Towards a new sonic consciousness – a profile of Frank Perry
Towards a new sonic consciousness – a profile of Frank Perry
By EDDIE FRANKLIN
Frank Perry is hard to categorise: an improviser who considers structure to be paramount – a percussionist who specialises in sustained sounds – an experimentalist whose primary consideration is the spiritual affect of his music.
Listening to it is to enter a world where previous expectations of form, structure and rhythm may well need to be allowed to rest: to some his music may seem formless, to others ‘New Age’, to yet others just ‘beautiful’. It certainly is beautiful, in some ways it does relate to New Age music – yet it has its own clear structure, form and philosophy.
First and foremost a musician, Frank Perry is also a complex personality and fully to appreciate his work a knowledge of his philosophy and beliefs is needed. Astrology plays an important part in the structure of much of his music and life style. He came to this level of awareness from studying the biblical Revelation of St John where the understanding of astrological and numerological symbolism is inescapable. From this Perry became aware of an esoteric dimension to Christianity to which established churches no longer possess the key.
The formation of his ideas, in the early ’70s, was also strongly influenced by the new astrological and cyclical approach of Dane Rudhyar. For a time Frank practised as a trance medium, an ability which he first discovered at the age of 16, channelling communications from a spirit group who identified themselves as the Great White Brotherhood, whom he subsequently discovered to be esoterically connected with the inspiration behind White Eagle Lodge.
This had a profound effect on Perry’s life and music, causing him to dedicate himself in service to Life and fulfilment of his higher obligations through music and painting. Since 1966 he has consumed no stimulants of any kind and observed a vegetarian diet.
Perry uses a vast range of percussion instruments, many from the East, to create a distinctive sound world – often composed of non-percussive sounds. An endorsee of Paiste since 1973, his collection includes over 500 instruments, including antique Tibetan, Chinese, Burmese gongs and bells, large western gongs and variety of instruments (described below) which he has constructed himself.
In the process of acquiring an instrument he attunes himself to it in order to discover its particular esoteric qualities, and if he is attracted by this energy will only thereafter use it in order to evoke the spiritual level most suited to its energies.
Central to Frank Perry’s musical beliefs is the question: “What would the music be like if I wasn’t in the way of it?” To him music may be approached with a three-fold filter . . .
mental, emotional and physical . . .
thinking. feeling and willing. . .
Divine Wisdom, Divine Love and Divine Power;”
. . .which correspondingly affect a performer’s playing on the level of . . .
thought, intention and spirituality.
“Most percussion music approaches the instrument from a purely physical perspective – it’s a lump of metal and when struck it makes such a noise when scraped it makes such a noise and if you rub it É and so on. There is no awareness or concern of just what such a sound will actually do to the listener.
“Performing from a more holistic perspective, where all three attitudes [above] are utilised, enables me to offer an experience to audiences which allows them to enter a transcendental reality.”
Perry first became aware that these qualities were inherent in musical sound in around 1970 as a result of preparing for his first solo concert (at Falmouth College of Art). “In 1971, I think it was, I bought some Chinese cymbals from Ray Man and that really crystallised my artistic voice. It was just a question of tapping into that source and allowing it to direct things as they unfolded.”
Perry was born 25 June 1948 in Hampstead, London. His father, Frank Perry Senior, worked in an asbestos factory, and had been a successful sportsman and body-builder. Frank Perry Senior had not long previously discovered he was a trance medium as a result of a number of deaths in the early years of the war, including that of his first-born, Anthony, at the age of two days. In fact trance mediumship had been a tradition in his family running back several generations, His mother, Doris Pepper, was of Italian extraction.
Although his father occasionally played drums, music didn’t play a significant part in family life. The latent musician was educated Kynaston Secondary Modern School, for boys London, where no aptitude for music was identified or encouraged until the last few months of his school career, when his skill with polyrhythms was observed by a fellow pupil. At this point Perry felt suddenly confident that he was indeed to be a musician.
Frank Perry’s life and musical career may be divided into periods of innovation followed by periods of consolidation. From 1964–1968, the age of 16 onwards, he was active as a conventional drummer, joining the R’n’B band Abstract Sound in 1965 and, from the following year playing regularly with the late Paul Kossoff in Black Cat Bones, a top-rated Chicago Blues band, with a monthly residency at The Marquee where they backed leading blues artists such as Champion Jack Dupree and Eddie Boyd
“In 1966 I experienced what doctors described as a nervous crisis, but I myself saw it as a test of being able to let go all sense of ego-hood. In February ’68 I decided I didn’t want to cut out syncopation and just lay down a Rock beat so I migrated from blues to free form Jazz, founding the group Musicians Union. In October I moved with my family to Suffolk.”
However eighteen months later Perry moved back to London to re-involve himself with contemporary Jazz and found himself in a circle of musicians based on the late John Steven’s S.M.E (Spontaneous Music Ensemble). “I had a gig in January ’70 at the Crucible, Ray Man’s club in New Compton St, at 7.30 in the evening the day I moved down to London. I emerged the following morning at 7.30 am as the resident drummer!” Frank was to work with many celebrated visitors at the Crucible and elsewhere, including multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk, Mike Osborne, Evan Parker, Chris McGregor and Derek Bailey.
In early ’71 “Keith Tippett heard of me and phoned, came around. He listened to me, liked what he heard and asked me to join his new band.” Reviewing the debut album of this band, Ovary Lodge, in New Musical Express Dave Gelly wrote ‘Frank Perry is a master at juxtaposing small, frail sounds which have you straining to catch their subtle nuances.’ Tippett was later to say “He is the only truly melodic and harmonic percussionist I’ve ever heard. I must admit I think there’s a touch of genius about him.” In the same year Perry also founded and recorded the improvisatory band Balance with guitarist Ian Brighton, Phil Wachsmann (electric violin) and Radu Malfatti (trombone) which was “a very close-listening, fast, pointillist group.”
