Connection with Universe
The following is an interview between Mr Agi of the Japanese magazine ROCK MAGAZINE (issue 6, 1981) and Frank Perry that took place at the Festival of Mind, Body & Spirit at London’s Olympia in 1981. The interview was taped and then translated into Japanese. I was sent a copy of the magazine and eventually asked a Japanese friend of mine to re-translate it back into English. The results were somewhat frightening – being mostly both unrecognisable and unintelligible. What follows is a further attempt by myself now to rescue as much as possible of what was said for the sake of those interested. I do not have access to the original taped interview so that what follows cannot be said to be that interview verbatim. Nevertheless every attempt has been made to reconstitute it as accurately as is possible. Nonetheless, there are entire passages that were virtually incomprehensible and in these cases I’ve attempted to travel back in time to ‘translate’ those thoughts and ideas into English.
CONNECTION WITH UNIVERSE
When I listen to your music I feel you got influenced from Zen. 14 years ago, I studied from the book of Fu Neng called “Deliver of Spiritual” and in these 12 years I learned many different idea, at the same time I studied about Zen some time. I have a record made by Zen monk. And I like this very much.
If you like, within the so-called ‘mandala’ of the bell, is revealed its own sound-nature. To express this another way; if you think about the bell in a symbolical way, only the outside of the bell vibrates, and the centre of the inside of the bell is very still because that is the only part that doesn’t vibrate. The music played by bells is related to this stillness and this is a kind of key that expresses what lives in bell music. In short, in the western world, the key in music is a chord like C Major F# Major, but in this bell music of mine the key is OM (Sanskrit).
We can listen to the Om in many situations; it could be in the country or in the garden, this could also be experienced in conversation between me and you (Mr Agi), and then in this way you can hear every sound surrounding you – but not with your biological ear but rather with your spiritual ears.
From this point we listen to the harmony of Nature and we start to feel it. Once, whilst I was communing with an area of wild nature, I noticed a particular bush and then I heard a sound coming from that bush. I could then hear an entire symphony of sounds created by everything around me. If you look at such an area of wild nature you will find how everything that is there is in its correct place and how everything together creates a perfect balance. Another way of seeing this would be by comprehending that the varieties of plant growth arise through differences in the soil. And we realise there is a kind of music which we can’t hear with the ear but that the harmony of nature sings out of this intrinsic order. Then we can listen to that music and also realise that everything on earth, or out in space, or the existence of the whole universe, vibrates in harmony with this sacred word of OM.
One needs to find an inner stillness in order to catch this music of nature. And that is the silence of the bells’ centre and in Tibet; for instance, the bell is a symbol of wisdom. Because when we think about that symbol, the centre of this bell is quiet and if we draw a circle around the centre and expand it that will be similar to the shape of a bell. And this quiet centre exists in you. And so it’s a circle radiating vibrations outwards and getting bigger. Your vibration is expanding as well. We are all growing. Once we are conceived it is as if this bell-sound grows as we grow too into our several bodies. Similarly, if we correctly produce the sound of “AH” from our Heart Chakra we will create a circle radiating rays of golden light. Herein lies wisdom, for that great Mother of Life supplies the substance for all the variety of forms living in Matter; and if that stream of life is a rock or a mineral it will be given a form as a rock; and that same process happens in the lives of flowers, fishes, animals, stars, solar systems, galaxies, and universes.
From this point I’m listening to you, or because I have this body I am meeting you. I was given this body to see you in special way. And then after experiencing this meeting I will better understand the relationship between what was internal and what external. It was to unify these two that we were given this body from God.
Japanese god hasn’t got internal thing, but it is surrounded by the things like you are surrounded by your music.
I am at the centre of my music and even the way that the instruments that I use are laid out expresses the structure of my body. They encircle me. Just as my heart creates the circulation of blood in the centre of my body and that blood reaches every single cell out to the fingertips or the tip of my toe. I experience playing music in a similar way. That’s to say that the instruments are as an extension of my body and just as the spirit expresses itself through my body so it can then manifest through the instruments. I don’t play ‘on’ the instruments! Just as there is an aspect of my body that is unconscious so too the spirit of the music may be unconscious as in Zen. This also reflects the Zen teaching that ‘The one is in the many and the many are in the one’.
