Miklós Dolinszky interviews László Hortobágyi (April 2003)
Hungarian musician and musicologist László Hortobágyi was born in 1950 in Budapest, where he still resides today. An explorer and scholar of music and sounds from all over the world, he first visited North India in 1967 in order to learn instruments such as the rudra-vina, sitar, surbahar and the tabla, but also to record music and delve into Indian philosophy. In 1981 he founded the Gáyan Uttejak Society, an imaginary musical organisation which functioned at the same time as a studio and an archive of his discoveries in ethno-musicology. A keen innovator in the technological arena as well (devising his own sound processing software and using computers in music as early as 1988), he frequently combines instruments and musical structures from the past and future, East and West in order to create the lush, exotic soundscapes of the worlds and cultures he brings to life in each of his pieces.
László Hortobágyi has generously allowed us to include his work in the UMCSEET project, and over the coming weeks we will be publishing some highlights of his extensive catalogue, as well as interviews and essays by the artist. Below, you can read an interview conducted by Miklós Dolinszky in 2003 that touches on themes of ethno-musical history, the impact of technology on society and music, among others. You can also find out more about the artist and his Gáyan Uttejak Orchestra (Guo) in his site by clicking here.
An interview by Miklós Dolinszky with László Hortobágyi (April 2003).
Originally included in “Miklós Dolinszky: Timequake – Nine Musicians, Ten Confessions”
(Osiris Publishing House, Budapest 2004)
László Hortobágyi playing the sitar
LH: Let’s listen to the Great Fugue. It is almost the same, like 5 liters of blood flowing down the toilet, as opposed to having a latent demand for activity after a concert of Baroque music, or to express myself in a contemporary way: filled with the implanted positive energies of musical collectivity and a “standard language”. Of course, the Great Fugue is a danse macabre and a keystone in the “cathedral” of European music. This world is not the world of ‘Original Creation’ any more, but the smashed shape of it, that’s why the concept of destruction and pieces of art portraying it are the most beautiful here.
This kind of art is the art of anatomy and the artificially conditioned mal-consciousness of human race, which today offers a rich selection of materialised consciousness-mutations of the culture monsters of alienation. For me, the reason for collecting the musical monsters and any other things which are horrible in appearance is not fatalism, but the wish to understand them, and to see and display expedient alternatives through them. In the course of the uninhabitable human societies, it so happened that the human talent and versatility would be mapped mostly here – just take a little look at Alhambra’s collection of instruments of torture or NORAD’s navigation softwares – their creators had happened to be born in a world where their talent would – nota bene to the present day – manifest itself in that way.
About the turn of the 2nd millennium, this structure, that I used to call ‘apo-capitalism’, will arrive at the consumer biomass, unified on the surface of our planet. It is similar to the classic Hindu caste-system, being extremely closed, mono-cultured, and moving on a forced path – these are the mucous mega-city-colonies of humanoids. In this nonetheless interesting world, the established types of property and the possibilities of social movement articulated by them, produce limited castes and personalities impoverished into a limited metabolism, as well as their artistic tastes, and this will consume/destroy culture and the good things in life.
The Great Fugue, where the parts recalling the glory of the past still have a meaning, will project the vertigo universality of the scales of the Schönberg–reihe, which are equivalent to each other and interchangeable with each other – that is the industry standard of music, one might say as well.
Well, then the white man’s world would arrive at the materialised ethos of a principle that until then had been hidden and existing for centuries in the depths of universal order, and that would make the “underlying meaning and behaviour” of human activities obvious, namely the logic of an ancient-new paradigm in the rhyming waves of history’s 200 year long Kondratiev cycles. That is to say, the principle and practice, according to which the prefabricated components would go in by this door and the car go out by that door or the people would go in by that gate and bales of soap and hair roll out by that gate – that is the reihe – these principles are the precipitation of the same “idea” that will alienate the planetary-individual consciousness created by the human being, by this tiny contaminator of the Galaxy. I apologize for trying to express myself through a form of yapping like this. In this world music seems to be the sweet poison of mankind, at the same time it can be considered as a litmus paper, that is more sensitive to awareness of the society’s life, than any other art or science.
MD: You state in an interview on your web site that in our days there are only a few “mutants” still listening to Beethoven. Well then, I more or less know Beethoven, but who are those mutants?
LH: For example, you or me. Let me get to the bottom of the responsibility of musicologists: why do we allow swindlers to speak about important issues? Why doesn’t high musicology deal with things that are substantial in music? It was Stockhausen, who already predicted a world-music process in the 50s, but certainly with another ending, and in 1949 Cage wrote the Interludes that had in fact a Gamelan structure and tonality. In our days, there is not a single serious intuitive or even theoretical approach, namely an extrapolational theoretical approach, based on the world concept of a valid cultural language. Adorno would easily starve to death. It’s true that even the ‘world music’ of today has become a stinking corpse, where the Kenyan mourners will be mixed by Albanian goat-herds, accompanying them on Fairlights, into Vedantic meditation or goa-trance party composition. Today, behind the so-called youth counter-cultures that have been started during the 60s, you can find a global universal expansive road-roller culture, that will force all the existing traditional languages and particularities down, and that has already successfully eliminated the many-coloured experimenting subcultures of the rebellious underground and avant-garde, making them disappear.
You could realize one of the symptomatic enormities of the ‘world music’ that materialised even in its initial aspects: it crammed everything, from the most complex 18-interval Persian or 22-interval Indian way of octave division to the polyrhythms of the Far-East, into the infinitely pitiful four-four, “A-A-B-A-B-A” compositional form of the white man’s new music. Today, it doesn’t matter, whether there is Gamelan or Persian music, or an Andean sicu playing on top of the grooves: all the different musical traditions are eroded into synthesized or sampled timbres. Meanwhile, there had been about twenty Baroque orchestras and also six mixed-skin Gamelan orchestras working actively in the Netherlands. Today, all the Gamelan orchestras have died out, and only two of the Baroque orchestras are still active. Certainly, here you can also see mutants performing for mutants.
For example, in 70s America there was an orchestra on the West Coast called the “Gamelan Son of Lion”, and after the Banjar orchestras had all disappeared, they reconstructed the original tunings using the computers of UCLA Ethnomusicology Department, then rebuilt the original Gamelan instruments and composed new music for them, oddly enough. But some of them are quite listenable.
LH: This kind of ingenuity of the white man is exactly the same as that of the New Age culture or any new religion. And while a musician who came from an original village community, is murdering his Hawaii guitar at a Sheraton hotel with the horrible “My Way”, the computers at Stanford University will briskly analyse the rendering of mouldered orchestras. So far as they are able to, though they are convinced of it. It’s true that they have tried it at least, and thus this dreary truth is going to come to be: the only parts of a culture that will be able to live on are the ones the white man can understand. But certainly, it will be precious little. Many of the well-intentioned groupings of that era managed to compose very remarkable pieces, but these compositions were also transformed into inclusions – some cultural “pods” – like the quasi-cultural carpet of repetition that proved to be a musical language, the last quasi-cultural carpet and aurora borealis of “serious” music, for many years.
Certainly, it also became clear for many, that the basic structures of repetition – copyright by Terry Riley or Steve Reich – had practically colonised the Indian-African polyrhythmic way of thinking into a reinterpreted and stupefied reincarnation. In my opinion, the last and similar quasi idiomatic product of light music was the live concert of Tangerine Dream’s Ricochet in Notre-Dame. It had a never-exceeded cohesion between the rational European musical traditions and the psychedelic exodus of the youth, where the fugue-ish repetitive structure of the Teuton-conceived electronic musical language would meet the ecstatic but in this case still sophisticated scream of youth. But it was already observable, that the “injury” of the world had already started to break through these sounds very much, that means, the performer-composers would begin to apprehend the already existing global intellectual and social poverty, and the anomalies of future prospects that were firing and fuelling, and would fuel, this whole death agony of youth.
Thus, the initial positive, pure and orthodox electronic musical approach, though messed up with some Oriental humbugs, has stupidly and incredibly reduced itself to four-fours and loops that are stupefying in nature, where similarly to inhaling glue, the only catharsis is the acoustic massaging of the kidneys. The musical mapping and consumption of social brutality, including the proletarian mp3, is going deeper and deeper. In case of Tangerine Dream, the cost of the equipment, besides musical knowledge, is about 10-15.000.000 Marks, and today, in the DJ culture, you can actually hit the same target with a 75.000 Forint turntable. But it’s true that the endless waves of DJs will ruminate here the thousandth reincarnation of sold out compositional forms over and over.
MD: What kind of influence does the development of technical equipment have over music and the way people listen to it?
