Tuesday, December 31, 2002

BLISTER MEDIA: 10.15.98 -12.31.02

We'd worked together since 1991, but didn't begin our formal partnership until the beginning of September 1998. Our venture remained unnamed until mid-October. 'Blister' was not our first choice, but in fact our seventh choice. It seemed that no matter what eclectic name we thought up, someone somewhere already had a music production studio with the same name. Legal fees related to formal trademark searches were draining a tidy hole in our launch budget. Eventually we came to a point of exasperation, where it was like, let's just use the first thing available.

If I had to do it over again, I would have gone into business with our first choice and simply waited for a cease and desist letter to arrive from an offended party. That way, we could have hit the ground running faster and had a little more cash in our pocket when we did –and honestly, I think it would 100% have been cheaper.

We founded our business with a mission to become the Interactive medium's premier audio supplier –delivering not just sound, as was typical for audio shops, but the applicable coding to insure the highest quality integration and playback. In the spirit of the burgeoning dot com age, we added the identifier 'Media'.

Other shops provided 'Recording', 'Mixing', 'Music', 'Music and Sound Design', or simply 'Audio'. I knew we were different because I knew our approach to the process was different. Dramatically so. There wasn't another commercial shop I could think of that considered the issues programmers faced during the construction of these new Interactive experiences.

In fact, the only other venture I could think of that shared any similarities with our business model was Cathryn Ramin's Team Audio project out of San Francisco, and whose roster of talent included Ron Ramin and X-Files composer Mark Snow. That's good company to be in, I think!

At any rate, I'd like to believe that I brought to the table an understanding of market considerations coupled with an ear for maximizing the entertainment value of any given sonic experience, and Michael was simply a master of making things sound great streaming off the web. And to his credit, he never tired of producing hundreds of navigational button sounds.

I wanted to indicate we found beauty in chaos. I wanted to say 'disciplined but experimental'. I wanted to signal to our Madison Alley (Madison Ave + Silicon V/Alley, i.e. the ad tech community)neighbors that we were one of them, and not, you know, a place where bands just hung out and made demos. We eventually settled on the tag 'Music Noise Code'.

I love language as much as I love music –both are different manifestations of communicable sound– that memorable branding and marketing strike my ear as linguistic melodies.

Of course, I was quite pleased that when Mix Magazine's Internet Audio supplement published their April 2001 story about us (Interactive Composition Comes of Age), they even used the tag as section headers to tell three aspects of our story: Music, Noise and Code.

Blister Media – Music ..> Noise ..> Code

I still think it rocks.

Monday, December 30, 2002

The Future of Music Production

In the five years Blister Media was in business, we produced audio for both Time Warner and Viacom, and provided music, sound design and programming for a $900,000 Texaco Foundation sponsored Sesame Workshop on-line music learning area –significant because at the time it represented one of the largest grants in Texaco Foundation history.

We also delivered award winning network packaging to HBO Zone and audio for VH1’s 2001 ‘Surveillance’ branding campaign; as well as worked on early web interstitials, electronic games, and provided onsite location sound installations for the NASDAQ Market Site on Times Square; the Swiss RE Center for Global Dialogue in Geneva; and for the Kids Room Venue @ the Millennium Dome in London.

Additionally, Blister Media was the first audio house to deliver synchronized audio elements for Sync-To-Broadcast technology –notably for MTV’s Web Riot; and for the Weakest Link, TBS, Turner, and several other acclaimed projects.

To my surprise, many of our clients began to consider us not just 'audio guys', but creative consultants and asked us to participate on everything from character development, copy changes, design issues, marketing strategies. I'm especially grateful to Eric Zimmerman and Peter Lee over at GameLab; Vincent Lacava and Mark Smith at Pop; and everyone at Sesame Workshop for inviting us so deeply into their process.