I sometimes refer to my frames holding the instruments as my rib cage, which, amongst other things, protects the heart. The heart of my music lies protected within this circle of sounds. I experience this in a macrocosmic way also by thinking of a lung as the earth and the ribcage (12 ribs) as a zodiac (12 constellations). The cosmic influences coming towards the earth are modified through the zodiac thus keeping the balance between earth and cosmos. This principle is also reflected within the atmosphere of our earth, which usually cuts out any of the harmful radiations coming from the cosmos. In this manner the atmosphere of the earth acts like a ribcage in protecting life on this planet.
When I feel music is a vibration when I listen to your music, how does you think about the vibration?
In ancient India, magicians could control an animal or human body through the power of sound. Each animal has a different call and these different calls determine each animal. By knowing the animal’s call it was possible for these ancient people to resonate with the vibration of the spirit of the animal. Thereafter the magician could control the animal through uttering this sound vibration.
In the Bible it says “In the beginning was the word and the word was God.” In relation to these words found at the beginning of the Gospel of St. John, we find in the Hindu metaphysics of sound that there are described four stages. The first stage of sound isn’t a vibration at all – it is thought. This sound without physical vibration (anahata nada) is pure sound at its primal stage. All phenomena are produced by thought, which becomes form. We read in this Bible that we are made in the image of God. From this standpoint the thought of the Creator has created not only the human life form but also the entire universe and because of that we are interrelated with the whole universe.
In the same way, an artist forms their image in their brain and then draws that picture. The Image itself, or that ‘seed-thought’ itself, is the picture. Similarly, we may have an image of food in the brain before we start cooking – let’s say that we wish to bake a cake. Then we must choose the kind of cake. Then we go about the process of making this cake. This is a concrete example of how thought becomes what we call reality. The words “In the beginning was the Word,” means that all manifold life is at some stage of the process of the manifestation, or externalisation, or incarnation of Thought or Sound.
The next stage according to the ancient Hindus is described as visionary. It has to do with light. Similarly with the Bible we find “And God said let there be Light!” This stage has been described before for it is the jump from the thought of food to the vision of a specific cake. That sound which was a primordial thought provided the source of vibration, which now takes its first step on the journey towards form. Little by little it attracts the form to itself. However, the physical form will never fully contain that essence which has no sound and no form. For example a bus passes you by and makes a noise, a sound, which hasn’t been created by thought but, rather, is merely a physical vibration. Few people would pay attention to all the noises accidentally created by machines because there’s no intended thought being communicated through those sounds. Certain sounds however are produced by thought and it is for this reason that music transcends language because the thought behind the sound is closer to the source than a word would be. Words are closer to the world of form than sounds are. The word MAN (in English) originate from MANAS (in Sanskrit of Hindu) and this indicates that a human being is considered to be a conscious thinking being. The purpose of man – the thinker – is to awaken from the unconscious to self-consciousness: to self-awareness. The origins of language are closely tied up with such ancient tone-magic. Thought being such a central issue for us manifests itself through sound vibrations in these four stages. ‘As a man thinketh, so he becomes’. This power of thought can be considered magical. But the true white magic is born of love even as behind each thought wishing to manifest there is a desire. Even Buddha said that we couldn’t kill desire we can only refine our desires. Everything we do – the food we eat, the colours we surround ourselves with, the words we feed our mind with via books, and the music we feed our soul with – all these things create our future. Something of the soul of the composer is shared with us whilst we listen to their music. Suppose I were to send a record to you. The sounds on the record will be carried by ship, or by aeroplane, and carried by postman and after all these processes it will finally reach you. And the medium, like this ship, aeroplane, or postman, is a metaphor for the vibrations contained within the music and the vibration between you and me whilst you listen to that record is not conveyed in the music or the record as a thing in itself – but these do serve to enable your consciousness to catch my consciousness, which is beyond those sounds that can be heard. And in a strange way these vibrations will influence us, in what might be thought of as ‘sound magic’, because they will result in creating some sort of corresponding resonant vibrational activity within the relevant area of the listener’s entire being.
