Three cheers to Between The Buried And Me for putting on an amazing show on Saturday night. I had a wildly magical time and also found the inspiration for this journal entry.
Its pretty debatable that Heathen magicians ever used music for magical purposes, with the possible exception of singing (and perhaps on exceedingly thin evidence some percussion instruments).
But in modern times we are not so impoverished! I’ve mentioned in the past the consciousness altering properties of black metal, properties which seem particularly keyed into Heathen spirituality even though this genre of music is only a few decades old.
Considering the ways in which music can move one’s emotions, and indeed transform the state of one’s nervous system, it would seem wise to find ways to apply it for magical purposes. I’ve written about chanting in the past, but here I’d like to discuss the utilisation of live performances for magical ends.
When a group of performers are on their game they very easily become transmitters, vessels for the flow of all kinds of creative and evocative forces. There’s nothing like the spill of cold energy down your spine when music opens a rich new world for you to fall into.
Admittedly there are many bands that do not bring to bear this sort of manifestation; I’m personally quite sick of mediocre metal bands who are content to merely replicate the same old tired forms without so much as a single creative spark.
But when I encounter a band that is able to convey something, to offer a transpersonal experience, I find that I can use the magic they summon in all kinds of ways. Sometimes it even uses me.
There are a few sources of power that you can tap into when you are part of an audience. Firstly, of course, a good performance will pull the audience into a very unified state. A sense of group consciousness can manifest and that can be very powerful. The sense of oneness in music that is created can be deeply ecstatic.
This group consciousness generates a lot of energy (or whatever metaphor you choose), and it’s possible to imagine that flowing through your body. As it passes through you can imagine seeds of intention dropping into the rushing megin, to be carried out into the world.
I find imagining a giant Elhaz rune channelling light and heat through my body to be very helpful in this regard; I got some dramatic results right away when I did just this recently at a gig.
Since it’s possible to quite effortlessly occupy a state of altered consciousness, riding the back of the group experience, this is a very simple way of doing magic. Note that I don’t really recommend so-called magical vampirism as I feel its just plain bad form. There’s enough magic to go round that you don’t need to steal other peoples’.
Secondly there is the magic coming through the performers, which can really establish the atmosphere of the room. A band like Between The Buried And Me is capable of taking their audience on a journey through a vast spectrum of emotions and atmospheres. Through imagination it is very easy to ride that musical topography.
This riding can allow you to fare forth if you like, to rise from your own body and travel through imaginal roads (there’s all kinds of circumstantial evidence of this sort of thing in Heathen lore). You don’t need to provide the impetus to get moving because the music can provide a strong source. All you need to do is point yourself in a direction.
You can also let the music open up your body, energise your muscles, clear your metabolism, or unblock your emotions. I can use the music to reach a very elated state, not unlike berzerkergang but without the violent focus (or sometimes with, if truth be told).
If there are places that you have been avoiding in your emotional life then you can use music to open those doors, often quite safely thanks to the cushion of life force that it provides. In short – a little creative visualisation can turn even a death metal gig into a healing experience!
Aside from some of the more esoteric responses to music that are available, great live music can put you into a position of perspective. Sometimes, if the performers are particularly masterful, I find myself given the opportunity to open into a rich assessment of my life. I can question my decisions and direction and new possibilities come to me effortlessly.
Of course, holding onto such resolution after the fact is sometimes difficult and that’s one of the reasons why documenting intense but subjective experiences is so valuable – it helps to objectify the subjective, bringing it into what might be called ‘reality’.
With magic there is a danger of spiritual rootlessness, as we hungrily aspire to one epiphany after another – while at the same time our actual daily lives stagnate. Its important to act on the lofty decisions made in the throws of music-induced ecstacy.
It seems almost too obvious to mention the place of dance in live music. Music can very easily have us involuntarily nodding our heads, tapping our feet – or wildly spinning and weaving across the room!
This combination of physical abandon and shared consciousness in turn can easily open the door for possession states. I can recall a dance party I once attended where a horde of gods and spirits used me to express and play in the physical world. I become a vessel for them, the chorus of beings hovering around me, laughing and singing, diving in and out.
That was profoundly healing for me, but it came with a price: I was hospitalised the next day! Physiologically, the doctors said, it was as though I had run a marathon or two, but having not taken care of myself as an athlete would my body went into shut down as the amount of muscle waste in my blood sky-rocketed. It was very dramatic – I just keeled over at work.
Which leads me to conclude that if you intend to explore the conscious utilisation of live music for magical purposes you had best know your limits! Music can invoke forces much stronger than what any one individual can safely express.
This ties back in with the theme of “perfecting the vessel” that I’ve discussed before, too. In order to better channel and manifest the flow of the waters of life throughout the World Tree we are well served to strengthen ourselves, to become more supple and more stable.
A good way to do this is gradually build up your exposure to powerful transpersonal experiences such as good live music! If you open the magical doors a little bit at first you can gradually expand your capacity to channel and utilise the flowing waters of life that live music can invoke.
Listening to recordings of evocative bands (Emperor come to mind) is good training, too.
Be aware that the scale of the performance is not a reliable predictor of the power it might evoke. Seeing Roger Waters and band perform the Pink Floyd back catalogue in full luxury was deeply profound to me; but Joe Dolce with an acoustic guitar in a back shed at some crappy Australian folk festival can reduce me to a puddle with a single chord.
A warning: avoid bad music, which can block you up like molasses in a straw. Here in Australia, for example, there is an endless rogues’ gallery of miserable blues and ‘roots’ bands, each replicating the same tired forms in a spirit of miserable pig-headedness. No creative spark to be seen.
I feel that such music can create magical and psychological constipation: so avoid!
In summary, then, live music provides three main doors into magical and spiritual experience (via the application of the imagination).
Firstly through the intense shared consciousness that can emerge in the synergy of audience and performers. Secondly, through the spirit channelled by the performers themselves. Thirdly, through your individual response to the performance, be it reflective (a moment of clarity) or visceral (the union of conscious and unconscious experience in dance or movement).
All of these doors are worth entering and exploring; and for all the gathered press about you, no one will even know that you are working magic into the world as the band plays on.
Some music styles are more trance inducing than others. Droning notes; repetitive beats; music with slow note changes and lots of delay/flange/phaser/reverb; music in compound time signatures – all classic tools for intense trance induction. Then again, a hip hop MC in full flight and a spiralling jazz horn soloist can have the same effect.
The key seems to be something about alternating layers of repetition or stillness (recurring rhythms, droning notes, etc) layered against unfolding variations (solos, gradual chord transmutations, etc).
The means shapes the experience of course (I’m not like to get homicidal watching Tony Eardley or lovelorn watching Aeon of Horus), but the ends are very much up your own particular creativity. Oh yeah, and check out Tool, in particular their album Lateralus. They’ll pretty much take you everywhere you could possibly need to go.