Our partnership received mentions in ID magazine, Communications Arts, Creativity, Shoot, Boards; and contributed to a slew of projects that received notice in print, online and around the world. The publishers of Mix Magazine, in their Interactive Audio supplement suggested Blister Media’s synchronistic practices was a portent to ‘The Future of Music Production’

When the bubble burst and our clients disappeared, naturally the business faltered. But what an exciting run for us. Twenty years from now when my kids ask what I was doing during the Internet Revolution, I can not only tell them that I witnessed it, but I was there, and shared good company during our time on the front lines of a new age.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Blister Media: Music..> Noise..> Code..>

Blister Media was founded on October 15, 1998, by myself and interactive composer, Michael Sweet. This is a reprint of the copy I wrote for Blister Media's original home page:

Welcome to Blister, Silicon Alley's music and sound design resource. We create original and innovative audio for interactive media, movies, television, broadcast, advertising, and special venues.

From a singular tone for a global telephone system or web site, to a trans global score for a television commercial or electronic game, to an award winning treatment for an entire network, to wrap around audio branding for a point-of-purchase venue, we have done it. We are the first music production team to deliver audio for sync-to-broadcast technology and have been working on Interactive projects since 1996.

Since our inception, Blister's work has been featured in a variety of media, including The New York Times and Wired magazine. Game Developer called our work addictive. Internet Audio recently called us the "future of music production".

Advertising and broadcast clients already know we are adept at enhancing design and stylized film with unique sonic treatments. In addition to creating music and sound design, we are also unique in our field in that we create and provide audio applicable code for our interactive clients who require it. And we can provide delivery solutions for audio once it goes online. We really can make audio sound better. Your design and technical teams will find us a pleasure to work with.

Awards, we get our share, including a couple of Clios and Best Audio for an electronic game; the broadcast design and marketing communities honored us with Best Music and Sound Design for a television or cable network. We are proud to mention that not a year goes by without our projects receiving top honors from I.D. Magazine.

We'd like to get to know you, and by way of introduction, we hope you'll take some time to get acquainted with the material herein. We're actively seeking new creative collaborators and would welcome the opportunity to participate on one of your projects.

For further information, or to set up a meeting or presentation, contact Terry O'Gara / Executive Producer @ 917.520.1540


Saturday, December 28, 2002

Choosing a Company Name | Tag Line Concepting

In November of 2008 we had chosen a name for our fledgling audio company, settling at last on Blister Media, a nod to the Silicon Alley clients we were hoping to align ourselves with, and as a way of distinguishing ourselves from our competitors who were still modeled on a traditional music house paradigm.

Our first choice, however, was not Blister Media, but all our first picks were already used by other companies in the music and entertainment space.

Among thee our favored choices were:

Gray People
Floating World

As we ticked off ideas and discovered they were taken, it became immediately apparent that we were not always as original as we thought we were. But that fact merely offered a challenge to be increasingly more distinct in our services and identity.

After conducting yet another trademark search (7 in all), our lawyer finally reported back that Blister Media was available in our category, and so we then began concepting a tagline.

Here's a list of selected possibilities:

Blister Tag Line Concepting

Applied Audio
Audio Artisans
Audio Artistry
Audio Branding
Biology. Psychology. Technology.
Broadcast Music Production
Custom Music and Sound design
Hot Music + Cool Sound Design = Blistering Media
Human Audio Stimulus
Interactive Audio + Broadcast Music Production
Music + Brains. A New Approach.
Provoke Your Senses
React to This
Saving the World with Sound
Slammin’ Audio
Smashing Audio
Sonic Arts
Sonic Branding
Sonic Identity
Stimulate your Senses.
Strategic Thinking for Sound
The Science of Sound
Working Towards a Better Sounding Planet
Your ears are hungry. Feed them music.

Yeah, not all of them were great, obviously. In fact, most of them are awful.

'Hot Music + Cool Sound Design'?

Ugh, I'm embarrassed to admit that actually came out of my brain. but that's why you peel off a hundred of these things before choosing one you'll live with, and which perfectly captures the message you want to convey about yourself to your customers.