I heard you have an interest in Mandala?
Yes I do. However, a Mandala should be restricted to a special form, which is sometimes a cross or very often a circle, and that circle is symbolical of the infinite because a circle has no middle, beginning, or end. It is like an eternal circulation. Interestingly, we can find something similar on the piano, for each piano octave is comprised of 12 notes, and that octave provides the basis of all the sounds used being as the pattern of 12 notes inside the octave is repeated as often as is possible within the limits of human hearing – which on the piano is around 7 octaves. Of course the piano has low, medium or high sounds but these are simply cyclic repetitions of the same 12 notes. By meditating upon this fact we can even use a piano as a form of mandala.
Yet another type of mandala can be found for instance in astrology. Providing I understand what there is to know regarding Jupiter and can embody this in a diagram (mandala) composed of colours and form, then another person gazing upon this same mandala with the same information will enter into communion with the same spiritual energies of this planet Jupiter. This is the astrological principle of the microcosm is within the Macrocosm – the hermetic axiom “That which is without is like unto that which is within”.
And if we conceive of our essential Self as the generator of our own personal mandala, then we will be able to find it reflected in our outer life (or vehicles) as a kind of mandala. This is because a mandala is directly related to a single thought. Everything within a genuine mandala resolves to that one source which can be traced throughout all of its details, which revolve around that one central thought or idea. For example suppose you and me agreed upon what we intended with a specific symbol. Then when each of us looks at this same symbol we share the same consciousness and so our two minds become one during that moment. So, even should you be in Japan and I be in London, our two minds are one. Whilst our minds are engaged in contemplating the mandala, physical space and time are transcended for we are sharing the same thoughts and are aligning ourselves with certain forces or energies within the universe through the unity of the mandala. We can say ‘In perfect love, there is no separation’ and this is a law of the universe. When the people of earth understand this aspect of the mandala the world can then be experienced as a mandala of which each one of us is a part. We can then all come together as one being. The connection between symbolism and the form of a mandala is a very important matter. The civilisations, which spent considerable time evolving the language of symbolism, are the American Indian and Egyptian civilisations. But especially the ancient Egyptians evolved this pictorial form. Ancient Egypt used a very fine pictorial language and even today these ancient pictorial representations of the observations of heavenly bodies associated with certain birds or animals remains in those Egyptian temples e.g. Temple of Hathor at Denderah, Temple of Khnum at Esna, etc. If we learnt Egyptian language we could understand what ancient Egyptian civilisation tells us. The same may be true of the Chinese language as well. I don’t understand Chinese language but it uses pictographs, which bear some resemblance similar to a mandala. As you understand Japanese language, so, when you behold a Japanese word you can relate that word-picture to its root idea or thought through a kind of symbolism. This is the ‘filter’ of language working within the subconscious psyche. Through the creations of ancient peoples you can see the vibrations that influenced their epoch – time or age. This represents a method of comprehending the processes of the immortal Life (that has existed throughout the several periods of time) and this is achieved through the universal language of symbolism that can assist us in becoming more aware of those energies existing within the ancient primitive life.
Most of this energy exists in both the subconscious and superconscious areas of our mind. We need to evolve both aspects of our brain – the practical consciousness and the spiritual consciousness. Through using our spiritual consciousness we discover a corresponding set of five senses that are the spiritual counterparts of our earthly senses. There is another body, which we can’t see with our eyes, and it is called a spiritual body and therein is our spiritual consciousness and when we possess this body then we can see things with our spiritual eyes. And with this eye we can even see the past or future and can go anywhere; even to other planets. Using such an eye we can enter into a kind of communion of consciousness with the spirit of the mandala and being led by the mandala we discover its deeper meaning. Through achieving union with the energies within a sacred mandala our thinking is led along specific pathways. By looking at a painting we receive the vibrations from it and we adjust our thinking in order to resonate with that of the artist in order to understand. Then we take away those deep thoughts and strive to apply them to our life. Mandala conveys a special energy, and ultimately it’s a universal energy.