LH: Today, the “bel esprit” target audience will only listen to and buy music in the classical mainstream, performed with original instruments or according to an imaginary archaic-contemporary kind of interpretation, at least for a while (until the totalitarian domination of DVD, obviously). Who is familiar, for example, with the irregular masses composed by Tinctoris (a fifth lower, according to cantus firmus)? Although we can consider a success that recently the complete Ockeghem collection has been published, it has to be attributed to the fact that the old hippie generation will trigger a last consumerist push by the former owners of the copyrights, who are inclined to think that all the records made during the 60s and 70s are worth reprinting on CD. There is not a real chance for new records anymore, new orchestras and new interpretations, and if anybody can remember the AZ EMI Electrola series, Reflex “Studio der Frühen Musik”, he or she will see obviously the ethos of our age: there is not a real chance to publish J. Tinctoris or Jan Obrecht on DVD or in post DTS-8 formats, and Herbert von Karajan is optional (unfortunately multioptional).
But let us be a bit braver and think further – thanks to modern technology a tiny hole on the dark sky of music history might have opened, one that might result in performers with instruments and plasma screens, controlling realtime real and virtual instruments and electronic modules on stage using a lightpen. It would be the first real incarnation of the long desired “live-electronics”: a stage, three large displays, standard instruments, fast computers and – horribile dictu – I can even imagine MIDI controlled acoustic instruments being at hand. The technology would enable, for the first time, the real live-electronics, ecstasy and music to be born there and then collectively, and then fed back to the audience. Certainly, that would demand an underlying collective musical identity and a standard musical language, through the subsocial (tribal consciousness) codes which allow participants to be in the same ‘phase’.
Here, we would not face the private mythological bush fighting of the imaginary inner freedom of an uninhabitable world that everybody desires to leave: a practice of music that recalls the everyday of Baroque music could be created instead. Obviously, this idea will share the fortune of samplers: when a fantastic technical device appears, an opening can be created and entered through its use, followed towards the future and the desired liberation of fantasy, and imagination can break the hegemony of factories on timbres and equipment and its limitations… But it turns out that no such statement has been made yet. We can establish that new (but in our days merely virtual) cultures are only going to be born when each of the participating elements – and we are speaking about musical elements now – can be built into a similar one within its own authentic method and cultural substance, and emphasised within the most genuine authenticity of its language and tone theory system. Only then, a new quality might appear, one that will, interestingly, work efficiently. There are common human experiences and poverty (also) hiding behind the music of high cultures, that will exceed beyond the arts and sciences, exceed far beyond the people, behind the people, into that horrifying hell, where it used to live and where it has come from. Here, the common root of cultures, spanning space and time, is nothing else but a millennial distillation of human misery, that connects, like the thread of Ariadne, the apparently unknown-known inhabited worlds and the common and thousand years old art-technique of escaping from it, where, from the monophonic drum language of the Ga tribe to the hundred-register organ built by the French organ builder master, Cavaille Coll, the underlying content is the same. Whether it is a tempered method or a 22-interval Indian scale, that is only the cultural anthropological packaging. By the time the technology, through the creation of a new reality, enables the redemption of the world, the fuel tanks of the theories building up the new reality will become empty, and the experiences of the traditional cultures and lifestyles will have died off long ago.
MD: What you’re telling me is really shocking. Until now, I believed that our problem is in fact that we preserve everything. I mean, that we are only able to preserve. That the excessive growth of preserving techniques will bring us to the last hour of culture, because the techniques will not allow us to put the burden of our future down. On the other hand you insist on that classical music cannot be continued by using the latest sound technology.
LH: Well, it would be really interesting to listen to Clemens Non Papa or Tinctoris on eight tracks. The problem is that all the shaggy small labels are being eaten up by the majors, who these days only buy the masters, but won’t publish them – they are waiting for the new medium, but there is no global new medium. As opposed to the VHS-JVC compromise (this standard is of course the worst one, just let the proletarians strain their eyes, it is cheap and widespread), the standards of DVD-audio, although there are two of them, haven’t worked out until today, as yet. And if there is something that can’t be sold in several hundred thousands of pieces, nobody will publish it. But, besides the lack of a new medium, the demand (real and manipulated) by consumers is also missing. The mediums are expensive. The manufacturing cost of a CD is about a couple of dozens of cents, but in the shop you have to pay about six thousand Forints for it. It means that nobody will buy it, instead they will copy it worldwide. The golden age of CD has expired approximately three years ago. Everything was sold out, what they could, but no new, progressive music or even a reinterpreted Beethoven recording was published any more, I mean, not anymore on CD and still not on DVD. Certainly, I am speaking about new audio recordings and not video recordings of concerts.
Regarding your question, here we can see two interesting contexts: if a musicologist coming from the Tau Ceti looks over the recent and current repertoires of the academy of music, and also the ones of the performers, he or she will arrive at the inevitable conclusion that before J. S. Bach no single composer or piece of music has existed on this planet. And here, it’s best to ignore the composers of the big South-Indian church orchestras that have declined until around the turn of the century, or the Japanese gagaku composers, who have been also eluded by the square beam of high musicology. The musical harvest of Romanticism became part of the current musical high culture, but this kind of zombie musical culture was far from suitable for the cathartic modelling of reality. From a quality of music standpoint however, it is very informative and it is worth comparing the innate rhythmic performance of an Afghan sarod player with the ergonomical-mimicking choreography of a contemporary or even classical piano piece, or comparing the sound collection of an acid-goa party with the homogeneity of the orchestral sounding, where the packaging is becoming more and more important while the content becomes more devoid of interest – see the symphonies of Mahler, for example.
The structure of classical European music and the abilities of its composers are outstanding, but constitute a precious cultural inclusion of a minority which has taken possession of a language, that is fulfilling the development and self-determining, and that is impossible to be influenced by modern technology, though many have attempted it. By the time it became possible, for example, to orchestrate in real time the part-leading of (Giovanni Pierluigi da) Palestrina’s works with the help of a Synclavier (their creators have, by the way, become bankrupt since then), in order to develop a well-known but dead tradition into new music, nobody would ever think of doing such a thing. Obviously, it is not accidental that I am speaking exactly of this forced path in general.
Of course, there always will be a few people who use the available technology for the purpose it serves. One thing remains certain: these everyday technologies that could be used for music (the products of computer technology developments, after military applications and after becoming out of date, will appear like this at first) are not for us. It is suitable for a rate of profit to be imposed, one that is necessarily enough to make the world of today function, and technology is artistically planned by the talent of anonymous engineers until the lower limit of usability. See Windows etc., that is zilch in its entirety. Here you can see another well known speciality of our age: the designers of the menstruating Barbie doll will appear in the media as real everlasting artists, but who is familiar with the construction engineers of the Hubble telescope?
Today, a big company will manufacture a product with the same awareness with which cathedrals have been built in the past, and when a corporation sees the possibilities, the most terrible nightmares of futurologists will come true immediately.
By the way, the onboard computers of F-16, manufactured as early as the 80s in Korea on license, were able to calculate the possible spatial coordinates of impact of three heat missiles, while controlling the supersonic autopilot, that means a difficult topologic extrapolation, and at the same time they were communicating with the satellite of the relevant eighth earth segment, in order to load the local topographical details into the computer’s CPU. Well, in those same days we were experiencing the “blessings” of Sinclair and Commodore 16 computers, with 64K memory capacity.
Quality certainly costs a lot, and starting from here the whole action radius is sociologically determined, because only those who can afford it will but it, and those who can afford it will never care. Finally, we are back to the few “mutants” that are using the technology to listen to Ockeghem. But the snake bites its own tail, because this kind of new reality can be overcome only through techniques created by that new reality.
An artist will, or should, apply technology to reconstruct reality. The human being is able to rebuild the universe, but lives in a collective cul-de-sac, where his/her thoughts move along an inherited track, and when the winds of history are driving all the masterminds into a huge western stable, then the scientists and artists will stoop to be slaves to the big companies and the military complexes, and that determines what kind of future these minds and the products of their science and art will create.
As the platitude says, “we are living in the age of computer technology”, but I have never seen any government in the world whose social governing or parliamentary processes are supported by a computer controlled decision making software. The only exception was Stafford Beer and the Cybersyn experiment in Chile. Certainly this project was feasible only in 1970, but since then the corporations’ ranks closed. A well written program supported by sociological inputs could impartially consider the economic, social and cultural conditions of a given country – certainly more effectively than some representative who will read a stupid sentence from his or her papers. There are a lot of extremely smart and clever military, gaming and listening programs in existence (e.g. the obsolete Echelon or the new Lacrosse system), but nobody knows one that would make proposals, based on real sociological data, on abortion law, tax regulations, revaccination or hormone preparations etc., for a fat-headed committee. Instead, what remains is the all-destroying parliamentary cretinism and dirty morals.
