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A Journey into Sound, Part XI - Consciousness

by rg Sat May 31st, 2008 at 05:19:36 AM EST

Saturday bump, listen away! - In Wales

I recently read a book: Head Trip, by Jeff Warren.

He suggests that rather than having two basic states, awake and asleep, we have (at least) twelve basic states, some related to when our sense organs are switched off; and the others related to when our sense organs are switched on, when we receive input from external reality, and then there are the in-between states, like when you're just falling asleep, or when you're just waking up.

Hynagogic and Hypnopompic

Hypnagogic--you're going to sleep; hypnopompic, you're waking up.  Hypnagogic--your body is feeding you Melatonin.  Hypnopompic--you're feeding yourself Cortisol, to wake up.

The in-between moments: hypnagogic, external reality is more real than the dream world, and so there are stages of falling out of external sensory input.  Hynopompic, external reality is struggling to get through to your sleepy mind.  You are asleep when your brain has switched off the sense organs to the conscious mind, which then wanders into a dream world--which is mapped in the book, the various stages.

So, a music diary!  I have tried to find a piece or two of music to...show that music and our consciousness interact; and neither is a solid thing, easy to comprehend or configure--heh...

Tom Waits - Innocent when you dream (4:32)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Md7iv0Rg1LU


The Slow Wave

When you eliminate the transition periods, there are primarily two kinds of sleep: Stage 3-4 sleep--known as "slow wave sleep"--and REM sleep.  Within the five or six ninety-minute sleep cycles that we move through every night, the distribution of these two sleeps changes so that the first half of the night is dominated by slow-wave sleep, and the latter half by REM sleep.  

Head Trip, p 57

The slo o o o w wave.  

BrainSync - Delta Induction w/ Fractals (9:12)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJtrhyTJ13k


The Watch

This is an intriguing period.  We all wake up during the night--we don't remember it in the morning, maybe, but we wake up, sensory inputs are activated.  As long as we are not disturbed during the watch, and as long as our waking was natural, then the body feeds us prolactin.

These next two pieces have, for me, watch sounds.  The first piece could also be a REM dream, the way John Cale narrates it, but the fact that it is a narration of a dream that is finished gives it, for me, that strange 3:17 am and you just woke up out of a strange dream and you're awake, remembering the dream, it held some meaning, maybe, certainly we are emotional in our dreams.  Anyway, here it is:

Lou Reed & John Cale - A Dream (6:24)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSxRN0pNciA


The second piece--I don't know if I'm remembering this or it just reminds me of that sound--you're small, you wake up and it feels....mysterious.  The universe is big, you might die right now--but you're okay--

Kate Bush - and Dreams of Sheep (2:45)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a87029tP8t0


One other thing he wrote about the watch: that the western habit of sleeping either alone or with one other person, with the intention of sleeping through from late evening to the morning, can be compared to other cultures where sleeping is a group activity, that at any one moment various people may be awake and active while others are fast asleep.  The advantage of the group set up, in one theory, is that there is a sort of group eye that is always open.


The REM Dream & the Lucid Dream

REM dreaming is us, as we are now, but with all our external inputs shut off--that's the theory.  Instead of responding to what our sense organs are telling us about the outside world, we respond to internal imaginary worlds, built from our collection of memories we have compiled from the data our sense organs have given us, and maybe there's a whole lot more going on in there, the point I note is that we are as awake in a dream as we are when we're awake.  The difference is not in the level of consciousness, it's in the logic behind the inputs.  Our memory is stored in various ways; there is the emotive connection.  One thought sparks another thought completely tangential to the first, but linked via a specific emotional tone, and so the dream changes but it all makes sense.

But we get lost in these interior worlds. they stop making sense as our Cortisol levels rise, we might be thinking, "But he can't be king, because..." and then we're opening our eyes.  Or maybe we were in a garden looking at a flower, but the flower started making an ugly noise, so we dropped the petal we'd been touching and wonder what the noise is, what can it be, looking around, and from somewhere far away a voice says, "It's the alarm."