A Mandala is like a planet; or, it’s like a god and it touches a form of primitive consciousness within us. If you understand a mandala then you attain to the same dimension of energy-consciousness-vibration as exists within it. There are many levels of understanding possible within any one mandala and we are always amazed when we are initiated into ever-deeper layers of meaning and significance. Sound vibrations have been seen for centuries to create similar mandala forms within substance – e.g. through the Voice Eidophone Figures we can actually ‘see’ ordered geometrical mandala-like patterns created by the human voice pronouncing the vowels A…E…I…O…U.
Mandalas viewed from the perspective of spiritual vision reveal a wide field of energy emanating from the One Source. Such radiations emanating outwards condition the manifestation according to their essential energies. The ‘Virgin Space of Repotentialisation’ is somewhat like a cosmic womb that, upon receiving a Seed-Atom from the Creative Source, commences to produce a form best suited to the vibrations of that Intention. Let us take as an example a white sheet of paper. It expresses the universe and at the same time it expresses absoluteness. Just as soon as something begins to manifest upon this sheet of virgin paper it falls from its universal potential and I restrict it. Likewise, the universal potential of my own life is restricted by the condition of my consciousness. In the same way it is said that at a Zen temple there is a bell hanging outside of the abbot’s room. Before any monk goes to have an audience with the abbot, he must strike the bell twice. From the sound produced upon the bell by the monk, the abbot will know the condition of that monks mind whilst listening to the sound of the bell. That is why the bell is there. In other words the sound produced is representative of a pattern, which actually expresses the internal condition of ourselves, our consciousness, or our degree of enlightenment. The condition of ourselves is therefore manifested in our actions and we need to understand something of these secrets of vibration.
Another discipline that reveals subtle energies is found in the astrology that I’ve been learning since 1973. Contained within the dynamic energy pattern of the horoscope is the essential energy vibration of the individual concerned. If I have your horoscope then I can see and understand you and what is happening around you by looking at these energy-patterns. For example, concerning the Sign of Cancer; the mother’s sign of Cancer is Kwan Yin or Kwannon, I have chosen this sign since it relates to our communication because we have talked about the processes of manifestation (Mother) both now and previously concerning manifestation and also regarding the ‘mother of magic’. And the sign of Cancer relates to that process by reason of it having for one of its symbols an eddy in a stream. In fact, our astrological glyph for this sign resembles two small eddies. An eddy concentrates the energy within the river. Therefore, the energy of Cancer is rather like that of an eddy whereby everything else in life (the river) is allowed to pass by, whilst that which is desired for the self (the home) is abstracted from the general flow. When I create the music it is as if I say ‘yes I need that gong sound’ and then everything else disappears from my mind except that one gong. Then I take up that gong and it is there in the music.
This process is similar to that found in mantra – which is a technique for focussing the mind. If you chant a mantra designed to create inner peace, then, because that mantra has an obvious aim, it serves to assist you in concentrating all your energy towards that aim. If you wish you could even view the mantra as being like an angel. For example, whilst listening to sacred Tibetan tantric chanting, you could view the collective thought-form built by the concentrated consciousnesses merging with members of the angelic brotherhood in spiritual service to the wider community. Intuitively I feel that this is an essential part of such chanting. Such chants can be written down and the act of writing is a powerful means of manifesting that thing. The chanting by the monks I see acting like fingers kneading the dough, i.e. their spiritual activity helps to assist in raising all levels of humanity towards attunement to this higher vibration – it creates a transformation of human society. In a spiritual way, chanting alters our consciousness assisting us to leave behind our worldly thoughts. Therefore whilst listening to monks chanting we can resonate with their deepest spiritual intentions and lay aside our rational mind and enter into spiritual their communion. In this way the art of chanting may alter our consciousness even as meditating upon a mandala likewise influences changes in our consciousness and both of these practices derive meaning from meditative states. Meditation is similar to the process of dying a piece of cloth. Firstly, we place the cloth into the orange dye and then we expose it to the sunlight and much of that colour then disappears. Through repetition the cloth gradually adopts the orange colour. Through repeating spiritual meditation we gradually create a new condition of conscious awareness partaking of the particular spiritual essence that resonates with the meditation until finally we become indistinguishable from it. Then we must go further.
How did you meet with Robert Fripp?
