Musculpt: Reflections 40 Years Later©

Five minutes of true silence is a composerís supreme achievement in a lifetime of struggles with sound: no greater symphony; no-symphony, the greater. Inner yet, is realization of soundís aspiration itself: the sounds inside the sounds of no-sound. Certain sacred spaces yield the no-sound mode of being: high desert country; but most pristine, the deep winterís arctic-circle tundra night of ice fog gripped in the red-green dancing whistle-arpeggios of Natureís own “cold” aurora.

The winter of 1959, I fell through the ice of Gull Lake, Michigan near an outlet cove and was swept under and away from the hole. This was my first full-blown near-death experience. Time warped a minute into an hour. In the blackness, I kept rising to the undersurface of the ice, which was alive with sound. Iceboat runners, sailing 50 mph, bowed the frozen lake fetch as if it were violin strings, filling the watery netherworld with eery pizzicato barbs. As my breath began to give out, I saw vast clouds of yellow, red, and orange emerge, form, recede in response to the runner barbsí rise and fall in volume. At just the moment I settled into this music-sculpture as into a grave, my last rise to the ice bottom found air above the fast moving water of the exit stream forty yards from where I had crashed through the ice.

My next encounter with stimulated emission of inner music-sculpture took place on the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska, several miles off shore from Nome in February of 1961. Another “night and fog” event. I had flown into Nome with my high school basketball team to play three games in the period of a week. There was much free time. One early morning (dark in arctic winter), I decided to see if I could see Russia. Dogsled rides had paled upon me. After all, the Strait, I had heard, was only 56 miles wide, and all of Native America had walked across it. From 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. there would be dawn-dusk light and, just maybe, I would be able to see the Soviets. Surprisingly, the ice was wild with sound! Creaking, yawning, yowling, crackling. It was dead calm and -40° F. One could drive a truck across the Strait, I thought, if it werenít for the six-foot high ice ridges every half mile or so, which had formed, I speculated, by wind-driven floes as freezing transpired early in the winter. Properly dressed and absent even a breeze, it is surprising how comfortable 40 below zero can be -- and beautiful! At that temperature, all moisture in the air freezes and a heavy ice fog pervades, imparting mysterious countenance to even ordinary environmental features. All was dark before me, except for the pale greenish flicker of Northern Lights; only when I momentarily turned back toward Nomeís light did the prismatic halo effect set in. A kaleidoscopic corona appears about each bulb as speeding light splits into a rainbow of colors upon encounter with an ice crystal of the fog. This phenomenon was familiar to me from nightly walks at Eielson Air Force Base in the interior of Alaska, where I was into my second winter. Night of winter in the Interior is frequently calm as the eye of a hurricane and silence sits on the land blanketed in ice fog banks slowly moving as if by ghostly impulse. I had come to love this silence and tried to spend as much time with it as I could. One of the airmen I had met had built himself a state-of-the-art stereo system, with earphones -- a first for me -- at the base audio shop. Using this system, I had discovered Rachmaninoffís Second Piano Concerto. Cultivating my innate romanticism, I listened to this stormy music hour after hour. Emerging from the shop for the long walk home, afterglow of the music would walk with me through the silence and the fog. Periodic street and runway lights bathed in the prismatic ice-fog halo effect pulsed Rorschach-like to Rachmaninoffís themes still resounding in memory. I became entranced by this psychogenic arctic music-sculpture and walked so much at night my parents began questioning my behavior. Now, walking across ice off shore of Nome, climbing over the ice-pile ridges, this music came back to me as I wandered farther out onto the Strait. Morning still dark, the Northern Lights deepened in their greenish hue, then turned incredibly bright. I was stunned. Never before had I seen it such a dark green. Climbing upon the next ice pile, I sat down and stared at the light show. As I looked up, my breath suddenly disappeared. It was so gorgeous! A fiery red and a deep green, bright as traffic lights, fingered the sky in repeated flashes, prisming the fog into a phantasmagoria of color. Sitting in dumb amazement, I heard faint whistling on the air and rumbles in the Strait ice. This incredible red-green display lasted about thirty seconds and then returned to the normal light-green flicker. Before moving on, I knocked a block of ice free from the pile I had sat upon and threw it out across the ice. To my utter shock, the block broke through a thin surface of ice in front of the ridge upon which I was now standing. I began to hyperventilate, staggered, and fell down the back of the ridge. Had I continued the walk out onto the Strait, I would have been dead. Even a wet toe where I was was death. Arriving back in Nome, I was not yet recovered from the experience.