In the end, we presented ourselves to the world as:

Blister Media
Music..> Noise..> Code..>

And thereby established ourselves, I'm proud to say, as the first audio production company that offered music, sound design and audio specific programming.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

VN Collation/ Gamelab/ Loop/ Nabakov

The 2000/2001 edition of VNCollation happened to be a collection of Nabokov related items. Happily they published this interview with Eric Zimmerman of gameLab regarding a new game his company had developed for Shockwave, Loop. Gamelab, in turn, had retained Blister Media to produce an interactive audio track for the game.

Briefly, Loop is based upon the character Aida, a little girl obsessed with catching butterflies.

Game players actually catch the butterflies by using their computer mouse to draw a ‘loop’ around several of the same type. The actual cursor had been designed to resemble a pencil. Butterflies once caught, were dramatically mounted and framed to indicate scores.

Eric being a magnanimous director, had graciously invited Michael Sweet and I to participate in discussions regarding character development and marketing concepts for the game. Our official task was to create interactive audio, not provide marketing concepts, so I was rather grateful –and appreciably surprised– when I discovered quite by chance (googling myself, I admit) Eric had so selflessly and publicly given me credit for first submitting the Nabokovian reference, which meeting final approval launched as an integral contextual element for the game–


Q. My 13 year old son discovered "Loop" on shockwave.com and said "Look Mom, a game about Nabokov." Most computer/video games are not so literary. How did you come to create a game based on Nabokovian themes?

ERIC: At gameLab, we usually begin with an idea for a game's interactivity and let the narrative content grow out of our experience of playing the game. In the case of LOOP, we began with the looping interactivity first. We tried a few kinds of objects in the game, including wandering stars and floating abstract shapes, but when we hit on catching butterflies, it made such perfect sense that we stayed with it.

The addition of Nabokov to the game came about halfway through development. We felt that the game was feeling too kidlike and we wanted to make it clear that this was a game for adults as well as children. During a design meeting, Terry O'Gara (who works for Blister Media, the company that created the sound for the game) mentioned using Nabokov to help frame the game. We batted several great Nabokov quotes around over email before settling on the one we have in the game.

Although it was not part of the original game concept, we like the way that the single quote from Nabokov reframes the game. It and calls attention to the intertextual quality of the game as "writing" - since the player is drawing lines to capture the butterflies. And since games are so much about "pleasure," it is a nice way to start the game experience.

Q. Is Terry O'Gara a Nabokov fan? Were any of you Nabokov readers before creating LOOP?

ERIC: It turns out that most of the LOOP team were Nabokov readers. We pride ourselves on being more cultured than the average computer game developers.

Q. How was LOOP received on shockwave.com? How did it compare with other more traditional games?

ERIC: LOOP has done very well on Shockwave.com. It was launched at the end of February and more than 1.1 million games have been played. Shockwave has received a huge amount of fan email about the game.

* * *

In addition to the Nabakovian reference, I submitted several other original tags. Here are a select few that I presented to the electronic game developer:

Scribble This
Match and Catch
Net ‘em & Set ‘em
Backyard String Theory
Get. Net. Set.
No one’s looking. Play the game!
Can a Mouse Catch a Butterfly?
Butterflies are free. –Not!
No Small Thing Shall Go Untouched
A Girl Amok

But in the end, the famous lepidopterist simply had stronger ideas than I regarding butterfly collecting, and the game launched with this rich, memorable quote-

"My pleasures are the most intense known to man; writing and butterfly hunting."

, ,

Sound of the Year: 2002 – Plain Talk

The Critical Noise Sound of the Year for 2002 belongs to PLAIN TALK, encompassing the truth tellers and whistle blowers who graced headlines this year, including both:

1. The sexually abused victims of Catholic priests who finally stepped forward with such mass they created a momentum that the neither the church nor the world could ignore.

