Discography | Solo Works

Possible Musics (With Brian Eno)
Fourth World volume 1


satellite photo of an area south of Khartoum

Editions EG EEGCD-107
1980 • 45:05

Side one

“Chemistry” (Hassell, Eno) – 6:50
“Delta Rain Dream” (Hassell, Eno) – 3:26
“Griot (Over ‘Contagious Magic’)” (Hassell) – 4:00
“Ba-Benzélé” (Hassell) – 6:15
“Rising Thermal 14° 16′ N; 32° 28′ E” (Hassell, Eno) – 3:05

Side two

“Charm (Over ‘Burundi Cloud’)” (Hassell) – 21:29


Jon Hassell – trumpet, Prophet 5 touches on “Delta Rain Dream”, “Aluar” loop on “Rising Thermal”, ARP loops on “Charm”

Brian Eno – background cloud guitars on “Delta Rain Dream”, Prophet 5 “Starlight” background on “Ba-Benzélé”, high altitude Prophet on “Rising Thermal”, rare MiniMoog & treatments on “Charm”

Percy Jones – bass on “Chemistry”
Naná Vasconcelos – ghatam, congas, loop drum

Aïyb Dieng – ghatam, congas

Michael Brook – bass on “Griot”

Paul Fitzgerald, Gordon Philips, Andrew Timar and Tina Pearson – handclaps on “Griot”

Jerome Harris – bass on “Ba-Benzélé”

Night Creatures of Altamira (field recording) on “Rising Thermal”


​Jon Hassell—trumpet, pottery drums, Prophet 5, bowl gongs

Brian Eno—drums, bowl gongs & bells

Michael Brook—bass

Miguel Frasconi—bowl gongs


Essay written in 1980 to introduce the idea of Fourth World to the music press:


I. Fourth World Music

“Fourth World” , that is, beyond “Third World” — a primitive/futuristic sound combining features of world ethnic styles with advanced electronic techniques. In its highest form the blend of influences creates an impression of a new, unified sound.

Some music is “cosmetic” Fourth World . This dots the i’s of conventional musical statements with borrowed flavorings of exotic instruments.

Some music is “covert” Fourth World . In some ways this is the opposite of the cosmetic approach. Here a structural framework of some ethnic music is borrowed and presented with Western orchestration. This gains in prestige the more the audience is unfamiliar with its origins.

Some music is “unconscious” Fourth World . For example, pop music of Asian or African countries which assimilate aspects of Western pop but maintain local color and spirit.

Some music could be called “visionary” Fourth World . This would extrapolate (from knowledge of world musics) into the future and/or past, attempting to present something—a mood, a vision, a special sense of time—in some coherent sound form.

II. Multi-Leveled Music

Mozart, speaking of two of his piano concertos:

“There are particular passages from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction, but still the less learned cannot, I believe, fail to be pleased, even without knowing why”

This reminds us that things communicate at simultaneous levels. Some people think that the more levels a work has or provokes, the “richer” it can be said to be. This is one criterion commonly held to separate “high” and “low” art.

The emergence of significant numbers of art school graduates (familiar with the multi-leveled messages of high art) as makers of new music has changed the largely uni-leveled pop tradition into a forum for multi-leveled, hybrid, sound-images. This cross-fertilization by “outsiders” who create, out of necessity, new approaches to instrumental techniques and formal thinkng, challenges the pre-dispositions of “ schooled” musicians toward more familiar solutions.

Perhaps this breaks the ground for acceptance of more esoteric cross-breeding.

III. Narrow-Band Culture

So far, most of these artpop hybrids have been conceived within a limited framework of choices—a framework of cultural/racial biases whose rear-view goes no further than the emergence of the long-playing record and whose front-view is dictated entirely by the demands of a marketplace where media not only reflect but create attitudes.

A narrow-band culture results in which the range of possible musics is reduced to a set of primary colors with any in-between shade viewed as a failed attempt at being a primary.

IV. “High” (Classical) and “Low” (Pop)

The classical avant-garde has created many “possible musics” over the years. The lack of audience for these efforts is understandable seen in the light of certain shared assumptions about what distinguishes a classic approach from a pop approach.

