January 26, 2012

An unexpected fantastic never seen TEB short video on YouTube!!!

An incredible fantastic short video of the TEB playing live at Hyde Park on June 7th, 1969 (at the so-called "Blind Faith concert") is available on YouTube thanks such "Classic Rock Video" (http://www.youtube.com/user/ClassicRockVideo: "Some choice clips from my collection. Most of which is shared here has been edited specifically for better YouTube enjoyment & not intended for archival viewing. Video has been made widescreen and wherever possible audio has been re-dubbed").

On stage Glen Sweeney (hand drums), Richard Coff (violin), Paul Minns (oboe) and Paul Buckmaster (cello) playing in front of a quite absorbed, relaxed and dancing (!) audience.
A unique, very rare document that at last can witness the great interplay of the TEB playing on live and their incomparable singularity!

Coff and Buckmaster

Glen Sweeney on hand drums
... the great interplay of the TEB playing on live and their incomparable singularity!...
Richard Coff on violin
The great Paul Minns
... a quite absorbed, relaxed and dancing (!) audience...

no©2012 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

January 24, 2012

Dave Tomlin's "Lark Rise": origins & cultural references..

A recent object of debate here, Dave Tomlin's "Lark Rise" was quoted in the Antonello Cresti's book on the esoteric English folk music (read at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2012/01/tebs-cultural-sources-on-italian-book.html).
The author wrote about it: "The incredible cultural background of Sweeney & C. shows to be much wider than one could imagine: for example, on "Lark Rise" the band tributes to one of the most influential character of pastoral revival, the composer Vaughan Williams, author of the legendary "The Lark Ascending"".

Reading this, TEB fan and musician Sedayne (Sean Breadin) commented: "I think it's more likely that the earthy folk simplicity of Tomlin's "Lark Rise" is more obviously rooted in Flora Thompson's "Lark Rise to Candleford" which celebrates a vanished bucolic utopia. As such it's the anthithesis of "The Lark Ascending" and maybe was intended as such given the more alternative routes (roots) taken by Tomlin on his travels, as oppose to the more overtly bourgeois take on the pastoral indulged in by Ralph Vaughan Williams, who was instrumental in a far more taxonomical/taxidermical approach to English Folk Music which relies less on actual mythic landscapes so essential to "Alchemy", than a romanticism which seems (to my ears) a complete anathema to it.
Sweeney's vision here is one of intuitive misrule; more that of the mischievous trickster than the earnest mystic. I guess his role of catalyst in this process will always keep us guessing!"

                                                                     "Lark Rise" from "Alchemy" album.

Replying to his comment, Cresti has been so honest to admit that "about "Lark Rise", I've just expressed the possible link with Vaughan Williams just in footnote, as a possible way to think about that track. But I'm happy to know that we can find other explanations".

Dave Tomlin (London 2010)
Infact, new explanations has went directly from the composer Dave Tomlin I've contacted on January 9th and 10th by e-mails.
His first laconic answer has been: "Luca. It was indeed inspired by Flora Thompson's 'Lark Rise to Candleford'".
Just before, in a brief interview with him of February 2010, he had explained me that "I composed 'Lark Rise' on violin whilst travelling with horses and carts and came into London just as Glen was recording 'Alchemy' and did just one track before leaving". 

Then, quite unexpectedly, on January 11th he adds:  "I wrote 'Lark Rise' after reading the book in about 1968/9 long before there were any films of it. I was travelling with a group of hippies in horses and carts in the countryside at the time. I will say some more but I wondered if you have ever read my book 'Tales from the Embassy' Vol. II where the whole story is told. If you haven't I can send you some pieces from it which contain the places where the music was composed. This should give you plenty of material to write up. (...) There were also quite a few other folk dances that I wrote at the time and in the book are the written scores of these dances. Let me know if this is interesting and if so I will email the pieces".