2. Those corporate insiders who after witnessing fraud and greed could not be silenced with a pay check but instead stepped up and exposed the truth as they saw it, career and dollars be damned.

Their bravery benefits us all.

+ + +


The Critical Noise Sound of the Year goes to that sound source, event, entity, happening or concept which so effectively produces wide response and reaction, whether intentional or not, such that it stirs collective emotion, inspires discussion, incites action, or otherwise lends itself to cultural analysis and resonates across the globe.

Saturday, June 01, 2002

Terry O'Gara: Select Discography

Here's a select list of clients I produced music, sound design and sonic branding projects for over the course of my career:

TV ADVERTISING ACCOUNTS: Acura, Advanced Micro, American Sensor, Anheuser Bush, Aqua Vie, Armani, Army, AT&T, Atlanta Gas & Light, Audi, Avon, Bahamas Board of Tourism, Bell South, Ben Gay, Block Buster, BCBS, BMW, Boston Market, Braun, Budweiser, Burger King, Cadillac, Campbell’s, Canon, Champs, Chase Bank, Cheerio’s, Citibank, Clairol, Coca-Cola, Converse, Coppertone, Corona, Deutsche Bank, Digital, Discover Card, Disney, Dockers, Easy Spirit, Energizer, Estee Lauder, Fidelity, Finesse, First National Bank, Foot Joy, Gatorade, Georgia Pacific, Gillette, Got Milk, Guess Jeans, Guinness, Helene Curtis, Hershey’s, Home Depot, Infiniti, John Deere, Juno, Kellogg’s, Kemper, Kmart, Lady Footlocker, Lean Cuisine, L’eggs, Levi’s, Lincoln, Lipton, M&M’s, MasterCard, McDonald’s, MCI, Mennen, Merrill Lynch, Mexico Board of Tourism, Michelob, Miller, Molson, NEC, Nikon, Nynex, Ocean Spray, Oppenheimer Funds, Oregon Dept. of Energy, Ortega, Pepsi, Phillips, Pinnacle, Poland Spring, RCA, Reebok, Rite Aid, Salon Selectives, Samuel Adams, Seabreeze, Seagate, Seiko, Showboat Casinos, Shredded Wheat, Snapple, Sony, Southwestern Bell, Sprint, Sprite, Starburst, STP, Stride Rite, SunTrust, Swiss Bank, Taco Bell, Tag Heur, Texaco, Tommy Hilfiger, Toyota, Toy’s R Us, US West, Visa, Volkswagen, Volvo

RADIO ACCOUNTS: Afrin, Allied Signal, AT&T, Bell Atlantic, Bell South, Budweiser Cadillac, Cellular One, Coca-Cola, Estee Lauder, Gatorade, GTE, Levi’s, McDonald’s, Merck, Merrill Lynch, Mitsubishi, Molson, Nikkon, NYNEX, Oregon Department of Energy, Red Light, Shawmut, Southwestern Bell, Sprint, Sun Trust, Texaco, UPS

NETWORK PACKAGING/ID: ABC Television, Cable Vision, CBS News, Cinemax, CNBC, Comedy Central, DCTV, E! TV, ESPN, ESPN 2, Fox News, HBO, HBO Zone, MTV, NFL Properties, QVC, PBS, RCN, SCI FI Channel, Showtime, TeleTV, TBS, TNT, TNT ASIA, VH1, WNET, X-Files Promotions

MUSIC SUPERVISION: 1996 NBC Olympic Broadcast Music Production Library, VAM Ear Candy Library, Provided various and numerous music searches for leading multinational advertising agencies

FILM RELATED: Colombia Pictures Main Logo, Miramax ID

MOVIE TRAILERS: ‘Belle Du Jour’, ‘Dusk till Dawn’, ‘Four Rooms’, ‘Halloween’, ‘Horseman on the Roof’, ‘Last Action Hero’, ‘Line of Fire’, ‘Night Watch’, ‘The Prophecy’, ‘Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead’

