Authenticity and the use of Folksong

In the last couple of days I've been remastering a recording I made 10 years ago of my settings of 12 of Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus; and this has given rise to certain thoughts in relation to the significance of using ‘folksong’ – by which I mean stylistic allusions to a ‘ready-made’ /identifiable idiom which is distinct from a composer’s/my own. (These thoughts are largely restricted to an English cultural perspective, because that is the only one I have intimate knowledge of.) I’m interested in pondering it because I’m trying to reach the nub of an issue that really intrigues me. I have a hunch that (use of) folksong is a kind of nexus between the ‘private property’ of personal musical idiom and ‘collective ownership’ of the vernacular idioms of mass market music.

I see the classic use of folksong by Vaughan Williams et al as representing an Arts & Crafts dream where Æsthetic Socialism meant an engagement with the proletariat by those of privileged education, from/by which the middle-class composer acquired an 'authenticity by association.’ But VW especially – his associates to a lesser extent – represented the privileged Edwardian upper-middle-class where there was little competition for personal space and thus there is an argument to be made that they used folksong-like material as a bridge for the public to enter their personal space. (A Marxist critic might say that it was their way of colonising a ‘public’ space; but I don't think that does justice to VW's breadth of vision.)

For composers who entered music during the interwar years not only was the ‘marketplace’ considerably more crowded but Modernism had swept away most of the patrician assumptions of the preWW1 generation, and thus altho someone like Britten played the folksong game to brilliant effect in works like Noye's Fludde, other less astute musical politicians such as Rawsthorne felt it compromised rather than enhanced their authenticity as modernists. After WW2 one gets the explosion of serialism championed by Glock and led notably by Birtwistle. True to his modernist roots he uses little actual folksong but instead grounds his soundworld in a self-referential mythic imagery of feeling-archetypes.

I was never attracted to the post-Darmstadt modernism in which I grew up, and for me the search for authenticity came throu the English Choral Tradition. Altho I don’t have a useful singing-voice I am much more engaged by the parameters/epistemology/limitations created by the human voice and the scale it imposes than I am by instrumental mechanism which, while it liberates the imagination, also tends towards a gigantism or inflation, in the Jungian sense, and ultimately to the potentially-ungroundedness of synthetic music, which much engaged me prior to 1990.
In Sonnets to Orpheus I do not use folksong, but I do use q a lot of musical material which is designed to evoke ‘ready-made’ feeling/s-references (which, in terms of musigue concrète would be called non-musical sound sources) that are intended to have psychic resonance for an audience - just as Rilke does with his quicksilver vocabulary of allusive images. As my own musical imagination works more in sound images or word-sense images than as a linear narrative (which is why I’m not much drawn to composing abstract music) – when composing I know when my psyche is fully grounded within my material because I can feel clear mental images throu music /sound. That, for me, like dreams of which I’m intensely aware, counts as communion with my inner otherness – what Quakers would call ’that of God within’ – and is its own reward for the travails of composition.

This is why I feel radio is almost my natural medium. After all on radio any sound has to convey exactly what you want otherwise it fails entirely. My most fully-achieved, and final, radio composition Notes From Janàček’s Diary  is full of ready-made sound images, and I would’ve hoped to continue developing those ideas, but it was not to be for all sorts of reasons.

Having thought about this subject a lot recently, I would say that folksong and ready-mades are part of a process of searching for authenticity, a composer locating within hirself the ‘private property’ of personal truth that has the communicative power of the vernacular, ie evokes the broad outlines or ‘over-simplicities’ of popular music.

Obviously all music worthy the name is about that process. But there is something about folksong which has that quality of presence that is Orpheus for as long as the music lasts. It is music that speaks from the unus mundus, the timeless inner world of the eternally present, a place of indivisible wholeness of the soul – music that appears unmediated by intellect and communicates without artifice uniting all in a common experience. I don’t see folksong as needing to be anonymous: any popular song that enters the truly-public domain (EG, football chants, hymns songstrels such as Lennon & McCartney) counts; notwithstanding ‘private

The myth of Orpheus is central to all music – the idea that  there is actually only one voice who speaks throu each and every songsmith-composer, making whomever the gods choose to be their mouthpiece 'for as long as the music lasts' in its given context. Thus ‘Orpheus' is the impulse within any lyric musician who opens himself to bring forth song from the heart alone.

A further question (which is part of it, but I must stop wasting time by thinking about now) is what is meant by ‘vertu’ or the energy /innergy of authenticity. Perhaps in the sense found in the Tao.

Eliane Radigue - Kyema

Listening to this was a truly transformative experience. I had known vaguely of Eliane Radigue, but had totally forgotten her name. For some reasons I was impelled to google her this morning, while writing to another musician about the relationship between personal musical authenticity and the use of folksong. There is within Kyema an epic archetypal experience which I can recognise despite it being quite at odds with the aesthetic I have evolved in the 25 years since I was working with acousmatics myself.
Discovering Eliane Radigue's work is very much the beginning of a new journey for me.


Tao Te Ching 81

True words may not always be beautiful:
Beautiful words may not always be true.

Those who do good often prefer not to discuss it:
Those who prefer words usually have little to show for it.

Those who have figured out the Tao are rarely learnèd:
The learnèd often miss the bigger picture.

The enlightened don't worry about financial security.
   The more they help others: the richer they grow.
   The more they give: the more they're given.

The universal principle of cosmic energy flow always acts beneficially and never harmfully.
The deeds of one who follows this path should always be cooperative rather than competitive.

Finis. SGD.

Tao Te Ching 80

In a small country with few people it hardly matters how many weapons they have because they're not likely to use them on each other.

If there was concerted opposition to military systems and arms manufacturers there would be less refugees.

Instead of traveling all over the world by road and sea …
Instead of flaunting massive military muscle …
> Why not adopt a simpler lifestyle –
   enjoy your time on earth,
      admire your neighbours' frugality,
         and exist contentedly in your own community,
            making the best of available resources.

Establish good relations at local and national level …
   Enjoy the expansion in friendliness this opens up …
      Respect each others' right to exist.
          Don't imagine anywherelse is better than where you are now.

Tao Te Ching 79

At the end of a bitter dispute there will be ill-feeling.

Is there an alternative?

The enlightened may well be in the right,
but they would be well advised not to demand everything they're entitled to.¶

Let those who possess innergy* demonstrate their magnanimity:
Let those who possess none demonstrate their mean-mindedness.

In the great cosmic scheme of things…
   those who restrict the flow of energy will find ever greater restriction;
   while those who speed it onward will find every greater innergy.

*spiritual energy

¶ In China loan contracts were written on wood or clay tablets which were then broken in two, with each party retain half. To enforce or discharge a debt both halves had to be produced together before  cancelation or enforcement.


Tao Te Ching 78

Nothing in the world has less substance than water.
Yet nothing is better at wearing away adamantine rock.
   Nor can anything replace it.

People see this
   yet are incapable of learning this lesson
      or putting it into practice.

The enlightened person is …
… a whistle-blower who sees corruption and is outcast as a result of refusing to be drawn into it.
   S/he is the moral compass of the nation.
… someone who works selflessly to alleviate the effects of government action on the dispossessed.
   S/he is one of a beacon for the world.

Truth often lies within a lie:
   Lies are often masked by truth.

Tao Te Ching 77

The Tao is like the bow of heaven.
   When drawn, its top is bent down, its bottom bent up,
   and what was slack is tightened –
   creating the power where previously there was none.

The principles of cosmic energy flow
take resources from the strong to give to the weak.

Human ideas of energy flow take
   from those who have nothing
   to give to those who have most.

Who is qualified to offer the world spiritual riches?
   Only someone who understands Tao.

S/he alone can act without illusion,
   achieve objectives without demanding credit,
      and requires noone's permission.

Tao Te Ching 76

Alive, the body is soft and mobile:
Dead, it becomes hard and static.

All nature is fertile and flexible when alive,
becoming dry and rigid in death.

Whatever is dry and rigid brings tends toward death:
Whatever is fertile and flexible springs with life.

Thus, an inflexible army cannot win.
A large hardwood will be harvested.
A dominant personality doesn't always come out on top,
and may find a gentler more adaptable person prefered.


Tao Te Ching 75

If the people are starving
   it's because their rulers
      are stealing their food [throu taxes].

If the people are revolting
   it's because their rulers
      are making their lives impossible.

If the people are dying
   it's because their rulers
      are sacrificing them for their own ambitions.

      If the people's lives are unendurable
   then they who choose to die
are nobler than they who cling to life.

Tao Te Ching 74

The ineffectiveness of capital punishment is demonstrated by the fact that people still commit crimes.

Does such a law entitle me to execute criminals myself?

There exists but one master executioner for everyone.

If we presume to take hir place then we're like an unskilled person usurping the tools of a master carpenter – certain to end up with a self-inflicted injury.


Tao Te Ching 73

The foolhardy get themselves killed:
   the courageous survive.
[In time of war] who can say which is more useful?
   Yet on one, the Powers That Be pass judgment.
Not even philosophers can explain that.

… never strives, yet outperforms all opposition.
… never speaks, yet always responds eloquently.
… is not summoned, yet always present.
… goes at its own pace, yet organises everything perfectly.
Its net is vast and loosely woven yet nothing slips throu it.


Tao Te Ching 72

If people become habituated to violence –
   far worse awaits them.

Do not condemn the poor:
Do not despise their efforts.
   If a ruler acknowledges them
   they will eat out of hir hand.

In this spirit,
   as the wise gain insight
      so they should learn humility.
   With growing self-respect
      should come modesty.
Every experience should teach discrimination.