The original music of "Lark Rise" painted by Dave Tomlin (courtesy of Dave Tomlin)

So, just because I never read the book, kindly he has sent me an excerpt just about the right period when he composed the track. It's taken from the chapter titled "Priddy Fair" where "Smith" is just Dave Tomlin:

"Towards evening, when the cider-house begins to disgorge its rowdy contents, and red-faced farmers with half-cut wives tumble their way out into the sunset, Smith feels his moment approaching. Twilight is deepening and lights are coming on over the coconut-shy and twinkle around the awnings of the tombola-stall and lucky-dip. Two or three revellers exit the gate in the wall and Smith opens his violin-case and lays it open at his feet. Then, a quick tune-up and he is off. Lark Rise, a new piece he has been working on over the last few days is now finalised, it leaps into life and his bow-arm is fresh and feels strong. He will play till his arm drops off, thus ensuring that the music will be curtailed in a natural and unpredictable manner.
Tipsy farm-lads surround him and mock-dance to the tune, but some of the gypsy wives are moved to lift their skirts saucily as they kick their legs high, while their husbands dance catchy little jigs and stamp their hob-nailed boots. Smith is going like the clappers but knows he cannot stand this pace for long. The dancers spin ever faster, driving up the tempo with claps and stamps and copious juice is spilt from sloshing cider-mugs. Now the Count and a few London girls turn up to further animate the dance, and Muldoon clomps away on the edge of the crowd.

But Smith is already beginning to tire, the effort to maintain this speed soon depletes his energy and his arm is in agony. ‘One more time,’ he thinks, gritting his teeth and plunging once more around the circular piece, and he is only just able to reach the end before his arm drops, squeaking like a rusty hinge to hang throbbing and useless at his side. The dancers want more but he cannot oblige, and unable to persuade him they drift away across the green, still jigging and hopping to try out their luck on the coconut shy. Back at camp Smith counts the takings, almost seven shillings. Not bad, he will live like a lord for some days".
©2006 Dave Tomlin 

Luca Ferrari and Dave (London 2010). Photo by Steve Pank

A new addiction from Dave went on January 13th:
"I took up violin around 1967. There are only a few violin folk styles but there used to be more. There is the Scottish fiddle style. The Irish Fiddle and there used to be a Cumbrian style. I know there used to be some English folk styles and tried to imagine what they might have been like. So when I was travelling with the horses and carts and passing through small villages I was writing some fiddle tunes. They were very simple pieces except in places I altered the time signatures to give them a different flavour. The book 'Lark Rise to Candleford' impressed me very much since it was about English village life before the coming of the motorways etc, and that's what I was looking for".

How happened Glen asked you just that piece of music?
"It was while I was travelling. I came into town for a few days to buy some strings. I ran into Glen in a cafè near the studio. He invited me to do a track on the album and I said I had one new piece called 'Lark Rise'".

Do you remember which was the mood in the studio when did you record the track?

"I didn't know any of the other musicians so can't really say what the mood was although they were all pretty 'moody'".

Flora Thompson


no©2012 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

January 19, 2012

Miracles from the Net: a sampler of "Stone Circle" in a DJ compilation!

Miracles of the Net!
A sampler of "Stone Circle" (even if here titled "Lark Rise") is included in a compilation edited by DJ Snoodaard in  "The New Worck" series ("Free exclusive mixes - Discover new music!").
This very suggestive volume, the # 428, is titled "Sacred Sounds" and comprises also tracks by Albert Ayler, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Harry Partch, John Fahey, The Residents... in a sort of 25:10 long composition.

Commenting this compilation, DJ Snoodaard says: "Mankind has a long history of worshipping Mammon and viewing itself as a divine being, still the true spirit is in the humbled, who feel they are blessed with existence and live in wonder."
You can listen and download  it at http://thenewworck.com/genre/psychedelic/the-new-worck-428-of-dj-snoodaard

no©2012 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

January 14, 2012

Origins and meanings of TEB alchemical iconography.

As we know, at the beginning of its story, TEB used to have posters/flyers/covers  with  right references of the alchemical tradition adopting old obscure engraves as iconography. This is a brief look at the known TEB's alchemical references with some notes about origins and meanings...

One of the first TEB posters designed by Glen Sweeney in 1968-69 using the original engrave taken from "Cabala" by S. Michelspacher (1616). Glen wrote the motto Time travel is the alchemic Third Ear Band.  About the meanings of it: the main character on front right is the alchemist who is wandering (blindfolded) until the rabbit (just as in "Alice in Wonderland"!) shows him the right way to the Opus Magnum: a palace at the top of seven stairs, indicating the seven steps of alchemic process.
At the corners of the engrave, the fourth elements written in Latin. At the top of palace's roof (with sun and moon on it) a phoenix symbolizing the "philosophic mercury". All around signs of the zodiac indicate the alchemic work will start on May (under the Taurus).

