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FLYING SAUCER CACTUS IMPROVISATIONS

WORD SOUNDTRACK HERE

WARNING: CURVES AHEAD

The other night as our
flying saucer cactus was getting ready to bloom, my daughter and I were improvising a song about listening.
 
There was no map for what we were creating, just one of those
NOW moment, mind-left-body connection, free-flowing thoughts building a greater sonic entity things.
 
Actually, that’s the awkward adult way of describing it.
 
The simple explanation is: We were
playing.  
 
Since birth Kestrel and I have been playing and improvising sound whenever the mood strikes.
 
When improvising we embark on a surprisingly similar path to other improvised performances I’ve been a part of over the years.
 
Longevity certainly brings a different awareness to the process, but overall there is little difference in the path it takes.
 
For this session my daughter’s framework was “listening,” something she and I do often.
 
Pauline Oliveros has pioneered some wonderful and inspirational ideas on the subject of Deep Listening and we’ve woven many of them into our lives.
 
From what I've observed, listening deeply and playing or improvising are traits we’re all born with.
 
Put a bunch of children in a room with instruments and they playfully experiment with sound.
 
Put a bunch of adults in the same room and they eye the instruments with suspicion.
 
Why is it that as childhood passes so many become reluctant to play with sound?
 
I frequently hear this change begins when we are taught about so-called wrong notes.

Play a wrong note and you are admonished.

Play the correct note and society will embrace you.

But what would happen if everyone was a musician, everything was an instrument and all sounds were valid?

Where would that take us?

How could it empower us?
 
Musicians often talk about the NOW moment when playing.

Many, including myself, have struggled to put that moment into words, since no words ever adequately describe what it is really like.

One minute you are playing music and the next it is playing you.

Why this happens I do not know, but I suspect some of it is a combination of
String Theory and Chaos Theory.
 
Science has established everything vibrates and resonates on some level.
 
All those atoms and other bits and pieces of the universe buzzing away and interacting keep everything in motion.

If everything vibrates then sound can transform matter since sound is vibration.
 
Change how something vibrates sonically and you change what it is.
 
Put a bunch of people together in a room creating sound and connections begin to form.

They enventually harmonize.
 
A concept as old as the hills. 

After an improvised sound session, I often chalk-up my output to various factors: mood, openness to the project, vibrations of the sounds created, weather, location, lighting and so on.
 
And yet there is also an element of unexplained magic which enters the mix.

Perhaps Chaos Theory explains the magic component, by introducing paths and connections with unexpected and seemingly mystic outcomes.
 
Like
the flutter of a butterfly’s wings setting off a typhoon.
 
Or perhaps opening yourself sonically to a level of vibration is  something more.
 
I’ve got not idea, but it’s certainly fun to think about.
 
And this brings me back around to the flying saucer cactus.

For most of the year that cactus stands immobile and inscrutable, imperceptibly growing, roots anchored deep in the soil.

Then one day, for seemingly no reason, it begins to mutate.
 
Strange buds appear and break through the skin.
 
For one night flowers bloom, garishly perfuming the air like a funeral home bouquet, drawing in bats and insects before shriveling and wilting away in the daylight.
 
Eventually if all goes well fruit appears.
 
Scientifically I could break down the cycle of the cactus and chart the determining factors that contributed to the blooms: weather conditions, time of year, soil acidity.
 
I could also analyze the physical, chemical and atomic makeup of the cactus and determine the mechanics that lead to the exact locations of the flower buds.
 
But  when experiencing the mystery of those flowers, knowing all I know of the science, I'm still awed by the magic.
 
I think improvising sound must be something like that.

Or perhaps it is something more.

Something profound.

 Like playing.