​atmospherics

​​1980 | ​possible musics


​​Possible Musics / Fourth World Vol 1
First, let it be said that this title (and this record) form a powerful nucleus of two concepts which became extremely influential: the pluralizing of "music" to suggest that there is more than one (foreshadowing the "diversity" movement before the term "political correctness" poisoned the well) and the 1+3=4 formula as a symbol for an idealized interbreeding of "first" (technological) and "third" (traditional) world influences in a way that aspires to be both "metaclassical" and "metapop."

​This formulation framed a lot of possibilities that are still being explored and refined (and inevitably, banalized). In October 1977, I did a concert at The Kitchen (premiere showcase of the New York scene) which was supposed to feature some of the Earthquake Island musicians but that didn't work out so I made some background textures from isolated tracks of the 24-track tape along with a transformation of the lush intro to a 10cc (the UK group) song into a "harmonic tambura" (another musician functioned as a kind of "tape DJ", cueing all the backgrounds) and played over that with my newfound technofriend, the harmonizer.

​A glowing New York Times review of this concert ("Jon Hassell, Trumpeter, Opens Vistas") was a great moment of validation and inspired me to go beyond the diary entries of mounting despair (alternating with ecstatic notes of love about spicey soirées with the young French-Vietnamese trapeze artist, the svelte London model showing off her new Kamali bikini at my loft on Park Avenue South, and the soothing sweetness of the Spanish-Filipino with hypertrophy of the clitoris who later had an operation, became a model, then a nun).

​In June 1979, I did another Kitchen concert which introduced an early version of 'Charm'.

​Charm (Over Burundi Cloud) ​

This is the recorded version. As for the title, I was thinking of various aspects of “charm”:  the snakey melodies of a snake charm(er), quark charm  in physics, girl charm (self-explanatory).

This was the the long, bellwether, piece which recast clearly the three traditional raga elements into new forms: the tambura role being taken by the Burundi Cloud  loop from Earthquake Island; the tabla role was taken by the udu (pottery drum from Nigeria),  assisted by  congas—all played live  over downspeeded conga loops; and of course the solo role was the melismatic trumpet, here harmonized in parallel fourths with  backwards echo (long reverb  recorded on trumpet then tape played backwards so that the reverb begins from nothing and then rushes up to meet the note played).

Charm (Over Burundi Cloud)  (audio+txt)
This is the recorded version. As for the title, I was thinking of various aspects of “charm”:  the snakey melodies of a snake charm(er), quark charm  inphysics, girl charm (self-explanatory). This was the the long, bellwether, piece which recast clearly the three traditional raga elements into new forms: the tambura role being taken by the Burundi Cloud  loop from Earthquake Island; the tabla role was taken by the udu (pottery drum from Nigeria),  assisted by  congas—all played live  over downspeeded conga loops; and of course the solo role was the melismatic trumpet, here harmonized in parallel fourths with  backwards echo (long reverb  recorded on trumpet then tape played backwards so that the reverb begins from nothing and then rushes up to meet the note played).

​T​he one piece of mine that I played for Pran Nath, and his approval ("Playing this instrument like no one before... they will line up for you around the block") made me feel like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. The flavor was "mine" but the essence of his teaching, his "shape-giving", was deeply embedded.


Brian Eno was then living in New York and had picked up my Vernal Equinox record and—by his telling—had spent a lot of time that summer immersed in it, so he came up to me after the concert and introduced himself and suggested that we work together on something. So we started hanging out a bit, having dinner and long talks, some nights at the Mudd Club and we discovered a great flow together which has continued on and off to the present day. He was working with the Talking Heads on Fear of Music at the time, so David Byrne joined in the hang (an apotheosis of which was reached when we three white boys got mugged together at an outdoor Caribbean Festival in Brooklyn that developed into a full-fledged riot. Headline: uncomfortable social reality scrapes the knee of idealized rainbow-tribe visions. Too bad no pictures of this.) and I was turning them on to some music, mostly African, they hadn't heard before on the French Ocora label.

That African wind—and some of my trumpet (on 'Houses in Motion')—can be heard blowing through the Talking Heads next record, Remain in Light and on into much of the music world during the coming years. So Brian and I—with David dropping by from time to time to check it out and, memorably, to offer his starpower on the record if desired—began work on Possible Musics at Celestial Sound and I, of course, called in the incomparable Nana who turned me on to Aiybe Dieng, a terrific Senegalese drummer, and Brian brought in some people he'd worked with, like Percy Jones, who did that great bass part on 'Chemistry'.

My ongoing affection for the joyously polyphonic music of the Pygmies shows up in the call-and-response form of 'Ba-Benzélé'.

Brian had great musical intuition and was brilliant at focusing attention on things which a "virtuoso" mindset would tend to overlook (e.g., the simple melody of 'Delta Rain Dream'). 

