ORGANUM started out in the 9th century as an addition to the unadorned (plane) unison line of Gregorian chant. Monks started to sing in parallel intervals, a process that eventually led to harmony and counterpoint. Harmony and counterpoint eventually led to the desire to go beyond. Debussys interest in sound for its own sake started the revolution quietly, but now you can hear the sound of tonalities breaking up and coming together again in a myriad of ways, waves of noise crashing head on into pure tones. There is a new parallelism now between noise and music, and perhaps one can enrich the other, as when the fascination of a held tone, always subtly shifting, is offset by the random fluctuations of untamed noise...
Nature, with all its force and fury, enjoys very much doing the same things over and over again. The best example is homo sapiens - much the same assortment of organs, but endlessly different, capable of endless variety springing paradoxically from overall self similarity - increasing subtlety leading to increasing sophistication, depth and surprise, rather than the fading out from perception that you might expect. And so we find a fascination with ever more subtle investigations into sound, which can lead nonetheless to great artistic breakthroughs, like climbing through a tiny hole in a wall and finding a new magick kingdom.
But nowadays the artist no longer needs to think "about" things as an integral part of creative activity Instead associations are set up in all the participants minds - audience and artists alike. The associations will be more interesting ~ the creative channel is more efficient. Maybe because of the freer actions of subconscious association when in a creative frame of mind ideas and feelings previously lost in the collective unconscious can surface again, even without the creators conscious knowledge. Music intended to be excitingly new can sound ancient, the paradox setting off streams of associative thoughts and meditations in the minds of those who hear it.
At this stage we are beyond the verbal, representational - the same bad mental habit (conditioned ego) that causes dialectic thought and reductive reason can be ceased by "pure" sound. But how can this be done by any one person who may have instinctively realised their lack of ego - i.e. that they depend for their autonomy on their interconnections? This being the case, the composer should not rely on internal part playing, exaggerating attitudes in the manner of an actor in order to tease his creative appetite into a stream of ever-original sounds because this is an ego-based action relying on a self-conscious idea of "personality. As the composer is a result of an ongoing process that started before and shall continue afterwards, all that can be done is to transmit efficiently the inspiration that bootstraps itself into existence through the creative channel. Individuality must now come from whatever fascination the artist has with sounds he encounters in life in general, both internal and external. This opens the way for collective playing, where ideas can be bounced around synergetically by like-minded participants. The need to cordon off a certain mode of life and call it "art" and think it "art" is not there, as everything is artistic anyway - meaningless, aesthetic, given (in Wittgensteins sense that there is a given quality about consciousness itself that has to be accepted in order to get anywhere in an interactive situation). In other areas of art such as "sculpture" this may result in galleries full of much the same aesthetically pleasing, but Unworked art (remember the Tate bricks?) that doesnt fulfil our conventional Western need for self-explaining, complicated value for money works. Thats "work" as in sweat to build separating walls, platonic solid structures, on solid surly foundations hammered into the rich ground of the subconscious, a bastion against the storm of personal existence - exaltation from existential terror by tricking into existence a safe haven of consensual sensuality, a True Religion of art, by means of a geometry of the passions. Art vs. Universe.
But it is wrong to assume that a lack of architectural fixity automatically means untrammeled amorphous chaos. Tuning into the resonance of Movement can put your music beyond the chaos/order dichotomy. The
music of ORGANUM does this perfectly. By turns calm, fierce, hieratic, ruined, whole, catastrophic, exciting, melancholic, numbing, but always organic...
You frequently mention the importance of collective playing in the construction of your pieces, saying how the playing can "come together" very strongly at certain times, although youre obviously the originator of the Organum oeuvre. It sets me wondering if theres still any influence from the Scratch Orchestra?
The Scratch Orchestra was 20 years ago and theres no direct influence left that Im aware of. What the orchestra initially did was to provide a situation of permission-to-act, where I could begin to find my own way in music. It was a vital experience and Im grateful for it. When the Maoist influence later made itself felt in the Orchestra, the groups music and internal personal relationships began to deteriorate quite fast and the situation lost all its charm for me. But the free-wheeling first two years of the Orchestras existence were an excellent grounding in performance and sound-making. Having said that, when we performed a 15 minute set at the Recommended Records shop there was some wandering around, walking downstairs and so on, while we were actually playing the music that does remind me of the sort of thing the Scratch Orchestra would have done.
This does rather make me wonder about how the musics made - you seem a bit cagey about giving much away regarding instruments, scoring, etc. Is the music non-intentional at all?
No. Organum music is certainly not non-intentional. The work of John Cage, to which I presume youre indirectly referring, remains interesting, refreshing and entertaining, but chance procedures have never been of central artistic importance for me. I like form and I like to shape it. Sometimes Ive used a kind of verbal score, where I just give a set of very basic instructions, or ideas, to the players which will shape their performance.
Are you influenced by any hermetic material?
No. Ive never read any. For me, most philosophies and religions are a bit of a nonsense, Im afraid, and I give them a wide berth. I find that its no longer personally acceptable nor in any way desirable to be excessively clogged up with other peoples thoughts.
