Thursday, July 18, 2013

Breaking Convention 2013

12—14 July 2013

Breaking Convention 2013, the second UK interdisciplinary conference on psychedelic consciousness, just happened last weekend.

I didn't get to any of the social events (missed Diagonal, Space Ritual and other psych bands) as they were in a venue miles across London, and I'd heard the sound was pretty ropey and far too loud (for a hot summer evening). I just didn't feel like leaving Greenwich, which has a peculiar magick of its own... so I just floated up to the Royal Observatory and looked out over London (suprisingly beautiful in a dusky heat haze).

As well as giving a talk about time and number, which seemed to go down quite well (based on a couple of chapters from Volume 3 of the trilogy I've just finished), I'd been asked to chair the music panel. This was meant to be in two parts (an hour each):

I'd done my research and put together some brief video clips to introduce unfamiliar audience members to the various panelists' musical contributions. Showing these, I allowed Twink, Nik and Miquette to summarise their pre-psychedelic musical life, early psychedelic experiences, and how the music evolved from there. I was hoping to keep the discussion close to the issue of the role of psychedelic consciousness in musical creativity, but it turned into more of a sharing-of-anecdotes (which the audience seemed very happy with) and general discussion.

I invited the younger crowd up for the second hour and attempted to facilitate some inter-generational psychedelic music discussion, with themes of utopianism vs. dystopianism, drones vs. chord progressions (in both acoustic/folk and rock contexts), the evolution of festival culture, the future of psychedelia and just what exactly does "psychedelic music" mean anyway?. It was good to have Miquette along, as she's watched the evolution from festival space-rock into club-based psy-trance sounds. Jacob and Anthony are both predominantly electronic sound artists and I was able to get them to talk a bit about the overriding bleakness in their music, as opposed to the utopian/optimistic current in such works as Hillage/Giraudy's Rainbow Dome Musick and Terry Riley's A Rainbow in Curved Air. I know Jake as one of the handful of students who got the UKC Psychedelics Society together a few years ago (leading directly to these conferences) and was really very impressed when I checked out some of his sounds on YouTube. Check this, for example, from his album Through a Hole in the Head (title possibly inspired by a difficulte period interning with Countess Amanda Feilding!):

Twink is an Islamic convert, showed up in a white robe, but more than happy to talk about his drug use in the past, and to still consider himself a "psychedelic musician". The track "Ten Thousand Words in a Cardboard Box" from his 1970 solo album Think Pink was quite a discovery. Amazing modal guitar solo from Paul Rudolph...

The best thing, though, was when I introduced myself to Miquette and was told that she's been listening to my podcasts, was particularly moved by the Kevin Ayers tribute which makes up the middle hour of Canterbury Sans Frontiéres episode 1. During the panel she told described how, as a young woman working in the French film industry, she had Gong invade her editing suite ("Zey blew my mind!", she told us, in a tiny French voice), deciding to go and live with them in their communal farmhouse, then being introduced by Kevin to his new guitarist, a UKC student dropout called Steve Hillage...


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