Now, what about if that voice didn't say, "It's the alarm."  What if it said, "You're dreaming.  Go for it!"

There are tests to see if you are dreaming.  Look at a clock, look away, then look at it again.  The brain doesn't do clock time well.  Or look at a piece of printed material, try to read it.  The brain is not good at reproducing texts in dreams.

But do any of you know that sensation?  Is this a dream?  I had a dream once, I was on a desert isle, the sea was near my toes, I was in all ways content, and I thought, heh, imagine if this was just a dream, I pinched myself--and woke up!

Something to try in a Lucid Dream (4:36)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-9r-DI7HmM


The Trance

You wake up, put on your clothes, take them off again, step in the shower, waking up, waking up, the dream memories fragment, the emotions slip away, hot water, ah!  There are things to do, I am waking up!

There is a state we can call "being awake", but we don't pass all our time there.  There are other states we regularly visit, as our hormonal levels fluctuate through the day.  The Trance state is, as I understand it, the "let someone else do the thinking" time.  You can slip into a trance while dancing, while listening to music, while watching television, while doing a repetitive task.  The trance state is where you zone out a lot of input and concentrate on this one central tone--the performance, or the beat, or the personality of a presenter--and maybe what they're saying, but not just the words, there are techniques for tuning a person into their trance state--some move into it more readily than others--it's about letting someone else make the decisions--I don't know, you tell me!

It's like the slow wave, but the inputs are external, which ramps up the power in the circuits, all those neurons lining up to dance.

Fela Kuti - Water no get enemy (11:00)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQXpmzTXPkw


The Daydream

This could be a worry, you're sitting there doing something and this worry is there, and you worry about it, start extrapolating out, getting worried, maybe going back over a decision you made, and..."What?  Sorry, I was miles away."

Or it could be just thinking about getting home, you're going to cook something tasty, get a bottle of wine on the way home, you're imagining yourself...whoops!  Think the eyes might have just closed for a moment, a quick look around...there's a moment where just being awake is getting heavy, maybe it's a boring meeting and your consciousness wanders--

I'm going to suggest that daydreams are what pop songs are about, the thing you are very worried about is very important, as important as the thing you were worrying about last month, maybe this worry is more important!

Or maybe that other daydream was so sweet, really summed it up--that's the tone.

Jimi Hendrix- Rainy Day, Dream Away

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbOc_yAMcfU


The SMR and the Zone

"Yes, SMR: the sensorimotor-rhythm, 12 - 15 hertz.  It's a very distinct spindle-like wave centred across your brain's sensory-motor strip.  If someone is highly distractible they can't tune out sensory input, and they often can't control motor output, so you see lots of foot tapping and fidgeting.  The SMR rhythm is an inhibition wave. It's associated with reduced sensory input and motor output.  You need to be still for it to come up at all.  When people are producing a lot of SMR they generally experience a kind of calm, in-the-moment alertness."

p 223

You can be plugged into a machine which measures electrical output from your brain--and you can look at a screen showing that output in a visual form (e.g. three columns representing three different types of brain wave) and you can...try and change the height of the columns by changing your brain in some way, thinking differently, concentrating differently, relaxing, tensing up...SMR is a state of quiet alertness.  It's a preparatory form of concentration--you're not concentrating on anything in particular, but you're also not letting yourself be distracted by every last bit of sensory input...

...and then--the focus!  The area of influence, where actions take place, and you're all ready, it's as though you knew what you had to do next, no doubts, no over-thinking, just practiced skills and the moment.

Screaming Jay Hawkins - I Put a Spell on You (2:29)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mR81PGlBeqE


The Pure Conscious Event

Hokkay.  From what I've understood, this is like the trance, but instead of someone doing it for or to you, you do it to yourself.  You focus in, remove external distractions by concentrating--maybe on your breathing--as Fran had it, you give the elephant a stick to hold so it won't grab everyone's bananas and crash through any living rooms--but the focus is on consciousness itself, stripped of the contents.