Consider that in India, Africa and many other cultures (if any separation between classical and popular exists at all), classical music is sensuous, it’s built over highly-inflected (“jungle”) rhythms, improvisation plays a major role, expressing a mood is aprimary goal and it communicates to all classes of people. The popular music often is similar but less rigorously formed.

In Western culture, no form in which improvisation is a major element is considered classical. Further, anything that is openly sensuous and/or uses certain rhythmic inflections or even certain instruments is automatically relegated to some “low” category (jazz, rock, mood music, etc.). This is the equivalent of etiquette rules: Do this, don’t do that – if you want to be visible as a member of a certain class.

Obviously, a kind of cultural racism is at work here which, more often than not, reduces non-European things to “curio” status. Any trend which softens this centuries-old superiority complex (hardening of the categories) should be welcomed.

V. Sincerity and Irony

Generations fed on hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and mock sincerity can’t be blamed too much for an automatic smirk at the word “sincere”. Current “new wave” form cultivates the ironic approach (distanced, clever, solipsistic) as the only allowable response. The ironic playpen can be a lot of fun, but it’s no substitute for the direct transmission and reception of heartfelt messages. The coyote’s howl is heard with deep feeling (if not approached ironically) because it is felt deeply by a creature who knows only how to be itself and say what it means.

Music can be like this but it’s rare.

VI. New Wave

One could hope that certain aspects of “new wave” (proliferation of clubs, black/white musical syntheses, artmusic influences, general thirst for new sounds) are the rumbling s of intelligence to resist strangleholds (corporate and otherwise) on music and to open the windows to a wider range of influences. (Danger: rebellion is packageable for re-sale.) In that sense, Possible Musics might be jargonized as “listening-oriented” new wave music in distinction to “dance-oriented”.

VII. Possible Musics : The Record

In the best of these 45 minutes, a unified Fourth World sound-image is achieved, a new context for instrumental virtuosity is shown possible, levels of profound feeling are touched, and, in general, formula solutions passed over for more adventurous choices.

The title of the extended piece on side B, Charm (over Burundi Cloud) reflects a compositional formula in which the foreground Charm (cf. quark charm, snake charm, sexual charm), eveolves from a backgorund drone consisting of two “frozen” (digitally-trapped to repeat endlessly) sound-moments called Burundi Cloud. This drone “predicts” the textures, colors and limits within which the music might form itself. This idea maps onto the ancient Indian form which prescribes sets of pitches, pitch shapes, ornaments, rhythmic inflections, etc.—and, especially, a specific mood—for each raga.

Finally, the cover art—a satellite photo of an area south of Khartoum (14º 16’ N ; 32º 28’ E) may be seen as a visual correlate of the musical thought: a “primitive” part of the Earth as seen from a space attitude.
©1980 jon hassell



The following is the full of text of a note, directed at the Penn (U. of Pennsylvania) community, that was enclosed in one of the packages of materials that Kathy Change distributed the morning of October 22nd 1996, the day she set fire to herself.

(Note that this was written in the atmosphere surrounding the first Gulf War. -jh)

All that you have and cling to in fear

Is as worthwhile as a poisoned pie.

A universe full of love and wonderful possibilities

Would be yours if only you would reach for it.

You are sitting in timid conformity

On a hayride to hell.

You’re just about there.

Get off that truck now.

Break out of the ranks of evil

Do a dance for freedom.

I am angry, impatient, full of anxiety

And full of hope and love

But after 18 years of trying and being rejected

And being a pariah and a fool

I have finally concluded that my charism

And social magnetism register high on the negative scale.

Now that I’ve put in the first word,

This movement that I’ve tried to start,

Would probably do better without me,

So I will try to make a dramatic exit.

I’ve tried to do this several times before,

And failed.

If this is the right thing to do,

Heaven will help me.

If not,


Nevermind. I’ll be seeing you around.

I look at you and you are so beautiful

It makes me shy.

Your sympathy makes me want to hide

Because I feel unworthy.