However, by using the Internet, there would be the possibility to reconsider the civic participation within the collective structure. Here, society’s real dream could manifest itself in seconds. I would definitely predict that for a while, the Internet suppliers are not going to install new servers for the sake of that kind of solution. In this resounding world of computer technology, only the most important locations are not supplied with computers. I must repeat it: the society and culture of the world is moving in a path it has been forced to follow. There is no divine punishment or predestination, our situation is shaping up according to the most prosaic physical parameters. Since there is not a single place where the current governmental and global decision making is going to rely on reality, and there is only the rule of collective mal-consciousness in existence, so some certain lateral shifts of society are a matter of mere chance. Thus, it is not human intelligence that builds up the civilisation, but it is the chances and disasters that are drifting us towards an irrational future.
To avoid any misunderstandings, this is not pessimism, but the actual and inescapable direction of the development of human societies.
MD: In our days, does technology have a language or community forming power?
LH: Absolutely! If we think of the network communities downloading pornography or games, then the answer is “yes”. But the answer is also positive if in a helmet with the fancy name of “Virtual Graal Helmet” we think of swapping via Internet the impulse samples of frequencies locating a “brain synthesizer”, i.e. the brain’s theta waves through a software, then synchronising them with a machine and using as a music, or examine the web sites of different terrorist, pedophile or religious organizations.
At the same time, we have to use our Moebius-mind: obviously, the usage of the technology is based on the unconscious priorities of a collective structure, and this is a feedback loop that will restrict its usage: a software technology that would model the structure of Viking or Javanese village communities or the score of an 80-member church orchestra of the Guptan age still doesn’t exist.
On the other hand, just for the sake of making some jovial remarks, there might as well exist some individual satellite channels, the encoded programs of which could be enjoyed in so called personal tubs (“Personal Grave”), in hot water with salt solution and a respiratory mask, an intravenous infusion, that would be the “sleg”. The VirtuAlien helmet programs, i.e. VideoDrams that can be clicked into the slot implanted behind the ears, will make a still unpredictable quantity of experiences to be sold out in the form of sampled and digitalised stories. E.g. series of masterpieces, entitled “The Corpse Eating Germ”, “Chermophag Games” and “Alien’s G-point”. Here you have some ficticious softwares: “Compaq de Sade”, “The Little Inquisitor”, “I, Himmler”, “Cocalia”, “Softnirvana”, “Hybernaculum”, “Cyborgia’sm”, etc. The hackers, who had really ingeniously hacked Pentagon secret web sites, were only able to write: “Lick my arse!” there, instead of downloading all the secret information and sending it up to a satellite so that anybody can access it. During this early stage of the Net’s development, the last spots of freedom seemed to survive for a moment in the hacker’s tiny “pods”, but that was all that these cyber knight-errants could do.
Thus the question is whether the ability and creative power, expressed during the evolution into man in the limitless creation of post-human heavens and techniques, is a part of the hominid natural history or just a basic program, or one of the possible manifestations of the original mal-consciousness of the human race. Is it worth at all meditating on whether the mal-consciousness is inevitable, and is there any need for artificial mal-consciousness? It is described fantastically by the Old Egyptian winged spirit (ka), that will (not in a form of a Christian dove) leave the body, the early representation of the soul’s alienation, or the spiritual praxis of the Tibetan monk, being locked up in a dark cell for years, and who, during the final stage of his initiation, will materialize his or his chosen god’s earthly counterpart in a form that is perceivable for others.
MD: Yes, but the possibility of total control also lies in that kind of application, and not particularly secretly, as the example of the ECHELON system illustrates. On the other hand, if I am not mistaken, the “live-electronics” would serve as a means to reconcile and surmount the technology and the community.
LH: A lot of very interesting things are happening, but still not in a controlled way. The real face and distorted way of thinking of science is reflected in the arts that are seemingly not connected with it, since its musical mapping, that is on the same intellectual level, would be an exceedingly complex and complicated polyphonic and polyrhythmic system. Instead, what you can hear is: noise-music, senseless beats with the four-four until the end of time, rattling goa-loops that hurl reality into your face. In our days, it is quite bewildering, how the plebeian human’s consciousness will sublimate this horrible tangible world: it creates pleasure-palaces and fantastic edifices, not in reality of course, but virtually. And the reason why music is the most specific among all the culture creating virtual worlds, because it is an existing physical kingdom come. In parallel with the technical development, anybody can create any sound in any kind of quality, opening up a realm of almost limitless possibility. Of course, the usage of computers and software is crucially influenced by how stupid their owner is, but the youth has a ‘magic wand’ now. Inside computers, a kind of workstation is going to develop, where you have access to the collection of audio (that is living), MIDI (that is controlled) and virtual sound modules simultaneously, and consequently you don’t need any studio or thousands of other different machines, cables and connections. Music is overcoming a dramatic change, and never before heard virtual, acoustic worlds are going to emerge. Here, I see a breaking through, and we can expect big things from this field.
The usage of music will become totally different, though not in its language, as all the rhythms, tonalities and tones have quite limited assortments, but in that it will be used as pleasure cosmetics. The waves after the World War II have consumed all of the compositional forms from the most abstract to the stupidest – all of them have been repeatedly exhausted. Music cannot develop automatically in the direction of complexity, it will never reach the Indian polyrhythm, although the complexity of the world would justify it. Since, because of the receptivity and sociological combination of the masses, nor a high culture can be established, only the repackaging of compositional forms created by the existing primitive cultures of youth can be realised.
However, the collective live application of the new technology and the software electronics has failed to be realised until now, so I am not confident at all, and I am sorry to say it, that a collective language of music could come to existence in the nearest future. Otherwise, I am of that strictly privately spread opinion that almost all of the musical languages of the high arts that have existed until now and their underlying ecstasy are transhuman. And now, let’s play about with one of the possible future prospects of “serious” music. The transhuman musical language of humans, who are genetically modified and distorted by the everyday practice of western societies of our days, could be as follows: the computer part is, as a matter of fact, ready, and if there is something in our age that is capable of development, then these are the generations of the computer breeds. They will unfold the brain and the musical impulses of it, and this is going to be the Consociator helmet. Today, it is still called Virtual Reality. The new transhuman musical language should be a language and technology that is asymmetric, bitonal, applying more tempi simultaneously, but applying “in phase inverted” mechanical polyrhythms, synchronized with the human alpha and theta waves, but using more dimensional space-algorithms, implementing more channel mapping and performance. But it is going to be nothing of that kind, because this sort of musical language would demand a new humankind. Hence, the future of music may be symbolized, with a real prophetic reliability, with Sisyphus’ rock. Nevertheless, it is said that the musical rhythms, the pulsation of acid parties, the cavemen’s fire, but also works of K. Barlow or György Ligeti are all mapping the brain’s physical biocurrent voltage fluctuation.
Consequently, as much as the Indian society is characterised by “introvertism”, the fossilized mal-consciousness of the fictive inner freedom, so only the transcendental, hypnotic and static musics will also be built into the world of music that follows the above mentioned “serious” music. From among the entire available styles, it is only the psychedelic, “druggie” trend, that is going to be weeded out. Although the assortment seems to be enormous, all the underlying process serve the same purpose: the intellectual withdrawal, the exodus from this dreary world. Suddenly, the different layers of the society will find the “common denominator”. It doesn’t mean anything and whether you analyse the way that different styles are using the means, or the musical technology of that style, they will always speak about the same thing. And there is another paradox manifested here: the most abstract and unique way of searching for this ‘heaven’ will be executed through the most brutal physical impact (here we can’t see the sophisticated and complicated musical texture yet) that will dandle everybody who wishes to exit into catharsis, like in the hypnotic French organ music from around the turn of the century. The acoustic pleasure and that enjoyable bass that massages the bowels and kidneys can be considered a sign indicating the changing of music history. Since there have never been deep bass sounds as good as that in music, sometimes I do visit those parties for that reason, and I enjoy the current week’s “end of the world” in hearing those numbing basses. Going back to antiquity, music would always give an inside pleasure through aesthetic and mathematical-acoustic ratios, rhythms and sounds perceived by the ears. The breakthrough of modern music lies in the fact, that its intellectual mesh and associative abilities are ceasing, it is falling into this “cavemenish” massive world of rhythm, so it will produce external effects being expressed in bombing and massaging the flesh acoustically. The enjoyment of music will manifest itself not in the individual inner catharsis, but in the change of blood circulation and rapid rising of adrenaline production. At the same time, this kind of external influence serves actually as the highest inner exodus. And the emerging demand for it is endless, global and steadily growing.
MD: Frankly speaking, there is an extremely big potential that will be used to further petty or unreasonable goals.