It's almost as if you have a tractor beam with a split-second delay shooting out from the front of your head.  Every time you turn your head, the beam is there first, illuminating trees and people and pieces of furniture, getting a grip on the world before the world itself makes it into your head as content.  As soon as that split-second [100-200 millisecond delay--rg] is up, the tractor beam is activated, and whatever bit of the world is located in its sights gets sucked in for sensory processing.  But--and this is critical for our discussion--before this hapens the beam is absolutely empty and content-free.


Now that conscious tractor beam could be full of the junk being processed from the previous in-suck of sensory information--but if you clear out the junk, keep clearing it out, practice removing the junk--the automatic behaviours of the mind as it sorts and filters via feedback with past memories of similar types of input--but hold on, brain, just hold on, stop storing all that stuff, let some of it go, think: what's important?  Being here now is a pause--a meditation: don't worry about it, that's just more stuff going in, more associations, more experience.  Try to de-clutter the beam for a few minutes--

The idea is that we are energetic monkeys as a default setting--the evolution of our frontal lobes has given us a working environment in which to inhibit certain energetic monkey behaviours and to promote others.  Our frontal lobes (according to the theory) are the place where we can develop the ability to discern the processes underlying our consciousness--there are positive feedback loops, where learning not to respond to every last input leads to a softening of the receivers such that not every last input leads directly to the focus of consciousness (at that moment); command is released--a rush as the tension is broken and this rush re-wires the neurons--and vice versa: the intensity of an experience describes the size of the flash that causes the re-wiring--maybe!

One way of entertaining the elephant is to give it a stick.  Another way is to sing it a short song, over and over, focusing on the sounds in the words, the vibrations as they are sung--

Or just hit something that gives off a pleasant tone--it might clear the mind, but it is the clearing of the mind that is important, the input that helps in that clearing is useful, but the aim (as I've understood it) is, for a period of time, to free consciousness from attachments internal or external.


The Parasomnias

Sleep walking is an example of a parasomnia.  The body ups itself and starts on a goal-based activity without waiting for consciousness to give the orders.  For me, this is equivalent to the music I wasn't listening to that nevertheless got me doing things I wasn't thinking about, some primal urge or need to do something that isn't inactivated by the fact that my conscious mind hasn't noticed.  I can't think of a piece to go with that--heh!


Okay, maybe I misunderstood it all.  Here's a last track.  Wide awake music, musicians in the zone, maybe a bit of hypnagogic inspiration for Herr Bach during composition...

Bach - 2° Concerto Brandeburghese 1° mov. - Abbado (4:43)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlWKhbGqPhU

heh...and there's still one more to come!  Next week the final installment: stops, starts, and pauses.

Anyways, following the theme of the diary, I found this humorous--he's not really playing that violin but I like the connection between romantic (where I was going to originally place it) and zone--the romantic throws him or herself into the zone--the creative surge bursts through--plus some funny noises from the green room, a frustrated conductor, and a great solo violin piece (3:06--music starts at 1:28)

The Red Violin - John Corigliano - Pope's Concert

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 28th, 2008 at 12:38:19 PM EST
And I can't resist one more--John Corigliano, I just found out he wrote the soundtrack to Altered States (a film I enjoyed way back when--), which fits in nicely with the diary theme, the music reminds me in some ways of the Planet of the Apes soundtrack, this piece is 4:56.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 28th, 2008 at 01:04:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That brings back memories.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri May 30th, 2008 at 03:59:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, rg, for these diaries. Now I can imagine wghat music is about :-)
by das monde on Wed May 28th, 2008 at 08:39:06 PM EST
For me, almost the entire Vangelis soundtrack of the film Blade Runner is about altered mental states. I present two, my favourites, but leave their classification on the Warren scale to you.