For the cause I want to grab you

Drag you to meetings and demonstrations

But I’m afraid of putting you on the spot

Making you uncomfortable, scaring you away

So I am frozen in wanting

to merge my mind and heart with yours

Imprisoned by the invisible barriers

That I know must be broken through

I scream shrilly

I am an ungainly presence

Trying to break through the complacency

with my wild rage.

I have crashed this party

I do not belong here.

But you do. You are the children of the host.

You can talk to each other as peers

And take your rightful places

At academia’s table

with calm and gracious poise.

As crazy as I have been,

You can be cool.

Have confidence in your beliefs

You are a step ahead of everybody else.

Underneath their herd stupidity

Even the demo emulating morons and their sold out mentors

Who appear to be the majority in your milieu,

Are human beings

Who long for the world to be freed and set right

Even though they don’t know it.

Do them the great kindness of forgiving their stupidity

And put them in touch with the real heart

Of humanity.

To reach through the mask

Is your task.

There is so much at stake;

The country, the world, the future.

Don’t be put off by trivialities.

With you as its champion

Good will surely triumph.

How great will be your glory

How multitudinous will be your blessings

The highest happiness will be yours.

For many years I have though that Penn

Would be a good place to start the Transformation.

If this action I am taking succeeds

I hoped it might spark some interest

In what I was trying to say.

I hoped my writings would be printed and made available.

Maybe Transformation Parties could be held.

I am taking this action out of hope

Not despair.

By destroying my material corpus

I want to free my spirit

So that it can jump inside of you

I think that you would enjoy being filled

with conviction and can-do optimism

I think you would feel good

to be cleansed of the blase brain rot that clogs your mind

Yes there is such a thing as true morality, a real

distinction between good and evil, right and wrong.

Decisive moves must be made on behalf of good.

These are the addresses of some Penn people to whom

I have sent my packages.

Maybe you would like to meet and talk.

I have also sent packages to WXPN

and the Daily Pennsylvanian.

October 7, 1996

The multitudinous war crimes and crimes against humanity of the U.S. government have been documented and detailed, and every American is more or less aware of the criminality of his government, and yet we continue to respect its power and authority. We continue trying to work through the electoral process. We plead with our congress people to work for the well being of all the people and the planet instead of catering to the special interests of big money and organized crime. It is as though Gary Heidnik, the man who imprisoned, tortured and murder women in his basement, was the headmaster of a girls’ prep school; and upon discovery of his crimes,he was duly criticized, but allowed to remain in his position of power and responsibilty, presumably to continue his atrocities. The U.S. government is a much bigger and far worse criminal than Gary Heidnik, and it must be relieved of its duties immediately without further bureacratic hemming and hawing. The crimes of this present system are so enormous, an the dangers to which it is exposing us are so deadly and world threatening, that a sincere and forthright call to the American people to depose this evil system and come together now to peacefully replace it with true democracy, would be received with an overwhelmingly positive response from the people. Media workers are in a position to make this call and it is their responsibility to do so.

It is a waste of energy to get angry and gripe at the government. The government must be replaced by a truly democratic selfgovernment of, for and by the people. Those people working in industries essential to maintaining life should democratically take over their work places and organize an emergency economy to supply the needs of the people. The rest of the people should meet in their communities to organize a new directly democratic community based selfgovernment. This should be done immediately, because every day that we continue with business as usual, the problems just get worse. I want to protest the present government and economic system and the cynicism and passivity of the people in general.

I want to protest this entirely shameful state of affairs as emphatically as I can. But primarily, I want to get publicity in order to draw attention to my proposal for immediate social transformation. To do this I plan to end my own life. The attention of the media is only caught by acts of violence. My moral principles prevent me from doing harm to anyone else or their property, so I must perform this act of violence against myself. Around twelve years ago, I don’t remember the exact year, a woman from Boston set herself on fire in Independence Square. For the next five days the Philadelphia Inquirer was filled with reports of investigations into who this woman was and speculation as to why she did this act. Since I have been in Philadelphia for fiften years, all the while making myself very visible demostrating my position opinions, dancing and waving my flags on the streets of this city, I believe I should create at least as much as a sensation in the press. If the news media buries this story it will be proof of the extreme prejudice of the media. I want this statement and my other writings to be printed in the newspapers of this city. I want the people of this city who have been seeing me around for so long to finally hear what I’ve been saying. I want my ideas to be publically discussed. If people talked about my ideas, they would realize that transformation of our society is possible, and they would feel better.

