I am the Center: Private Issue New Age Music in America, 1950–1990 by Dustin Wong

Part of the Editor's Choice series.

BOMB 126 Winter 2014
Bomb 126 Nobarcode

Disc One


The Struggle of the Magicians
(from the box set The Music of Gurdjieff / de Hartmann, 1984)

There were three. One was holding a cup full of his own semen; another, a burnt branch of sage; and the other, a solid block of quartz. Their intentions weren’t congealing as intended. This hasn’t been done before, a portal to another realm, another time, another space.

They started discussing what went wrong, what was lacking, and decided to go forth and try again.

Nostra took his sage, placed it in the center of the enneagram and began burning it. Jordo took his bowl of semen and doused the sage. At that same moment, Gurdi took his quartz and stabbed it in the ash.

A string of smoke in a calligraphic motion ascended to the roof of the temple. After a moment the smoke fizzed with no result.

With a feeling of failure they took their items and sulked back to their homes.

As the magicians moved away from the temple, without them noticing, a cloud, pearly and spiraling, emerged above the temple’s spire.


Pompeii 76 A.D.
(from Gail Laughton’s Harps of the Ancient Temples, 1969)

Entering a tunnel, a darkness, then a cloud. Faint imagery begins to emerge, cross-fading from petals of flowers to some strange details of a tiled floor. He found himself in a symmetrical hallway reflecting every spectrum in a pastel color. He could see a light at the end of the hallway. As he went into it, he blacked out.


Gongs in the Rain
(from Nesta Kerin Crain’s Gongs: An Audio Mystical Trip to the Orient, 1971)

The boy’s vision was blurred. He could feel that he was on a soft mattress and could hear the faint sound of rain. He could make out a group of people in a monotone hooded garments. They were all holding swords and entering a temple that resembled a pantheon. From the pantheon he heard a comforting sound of gongs.
    ”Go back to sleep, child, you are about to go to another place,” said the voice of a gentle lady.


Witch’s Will
(from Wilburn Burchette’s Guitar Grimoire, 1973)

She took a glass tube and filled it with a clear liquid infused with her intentions. She called upon the forces of light and dark to apply the potion into the boy’s consciousness. The liquid trickled out of the tube into the boy’s head without a splash; it kept on flowing as if there were no end. He was cross-fading into another realm.


Formentera Sunset Clouds
(from Iasos’s Inter-Dimensional Music, 1975)

The boy opened his eyes and found himself on a hill made of clouds. The sun was setting and the colors ranged from rich red to purple. The clouds around him moved like ocean waves. A creature flew above him; it resembled an amphibian and a horse and also a whale.
    The colors were starting to shift into a deep purple and the top of his head started to sing. His body, full of bliss, vibrating, ascending.


Seventh Chakra Keynote B (violet)
(from Steven Halpern’s Spectrum Suite, 1976)

He had no idea. On top of his head, a mouth popped out of nowhere and from this opening, translucent patterns, a woven dance like a spiraling ladder. Lines and violet luminescence tangled into a braid floating above to an unknown abyss, into space.


Seraphic Borealis
(by Joel Andrews, previously unreleased, 1977)

This translucent and symmetrical filament broke through the atmosphere. Entwining in a helix, the lines formed a texture that began to form a structure.     The structure grew wings and became an entity, a being of light surrounded by darkness. The boy was no longer a boy, but an angel. The higher he went, beings like him began to gather around. From afar, the group of angels looked like a morphing cloud or a flock flying together in different directions. Instead of birds, they were a flock of diamonds floating in space.
    The entities communicated with each other soundlessly. There was no vocabulary. They agreed to head to a blue planet where they knew a man who was searching for a truth and a sound that would benefit the angels’ wellbeing.


Om Mani Padme Hum
(from Constance Demby’s cassette Skies Above Skies, 1978)

The boy who became an angel was about to forget his physical self, but as he descended into the realm of humans, he began to remember the suffering, the pain, and the sadness that every human went through, the turmoil they brought upon each other. He remembered how men became hard/heavy and the women who were crushed by calloused souls. But amongst the heavy darkness the angels spotted the man, the man who was searching for light and love.

He had almost nothing to clothe himself with, walking with his eyes closed and a cane in one hand.

They were all around him. The bright light from his soul attracted them to him. Around this man, there was a dark, oppressive aura surrounding the light as well.

He sat cross-legged in a place where he felt like the center of the planet. With all his sympathies and empathies he recited these sounds: “Om Mani Padme Hum.”


Arabian Fantasy
(from Daniel Emmanuel’s cassette album Sound Paintings, 1980)
The boy’s memories of being human brought him back out of the angelic realm. He found himself back into human form. All angels are extensions of every living being.

