The Emerald Score: The Languages of Magic and Music

Today we’re spic­ing up our col­lec­tion of lon­greads ded­i­cat­ed to spe­cif­ic themes and char­ac­ters with a more abstract essay writ­ten by our asso­ciate, the leader of a smaragd­core band named «МКП №1» who goes by Dali Lama XXIII.

This short essay touch­es upon the ori­gins of dif­fer­ent real­i­ty pro­gram­ming lan­guages, both mag­i­cal and musi­cal. The way such lan­guages orga­nize human cog­ni­tive activ­i­ty, their syn­tax, their sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences are infi­nite­ly rich and plen­ti­ful sub­jects, so this essay is just a gate­way to the realm of these fas­ci­nat­ing mat­ters which we plan to report on in future.


As above, so below. This is one of the key max­ims sum­ma­riz­ing the way mag­ic works. In oth­er words, mag­ic becomes effec­tive because a mage believes in a cer­tain con­nec­tion between sim­ple and com­plex mat­ters, between local and glob­al phe­nom­e­na, between micro­cosm and macro­cosm. This con­nec­tion allows to act upon mun­dane objects (or even one’s own body) in the hope of bring­ing desired changes on a large, maybe even planetary/cosmic scale.

In terms of art, this descrip­tion could be applied to the inter­ac­tions between a piece of art and its audi­ence (view­ers, lis­ten­ers, read­ers etc). Every piece of art (being a set of sig­nals of some sort) is based upon some rules, fol­lows some laws even if its author claims there were no rules involved in its cre­ation; every choice regard­ing sig­nals made by an author is always deter­mined and lim­it­ed by a cer­tain cause.

Let us con­sid­er music and its lis­ten­ers now. For the music to real­ly work its mag­ic the lis­ten­er should be duly trained. There is a com­mon notion of «har­mo­ny»: music is assumed to be some­thing «har­mo­nious». There is some truth to this, but it should be not­ed that there is no such thing as uni­ver­sal har­mo­ny. Today har­mo­ny is typ­i­cal­ly inter­pret­ed as clas­si­cal post-Greek West­ern har­mo­ny, with its tones and modes root­ed in the realm of meta­physics. This kind of har­mo­ny, with Pythago­ras among its chief devel­op­ers, was lit­er­al­ly mag­i­cal at first: the «as above, so below» prin­ci­ple ful­ly applied to it, with move­ments between tones cor­re­spond­ing to the move­ments of heav­en­ly bod­ies and cos­mic forces (Boethius and Kepler wrote about such har­mo­ny lat­er, and the art of music com­po­si­tion was a sta­ple of medieval clas­si­cal edu­ca­tion along with math­e­mat­ics).

Сарасвати, индуистская покровительница музыки

Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, for the art to work its mag­ic upon us we should be able to deci­pher the foun­da­tion­al prin­ci­ple or idea behind a giv­en piece of art above and then com­ply with it below. The sim­plest case of such mag­iс in action is being moved by a rhythm of a musi­cal com­po­si­tion which some­how match­es with one of the rhythms gov­ern­ing our life: you don’t have to believe in said rhythm or some­thing like that, because all body process­es nat­u­ral­ly have their own rhythms that you can even observe in an ane­choic cham­ber like John Cage did once.

How­ev­er, to awak­en to more com­pli­cat­ed lay­ers of a com­po­si­tion (and enjoy a deep­er sort of mys­ti­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion) one has to under­stand its author’s lan­guage to some degree, has to recog­nise the law upon which this com­po­si­tion is built. Hazrat Inay­at Khan, for instance, writes in his tract upon music that a Hin­du would always be uncom­fort­able with evening ragas per­formed in the morn­ing; it’s real­ly obvi­ous that a cit­i­zen of Arkhangel­sk who is unfa­mil­iar with Indi­an music will miss that sub­tle detail, per­ceiv­ing both morn­ing and evening ragas as equal­ly exot­ic.

Тибетская музыкальная нотация

Along with clas­si­cal har­monies (sys­tems of sig­nal orga­ni­za­tion) nowa­days we are treat­ed to a mul­ti­tude of non­clas­si­cal har­monies. In ear­li­er times har­mo­ny was under­stood as some indis­putable truth that lies at the heart of all Cre­ation.

Post­mod­ern phi­los­o­phy pro­pos­es to accept man­i­fold­ness of pos­si­ble truths: we are basi­cal­ly free to treat any­thing as truth, no mat­ter the cir­cum­stances. This res­onates with a notion that, as R. A. Wil­son says, is a basis for the tech­niques of prac­ti­cal occultism (the art of «rapid brain change»): no exter­nal sit­u­a­tion makes a men­tal state inevitable. So while every choice regard­ing sig­nals made by an author still remains deter­mined and lim­it­ed by a cer­tain cause, we enjoy the free­dom to use our wits to reimag­ine this cause as we see fit.

Oth­er­wise speak­ing, as long as you can for­mu­late a mean­ing, there is one. In a sense, open­ing up to the mag­i­cal side of music is sim­i­lar to a progress on a path of becom­ing a mas­ter of any art; first you just fol­low the rhythm/copy what mas­ters do, then you begin to under­stand the laws gov­ern­ing giv­en musi­cal piece/the laws of giv­en art, and final­ly you dis­cov­er a pro­found mean­ing unique to yourself/make your own improve­ments to the laws of your art.
Спектрограмма трека "Look" проекта Venetian Snares (отчётливо видны КОТИКИ)

Any­way, this leads to the increas­ing impor­tance of the role of crit­ics and com­men­ta­tors, to the increas­ing impor­tance of pre­sen­ta­tion­al side of the art — and the process of teach­ing its pos­si­ble audi­ence cor­re­spond­ing sys­tems of sig­nal orga­ni­za­tion (or meth­ods of craft­ing one’s own sys­tems) so the art can work its mag­ic upon the audi­ence in full mea­sure.

Con­clu­sions? At present each case of out­sider art essen­tial­ly can be fit­ted to reach the gen­er­al pub­lic, only it comes most­ly at the cost of its mes­sage, which becomes hol­lowed out and dumb­ed down to allow untrained audi­ence to expe­ri­ence mys­ti­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion. To beat this pre­vail­ing order authors should prob­a­bly make their art as prismatic/rhizomatic as pos­si­ble, bas­ing it upon exist­ing tra­di­tions to a degree yet eas­i­ly allow­ing a mul­ti­tude of com­plex inter­pre­ta­tions. Con­sid­er­ing tra­di­tions, we should remem­ber that there are no immutable tra­di­tions and artists con­stant­ly rede­fine and rere­call them. Final­ly, con­sid­er­ing mag­ic, the more lan­guages you have a com­mand of, the more your poten­tial for mag­i­cal actions, and lan­guages of musi­cal har­monies are no excep­tion; here’s a rea­son for the authors to con­duct artis­tic exper­i­ments.

Dali Lama XXIII

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