, and was my first attempt to capture what I had experienced, and something I could work with in more detail.
A&Z TODAY: In a previous A&Z article, you discussed some of the thinking that led to the actual building of the Adagio.
Yes, I won’t repeat that here again. Anyone interested can go HERE to read the article in your blog. I did go into some detail at that time about how and why I came up with using the sine curve to measure the up and down motion. Using a slowly rotating cylinder, that was speed adjustable from 0 rpm up to about 3 rpm allowed me to create a slow moving, continuously flowing arc of light across the viewer’s vision.
A&Z TODAY: At one point, you used Adagio in a biofeedback experiment. How did that evolve?
After I built the first Adagio, I spent a lot of my free time watching it while listening to music. I also began to notice certain patterns that might someday be of interest to music theorists. From working with Adagio and music over the years, several patterns have emerged:
1. Most music falls within several rotation speeds: roughly 1 rpm, and 1 rev. every 90 seconds. Some outliers do occur, for example Gregorian Chant which moves incredibly slow, like 1 rev every 3 minutes, and Bartok’s piece for Celeste, Orchestra – adagio movement, also crawls along at a barely perceptible pace.
2. Most music, esp. classical such as Mozart and Bach, has cadences every ¼ rotation. In other words, 8 or 16 measures of music usually equal ¼ rotations of the cylinder, or on the sine curve, at the 90, 180, 270, and 360/0 degree marks. You can get an idea of this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrnhYnNqjzU , along with a Mozart piece. Note that the Adagio is at 180 degrees rotation when the piece cadences at around 47 seconds. Coincidence? Maybe, but then maybe not.
3. Much good music (including Bach, Bartok, and oddly, Gil Evans – esp. Sketches of Spain with Miles Davis), follow the arch of the curve. I.e., it builds up during the first ¼ rotation, then releases down to ¾ rotation, etc. I have used these theories in my own compositions. This video you included at the start of this article, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isvcRjRauSU uses an ambient piece I composed that was constructed specifically for use with the Adagio. The rising and falling ball/”moon” follows the sine curve across the screen, with a cylinder rotation speed of 1 rev/90 seconds. Hopefully you get a sense that the music is moving “upwards”, during the upward cycle of the Adagio, then “downwards”, etc. That’s what I intended anyway.
If you work with the Adagio long enough, it can affect you psychologically. You almost feel a little “stoned”. I think it slows your sense of time down, and you begin to notice things that perhaps you never noticed before. Of course the study talks about the fact that it activates the right hemisphere, etc. And so that kind of ties in with the altered-state one gets from viewing the Adagio over a period of time.
Of course the sensation of an altered-state is what eventually led to the biofeedback study. I definitely noticed a change in how I was feeling and seeing things and I had several of my friends try it as well. They also remarked on a change in their perceptions, a sense of “time slowed down”.
In 1978 I was taking a few courses at Nova University in Florida, and also teaching some of the students there computer skills. One of the doctoral students, a friend of mine, Joyce Keen, became interested in using the Adagio as part of a left brain/right brain activation experiment she was proposing. She was able to get some heavy hitters of the time, such as Dr. Joe Kamiya, to be on the dissertation committee. Anyway, the experiment produced some very strong and statistically conclusive results; namely, that the Adagio, and music, reduced stress in the experimental subjects. The general conclusion is that the Adagio and music activated the right hemisphere, thus allowing the left hemisphere, which is the side of the brain that brings our “fight/flight” response back under control, to concentrate on that task. In other words, while the right brain was engaged, the left brain had available “down time” so that it could more efficiently address the stressors that were being administered to the subjects. A few weeks after the initial sessions, Joyce repeated just one session. Evidently the effect did not seem to diminish over time, as the experimental group still recovered significantly faster than the control group.
Some interesting non-scientific results also occurred. For example, one student swore she was being levitated in her chair while watching the Adagio. Another student that suffered from insomnia, said he had started sleeping normally again.
A&Z TODAY: The study was done a while ago, in 1978. What has transpired since?
Well, for better or worse a something called “life” got in the way of my doing much else with it since that time. I got off on a number of tangents, making a living, etc., so I really haven’t done much with it until recently. I know this seems like a stretch, but I have become very interested in politics over the last 5-10 years, and am very concerned about the direction the country, and the world is taking. The human race faces at best an uncertain future, and, according to the majority of climate scientists, quite possibly extinction. What seems to be lacking most in our business leaders and politicians is a little thing called “empathy”. Nobody seems to care about anyone else not within their immediate family or sphere of influence, much less the fate of future generations. As long as they are OK, as long as they are comfortable, who cares about anyone else? That seems to be the current trend, the current way of thinking, especially here in the United States.