Considering this period from the perspective of 1994 Perry says:
“We were all [innovators] involved with stretching the boundaries of freedom within the musical framework. We’d all done some work on gathering techniques for playing the established musical genres, not just individual techniques relevant only to our individual instruments but also the techniques involved in playing with other musicians. Yet we had also abandoned some of these. Here I felt more in tune with John Steven’s approach [which] was an emotional focus upon the sense of group unity, of closely listening to one another and subordinating self to the needs of the whole group. A sense of ‘spiritual unity’ really, as distinct from the other approach of doing one’s own thing with whoever. I’d guess that John got it from Albert Ayler – as indeed I did. Ayler’s first recording of his own trio was titled Spiritual Unity and really one heard that in the way they all played together. So beautiful – like a flock of birds flying.
“However, alongside came this search for unfolding my own unique ‘voice’. Other contemporaries were focused more on political issues, they weren’t concerned with ‘intention’ or moral significance but were working with basic emotions, or from their intellectual interests e.g. Sam Beckett. My path of individuation differed from that of my contemporaries. Within the lunatic fringe, I was odd one out. In the world of Jazz I’d be categorised [as] aloof; I didn’t drink alcohol, smoke, take drugs, I was vegetarian, devoted to philosophy and not interested in sex – and if that wasn’t enough, I believed in God!”
By this time Frank had been practising as a healer at White Eagle Lodge for a couple of years, where he is now an officiant. In 1972 he joined the choir and began vocally to explore the spiritual roots of his work in overtone singing and Hoomi voice production.
On 3 Dec 1973 Victor Schonfield invited Perry and Derek Bailey to give a ‘Music Now’ concert at Wigmore Hall. These reviews, from opposite ends of the musical spectrum, give some idea of the concert’s radical flavour:
[Perry’s] improvisation is not the amazing kind, it has no spontaneous extravagances. Neither is it whimsical. While long-term timing is easy going, short-term timing is delicately managed. The music is straight-forwardly appealing, even sweet. Perry builds up a texture with a few carefully matched sounds and the odd repeated pattern, then leaves it for a another. At one point he manipulated a marvellous dialogue between tremolos on a gong and a suspended cymbal.
Perry, more than any other percussionist I’ve ever heard has a really profound understanding of sound, obviously conscious of the importance of use of so-called silence. If anything, what Perry plays is closer to John Cage’s Indeterminate Music than it is to Jazz. In the course of a one hour continuum there were probably as many moments when Perry wasn’t striking anything as when he was. But rather than doing the Ornette Coleman thing of counterpointing silence with explosive noise, Perry’s approach was to bring the volume level right down, so that at times it was difficult to distinguish between sound and the absence of sound. And hearing the fragile beauty of those soft and delicate textures made the thought of heavy 4/4 drumming seem suddenly obscene.
From ’68 onward Frank began to be more and more attracted to freedom from sounds of short sustain and began to explore the use of long non-percussive sounds which reflected his growing interest in the contrast between space /silence /time. For him, short sounds necessitate rhythmic patterns suggestive of earth-bound realities while long sounds relate more to consciousness and those states of awareness beyond the earth.
At this stage his percussion kit already featured a large range of Far Eastern sacred ritual instruments. While contemporary drummers tended to play continuously, Perry evolved a style of freedom, playing only as he felt appropriate and contributing to the overall effect by the application of klangfarbenmelodie. Seeking to escape musical predictability, the avant-garde were using alcohol, drugs &c to unleash passions which however remained firmly rooted on the mental or astral plane, albeit perversely; Perry challenged prevailing extravert orthodoxy by emphasising gentle, and inner-worldly percussive explorations. He was tolerated, indeed respected, because of his originality and artistic integrity, even if the direction of his experiments was thought to hold little promise. The composer-percussionist was esteemed for his rugged individualism just as groups like the Evan Parker /Paul Lytton Duo were, but whereas the term harmony could hardly be applied to groups like the Parker-Lytton Duo Perry deliberately pursued it.
Musical Process & Instrumental Innovation
To improvisers the moment, the cutting edge of the sound, is of paramount importance. Frank’s moment embraces not only the unfolding musical argument but also the interactions unfolding on the spiritual plane.
Perry’s improvisations are carefully designed in advance but he always leaves himself free to vary the structure under the inspiration of performance. His structural ‘skeletons’ are often based on a horoscope drawn up expressly for the time and place of the performance, from which he derives a complex system of sonic symbolism.
In performance he balances the discipline of his prepared plan with an interactive response to the energies he senses being present, shifting focus as-it-were to different portions of the painting as the focus unfolds.
“I see musical performance as an act of sharing, i.e. a spiritual communion, with music as food for the soul /spirit speaking to all present as a language beyond words. I see myself as a bridge between the world of angelic consciousness and humanity, with the music taking people on a deep journey where they end in a different space to the one they started from.
“I’ve studied the effect of the sounds I make on levels of higher consciousness and compared observations with others similarly gifted. At one stage I conducted experiments playing to meditators and interacting with the feedback they gave me from deep states of consciousness.”
He speaks of actively cultivating a sense of Presence whilst he plays, of striving to balance on the knife-edge between trance and consciousness – that magical element which transforms ordinary music into life-enhancing, heart-felt experience and unifies matter with spirit.
The music is at once futuristic and incredibly ancient. At different times informed listeners have commented on the similarity of Perry’s sound-world to that of Messiaen or Takemitsu, which has led the composer to study the music of certain composers with whom he feels an affinity, Hovhaness in particular, but his compositional process rules out any approach arising from the ‘surface’, the mere phoneme, of the sound.