Tao Te Ching 71

Not to know is OK –
   to imagine you do is the problem.
Unless you recognise your shortcomings
   you cannot correct them.

Enlightened folk do not have shortcomings
… so long as they are aware of them.
That is why enlightened folk don't have shortcomings.


Tao Te Ching 70

My ideas are easy to follow, and easy to practise.
The world can't follow, and doesn't practise.
   My ideas are grounded in reality:
   My deeds based on clear principles.
The world can't see this, and therefore can't see my message.

Those who do are few – we are a rare species indeed.
Within our plain dress we conceal jade.


Tao Te Ching 69

In deploying military forces pay heed to the dictum:
   Better a guest than a host.
Play the responsive role:
   for retreat can serve better than advance.

March in formation formlessly.
   Raise arms harmlessly.
      Fight enemies without enmity.
         Maintain defences undefensively.
Yet never underestimate your opponent or you will lose everything.

When evenly matched forces meet,
the more humane side will win.


Tao Te Ching 68

The great generals are not men of war.
The best fighters don't get angry.
Those good at outwitting enemies do it before hostilities commence.

Good managers operate on the same footing as their workforce –
which allows everyone to share in the energy of consensus,
the surest way to promote goodwill.

By observing patterns of flow in the natural world
our forebears discerned that cooperation was the basic principle of existence.


Tao Te Ching 67

Everyone must acknowledge that the overwhelming power of Tao [cosmic energy flow] is beyond any other force in the world we can comprehend.
If there were something greater Tao wouldn't hold our attention for a moment.

Three values should be treasured above all:
… humaneness:
… focussed thought:
… unambitiousness.

Humaneness also gives one courage:
Focussed thought leads to good strategy:
Unambitiousness fits one for leadership.

Courage without humaneness may well produce strategic thinking,
but leads to over-ambitiousness and disaster.
When you fight be open to humaneness and victory will be assured.
Act with fore-thought and you will be safe.

The Powers-That-Be respond by guiding and guarding those who moderate their behaviour.


Tao Te Ching 66

Rivers and oceans are lords of the landscape.
It's because they occupy the lowest position
that they're more powerful than mountains.

So, if the intelligent aspire to positions of trust
they must practise humility as followers of opinion rather than leaders.
In this way people don't feel politicians in power are imposing on them.
They may be ahead of public opinion
but the populace doesn't feel dictated to,
and so elects them willingly.
So long as leaders don't descend to petty bickering
the public won't argue with them.


Tao Te Ching 65

The mythic kings of prehistory who governed by invoking Tao
used it not to educate people, but to keep life simple and harmonious.
The smarter the populace, the harder to govern.

Using only intellectuality to rule is to steal the state from its people.
Placing humanity first is a blessing all round.
Yet both approaches are arcs of statecraft whose convergence in the hands of a Tao-aware leader creates ideal governance.

Perfect intunity with all-that-is [/Mystic Union] opens a vista that revealing there is no single straight pathway to any objective, whether to left or right, above or below, for all significant destinations lie beyond our current event-horizon; and thus no human eye can predict an optimum route.
We have only the empowerment of Tao [/cosmic energy forces] to guide us on the invisible trackway.


Tao Te Ching 64

Control is easy when things are quiet.
The best time to plan is before they kick off.

Small (problems) are easiest to solve.
Think ahead and act: don't procrastinate.

Trees were once saplings.
The tallest tower was once a hole in the ground.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Opinionated folk tend to mess things up:
Opportunists generally fail.
By taking a measured approach the wise stand a better chance of success.
Remember, disaster can strike at any stage of a project:
minimise risk by being as careful towards the end as you were at the beginning.

Avoid being led by your appetites,
attaching no particular value to exclusivity.
Learn how to forget.
Learn how to correct public misperception/s.
Learn how to work in harmony with nature without presuming to know better.


Tao Te Ching 63

Act but remain disinterested.
Manage but don't get too close.
Enjoy but keep your appetite in check.
In difficult situations use positive energy to avoid mirroring any hostility you encounter.

Use easy tasks to prepare for hard ones.
Use simple tasks to prepare for complex ones.
All the major problems in the world can be analysed and tackled by breaking them into smaller constituent ones.

The wise should avoid grand gestures –
by so doing they will show true greatness.
   Distrust those who promise lightly
   or offer simplistic solutions.
By carefully evaluate any course of action in advance
the wise will find their pathway clearer.


Tao Te Ching 62

Tao /Gaia /Cosmic energy is the world's greatest miracle
… reward of the benevolent
… protector of the malevolent.
Its wisdom guides people, arousing respect,
inspiring good works which win public gratitude.
   Even criminals are not abandoned altogether.

When crowning the Emperor and installing the three ministers of state
the finest jade is offered in front of the four horses –
yet for richness none of this compares to being grounded in Tao.

Why did the ancients value it so?
   They didn't claim everyone would find it,
   nor that this was their own fault.
It is because Tao lies far beyond words
that it has the greatest value in the world.


Tao Te Ching 61

A powerful country is like a river flowing into the ocean, combining its many tributaries –
   where Mother Nature nurtures a flood plain eco-system.

The feminine overcomes the masculine by calmness –
   using the 'weaker' position to outlast opponents.

Thus if a large nation is weaker than a smaller nation,
   the latter will allow itself to be absorbed;
and if a smaller nation is weak it willingly merges with a larger.
   Therefore to be weaker is not necessarily to be a loser.

A powerful country needs to unify and protect its citizens.
A weaker country needs its citizens to identify with and serve it.
   If both achieve this, it is appropriate for the dominant nation to act magnanimously.

Tao Te Ching 60

A country should be ruled with minimum intervention – like grilling a small fish.

If the dynamics of Tao are used to govern a nation, its negative archetypes cannot gain traction.
Not only will its demons have no power, neither can its gods interfere.
Not only will its gods have no power, neither can the wise interfere.

When this happens energy circulates naturally between all sections of society.


Tao Te Ching 59

In the service of state or universe
   there is nothing so valuable as holding one's fire.
When we restrain ourselves or yield to greater pressure
   we are accumulating innergy.
With this moral power
   there is nothing we cannot overcome.

None of us knows what hidden depths we have,
   yet all are masters of our own reserves.
Understand this principle clearly and death loses its terror.
With your roots running deep in the soil to give a firm foundation
   may the Tao [/cosmic innergy] of perennial wisdom be yours.


Tao Te Ching 58

When government is restrained people are straightforward:
When government is intrusive people are devious.

Good fortune masks misfortune:
Misfortune masks good fortune.

Who knows how they will end their days?
Are there any guarantees?

Right actions carried to extremes become wrong.
Good may be subverted to hide evil.
These are enantiodromias which deceive the populace.

Therefore the wise are
… right without being self-righteous.
… honest without being legalistic.
… straightforward without being ruthless.
… enlightened without being preachy.

Tao Te Ching 56

Those who know don't talk about it:
Those who talk about it don't know.

Be discreet:
Keep a watch on your senses:
Don't flaunt your superior wisdom:
Be a peace-maker:
Moderate your own development for the sake of the less able:
Be fully present:
These conditions create the perfect alignment [/mystic union] between inner subjectivity and outer reality.

One who has achieved it is neither beguiled by friendship, nor affected by disappointment.     
Nothing can be added to hir, nor can it be taken away.
S/he is impervious to honours as to disgrace.
And for those very reasons is a most valuable person.


Tao Te Ching 57

Govern your country straightforwardly:
Deploy your army cunningly:
Don't interfere with your neighbours.

    How do I know this? Because …
Too many rules make a country poor.
Too many weapons make a country chaotic.
Too many factions make a country ungovernable.

The more laws: the more villains.

    Therefore the master says:
I act disinterestedly: others find their way.
I limit my power: others self-correct.
I don't interfere: others grow rich. 
I act without desire: others return to nature.


Tao Te Ching 55

Those with an abundance of 'innergy' [/virtue] are protected
like newborn children from venomous or predatory attacks.
Babies' bones may be fragile and their muscles weak
but their grip is firm.

They know nothing of sexuality yet take infinite delight in their bodies due to optimum well-being.
They can cry all day and never lose their voices due to complete psycho-somatic integration.
To feel such 'intunity' is to know true inner alignment.
To feel such inner alignment is to know clarity of purpose.

Beware of over-exuberant innergy as it can appear aggressive.
Whatever is over-strengthened tends to age faster.
This process is inimical to an optimal flow of cosmic energy.
Whatever does not work with Tao can never last.


Tao Te Ching 54

What is deeply rooted cannot be dislodged –
What has profound integrity cannot be eradicated –
Subsequent generations will honour its memory.

Cultivate it in yourself: you will find its 'innergy' inexhaustible.
Cultivate it in your family: you will find its innergy overflowing.
Cultivate it in your community: you will find its innergy enduring. 
Cultivate it in your nation: you will find its innergy brings prosperity.
Cultivate it in the world: you will find its innergy benefits everyone.

Observe the relationships of others with yourself.
Observe the relationships of other families with yours.
Observe the relationships of other communities with yours.
Observe the relationships of the world you know with those of different cultures.

How do I know the world's secret? 
… this …


Tao Te Ching 53

With even a little knowledge of cosmic energy forces
   it still requires vigilence to stay on the path.

The pathway is plain enough but many imagine they can take shortcuts.
The results are easily seen:
… corrupt courts
… barren fields
… empty barns.

When the powerful
… treat themselves to the best
… are jealous of their privileges
… live in a different world from everyonelse
… pay no taxes
It's daylight robbery –
   not Tao.


