As I find my Disinfo footing, I thought I’d share my unique songwriting process that includes metaphysical techniques.
Introduction or “DIM THE TZIM-TZUM”
“Sound Sigils,” or music constructed from occult practices and theory, have been my main magic(k)al and songwriting process since childhood. These sonic experiments would fall under what I’ve come to know as “Audiomancy,” (Not to be confused with local Portland author Ezra Sandzer-Bell’s book of the same name, which is the sequel to his phenomenal Astromusik – a text that focuses on the correlation between music theory and metaphysical ideas (an interview with the audiomancer is, hopefully, to be included in this series.)
Personally, I have come to call these experiments “DIMS” because, when constructed or ritualized correctly, the senses are dimmed, the somatic self is dimmed and ethereal is that much brighter.
More specifically, the term “Dim,” as it relates to this technique, was coined by my old mentor Black Tom, a literal “dharma bum” who had relinquished his possessions, his doctorate, his career – to become a devout student of the Kabbala. He said that my audiomancy “dimmed the “Tzim-Tzum.” As he explained, and forgive the paraphrasing, The Kabbala describes the infinite, or En Sof, as an endless abyss that encompasses ALL things without rules and the confines of human fathomability or definition. The En Sof is what I correlate to AO Spare’s idea of the underworld – the Neither/Neither , or what I equate to Jung’s Collective Unconscious or even, Bell’s Theroeum in Quantum Physics – an unmediated invisible reality that’s inconceivable in it’s conception of the infinite where every thought, reality and emotion exist. But to fathom this En Sof, or Neither (a shortened nickname), or for things to exist as we perceive them, there needed to be a shared comprehension, one that allows for a collective reality such as scientific laws of matter, time and space. Through this contraction of the absolute, or “TZIM-TZUM,” we are able to construct our shared reality by confining the En Sof.Again, this is how I understand it, anyway. And as far as any appropriation concerns, “Dimming the Tzim-Tzum” is a personal nickname I use for these personal experiments – feel free to call ’em whatever you want.
The Dims birthed from my repurposing of broke, scrapped and/or trashed VHS and cassette tapes I used, as a broke and curious southwestern kid, as a means to conjure songs from found sound. Whether the cassette tapes were melted and reformed by the boundless brutality of the desert sun, or the tape ribbon severed and frayed from over-use, I spent a lot of time trimming, cutting and glueing together these polymer sonic fractions only to mire in the fractals of mutant tones and tussles ignited by the tapeheads. Of course, I would later correlate this process with that of Burroughs’ tape experiments that spawned from his and Brion Gysin’s “Cut-Up” techniques. However, mine was to construct original music within the standards of traditional American music – to inspire melodies, rhythms and structures that lay just outside traditional bounds. It exorcised a part of my music that my otherwise unlearned musical theory would prohibit and allowed me to compose music without the confines of traditional techniques.
The trial and tribulations of these early experiments were quite fun though arduous. would lose many moons as I spliced and scotched taped various polymer pieces together You probably asked yourself, “how the fuck did he get anything resembling a traditional music structure with that technique?” I didn’t, at first, and again, this process allowed for my early forays into sonic induced meditation. It is all about the process, though, isn’t it?
Eventually, I discovered movements or measures that would morph into a constant, but arrhythmic, audio drone piercing through the cassette’s pink noise saturation and lift it on to another tape. I learned to transmute this practice into direct sampling as a means to construct ramshackle, kitchen-sink percussions and general discordant oddities that I mic’d and recorded on to these repurposed tapes using an old four track, sampling rhythmic measures and looping them – to build a discernible rhythmic foundation for a song.
I found I would constantly replay these experiments whilst walking to school as a “waking meditation,” or falling to sleep, allowing my mind to float adrift in the endless song possibilities bouncing about my brain. But it was I found myself, sitting in a dark place and allowing the tones to surround me with my eyes open to the black, that I began to feel a psychic synesthesia, sounds more colorfully vivid than the psilocybin visions I later experimented with.