LH: Contemporary classical music, after its extinction, has still bequeathed an experience to us: this kind of music (like any other science in high culture) is ahead of the world in terms of all of its musicians, and composers have reached the end 30 years ago, when their private heaven ran into the wall of reality. That was the starting point of the development of an interesting musical ethology: the bushfighting of private mythologies. They have been evolving incredibly developed musicological knowledge and composing techniques, and the groups of composers or even the orchestral scores made around IRCAM, however unlistenable they are, would represent the culmination of the human mind – they are the precious stones of the European spirit in the overall culture of the world.
The composing techniques have reached that terminal point, where they, obscured by the fog of their own entity, will dwell on the top of their own Parnassus, like individual and meaningless universes. The graphically attractive orchestral scores are similar to huge armaments, but I could also mention a “willie rivalry” in the kindergarten, if I didn’t feel any empathy.
The classical musicians made a mistake: they sat down in an armchair saying that they were owners of an exclusive language and parts of a high culture of minority. It was a mistake to reinstrument the Fibonacci sequence for the twentieth time, because that was not meant for the human physiology, and it was a mistake to turn a deaf ear to extra-European musics, when there was a possibility to get acquainted with them. The aforementioned orchestral scores apply only for the given composition – they are crowded with disposable signs concerning the performance, and can be performed only by learning a private code. This is a parallelism of private hells, while the composer, having a strong class-consciousness, is sitting in the armchair, and in his/her gray solitude he/she is angry with the world that is providing for him/her for shorter or longer periods, and he/she would believe its countless emptied hocus-pocusses. At the same time, it is remarkable, that we render the structure of these musics into the reality of machines or apply them to the world of computers in vain – they won’t work there anyway, and nobody cares, because it is the same individually anonymous language as the one that the generation sunk into Virtual Reality helmets will own.
MD: Compared to that, what kind of intellectual standpoint will world music start from?
LH: On the eve of the globalization, the historical reality has become fissured. It doesn’t happen too often, and we have got a historical opportunity to compare and understand with the help of the changed way of thinking and the modern technology the co-existing past and present musical languages of the world.
This opportunity applies not only to music. Still before the onset of the postmodern – I call it an apo-capitalistic – consumer caste-system, right before the traditional cultures considered as the iridescent reflections of the past have died out, and a deformed western world, becoming caste-like, was built up: as a last psychedelic pushing of the 60s, there was a period, when the big theory of comparative musical synthesis, worthy of the European musical culture, could have been born, similarly to the search for the Universal Theory of physical science. There were 25-30 years for this purpose, and never more. Before that, there had been the self-determining and impermeable world of traditional feudal cultures and the narrow-minded, Europe-centric world concept of the bourgeois society, then, after their decay, there came the similarly impermeable homogeneous, conformist-narrow world of the new global multiculture. At that threshold point of the historical course, there appeared for the first and, at the same time, last time the chance for this synthesis, that is, otherwise, contradictory to reality and true only in its possibilities. But nobody has even noticed it.
MD: And what happened instead?
When (after 1968) it became apparent that there was only one way to go for the quieted shaggy minority, one that leads inside, and when even the ashrams of the great soultraders have been emptied, there will come another chapter of a scheduled need for (or a small degenerate revolution of) snapping out of the world made uninhabitable by us. The eternal software of the ancient instinct, the technique of “entering the picture” by performing a complete somersault that was invented by an ancient Chinese poet, the “trance-forever” by means of a virtual helmet that reminds us of the mole-cricket-like head of the Alien, just to overcome the day-to-day reality with the help of fashion, drugs and science, and where punk, still having a class rage filled with social feeling, will turn against itself instead of the caste-rigid and unchangeable social reality (that is where the fashion of safety-pins transforms itself into the acidic fashion of piercings, actually covering the whole body, just like in the case of ecstatic dervishes, including even the intimate parts of the body, fashion of coloured contact lenses, body plastics and tattoos), and where, and this is of cardinal importance, we can see the emergence of all the clichés and misunderstandings of the extra-European cultures in the form of “World Music”.
The “white man’s” last meeting with Indian music happened around this time, when from the second part of the 50s this kind of music, in view of its entirety and origin, was identified by artists ranging from John Cage to Yehudi Menuhin and The Beatles with a small (but considering the performer, Pandit Ravi Shankar) ingenious slice of it. Though the extinction of the traditional Indian schools had already commenced around the turn of the century in parallel with the disappearance of the mahárája courts, this kind of misunderstanding of classical Indian music by “white man’s” consumption could also lead to the development of a consumable Indian music that was comparable with the global “conform-idiomatism” of the awful pop industry. And in this way, however, the very essence of the Indian music is fading away, in a fantastically sophisticated, ancient and ecstatic human scream, being the mathematical purity and Heaven in itself, and if you’ll allow me to tell you my opinion, I would say that if the Hell exists, there is Indian music playing, for sure.
In the world, Indian and Gamelan musics have the most stringent mathematics, where none of the notes are improvised or meditative. Here, every composition will be concreted into the repertoire by age-old repetitions, and still: the performer or the Javan orchestra will never be able to play the same music twice in the same way. This is the ocean of freedom, where all the participants, like engineers of the kingdom come, will build up the monumental, transcendent cathedral of Indian music of tiny little rational pavements and units. The whole Schönberg line (reihe) is a Teuton barbed wire (walhalla) compared to the Gamelan structure. The “white man’s” ergonomic “detachedness” from the music’s original ecstatic factor, together with his/her alienated scream, would become evident, and at the same time naturally delicious, through the sounding of the 32” flue pipes of Cavaille Coll organs.
Let’s refer for a moment to the progressive but already also disappearing rave, goa trance, acid and psychedelic dub music of our days. Music is a physical “drug” that cannot be replaced by anything else. You can get ratios through your ears, constructions are penetrating into your brain, and there can be born feelings – without any drugs – that none of the other organs of sense could induce or transmit. And while the aforementioned Indian music is an intellectual exode of a thousand-year-old development from this uninhabitable world, now the similar attitude of acid music will guide us to the consumers’ praxis of weekend liberation and alienation of body and soul, incited from outside, i.e. it appears as a more up-to-date technology of the “art of snapping out”.
That is how the modern technology and the extra-European music elements, constituting a light mix, will appear simultaneously in the daily practice of the so called “World Music”, and on the digital carriers of alienation and artificial mal-consciousness, in the form of samplers, Virtual D-Sound Helmet, DVD, and CD-ROMs containing sounds and programs.
Now allow me to quote, for a moment, from the commentary of my CD booklet, which attempts to represent that possible and (in my opinion) shortly ensuing future: “The Sangeet Novus Sensus has been composed for a socio-ethno musicologist coming from the Eridanus constellation 200 years later to our Earth. This demo was produced in 1995-1996 in the former East-Europe as a reflection of the sociological experience having been obtained in the late 20th century. Its technological basis was a PCM morphology using up the old FFT spectrum-analysis as an algorithm controller and a virtual overtone-synthesis software developed by me. Here appears the music as a physiological sôma (sleg), that seems to be one of the potential acoustical solutions of abandonment from the earthly reality and of the generating the social-moebius-mind based on my “computer mêmesis” technology. The modular goa-electronics, the matrix topology of tablâ-mêms, synthesized carcinogen PCM sequences, the Hindusthân style of the astral-hallucinogen orchestration or the polyphonic application of the analysed interstellar noise spectrum samples or the geometric fractal loops induced by Zipi programming and the Pythagorean methodology of the sound mixing – all have spun a mêmetic cobweb around the average phosphorescent acid-consciousness having been growing due to this century’s trend of alienation, so the Sangeet Novus Sensus appears as a refined “prâna of transociete” of the millennium. Later on, when the humanoid consciousness transplanted into networks and the human race settled down into the stratosphere of Jupiter – in those days the original frequency algorithms of the music being converted into laser needle impulse were plugged in the synapse of the human neuron outcome and they were stimulated by thousands of 3D-16 Hz BPM impulse/minute – there began a new area of music history and the hidden meaning of Sangeet Novus Sensus became as an ethnological nightmare of the past.”
(Part of LH’s the „The Virtual Męmesis of Music”, in „Technomusicology” 2009/IV. pp.709-128., October issue.)
MD: In one of your interviews you complained that no synthesis existed among the different musical styles because they have too short a lifetime, and by the time we could achieve that synthesis, a style would be superseded by others. I wonder if world music that intervenes in the spirit of synthesis indeed has that synthesising power. The ranking of high-class music, that was later named “classical music”, had been reached exactly by the integrating capability that made it possible to raise and reconcile different musics in a way that didn’t deny the used elements, but rather organised them into an advanced unity, thus justifying them. This kind of capability was made possible by the complexity of composing techniques of the high-class music. The principal issue for me is that world music, while lacking that kind of technique, still has the power to synthesise. Because if not, then instead of synthesis it can only boast of the doubtful virtue of syncretism. I have a feeling that world music (of which, according to your opinion, we should speak of in the past tense already) is speaking on the one hand about the final disappearance of the traditional cultures of music, and on the other hand, about the absence of a uniform standard language of music without being able to replace it. We had taken out the wall being among them, but it turned out that they would die at that very moment.