However, this time, he was imprisoned. He peeked out of the bars, and could see that he was in a palace. He heard guards speaking outside, “Why did this child get captured?”

“Apparently, for spying on the magicians’ ritual.”

“The magicians were captured for practicing black magic and the child is guilty of being a witness?”

“Yes, it’s harsh, but black magic is a serious crime.”

“They will all be beheaded.”

“Child!” a loud whisper sounded from the side of the boy’s prison cell.

The boy rushed to the corner of the room, where he could see a shriveled and wise eye looking straight at him. He was shuddering in excitement and anxiety.

“Did you enter the realm?” he asked with an aggressive whimper.


“With your help all four of us can escape!”

All three magicians were huddled in the corner of the room.

“With your memory of the realms in combination with our magic, we can escape!”


The Awakening (excerpt)
(from Don Sleplan’s cassette album Open Spaces, 1980)

The boy started to remember his transformation. His journey through the light and clouds and mind. The magicians started to mumble their magic words. The words of intention and the vowels and textures made the air around them vibrate.

The boy could feel the angels all around them. The higher selves of regular beings.

They found themselves in an in-between state, in two realms at the same time.

Bodies and souls in transition, they slipped right through the stone walls like water slipping through a pair of hands. Parts of their bodies tore apart like smoke dispersing in the air and collected themselves once they were on the other side.


Unicorns in Paradise
(from Laraaji’s Unicorns in Paradise, 1981)

The magicians let out an ecstatic laughter. They had taken advantage of the boy’s wisdom to gain greater power in this realm. With great speed they flew around in their intermediate state. Their flesh looked like it was pealing off their bodies. When they stopped, the skin would catch up with their bodies and they’d look like what they used to. They flew far up to the sky, to the secret cloud where the unicorns grazed.

Hundreds of unicorns ran in a stampede. They have already sensed the crisis that was upon them.

The three magicians were right behind their targets and grabbed onto the manes and horns of the unicorns.

The unicorns yelled out a tormented neigh.


Glide V
(from Peter Davison’s Glide, 1981)

The moment the magicians took a hold of the unicorns they were all struck by a vision. A symbol in a shape of the letter V soaring through the edges of darkness, the edges of every realm.

Three pairs of eyes looked closer at the gliding V. What looked like a V at first gradually became a face of a much bigger unicorn.

It was the mother of all unicorns, the great Uma.

She was the most beautiful of all unicorns. Her body was muscular, her hair shined like silver, and her mane was the softest and strongest. Instead of a horn on her head, she had a sword. Her face was kind, and gentle.

She asked, “Why are you doing this?”

Jordo explained, “We have obtained new and extraordinary power. We are just experimenting what we can do with it. We thought we could have a unicorn each to ride on the earthly plain.”

“Unicorns can’t survive the earthly realm. You will surely kill them.”

Gurdi asked, “Do you know that for sure? Are you positive? We should find out!”

“Your arrogance disgusts me. All you seek is power, and what for?”

She raised her head and the tip of the sword shined with vengeance as lightning struck.

She wielded her anger toward the impostors.


Disc Two

Lifting Off
(from Joanna Brouk’s cassette album Healing Music, 1981)

The magicians moved dodged the attack.

Nostra and Jordo moved behind Uma and with their long gray beards they tied a knot on her hooves. Gurdi, who was in front of her, took his beard and tied it around Uma’s sword.

Uma struggled and as she nosedived onto the surface of the Earth. She anchored her horn into the ground and dug herself into the soil.

The magicians held on as best as possible as they were dragged down by their beards.

As they pulled with all their might, the planet started to shake.

The clouds dissipated like water hitting a puddle of oil.

The planet shook. It looked like the moon was getting larger, but it was that the Earth was getting closer to the moon.


As the Earth Kissed the Moon
(from Michael Stearns’s Planetary Unfolding, 1981)

Everything was the same: the birds kept singing their songs, deer grazed and ran through the forest. The crickets projected their sweet serenade.

The dust dancing in the sunlight was transitioning into dancing in the moonlight.

The boy could see the three magicians pulling and pulling, and Uma digging and digging.

The moon was getting bigger and it was right behind them. Its metallic surface and craters reflected a brilliant light.

There was no fear in the boy’s heart.

The magicians were so caught up in capturing Uma that they didn’t even notice the big rock behind them. As they pulled, the moon from behind started pushing them toward Earth.

They panicked, but the mass of the moon was too big for them at that point. They were about to get crushed between the Earth and the moon.

Uma got up and saw the moon coming her way and the three magicians screaming for help. She flew up and slammed her sword right in to the moon.

A bright light flashed all around, and the moon cracked like an egg.