Empathy emanates from the right brain. It is a right brain attribute. Well, you can probably guess where this is going. In short, what the world needs most is a little right brain activation, a little more right brain thinking. What was that popular song “What the world needs now is love sweet love”? – a Burt Bacharach song from the mid-1960s if I recall. Unfortunately it is truer now than ever.
For a variety of reasons it seems that artists of all types are drawn to the practice of Zen. For this installment, I asked four other artists from the Vista Zen Center to join me in providing a pairing of poetry and visual images. Each combination is very different from the others but each reflects the committed practice of the artist. I hope you take the time to savor each of these pairings.
We begin with the work of Jiyu Roshi, who is the founder and teacher at The Vista Zen Center. His digital paintings may be seen at his website.
The Way is not difficult
for those who do not pick and choose.
The Way is not difficult
for those who do pick and choose.
When you walk the Way,
just walk the Way.
It is not near,
it is not far.
It just is.
Just do not get in the way
of the Way.
Or, Just get in the way
of the Way.
Either way Is the Way.
Either way is.
I think I’ll go away
David Clark’s blogsite “FromThe Lone Oak” is a wonderful showcase of his poetry, often accompanied by visual images. The image below was created by David on his I Pad.
Unattended and without effort,
The Earth spins on,
Endlessly describing an arc
Around a star
That never blinks.
Rain, without urging,
Always finds its way
Back to the sea.
Jane Mushinsky teaches literature at Mira Costa College and has contributed poems for various publications and poetry readings. She recently returned from Kenyon Ohio where she had won a spot at the Kenyon Review Summer Poetry Workshop.
this body i borrowed
eats mostly scraps
to keep it neat
i fold it in half, in thirds,
a suit i’m packing for a trip.
this body—not mine per se,
a loaner, the keys on their hook
also not mine—dutifully i wash and wax it,
feeling always the edges fraying,
the delicate etching of rain.
sometimes i look in a train’s window
an unruffled pond or plate glass
adjacent a sidewalk, and see—
not I as such, but this body
going about its business, respiring,
contracting and expanding—
an illusion, I; a conspiracy
the body and the thoughts construct
to feel, perhaps, less lonely,
disparate unmusical spheres.
poor body, a show dog easily lead;
poor mind, banging away in its cell—
no wonder they cling to each other
having nothing in common.
Jon Wesick works as an engineer but spends a great deal of time, writing, reading and publishing his poems. More of Jon’s work can be read at:
Zen and the Art of Nuclear Structure Physics
The 1p3/2 proton sat in the zendo
of the copper nucleus.
Back straight, eyes downcast,
he stilled his mind to concentrate
on the Absolute and relative.
As the temple bell struck
a passing alpha particle excited
the entire nucleus into a collective,
The proton burst into Master Neutron’s study.
“I have experienced Oneness!
I now know the Way is like a liquid drop
in which we all move together.”
“Fool!” Master Neutron struck the proton with his staff
sending him into an excited single-particle state.
Nanoseconds later the proton returned to consciousness
looking pale after emitting a gamma ray.
“Your training is to see both Oneness and manyness,”
Master Neutron said. “Recite the Sandokai
and the papers of V.M. Strutinsky until you understand.”
Steve Wilson is primarily a visual artist whose work may be seen in the Painting Gallery of this blog site.
Where Do We Come From? Where Do We Go?
Seven Billion of us now
Where do we come from?
Where do we go?
This painting appeared on my canvas one day,
claiming to be a visual answer to these questions.
Maybe it is, but, I can’t put it into words.
I don’t even know how to tell you
where the painting came from.
Most of you remember a post from the past that looked at the interesting ways that Sean Voisen found to immerse himself in the interstitial areas between art, technology and spirituality. (See ” Art, Zen and Technology: A Visit With Sean Voisen”) Today’s post is written by guest blogger James Wilson, who is playing in the same field and looking at similar overlapping areas.
Yes this is the same James Wilson whose appearance here on earth was largely orchestrated by me in an effort to manifest a life-long playmate. (See “Aliens From Inner Space”) This is the same guy who used to give me nightmares by shaking his crib all night long in his efforts to “escape” it’s material and confining nature. He’s been rattling his crib all his life and the post below provides a look at the wondrous possibilities “beyond the crib”.
