Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Pearler Tracks - EGB

We thought it might be interesting to provide some insight into the story behind some of the songs on A Pearler. EGB is the first track on the album and I don't think there is an E, G or a B chord played on it.

The title's three letters stand for "Eternal Golden Braid" and while to some degree it speaks of a connective essence inside us and between us, it is actually taken from the subtitle of the book Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R Hofstadter

This book itself  covers a great many topics relating to mathematics, music, symmetry, art, language, consciousness and meaning and how these last two aspects can manifest as a result of the inter-working and complexity laid out by a system of lesser, unconscious, meaningless constituents.

What seems like a bit of a mouthful is woven together with Lewis Carroll-like meta narratives (the degree of self reference within this book is frightening) and discussions on artist M.C. Escher, mathematician Kurt Friedrich Gödel and composer J.S. Bach on how their work each pokes and prods at these concepts in a way that renders it both illuminating and poetic. Very few books can claim to be referenced in the fields of both computer science and philosophy.

On EBG I am thankfully not trying to mimic a J.S. Bach fugue (which is discussed at length in this book) but rather a certain poly-rhythmic complexity inspired by the minimalism of  Steve Reich such as on his Music for 18 Musicians.

 A more modern example, and clear descendant of the former would be the vibraphone section of Djed, the epic 21 minute suite by Tortoise. The real action gets going around the 10 minute mark.

Both of these pieces rely heavily on stasis, repetition and  duration for their effect. While there is often the appearance of an accrual of volume, mass or complexity, this is usually a trick of the arrangement as different instruments replace others to prolong interest without causing everything to collapse under its own weight.

It seems to me that the point of these pieces is to delay the destination or peak of the composition, simply because there is no real peak. The magic and beauty is in the lattice work provided by the individual voices. They are an end unto themselves.

While Reich tends to move quite transparently from movement to movement, Tortoise devise an altogether more ingenious exit strategy by way of some studio trickery and tape splicing. Around the 13:50 mark all logic is obliterated like the ceremonial destruction of a Zen Buddhist sand mandala (Zen Buddhism also features prominently in Gödel, Escher, Bach!) and the listener is thrust into an entirely different or parallel dub landscape or dimension where only the atomic constituents of things previously heard, are audible. What a way to go!

This implosion of structure, seemingly under the weight of its own logic harks back to some of the mental conundrums and paradoxes of the 'strange loops' discussed in Gödel, Escher, Bach. These logic systems often involve a degree of self-reference which traps the mind in a virtual Möbius strip.

Möbius Band I- M.C. Escher -- love me some Escher

In truth, these  situations arise due to failings or shortcomings in our language and logic constructs. It is our unflagging belief that this brain and these words are adequate and accurate enough to describe the universe, that allows our own minds to seek out the seams and loopholes, pulling us right through and then dowsing us in the insanity of it all.

It seems fitting to make a brief mention of Kurt Friedrich Gödel at this point, whose 'incompleteness theorem' proved that there was no set of mathematical axioms complete enough to sufficiently describe all mathematics. If we cannot adequately map out a set of abstract tools designed to describe the universe then we clearly have some work ahead of us.

Perhaps the real joy for me is actually slipping into those loopholes where cogent logic is suspended, where the moiré patterns overwhelm, and the interlocking rhythms induce a ecstatic trance. A brilliant thread of wonder, a sense of something immense and beyond our comprehension is perhaps truly immutable. 

There's an eternal golden braid
There's an aching for better days
Console yourself with words and chosen fate
There's a sinking in my soul
There is just no soul at all
Of what we're made
It's just eternal golden braid
It's just eternal golden braid

There's a burning, boney arm
You're not the only one
Holding on to holding on
You're not the only one
Are your boot lace on?
Holding on
Holding on
Are your boot lace on?

Halllelu, hallelu, hallelujah

In a fire, born a liar
Enter, enter
Beckoning to enter

from A Pearler, released 21 June 2015
Ramon Galvan: water recording, electric guitar, voice, dulcitone, wood block
Nic Da Silva: bass guitars, drums
Pierre Du Plessis: piano

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