There was always mutual learning going on between us, a healthy creative tension and ultimately, a place of congruence between his art school, non-musician approach and my musicianly, composer-virtuoso view (probably a somewhat defensive one, since I'd spent lots of years getting to where I was and just who was this "amateur" who couldn't read music!).

However, if I had been less naive I could have foreseen that—with "Eno is God" grafitti sprouting all over the NYC subways that summer—my strategy to offer him co-billing on the LP jacket for sales reasons would lead to years of trying to explain how my sound was already in place before Eno. It's not that some form of co-billing wasn't deserved, it's just that my obscure "downtown" reputation guaranteed me a position in the shadow of his high-pop profile and the mood of pop critics of the time was to assume that he was the creator of all.

Anyway, the record got lots of attention (London Times, Rolling Stone, Vogue, Interview, Village Voice), including the "Ten Best Albums of 1980" list of the New York Times.

In Europe, Jean François Bizot, editor of the influential French magazine, Actuel, got wind of the ferment and came up with a double page foldout cover of Byrne and Eno and Hassell shot by Annie Liebovitz.


Brian had pushed E.G., his management company, into starting a label, Editions E.G., and I tried unsuccessfully to convince them that they should give a big push to this record in France based on the Actuel story. Apparently, they just didn't have a clue that, in France, Actuel was like a combination of Rolling Stone and Time-Life all-in-one and that the "Fourth World" concept would flavor a sizeable portion of the music world's output over the next 20 years. I remember Brian ("ambient") and Terry Riley ("minimalism") and myself ("fourth world") hanging out at my house in West Hollywood a few years ago and remarking just how much of the current musical DNA could be traced back to my living room at that moment.

Meanwhile, I had been doing a few live concerts—the Mudd Club, Boston Institute of Contemporary Art, and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Partially to demonstrate that this music was not all coming out of the studio but was being performed live, I put 'Griot'—from the AGO concert—on the record.

Finally, this was a time of trying to correlate the deep, traditional practice I had been following under Pran Nath along with my new "pop" associations and possibilities. I felt compelled to write something special for the press release (and for myself) which would put it all in context. The brief essay titled, "Some Answers To The Question, What Are Some Of The Possible Musics On This Planet At This Time?", looks a little bit like the first "Fourth World" manifesto.


Diorama: Stories in words and pictures...

di-o-ra-ma:
A three-dimensional miniature scene with painted modeled figures and background...

di-o-ra-ma: A three-dimensional miniature scene with painted modelled figures and background


Thank god I kept agendas all these years. Jumbled together on a page are the mundane (daily notes to pick up things, career pitches, concerts, departure dates, deadlines)

​and the rhapsodic (usually the rising and falling flares of love and sex and music).