I began mixing real-time actions during the Dims and would experiment manipulating tape speeds, or accompanying the ramshackle rhythms with strumming a broken guitar as a means to to physically generate or churn my gears of psychical reception. I found myself chanting the conjured words or phrases my mind would drum up and I began to sing.
My construction of outlier “traditional” songs, and these “Dims” evolved throughout the years as I have, as both musician and “magician” – From ritual, meditation, manifestation, evocation and invocation – these were sonic talisman.
One of my first realized songs using this tactic is DAKOTA SLIM’S “DAMSEL” – you can hear the cassette beeps and burps of a drum machine I was deconstructing only to sequence a rhythm underneath a “traditional” song structure and quasi-outlaw country chord progression evoked from my youth. © Dakota Slim 2006
I hope to share this confluence of my artistic process and occult practices through these experiments, in sequence, to would-be practitioners. In this series I’ll go from the saturation of an empty tape, through the trials of the chaotic meditations, to a fully constructed song.
Recently, I’ve constructed a “Dimming Room” by refurbishing a small, hidden room in my new home for the sole purpose of these meditations. Autonomy from outside atmosphere is key, I’ve found. The room has an obtuse, womb-like structure and had been under utilized for decades mainly to past tenants superstitions of it’s ghostly purposes. It’s like it was made to Dim, because when inside the dark place, it’s muffled hums from outside would work famously for trans-dimensional wayfaring – and haunting. It would be quite easy to become enveloped in the preternatural dark and I found the room to encapsulate the sound beautifully.
I’ve constructed this tomb room (womb room?) to basically hold an amp, a child’s mattress and suitcase wired for tape and audio manipulation such as stomp boxes and other assorted goodies.
This new room allowed the “Dims” to evolve into a truly transcendent enterprise. If orchestrated correctly, I am accompanied by fantastic visions, not unusual to past meditations but more vivid and interactive. It was my 30th birthday, last year, when the static spirit under my skin finally ripped out of my body and I was sucked into the vortex of alien dreams, unknown memories and trans-dimensional flight while the sounds flickered and floated around the room more turbulent than before. The process had taken it’s first truly preternatural turn!
After I calibrated back to this plane, I continued these “Dims” with more emphasis on the integration and experimentation with occult ritual and practice. I discovered what really kicked this process into the desired mind-melting audio-gasms was that the more actions my body sequenced with the sounds the more my eyes to were able leer through the void. My ass had to be firmly on the ground as it anchored me to the earth – far more conducive than spinning into the psychic void and crashing into the equipment as I had on my 30th! But it was rhythm that was my true psychic anchor, the chant was my spoken intention and the guitar or the drum… a concussive exhaust pipe for my psychic engine… I digress. What I’m saying is, I would love to show you how.
“CLAIRVOYEUR” from SPARE SPELLS was the first song synthesized in the DIMMING ROOM – replete with classical cut-up taped percussion samples of me slamming the closet door and beating the walls in “DIM” sessions. The three chords in the intro of the song came from the subsequent session of droning the baritone whilst meditating to the tape samples. © Spare Spells 2015
Tools like looped discordant washes from my electric baritone guitar with heavy reverb and delay pre-recorded to tape are my go-to’s as of late, utilized in one thirty minute session. From manipulating the cassette speed in the next session, chanting a single word over the construct in the third to discover the “theme” of the construct, and so on.
So when I say “Dim the TzimTzum” that means to allow the barriers of perception to become transparent, and to venture beyond our unified constructs of matter, space and time. And it works!
Another track that not only utilized this process, but is actually about this process. Appropriately named TZIM-TZUM from SPARE SPELLS‘ recent album, THE NARROWS. © Spare Spells 2017
I will update Disinfo with a coming how-to “DIM the TZIM-TZUM”guide through the creation of one song.
An extremely recent example of the process, much like I’ll be sharing, can be heard here:
PART 2 will document, step by step, my newfound process for Dimming – stay tuned.
Or rather, out-of tune.