Tao Te Ching 52

When the world was formed Tao was its mother.
Knowing the mother we know the children.
Seeing that they /we still cling to the mother
we can live our lives in confident understanding of our existance.

Be self-disciplined –
   Mind your own business –
      Live a trouble-free life.
Be ignorant and idle –
   Poke your nose into other people's business –
      Expect endless grief.

Look at detail objectively,
   and it gives you the bigger picture:
Maintain flexibility,
   and you will achieve resilience:
Use your in-sight to see clearly:
   Avoid life's pitfalls …
Achieve peace of mind.


Tao Te Ching 51

All created matter springs from cosmic energy forces [Tao].
Each is nurtured by an inherent life force or 'innergy'
and formed by time and chance;
but it is adversity that perfects them.

Therefore all life-forms respect this Tao
and experience their highest good within its innergy.
This respect or awe is innate –
owing nothing to any intellectual conception.

     Thus we see that while:
"All created matter springs from cosmic energy forces -
and each is nurtured by an inherent life force,"
Tao also nurtures and guides each species in a heuristic evolutionary path,
developing the characteristics each requires for survival within its environment. 

     Note that while it creates life,
Tao places no restrictions around it.
When its forces interact they do so invisibly;
and their 'guidance' is never controling.

Assimilating all this
   is to discover the true innergy within oneself.


Tao Te Ching 50

In the midst of life death surrounds us.

30% of the world seeks a long life.
30% of the world is headed for a short life.
30% of the world is after a wealthy life,
   yet is drawn to an early death by excess.

And what of the remainder,
   those who cultivate their inner life?
      On the road they do not meet with accidents.
      In the army they escape injury.
Due to their heightened consciousness they foresee risky situations,
   and behave level-headedly if they find themselves in danger.

Having no fear of death,
   death is not attracted to them.


Tao Te Ching 49

The wise are without prejudice:
they see all perspectives.

Patient with the good,
impatient with the bad:
   they demonstrate the virtue of moral insight.

Sharing belief with believers,
they also share unbelief with unbelievers:
   thereby demonstrating the virtues of faith.

The wise live in the world
   and are affected by the same passions.
Others notice the difference.
   The wise nurture them.

Tao Te Ching 48

With book learning, continual expansion.
With Tao, continual contraction – reducing and reducing
   until one reaches a state of non-attachment.

With non-attachment there are no limits to what have be achieved.
   Approach the world from the principle of neutrality.
   Those who are determined to control are not fit to govern.


Tao Te Ching 47

No need for a long pilgrimage to understand the world.
No need for a large telescope to understand the Tao [/forces of cosmic energy].

The more you study the less you comprehend.

The wise therefore look inward for enlightenment:
   seek to understand by intuitive discrimination:
      master knowledge by quiet reflexion.


Tao Te Ching 46

When the world understands living in harmony with Tao [/cosmic energy]
   the materials of war will become the materials of peace.

While the world fails to understand living in harmony with Tao [/cosmic energy]
   all nature suffers because of man's inhumanity.

There is no greater crime than greed:
   no greater disaster than dissatisfaction:
      no greater personality defect than money-grabbing.

Aligning with the content of your heart is the only way to heart's content.


Tao Te Ching 45

What is perfect has a missing ingredient:
   It lacks a dynamic.
What is complete is wanting:
   It has nowhere to grow.

Super straightness may appear bent.
Superb skills may appear crude.
Superior eloquence may appear unconvincing.

Every movement comes to rest.
Every fire burns itself out.
Quiet clarity is the yardstick of good judgment.


Tao Te Ching 44

Which means more:
   Fame in the world or clarity in the heart?
Which is more important:
   Material riches or spiritual riches?

Being seduced by glamour leads to heavy spending.
Serious buying habits result in great debts.
      Inner peace steers us away from danger.
      Knowing when enough is enough avoids catastrophe.

These are the guidelines for a sustainable life.


Tao Te Ching 43

What is soft ultimately masters what is hard.
What is without form penetrates what has no access.

From this I know the effectiveness of altruistic action;
and how example teaches more powerfully than words.

The benefits of altruism are unparalleled by those motivated by conventional wisdom.


Tao Te Ching 42

Tao [/cosmic energy flow] gives birth to singularity.
Singularity gives birth to duality.
Duality gives birth to trinity.
Trinity gives birth to the multiplicity of life-forms.

Life forms grow from the female energy [/yin] interacting with the male [/yang] and achieving harmony by a fusion of their energies.
Those who cannot understand this find themselves lonely, helpless and without merit –
the very phrase our rulers use to describe their own position.

Thus appearances are deceptive,
for one may
… accept loss but find gain
… accept gain but find loss

What the ancients taught I will also teach:
   Those use aggression in life will not experience a good death.
I will make this the basis of all my teaching.


Tao Te Ching 39

These achieve one-pointedness:
… the sky - whence clarity
… the earth - whence tranquillity
… the gods - whence divinity
… the valley - whence fertility
… the diversity of matter - whence life
… the emperor - whence social harmony
All came from one-pointedness.

Sky, without clarity, would disintegrate
Earth, without tranquillity, would erupt
Gods, without divinity, would disappear
Valley, without fertility, would become desert
Diversity of matter, without life, would be dead
Emperor, without social harmony, would be overthrown.

High structures need solid ground.
When rulers describe their role as lonely, helpless and unmerited are they not using humility as an anchor?

Don't seek to be glossy and desirable like jade;
but be dull and dependable like rock.

I paraphrased this and the surrounding ones as a refuge from madness during the weekend I directed the Cherubim Trust Mozart Weekend

Tao Te Ching 41

Worthwhile people hear of cosmic energy flow [/Tao] and study its ways.
When ordinary people hear of cosmic energy flow - sometimes they seek to understand, but often they forget.
When rough folk hear of cosmic energy flow they laugh out loud.
   If they didn't laugh, it wouldn't be Tao.

From this we can construct the following :
The clarity of cosmic energy flow appears obscure.
The advance of cosmic energy flow appears as retreat.
The smoothness of cosmic energy flow seems lumpy.
The strongest inner power appears weakness.
The greatest integrity appears shameful.
The protective powers available to us seem incomplete.
The power of development available to us seem inadequate.
The greatest profundity appears inconsequential.

The ultimate security has no fences.
The ultimate holder is never watertight.
The ultimate music makes no sound.
The ultimate image is without form.

Cosmic energy flow is hidden and anonymous,
yet Tao is both the source and completor of all realities.


Tao Te Ching 40

In reciprocal motion we encounter Tao [cosmic energy]
In flexibility we engage Tao.

Everything in the world emerged from some thing.
But life itself emerged from no thing.


Tao Te Ching 38

Following the right path requires constant effort – and therefore generates spiritual energy.
   Following the herd requires no effort – and therefore generates no energy.
The right path is not complicated but must be followed for itself own sake.
   In herd life people are forever motivated by ulterior motives and personal advantage.
Goodwill requires fine judgment but must be exercised for its own sake.
   Apparently virtuous actions often contains mixed motives.
Social conformity enforces precise demands with violent threats.

Once this occurs Tao [/cosmic energy flow] is lost,
   followed by loss of confidence,
      loss of goodwill,
         and finally civil behaviour.

Those preoccupied with external forms have only a superifical integrity over depths of inner chaos.
   Those claiming to understand Tao are generally superficial and thus spread misinformation.
The wise don't dwell on surface issues, but penetrate to the heart of things by study and observation.
   They arent misled by the flower but wait for the fruit, showing learning and discrimination.


Tao Te Ching 35

If you hold in your mind the idea of cosmic justice and balance it will attract others to itself, and create a space for people of goodwill to cooperate harmoniously.

A fine restaurant offers a feast for the senses attracting people from far and wide.
   Yet the Tao [/cosmic energy flow] is beyond such senses.
It cannot be discussed because the words would just seem like tepid noodles in relation to the reality.

Look as you will, you can never find it.
Listen as you will, you can never hear it.
Use it as you will, you can never exhaust it.

Tao Te Ching 37

The principle of cosmic energy flow [/Tao] is unchanging,
   yet its dynamic is everywhere.
If the emperor [/conscious intention] can hold onto this principle
   things will transform themselves unaided.
To keep such transformations in proportion
   a restraining consciousness of Tao is required.
With this intangible awareness
   one can hold without possessing.
Without possession and with a stilled mind
   the world is restored to order.

Tao Te Ching 36

To shrink something
   it must first have been expanded.
One can only weaken
  what has first been strengthened.
To lower something
   it must first have been raised.
One can only retract
  what has first been offered.

Seeing this is to understand the fulcrum of change.
What is soft and permeable overcomes what is hard and brittle.
To each life-form it's own environment.
The tools of statecraft are not for the populace. 


Tao Te Ching 34

Cosmic Energy is like a force of water,
   on meeting an obstacle it simply flows around it.

Everything depends on it for life, but it depends on nothing.
   It does what it does without thanks.
Providing an environment for millions of life-forms
   it makes no attempt to control them.

It wants for nothing –
   yet we take it for granted.
Its unlimited environment for life
   is one of the very greatest blessings.

Yet this force is indifferent to our opinions …
   therein lies its greatness.

Tao Te Ching 33

The intelligent understand others:
the enlightened understand themselves.

The world's warriors master others:
spirit warriors master themselves.

The wealthy live lives of ease:
the clear-minded live lives of energy.

Any who hold to their truth come throu their ordeals.
Any who transcend their fear of death do not die.