–jh


di-o-ra-ma: A three-dimensional miniature scene with painted modelled figures and background
Possible Musics / Fourth World Vol 1—First, let it be said that this title (and this record) form a powerful nucleus of two concepts which became extremely influential: the pluralizing of "music" to suggest that there is more than one (foreshadowing the "diversity" movement before the term "political correctness" poisoned the well) and the 1+3=4 formula as a symbol for an idealized interbreeding of "first" (technological) and "third" (traditional) world influences in a way that aspires to be both "metaclassical" and "metapop." This formulation framed a lot of possibilities that are still being explored and refined (and inevitably, banalized). In October 1977, I did a concert at The Kitchen (premiere showcase of the New York scene) which was supposed to feature some of the Earthquake Island musicians but that didn't work out so I made some background textures from isolated tracks of the 24-track tape along with a transformation of the lush intro to a 10cc (the UK group) song into a "harmonic tambura" (another musician functioned as a kind of "tape DJ", cueing all the backgrounds) and played over that with my newfound technofriend, the harmonizer. A glowing New York Times review of this concert ("Jon Hassell, Trumpeter, Opens Vistas") was a great moment of validation and inspired me to go beyond the diary entries of mounting despair (alternating with ecstatic notes of love about spicey soirées with the young French-Vietnamese trapeze artist, the svelte London model showing off her new Kamali bikini at my loft on Park Avenue South, and the soothing sweetness of the Spanish-Filipino with hypertrophy of the clitoris who later had an operation, became a model, then a nun). In June 1979, I did another Kitchen concert which introduced an early version of 'Charm'. >>
This was the one piece of mine that I played for Pran Nath, and his approval ("Playing this instrument like no one before... they will line up for you around the block") made me feel like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. The flavor was "mine" but the essence of his teaching, his "shape-giving", was deeply embedded. Brian Eno was then living in New York and had picked up my Vernal Equinox record and—by his telling—had spent a lot of time that summer immersed in it, so he came up to me after the concert and introduced himself and suggested that we work together on something. So we started hanging out a bit, having dinner and long talks, some nights at the Mudd Club and we discovered a great flow together which has continued on and off to the present day. He was working with the Talking Heads on Fear of Music at the time, so David Byrne joined in the hang (an apotheosis of which was reached when we three white boys got mugged together at an outdoor Caribbean Festival in Brooklyn that developed into a full-fledged riot. Headline: uncomfortable social reality scrapes the knee of idealized rainbow-tribe visions. Too bad no pictures of this.) and I was turning them on to some music, mostly African, they hadn't heard before on the French Ocora label. That African wind—and some of my trumpet (on 'Houses in Motion')—can be heard blowing through the Talking Heads next record, Remain in Light and on into much of the music world during the coming years. So Brian and I—with David dropping by from time to time to check it out and, memorably, to offer his starpower on the record if desired—began work on Possible Musics at Celestial Sound and I, of course, called in the incomparable Nana who turned me on to Aiybe Dieng, a terrific Senegalese drummer, and Brian brought in some people he'd worked with, like Percy Jones, who did that great bass part on 'Chemistry'. >>
My ongoing affection for the joyously polyphonic music of the Pygmies shows up in the call-and-response form of 'Ba-Benzélé'. Brian had great musical intuition and was brilliant at focusing attention on things which a "virtuoso" mindset would tend to overlook (e.g., the simple melody of 'Delta Rain Dream'). There was always mutual learning going on between us, a healthy creative tension and ultimately, a place of congruence between his artschool, non-musician approach and my musicianly, composer-virtuoso view (probably a somewhat defensive one, since I'd spent lots of years getting to where I was and just who was this "amateur" who couldn't read music!). However, if I had been less naive I could have foreseen that—with "Eno is God" grafitti sprouting all over the NYC subways that summer—my strategy to offer him co-billing on the LP jacket for sales reasons would lead to years of trying to explain how my sound was already in place before Eno. It's not that some form of co-billing wasn't deserved, it's just that my obscure "downtown" reputation guaranteed me a position in the shadow of his high-pop profile and the mood of pop critics of the time was to assume that he was the creator of all. Anyway, the record got lots of attention (London Times, Rolling Stone, Vogue, Interview, Village Voice), including the "Ten Best Albums of 1980" list of the New York Times. In Europe, Jean François Bizot, editor of the influential French magazine, Actuel, got wind of the ferment and came up with a double page foldout cover of Eno and Byrne and Hassell shot by Annie Liebovitz. >>
Brian had pushed E.G., his management company, into starting a label, Editions E.G., and I tried unsuccessfully to convince them that they should give a big push to this record in France based on the Actuel story. Apparently, they just didn't have a clue that, in France, Actuel was like a combination of Rolling Stone and Time-Life all-in-one and that the "Fourth World" concept would flavor a sizeable portion of the music world's output over the next 20 years. I remember Brian ("ambient") and Terry Riley ("minimalism") and myself ("fourth world") hanging out at my house in West Hollywood a few years ago and remarking just how much of the current musical DNA could be traced back to my living room at that moment. Meanwhile, I had been doing a few live concerts—the Mudd Club, Boston Institute of Contemporary Art, and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Partially to demonstrate that this music was not all coming out of the studio but was being performed live, I put 'Griot'—from the AGO concert—on the record. Finally, this was a time of trying to correlate the deep, traditional practice I had been following under Pran Nath along with my new "pop" associations and possibilities. I felt compelled to write something special for the press release (and for myself) which would put it all in context. The brief essay titled, "Some Answers To The Question, What Are Some Of The Possible Musics On This Planet At This Time?", looks a little bit like the first "Fourth World" manifesto. •

        

Diorama

Thank god I kept agendas all these years. Jumbled together on a page are the mundane (daily notes to pick up things, career pitches, concerts, departure dates, deadlines) and the rhapsodic (ususally the rising and falling flares of love and sex and music). jh


All text, images and sound not otherwise attributed are protected by copyright © 2017 Nyen Music.
All paintings by Mati Klarwein © 2017 Klarwein-Archives. Used by permission of the Klarwein family.

A childhood in Memphis, a classical conservatory education, composition and electronic music study with Stockhausen in Cologne; a passage through the New York minimalist sphere with Terry Riley, Reich, Glass; having a window opened onto the world's music and a new approach to the trumpet via vocal master Pandit Pran Nath; a questioning and deconstruction of the European dichotomy between classical and popular, sacred and sensual; a pioneer of digital transformation and sampling—all of this led to Fourth World—the unique blend which Jon has described as "worldly music" to underline a more subtle equation at work and discourage the simplistic labeling of "world," "jazz," "classical," "minimal," or "ambient."