I first planned to take this action a year ago. I wrote up final statements, xeroxed them, and then I backed down. A year ago, economic collapse seemed to be the most imminent danger threatening us. Today the likelihood of the impending war with Iraq rapidly escalating into a nuclear holocaust eclipses the likelihood of economic collapse as being by far the more serious and scary crisis. I am propmted to take this action by the dire urgency of the world’s environmental crisis, and the enormous unnecessary suffering and repression being endured by all the world’s people because of the oppressive geopolitical system. Of all the world’s people, only the American people have the power to change this global system of abuse, and therefore, it is their responsibility to do so. I hope my action will not be viewed as tragic, but rather, in the light in which it is intended. I am performing this ritual sacrifice in hopes that it will increase the efficacy of my prayers to all the people to have faith in the ideals, choose the path of peace and transform this nation and world.

I also want to make a statement about life and death. Death is natural and inevitable. Death is good, because it allows life to make a fresh start. The spirit is everlasting and always returns to life through rebirth. I am not certain exactly how this happens, but I believe that the spirit recycles itself somehow. It’s true that we are each special individuals whose lives are precious, but we are also part of a great spirit body, the universal collective spirit. By dying, we dissolve our individual ego personality and rejoin the spiritual totality, before returning to alife in a new body. It’s a completely wonderful process, and not sad at all, except perhaps for the people we leave behind, who may miss us. But there are so many beautiful people in the world, that they should not miss the departed for too long. There are always plenty of people around to love.

This society places too much emphasis on the unconditional sacredness of life. Anti-abortionists believe that it is more important to save life than to guarantee the quality of the life they save. This belief in survival as the highest priority contributes to the deterioration of the quality of life for everybody. When people do not practice birth control and all the babies are saved, then we overpopulate. We kill wild animal species, strip the earth of its forests and wilderness, and the planet becomes ecologically imbalanced and punishes us with environmental disasters. When there are more people than we can care for, the quality of life diminishes for everyone. A life is worth saving only if it is worth living. It could be argued that to live with physical handicaps and adversity may be good for spiritual growth. But to live in moral degradation is not good in any way. Because our society is so corrupt, unfair, environmentally destructive, and in a state of deterioration, rather than improvement, we are all living in a state of moral degradation. Our society is like a cancer on the planet. The goal is for everybody to improve, not to commit mass suicide.

For eighteen years I have been trying to urge people to throw off the corruption and go for the good, but I don’t see my efforts as being successful in any way, except that it’s given me something to do. I do not want to live off of this evil society any longer. My life is dependent on this society, and so I want to end my life. I demand that life must meet a standard of true morality or else it is not worth living. In Orwellian fashion, this society equates repression with morality. But in truth, repression of people who are only trying to enjoy themselves and not hurting others is utterly immoral. The real struggle is not between races, or classes. It is not people versus the elite.

The real struggle is between good and evil; between intelligent behavior and blind obedient conformity. Good is what promotes health and happiness. Evil is what causes deterioration and disease. If we choose good, it will be a triumph for everybody. Every person from the poorest to the richest, from the humblest to the most powerful, will gain. Everybody will discover real joy and peace of mind. The benefits will be so absolute that I cannot imagine any other outcome.

We are entering an age that will be as different from what came before as day is to night, or as summer is to winter. Throughout this passing age, humanity has had to work very hard at being constantly on the defensive, and prepared for war. Now as we dissolve the enmity, we can all relax and enjoy life.

As a plan my action, I think of all the things that might hinder it. What if the post office fails to deliver my press statements? What if someone stops me from carrying out my intentions? I don’t know if I will succeed, but I will drop this statement in the mail and proceed, trusting in fate to bring about whatever is meant to happen.

Call me a flaming radical burning for attention, but my real intention is to spark a discussion of how we can peacefully transform our world. America, I offer myself to you as an alarm against Armageddon and a torch for liberty.