Frank’s had a long-term love affair with the sound-world of Harry Partch since first hearing his music in 1971. Nevertheless he distinguishes clearly between the phoneme of sound, and the intention which has generated it.
“One day when I was still under the impression that ‘all was music’ I heard a bus braking outside where I was living. As a noise it was part of that day’s ‘music’, but from my soul’s viewpoint what was it saying? To me, the sound conveyed no animate message, unlike the sounds of humans or animals it was made without intention. I realised that sound only becomes ‘music’ when it acts as a carrier-wave for consciousness.
These experiences have led Perry to evolve percussion instruments with sound-characteristics which match the ‘shapes’ of the sound sculptures he envisions. Whilst in Switzerland in 1979 the composer visited the Paiste factory, whose endorsee he had been for some years, in order to check out their tuned discs. The instruments described below were all hand made by Perry using the Paiste 2002 bell metal, being gracious gift of the Swiss inventor Werner Achermann, a fellow member of White Eagle Lodge, who patronised Frank’s activities for a number of years until his death in 1984.
After choosing a set of tuned discs that became the Planicerv (see below) Perry was then shown a pile Paiste had rejected in their attempts to make discs tuned below middle C. He took the largest of these (approximately 10 inches in diameter) and cut into it to create a petal shaped circle that would retain the diameter but reduce the mass.
Pic 2 Petalumine
These Perry named Petalumines, in honour of Harry Partch, who stored his instruments at Petaluma, California. Subsequently he found that careful ‘tuning’ of a glass container positioned adjacent to the Petalumine amplified the resonance of the harmonics and pulses to clearly audible levels. The instruments range in size from 4 to 22 inches diameter, with the number of ‘petals’ chosen according to numerological correspondences with the appropriate planetary energy of each.
As with the lower pitched Tibetan singing bowls, these instruments are exceptionally rich in harmonics and of very long sustaining power, enabling chords of varying vibratory depths to be built up.
Pic 3 Ufoms
Another instrument Perry has invented is the Ufom, each of which is created out of an off-cut from the Petalumine. Jokingly named ‘Unidentified Flying Objects of Music’, they have exceptional heterodyning properties, enhanced by the careful tuning of the metal. Similar in pitch to Tibetan Ting-shag (“dingsha”) cymbals, Ufoms are triangular solid instruments whose precise angles are cut according to astro-numerological calculations.
The larger version of the Ufom, Frank has named Pyrahermeezee. The character of the instrument is closely related to the Buddhist Kyeezee (antique Burmese meditation gong). The name also links the instrument with fire and the ‘Platonic solids’ such as the tetrahedron. Also a solid triangle, tuning is effected by micrometric alterations to the curve on the lower plane. The sounds are still, calming, and hang in the air.
Similar to the Pyrahermeezee but designed to rotate, the Pyrotahermeezee has more accentuated curves (being designed, according to astrological priorities, on shapes determined by a conceptual 11 point or 7 point star). Suspended on springs, Frank has found the ideal beater to be a hockey ball fixed to the end of a drumstick!
The Planicerv is a set of tuned discs, whose name derives from Perry’s commitment to the ‘divine plan’, but also refers to the fact that they have been tuned to correspond to the vibrations they induced in his cervical vertebra. Designed to be struck, they’re similar in sound to bowed crotales. There are two Planicervs, one of seven notes tuned to a diatonic scale of C major scale starting at D above mid C. The other, of five notes, is un-tuned and starts in the octave above.
Pic 5 Nectarine
The Nectarine is a row of 18 very small high pitched bells upturned for bowing.
Despite the whimsical names of these instruments, the sounds are of enormous depth and beauty. For each was evolved to fulfil a specific function in Perry’s sound-world.
You may like to listen here to some of these sounds – starting with the Petalumines and then the bowed Planicerve are added (PAISTE Tuned Sound Discs):
During a 10-month weekly engagement at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club with Ovary Lodge, Perry came to find the environment “inappropriate” for playing 400-year-old Japanese Zen Buddhist temple bells. And this caused him to re-think his entire approach to distinction between the sacred and secular musical instruments which resulted in a crisis.
“One weekend in March ’74 [12/13th] I had no gigs for a change, and I just sat and played by myself and thought. It was a crossroads. I was rather alarmed that it had taken me a whole day to really hear my instruments as I did when I played alone. I realised I had a choice to make either I carried on being successful and playing with the bands or I followed my heart.”
In an interview in Melody Maker a few years later Frank expressed it:
“After a while I seemed to be losing the purity of the sound of my instruments by playing them in free music context. You know, I’d strike a gong, which, for me, sets a very specific kind of energy going, and no-one else would relate to it at all. I just stopped playing with other musicians for a long time. I gave only rare solo performances. I felt it was necessary to get back to simplicity. I’d just got too complicated.”
Nevertheless, these decisions led to a period of financial hardship, especially since shortly after this he met subsequently married Christine Pendlebury. For four years Frank worked as a gardener at Hornsey High School for Girls. “Council rules didn’t allow me to work if it was raining, so I used to go in with a satchel which everyone thought had my lunch in, but which was actually full of esoteric books which I’d study.”
This shamanistic musician’s first appearance at the Mind–Body–Spirit Festival at Olympia, London in 1977. The following year he also met and worked with the ex-Eurhythmics flautist Tim Wheater, now internationally known as one of the leading New Age musicians.
The early ’80s were again a time of much new activity. Frank’s fourth solo recording, Deep Peace, was released and he performed with Paul Horn at Findhorn ‘Earth Sings’ Festival. Consolidation followed during the later ’80s with several further solo albums – see discography.