Tao Te Ching 32

Cosmic energy [/Tao] flows eternally, indefinably,
   obvious in effect, yet so subtle in operation
   that its patterns can never be taken for granted.

If the emperior [/conscious will] can hold to a virtuous course all will follow:
   heaven and earth will respond with rich dew,
   in sweet accord wherever people cooperate without coercion.

Once, existence was extremely simple:
   people knew little but collaborated.
But as they learnt more,
   societies became increasingly complex.
We should beware of this process
   lest we lose sight of the underlying unity that weds us to the earth.
That way disaster lies.

The cosmic environment within which energy flows
   is felt in the smallest of springs
   as they rise in wooded valleys,
   emerging into streams and rivers
that flow finally into the mighty oceans of the world.


Tao Te Ching 31

Strong armies are a source of misfortune:
Every living thing dreads them.
Those who understand the cosmic energy forces [/Tao] will shun them too.
Decent men who at home value peace are transformed into monsters by armed power.

Strong armies are a source of misfortune, not a resource for a civil society.

When necessity demands their use calm detachment should be the approach.
In victory avoid glorification.
Those who celebrate are glorying in murder
And murderers will never achieve their ends.

Events of good omen are found to the left-hand side:
   Events of ill omen on the right.
To the left of the emperor stand the men of peace:
   To the right warriors.

Victories should be treated as a funeral.
Those who have been killed should be mourned.
In war there is no cause for rejoicing.


Tao Te Ching 30

A councillor who respects the Tao [/cosmic energy flow] will be reluctant to recommend a military solution to conflict: since this inevitably leads to retaliation.
   Only thistles grow where armies have been.
   After a great war lean years follow.

A good commander scores tactical victories but does not seek total domination:
– in success does not humiliate:
– in success does not rejoice:
– in success is not pig-headed:
– in success avoids unnecessary violence:
– in success does not scheme to become emperor.

What waxes in size will inevitably wane.
To arrest this cycle is contrary to Tao.
Nothing contrary to Tao can last.


Tao Te Ching 29

Many try to seize control of the world –
   history show how all fail.

The earth is a sacred instrument,
   beyond the capacity of anyone to conquer.
Those who try are destined to failure …
   to grasp is to lose everything.

Natural balance is found in everywhere:
– leaders are limited by followers:
– enthusiasm by negativity:
– strength by inner weakness:
– herbivores by carnivores.

So the wise avoid extremes, excess and over-confidence.


Tao Te Ching 28

Know the masculine [/yang] – act as from the feminine [/yin].
Allow yourself to be a watercourse for the world's flow.
    Being a watercourse for the world's flow,
       see that it is a conduit for positive energy.
    Reengage your childhood vision of life.

Know clarity – act as from the opaque.
Allow yourself to be a beacon for the world's hope.
    Being a beacon for the world's hope,
       have faith that the underlying principles of existence remain true.
    Reengage the limitless imagination you were born with.

Know greatness – act as from obscurity.
Allow yourself to be the great valley of the world.
    The way the world evolved was its ideal form.
    Reengage the honest simplicty of nature.

Wood is a natural resource:
   when cut it can be transformed into objects, tools, paper.
The wise make use of all forms:
   when they lead the greater circle is complete.


Tao Te Ching 27

Good travelers walk the earth lightly.
Good speech is not critical.
Good accounting does not rely on calculation.
Good security does not depend on locks
   yet is impregnable.
Good bonds need no rope
   yet cannot be undone.

The wise realise that to abandon the weak is to diminish themselves:
   to assist in raising them is the enlightened path.

While the far-seeing person sets an example for the short-sighted,
   the myopic also exist to enable the far-sighted to develop acuity.
Intelligent folk who neither value their teachers nor the wisdom they offer spread confusion.
   This inexplicable behaviour.


Tao Te Ching 26

Gravitas outweighs levity.
Stillness calms restlessness.

Therefore on their journey throu life,
   the wise keep their eye on the larger picture
   rather than organise things to their own advantage.

It would be improper for those who conduct affairs of state to be light-hearted.

To be frivolous
   is to lose sight of dignity.
To lose contact with your centre
   is to give away your power.

Tao Te Ching 25

In the æons of deep space before the worlds were even gas clouds
    there was a silent beauty
            unformed yet coherent
               pervading all
                   pregnant with life.

   we call it Tao [/cosmic energy flow].
Beyond attribute,
   we call it stupendous.
Yet size implies growth
   and growth implies decay:
Growth and decay together imply cycles.

There are four unstoppable forces:
   Tao, the heavens, the earth, and the emperor.

For cosmic order all four must work in harmony.
   For humans' relationship to the earth
      depends on the earth's relationship to the sky
         which depends on its own relationship to the cosmic energy flow.

            Thus Tao governs all existence.


Tao Te Ching 24

Stand on tiptoe and you will fall over.
Stand akimbo and you cannot walk.

If you'd discovered what your life is really about
   why would you need people to love you?
If there was anything remarkable about you
   would you try to become a celebrity?
If you'd done anything truly excellent
    why would you need to boast?
Will anyonelse continue praising your work when you leave off?

Those with a sense of the cosmic energy flow [/Tao]
   view all such things as the trash left after a party –
      even when it's in full flower …
Those with a real sense of the cosmic energy flow
    know better than to get sucked into that kind of thing.


Tao Te Ching 23

Use few words, well chosen.
    Better a short life well lived,
       than a long one with no purpose.
    Storms pass. Winds blow themselves out.
Change is nature's re-creation.

Those who immerse themselves in cosmic energy flow [/Tao]
   go with the flow.
       Those who practice virtue
          grow virtuous.
               Those who immerse themselves in illusion
                  grow deluded.
Those in the cosmic energy flow
   become identified with it.
       The virtuous
          become synonymous with virtue.
               Those possessed by delusion
                  end up with nothing.

If you don't trust others
   you will find nobody trusts you.


Tao Te Ching 22

Give way to retain integrity.
Bend to be straight.
Be unassuming to be enriched.
Be empty to allow fulfilment.

Possess little to be open to abundance.
Possess much to be jaded by care.

So the wise seek to focus on simplicity.
   They're noteworthy for avoiding conspicuous consumption.
   They're distinguished for their modesty.
   They're respected for keeping a sense of proportion
   Their achievements endure because they're discreet.
By offering no resistance they meet no resistance.

This is why ancient wisdom says 'Give way to retain integrity'.

Or do you think these are just empty words?

Integrity is a virtuous spiral.
   Seek clarity to find wholeness –
   Be whole-hearted to find empowerment.


Tao Te Ching 21

Cosmic energy flow [/Tao] manifests a powerful dynamic –
   yet who can analyze or define it?
It's like the invisible, infinitely complex, sub-oeanic currents
   which contain the basic organisms of all life.

Within that energy lies the primordial impulse to be,
   that has inspired all beings everywhere since the dawn of time.
This cardinal principle is innate to all life-forms:
   To understand its nature to understand all mysteries.

How do we place ourselves within this cosmic energy flow?
Read this page again! 


Tao Te Ching 20

Abandon books – end grief!

   Respect or scorn?
     How can you really tell what people think of you?
   Good or bad?
     What's the difference?
Yet I'd be a fool to ignore the common people's superstitions.

How isolated I am;
   how vast the gulf between me and those unaware of their mortality.
They are excited as before a party
   or when climbing to the terraces in springtime.

I watch alone like a forgotten child,
   as weary as a refugee.
They all have abundant energy:
   I alone am lacking.

Oh I have the heart of a fool.
   For all my vaunted knowledge I have learnt nothing.
They're happy: I'm confused.
   They're canny: I'm dumb.

What strange contrasts there are in the world:
   Looking at a beautifully peaceful sea, who could imagine a tornado? 

The populace work steadily for material goals;
   I sit figuring it all out, possessing none of what they take for granted.

I know I don't belong -
   yet I feel the pulse of eternity.


Tao Te Ching 19

Don't imagine you know better than anyonelse:
   Abandon your theories:
Everyone will benefit.

Don't patronise people
   by claiming your methods are better:
They can find their own ways to help each other.

If you stop cheating and profit gouging
Criminals will have no role model.

This advice only scratches the surface:
    Use plain speech:
    Be straightforward:
    Don't seek personal advantage:
    Live simply.


Tao Te Ching 18

When respect fot the principles of Tao [/cosmic energy flow] fades
   the legacy is wise rule and justice.
When mind games and political expediency take over
   deception becomes the norm.

When relationships within a family fracture
  acts of exceptional kindness and respect occur.
When a country is in chaos
   loyal ministers emerge.


Tao Te Ching 17

The best leader – one who is invisible.
Second best – one whom the people applaud,
Next, one whom they fear.
The worst leaders are those held in contempt.

If they have no trust in you:
– place no trust in them.

    [As a leader]
Take things in your stride,
maintain quiet authority,
bring matters to a good conclusion
– allow everyone to think it happened by itself.


Tao Te Ching 16

Empty your mind to the open sky:
Let your natural tranquillity hold you in perfect stillness.

All around you whirls the world,
Be the fulcrum that holds it steady.

After flowering and setting seed
each plant returns to the dark earth.
Dying back to the root is peaceful;
It is a life-form's essence asserting itself.

This process also governs the transmission of perennial wisdom
which holds the key to all understanding.
Without tradition*
we are unaware of the delicate meanings that bind us together.

Knowing it helps us find where we belong;
the right place is where we no longer strive.
There we find the power of belonging –
a power not our own,
but coming from being centred in the cosmic energy flow, [/Tao]
which is without beginning or end.

Here the self merges with the timeless
and is beyond death.