I was working with the group I’d co-founded with Keith Tippett called Ovary Lodge around 1973. And we had a contract with RCA and Fripp produced 2 albums for us. Then he became really interested in my music and we produced 2 further albums together for his own label. In one of them I composed a special backing track, which was for his friend talking about magic and witchcraft. This being done in the first take there was time for me to record a solo album too. That was quite a long time ago. So the place we met was in the studio where we worked together and had that kind of relationship where he was the producer. Following this, he sometimes came to see Ovary Lodge when we were playing upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s club each Wednesday and he would bring all kinds of people – like Bill Bruford and Ian Anderson. Keith’s wife (Julie Tippetts) was also in that group and she was once a very famous pop star and fashion model too. I’ve not played with her for some years now until a few days ago. She’d had two children and I thought that it’d be difficult for her to continue working in music until they were a little older. But recently she started again. It was a wonderful session. I asked Robert if he felt that he could add some kind of endorsement to this album DEEP PEACE. He kindly agreed to do so and his remarks are displayed upon the back cover because I considered that people unfamiliar with my music might give it a try with his comments added. I believed that the music on this album was accessible to a wide range of listeners. The problem was how to engage their interest. Then I had this idea of asking Robert. I don’t think they’ll buy it just because his words are on there but at least it might encourage them to give it a try. Then, although the music is very unfamiliar to them, they might be pleasantly surprised to find that they can enjoy it.
Do you have your own God?
I’m not so passionate as to want to possess God all for myself alone! I believe that God exists everywhere and in everything. I’ve never been very interested in the Aristotelian view: the idea that God is not there, but here. The idea that god and man are separate and never the twain shall meet. Even the idea that God is mine and is in me and also in you – I’ve not had any interest in that way of thinking. I’m not interested in where God is. God is only a word describing a being of absolute wholeness. If the being we designate God represents the whole absolute existence, it then follows that God exists anywhere or in anything. I like to think of God being like sunlight, which rays down upon everybody whether those people be in houses or in the field. There are people who don’t like sunlight, and others who like it very much and those people who like it, they will stop work and take off their clothes to be in the sunlight. So, if sunlight is considered to be a similar thing to God, then some people try to hide from God whilst other people pray for more: some people work with the sunlight, and some people without it. The light of the Sun reaches to everywhere in the solar system but our earthly experience, gained through rotation of the planet, dictates that there are some places where the sunlight doesn’t reach. So, should they choose it, human beings have a chance to ignore that creative energy by only coming out at night.
How do you think about artificial thing, for example like plastic?
It is only an external form. Being composed of natural substance it must contain some spark of the creator even if this is a tiny spark. I strive to rise beyond the outer form of things in order to arrive at the essence. If we pay too much attention to the differences in the outer forms we create an obstacle, which denies us the opportunity to enter into relationship with that which lies at the essence of the object, which then robs us of the higher truth. If we take a prism then we can see the seven colours when the sunlight passes through it. Then we see that many things (colours) are made from out of the one (white light), so too, many things can be united to Oneness and this conception of reality is well known to sensitive people or to monks on mountains. We need to be mindful of such ideas as we enter into the Aquarian Age – which is the age of thought and of brotherhood.
Sometimes our mind is positive but sometime it is negative or, again sometimes it is critical and at others peaceful, or it can be cruel – like when scientifically analysing an animal through vivisection. Our mind receives many thoughts from the collective one Mind. If I think that a particular woman is a sensitive person then in my view of her she is a sensitive person. If she has committed murder, then everybody will say ‘She is a terrible person. God cannot save her’. This is because the power of the collective thought of the masses goes against whatever I may think about her. This collective thought produces a serious obstacle to maintaining my view of her. To a certain extent, therefore, it is our responsibility to not focus upon the bad side of life. We must strive to see the good in things and think positively and thereby encourage a positive future for all. For it is true that even in that dangerous person there is a tiny spark of fire – of the divine spirit. I’m not saying that we should send lots of loving energy to wicked people, for they may take this energy and use it in order to add yet more destruction. However, we should try to resist the temptation to resonate in sympathy with their unevolved energy, by holding fast to that spirit of goodwill – of brotherhood. Aquarius is the sign of the ‘Water bearer’. From Aquarius let us return again to the cardinal water sign of Cancer – this Mothering quality nurtures others enabling us to find the good in others. Even if the good in some people is only a tiny seed, it can grow through the spirit of love even as a flower will bloom when given water. And that is the mystery of the lotus.