For me, the birth of the cultural and technical conditions of world music will rather document the extinction of local languages, than the birth of a new standard language. The unification is talking about, as a matter of fact, the disruption, because synthesis can only be created among different things having strongly marked features. But behind the softy, lukewarm proximity and the “everything resembles everything” kind of attitude towards life, there is actually the experience of strangeness hiding, that is, it’s safe to be close to each other, we won’t reach each other anyway, or translated into the language of music: we are not able to create a standard language anyway, that is above all cultures.
LH: That’s a very good point, and we are actually speaking about the same thing – I am crying some vagrant tears about missing the historic chance that we have been allowed to have. It is not a secret for us, that globalisation and “multi culti” are only the “white men’s” mania and invention, and this fact will justify both of your statements. But regarding the culture, in the spirit of ethnomusicologism of the beginning of the 20th century, only the part of it the white man could record is able to live on. The English managed to record (in between making railroads, murdering and ruining the Bengali jute industry) some musical events too. If they didn’t, we would know nothing about Bengal life of music of the 18th century.
When I was travelling around India, in connection with music, my only advantage was that I was a white man. I refused to record these musical events as a quasi-vegetarian inhaling the vapors of millennial Hindu philosophies and a believer of these “truths”, but I intended to interpret the things with wide-eyed astonishment and comparative ability of a star traveller, with all my heart, with feeling and with that kind of helpless annoyance about the senseless destruction that would fill my days to this very day. The dual beam of view, that underlies your questions and their meaning, will reveal the exact same alternative-less and seemingly predestined and illogical socio-musicological “development”, or rather the contradiction of what became World Music, that I have thought to open up. It is nonsense, but I have to say that this new World Music should have been created by musicologists and those who are still thinking that the traditions of music can be preserved despite the development of society. Pronouncing the word “development”, I am absolutely unsure if omitting the use of quotation marks is properly justified.
MD: But if they can be rescued, what is synthesis for?
There is or may be a possibility or necessity (if any) for synthesis, and it may be only realised when there is no conventional ethos, standard language and culture between humans and their collective structures. The composers of Tibetan church music used to compose their music on 8-9 minutes long music periods having 72 BPM tempo, and those compositions were written down in orchestral scores. Or I could mention Ustád Amir Khán of Indore, who used to have rendered his vocal compositions in a 56/4 tála.
I could actually continue naming examples like this (with tears in my eyes) until tomorrow night, but I have to ask: where is the human species of our days (besides the mutants of course) for whom this kind of historical, but still learnable musical practice would mean a tormenting daily requirement? But it is a certainty that the peculiarities of this musical way of thinking could never be reinvented or rediscovered again as a musical practice in later ages. And I consider them timeless, floating and closed universal worth entities, even if the natural progress of human culture will throw away those conceptual-musical constructions in garbage of history.
At the same time, and this is another argument for the realisation of synthesis I am conceiving, the social-cultural attitude towards life of the contemporary western-global societies is, in my opinion, remarkably close to the underlying meaning of Asian composed music. I also believe that this synthesis is becoming possible partly due to the natural history of these vanishing Asian traditional compositional forms, which were developed by history in an unrepeatable way, a psycho-acoustic universality refined on the distillates of the centuries-old misery of feeble human beings. It’s also partly possible due to this kind of modern state of lacking boundaries for information and thus it would be particularly suitable for the cathartic representation of our world – so far as music can serve that purpose.
Naturally, I am fully aware that all of this is a private illusion of our age, a kind of survival strategy that only has an obvious (and thus deemed feasible) opportunity in the culture of these days, but it is certainly a hopeless undertaking. I still believe in it, but who would think that the construction I have set up would accomplish a real global standard language of music? Certainly only if the historical development of our planet was different from the present one, because the source of that is nothing else but the similar attitude of the standard languages of human arts, scientifically speaking: its “behaviour” will be implanted into a global culture in a digital way of orchestrating for modern times. If it happens, then there could emerge a new uniform standard language of world music in the spirit of a genuine world-village, when all the constituent elements would be assembled in their original quality, namely, in their own self-sufficient authentic schemes and cultural mediums and preserving their own system of languages and sound theories. When hell freezes over, certainly.
But (as we’ve already discussed) because of the known social shackles such illusions had no possibility of appearing in human minds earlier, and according to my primitive predictions the new global order fails to provide an adequate ground for that kind of thoughts either. That is, instead of the realisation of the desirable (but for the moment hopeless) perspective of the fading of the state and collapsing of societies into independent, small entities with no central administration, into small, ecological communities having digital and infrastructural relations with each other and having their own freely elected hierarchy (certainly without any nations or borders), instead the opposite of that perspective is gaining strength today through the pervasiveness of the globalisation trend, and only the borderlessness and the global power of big companies pulling the strings is going to materialize from that. And there is no conflict between the autonomous but atomised communities and the unified “World Music” – that system has already been tested for a long time in China, India, Indonesia etc.
MD: One the thing I am in doubt about is that this alleged common denominator could be converted into audible music. In my opinion, the universal features can only become audible in form of special features. Is it certain that those features are salvageable?
LH: Certainly not in this real world, because everything is being destroyed here. Like King Kong, we will fetch him and then kill him, because he doesn’t behave properly. This new kind of culture is the same.
While I speak of the common denominator of the conceptual structures of cultures that are disappearing because of the “selectional” nature of our history and the synthesis built up from their saved elements, we can also say that for Ockeghem it would be ideal if forty choirs were singing his choruses even in hundred years’ time. There is still a chance of that, but it is a preciously small one. A “futurological” question: will there still be many people of that kind of mutant strata in the future, people for whom the structure of Ockeghem is still of great importance? I have no illusions about that. An exceptional gift of our beloved age is that I already have the possibility to listen to Ockeghem, whom I would like to name now as a symbol of things that are important for us in this world, and this is a further argument for the exceptionality of our age, because we can’t be sure that the brains of our grandchildren will be ruffled by the late gothic polyphony.
The structure of Hindu-Muslim classical music won’t become an essential part of the culture of future (nor will Ockeghem’s partleading), so beside the furious archiving their participation in a synthesis with other kinds of music appears (though of course only gradually), to be the only way to survive. The present direction of music history is determined by the final ‘technicization’ of music, the domination of mass culture and the complete and osmotic absorption of subcultures.
The ones who understand the language of European classical music will find themselves in a social quarantine, and their situation is similar to the segregated order of Indian pillar saints or yogas: they are capable of standing on one leg for ten years as well. Some of them will compose pieces for an investment fund or insurance company, others will descend and change the composing technique magically into a surviving technique, travelling through time and opening private ways towards another world, towards the world of desired freedom and survival. For today, it can be said (and this is true in case of each the so-called human arts) that practising the arts is a kind of pottering in a crate full of pissy sand, that is enjoyable and important only for the creator.
At the same time, the youth’s musical attitude has also changed fundamentally, here the so-called intellectual pleasure originating from the traditional practice of music is replaced with drugs, and the music of today will provide only the acoustic stimulus for that. As a matter of fact, we may hardly speak about music here: the main point is not the structure anymore, but representing it on a level of energy, an acoustic massage that will immediately invoke the collective, but for today only at a conscious level, revolution during the fold-warm hangar parties, where all the participants will depart towards the dark inner spaces of the individual, and where there is only the chitin-shell of a smashed ego waiting for the ones wishing to be freed.
Their and our brains have already been smashed into splinters by these new chapters of the media and the consumer culture. It comes naturally to this new generation to exit this world, sometimes through the help of a pill, sometimes through the volume of sound or a reincarnated philosophy. In terms of social presence it is almost the same. From the given alternatives, those kids will choose (for totally obvious reasons) the only possible one, since no kind of political, social, physical or artistic articulation has a chance against the power, the methods of profit-making and the multinational mechanisms. The asylum of the youth looking for a sensitive and habitable world, is the acid party, the hangar, where they could find a momentary human warmth and an ancient community, even if they won’t touch the one who is writhing by his/her side.
They intensify this general feeling by means of pills, in order to join this big, common and ecstatic fold-warmth as easy as possible. Because for some reason it is still the presence of the other people that keeps human life at an acceptable temperature. And this is the reason why we need a kind of social ecstasy that overcomes the daily reality, and this is the secret of the youth culture of today. Then, this is our residual standard language, this radical way of refusal, since the real world cannot be doubted, not even for a second, and it hasn’t even occurred to anyone that something should be improved or done in a different way. Even if for a couple of hours we begin to function as humans, we will feel as if our stamina, having been drained during the day, would regenerate during the night, and how symbolic that is, while in fact it is also an enormous waste of human lives.