The magicians were all in a bundle and on top of each other. Jordo, who was on top of the other two, felt a nudge on his bottom. He looked up and saw the moon’s surface right in front of his face.

The three, in shock, blacked out, fainted, and returned to their human selves.


Tien Fu: Heaven’s Gate
(from Aeollah’s The Light of Tao—Universal Planetary Music, 1981)

Uma was on her side, she couldn’t move as the Earth’s toxins were taking a hold of her.

Her horn/sword was still lodged into the moon. A drop of moon liquid ran down the side of the sword.

The boy ran to Uma.

“What can I do? What should I do to help you?”

“There is nothing you can do at this point, child. The unicorns will become a memory, as long as you remember. I will leave you with a key: the sword you see on my head is a key, a key to open the heaven’s gates.”

“The gate is there.”

Uma’s eyes pointed to the crack the horn has made in the moon.

“You will have to take my sword and my head out of the moon, hold on to the sword from the center, and then pull. You will bleed, but it won’t be too bad.”

The boy took the sword, holding it with his bare hands. He then started pulling with all his might. The sword bent back and forth and Uma resisted the pain as best as she could.

The boy’s hands were bleeding, Uma’s head was bleeding, and the moon was bleeding.
The pain was becoming almost unbearable.

“Do it now!” yelled Uma.

The boy pulled with all his might. The sword broke and from the moon’s opening came out a gush of pink liquid. The boy’s blood spurted. Uma’s head squirted unicorn blood.

The blood of man, the unicorn, and the moon was becoming one, alchemically.

Blue Spirals (from Daniel Kobialka’s Path of Joy, 1983)

The blood spiraled, and the boy was within it in his mind’s eye. The colors shifted from red to pink to white to blue.

The boy went through space, his arms and legs stretched out.

Everything was passing through him: dust, asteroids, planets, and stars.

Faster and faster he went. Everything around him became lines, and as he turned his body to the right, the lines swirled in curlicues.

He could feel a wind cooling his face gently; he could feel his body change. He was becoming transparent, more fluid, like liquid, like air.

He could shift his body in any form. He could have multiple arms, heads, legs. He was beautiful.

He was no longer a he. He just was.


Two Souls Dance
(from Larkin’s Moments Empowered, 1984)

He reached a place where the stars and planets stopped in motion. He was staring at his counterpart. He was neither male or female; the soul was not in front of him either.

They intertwined, their ligaments and aspects connecting into each other.

Every part of their souls and bodies were penetrating each other in a blissful and passionate dance. Multiple arms, embracing and sinking into each other.

The vision overlapped with the perception of the other until they became one.

The climax ended into a slow prolonged cosmic orgasm.

A comet ejaculated into space.


Li Sun
(from Judith Tripp’s cassette album Windscape, 1983)

Our sun sat in front of the earth, with the moon lodged in, saddened to see his good friend further away from him then usual.

He called out to the moon, “My friend, are you okay? Can you make it out back to where you were before?”

“My friend, Sun, I have been trapped here by three selfish magicians! With your awesome force, will you push me out?”

“When the Earth turns its back, I will push with my gravity.”

“Thank you, Sun!”


Lunar Eclipse
(by Mark Banning, previously unreleased, 1987)

The Earth turned slowly, and the moon lodged in almost looked a nose. As the moon was on the other side, the sun let out a slow hum.

The moon then popped off into space.

From the Earth, people saw the moon get further and further away into the night sky, as it went through the clouds.

As it was placed back into the where she originally was, the moon blushed red, embarrassed by her being taken down by a unicorn and three magicians.


Waterfall Winds
(from Alice Damon’s cassette album Windsong II, 1990)

The boy has traveled far out. He was further away, and when he turned, he saw his home within a cluster of stars.

The cluster of stars, streamed. Is this the garden Gilgamesh saw after he went through the tunnel?, he wondered.

To him, his home, the stars, looked like a waterfall. Some people called it the river of heaven.

He could feel the wind from the waterfall of stars. It smelled sweet like raspberries.

Dustin Wong’s most recent album is Mediation of Ecstatic Energy, the conclusion of a trilogy that began with 2010’s Infinite Love and continued with last year’s Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads (all out from Thrill Jockey). Wong was born in Hawaii, grew up in Japan, and lived in Baltimore, where he was in the bands Ecstatic Sunshine and Ponytail. He’s currently back in Tokyo. Read an interview with Dustin on BOMBlog.

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BOMB 126, Winter 2014

Featuring interviews with Leonardo Padura, Amie Siegel, Phyllida Barlow, Kai Althoff, Dodie Bellamy, Edwidge Danticat, Hans Witschi, and Mary Halvorson. 

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