In amongst the rest of the chaos of my life one of my bands, Sword Toward Self, is in the midst of recording our debut full length album (my other main band, Ironwood, has a full length currently being mixed).
We commenced laying down the bass over the weekend. My goal was to finish half of the album over the weekend which I managed comfortably – there was even time to develop some new ideas for the bass arrangements and record some of the bass solos. I think we also managed to get just about the perfect bass tone, which is an ongoing challenge given the huge tonal range of the six string basses I play.
Recording is a very intense process, but I found this particular session to be the most full on recording experience I’ve had. And yet it went quicker and more smoothly than, say, when I recorded my vocal parts for Ironwood (of which there were a lot and often very challenging to get just right).
So if this weekend past’s recording session went so smoothly, why do I say it was so intense?
The music, the hours of intense focus on performing everything perfectly, sent me into an extremely altered state of consciousness. There is something particularly indulgent about recording. It makes one’s creative expression as a musician the absolute centre of the universe for a condensed period of time.
Even during breaks, having meals, etc, one’s mind becomes utterly captivated by the music. Music exists even when it is not being played, even when it is only being imagined. So during those moments of the process when I am not actually recording the songs play on, shutting down more and more of my higher functions, concentrating all of my faculties on the task at hand.
You might say that I take the task very seriously – and I really do. Particularly for a band like Sword Toward Self, where the music is so complex and often very fast. But this last weekend it felt like my deep mind was rising up through the strata of my being and consuming my entire being as it sought to grapple with the
Perhaps part of the reason for this intensity is that I feel somehow spiritually connected to electric bass. That is an odd thing to say, but I really know of no other instrument that will ever feel as right in my hands.
I do play guitar as well, and I’m pretty good with finger-style acoustic guitar in particular. But I’ll always be able to do much more technical things and express more emotion on bass than on guitar (even things that conventional wisdom says should be easier on guitar because it’s a lighter, smaller instrument!)
Something I occasionally have pondered in my life, however, is the curious particularity of my connection to an instrument which, after all, was only invented some 60 years ago. I do have a great-uncle who played double bass (though I never met him), but there is a massive gulf between that and modern six string
electric bass guitars!
I often wonder: how many people never get the chance to find the medium that is perfectly suited to them? If I had been born in a third world country I would probably have never encountered electric bass. I might have played something else, but I would never have developed the level of skill or depth of musical connection that I find in playing bass.
Or if I had been born one hundred years ago? Again I would have missed out. This sort of invisible tragedy of possibility lost must be occurring all the time in all the arts, crafts and practices our species has invented and lost – or has yet to invent – or which are only available to some of humanity at a given time.
Or does the collective unconscious tailor the movements and motifs of its endless performance to the available resources and technology of the time? Am I so attuned to bass because, somehow in the infinitely complexity of wyrd, bass and I were made to be for one another? Perhaps some other instrument or art would have been the heart for my blood to beat in if things were different.
This still doesn’t guarantee that I was destined with any certainty to find my way into the world of bass. Yet it was a burning desire for it that drove me to take up the instrument, a fanatical love of bass which one rarely encounters in the guitar-obsessed silliness of most modern western music.
Coming out of the recording session I have found myself struggling to readjust to reality. I’ve been so deeply and completely dissolved in that world that this one suddenly seems totally ill-fitting. The last few days I have been struggling to recover my sense of drive and purpose. Perhaps there is a high cost to squandering so much of oneself on something so gratuitous and extravagant as artistic expression.
I am still not fully ‘back’ in this world, and I know that I will be finishing the remainder of the album this coming weekend. So now I feel like I am suspended in a valley between two dark and mysterious mountains.
These thoughts about the manifestation of zeitgeists in individual lives lead me to reflect on the philosophy of attempting to reconstruct specific magical practices from archaic times. If the seidh and rune workers of old were using what was available to them then perhaps it could be more important to feel into their mindset, regardless of the trappings and forms of one’s magical practice.
This psychological reconstructionism could never amount to more than arbitrary opinion, yet for each individual undertaking this challenge I suspect that rich veins of spiritual wealth might await.
So in this spirit I am going to attempt to use the massive and prolonged altered state that I am likely to enter again when recording this weekend. I will simply specify the particular performance of each song as a symbol of a magical intention. Every take, every time I retune, every time I finish getting a passage of
music perfect – this will be another trigger of the intention symbolised by the performance and the process.
And also, this time I am going to indulge in some measures to help myself adjust to consensus reality after the recording process is complete. Perhaps consume some raw sea salt for a start, and definitely get outside. It’s very painful to be caught between worlds and I need to prepare myself now for the realmshift that the recording process has so far involved.