On 2/3 June 1982 Perry twice appeared at the Almeida Festival with David Hykes, founder of the Harmonic Choir. An engagement with the Tibetologist Alain Presencer at Ronnie Scott’s the same year consolidated his interest in Tibetan Bowls. Here Frank improvised accompaniments to Willie Rushton’s reading from The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
The beginning of the subsequent decade was similarly accompanied by a burst of new activity. In 1990 Perry created Ember Glance – music for an installation by David Sylvian & Russell Mills in Tokyo, subsequently re-recording a separate version of the music as Chintamani.
From 1973, the time of the ‘inappropriate’ use of Zen Buddhist bells at Ronnie Scott’s, the percussionist totally committed himself to his “multi-dimensional approach” by using only instruments dedicated to sacred purposes, improvising in a more organic way, following the sounds wherever they led and meditating upon each single one until he felt he had “communed with its full depth”. He felt he was unfolding “an understanding of these instruments and the energies they expressed; the language of these instruments; the language of nature; the language of the spirit.”
This crystallised in its clearest form in the composer’s fourth solo recording Deep Peace, recorded in October 1980. In a long and well-argued introduction explaining his method Perry quotes Sir Francis Bacon – ‘Read, not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.’
Reviewing it in Melody Maker, Hannah Charlton, identified the experience of listening to Deep Peace as ‘not even so much what you actually hear in it, as how over and above that it genuinely communicates a sensation of immense space and, yes, of peace through sharing and listening. Frank Perry has long been more interested in the spiritual and mystical aspects of sound, reaching back to a way in which music played a role in religion now virtually buried in the West. He builds up sound with a wide range of bells. It is not so much drumming as calling a sound from one of these surfaces – either deep and dark or ethereally high and thin. Each succeeding sound, bowed or struck, exists both as a single isolated action and also in relation to what has come into being, so that each new-born sound stands stark for a moment, and then melts into an eerie mass of sound motion.’
In The Guardian John Fordham spoke of ‘an experience as therapeutic as it is musically rich, and played in a manner so respectful of sound that your hearing becomes instantly more discriminating.’; While Carl Stone on Californian Radio KPFK described the effect as being like ‘the sensibility of one of the minimalist electronic music composers of, say, an Eliane Radigue or Terry Riley.’
The work has “similarities to the Eucharist music from Wagner’s Parsifal”, symbolising “the Cosmic Eucharist where we experience our divine sonship /daughtership with the cosmic parents through union (not unity which has overtones of reduction to one).”
The keynote to Deep Peace is ‘om’; the eastern sound symbol for the expression of the Spirit as Love within the soul that can also be heard as the sound of all nature. Deep Peace is composed of two waves of sound starting from silence and reaching a welling but calm climax before returning to silence again. These two waves are the overall structure of the two halves. The piece is a little over 40 minutes long and thus, by equating minutes with weeks, is intended to be symbolic of a child’s gestation.
What is really significant about the memory structures that Perry employs is that they are of remarkable complexity, yet are in no way dependent on the exercise of literacy. All his ‘compositional’ devices, or ‘aides improvisatoires’, are entirely based on feeling and intuitive sensory awareness of time-design. This is most unusual in non-literate musicians, who normally rely on strophic forms for their memory structure. In this respect alone Frank Perry is truly original, and his recorded conceptions can only gain in stature from a degree of analysis which others may in future be able to provide more fully.
I attach an annotated graphic score of the first part of Deep Peace, which expresses many levels of symbolic meaning. Part One is intended to represent the eucharistic element of cosmic bread, while Part Two (not depicted here) represents cosmic wine. There are many astrological considerations to the design of the work it would be impossible to articulate without an intimate knowledge of astrology. However one is that the movement starts with sounds connected to and with Leo, a fire sign ruling the individual heart, and ends its progression with its astrological opposite, Aquarius, an air sign connected with groups. The astro-numerological significance of each planet defines the interrelationship between the sounds associated with each planetary energy and the overall time design.
The first half starts with a large Japanese resting bell and ends with a Tibetan handbell; thus starting and finishing with a musical Om. A ‘Virgo gong’ invoking purification (Virgo’s esoteric ruler is Moon, astro-number #2) is heard at 2 minutes and at 11 minutes, indicated by figs 3 & 12 on the score. A ‘Taurus gong’ invoking the formation of elements at 6 minutes (fig 8) and again at 8 minutes (fig 9). Saturn, #8, is exalted in Libra ruled by Venus, #6, as is Taurus.
At the climax (fig 12 on the score) Perry breaks with his principle of non-metric percussion and adheres to a cycle of 49 beats on two instruments, broken down into 7,6,7,6,6,8,9, (2×7, 3×6, + 8 & 9). This links numerological values of the Moon-2 to Neptune-7, Venus-6 to Jupiter-3 plus Mars-9 and Saturn-8 to the Sun-1 whilst the 49 beats link Uranus-4 to Mars-9. Thus also those planets representing Male (Saturn, Mars, Sun) and Female (Jupiter, Moon, Venus) energies are also linked, and the whole combined in a numerologically consistent and harmonious way.”
The particular transition between figs 11 & 12, which lasts a mere 45 seconds, occupied the composer for nearly two years until he felt he had the optimum configuration of sounds.
The practical considerations of working with a wide dynamic range that included extremely quiet sounds dictated that, contrary to his usual practice, Deep Peace was recorded with the artist multi-tracking a highly structured set of layers – a procedure Perry normally avoids. In order to accomplish it he placed himself in a state of profound meditation where he was able to be aware at an etheric level of the exact timings of each track, and when he overdubbed did so, in a remarkable accomplishment, without listening to previous tracks.
