Making Magic With Music

Aside from being a wandering minstrel, Larkin Grimm also tucks the occupation of shaman into her well-worn cap.

“All great artists are shamans,” says Grimm. “Everyone who is a musician and goes into an altered state of conscience is a shaman, and music puts you in that altered state of conscience.”

This mystical connection between a musician and their audience was one of the many reasons Grimm teamed up with the Ordo Templi Orientis, also known as OTO, to curate the Musicka Mystica Maxima Festival, a new sort of event featuring musicians who all practice magic, kicking off Monday at Santos Party House.

“We have been kicking the idea about for a year,” said Peter Seals, aka Frater Puck of the OTO. “Certain synchronistic occurrences made it seem that now was the time.”

When I first heard about the Musicka Mystica Maxima Festival, it sounded a bit like a Dungeons and Dragons dork fest. But when Grimm points out the players on the two-day line-up, it became clear that the mystical side only constituted one part. The real highlight of the festival will be the eclectic list of talented musicians who just happen to have a magical twist.

The most well known people playing include avant-garde, composer John Zorn and industrial, gender-bending musician Genesis P-Orridge of Psychic TV. P-Orridge will play on the first night along with Baltimore’s Nautical Almanac, Grimm, the throat singer Arrington de Dionyso and San Francisco’s Amber Asylum with Kris Force. The second night features Zorn with Bill Laswell, Spires that in the Sunset Rise, Daniel Higgs, 4th Sign of the Apocalypse and Monica Richards of the Gothic band, Faith & The Muse.

“It came about from the idea there is a culture of magically minded artists in the city and there doesn’t seem to be a central place for this culture to develop,” says Seals. “The culture already exists, but I don’t know if they know about each other.”

The musicians come from all over the country. Their music has different styles, sounds and magical sides.

Grimm describes the Wisconsin band Spires that in the Sunset Rise, as “straight up witches from the Midwest.” Arrington de Dionyso, she says, practices the Kabala, and the girl from the noise band Nautical Almanac studied psychotherapy and does performances based on trust.

The way Grimm describes the enchantment a performance has sounded like an outer body experience. She says you put all this energy out into the crowd, they take it and give power back. By the end of the set, you aren’t always clear what happened.

“The idea is you go into another world and bring back information from there to help this one,” she tells me.

Grimm is used to this feeling since she was raised by musicians in a commune and has played music herself for the past few years. Before she started on this path, Grimm attended Yale in hopes of becoming a politician. “I used to help Barbara Bush with her homework,” she says, while sipping a mimosa in the East Village. Though she finished her stint in school, politics is a hobby, not a career. Today, she lives her life wherever the wind, or in her case, the tarot cards, take her; playing music all over the world and releasing albums.

“I always wanted to curate a festival myself,” she says. “And everyone was so excited about doing something with the OTO.”

The OTO sponsored the festival as a way to bring music and magic together. Not all the performers follow the OTO, which is a group based around Aleister Crowley’s 1904 volume, The Book of the Law, and the Law of Thelema. Seals made it clear that despite the stereotype that the name Aleister Crowley brings, the festival isn’t a bunch of Satan worshippers. He also said practitioners of Magick today seek it out through many, socially common ways, like yoga, Kabala and meditation. Just because it uses the word magic, doesn’t mean wizards, witches and warlocks.

Seals informs me that no goat sacrifices on the dance floor or naked virgins dancing in flames. Though, there will be rituals.

“They are specifically designed to intoxicate the innermost sense,” Seals says. “The gruesome or cheesy would be at cross purposes with what we endeavor to do. Harmony and Beauty are the goals, so, visually, there is nothing of the standard, pop culture and bad horror film hoo-ha you might expect.”

Just good music with a little glitter, and you don’t have to be a magician to appreciate that.