It was not until many, many years later that I learned of the U.S. and Soviet high altitude nuclear explosions which transpired between 1958 and 1962, the effects these had on the ionosphere and auroral phenomena -- radiative electromagnetic pulse effects so destabilizing that the Van Allen belts have never returned to their natural state -- and the effects the released radiation can have upon human cognition: e.g., microwave audiograms, induced color perceptions and other eidetic visualizations (both of these categories clearly relating to the visual and auditory phenomena associated with autogenic brain discharges).

Poems come substantially into awareness in a given verse form when a poet works in that form, when he absorbs himself in it. This can be done when the world of meaning the poet perceives in can be conveyed in the form within which he works. Such a poetry-creating circumstance pretty much ended by the beginning of the 20th century, with advent of the quantum-relativity view of reality. It ended for poetry, for music, for the plastic arts because mathematics and physics by then had moved beyond the utility of 2-valued logic, the logic which alphabetically-transcribed languages profoundly depend upon and pictographically-transcribed languages also depend upon, but to a far lesser extent. It ended because the forms of poetry, art, and music over the last several millennia have been derived by application of 2-valued logic (non-rotational and rotational). This applies to East and West alike, as, for example, infinite regress was disparaged as anavastha even by Sankhara. That mathematicians and physicists largely refused to embrace what they had discovered is a matter that should have been of no concern to poets, artists, and composers. Unfortunately, this was not the case. There were, of course, a few exceptions: Alfred Jarry, Apollinaire, Duchamp, Malevich, Webern -- Duchamp being the most pristine example.

The following poem can be used to illustrate why even poetry has become inadequate. The purpose of such writing is simply to make registrations between ones own various Iís, as communication of understanding independent of the direct experience -- absent a fully metareferenced linguistic medium like Musculpt -- appears impossible.

	Sound Hearing Silence Hearing Sound

	Nested, is silence by sound heard
	Soundless within levels inside soundlessness.
	Sound of no-sound, sounding!

	Absence pulls presence to itself, always
	In every sounded, soundlessness draws
		veiled tiers to vast enfolded vacuity.
	Sounds of no-sound!

	In the absolute silence, emergence of sound is
	From the fullness of emptiness, the first
		beginnings of sounded presence.
	Sounds of no-sound!

	Nested, is sound by silence heard
	Scaled soundless inside soundedness scales.
	Silence of the sound-filled!

	Presence pushes absence from the other, never
	Out of any no-sound, soundedness repels
		revealed continua with open satiety.
	No-sounds of the sounded!

	Out of contingent noise, loss of silence is
	To the emptiness of fullness, the last
		endings of soundless absence.
	No-sounds of the sounded!

	Sounded absolute no-sound, white silence is
	Absoluteness in sound, tone-color be
		not attack, intensity, grace note, but
		fully hearing Great Space is (sound
	Hearing silence) in sound fully heard as (silence
	Heard hearing sound) being no-sound absolutely.
	Sounded silence sounding no-sounds hearing sound!

Mere metaphors are simply too reductionistic: acoustic hall of mirrors, Chinese boxes of sound, Japanese ivory balls (concentric spheres inside of spheres). “Zero equals infinity” canít actually be understood without m-valued logics operating on Musculpt signifiers having multiply alterable facets as “letters” of the “alphabet”. This poem needs to do musically what John Cage tries to talk about in SILENCE (unfortunately, he wrote more about the results of thinking about what silence must be, than the results of hearing heard silence) and fails to achieve with his piece One Minute and Thirty-Three Seconds (ambient sounds heard as pure pattern, without attributed enculturated meanings). Hypertext poetry will do no better than add an element of non-linearity and the ability to click to submerged prose explanations and discourses of self-review.

(Document Currently Under Construction)

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