Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Forty years ago... William Arkle/ Colin Wilson/ Glenn Gould/ Michael Tippett

In the summer and autumn of 1978, I discovered several people and themes that have remained with me over the past four decades; and which have interacted in some of my deepest and most intense concerns.

Perhaps the first was coming-across the composer Michael Tippett's volume of essays called Moving into Aquarius, which I found in an English bookshop in Athens. This really fascinated me, and I read and re-read it - eventually writing a fan letter to the author, to which I received a nice reply from his assistant.


Tippett's writing (and, of course, some of his music - especially the oratorios and operas) was about the division between science and technics on the one hand, and the imagination and art on the other - he classical 'Romantic' problem, in other words. I had already been primed for this, both from my own experiences as a scientist/ medical student who was also active in music and drama; and from reading RM Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in August 1976.

Over the summer vacation I made another discovery of William Arkle's Geography of Consciousness in the Edinburgh city library, with its introduction by Colin Wilson - leading onto my first reading of CW's The Outsider. Again the Romantic theme; but this time addressed in terms of the states of consciousness. The idea was that we actually solve the Romantic problem - albeit intermittently and for short periods of time - when we attain to certain, higher states of consciousness. And, of course, this has remained central to my thinking ever since.


During the Edinburgh Festival Fringe of that year, I attended a comedy review during which some intermission music was provided by a pianist and double bassist playing Bach, slightly 'jazzed'. This led first to Jacques Loussier, and then to Bach played 'straight' on piano; that is, to Glenn Gould - initially his LPs of The Well-Tempered Clavier, then to the Goldberg variations and the Partitas. Over the next months; I found a few articles and interviews on Gould and recognised that he was a player of exceptional intensity and inspiration: that he played-in and communicated that same state of 'ecstatic' consciousness which was discussed by Arkle and Wilson.


So I began to brood on these matters, and on the way of life of these living geniuses; and tried to move my own life in the same direction - in my leisure from a pretty intensive course of study at Medical School. I began to think along mystical lines, including notions such as special times of magical being, the possibility of remote empathic contact, and the 'touching' of minds - these being another kind of that 'alienation-healing' consciousness.

Of course much else was happening during this eventful era; but this Romantic theme (which nowadays makes up the bulk of my blogging) was firmly established at that time.


3 comments:

  1. Funny! The summer and autumn of 1978 were seminal for me too.

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  2. @P - No comment, I know only mass media hearsay.

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  3. The summer of 1978 was quite literally seminal for me, since I was conceived then!

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