Instead of connecting people to this meta-language, the drugs will actually coagulate that. If we make an intelligent observation and we are capable of grace of satori, then we will realize that in this world everything is true in an upside-down way.
MD: So the drugs dictate the styles of music.
LH: The chemistry. The underground, as a matter of fact, is realised here in the industry. They produced incredibly fine chemical nostrums that barely induce addiction, and have completely brought the styles of music under their power. Thus, the realised small tribal standard language is as follows: to enter the “painting” and ab ovo leave this uninhabitable world. I think nobody may say that they are not right. Otherwise, the situation is already worse now compared to classic acid parties, and we are going to lose even this kind of hangar-community. Those small communities just begin to disintegrate and the remainders are being transferred to the Internet. In order to understand this everyday kingdom come and the daily-culture forming role played by drugs in it, allow me to describe the situation. The turning rhythms used non-deliberately by authentic techno music of our days are shifted from the metronome beats by a sixteenth – sometimes thirty-second – note, and the shift is kept constantly and through periods, or in each period the entire rhythmic formula is turned over and over, just like in Indian tablá compositions. And this kind of opiate is the quintessence, an approach which floats but requires rational knowledge and will lead to the promised heaven. Here, exactly in the same way as in Indian music, the polyrhythmic lift-off from the basic rhythmic beat turns round in relation to the whole bar, and arrives after x bars on the first beat of the given period – that is nothing else but defeating the reality, the levitation of the soul.
It is exactly the same as 3D films. You are just scrutinising them, and focusing on them, and then suddenly you are inside. Jazz, for example, will never accomplish anything, because it is the language of onanism. The mechanical techno or dub are the rational language of the collective kingdom come, and thus they will transfer you to that other world.
MD: If it is that way, and music is going to take over the role of drugs, then…
LH: Then you don’t need to take the drugs. Anyway, this is the future of this thing called music. As I have already mentioned, there is a software in existence, also a called brainwave-synthesizer, capable of measuring the levels of the brain’s alpha, beta and theta waves, then synchronising them with the sound generator. By means of a stereoscopic sound using three dimensional algorithms (see Convolution or the famous Convovolvotron) you can synchronise your own alpha, beta etc. waves with timbres and frequencies of virtual synthesizers. Two bundles of sounds get suddenly in phase, you touch the “G-point” of your brain and you become staggered. You have likely already experienced a situation where your blood pressure rose or fell unexpectedly, and where you lost control for a moment. Just imagine the same going on for hours, with oriental, statically monotonous rhythms and tones, stereoscopic acoustics, and all of them put together according to your most personal demands. You can totally send yourself into a trance through sounds with different spectrum-structures, and in that way the human being is going to create his/her own private, infernal audio-heaven.
In today’s rapidly disappearing breakbeat, for example, all kinds of very sharp saw wave tones are used, having an overtone structure that makes you literally wobble when you are listening to it in your headphones or in a party, because those tones will cause a momentary lapse of consciousness (so called picnolepsy). If anybody was able to remember the concept of“sleg” mentioned by Arkadi and Boris Strugacki, they would understand what is going on here. As a matter of fact, all of that is going to decline into a looped, four-four, acoustic cocaine of the daily consciousness in the virtual helmet of the home computer, along with the three dimensional tonal systems – but who would be able to resist that opportunity?
MD: At the same time, these strong effects will nevertheless turn one’s glance inward.
LH: All in all, they help in exiting this world where music has become the fitness practice of weekend desertion of the soul and the body, stimulated from the outside. It is obvious that the stimulus threshold is becoming higher and higher, and the question is – what we can find in the innermost part of our self? The situation these days is that one of the most phenomenal abilities of human beings, the ability to play music, something that is able to point beyond the human existence, has been degenerated by the music industry into sweet poison.
MD: Is it possible that the drugs are similar to technology, in the sense that we cannot use them for the purpose they were meant for?
LH: The drugs, instead of healing or helping to widen the borders of art, and instead of helping people to obtain more knowledge, will appear as an everyday holocaust. There are some who would argue that drugs have become unnecessary in the “Kondratiev” cycles of capitalism, and serve for managing the human surplus pushed out to the peripheries, just like sex and cable TV or the everyday Virtual Reality. I think it’s an exaggeration, because it is less efficient to incinerate the sociological surplus, having been picked out from the social homeostasis in imploded volcanic craters.
MD: At which point could we direct breakthroughs from the structural-intellectual reception of music towards a visceral reception? What kind of eras are known in music since 1968?
After World War II, with America’s new economic empire, there was the start of the process of music’s becoming a quasi-standard language. The elite language that until then had only been existing in the mind of participants of high culture, would all of a sudden spread on the surface of the masses. In parallel with the development of a consumer society, it became possible for the common people to obtain the pleasures of privileged intellectual refinement as well, and that would certainly imply the immediate decrease of the quality level of cultural products and their turning into a quasi-standard language. The same holds true of other branches of arts as well, but let’s stick to the music. Classical music has lost its leading role, and in place of it there will evolve a public culture, and by this I mean an interim musical language. This musical culture has its roots in thousands of things (I could name them all night), but it is still able to summarise the challenges of the new world and to find an outlet for the socio-emotional tensions caused by itself. It is comparable in its primitiveness to the cavemen’s frisking around the fire and an ecstasy that, because of its elementary form, is closer to the human than any alienated Schönberg-like classical musical structures. This is what I call the First Wave, which encompasses the rock and roll era and extends, with a little allowance, from Elvis to the Beatles (the latter represent the end of this wave). On its top there is the American style of ‘prodigalism’, the free and unclouded consumption storming, where everybody feels divinely well, and that will also lead to standardisation. Sex, the shaking of the ass, dancing of hearts on the parquet floor, and such extremely simple music that shrinks the brain into the size of a peanut – it almost drives me up the wall. On the other hand, the ones who are part of it would pass through this period with positive feelings, since as compared to any earlier, pre-war, stuffy and oppressive high cultures, it was the clean air itself, the very world of freedom. In this regard I also highly appreciate it, although in viewing the videos of that time again, it is slightly shocking that in the elements deemed the most positive in those days, like Hendrix’s guitar playing, we can also discover the first signs of decay and degeneration. He was the one, who put a fuzzy, very progressive and increasingly abstract music into action with his overeffected, scratchy sounding, stomach tearing guitar sounds, symbolising the “injury of the world”. Now, well after 1968, the western youth movements (in my opinion the last spontaneous revolutions of humanity) are falling to dust on the millennial bastions of states. And then, some Oriental incubuses would begin to creep forth from the backyard of history: Sri Chinmoy, Maharaji, Bhaktivedanta, Maharishi, the Moon-sect and so on, until our days and until the end of time. Those Oriental monsters would breathe the philosophical práná of human misery of the horrible Oriental societies upon the Western World, whose mobility is being seized, becoming increasingly caste-like but still seeking a recovery, and the poor youth, craving freedom, would of course inhale it like ganja.
New wave, sprouting from punk, lasted about one and a half years. For me, it is the Second Wave, a very productive and fantastic period of time, similar to the First Wave but happening in a smaller period of time. What a time for attending concerts that was, and the many bands, clubs, groups and small cocoons that were formed at that time were great. For a small time, everything had become conventional again, of course much more divided in terms of society than earlier, since there was a statistically much smaller number of people who were “in” the new wave. In one and a half years’ time it was certainly being castrated, but there would be never again as many free and independent record companies (with their own networks) in the world than at that time.
I was a great admirer of these positive one and a half years of the intellectual new wave. I always used to get off on their subtle irony, that they imagined ways to change the world through parody. But punk (the quasi-standard language of this positive Second Wave) was present on a deeper level, and persisted in this radical expression of refusing and changing society. Here the elements of self-destruction (safety-pins, early piercings etc.) appeared, and from that point onward the all-social aggression wasn’t aimed at the system’s transformation anymore – the participants, as a result of the authority’s masterful manipulation, would turn it against themselves instead. They are responding to the superstructure, that is apparently unchangeable, with the destruction of their own self, but don’t forget about the positive surplus that comes from the bottom of society – it is another general characteristic of these waves. They will always start from below and die on the upper level of social strata.
The (d)evolution is extremely well illustrated, by the fact that the First Wave spread absolutely globally to the youth, while the Second Wave has already disintegrated into social classes, where the permeability among the different classes, because of the intellectual difference between the punk and new wave, is only ephemeral. We have to look for the roots of the acetone-ish new world in the 80s. For me, the turning point was Michael Jackson’s video, called “Thriller”, where there were ten-something zombies rising from the grave, corpse-punch sputtering from their cheeks and they were dancing on a desolate factory-yard a disco dance like danse macabre. Well, the educated audience is going to buy it in many millions of copies and reach an orgasm with it, and this level and pleasure factor of decay will sweep away all the other tendencies. Actually, the entire musical world of our days has sprouted from the disco, or to be more precise, it has increasingly tightened on the successive sets of grooves and loops. If you take a look at the early glittering, over-orchestrated instrumental disco music, you can realize the traces of all the dance music of today.