By James Wilson
When I was still a student in music school at Boston University, I became aware of what I felt to be a subtle motion, or flow, in music that nobody was talking about. It was something slow, smooth, and not a direct component of the usual suspects: rhythm and harmony. At the same time, since I was a student of composition, I was studying the theories of Heinrich Schenker and others who suggested that the great Masters constructed their music with a conscious implementation of “tension and release” within their musical structures. In other words, their compositions would build to a climax, then release the built up tension, repeat again, and so on, taking us, the listener, on a virtual musical and emotional roller-coaster ride. This was also in alignment with what I felt and heard in music.
Also during this time, I was studying with a wonderful professor at Boston U., Dr. Hugo Norden, who was considered the foremost authority on J.S. Bach, counterpoint, and also on the topic of using the Golden Ratio in music, art, and architecture (“Form: the silent language”, is one of his books on the topic).
The “Golden Ratio”” (also often referred to as: extreme and mean ratio, medial section, divine proportion, divine section (Latin: sectio divina), golden proportion, golden cut, and golden number) is exactly that, a mathematical ratio, which is 1:1.618. In music, Dr. Norden theorized that it was used by the Masters (again, consciously), when laying out the form of the piece they were about to write. Basically, the idea is to lay out a piece of music as a function of time. In other words, if you plan for the piece to last, say, 5 minutes, then at minute 3:06 (1/1.618 = .618 * 5 minutes = 3.1, or 3:06 minutes) the composer would make some extraordinary event occur at 3:06 to divide the time line. This might be a jarring modulation, a loud chord, introduction of a second theme, etc.
This ratio was also used heavily in architecture, especially during Greek and Roman periods, and even way before the Greeks! Often this ratio was used as the ratio of width to height, i.e.
1 .618: 1.00 = width:height.
This ratio is also often found in nature!:
Further discussion of the Golden Ratio in nature can be found in a book by Jay Hambidge, entitled “The Elements of Dynamic Symmetry”.
Authors such as Matila Ghyka, postulate that the Golden Ratio was used by well-known artists:
With these forces at work, I wanted to design and build a device that would:
Visually display the subtle “motion” I was experiencing when listening to music
Visually display the up-and-down/tension-release in music,
Incorporate the design principles of the Golden Ratio.
To do this, I incorporated another concept that has held fascination for me; the sine curve. The sine curve occurs often in pure and applied mathematics, as well as physics, engineering, signal processing and many other fields. Its most basic form as a function of time (t) is:
BTW: For those interested in religious symbols, the key idea here is that the sine curve is formed by the circle as a function of time. Circles commonly represent unity, wholeness, and infinity. Without beginning or end, without sides or corners, the circle is also associated with the number one. In other words, “perfection”, when brought into the flow of time = the sine curve!
All this put together, resulted in my building a visual device that moves very slowly in front of the viewer’s eyes. I have named it “The Adagio”. A Video of the Adagio in action, along with a piece by Mozart, can be seen HERE.
The Adagio incorporates the sine curve, as well as Golden Ratios in the dimensions of the container, and in the angle of inclination of the sine curve itself. The slow moving line can be speed adjusted to the correct “flow” of the music, and the upward and downward movement of the lighted line follows the tension and release of the music being played while you watch.
As stated above, the original construction of Adagio was purely as a means to visualize motion-in-music, and to encapsulate the up/down emotional tension in music. It has done this beyond my expectations.
However, almost by accident, the Adagio was used in a biofeedback study at Nova University, in 1978. It was a very well conducted scientific experiment designed to differentiate between activities associated with our right brain hemisphere, and our left-brain hemisphere. It was discovered that by activating the right hemisphere of the experimental subjects, the Adagio has stress-reducing characteristics! A summary of the study can be seen HERE.
I finally have time to explore usage of my invention and am doing a “crowd funding” to build a commercial version of The Adagio. My goal is to:
- Produce a production model that will be more aesthetically pleasing than the original prototype,
- Produce a production model with greater durability suitable for consumer use, and
- A production model constructed with readily available components.
Here’s a concept drawing of what I envision this new commercial version of the Adagio to look like:
(Click the image above to activate)
You can watch the video about Adagio’s history and potential uses here:
I would appreciate any comments/observations you might have.
Readers may be interested in a follow-up post called “Truth, Faith and B.S. in Art and Zen” Also past post on the flow experience can be located by typing “flow” into the Search Window.( Or see “To Know Flow or No Flow” and subsequent posts on Flow)