It is perfectly possible to experience Deep Peace at a profound level without in-depth astrological knowledge in much the same way that it is possible to make contact with (/enjoy) The Magic Flute or a Bach fugue without in-depth knowledge of structure, social context or mathematics (if, of course, one actually listens!) The composer / improviser however prefers not to work without that background and we can well enhance our own understanding and love by a greater knowledge. In the liner notes Frank urges people to listen first before reading his detailed introduction in order to come to the musical experience for ourselves before reading.
Deep Peace has long been one of my personal Top Ten. I would recommend part two as an excellent starting place for newcomers to Frank’s music. I cannot but agree with Vee Van Damm writing in Spiral:
The effect of his music is both unbelievably ancient as well as futuristic, and can only be said to depict other states of reality, and other levels of consciousness. Frank Perry is a pioneer into dimensional realities which have not yet been explored by contemporary music and in that he stands alone.
In the North American OP magazine, Michael Draine, commenting on the ‘eerie tranquillity and breath-taking harmonic richness’, remarks that ‘compositionally, this album is more satisfying than Henry Woolff’s and Nancy Henning’s comparable work with Tibetan Bells – in a very real sense one is drawn into an internal journey. No piece of music since Fripp& Eno’s An Index of Metals has had such a profound consciousness-altering effect upon me.
However the complex structure used in Deep Peace is not characteristic of all Perry’s music. In a new piece performed recently by the Perry family at Glastonbury – Four for the Tor – a bell choir of 16 Tibetan Bells is used in conjunction with 4 tuned swung gongs and involve the whole family in spontaneous improvisation. The structure here is ‘skeletal’ i.e. Conch, sun gong, bell choir, bowls /harmonic chant, ululated bowl choir, swung gongs, allowing the interpretation of each phase entirely to the performers.
Should you wish to listen to a snippet of this you will find it on the DEEP PEACE page (under Store – CDs) otherwise a much longer clip is available on the SoundCloud website where you will find me under Frank Perry 4 with the clip being titled Deep Peace of the Flowing Air to you
New Atlantis – Temple of Sound
Another complex skeletal structure is to be found in part one of New Atlantis – Temple of Sound, featuring the rich overtones and great sustaining power of the Petalumines, some ringing up to five minutes.
Reviewing it in Time Out John Fordham wrote: ‘the overtones of harmonics and gongs hang in the air like smoke rings É Perry’s work is as tranquil and spacious as meditation, and with as much of an inclination to magnify the minutest details of sound.’
Having no idea what he was going to do with these instruments their creator went through his usual pre-recording ritual of incense, prayer and meditation. During this he experienced the visitation of an angelic being – upon whose appearance he decided to base the work’s skeletal structure – proceeding first from the indigo–violet body of the angel up to the head and then down to the overall body; and finally to the heart to commune with the universal spirit. The piece thus begins with sounds attuned to indigo–violet moving up to higher tones; coming to rest with the largest Petalumine of 16” diameter with its 12 petals representing the heart of the angelic being. From this point we radiate forth this universal love for all beings represented by 7,7,7 (Neptune) cycle. There are then three 25 beat cycles on 3 instruments; two 34 beat cycles on 5 and two 43 beat cycles on seven instruments.
The beats of the cycles are based on the pulses of the first Petalumine in a triplet rhythm (a beat of the cycle equals three pulses of the lowest pitched Petalumine). All seven Petalumines are used in ascending sequence.
“This links also with the Ray of ritual; seventh Ray; Violet Ray the main focus for which is the constellation Cancer the Mother; Seven cycles on seven instruments each adding to the number seven – three sevens; a Trinity of Unity … thus connecting with Pisces (the fishes) – Buddhist symbol of at-one-ment – symbol of the early linking of East & West.”
A somewhat different approach with an even more simple structure is to be found in Chintamani, Recorded in 1990, but not yet issued in full; however part is to be heard as the last six minutes of Elysia on Out Of The Wood (Isis ISO1). Originally created as Ember Glance for an installation by David Sylvian in Tokyo, the brief was that it should be connected with memory. Frank decided that this could be inverted to become an absence of memory. Although only seven Indian ‘Noah Bells’ are employed on Ember Glance, the full range of 11 is heard on Chintamani. In both cases the structure emerges from the superimposition of two recordings made discretely without reference to each other – other than sharing the same instrumentation and ambience.
Belovodye – Land of White Waters
In addition to concert engagements Perry is active internationally as a lecturer on both musical and artistic subjects. He has made a particular study of the esoteric Russian painter Nicholas Roerich (Rerikh) whose commitment to peace through culture, pax cultura, mirrors the composer’s own. Roerich was connected with the Theosophical Society and also Trans-Himalayan Occult Brotherhood – the inspiration of which Frank also recognises.
Having built up a library of Roerich transparencies Frank often lectures on them or uses them in Mixed-Media events where the paintings and his music are synthesized together to raise the consciousness of the audience – as for instance at the premiere of Zodiac at St James’s Piccadilly on 3rd March 1983 as part of World Peace week.
This interest is taken deeper in the composer/performer’s 1993 album Belovodye – Land of White Waters, possibly his most significant album to date. The CD takes as its theme and structure the vision of a river winding through several landscapes contained in the Roerich painting Song of Shambhala reproduced on the cover. Further inspiration derives from Dane Rudhyar’s ‘Illumined Road’ in his book An Astrological Triptych.