Regarding Europe, I was in clubs in the Netherlands as far back as 1981-82, where the DJ, using stroboscopes, pushed the music to a terrible loudness, although only for 20-30 minutes, and I also saw some strange German techno bands that were operating with brutal old and primitive drum machines and ear-tearing hi-hats. In half an hour, some druggies were taken away in cold packs. And those parties were already called acid, meaning that the acid version of alienation came into existence very early. Since then, the comprehensive concept of acid has gradually fallen into pieces, and today there are at least some 25 kinds of styles co-existing, though for me all of them would still belong to the same Third Wave.
This is the music of broken minds, a continuous “breaking” of drum & bass, an endless fragmentation, a kaleidoscope. To bring the truth in two-week imprints: there are no more appropriate music on Earth to do it than the styles mentioned above. And they can also perfectly assure the daily experience of the broken mind. From those guys there will break forth not only an all-social brutality, but also an all-social talent. All of this penetrates through them as if being a litmus paper, without any particular philosophical and sociological knowledge, and that’s why they can be considered artists. The different styles, beginning with drum & bass, would mean in terms of sociology the same feedback, because those styles are at the same time the musical equivalents of the different social strata. Also in this case we are speaking about styles and their artists, having a societal charge that is the same in terms of transcendence, and longing to leave the physical world, but different in sociological terms.
But the apparently strange sociological underlying structure is revealable: while the 68s ab ovo wanted to build a brand new world, believing the future was ours, the safety-pinned punks of the New Wave would respond with self-destruction, but still with a desperate social awareness of a mission coming from their very depths, and finally, the intelligent children of the third wave would take the pills during the weekends in their free time.
Without being immersed here in the exceptional evolution of classical music, being less tousled by winds of times and fashions, don’t forget about the new finale of classical music either, beginning officially with Edgar Varése, where composers of the Cologne electronic studio, then composers from Stockholm, and later composers grouped around IRCAM would exclaim in chorus: let’s stray off the Yellow Brick Road.
Based on the materials stored in the archives, I am inclined to think that this vanguard should have declared: “noblesse oblige” and understood that there are more worlds and senses of world living simultaneously on our Earth, and taken all of that with their teeth to the other side. It’s not appropriate to always talk always about, but it is useful to carefully examine the collegiate concert of Ummagumma from 1969, or some of Magma’s compositions, or even in our days the early David Tipper.
It is worth comparing the efficiency of the period avant-garde contemporary music concerts or of the sometimes playful performances of artistic-insubordinate groups that are symbolically suggesting the transformation of society with the knowledge of a naval communication specialist at the Pentagon, or comparing the language of human science with the ethos of a developing engineer at a multinational industrial concern. Or, let’s compare, however vulgar it might be what I am saying, the mind-influencing effectiveness of a performer’s activity with, for example, the efficiency of the Nestlé product management’s logistical system. This suggestion is an exaggeration, but we still should create something that is similar to the navigation system of Ohio submarine, compared to which Verdi’s orchestral scores, while fascinating for me, would seem like child’s play.
MD: In that case, is it the increase in influence what could provide a solution after all? Because according to that, Verdi would fall behind in the race for that very reason, because he would not be able to make a sufficient effect on the viscera. Isn’t that a contradiction here?
LH: It is, if you are considering the orchestral score. But, when you hear that on a page of score composed with unbelievable colours the singer would scream in unison that “open the door”, well, then I will be getting tired and begin to wonder where that European culture of music has started to decline, whilst a virginal piece with its three or four parts, or a piece of Pretorius with its two parts, could mediate a global order. And here, we can return to the very beginning of our conversation, Verdi had already been a great packaging artist, because in playing it on a piano, it would turn out that this rich score-page consisted only of three notes altogether. On top of it all, he is not packaging that “Deus meus”, but “open the door” instead. Or, let’s see the aforementioned Mahler, who is sometimes treated as taboo. There is no musical substance in the scores. Instead of that, there are seventy horns and forty timpani. The white composer has already performed a complete somersault, but he would probably accept that to be an artist is terribly insufficient today. This is what the history of mankind and music is all about: there is a Gothic cathedral, with its own rational transcendentalism, and there is a leper next to it who is dying.
MD: I know that you are unwilling to do, but I still would like to ask you to enter into more particulars about your music.
LH: I am inclined to think that I do not exist as a personality in this respect. According to my strategy, I relish executing programs, conceptions that I consider capable of working, like a robot. This is because I always study and learn everything I find interesting. For example, it seems to me that the closed Indian musical elite has admitted me as a traditional musician playing on vina and sitar, but I am also interested in the Japanese tonal system, and I have learned how to cast a Javanese gong and what kind of intervals have been used by Persians in the 13th century, and particularly why. Then, I compare them, certainly not for the sake of high sciences or an artistic mission, but simply because this is the best for me. The tuning of Kechuan flutes or the ancient Greek aulos and kythara literature also come under this category. There are only few thing that would be irrelevant. So, for example, synthesizers or designing and building big organs are very much relevant in this respect.
My survival strategy is the following: I try to imagine what would have happened if we could awake in due time and take the possibility of a new order seriously, and then I flash some moments of this possible new virtual order. I am making efforts to master the languages of “kingdom come” and I deem to find the common denominator by making a comparison among them. What I am working on is to create from two existing things a non-existing one that is real, because I have understood that this is only possible now. It is real in the sense that it could be real, and at the same it is obvious that it will never exist. Unless somebody does work it out. I don’t want to have a boring Martian language, but a new, alternative reality instead. However, it seems to me that I am going to remain a shipwrecked castaway in a non-existing and never ever possible world.
And allow me to introduce the theory of memes, that is, for me, an ingenious analogy generator. I have been working on my memes since 1979, not only in a musical sense, but I also paint them in triptych or other forms, and then I like to make moving sculptures of them, as if they were computer animations but in real four dimensions. For the time being it keeps me busy. It is a tough proposition, because I need materials like mercury that will harden differently depending on the color of light, some brain-like opalesque, gelatinous rubber, some iridescent fluid glass-wool, that can be spun like a spider web, then will harden like steel, etc.
I have been working already for some thirty years on compiling an Indian musical encyclopedia, then I keep refining the tonal system that is based on shruti intervals but still has a polyphonic structure (this is also an old mania of mine) where every polyphonic harmony is composed of acoustically perfect overtone scales. Besides, I used to write about the compositional technique of the Hindustani tálas, that is in fact the mathematical system for overcoming reality, among other topics.
I care very much about the future of technology, and within it the memetic synthesizer, that may if it comes to be, cause catastrophe on the Earth. A talented Hungarian gentleman, who happens to be on the Pentagon’s payroll, has invented some years ago a molecular needle that can scan materials. This sort of thing already existed with different lasers and other kinds of samplers, but here we can speak about real molecular sampling. There’s nothing left but to put into the system a high performance storage capacity, then to connect this with the still two dimensional but enormous pace of technological progress of photocopiers, and this way we arrive immediately at the material synthesizers. Earlier, it was the sampler that did the same with sounds. The real ethos of the consumer market economy is being realised here: personalised replication. With the insertion of genetics, biosynthesis will appear on the scene, and then everybody might be able to materialize it through the Internet using a material synthesizer modem. Frankly speaking, if you’ve got enough money on your credit card, you could even decorate your flat with a Crivelli painting scanned with the molecular needle. It is obvious that there will be no need for any Crivelli painting, because artificial genitals, chemicals and other stimulants, games, software and artificial creatures are going to be the main things to be synthesised. As we can see, in a little while the software will be able to simulate the entire physical reality, and even the human consciousness is going to move into the networks. The libraries are becoming empty, the factories are disappearing, things are becoming immaterial, everything is passing over to the net, where everything is becoming realisable in time, and to top it all off, customised to the personal needs of the individual. So, this is how the paradise of customer world looks like. Pets, toothpaste, modular buildings, motherships, and a host of products with a never-before seen quality can be created in that way in a second.
At the same time, the all-collective social reality might be manifested by means of the meme-generator, and that would be a dangerous weapon of the arts as well. The scanners connected to the brain and the consociator controlling of the material synthesizers could mean the physical materialisation of the memes, the appearing of which in the present human societies would only cause catastrophe and not a day-to-day of intellect-ecological unity of a new human species.