FEATURES: "Jam"[Real Film Co.] & "Surprise"[N.Y Picture Company], “Josh W. Eats a Bug” (animation series) [Quiet Man], “Nick & Jane” [Shooting Gallery]

INTERACTIVE AUDIO: Sesame Street/Texaco Foundation “Sesame Street Music Zone”, AMEX Promotions, Noggin ‘Skengle’, ‘Parenting’ CD ROM, AT&T Long Distance Tone, TeleTV Set Top Box

ELECTRONIC GAMES: Shockwave’s ‘Loop’, Lego ‘Junk-Bot’, MSN Netwits, Phillips ‘Flintstone’s/ Jetson’s Time Warp’, Cartoon Network Online ‘Orbit Games’, NASDAQ Market Watch

DIGITAL/ENHANCED TV/SYNC-TO-BROADCAST: MTV ‘Web Riot’, TBS ‘Cyber Bond’, ‘The Weakest Link’ On-line, Game Show Network ‘Inquizition’ On-line, History Channel ‘History IQ’ On-Line

SPECIAL VENUES: NASDAQ Market Site/Times Square, Marvel Store/Universal Theme Park/LA, Epcot Center/Orlando, Kid’s Room @ Millennium Dome/London, RE Swiss Installation/Geneva

PRO BONO: Anti-Smoking, AIDS Awareness, ASPCA, Breast Cancer Awareness, Drug Free America, Education, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights & Literacy, March of Dimes, National Gallery, New York Landmarks Commission, Off The Street Club, Organ Donor, Points of Light

Terry O'Gara: Brand Sampler

This the big block of household brands I've produced music, sound design and sonic branding projects for over the course of my career:

Acura, Advanced Micro, Afrin, AIDS Awareness, Allied Signal, American Sensor, Anheuser Bush, Anti-Smoking PSA, Aqua Vie, Armani, AT&T, Atlanta Gas & Light, ASPCA, Audi, Avon, Bahamas Board of Tourism, Bell Atlantic, Bell South, Ben Gay, Block Buster, BCBS, BMW, Boston Market, Braun, Breast Cancer Awareness, Budweiser, Burger King, Cadillac, Campbell’s, Canon, Cellular One, Champs, Chase Bank, Cheerio’s, Citibank, Clairol, Coca-Cola, Converse, Coppertone, Corona, Deutsche Bank, Digital, Discover Card, Disney, Dockers, Easy Spirit, Education PSA, Energizer, Estee Lauder, Fidelity, Finesse, First National Bank, Foot Joy, Gatorade, Georgia Pacific, Gillette, Got Milk, GTE, Guess Jeans, Guinness, HBO Zone, Helene Curtis, Hershey’s, History Channel, Home Depot, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights & Literacy, Infiniti, John Deere, Juno, Kellogg’s, Kemper, Kmart, Lady Footlocker, Lean Cuisine, L’eggs, Lego, Levi’s, Lincoln, Lipton, M&M’s, March of Dimes PSA, MasterCard, McDonald’s, MCI, Mennen, Merck, Merrill Lynch, Mexico Board of Tourism, Michelob, Miller, Miramax, Mitsubishi, Molson, MTV, NASDAQ, National Gallery PSA, NBC, NEC, New York Landmarks Commission PSA, Nikon, Nynex, Ocean Spray, Oppenheimer Funds, Oregon Dept. of Energy, Organ Donor, Points of Light, Ortega, Patnership For A Drug Free America, Pepsi, Phillips, Pinnacle, Poland Spring, QVC, RCA, Red Light, Reebok, Rite Aid, Salon Selectives, Samuel Adams, Seabreeze, Seagate, Seiko, Sesame Workshop, Shawmut, Showboat Casinos, Shredded Wheat, Snapple, Sony, Southwestern Bell, Sprint, Sprite, Starburst, STP, Stride Rite, SunTrust, Swiss Bank, Taco Bell, Tag Heur, TBS, Texaco, Tommy Hilfiger, Toyota, Toy’s R Us, The US Armed Forces, US West, Visa, Volkswagen, VH1, Volvo


