Databent video of a reverse vinyl loop with live digital audio processing.
Researching records on a medical theme
This year’s circle in 12 parts features guest artists chosen by zodiac sign, my guest for Gemini is Ceri Owen-Jones:
“When Jake asked me to take part in this project, the first thing I looked into were the origins and myths of Gemini. At my friend Sue’s suggestion, I went from Latin to Greek (Castor & Pollux) and back to Gemini’s Babylonian origins in the Great Horse Twins, and the parallel Vedic tradition of the Twins, the Ashvins, which means the ‘possessors of Horse’. According to Joseph Campbell, the mastery of the Horse brought a new energy and vitality to the dawn of the Iron Age and its symbolism replaced that of the Bull.
There are many horse songs in traditional Welsh music. I chose to play & record a Ceredigion melody, Y Dau Farch. Y Dau Farch is a conversation between two horses, one old, one young, about their past and future, which feels perfect for Gemini, a sign with an emphasis on duality and communication. Keeping Gemini communication in mind, the albums that leapt out at me in Jake’s vinyl library catalogue were the Welsh language learning albums. I wanted to explore communication in a second language, the difficulties of learning and expressing oneself, how comprehension in certain registers and subtle expression can be problematic.
With what I now know is classic Gemini superficiality, I mis-read Jake’s guide to album choices. Once figured out, I was glad to see that amongst his base-line choices was The Planets by Holst and from this I liked an arrangement of ‘Mercury’ (ruling planet of Gemini) by Tomita, a fuzzy soft Moog version. Jake also pointed out that one of his Gemini readings by Melvin J Gunton and Brian Skinner was made in Canada, a great choice for a Canadian in Wales / a Cymro who grew up in Canada. The constant idea in my life is duality.
My birthchart has seven planets in Air signs as well as my Midheaven (I’m Air heavy!). To represent Air, I chose the tracks Air and Listening Wind by Talking Heads, Walking in the Air sung by Aled Jones, and The Dragon by Vangelis (the Dragon, especially in Chinese myth, being a creature of clouds and air and a potent symbol in Wales). I saw that Jake has two copies of this last record in his listing – found at Emlyn Antiques – one with a cover, and one without.
I added a Miles Davis album as we share a birthday. It was a choice between Dr. Jekyll and Decoy. Although the title Dr Jekyll seems appropriate to describe the duality of Gemini, I veered off with the Decoy as the feel of the music seemed good for the flightiness of the ruling planet Mercury. This album was given to Jake by our great friend Peter Stevenson.
In medieval music, each modal scale was associated with a planet. Mercury was hypo-phrygian and as one of Gemini’s characteristics is the enjoyment of improvisation and the ability to adapt easily, I thought I would improvise variations on this mode based on the Welsh melodies Y March Glas and Triban y Cathreiwr (for the Ox in me).
Thinking of form: moving from calm to frenetic is the two parts, yin and yang, of Gemini. This will be based on feel, and collaborating with Jake. It’ll just have to happen as it happens.
Dragons swirl amongst the clouds. The heartsease, Viola tricolor, with its zygomorphic flowers, are like the Twins. A Tibetan singing bowl to clear the space and air, along with gifts given to me and Elsa (musical Twins) from Jake, completes the Circle.
I paired this with Taliesin of the Shining Brow: Canu y Gwynt; a riddle of the Wind.”
Ceri’s record selection: Talking Heads – Air; Talking Heads – Listening Wind; Aled Jones – Walking in the Air; Disciau Dysgu Difyr – Adar; Miles Davis – Decoy; BBC Radio – Welsh for Beginners; Cwrs Cymraeg llafar;
Along with the Maurice Woodruff I played with a number of moon themed tracks including some random bits of this traditional Chinese Music album…
…Debussy’s Clair de lune, the Tomita synth version..
And some versions of Moonlight Sonata, two from Richard Clayderman and one from Ronald Binge and his romantic strings..
March was to be the start of a year long series of improvisations exploring parallels between creative and ritual practice, the symbolic power of the circle, the zodiac, repetition and magic. Working with musician friend Jay, we were planning a monthly live webcast performance from my studio, me playing records, Jay taking a feed from the desk, sampling and treating with Ableton and sending it back into the mix.
We have been talking about this for a while now and rehearsing since January.
It’s been a fantastic listening exercise, trying to find balance between the analogue and digital and working out ways of creating structure within the performances based on some fundamental astrological ideas i.e signs, houses, modes, elements and decans.
In choosing records, I was inspired to seek out spoken word astrology ones having found a copy of ‘Tetley take you Stargazing with Maurice Woodruff: Aries’, in the Ty Hafan charity shop in Cardigan some time ago. Thanks to Ebay and Discogs I almost have the whole zodiac by a number of different astrologers.
There are also a number of musical interpetations of the zodiac signs and several copies of Holst’s planets.
Mixing in with those are a few tracks refering to magic in different ways. So far the only one thats made it into the mix has been A Kind of Magic by Queen, I have a few others in mind which will no doubt make later mixes.
Given the current Covid-19 restrictions we are unable to start the project as planned and im still not quite sure what this will mean for it. While we are finding a few extracts from our Aries rehearsals to post soon and work out how to proceed, I am posting this video of a vinyl only mix to be going on with.
The overlay is a sketch created in After Effects exploring wrapping a few circular images around a sphere. The images are photos of my mother’s crystal ball in the sunset light from the studio window and a version of my birthchart drawn by my mother back in 1996.
A mix of records leftover from a Zoom party where people chose vinyl from my databases and I played their requests – like a slow, unreliable, shit jukebox.
Ambrose & his Orchestra; 5000 Welsh Voices; Frankie Laine; Blondie; The Pentangle; Bois Y Felin; The Maple Leaf Four; The Dubliners; Max Boyce; Neal Hefti; Dire Straits; Dean Martin