*roots or cultural context


Tao Te Ching 15

Those who first discovered the principle of cosmic energy flow [/Tao]
stood quietly within life's cognitive dissonances
until its turbid depths clarified and patterns became discernible.

They were
… hesitant, as if crossing a river in winter –
… cautious, as if being watched by neibours –
… reticent, like house guests –
… as fluid as melting ice –
… as plain as oak –
… as open as the countryside –
yet as opaque as muddy waters.

If you're terminally confused
   stay perfectly still until the clouds pass.
If you know serenity
   bring its dynamic into your actions.

Someone who understands Tao avoids wastefulness
and, because s/he sees how to optimise resources,
rarely needs to initiate a radical departure.


Tao Te Ching 14

   It's invisible.
   … silence.
Reach out!
   … empty space.

Sense where these three enigmas converge
   and you there have the heart of the mystery.

The wise discern a contour in what is immaterial,
an invisible arc that spans the universe yet is never held by it –
a subliminal reality – like music borne on the wind,
fading as you seek to hold on to it.
   Follow and it disintegrates:
   Stand still and it moves on past you.

Learn the principle of cosmic energy flow [/Tao]
and time dissolves, revealing the power of the ancients to the present day.

Understand the principles of cosmic energy [/Tao Axiom]
and you see to the very dawn of the planet.


Tao Te Ching 13

Fortune and misfortune destabilize us:
   yet we ourselves are the authors of our greatest misfortunes.

How so?
   Fortune excites us:
      misfortune depresses us.
   Gaining one
      makes us fear the other.

Much misfortune arises from the ego preventing us seeing objectively.
Let its anxious posturings go
   and your misfortunes will fade away.

Learn to keep things in proportion
   and you can accept both fortune and misfortune with equanimity.

When you love yourself and others equally
   you can safely be entrusted with the very greatest gifts.


Tao Te Ching 12

Hyperstimulation results in ennervation:
   Loudness leads to deafness:
Addiction to strong flavours corrupts taste.
   Cruel sports make one indifferent to suffering:
Obsessional acquisition results in ruthlessness.

The wise therefore become discriminating, centred,
and learn not to follow every impulse.

Today the sad news of Robin Williams' suicide was announced.
Parts of this seem like an epitaph.


Tao Te Ching 1

This version is an interpretation of the words, rather than as a translation. I arrived at it by meditating on a literal translation, one chapter at a time, and allowing the meanings within the sometimes-perplexing baldness of the words to speak to me.

The cosmic energy flow [/Tao] we can comprehend
   is only a fraction of what pervades the entire universe.
Words can never capture the immensity of this force.
It is the well-spring of all created matter
   and governs the myriad forms it takes.

At its heart exists a duality
   where energy arises
   from desire and desirelessness
   perpetually encircling each other –
   one being perfect in thought,
   the other perfect in form.

This paradox holds the ultimate mystery of existence
   and is the lens to all that is holy.


Tao Te Ching 2

If the world acknowledges beauty
   ugliness is also found.
If the world acknowledges goodness
   its shadow will be present.

The material and the immaterial revolve around each other:
   easy and hard are linked:
   long and short, high and low are inseparable:
   singer and melody interdependant:
   front and back, two sides of the same.

Therefore the wise study the underlying psycho-dynamic of events,
   consider people's motivations,
   and observe how things interact naturally.

When they initiate
  they do not seek to possess.
When they engage
   they do not claim ownership.

By not vaunting success
   jealousy is kept in check
and so their work endures.


Tao Te Ching 3

If you glorify the successful
   it leads to conflict among the populace.
Do not assign value to rarety
   or you will encourage thieves.
Do not flaunt your possessions
   lest people become inflamed by greed.

Wise government
   satisfies hunger without inflating desire,
   encourages health but not acquisitiveness.

If the nation is founded on sincerity and social justice
   trouble-makers lacks a reason to foment unrest.

Act sincerely and all things are within your reach.

Tao Te Ching 4

The Tao is a void;
   when drawn on it is not depleted,
   so vast as to appear bottomless.

It blunts aggression,
   unravels knots,
   gives perspective,
   survives individual consciousness.

So nebulous
   it barely exists.
Without origin,
   it was present before humankind


Tao Te Ching 5

Nature forms no judgment
   – it fears nothing.
The wise are without prejudice
   – nothing alarms them.

The space inside a bellows is empty
   yet it is inexhaustible.
The universe may seem a void
   yet is full of infinite riches.

Busy bodies often lose their way:
   the discreet need no instruction.


Tao Te Ching 11

What is not
   may be as useful as what is.

A wheel is useless without an axle arch.
The size of a pot is described by its emptiness.
A house is useful in proportion to its space.

Intention creates form –
   form creates meaning –
but stillness creates both.


Tao Te Ching 10

Stay centred
among the conflicting currents of life.

Listening to the breath,
listening to the heart,
restores the clarity and energy we were born with.

Who is untainted by the world's corrosion?
Even the noblest objectives may involve duplicity.
Can anyone truly see the bigger picture yet remain heart-led?

Conceiving something,
nurturing it:
can you let it go?

Encountering success yet avoiding arrogance –
guiding to fruition without dictating –
being strong yet invisible –
this is the ultimate life skill. [/Mystical Vision]


Tao Te Ching 9

Which is better
– to fill the cup below the brim
or let it spill over?
– to extend the life of a knife by using it carefully
or to whet it and blunt it?

Can the rich ever store their wealth securely enough?
   With money comes delusion,
   with delusion a loss of intuition.
   Without intuition who is forewarned?

When you've made it
   stand back.
When the nail is in
   stop hammering.

Search for the best economy of means,
   the sweet spot between chaos and control.
   Elegant solutions hold cosmic energy. [/Tao]


Tao Te Ching 8

The highest good resembles water.

Water benefits the whole planet effortlessly
flowing always to the lowest point,
just as cosmic energy [/Tao] is found where there is no pretension –

... forming a pool naturally
... reflecting each heart's depth
... refreshing all who seek
... responding preciely to each environment
... sweeping all before it without distinction
... infinitely flexible
... taking alternative forms in extreme conditions

Seeking no advantage for itself
its force is beyond argument, appeal or reproach.

Tao Te Ching 6

The valley is eternally sacred to the feminine spirit.

The archway of the great mother
is the gate between heaven and earth –

from it a continuous flow of subtle energy
that never depletes when drawn upon.


Tao Te Ching 7

I recently picked a 1980s copy of the Tao Te Ching from my bookshelf and started to read it. The translation was so incomprehensibly klunky that I felt compelled to soften it. But then I thought that reading the book critically was preventing it speaking to me; so I bought another which was lauded as entirely accurate and having footnotes.

But the problem was that whereas one obscured meanings by attempting to be contemporary (and merely seeming dated), the literality of other was equally opaque. Neither translator had any real command of poetic english. So Ive accepted the inevitable, and begun to make my own version as I did with Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus

So I began with #7

Sky and earth are eternal
because they are eternally without self-interest.

Thus the disinterested are often propelled to the forefront of affairs.
That they survive this is due to their detachment from appetite-driven emotions.

By these means the common good is best served.


Where do ideas come from?

You'd be really lucky if the whole of any idea arrived in a dream - and plainly, unless you’re a total eejit, you filter it throu your consciousness. You have to, how else would it get into communicable form? But the main thing I get from working in a respectful relationship with the subconscious is a kind of authenticity that rarely comes in any other way.

    The big change I underwent during my 20 years in the wilderness was allowing my mind to evolve (/be remade) so that now instead of my conscious mind pummelling my subconscious for things to sell I now use my conscious mind as the servant or secretary of my subconscious. Thus I depend on ideas emerging (whether in dream or otherhow) with a clear feeling tone, which I can then extract & extend by such craft as I have acquired.

    It means that I'm not beholden to other people’s opinions for what I do - FBOW. My principal concern is to ensure that what I produce has an internal integrity & logic in relation to the unique feeling world of each idea. That way I feel I have ‘acquitted my soul’, as George Fox was won't to say when he was being particularly rambunctious with the Restoration authorities.

    Thus it's no accident that most of what I feel led to compose is sacred /visionary music. To date this is of no interest to anyone. This has led me to think deeply about what the nature of ‘virtu’ or inner energy is in works of art, and to study the way in which structure & craftsmanship are valuable aids to providing others with entry points to the heart of a work of art when its ‘moral content’ (by which I mean intentionality) is not necessarily evident, possibly due to the differing perspective of creator & a potential interpreter.

    The (inarticulate) thing which I feel I'm ‘given’, which in fact I voluntarily entered the wilderness to learn how to express, reflects a personal perspective on, & evolved relationship with, the otherness which inhabits each human consciousness. Each person will cognise this otherness (or not) in their own terms seeing it either as ’that of God within’ or simply as the ultimate extension of the human mind. I'm easy with either.

    But expressing my sense of this otherness (without necessarily even fully comprehending it) is what I feel my principal creative task is. All the rest is (often very pleasurable) froth. What gives me quiet confidence that the music nobody knows about does in fact have merit and will in the long run be heard - tho very possibly not in my lifetime - is that I'm content that it authentically (re)presents my sense of this otherness. And I believe that it thus has the capacity to touch certain experiential archetypes in the way that Byrd or Vittoria do, or in the operatic case Janacek or Tchaikovsky. If I'm right, good: if I'm wrong, good. It’s not an indictable offence and no animals died in the process!


Intelligent Design

For most people, the idea of a creator necessarily involves a controling intelligence, but what if the true nature of the Creator is that it is a facilitive intelligence? What if the 'daimonic intelligence' within the universe is in fact 'dumb' or 'blind'? Bear in mind that humans with a hearing or speech disability often have other compensating faculties.