"Cabala" by S. Michelspacher (1616)

On this sketch of flyer probably designed by Sweeney note inside the tondo (a turned up egg) a picture reproducing an engrave taken from "Viatorum spagyricum" by Heinrich Jamsthaler (1625). The old engrave represents the alchemic First Materia with an hermarodite character (sun on left, moon on right) - with the Latin word "Rebis" (thing-two), the union of two principles, man & female, gold and silver - and a dragon, for Michael Meier  "the fixed and volatile mercury" ("Atalanta Fugiens", 1617). In the alchemic tradition just the hermafrodite can defeat the beast. Infact sun and moon, together, can beat the "mercurial dragon": to kill him, in the alchemic practice, the alchemist have to extract the sulphur and lunar umidity ("Aurora consurgens", XVI century).

"Viatorum spagyricum" by Heinrich Jamsthaler (1625)
About the origins and meanings of the "Alchemy" cover, designed by David Loxley, you can read an old file in this archive at 

Apart the main picture, taken from "Atalanta fugiens" edited by Michael Meier in 1617, an important role in the picture is held by the four snakes at the corners, just around the border of front and back cover. As Sweeney told during an old interview to I.T. magazine (issue 63, August 29th, 1969), “those serpents on the cover are completely magic – they are in a protected circle, they protect the whole album and the music on it”.  

Infact, in some ancient traditions the snake "are represented as potent guardians of temples and other sacred spaces. This connection may be grounded in the observation that when threatened, some snakes (such as rattlesnakes or cobras) frequently hold and defend their ground, first resorting to threatening display and then fighting, rather than retreat. Thus, they are natural guardians of treasures or sacred sites which cannot easily be moved out of harm's way. At Angkor in Cambodia, numerous stone sculptures present hooded multi-headed nagas as guardians of temples or other premises. A favorite motif of Angkorean sculptors from approximately the 12th century A.D. onward was that of the Buddha, sitting in the position of meditation, his weight supported by the coils of a multi-headed naga that also uses its flared hood to shield him from above. This motif recalls the story of the Buddha and the serpent king Mucalinda: as the Buddha sat beneath a tree engrossed in meditation, Mucalinda came up from the roots of the tree to shield the Buddha from a tempest that was just beginning to arise." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serpent_%28symbolism%29).

Original EMI advert for the album (1969)

The original engrave from Meier's "Atalanta fugiens" (1617)

Also the back cover was designed by David Loxley from a book edited in 1718 by J. C. Barchusen titled "Elementa chemicae": Sun (sulphur) and Moon (mercury) - male and female - are two basic elements of the alchemic process (read also at http://www.labyrinthdesigners.org/alchemy-religious-art/sun-moon-at-the-turn-of-the-first-millennium/). In his ancient alchemic manual Barchusen described the sequence to get the Philosophic Stone through two different ways: one short, so-called "dry"; the other long, so-called "damp".

Original "Alchemy" back cover (1969)

"Alchemically speaking, the moon represents Silver, the Lesser Work, or Mercury. It conjoins with the sun, or Gold in the Greater Work. In more practical terms, the moon represents fertility, resurrection, occult power, immortality and intuition. The moon is a feminine property and alchemists would incorporate it with the sun (gold) to assure balance" (from http://www.whats-your-sign.com/ancient-alchemy-symbols.html).

About the sun, it is considered "the ancient alchemy symbol of gold. Worshipped in many cultures, specifically Egypt where Amon-Ra was personified by the evening sun setting at the end of the creative process. Alchemists understood the process of creation, and utilized the symbol of the sun to focus on creating desired effects in their practice – both physically and philosophically".

The original engrave from "Elementa chemicae" (1718)

On this 1969 poster the picture above on  it was drawned probably by Sweeney from the engrave below, taken from "Viridarium chymicum" by D. Stolcius (Frankfurt 1624).
The four women represent the four elements: from left - earth, water, air and fire - and to the four steps of the Great Opera (the alchemic opera): under their foot the four grades of fire.
Note the reference to the "Alchemical exhalations" on the top, maybe alluding to the Aristotle's "Meteorology" - where the "dry" and "moist" exhalations of Aristotle become the (alchemical) sulphur and mercury of the eighth-century Islamic alchemists - and the clear reference to the classic dualism sun-moon... Note also the women breasts wryly designed by Sweeney just covered on the original engrave.