Main Titles (03:42):

Tales of The Future, sung in Arabic by Demis Roussos (05:27, rev up the volume):

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu May 29th, 2008 at 09:45:13 AM EST
Ah!  Then I offer you the following Vangelis piece, I didn't put it in the diary because the connection was: hypnotism, an italian group called Hypnosis, who did a piece that was then re-worked by Vangelis.  This is the piece--the moments of special pleasure for me come one after the other.  It's all a fantasy in space with a Vangelis soundtrack, but at 3:50 there's a--for me--evocative shot of the astronaut on a foreign planet in his or her spacesuit, with just the subtlest of blue glows around the head casing--that blue strip where we live, carried to farthest space--and then, immediately afterwards (3:58) the ship taking off, the huge brown smog-cloud as it accelerates up and away from the planet, the sheer power described by that wall of exhaust!  And the final scenes, with the speaking clock...

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu May 29th, 2008 at 07:04:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An inspiring clip.  Great interweaving of visuals and music.  How many times has artistic intuition and insight pointed us where we should go long before it was rationally possible?

Today I read in Science News of evidence that a supermassive black hole  has been ejected from a galaxy at a velocity of 2,500 km/sec., possibly by an even more supermassive black hole in a merger of galaxies. This apparently had been possibility predicted by Einstein's Theory of General Relativity.  What I know about general relativity is that it is stated as a set of partial differential equations that are WAY beyond my mathematical ability, which had trouble with plain old differential equations.  I also know from reading that solutions are often found at limits or boundary conditions where some elements drop out, simplifying the equation.

Non-the-less 20 yrs ago when I was considering attempting a SF story I postulated a "black hole drive" consisting of two microscopic, confined black holes which were manipulated in such a way as to cause gravitrons to radiate in one direction and anti-gravitrons in the other, thus producing acceleration. Alas, how to do this never came to me, so I am still here This idea certainly did not fall out of any deductive process, but was entirely based on intuition,  perhaps the greatly delayed result of psychedelic consumption in the late 60s-early 70s.  So I was taken by the observation that black holes could repel each other and produce acceleration.  Thus your clip really sent me on a non-psychedelic trip.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri May 30th, 2008 at 12:35:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I postulated a "black hole drive" consisting of two microscopic, confined black holes which were manipulated in such a way as to cause gravitrons to radiate in one direction and anti-gravitrons in the other, thus producing acceleration.

No! No! No! That cannot work in the real world! This is folly!

It is well known that there is only one truly safe way to go around the universe : the Bistromathic Drive, a greatly improved version of its predecessor, the Infinite Improbability Drive, with much fewer occurrences of fruitcakes and sperm whales.

by Francois in Paris on Fri May 30th, 2008 at 12:56:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do love Adams. And Vonnegut. The wife has found the concept of the Ganfaloon useful in explaining her metaphysics.  My biggest concern about the black hole drive was explaining why they didn't merge and pull the whole space ship in also on a singularly bad day.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri May 30th, 2008 at 01:04:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My biggest fear in posting this is not that it is wrong, but that it might be right, and the MIBs will come for me ---to give me my icepick lobotomy. :-)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri May 30th, 2008 at 01:07:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Didier Marouani's "Space Opera" was popular in East Europe in the 80s. Is it well known still? Here is "Part 1", 4:39

by das monde on Fri May 30th, 2008 at 05:46:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't know it. (Neither now nor - I think :-) - in the eighties.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 30th, 2008 at 02:57:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, yes! All together now, calmly, forward...