The idea of a 'permissive intelligence' facilitating the work of others is not so ridiculous in view of how the worldwide web originated. Also, consider those inventions whose ultimate use was substantially different from that envisaged by the discoverer or creator - wireless telephony and the saxophone are just two examples that come to mind. Neither Marconi nor Sax was in any sense an 'impaired' intelligence ... yet that makes the point.

While each was the cleverest in their fields, they were nevertheless 'blind' to how the reiterations and repercussions of their machines would both transform other supposedly 'smarter' intelligences and be transformed by that interaction. Notwithstanding that these subsequent folk did not, and probably could not have, invented what they were able to exploit, they took each invention to a totally different level by developing the basic concept in ways that were the result of a different perspective. It's even more true of modern computing if you see it from the perspective of Babbage or Turing. And it's a sine qua non of developments in artificial intelligence and robotics, whose heuristic trajectory of transcending each previous generation's endeavours is almost like the arc of evolution itself.

We have a hard time imagining anything like this in relation to our concepts of a creator-spirit - in the same way that as children most of us could not imagine the limitations we later discover in our parents. Yet if there was a formative mind or generative consciousness within matter which had the characteristics of its human equivalent we would find it easy to grasp. But we don't. In fact what the nature of this difference is, or might be, has engaged the finest minds since the dawn of literature - which it probably gave rise to in the first place. That which cannot be put into words cannot be discussed, and yet what lies at the roots of the mystery of life itself still defies the most ardent rationalist.

Thus when those who claim insights into the nature of this creator-spirit say that it is 'radically other', do not these characteristics well suit that description, especially when we call 'blind' the heuristic by which we come into being ... love? Indeed do not all faith traditions teach that 'God is love'?

If one considers what the emotional power of music actually is: then it becomes clear that it is possible to encounter a phenomenon well able to illustrate or amplify some aspects of the psyche whilst not capturing others at all. Again here, interestingly, the range of emotions music can express are almost wholly monistic. Broadly they are those which characterise most opera arias. Positive emotions are joy, sublimity, exhilaration, playfulness, anticipation, love, ecstacy, peace. Negative ones are malice, anger, destruction, frenzy, despair, grief. Probably the only dualistic emotion music can conjure are around mistrust, conflict jealousy. (I'm asking you to think only of musical timbre, not its lyrics.) Does this range of emotions not admirably summarise the range of sensations which may act upon most intelligent life-forms as a result of natural phenomena they may encounter during a lifetime?

What differentiates humans is that our psychosomatic awareness allows a broader range of emotion as a result of our cybernetic ability to comprehend duality, as well as using language to articulate our experiences

Because most of us have been raised within 'command structured education', centrally dictated learning, we naturally see trangressing such limitations as the first step to adulthood. And where education has included ideas of a god it will likely be one that conforms to that model of social organisation – a model targeted on the supposed moral limitations of children, and which remains firmly rooted in credal assumptions of 'sinfulness'. Or even, nowadays, taught without reference personal spirituality at all, in the conviction that only what conforms to ontological observation is valid knowledge. Thus are we all nowadays the servants of Mr Gradgrind! Yet in culture it is not the artefact itself which is valuable but the numen surrounding it which imparts the cherished character(istic).

So it is that our best chance of understanding how Intelligent Design might work in the universe is to look not directly at any one physical manifestation but at the richness of relationships and networks that interconnect all aspects of the physical and metaphysical world/s. 

Who framed Roger Rabbit?

Responses to my recent e-mail about the significance of nursery rhymes to musical and personal development, has made me think more about cultural continuity. This sin't something most people think about, or if they do, don't consider that they have much control over it. But a composer has to think about such questions, especially if s/he is, as I am, outside the mainstream.

The act of self conscious creation is in any case a curious one, arising from the interaction of subconscious will, genetic predisposition, and acculturation. There is nothing the matter with doing it for money: but until you get beyond doing it merely for other people you don't reach the place where the maps give out and you have only your instinct is to guide you. At that point you reached the realisation that we are like "fleas in the mane of a galloping horse whose route we [think] to influence by what we decided to believe or not believe", as Arthur Miller put it. But there is still this question: if we are 'fleas' what is the appropriate response of a 'flea' to its environment? Even 'fleas' came from somewhere and can consider what direction they want to head. This is significant because every day, every act, every decision has the potential to take us towards our objectives; if we have formulated them, be they conscious external goals or internal subconscious ones.

I think about this a lot in relation to the young pianists I teach. The music they learn needs to be grounded in the music of today and yet link them to the music of the past. If it doesn't you get the idiocy of a quiz contestant who,when asked which film featuring Bob Hoskins shared the name of a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, answered "Who framed Roger Rabbit?"

Last weekend I was reading a review of Graves’ letters & was struck by how no writer born after the last war would have Graves' (once, basic) equipment. Almost all knowledge has become compartmentalised - as is exemplified by a current BBC4 series about classical music presented by Suzy Klein which veers uneasily between assuming A) certain elements of musical knowledge & B) general ignorance which apparently demands explanation of rudimentary concepts that anyone who knew A) would already know.
Jonathan Harvey RIP used to say it was not uncommon to find music undergraduates who had no idea about the role of the Virgin Mary - beyond the basic joke - and thus lacked any perspective on western musical history.
But then of course Postmodernism is this lack of perspective writ large. My friend Harry Hough RIP always spoke of ‘the great march of ignorance’; but really where it really gains traction is when it meets Postmodernism to produce the moral foreshortening characteristic of the modern e-world where only the present exists. It’s really true that for today’s youth ‘early music’ is The Beatles. Everything before this is swathed in prehistoric irrelevance.     

Dreams - a perennial inner resource

We all have an innate initial reluctance to engage with the (life) journey we’re on. We'd all prefer to turn over with the pillows over our head and go back to sleep. It's so much more comforting. And almost all the commercial mechanisms in our society are designed to reinforce the message that it’s perfectly alright to remain asleep, and all your sleeping needs will be catered for (at a cost).

But for those who are propelled to awakening by whatever combo of stimuli there is only the path of differentiation from the herd – which is sometimes painful, sometimes rewarding, but always present as the background of unfolding events.
As they say: Life is the only game we play where the main purpose is to find out what the rules are?  

Infinite books have been written about this game - but the more specific they are, the more partial, and the sooner their language is outdated. Paradoxically (as I've been thinking while reading The Clovde of Vnknowing) the less user-friendly they are, the better and the more enduring their perspective.

But the one thing you can rely on is the one thing we're born with - dreams. It only recently came to me that we are not abandoned as orphans in a hostile universe - as the post-Enlightenment thinkers would have us believe. Like seeds that fall to earth encased in nutrient we are provided with the means to sustain our psychic as well as physical life. The reason why Existentialists & their successors haven’t wanted to recognise this is because they're so preoccupied with the conscious mind that they’re blinded by the headlight of their own ego/s.

The first two clips of The Way Of The Dream really explain the process of how dreams offer us a compensating opposite to our conscious world which is designed to keep us balanced, and also outline how our dreams change over the years to help us keep our balance as our perspective alters.

If it all seems weird that’s because nature is a lot weirder and yet a lot less complicated than the rules we've made up for it to conform to.


What is it kids hate about classical music?

It’s an interesting question why kids today think anything before the Beatles is ‘early music’?

I see it arising from the psycho-cultural revolution in perception that has been underway for a century now, driven by two forces & underpinned by two other – all of which originated in the USA. These were 1) the rise of the 'black beat’, 2) motion pictures, 3) capitalism, 4) technology.

By 'black beat' I mean metronomic music derived from drumming - which manifested first as ragtime then mutated into jazz and finally colonised all US popular music thanks to radio. By WW2 it had created an international musical ‘common time' that defined modernity and marginalised indigenous musical styles all over the economically-developed world. See a historical perspective.

The second force, the exponential growth of moving images from jerky novelty to sophisticated worldwide ubiquity, needs no further articulation. See my take on its effect on perception.

3 & 4 are both forces with positive & negative aspects; but the genius of the American social melting pot married together them to create art(plat)forms which, for the first time in history, would communicate effectively to a mass market of widely diverse ethnicity rather than appealing to elite audiences.

When I was young the skiffle craze as mere undertow to the imminent tsunami of Rock. Since then the relentless gray squirrel of US musical hegemony has all but eliminated the red squirrel of individual national cultural identity wherever there is mains electricity - or at least created a fundamental musical orthodoxy to which even today’s so-called ‘world music’ largely conforms.
This is the planet today’s young pianist has inherited. Inevitably the emerging adolescent is driven by fashion & peer pressure & thus their imagination is most effectively captured by the kind of music they're surrounded by and listen to. To be sure it’s morally-restricted and commercially-driven style, but  its fore-shortend worldview is cleverly tailored to support the reassuring wall of illusion with which immature personalities prefer to surround themselves.
The ‘problem’ with classical music for young people today, beyond ‘classic hits’, is not merely that it’s whole timbre is unfamiliar but much of its harmonic language evokes emotional voids - certain profound experiences which those raised on today's 24-hour-party world have rarely encountered - with the result that they are often made to feel quite uneasy by the range of emotions found within classical music. Moreover its execution often requires a subtlety of mind and technique which, in an automated & leveraged world, is no longer seen as an essential, or even desirable, prerequisite of endeavour.
All these factors make even show-tunes of the pre-war era as foreign and old-fashioned to kids as houses without central heating. I think it’s an interesting challenge to circumvent young people’s natural reluctance to move outside this comfort zone.