Viridarium chymicum" by D. Stolcius (Frankfurt 1624)

About the engrave below (made by Hans Weiditz c. 1520), it shows the classic room of the alchemist at work with all his tools.

"An Alchemist" by Hans Weiditz (c. 1520) 

When I edited the live tape recorded on January 11th, 1989 in Sarzana (Italy), titled "New forecasts from the Third Ear Almanac", I proposed to Glen to use a little work made in 1986 by Italian artist Mario Balestrieri: a simple, evocative reference to the sun-moon alchemic tradition...

Regarding the last TEB records published by Voiceprint in '80's and 90's, manteining the alchemic iconography tradition better than the records produced by Materiali Sonori, they was designed by Carolyn Looker, Sweeney's missus.  

"Raga live" (Turning Point 2002)

She used the Aegypto-Greek iconography of the snake eating itself (Ouroborus) symbolizing the cyclic time, the One in All, the Eternal Return, cyclic nature of things… 
"It is believed to have been inspired by the Milky Way, as some ancient texts refer to a serpent of light residing in the heavens. The Ancient Egyptians associated it with Wadjet, one of their oldest deities as well as another aspect, Hathor. In Norse mythology the World Serpent (or Midgard serpent) known as Jormungandr encircled the world in the ocean's abyss biting its own tail" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serpent_%28symbolism%29).

Here and below, Carolyn put inside the snake also pyramids, Sphynx and a flying U.F.O.... 

"Live" (Voiceprint 1996)

On the cover below we have a variation of the snake's theme, also very common into alchemic iconography, with sun and moon with a snake. Note the design of them, just in the old alchemic tradition...

"Radio Session" (Voiceprint 1994)
From "Elementa chemicae" by J. C. Barchusen (1718)

Bibliographic note

A wonderful visual book about alchemic and hermetic symbols and iconography, partially used for this article, is "Alchemy & Mystic" by Alexander Roob (Taschen Verlag 1997, Italian edition 2011)
no©2012 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

January 08, 2012

TEB's cultural sources on the Italian book about esoteric English folk music written by Antonello Cresti.

As announced some months ago (read at http://ghettoraga.blogspot.com/2011/11/new-italian-book-about-english-folk.html), on the last new book about esoteric English folk music written by Italian researcher & journalist Antonello Cresti a place is also reserved to the Third Ear Band in the chapter  titled "The Sixties: light and shade of the "Age of Acquarius".
There are an interview with the editor of this archive (for the author, "after the Glen Sweeney's death, we think he's the authority to refer to" - surely a too generous appellative) and an essay on the TEB's music cultural sources edited by Cresti himself.

If through the interview with me I've tried to focalize some themes already exposed somewhere here (i.e. the files in the essay section of this archive...),  very interesting is the Cresti's recognization about the philosophical sources of TEB's music, probably the best and deepest attempt to propose a study about it.
He states: "(...) The name selected [for the band] is particularly pregnant and it lends itself to several interpretations, more or less all fascinating: if the great wizard-philosopher Paracelsus (1491/3-1541/44) referred to the Third Ear, there are several cultures that link it to insight and clairvoyance...".

"(...) So, to use this expression one could allude to new ways to listen, a ritual active interaction between musician and listener; to listen with the Third Ear can mean to inaugurate a new phase of musical consumption where you cannot measure a track using the traditional aesthetic criterion, but it's the sound by itself to take predominance, meant to independent medium of journey, transcendence and change". In Cresti's opinion, a way already choosen by Terry Riley with his masterwork "A rainbow in curved air" published in 1968.

Antonello Cresti (2011)
Analyzing the track's titles, the author writes: "This album ["Alchemy"] is full as ever of musical invitation (all the tracks are instrumental) to take a more deep and conscious form of spirituality up: (...) if "Druid" obviously alludes to Druidism, (...) more astonishing is a sequence of less attended allusions to their contemporary scene: "Stone Circle", probably the more extraordinary album's track, a sort of ecstatic circular dance lead by lines of oboe, it's a clear tribute to the mythical Albion lost in the mists of time, a scenario also evoked by "Dragon Lines", where gongs from Eastern tradition have
John Michell
 juxtapose with a climax evoking in some ways some Medieval profane music. It's a clear musical transposition of pioneer theories of John Michell, who had transposed Chinese tradition of "Lung Mei" on English culture and told about "Dragon Paths". These "Lung Mei" (an expression we can infact translate as "Dragon Paths") are energetic lines discovered by ancient Chinese; from the heart of a dragon, usually laid in a valley among the hills, springs of energy have radiated, as it occurs with the "Ley Lines"".