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun Jun 1st, 2008 at 03:40:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is pretty hypnotizing.

by das monde on Fri May 30th, 2008 at 05:26:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
yup, great appreciation from this quarter, too.

i get a great kick out of knowing i'm on the same planet as you rg, as your unique mind beavers away at linking concepts and thoughts that are out on the edge of languagability.

ye have a real gift for tripping the light fantastic with your quirky prose too.

back in the 80's i got into the lucid dreaming thing, and followed one of the suggestions, which was to imagine a small blue flame in your throat chakra, during the last few minutes of consciousness the night before.

of course one wonders about suggestibility, however i did experience - and remember - some very poignant dreams, whereas usually i sleep deep and dreamlessly.

i never got to the more advanced stages of operating your own dream machine and controlling its every aspect, as some claim to be able to do, but i get a nice feeling knowing that i can tap deeper into my subconscious that way, if i feel a need to.

some dreams were so compelling, i had to write them down immediately, and their symbols sometimes only became meaningful some years later.

getting a brain machine was very interesting. this involves some shades with blinking red lights and headphones. you could run music through it too, tho' i preferred not to, as i listen to music analytically, and the rhythms were out of synch with the 'beep-beep' machine, as we affectionately named the little white plastic box.

 with beat detection software having come so far since then it would be cool to have the beeps synch in with the music, but in some ways it clouds the issue, as without music you feel the emotional component to be more simple, without the emotions of the composer in the mix, so to speak.

anyway, this box would start off in phase, then break into a slightly asynchronised stereo, each ear/eye information source independent galloping along, in parallel, but out of phase.

so one half of the brain is observing one groove, the other, the other.

then about 5 minutes before the end they'd go into phase and crescendo, which was almost orgasmic, and produced lots of 3rd eye activity, a real energy rush as the hemispheres 'come together'.

there were different programs ranging from 15 minutes to 2 hours. popping them on for less than 15 minutes wasn't enough to get you 'entrained', and 2 hours was much more than enough, most of the time.

i gave it to friends to try, and their eyes would change afterwards, giving them a more level look.

there were 'brain salons' popping up in big cities where harried folk would go in for a quick pick-me-up sessions over their lunch breaks, but it never really took off more than that.

they did it with rhythm, but i think something similar happens melodically, when listening to an orchestra, especially actively.

for example, if i concentrate on discerning the bass line and try to isolate it in my mind to hear as much nuance as possible, it's interesting which other parts of the sound spectrum swim to the surface, trying to bring the equilibrium back.

the better i isolate the bass, the better the female vocal or flute parts sail through.

this makes listening to music a very interactive experience for me, as choosing different timbres or frequencies to focus on, completely transforms how i hear the piece as a whole...

kinda hard to explain, sorry if it's cornfusing.

anyways, rg, this is the great Terra Incognita, and it's a fun privilege to have you guiding us so deep into it.


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu May 29th, 2008 at 10:45:18 AM EST
Alan Parson's Project certainly played with this dimension, it seems to me. Here is "Old and Wise", 4:38

by das monde on Fri May 30th, 2008 at 05:38:37 AM EST
You left out what happens when your brain doesn't get all that good food, or if you change its chemistry. Here's a German track about that:

Some Berliners party too hard...

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat May 31st, 2008 at 07:02:14 AM EST
One of Sonic Youth's first tracks was called 'I Dreamed I Dreamed'. Which is something I often have in the hypnagogic / hypnopompic states. I dream that I was dreaming and have woken, but I have not yet. The song is appropriately confusing, guitars and singing operating on different tracks/levels.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat May 31st, 2008 at 07:21:56 AM EST
This song reminds me of a different sort of waking-up feeling at the same borderline: when I wake up with a knot in the stomach, and either (1) I had a real bad nightmare and am still not sure that it wasn't real, or (2) the feeling that I must have had a real bad nightmare but don't remember any details.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat May 31st, 2008 at 09:42:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Poe's 'Dream Within a Dream' poem has been put into music by many artists. I'm most partial to the Elysian Fields version, but that's not available on youtube or as a song. So here's Propaganda:

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat May 31st, 2008 at 08:02:00 AM EST

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat May 31st, 2008 at 09:01:12 AM EST

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat May 31st, 2008 at 12:17:25 PM EST

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