The Voice of the Martyrs

This piece is a dear child, one of my first mature compositions, dating from 1973.

At midnight I bowed my knee before God, and thanked him for all his graces which he has shown us. He has forgiven all our sins - places us on the way of truth - he comforts us in our misery, in our suffering, in our separation. 
We will pray for the cleansing of the church of Christ, that she may bring forth more fruit. We will pray for the ministers, for youth, for the prisoners, for our country and its government. 
Don't weep soul that griefs surround you. You dont have your lot in earthly life. Your whole happiness is there where saints who finished their course sleep peacefully.
Yes, I was obliged to go this way. There is no other way for me as a minister. And if anyone wishes to be a minister he must know beforehand that when Israel entered into the Holy Land, crossing the Jordan, the priests entered first into the dangerous waters and were the last to leave them.

I set these beautiful words by David Klassen, a Romanian Mennonite minister, the same year they were written while he falsely imprisoned in a lunatic asylum. Two years later a 'ransom'  of $26,000 was paid by W German Christians to allow him to travel to the West by which time he could no longer walk.  

The words still speak to me about the cost of being true to the light within - which is one that I hope on the whole I have paid cheerfully during the 50 years I've only been able to hear my 'heart music' silently, except for two choral recordings I conducted.

What is of interest from a perspective of 40 years is how my conception prefigures the integration of documentary sound & intentional music which was a big feature of my electronic compositional soundscapes at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop & RCM EMS 15 years later. Alas I was never able to integrate these spiritual interests with my commissioned work - which was one of the reasons I abandoned my 'career' in order to journey to a place of musical at-one-ment, even tho it has involved 20 years further silence.

In The Voice of the Martyrs I sought to create a Russian sound-world with basso profundo. Possibly I have a deep psychic connexion to the slavic soul for 35 years later I had one of my most profound spiritual experiences in front of an icon in a Moscow church.

Altho the tyranny that gave rise to this prayer has ended, it has been replaced by a far more insidious economic tyranny that coerces the populace into collaboration. I have always hoped that my music would sound a clarion call for those who do not bow the knee to this false god, and be a voice for those of goodwill who seek intunity with spiritual truth. Therefore it has been intensely painful to me to find noone in my own country who sees or understands the power that this music has. I hope the Society for Universal Sacred Music may see this for I have always believed that when the zeitgeist is ready for this music, this music will be a vehicle for the spirit of a new era. I thank them for holding the space for this vision.


The Role Sleep & Dream Function in Discovering the Nature of God

This about sleep function, & this about a region in the brain responsible for (/not) remembering dreams

It seems to me that enough neurological evidence now exists for some imaginative scientist to begin to correlate it & construct a fully psychosomatic theory of dream function that unites both the hardware, firmware & software of homo sapiens? (or should that be homo impercipiens?)
    Yet OTOH maybe this is beyond our collective consciousness at the present time because (just as the Romans lacked a concept of zero) we today lack the concept of a circular argument (ie, where one factor can have a variable meaning according to its place in the expression) & thus there is no way to represent a concept such as relative or variable objectivity?

I was thinking about this as a result of rereading The Cloude of Unknowing, the extraordinary 15thC anonymous guide to finding God whose breathtakingly straightforward writing remains as luminous to psychoanalytically-aware post-Darwinians as it has done to generations of church-Christians. And this led me to a perception that what we can understand of G** is what is at once wholly objective. yet wholly other within us. That in fact the idea G** (as a living experience) represents the perfect equipoise or sweet spot between the chaos of the senses & impulses, the balance between action & inaction - a state that transcends time, as perennial wisdom transcends human wisdom, which cannot be acquired but exists only as a gift. Perhaps comprehensible as a harmonic produced on a string, yet one that obeys not merely physical laws but metaphysical ones which involve the kind of relative objectivity created by archetypes of experience (just as fashion /pop /film creates certain images which epitomise transient social beliefs or 'probabilities’) but at a far more profound level.    
It interests me that god is a word like love that means anything or nothing according to personal experience. Trying to abolish or sidestep the word god achieves nothing since the sense the word embodies is by definition indefinable. And this seems to tally with the idea that the fullest experience is like a ladder apparently leaning against nothing, the rational and non-rational have to coexist in reciprocal balance.

    Which is where dreams come in.


Art in an age without content

In December 2011 Id been watching Andrew Graham Dixon’s BBC4 series Art in America, and it amply illustrated the old adage that ‘advertising is capitalism’s revenge on art’. In the series he demonstrated (unintentionally perhaps) how ad-culture had in fact progressively eviscerated postwar American art by hijacking any attempt to depict complexity, alterity or transcendence, and had systematically obliterated most content or meaning beyond that of a presented surface.

Dixon cited Dan Flavin as the person whose fluorescent light installations finally emptied art of all content.

Immediately after this I visited Nice where Clancy was working at the Opéra and took full advantage of the many galleries of the Côte d’Azur, with Dixon’s ideas buzzing in my mind. Thus it was in the Musée Léger that the penny finally dropt about what the last hundred years of art history had been about. At the time I was reading the psychologist /Nobel-laureate Daniel Kahnemann's book Thinking fast, thinking slow. In it he describes our two ways of seeing: the prima facie glance and the considered  observation.

Seeing Léger’s big crude pictures it fell into place for me that Léger and most subsequent 'art lite' is all about the prima facie glance.

Search as you will in Léger's work there isn't anything else: it's all there on the surface. And that has been the baseline for everything afterwards: this is art in the age of moving images, if it doesn't hit you at once forget explanations, the artist has already lost you. In Léger I see the ideas and shapes as being about a clever manipulation of the semiotics of Modernism. In his early work you see him trying for a style, but once he finds it the work becomes more assured but also lazier and cruder, as if he no longer really needed to bother about meanings because everyone now ‘gets’ him. He has become a brand, as we would say today.

(Exactly the same thing observable in the work of Philip Guston, one of the fathers of US Postmodernism – tho why is beyond me.)

The following day, after a good number of wrong turnings on Cimiez, I finally made it to the Musée Matisse. There I found confirmation of the thesis I was evolving – namely that Matisse was a key figure in the evolution of what might be called ‘high concept’ art (to borrow a phrase from the film industry, meaning a movie which can be summarised in a single sentence, or even just a title) - to wit, the reduction of an art demanding considered observation to one that works adequately as a prima facie glance.

His artistic career may be summarised as the simplification of pictorial content offering transitive multi-layered depth of figuration to a single iconic gesture on an opaque plane - be it a leaf or decorative arrangement of light or coloured paper.
By stripping away content just as the International Style had stript ornament from architecture, Matisse had succeeded in producing exactly what the commercial interests who run the art-world really wanted: a ‘brand’ - which was at once instantly recognisable yet essentially value-neutral, like a Hermès scarf or a Gucci handbag. In other words the perfect commodity for commercial exploitation and reproduction as merchandise in museum shops and on postcards everywhere.

Yet this was about more than creating brands, because this idea of the progressive elimination of moral content (ie ‘intentional meaning’) in art was also the quintessential narrative of Modernism itself – the illusion that humans could disconnect from or obliterate the past - that they could bury once and for all the dark gremlins of Christianity & all its baggage of guilt and sin which had (as they thought) embroiled Europe in the senseless murder of World War One. It’s interesting that between the wars dealers played off Picasso against Matisse, to the extent that one of Matisse’s earliest collectors sold all his works to ‘get into’ Picasso ahead of the market. And of course Picasso’s heirs have carried the process to its apogee by licensing his ‘brand name’ for a range of cars!

The era of Picasso /Matisse /Léger launched artists with a full range of craft skills: but in subsequent generations these skills have become progressively devalued until we have reached the present position where a modern exhibition of ‘drawing’ may not actually contain any hand-made content at all; and the value attached by the professional artworld to craft is epitomised by the appointment of Tracey Emin as professor of drawing at the RA. With the following picture, I rest my case.
The only question must be the velocity of Sir Joshua’s rotation!

Later, when Clancy had a free day, we visited MAMAC (Musée d’art moderne & d’art contemporain), which is in the rear part of the National Theatre of Nice – a 70s complex built over the river Paillion in a style that might euphemistically be described as 'misconceived optimism’, or more straightforwardly as misconceived. The lift having been vandalised we were forced to climb the stairs, but this proved to be as much as Clancy’s knees could manage. So we sat in the foyer and looked at the catalog.

With a couple of exceptions it really was the biggest pile of tat imaginable. Seeing the assembly (collection would be too strong a word) of trivial and meretricious American pop and post-pop artists, and their European imitators, we thought how future ages will surely look at this ugly rubbish and think “what on earth were they on?” before consigning it to a store-room, along with all the insipid Victorian landscapes and interwar Expressionists.

In Dixon's series on modern American art he made the point that most of the guys who 'hit' in the 50s & 60s saw themselves as outsiders. This led me to reflect that, psychologically, so long as they actually were outsiders they had a relationship with an ‘inside’ against which they were rebelling, and which anchored them a kind of counter-balance. But once they themselves, with all their unresolved dissidence and alienation, were hailed as the new mainstream there was no longer anything to counter-balance the energy of their innate negativity. Thus with their bêtes noires vanquished they themselves were in the position not merely of having all their dreams come true, but of foisting those very dreams on others – the unique privilege that being in the mainstream affords the ‘insider’.