A rare picture of a Druid Initiation ceremony at Glastonbury Tor in 1967.

At this point Cresti writes a digression about the Druid tradition rooted in England from the end of 1700, stating that it was in the Sixties that it started to influence the English culture.

Ross Nichols
"In this process", he writes, "an important date is doubtless September 22th, 1964, when the "Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids" was constituted, probably the most important organization devoted to the diffusion of the ancient knowledge of Druids, born in England thank to Ross Nichols - poet, artist, historian (...) - one of the key figure of the Druidism...".
"Just while the Third Ear Band is publishing its first record, Nichols spread all over England a Jean-Baptiste Pitois's book titled "History and Practice of Magic", a text had a strong impact on youth in this period, above all for who was interested into the reading of Tarots...".

"The incredible cultural background of Sweeney & C. shows to be much more wide than one could imagine: for example, on "Lark Rise" the band tribute to one of the most influential character of pastoral revival, the composer Vaughan Williams, author of the legendary "The Lark Ascending"".

Writing about "Third Ear Band", the 1970 second album, Cresti states that the group "proposed a reference to one of the most influential tòpoi of the ancient Greek philosophy, from Thales onwards. To talk about the four elements as the unique constitutional principle of reality was expecially philosopher Empedocles (492-430 BC), who asserted the original elements, or "roots", of all things was four - fire, air, earth and water; they are unchangeable  and indivisible, they don't born and don't die, but  join together and divide each other, originating all things. (...) The birth is just the mixing of the elements, the death is their separation".

Talking about the album's tracks, Cresti tries to set all the band's musical influences up: from "Air", in his opinion "probably the most harsh and unpredictable track of the album", near to contemporary avant-garde music of Penderecki and Lutoslawski; to "Earth", "the more 'earthly'", "even akin to the Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring"; references to the Heraclitus's norm of Panta rhei ("everything flows") are expecially on "Water": "reality is not something of static but a flow keeps trasforming".

Paracelsus by P. P. Rubens
After positive considerations about the last phase of the band's history, at the end Cresti admits that "even if English scene has been so fertile, it will have many problems to produce something of so blowing up and radical as Third Ear Band have done".

Anyway, apart the pages dedicated to the Third Ear Band, Antonello Cresti's book is a great and fasciating guide to the English underground/esoteric/mystical music produced in the last century. An important, esclusive contribute to the knowledge of just a rarely investigated area of interest (above all in Italy) with a lot of original stuffs (as, first of all, the interviews with important protagonist of the scene...).

Antonello Cresti - "Come to the Sabbat"
Tsunami Edizioni (pages 384, € 22,00)
The author can be contacted on Facebook at:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paracelsus  (Wikipedia)

Jean Bapriste Pitois

John Michell
http://www.johnmichell.com/  (the official Website)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Michell_%28writer%29 (Wikipedia)
http://www.forteantimes.com/strangedays/obituaries/1692/john_michell.html(an obituary by Bob Rickard)

Ross Nichols
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_Nichols (Wikipedia)

Vaughan Williams
http://www.musicweb-international.com/Programme_Notes/rvw_thelark.htm (about "The Lark Ascending")

no©2012 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

January 03, 2012

TEB music on Spotify platform.

At the moment available just in some countries (UK, USA, Sweden, Spain, France, Finland, Norway and Netherlands), this new Web juke-box (with millions of tracks to listen) "comes in all shapes and sizes, available for your PC, Mac, home audio system and mobile phone". As they promises: "Wherever you go, your music follows you".
Very easy to start, just download and install Spotify (at http://www.spotify.com/int/), then search the tracks you like...

Some are the Third Ear Band records available:
TEB's Top Gear radio session recorded on July 27th, 1969 ("Hyde Park Raga", "Druid" and "Ghetto Raga"), Glen Sweeney's Hydrogen Jukebox (published in 1991), the quite horrible "The Magus" (2004) and the absolutely terrific "Alchemy" (1969) and the Elements album (1970).

no©2012 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)