Waxing Nostalgic

If I recall correctly, after a year interning I began my professional career ten years ago today. My first job was making folder tabs for the production department. I had already been interning for the company for a year. They brought me on as a Production Assistant at 13K a year. That meant I worked 80 hour weeks and did everything from make dubs (cassettes, DATs, 1/4") to answering phones. I loved it.

In the last decade I have worked with hundreds of musicians and singers, and with a number of extremely talented composers and sound designers. I tried to keep a running list of the projects I worked on, but the first two or three years are basically lost to me –It's all just one big spot. By the time I gained some seniority I had my act together and started to keep closer tab on the many projects that I worked on by keeping a professional journal, something I recommend to just about everyone.

Still, over the years I was commissioned to produce what now seems like innumerable sessions. I'm sure I produced nearly every style of music known to man: Rock, Jazz, Techno –and every little sub genre or trend buried within. Even World Music, from all over the world: Bulgaria, Africa, India, France, Scotland, Mexico –you name it, and often using musicians indigenous to those countries.

I always liked giving a chart to a jazz trio or quartet and hearing what they could kick out.

I always loved a big orchestral session.

And how I loved Gospel sessions –Heaven on earth, burn it to a hard drive.

And I always loved every chance we had to mix it all up.

Friends, I hope we all have a chance to cross paths again when we can enjoy the playback of all those magical performances. I lived for those moments.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

Mystic Audio

Click on any link below to read all the articles in the five-part Winter/Spring 2002 MYSTIC AUDIO series exploring the relationship between spirit and sound:

1. Glossolalia: Speaking In Tongues
2. The Ur-Song
3. Theta Waves, Mantras & The Lord's Prayer
4. Atomic Rhythms
5. Thai Drum Samples For Sesame Workshop

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Thai Drum Samples For Sesame Workshop

One of my favorite jobs as a young studio assistant at Elias Arts –then Elias Associates–, circa 1991, was scouring the city for unusual ethnic and exotic instruments, which I was then directed to supervise restoration and sample for use in our own in-house sample libraries.

In those days samples were stored on 5” floppy disks and Winchester Drives, and triggered on quarter million dollar keyboard interfaces called Synclaviers.

In order to locate unusual instruments, I visited not just music instrument dealers, but also art galleries and pawnshops all over Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Some of the finest exotic instruments were found in chic furniture shops. I once saved an Thai Glong thad type of barrel drum from the basement of ABC furnishings, where it was destined, it seemed, to be sold as a decorative coffee table.

But I was not about to let a drum constructed for a classic Thai ceremony waste away doing nothing so much as supporting the latest issue of Vogue magazine. True, it is not within my means to save every drum, but at least I could save this one.

Eventually, I designated that singular drum as the voice of several percussion tracks on an interactive Sesame Workshop Project I later produced through my own audio company, Blister Media.

Sometimes I think that maybe despite all the other high profile ad campaigns I produced, or the profits made for various multinationals, or the markets moved as a result of one successful marketing strategy or another, –that my own real purpose in life, as a music producer, on planet Earth, was simply to save that drum so that it could teach kids the world over for a time, the joy of rhythm and song.

I don't endow all inanimate objects with souls, but I know every musical instrument I've ever played has had one.

Software Plug-ins, I'm not so sure about. Probably not, but even my vintage electronic Minimoog has a mind of its own.

It was in fact the task of sampling another drum –a red and white, hour glass shaped Asmat drum with a lizard skin top– a small Tibetan Bell and a weathered pawnshop autoharp, with which I made my first small contributions to future commercial recordings.