Yet that was also a trap, both for them and society as a whole: for if there were no longer a consensual aesthetic criterion of beauty - because the very idea that ‘beauty equals truth’* had been discredited by advertising - then anything goes.
          (*Its deep roots in the human psyche is demonstrated by contemporary celebrity culture, where beauty remains an essential prerequisite of being a ‘personality’.)

And indeed anything did, for Guston, Oldenburg, Warhol et al developed and propagated within the mainstream a deliberate anti-aesthetic concept. Altho this predated the rise of AIDS, it too played a part in the American psyche in leading to an actual distrust of beauty & craft-skill becoming a qualifying statement for those who wished to be taken seriously as avantgardists and (it went without saying) opponents of capitalism and the Vietnam war.
 Academics traced this approach back Duchamp and declared it a valid element in current cultural discourse; but in reality once they and their emulators had created a recognisable style the art world’s commercial imperatives required it to continue producing what had ‘currency’ for curators and collectors. Moreover, those who were successful began to believe their own publicity thus became trapped in a mythography of ‘anti-beauty’ or its transgressive manifestion/s, pace Mapplethorpe and Lou Reed.

I don’t wish to be construed as speaking for or against any particular style of art, my issue is with visionless art. Plenty of figurative art is visionless: plenty of non-representational art is splendidly imaginative. What I have been seeking to do is to draw attention to the way in which today's creative arts are heirs to this progressive elimination from Western Art of the transcendent – horizon-expanding art which challenges lazy humdrum attitudes with new vision and  imagination. As I see it, today that function has been surrendered almost entirely to populist art-forms, whose lingua franca is now the moving image. The custodians of ’Turner Prize art-forms' seem only willing to permit the visionary when it is presented obliquely or incidentally. We are embarrassed by attempts to depict coherent universal meaning/s; we consider duende jejune; and the very idea that the artist might be seeking to respond to the inexpressible mystery of life is regarded as simply puerile. WYSIWYG - there is nothing beyond the material world /consciousness.

The legacy of Modernism is that there is now only the prima facie glance. Yet the absence of the depths of considered observation means that we are without what Jung called an oppositio compensandum, a balancing otherness. Art without roots engaged in the profound meaning/s of life is Art that is incapable of rising above the merely decorative, and at worst is trapt within banality of quotidian imagery. Lazy, hardly begins to describe the work of Sarah Lucas.

 This suits those commercial interests that control journalism and public entertainment, because it is the perfect ‘product’ to be rebranded and remarketed in new guises to a supine public of ‘consumers', fattened on a diet of tech-novelty that keeps them disengaged from the larger questions of their existence. This is materialism in action. Everything that art might be  – a manifestation of the engagement by artists with their daimon &/or the mystery of existence – is dismissed as irrelevant to the Postmodern world.

One may dispute the merits of Ruskin’s long reign over Victorian consciousness and the degree to which it created the illusion of an orthodoxy in cultural values, but the clarity and coherence of his critical perspective influenced the avantgarde of the time as far afield as Ghandi in South Africa, Tagore in Bengal and Tolstoy in Russia. Moreover at least Ruskin and his successors Read and Spencer were social engaged, and saw art as having a valuable function beyond mere game-playing and rhetoric. Part of the problem is that nowadays with the digital world there are very few clear forums which can be treated as the focus of an artform. Alongside this with the financial instability of print-journalism the many layers of debate have left it is equally unclear where /how /for whom criticism is valid. And thus critics qualified to comment authoritatively on the discourse of an artform and interpret trends to the public are themselves on slippery ground, constantly fearful for their own paychecks. We have some excellent critics, Andrew Graham Dixon (Sunday Telegraph, art), Michael Billington (Guardian, Theatre) the late Robert Hughes; but most prefer to stick to writing about big ticket events and few show any real engagement with the dynamic alternatives.

Popular Art/s
There is then the intriguing question as to why ‘curatorial art’ has become so divorced from vernacular taste? And indeed why the professional art world would probably regard such a question as somewhat quaint? Here too this divergence can be traced back to Modernism, with Pound and the Vorticists, Marinetti and the Futurists, or Cocteau and Cubism, not to mention Les Six. Whereas before this hand those pioneering a ’school’ such as the preRaphaelites or the Impressionists saw themselves as standing within a broad tradition, even if they sought to overturn it. From this point tradition itself was seen as the enemy, and artists challenged the public to accept them on their own terms.

But that meant that in order to establish the uniqueness of their ‘brand’, every artist had to invent and ‘copyright’ a trademark. This was a game-changer: whereas previously every age had certain stylistic hallmarks which constituted a lingua franca of which a handful of artists stood out as preeminent exponents. Now in order to invent a gimmick the object was to create a private language and sell this to the public as the latest thing. I came across a very interesting quote of Picasso's: "By amusing myself with all these games, with all these absurdities … and arabesques, I became famous, and that very quickly. And fame … means sales …. And today, as you know, I am celebrated, I am rich. But when I was alone with myself I haven’t the courage to think of myself as an artist in the great and ancient sense of the term. Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt and Goya were great painters; I am only a public entertainer who has understood his times and has exhausted as best he could the imbecility, the vanity, the cupidity of his contemporaries. Mine is a bitter confession, more painful than may appear, but it has the merit of sincerity." Libro Vero 1952.  

Not being driven by the pressures of maintaining a career or making a living the amateur artist who paints for ‘pleasure’ cares nothing for such matters, nor does the average member of the public, and is therefore happy to accept the persistence of traditional æsthetics. For which they are summarily dismissed by the cognoscenti. Yet I have observed in small commercial art galleries around the country there is still a great popular demand for traditional figurative painting which is almost like a subculture flying under the critical radar. And to read magazines aimed at amateur painters is to leave the world of self-styled 21stC art altogether, with their emphasis on traditional painterly craft skills. Ironically nothing demands more vitriol than commercially successful vernacular painters like the self-taught Jack Vettriano or Thomas Kinkade who do not conform to contemporary critical mores, especially the latter who incurs additional ridicule for being a Christian. While I say nothing in defence of their art, I note that the tone of the critical fraternity is more one of sneering outrage at their presumption than of rebuttal of their aesthetic. Unlike music,  the validity of a vernacular discourse in contemporary visual arts has never been acknowledged – possibly because it has never been economically significant. (If Pop art ever was a vernacular form, it quickly became subsumed into the curatorial discourse as soon as it became commercially successful.)

But in music the existence of a dual reality is acknowledged by the distinction between art music and mass market music – indeed, increasingly the latter receives lion’s share of critical attention. On The Independent website you will find a substantial Music category which is entirely devoted to mass market music, and elsewhere a separate section headed Classical. In The Guardian Friday Entertainment revue, 2-3 pages are devoted to mass market music, with one to ‘jazz/world’ and one to ‘classical’. In German this distinction is called Ernst musik & Unterhaltung musik, inspiring the subtitle of ‘E und U’ to Alfred Schnittke’s 1st Symphony, wherein he attempted to reconcile the two. But herein he missed the point because the essence of vernacular music lies not so much in the actual notes used as in the way they are used and the feeling-tone evoked. The essence of popular music is popularity: its function not as a ’text’ demanding consideration, but precisely in its ability to bypass the mind in its skilful manipulation of a limited range of vernacular musical gestures to create what are in effect reworked clichés – the diametric opposite of the principal criterion of art music, whose intellectually-based determination to avoid cliché has the effect of creating a musical ‘gated community’ which denies access to the ‘unqualified'. 

I feel there is one other factor that should be alluded to in decoding the position of the contemporary arts, and that is the level of technical competence that has come in the wake of technology and universal education. Noone, except amateurs, does anything for enjoyment any longer. Indeed it's the hallmark of a professional that they do it as a job - which is 'serious', because making money is serious. Whilst the greatest artists undoubtedly continue, as Odilon Redon did, to work from love and inspiration, and by so doing to honour their daimon or genius; too many think that they themselves are the genius, not that of God within; while other artists follow Picasso in responding to the art game with the same degree of calculated cynicism that businessmen take to trading objects.

I prefer to see the present situation not so much as the decay of an old order, which it is, as the fertile uncertainty from a new paradigm is being constructed. In a situation where almost anything appears valid, the public is expected to survive on a daily diet of junk art, thrown at it by an entertainment industry composed of conmen and chancers, but I still believe that a renewal of artistic vision is possible, if only because life itself is a story of constant renewal, a cycle of remembering and  forgetting and remembering again. Accepting Shelley’s line that
'poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world', one has to ask what legacy we are leaving future generations? I believe that until artists themselves come to see that the principal validity of art lies in its celebration of creative artists' role as a mediator of the unconscious aquifer of the imagination, which the majority lack aptitude to express, and depends on their self-discipline and discrimination in giving coherence to that vision.

You would be entitled to ask if the arts matter amid the many forms of communication that now exist? My answer is that it matters immensely - not perhaps to those whose life opinions are already formed, altho even here they reinforce our identity-perception - but the images /sounds which we choose within our surroundings not only define the world young people are preparing to enter, but are exactly what strangers see of /in us. Yet art also offers more coherent ways of questioning and challenging the surfaces of the so-called real world than politics does – for the latter is, and can only exist in, the surface world. And those who talk of ’the real world’ make it a shorthand for lazy &/or venal assumptions which favour the status quo. And if it is the duty of art to do anything it is to suggest that the real real world is infinitely greater and richer than that of quotidian existence.

The Salisbury poet George Herbert put it four centuries ago:
A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
       Or it he pleaseth, through it pass,
 And then the heav'n espy.  

We are on our way to a new vocabulary of the arts and of society, it matters less what that literally is than that it is compiled by imaginative creative arts working from their true centre as has been true of all art that has stood the test of time.