I set myself a deadline to have all of this finished by 1st November 2011, when The Smile Sessions is finally (FINALLY!) released. I am 8 posts off finishing, but they won’t be done by tomorrow…the only extension I can allow myself is that, due to ordering The Smile Sessions box from the US (because its then ‘currently unavailable’ status on Amazon.co.uk freaked me, like maybe there was suddenly no UK availability…) I gather that I can expect it by the 9th at the latest. People who ordered it from Sainsburys (SAINSBURYS!) have it already. Fuckers.
I had a migraine on Friday, first ever, and probably from being sat in front of computer writing about Smile, Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys for six weeks solid, plus the self-imposed deadline looming.
The entire left side of my head was a phosphorescent arc of shimmering tartan. Haven’t seen anything as psychedelic since I last took mushrooms, many years ago. I know someone who gets these visual disturbances quite regularly, and, to her, all the phosporescence is just a precursor to pain. She has never taken psychedelics, partly because of the associated dread. As there was little pain, just weirdness, I kind of went with it, and tried to focus on the pretty patterns.
I’ve had these colours described to me many times, but didn’t really understand until I had experienced them for myself. Now I see. Oliver Sacks, in his Migraine book, speculates that the visions of Hildegard Von Bingen may have been precipated by migraines, using some her paintings as illustration.
This is The Fall:
‘Here Hildegard begins with the beauty of creation:
the four elements – earth, air, fire and water –
are pictured in the four corners.
The stars are alive and shining and fiery…’
Hildegard says that she first saw “The Shade of the Living Light” at the age of three, and by the age of five she began to understand that she was experiencing visions. She used the term ‘visio’ to this feature of her experience, and recognized that it was a gift that she could not explain to others. Hildegard explained that she saw all things in the light of God through the five senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Hildegard was hesitant to share her visions…
Hildegard Von Bingen’s music has been described as ‘Medieval space music’ by Bob Hurwitz of Nonesuch Records. Barbara Newman says that ‘Hildegard’s [musical] creations, compared with a contemporary hymn by Peter Abelard or a sequence by Adam of Saint Victor, will sound either primitive or unnervingly avant-garde. In a sense they are both.’ (quoted in this tacky little book, sourced from here).
This also got me thinking about the religious experience of Philip K Dick, and its exegesis through his Exegesis, his life’s work, plus VALIS, The Divine Invasion, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer and Radio Free Albemuth. The phosphene hallucinations and the beam of pink light, and how ‘The Empire Never Ended’.
I went for a walk yesterday and bumped into a neighbour, who had just returned from a visit to Bletchley Park, very excited about the rebuilding of the Colossus Mark 2 computer (as used to crack the Enigma Code during the Second World War). She told me that, although they no longer have the blueprints for the machine, there is a project to approximate it, with whatever partial knowledge still remains, amongst the memories of people still alive, scraps of notes etc. : ‘in the 1970s, information about Colossus began to emerge.’
I need a break. But no time, no time!