MD: One would expect that somebody who, like you, has spent a quite a lot of time in India would convert Vedic doctrines into a lifestyle and then propagate them. But you seem to overstep this. Do you feel that Eastern doctrines can’t offer an alternative in Europe, either?
LH: Europe’s mobile society, with its city-states, colonies, cathedrals, grinding mills and division of labor stepped on a way of human coexistence-relation, was completely different from India’s world blended with village communities, where retreat from the community and living as a hermit, sometimes connected to a certain age (sadhu, yoga), was regarded as the greatest intellectual virtue, and where the intellectual cream of the society would drift to the periphery of collective human actions.
In Europe, property is nothing other than the sphere of decisions, and the sphere of decisions is nothing else but the building up of the personality – ecce homo – namely possession: that is a personal God, polyphony, knight in armour, heraldry, cathedral, nuclear submarine.
On the other hand, in India, i.e. in the pantheistic and personal property-less World of a thousand faceless Buddhas, Hindu gods and goddesses and bodhisattvas, there is only one kind of freedom for individuals, the fictional inner freedom. One of the techniques to attain that freedom is yoga, i.e. when the man, a social being with a moebius-mind performs a complete somersault. And so, for the Indian intelligentsia of that age, living in one of the most infernal forms of human coexistence, yoga was a fantastic instrument to overcome the sequence of horrible rebirths (samsára), teaching them how to overcome their earthly needs and attain the right to never to be reborn in this world.
The imaginary freedom and the musical system of an inward path, the fantastically sophisticated exodus from human suffering, the millennial method of defeating reality, they will all become, in India, the most collective but at the same time the most personal musical language. It is a paradox, since orchestral musicians and performers of the individualist Europe are becoming small and nameless screws of an impersonal system, the orchestra, while in the personality-less and despotic world of India a fantastic structure begins to take shape, one that has led to both the eight Vedic philosophical schools and the classical Indian music that is based on the genealogy of the great master-musicians.
At the same time, today it has become obvious where the application of misunderstood great Oriental doctrines would lead. The industrial revolution of T-model and the “human rights” having a corresponding quality, namely the global human right to a consumer metabolism, will make possible for everybody (in a way that is unknown in the Oriental despotic regimes) to flood the world with the harvest of his/her mind with the selective efficiency of the (non) free market. Thus, there will be more and more of the mimics of mimics, the soulsavers of the big doctrines, the knights and artists in the bogus holo-court of phenomenons, and soon there will only remain the “guests” of Solaris, if there even is still someone around who can follow what I am talking about.
The more precisely we follow the doctrines of a theory, the more we trample ourselves into an immanent morass, and the less we are able to say yes to something else. The adopters and followers of the great traditions will merely say ‘no’. They are reproducing the same morass that they would like to get rid of. What does the yogi meditate upon? The redemption of the world? I would not think so – in my opinion he makes every effort to sleep his soul out. According to the musicologist, Yajnavalkiya brahmin (6th Century AD, Hindustan): “If you are fully aware of the laws of tones and rhythm, then you will step on the way leading home”. Is there any need for a straighter talk than this?
To illustrate, let me mention in passing the practice of Tensegrity cooked up in the USA, which is a series of exercises and a philosophy that would generate a mental ray of energy. It teaches that the human’s individual consciousness is roaming not in his/her brain, but out of it, somewhere in the space-time of another dimension, and it keeps communicating through a ray of energy with the empty human body, that will otherwise saunter about like a zombie. Besides that, it also teaches about the “flyers”, who are living off the human race, and who, like Alien parasites, will keep the level of all the evil in the human world, and of our motives and feelings – they are users of our consciousness and our institutions, they are poltergeist kind of parasitic fluidiums that are responsible for “infiltration” of our ideas and the human ego, and who are practically the symbols of memetic eggs of the Alien, sticking to the human face and injecting death into his/her mouth, or the philosophical incarnation of green mold covering the crumbling-decomposing skeleton of “Hunger”, of dissolving carcasses of “Zoo”, and of graphics made by Hans Bellmer and H. R. Giger. Just think about that again: in what way (namely how correctly) is the human brain (as a meme-generator) is modelling reality? Meanwhile, I cannot help but understand the anguishing pain and the desire for the lost Paradise. Undoubtedly, there is a lack of the collective musical ecstasy which used to fill up that corner of our personality, which made us human. But there is one thing that I am absolutely sure of: the problems of neither the individual or society can be solved by means of a Tibetian Bon sentence or inhaling the Vedas – none of the religious paradigms could ever find a solution to that.
MD: So what is the solution then?
LH: One thing we can be sure of: that no new Messiah is coming, and there will be no more global revolutions. Beside the ecological collapse, the market economy and all the practical and ideological problems of the parliamentary democracy supported by that economy (even though it hasn’t exploded yet) are at the gates. The ozone holes are known since 1968, nevertheless, the ‘competent authorities’ were only so kind as to admit it in about the middle of the 80s. There are 25.000 tin barrels of plutonium lying in Novaya Zemlya at the bottom of the sea. Let’s express our sincere thanks to the armies, being essential requisites for the life on earth.
Certainly, all of that is going to be gradually fished up for the sake of the universal and uniformed consumer system and its peace, the “Pax Peristalsis”. And since the consumer hemisphere needs to be maintained, those companies will strain the whole usable ecosphere, just like the stitching of the ozone holes that has already been begun. This is how the fate of music is correlated with the big rising of the oceans. Naturally, they will do it not in the interest of the people or the music, or the clean water and air, but for the sake of sustenance of the system. On the other hand, when the consumer jar becomes full on the Earth, and everybody is already consuming everywhere, then a historical circle also will come to an end. With the way of production becoming global, this expansion system, that is sustained by growing, will come to an end of its growth. Then it will be perceivable on the Earth, in the people, in the science and in the arts a kind of infinite degradation, that the current chaos would seem simply a paradise compared to that situation.
Just let me name only one element of this world: some time in the future the genome will be handled as a typewriter, and all the consequences of a “stroke” will be known, and from that point the human culture and the known world will disintegrate. From the fossilised caste-system of the western society, it will break loose the seized up consciousness of the individual, and it will be his/her general condition, fashion and cultural demand, and the bank guarantee of his/her magnetic card that determines what the possibilities offered by genetics are used for. The fact that through it people can also be healed and their lifespans extended is only a secondary consideration. The whole appearance of youth will be determined according to the latest fashions – the “horseshoeish” shoes of that time will be real horn on their feet, but only for two weeks, because then a tormenting demand may arise for silver bat ears, or golden green lizard skin. Another 30 years, and we are going to have whatever organs we wish for, fantastic fashions will exist, true lilac nails, true crocodile eyes, and according to the code of the genetic map tattooed underarm, the cancer of your liver, for example, can be completely healed with the help of a dedicated medicine, some kind of a synthetic molecular grid. I think there can be no doubt that the human body is going to be completely rebuilt. All the unnecessary ingredients are being reduced, a part of the intestines and the present form of the teeth are disappearing, the composition of the bone system is undergoing a transformation and the control of the muscle-tone is being renewed. Nevertheless, it will take at least 50 years, but I am absolutely sure that human beings are going to abandon their bodies step by step. The lifetime will be extended to 150-160 years (longer than that is hard to reach because it is not as easy to reset the mitochondrial timer) but in the course of time this problem might also be solved. Finally, there will be nothing but old people all around the Earth. Just imagine your brain at the age of 150! An enzyme and solarium treated, smooth facial skin, tight flesh outside and a ciliated, moldy brain inside.
It is obvious that God, as a messianic omnipotent conceptual entity, is an integral part of human culture. You can assume, however, that the world cannot be explained and understood based on this conceptual system, because it is totally inconsistent with the existence of a good God.
Here, on the Earth, the ceremonies and beliefs, like the symbol-creating ectoplasm of the human brain and imagination, exist in place of a world livable through intellect: the legacy of all of the dead generations weighs heavily on the mind of the living, like a daily-historical practice of individuality tucked underneath the social mass of the greatest common human-social evil, the ‘cocooned me’. The functioning of this planetary system, that works according to complicated and fatal laws, will become incomprehensible at the very moment when we put an omnipotent irrational element into this scheme – that is nevertheless understandable, since our world has been transformed through the autocracy of the already mentioned irrational elements into what it is now.
The Ten Commandments were written for people who used to kill, steal and lie. I believe in a human being who doesn’t need the Ten Commandments, the Bible and the Koran, or the so called traditionalism, because he/she knows by him/herself, that killing or lying is not appropriate. There is no need for mimicry, because he/she knows, that letting the world become a liveable place doesn’t require a good God, no soldiers, churches or big companies. As I can see, there are more and more who will recognise it. Or, they won’t recognise it, but live that way. And if this recognition can be spread, something’s going to happen.
(Interview conducted in June, 2003, edited for clarity by the UMCSEET team in 2017)