Well I was going to ask if theres any influence of mysticism, are you sure there isnt?
I really dont know.. . Maybe Im confusing mysticism with meditation. I have some sympathy with meditation but its impossible to say whether or not thats had any influence on my music. The word mysticism, like the word spirituality doesnt seem to bear up to much scrutiny. The more you examine it, the less it means.
Theres a definite feel to your music. Apart from your rather NWW-ish tracks on the LAYLAH Fight is On compilation it would be difficult to mistake most Organum music for anybody elses - otherwise I wouldnt have bothered getting into it, and eventually endeavouring to interview you! So, in fact, are the aesthetics (not just the music, but sleeve design, titles, etc) by a happy coincidence congruent with any accidental qualities of construction?
Not really, because even in the most chaotic works I am intensely concerned with the overall shape, and with controlling that shape. Lucky accidents that occur in the making of a piece are absolutely subservient to that control.
Do you deliberately aim for a particular atmosphere?
Not very often. Usually, I dont deliberately aim for anything. It just seems to happen that the works grow and take on their own definite shape and feeling as theyre made. Really, I work only with the sounds, not with ideas. What usually appears at the start of work on most Organum pieces is the threat of the collapse of meaning - I never know whether or not a track will make it. So there is usually total uncertainty. It is overcome, or abolished, by the desire to shape form, by the affection that I have for the sounds being used, and by the excitement which flows out of that. Apart from those things, its useless to ask me about intentional meaning. Whatever other meaning a piece has is after the event, not before. And meaning for the artist and meaning for the audience may be quite different. Theres the unpredictability of context to contend with and, just to thoroughly confuse everything, theres the inability of people, myself included, to just listen rather than project onto the work. So questions of meaning can open up a vast abyss. If I sat and thought about it too much, Id never play a note. The work is neither non-intentional in terms of chance procedures, nor intentional in terms of fulfilling some prescription.
A lot of your music features bowed cymbals, shakuhachi, etc...is it actually modern music as far as youre concerned?
I dont have much of a position on modernism. Although most good art of this century has been based on very self-consciously taking some hard-line stance or other about what should or shouldnt be done, I simply dont do that. I just really love the sounds that I use, so I use them. And anyone who says that, "Right now, such-and-such is so, for Art", deserves a good verbal kicking in my opinion. We dont need any more police in this world. So Im indifferent as to whether or not my work is modern. Apart from the instruments you mention Ive also used a home made tone generator, guitars, and wire stretched over a soundboard.
Why is there so much bowed sound in your work?
Because I like it. Also, its the way I get the drone element into my music, and I am very much in love with the drone.
How is it that environmental sounds have appeared in your work, such as Vacant Lights and Submission?
I rather enjoy them, so it feels natural to include them in the music from time to time. The way I use them they function somewhat like a drone, so they fit fairly easily into the Organum sound.
Have you got any particular view of history?
I have no such view. The only history that Im truly aware of is my own.
Why are you so interested in entrails?
Im not particularly, though you might say I do have a certain gut feeling for such imagery, ha ha. No, biomorphic shapes I like and thats as far as it goes. And you cant get much more biomorphic than the organs of the human body.
Your last few releases were all 7"s (Drome, luel, Meister Nix). Why are you making a lot of shorter releases these days?
I wasnt aware that I was. With my work, the programme for each release is exactly the length that it needs to be. So short or long isnt really an issue, except that with the advent of CD the options have now been dramatically narrowed. The costs involved in CD production mean that youre more or less obliged to produce a full-length album every time. Thats why Ive stayed with vinyl - it better suits my way of working.
Pulp with The New Blockaders, Aeroplane Records AR7 (UK)
Kanal Dom DOM V7-06 (Germany)
Drome Les Disques du Soleil SOL 7-01 (Japan)
Meister Nix Dom Bartwuchs DOM BW LTD 75 (Germany) 200 copies only
luel Dom America DOM USS 07 (LISA) 300 copies only
Tower of Silence LAYLAH LAY 12 (Belgium)
Horii LAYLAH LAY22 (Belgium)
Ikon Dom Bartwuchs DOM BW 01 (Germany) first 500 with 1-sided LP Sol Mare
Wrack with The New Blockaders Dom Bartwuchs DOM BW 06 (Germany) 300 copies only
In Extremis LAYLAH LAY 19 (Belgium)
Submission United Dairies UD 023 (UK)
Vacant Lights Dom America DOM US LP 03 (USA)
Delta Dom Bartwuchs DOM BW 05 (Germany)
Salute Cassette with The New Blockaders, Aeroplane (UK) 100 copies only
Rasa LP shared with Nurse With Wound, United Dairies UD 020 (UK)
Crux LP shared with Eddie Prevost, Silent Records SR 8704 (USA)
The Fight Is On LAYLAH LAY 10 (Belgium)
Ohrenschraubem Dom DOM V77-0l (Germany)
Undying Freedom In A Vacuum VAC LP 05 (Canada)
(First published in Gneurosis Issue #1)
Organum Unofficial web page (which includes a crapper version of this interview, but more up to date news and discography)
Another Organum site
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