I had not heard this music until I was asked to write this article. A copy arrived at a time my partner and I had put aside for meditation and study. So, without reading the liner notes other than to observe that it was connected with a journey, we played it, sitting by the light of one candle. The first impression on us both was that Track One related to much of Frank’s previous music which we know and love; the floating bells, the spaces the ‘hanging’ near silences: however from Track Two onwards (‘A higher way opened’) there is an almost Wagnerian richness with voice and percussion some of which I find on the edge of uncomfortable. This is most assuredly not a veiled criticism; for me that arts are at least in part about keeping our perceptual nerve ends alive; part of a ‘cutting edge’, To quote from the composer’s CD notes:
“The making of this album has been a journey trusting to the sources of creative inspiration. I began with the vision of a river winding it’s way to the ocean and moving through several landscapes. Just prior the session I conceived it in seven parts ending with the essence of my music. This immediately sparked off in me the idea of seven planets as these are experienced within ourselves. Having got clearance on the beautiful cover painting [for the CD] by Roerich I also took the idea of the pieces representing how each planet viewed or responded to this painting.”
You may wish to listen to a snippet of Track 3
It is important to see the angle of Frank’s actual description ‘how each planet viewed’ i.e. the planets being strongly interactive and not just passively viewed orbs in the sky: the planets are also ‘experienced within ourselves’. This holistic viewpoint permeates the composer’s whole philosophy. I would agree with Mike Steer’s review:
“Calling [Frank Perry] a percussionist gives a completely wrong impression because he creates a totally absorbing universe of sound that extends far beyond the idea of the percussive plugging your imagination directly into his.
If ordinary music is like painting, then this is sculpture. Frank’s music is created in part from an immense number of gongs, whose sonic richness does for me what Keanu Reeves does for young women; Tibetan bowls whose clarity creates a sound you seem to be able to walk right into; and other vibrated exotica. As a composer –for this music, though improvised, is very structured– Frank Perry must rate as one of the most original of the later 20thC, for he has developed a coherent language of rhythm and pitch based not to metrical parameters but on the organic value of the sounds themselves. That may seem a rather daunting description set down in cold print. But experience it for yourself: this record shares that unique property of truly great art of communicating both on a very direct emotional level but of reserving an esoteric depth, for those who care to apply their minds as well as their senses.”
The six planets on this CD represent the first part of a projected Planets Suite. Volume two, which is substantially recorded, will feature the other five, and makes considerable use of his collection of over 90 Tibetan singing bowls, exploring many recondite techniques such as beat phasing, ululation, chords, repeated cycles, bowing, and water bowls.
Perry often speaks of a sense of ‘presence’ while he plays – “that certain magic that transforms music into a life-transforming, heartfelt experience of being lifted out of this world. Most musicians are unconscious co-operators, if at all, with the Sources of inspiration, I continue to strive to become more a fully conscious co-creator. I’m always working to find ways and techniques /approaches enabling me to maintain my inner-world awareness whilst actually improvising. How to be in my body (moving between my instruments and [conducting] the improvisation) [yet] out of my body observing (aware of the full [etheric] effect of the sounds).”
Apart from Rudhyar and Roerich, another strong influence is Manly Palmer Hall; as well the composers Wagner, in particular Parsifal, Feldman, Hovhaness, Takemitsu, Ayler, Coltrane; Partch; Messiaen.
Perry has an encyclopaedic knowledge of 20thC composers and their music which would put many a graduate to shame. But far more significantly he has a coherent esoteric framework within which to evaluate the work and a very clear perspective of its position within the hierarchy of enlightenment. In addition to a comprehensive book and tape libraries on the esoteric aspects of music, Perry also has a magpie-like interest in recording broadcasts of any music that extends or enriches his studies in the organisation of sound.
He is intensely interested in how the human race evolved to this particular condition, especially in relation to form and music. “I spend a lot of time thinking about what alternatives could evolve to what currently exists. Or how what exists could exist, or could have existed, differently.”
As the spiritual base of Frank’s life and music has grown stronger he has put his esoteric–aesthetic ideas into practice working, studying, performing and lecturing. Of his marriage of Eastern and Western philosophies Frank says –
“Yellow remains yellow no matter what language you express it in. The label you put on experience changes according to culture, but the experience remains the same. I’m primarily interested in Universal Truth and then in living those Truths I find. Truth is like a sea we all live in. If there is any such thing as Absolute Truth, then it must necessarily be ever-present and not far off in some distant mythical ‘future’. Philosophy translates as a ‘love of wisdom’ and wisdom is necessarily within as against ‘knowledge’ which is from ‘without’ as evidenced by the emphasis on ‘objectivity’. Along with many others I strive to use both Heart and Mind.
“The experience of the universal Christ Spirit is like the sun – it shines on all no matter their faith or the vocabulary in which they describe their experience. Good and evil or God/Devil are one! The difference being that one is evolved while the other is not as evolved. (Can be difficult to live this one – should carry a government health warning!)
“Love inspires the sense of Union – even between those who are ‘in love’ – it is to do with transcending separation therefore it inclines to inclusiveness and so to a multi-faceted Oneness capable of including all beings”
Perry shares a belief in the demonstrable power of sound depicted in the Sufi story he often tells:
“Once a Sufi was healing a child that was ill. He repeated a few words and then he gave the child back to the parents saying ‘and now he will be well’. A bystander who was antagonistic to this said to him ‘how can it be possible that by a few spoken words anyone can be healed ?’
“From a mild Sufi an angry answer is never expected but this time he turned to the man and said ‘you know nothing about it! You are a fool!’ The man was much offended, his face went red, his face was hot; the Sufi then said ‘when a few words have the power to make you hot and angry why should not a few words have the power to heal?’”
Frank strives to become a more fully conscious co-creator, seeking tunings that arise naturally rather than by imposition, as for instance the diatonic scale. So we see that the spiritual, historical and musical strands of the composer’s life are completely bound together; one could not exist without the other – each helping and supporting the other and leading Frank on his journey: a journey that we as listeners to his music are able to share.
A New Age?