What is your future plan or how about the plan for next album?
I’m thinking about my next album. I think that it will take 5 years but I don’t care how long things take. I’m planning to create a piece based on the astrological cycle of the seasons and it could even be a double album – because I’m thinking of putting one season on each face of the record. So I am researching the possible relationships between my gongs and constellations. I will also sing and play flute for some signs. The basic shape is regarding special instruments for this piece is already outlined. But I don’t care even if it takes 5 or 10 years because time is not important to me at all. I’ve been making improvised music for 14 years already and so I don’t worry about spending four years for this special record. I spent around four years for my last record DEEP PEACE. I keep on investigating and unfolding my new musical direction until I have created to the best of my ability. What I want to say is I’ve been waiting until I can make something worthy of people’s attention. I never limit the time.
When you start new album?
Firstly, the record company who put out DEEP PEACE (!Quartz Records) must come to me and say we want you to make record. Secondly, I have to compose the music. I will take 2-3 years until I finish getting my ideas formulated. This is partly because I have to buy some of the instruments needed and I also have to make some more instruments and then I need to have more time to think about it. I’m not in a hurry. The reason I’m in no hurry is that I want to create valuable music and not fashion music. I strive to create classic albums, which will be put out by labels that will keep them available for years and years. It will be released on David Toop’s label because then there is always a possibility to get hold of it. If a regular record company releases it then most likely it’ll get deleted after one or two years because it’s unlikely to sell as many as they’d like it to. It’s likely to need 10 – 15 years before people can appreciate what its all about. 15 years later people might say ‘have you listened to this record?’
Tell us about your career.
In 1964 I started to teach myself to play drums. I played in one or two rhythm & blues bands and next I went for auditions and was chosen to join the Chicago blues band called Black Cat Bones in 1966. Paul Kossoff was the lead guitarist in that band and he was an exceptional talent. Unfortunately he died through drugs in the mid 70s. In 1968 Paul left that blues band to form his own new band to be called FREE. He came around to see me and asked me to play drums in his new group. I said no as I had chosen to go into jazz. This was because I’d been playing blues but found that the sound level (amplification) was far too high for me. There was also too much ego inevitably involved through living in a competitive society and anyhow I was asked to leave because I refused to restrict myself to a basic blues beat. I played in a unique way, which was very different from other blues drummers. I used syncopation and through finger control I could play rhythms with my left hand on the snare drum, which other drummers would have to use two hands to do. I was playing this march-type rhythm on the snare, another rhythm on the cowbell, yet another on the bass drum, and then another on the hi-hats. Complete four-way co-ordinated independence! Friends would come up afterwards and say that most of the audience was trying to see where the ‘other’ drummers were! I only did all of this complex polyrhythmic and advanced technique stuff on certain numbers but it really annoyed the singer who was doing his harmonica solo. Never mind that he played harmonica most of the time! Anyhow, he pushed for me either to stop it all or leave the band.
It was more usual to use such advanced finger control techniques in modern jazz. So I thought I’d move on to playing jazz. Also that music was acoustic and so wouldn’t be so noisy. Soon after making that decision I went to my local record shop in Hampstead (London) where a friend of mine worked. He asked how the blues band was going and I replied that I’d left and was looking to begin playing jazz. He happened to know of a saxophone player called Mike Sullivan who needed people to play with so I hooked up with him. It turned out that he was heavily into the music of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble (S.M.E.) led by drummer John Stevens. I went see the S.M.E but didn’t understand their music at all. It simply seemed utter noise, chaos and nonsense. It was utterly unfamiliar and seemed very odd to me and totally devoid of technique. I focused upon the drummer, as that was an instrument I knew something about. He had a very basic technique whilst his drum sound was very quiet and made drum sounds I’d not heard before. I was used to normal drum kits but he played on tambours and a tiny bass drum! It made a very odd sound. Anyway that music was really strange and I didn’t like it at all. However, it intrigued me and I thought about that music for about three days sometimes going without sleep. I simply had to get to the bottom of it all. Then after 3 days all of a sudden I could understand it. I then realised for myself that this was the future of music. It was a totally new direction for me. However, I thought that I had a unique chance to find myself as it presented a kind of virgin field or space. So it was that I began my career in jazz by playing this kind of music and never played old style jazz music as I’d imagined I would! I got straight into the world of improvised music. Of course, during this period all I played was improvised music. I worked with many musicians for example Howerd Riley, Chris McGregor, and sometimes playing duos with them and I also did duos with Evan Parker or my own Trio with him and Derek Bailey.
