Musicians and their Music
MUSICIANS AND THEIR MUSIC
Frank Perry, also English, is a percussionist who gave up a promising career as an avant-garde contemporary jazz musician to follow the path of his heart. He uses an exotic collection of gongs, bells and other instruments to produce music which has a direct effect on the subtle nervous system.
It was in the early 70s that I found myself faced with a major decision about my direction. I was a successful avant-garde percussionist, working with different groups and much in demand, but one weekend when I did some work alone with my instruments I found it was taking me ages to get back into the feeling of them – as if they were covered with a kind of etheric filth. I had to meditate and tune myself up to them. It took at least a day, but then I really got into the instruments again and re-found my basic direction. The question then was should I continue to carve out a big career for myself, or should I follow the direction of my instruments and my heart? I chose the latter and stopped playing with people for about four years whilst I totally rethought my musical vocabulary.
In the late 60s I listened to a recording of one of my drum solos with a jazz group during which, I remembered, I had had very precise, intense feelings. I was interested to see how they came across in the music. But it was totally dead. Only complicated ideas and gymnastics came across. So that was the end of all the practising and technique. I started studying the effects of sounds by improvising and discovering new combinations, and through the more disciplined method of taking perhaps a meditation and turning it into sound.
I had experienced, mediumistic states when I was younger and the first gong I heard live seemed to express how I had felt then. So I bought one. I also had woodblocks and drums and cymbals of different varieties. Then I came across a beautiful horizontal Chinese gong and that seemed to initiate a whole new era of instruments – ones that had more character, such as a set of three Burmese bowl chimes which are on permanent loan to me. So it went on and I collected more gongs and bells and then bell trees. I adapted a lot of instruments and discovered new ways of playing them, more in tune with what I was trying to achieve. More recently I started making instruments.
I also started meditating, having stopped mediumism some time before. I joined the White Eagle Lodge and still am very much involved with that path of healing and meditation. I studied the music they played during their healing services and also came across Cyril Scott’s book Music: Its Secret Influence Throughout the Ages where he describes clairvoyant observation of the effects of music. So I became interested in the occult effects of music upon the consciousness and the soul, which is a kind of healing. The meditation opened up the inner worlds again – not that they had been closed, but it gave me a specific technique of entry and withdrawal. This contact with the inner levels and also the healing aspect were what I wanted to express.
During my first solo concert in 1971, I found myself observing the colours which were being created while I played. During this time a discarnate Tibetan came to work with me for two or three years. I meditated while I played and he would show me the colours created by my sounds. I also studied astrology and found an outlet for that in my art. If I knew the time I was going to perform I would erect a horoscope representing the angelic beings present at that particular time and place and the potential experience of anyone there. I work out the highest potential and try to translate that into a meditation perhaps, and into planetary energies and finally into sounds. I’ve been studying the correspondences between sound and colour, and sound and the planets and constellations for ten years, so when I perform now I try to create a bridge between the archetypally present invisible world and the audience. The music is quite transpersonal in a way. It’s not a case of trying to express myself; all I’m trying to manifest is what is here and now for these people. Whilst all that is going on during a performance, there are also the spontaneous energies of the moment, connected with the acoustics of the hall, how people are reacting and just what has to be done musically.
DEEP PEACE, which I played at the festival, is fundamentally based upon the esoteric Eucharist theme of the Cosmic Bread and wine, symbols used by the Master Jesus, who represents healing. So this music is very much tuned in to healing energies. It was formulated over several years and took me four years to get onto record. In about 1973 I suddenly realised that what I had been doing – a Zen type of thing where the sounds were hanging in the silence and creating a very tranquil state for people, but not a dynamic one – was not enough. For a spiritual gathering of people you have to raise their consciousness to a certain level and so the music has to have a very specific aim. It must have substance and give sustenance. DEEP PEACE represented the fruits of my labours. Between the demo and the final recording of this music I was able to perfect it and also to study its effect on people. The results were conclusive. I was aiming to stimulate certain chakras and people responded to that and verified it without my telling them.
From an interview with Frank Perry by Tim Williams. 1981
Photo taken whilst performing at Findhorn with Paul Horn, Joel Andrews & Jim Scott by Helm Ruth Cournier.