In my opening paragraph I say that his music does ‘in some ways É relate to new age music.’ Why ‘in some ways’?
Much New Age music seems designed as wall-paper music, musique d’ameublement, to soothe and perhaps to provide a background for meditation or gentle activities: in this it undoubtedly does a good job – but seems to me very limited. Frank Perry’s music can indeed be used in these ways (as for example I use Bach and Mozart for relaxations and meditations) but it offers far greater depths to the discerning ear and these can be traced to Frank’s creative and spiritual philosophy.
As is evident, Perry is deeply affected and influenced by colour but doesn’t only use a direct correspondence between colour and sound. Rudolf Steiner ascribed particular colours to very specific emotions and Scriabin and Jan Gordon an individual colour to each note. This is not Frank’s way; although he feels deeply the colour–sound relationship of, for example, Messiaen or Scriabin he approaches this from the angle of his own clairvoyant observations, not on a closely related one-to-one school of thought.
“Working with Tibetan/Himalayan Bowls you may find that three bowls of different pitch all create the colour blue on the astral plane, while some bowls create several colours in varying shades and intensities. Similarly a number of different bowls might be attuned to the same chakra while being of different pitch and colour.”
I see Frank’s music as relating not so much to ‘new age music’ or ‘percussion’ or to the ‘transcendental’ et al, but to a long line of artists and ‘teachers’ of all persuasions (poets, painters, novelists) who have helped open new doors or helped us to climb a mountain and look over.
“My inner world helpers for the music are from India and China, Mongolia and Tibet and it is interesting how I discover that my music conforms to that of these ancient peoples when I find their teachings; for example the meaning of the Indian word Vimuktida is ‘sacred music’ in the sense that it’s explicitly music which leads to liberation, as opposed to music for entertainment or any other purpose. Vimuktida can give deep spiritual insight and temporarily break the cycle of birth, death and rebirth which is the whole point of life.”
“The more complete the calm the mightier the power in action. The superficial activity of the mind must cease – then that calm illumination comes to the mind. When a Gong is struck at its centre it produces it’s fundamental Tone whilst the several harmonics and sub-tones are related to and contained within this central Tone. As we move away from this centre towards the circumference of the gong the harmonics become greatly accentuated and this complexity continues until a discordant state is reached – the centre is lost. This has reference to our own psychic well-being, for when we live upon the ‘circumference‘ of our consciousness it becomes easy to lose that ‘central’ note of our lives – the OM, the living Master within.”
Discography of Solo Recordings
Music for meditation 1976 Goldenhawk GHP 001 cass
Five Plumed Serpents vol 1 1978 Goldenhawk GHP 004 cass
Five Plumed Serpents vol 2 1978 Goldenhawk GHP 006 cass
Deep Peace 1981 Quartz 007 LP
Eastern Approaches 1982 Temple Gallery TEM 001 cass
Deep Peace (reissue) 1983 Celestial Harmonies CEL 007 LP/cass
New Atlantis 1984 Celestial Harmonies CEL 011 LP/cass
Temple of the Stars 1987 EMI KPM 1356 LP
Infinite Peace 1988 Mountain Bell BEL 002 CD/ cass
Peace Eternal 1988 Mountain Bell BEL 003 CD/cass
Crystal Peace 1988 Mountain Bell BEL 004 CD/cass
Star Peace 1988 Mountain Bell BEL 005 CD/cass
Zodiac 1989 Celestial Harmonies CEL 13025 CD/cass
The Healing Bowls of Tibet 1997 Mountain Bell BEL 006 CD
Divine Peace 1997 Mountain Bell BEL 007 CD
Rainbow Healing Peace 1999 Mountain Bell BEL 009 CD
Path To Shambhala 1999 Mountain Bell BEL 010 CD
Singing Bowls of Tibet 1992 Theosophical Soc (2 lectures) cass
Deep Peace/New Atlantis (reissue) 1992 Celestial Harmonies CEL 14007-2 double CD
Belovodye Vol 1 1993 ISIS IS03 CD/cass
Evolution of Human Consciousness Through the Music of Intervals 1993 Theosophical Soc (2 lectures) 2 cass
Discography of Group Recordings
Music for Prepared Piano & Mini Drums Alan Davie 1972 ADMW 002 LP
Blueprint Keith + Julie Tippett 1972 RCA Victor SF 8290 LP
Ovary Lodge K&J Tippett, Roy Babbington 1973 RCA Victor SF 8372 LP
Balance Ian Brighton, Phil Wachsmann, Radu Malfatti 1973 Incus 11 LP
New& Rediscovered Musical Instruments David Toop, Brian Eno, Hugh Davies 1975 Obscure 4 LP
Ovary Lodge (live concert) K&J Tippett, Harry Miller 1976 Ogun OG 600 LP
David Toop /Frank Perry Duo David Toop 1976 Quartz-Mirliton QMC 3 cass
Tee-Pee 1 David Toop 1978 Goldenhawk GHP 002 cass
Tee-Pee 2 David Toop 1978 Goldenhawk GHP 003 cass
Tee-Pee 3 David Toop 1978 Goldenhawk GHP 005 cass
Frames. Music for an Imaginary Film Ark (K Tippett Big Band) 1978 Ogun 003/4 LP
Inside the Magic of Findhorn Paul Horn, JÏl Andrews 1983 Golden Flute GFR 2003 LP/cass
Exploring Atlantis (Cass, Book & Materials by Ken Mills) Christine Perry 1987 Jade Isle 87.002 cass
Into Another World (Music & Poetry)
Owen Davis& Pool of Sound 1987 Dollar of Soul DOS010 cass
Ancient Voices Chas Dickie, Cathy Stevens 1990 Big Life Library BLL005 CD
Ember Glance (CD & Book) David Sylvian 1991 Venture Virgin Records CD
Out Of The Wood Martin Brunsden 1993 ISIS IS01 CD
Celestial Harmonies are distributed Music Select. Isis Records are distributed by Deep Wave. Mountain Bell are available from The Inner Bookshop, 111 Magdalen Road, Oxford, OX4 1RQ.
