Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Ladies and gentlemen... Liminal Tours presents: the ultimate mystery tour.

The concluding part of Music for Liminal Times is about the one massive liminal experience we all have to face sooner or later, that is, death. In this piece, I have drawn upon world-wide perceptions of death. Of course, I can't cover all ground so it was more of a narrative that made sense while referencing certain aspects of death and dying that came to me intuitively.  It contains around 115 clips, most of which have been completely reworked with very simple methods. The point with this project was that it shouldn't cost any money, so I haven't even paid for the software. It's also sometimes better to be creative with simple tools rather than get carried away with fancy ones.

With the risk of sounding pretentious it seemed a bit like channeling the collective consciousness. In other words, it wasn't just about my own perceptions about death. It is about the anticipation of death, the way people talk about death, about the fear of death, the process of death as suggested in art, literature, films and testimonials, as well as a hint at the ambience of the beyond. It has Western as well as Eastern elements in it, of the past as well as modern times. This piece is also a metaphor for the transformative process of psychological death during times of hardship and inner change. 

As always, you can also listen to it on SoundCloud (but the quality is inferior to Bandcamp). The whole playlist is here. Later on, I will publish the whole album too, but Martin may have a look at remastering it first (if necessary).

According to The Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thödol), what we encounter after death is altogether based on what we expect, and is therefore unreal and illusory. In other words, all the experiences will be in line with the belief systems we had during our life. The reason they believe it's necessary to guide a dying person by chanting and reading from the Bardo Thödol is that the soul (really a kind of subtle mind-stream with karmic imprints) will start to long for a body and therefore seek to reincarnate. The aim is to remind it that what it's experiencing is only a kind of dream state and that the only reality is enlightenment. According to this belief system, the soul can still gain enlightenment after death if it "comes to". At the very least, with some help it can make positive choices while still in this dream state. They also claim that the first thing you experience is emotional impressions of the energetic heart, whereupon a more rational thought process from the head will follow (they are subtle/energetic equivalents to the physical reality). This is of course not unlike the many Western reports of near death experiences, where people report moving through a tunnel towards the light where loved ones reside. My own belief is akin to the Buddhist one but of course in this piece, I have made no definite claims as to what happens once the crossing has been completed. However I can give a clue, which is that I hope this imaginary person has "seen the light"...

In the pieces within this project, I've pointed to the cyclic character of life. Although I'm personally convinced about reincarnation, I didn't feel that I could make this explicit in the piece about death. The end is open to interpretation, because it is a deeply personal choice what one wishes to believe - I can only hope to inspire thoughts and feelings, as it is not for me to tell others what to believe. However, I don't think you need to believe in anything in particular in order to get something out of this piece. I think that the structure of the piece should nonetheless indicate a cyclic theme and the idea of an afterworld. I'm not that interested in what the past has to say about these issues, i.e. I'm not hankering after old beliefs. However I also feel that we cannot ignore the vast experience and thought that has come before us, and it is an integral part of who we are now, as a collective and as individuals. My aim is to bring some of this archetypal material into a contemporary setting. If I was able to produce more of my own sounds, it might all sound different, but this is what I can do with the found sounds that are easy for me to access through the internet.

A Tibetan image of Yama, 
the Lord of Death and the wheel or cycle of life with its many apparitions

Finding an interesting name for this piece proved difficult, as everything seemed pretentious. After all, anything complicated becomes suggestive of something no one knows much about in the first place. I decided upon a simple name anyone can recognise.

Once again I was quite moved by many of the documents that I listened to, as well as the result of my own work. Through this process I have realised just how amazing it is that we have an aural perception, but also that the art of listening isn't simple (especially not in today's world, which scatters the senses). No doubt because I had to listen to so much material with a great deal of focus, did it have the impact it did. Nonetheless I hope that some listeners can capture some of the catharsis I experienced while making this soundscape. Of course I also hope that people would be curious as to what the final voyage could be like, and come on this journey with me. I think there is always a virtue in contemplating mortality with the view of acceptance, as deep down most of us are afraid of dying or losing loved ones. If nothing else, perhaps it can help us appreciate life a bit more. I think it maybe e important to talk about death and the possibility of an afterlife in a serious way because of the way it's being trivialised in modern society. However, the good thing is, it's no longer taboo the way it used to be (which was probably due to superstitions). Personally, I enjoyed tackling such an important and eternal subject matter, but then I'm clearly always at my happiest when I get to draw upon my background in comparative religion and talk about the really dramatic experiences of life.  So that was my take on liminality.

“Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.” (Lao Tzu).

Eugene Delacroix: The Barque of Dante.
In Dante's work, the river Achareon is an equivalent to the River Styx in Greek Mythology, 
but has been made a part of hell.
A similar image has, for instance, been adopted in the film "What Dreams May Come".
The idea of crossing with a ferry has been prevalent in popular Western beliefs of the past.
If you didn't have a coin to pay the ferryman with, you wouldn't cross over.
Arnold Böcklin: The Isle of the Dead
So you may ask, what about contemporary visual art about death? I'm in the process of investigating, as I don't know of any offhand. There are many installations that don't lend themselves to being shown as photographs only. This book looks promising, though I'm apprehensive that it deals mostly with artists such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hearst. Perhaps one day we've heard enough of these guys.

The entire playlist can be heard here on SoundCloud:

New statement:

These sound collages explore liminal space. Through a process of deconstruction and reconstruction I have completely reimagined classical music from recordings of the public domain, while also adding other found sounds. At the intersection of music and sound art, these soundscapes exist in a space between old and new, past and present. In this space, the juxtaposition between collective and personal consciousness is at the forefront. Being about liminal times, they reflect a time of transition or "crossing" from one medium to another or one state to another, the archetypal "threshold" of extraordinary times and experiences. Transition and transformation is mostly an inner process with projections in the external world.

These soundscapes are an aural equivalent to the visual collages I make using imagery of the public domain. Creating something entirely new out of something old was the challenge I set myself. The vintage aesthetics from old recordings that is prevalent some of the time enhances the juxtaposition between now and then, and how some things in life simply never change and rather rotate in a cyclic fashion along the spiral of evolution.

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