And around 1971 when I formed a trio with Parker and Bailey I also worked with the artist Alan Davie. I had met him in Cornwall when I’d spent a summer season there playing drums for the local jazz trio called Jazz Roots. This featured Tony Dickinson on vibraphone and founder Goudie Charles on double bass. We had a residency at the basement of the Railway Tavern pub in Penzance. That was a really good tight group of which I have very fond memories. And then Goudie introduced me to Alan Davie who lived in Cornwall several times a year and we played free music together in a cottage up in dingle just up the hill from Goudie’s. When I came back to London he invited me to his home and subsequently released the record we played there. On that occasion, I played a small mini kit consisting of Japanese drums and Chinese cymbals and bamboos and other things. That was a fantastic record because he didn’t know what I was going to bring and I’d no idea that he’d got the piano set up for playing Cage’s sonatas for prepared piano. And around that time I formed the group Balance with the guitarist Ian Brighton. We played as a duo first and then the electric violinist Philip Wachsman, and the trombonist Radu Malfatti, joined us and sometimes Colin Wood turned up on the cello. I was generally busy around that time. I worked with many musicians for example: Chris McGregor, Mike Osborne, Gary Windo…etc
I was playing all sorts of modern jazz music, free music, and totally improvised music and when I wasn’t playing or recording, I was rehearsing – either alone or with one of the groups of musicians with whom I worked. I also had several tours, mostly with Ovary Lodge – a group which I co-founded with Keith Tippett, visiting Italy, France, Holland, and Germany and made albums. But that weekend nothing was happening, everybody was away somewhere or another and so I had a rare chance to explore my own music for meditation upon my sacred instruments. It took me most of the Saturday to really find my way back deeply into their sound world. This made me realise how out of touch I had become through playing music with these other people. This was a terrifying thought. I was faced with a real crisis! Should I continue my career or stop everything and turn my attention to what I really wanted to create from deep within my heart? The answer to this question was made very clear to me at the next rehearsal. This was with the group Balance. At one point I struck one of my Burmese Kyeezees – a kind of meditation gong made for Burmese temples – and I realised very profoundly that none of the other musicians present could hear what that gong was saying. I was still relating to it from my meditative, or altered consciousness state. For me it made an OM sound. A very long OOOOOOMMMMMM sound! That gong rings on for nearly two minutes! I played the gong for them and asked them to listen. They couldn’t get what I was trying to say. It proved utterly hopeless. I demonstrated upon my own instruments how they’d reacted to that sound and then went on to demonstrate how I would react to that same sound within the context of playing solo. Their musical response had been extremely frenetic – within that consciousness my gong was simply a single note or pitch, even though its sound continued alongside everything else. The thought contained behind or within that sound was utterly lost in the cacophony of noise. There was no conception among my fellow improvisers that sound could be associated with thought and absolutely no interest shown in exploring that avenue of improvising. I had no choice but to stop playing with everybody else. I honoured my commitments but stopped at the earliest opportunity. And I decided that, for as far as I could see, my future direction lay in studying my instruments upon these subtler levels of experience. I have a very definite idea regarding the experiences that I want to express and I could liken it to a lotus on the water. When I visualise this lotus within myself, I listen and watch and then I study how this is reflected in the meditative music played. I’m always trying to lessen the gap between Intention and Result! So I accepted that I create a very different kind of music from what I had done before and that this might mean that I will never play with anybody else ever again!