Ayler, A 7
Bacon, F 4
Bailey, 2, 3
Berg, A 7
Black Cat Bones Band 2
Brighton, I 3
Cage, J 3
Coleman, O 3
Coltrane, J 7
Cosmic Eucharist 4
Damm, V Van 5
Draine, J 6
Ember Glance 4
Eno, B 6
Falmouth College of Art 2
Fordham, J 4, 6
Great White Brotherhood 1
Horn, P 4
Hovhaness, A 7
Hykes, D 4
Kirk, R 2
Kossoff, D 2
Malfatti, A 3
Man, R 2
Melody Maker 3
Messaien, O 7
Musicians Union 2
Ovary Lodge 2, 3
Parker, E 2
Partch, H 7
Pepper, D 2
Perry, Christine (ne Pendelbury)
3 family Four for the Tor
6 Frank Belovodye – Land of White Waters
4, 6 Deep Peace
4 New Atlantis – Temple of Sound
6 Frank, Snr 2
Petalumines 1, 6
Presencer, A 4
Revelation of St John 1
Ronnie Scott’s jazz club 3
Rudhyar 1, 7
Spontaneous Music Ensemble (SME) 2
Steer, M 7
Steiner, R 7, 8
Sylvian 4, 6
Takemitsu, T 7
Theosophical Society 6
Tippett, K 2
Wachsmann, P 3
Wagner 7 Parsifal 4
Wheater, T 4
White Eagle Lodge 1, 3
Eddie Franklin comes from a family connected with the arts. His early interests were the land, birds and music and, later, Buddhism. He attended the Slade School of fine Art, going on to assist his artist father and Gertrude Granger found the Samuel Palmer School in Kent.
From 1964 he ran his own small school (studio 8) in Chelsea as well as teaching at Hammersmith School of Art and Design and subsequently at Hornsey College of Art and Middx. Poly, first as Senior Lecturer in charge of Mixed Media Studies and then developing the electronic music facility at Trent Park. Committed to interrelated arts activities he sat on the committee that designed the first UK BApa course. In the 1970s he attended Lawrence Casserley’s classes in electronic music at the Cockpit theatre; this led to a long-term friendship and a collaboration using sound and light and to the performance group Hydra. Eddie also has an established interest in the use of relaxation and guided imagery in the arts and teaching. Having left full time teaching in 1980 he now lives in France, running own ‘studio 8 – Living Creatively’ courses and activities (with his wife Daphne) as well as painting and studying.
Eddie Franklin, Armanon, 32440 Castelnau d’Auzan, Gers, France. (33) 6229 2513.
CONTEMPORARY MUSIC REVIEW
MUSIC AND MYSTICISM (1)
Issue Editor Maxwell Steer
Volume 14 Parts 1-2
Dane Rudhyar (1895-1985) ‘astrologer, composer, artist, writer, occult psychologist, novelist, renaissance man’. For an introduction to his work see: The Astrology of Personality Lucis (UK) 1936 (p/b Doubleday 1971), Culture, Crisis & Creativity Quest (UK) 1977, Occult Preparations For a New Age Quest (UK) 1975, Rhythm Of Wholeness Quest (UK) 1983, Magic of Tone & The Art of Music Shambhala (US/UK) 1982. An Astrological Triptych, & The Planetarisation of Consciousness Servire 1970. Quest is an imprint of the Theosophical Society.
White Eagle Lodge was founded in the 1930’s by Mr & Mrs Cooke following instructions received from the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood to a (now defunct) group in France (Polaire Brotherhood) to contact an English woman to continue their Work in Britain. There are six basic beliefs which include ‘that God, the eternal Spirit is both Father and Mother;’ that ‘all are brothers and sisters in spirit;’ ‘the expression of these principles in daily life through service;’ that ‘life is governed by 5 cosmic laws – Reincarnation; Cause & Effect; Opportunity; Correspondence; Compensation (Equilibrium & Balance)’. The emphasis is on healing, meditation and service.
All quotations in “double inverted commas” are from personal communications to the author 1994.
New Musical Express 1973
K Tippett, i/v in Hampstead & Highgate Express, 1974.
Albert Ayler, Spiritual Unity, ESP Disk 1002, 1964.
Adrian Jack, Music & Musicians, February 1974.
Steve Lake, Melody Maker, 15 Dec 1973.
Steve Lake, Melody Maker, 23 Apr 1977
See Discography for titles of earlier albums. I am indebted to Frank Perry for the musical and astrological information and explanation.
Melody Maker, 23 May 1981.
Guardian, 9 July 1981.
KPFK, 16 August 1983.
Those wishing to study these matters further are referred to Transcendental Astrology by AGS Norris, p1930 (reprint Weiser 1970).
Spiral Magazine 1989.
OP Magazine, July 1983
including Christine, Rose b3/12/80 & Gabriel b29/8/82.
Time Out 24 Sep, 1976.
Nicholas Rerikh 1874-1947. For an authoritative biography see Nicholas Roerich, The Life & Art Of A Russian Master, Jacqueline Decter, Thames& Hudson (1990). Of Roerich’s own writing see Altai Himalaya (©1929) Arun Press 1983, Shambhala (©1930) & Realm Of Light (©1931) both published by & still available from Nicholas Roerich Museum , NY.
An Astrological Triptych, Dane Rudhyar, Servire 1968, pb Aurora 1978.
CataList Sep 93.