Once we finished capturing the sound of all the new instruments, Alex Lasarenko had many of them hung on the walls, alongside Jonathan Elias' vintage ARP synthesizer.

The ARP was legendary for having been used to score the famous ALIEN trailer where the moon-like egg cracks open and the audience is creepily reminded that, ‘In Space No One Hears You Scream’.

To my eyes, the collection resembled the trophies assembled by a big game hunter, of which Jonathan certainly was in the world of commercial music production.

A life hanging on a wall may not seem so different than life as a coffee table, I suppose, but at least we took those instruments down every once in a while and played them.

And the Thai drum was mine. I took it home.

Speaking of Animism, I would not be surprised if some of my original samples continue to live a life quite independent from my own, voicing melodies and rhythms on ever new commercial recordings, year after year.

Quite likely, I'll die before they do!

* * *

Click on any link below to read the entire Mystic Audio Series:

1. Glossolalia: Speaking In Tongues
2. The Ur-Song
3. Theta Waves, Mantras & The Lord's Prayer
4. Atomic Rhythms
5. Thai Drum Samples For Sesame Workshop

Monday, April 01, 2002

Atomic Rhythms

In an article titled 'Music and the Brain', author Laurence O'Donnell reports:

“Classical music from the baroque period causes the heart beat and pulse rate to relax to the beat of the music. As the body becomes relaxed and alert, the mind is able to concentrate more easily. Furthermore, baroque music decreases blood pressure and enhances the ability to learn. Music affects the amplitude and frequency of brain waves, which can be measured by an electro-encephalogram. Music also affects breathing rate and electrical resistance of the skin. It has been observed to cause the pupils to dilate, increase blood pressure, and increase the heart rate.”

Some suggest meditation acts on the brain mechanism the same way as music does, but that it works from the inside out.

I sometimes wonder if there is not a universal frequency, to which perhaps the Ur-Song is tuned, that Monks somehow align with when they chant ‘Aum’.

In The Secret Power of Music, David Tame writes:

"…science is beginning to suspect that matter is all composed of one fundamental something, and that the frequencies or rhythms of this something determine the specific nature of each object and atom."

Or as I like to say:

Sound is everything is sound rinse and repeat ad infinitum.

* * *

Click on any link below to read the entire Mystic Audio Series:

1. Glossolalia: Speaking In Tongues
2. The Ur-Song
3. Theta Waves, Mantras & The Lord's Prayer
4. Atomic Rhythms
5. Thai Drum Samples For Sesame Workshop

Friday, March 01, 2002

Theta Waves, Mantras & The Lord's Prayer

When asked how to pray, Jesus advises in Matthew 6:7:

"But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."

‘Vain repetitions’ is also translated as ‘babbling’.

I’ve heard it suggested that the lesson being given here is against producing the kind of rote chanting common to eastern religions, whereby the practitioner repeats a word or phrase over and over. That is, don’t confuse the recitation of a mantra for prayer.

Jesus was concerned that repetitive chants lost their meaning –became, in fact, 'vain repetitions' when delivered by rote, with no conscious intent behind them.

He therefore prescribed the following as a model for prayer:

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

We call this prayer ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, because it is the prayer Jesus used to teach his disciples how to pray. Given that context then, shouldn’t The Lord’s Prayer be a model of conscious prayer; not a prayer itself; and certainly not chanted or repeated verbatim by rote, as it so often is?

The Catholic Encyclopedia reports:

“In many monastic rules, (The Lords Prayer) was enjoined that the lay brothers, who knew no Latin, instead of the Divine office should say the Lord's Prayer a certain number of times (often amounting to more than a hundred) per diem. To count these repetitions they made use of pebbles or beads strung upon a cord, and this apparatus was commonly known as a "pater-noster", a name which it retained even when such a string of beads was used to count, not Our Fathers, but Hail Marys in reciting Our Lady's Psalter, or in other words in saying the rosary.”

But to my mind, this is in fact exactly the opposite of what Jesus intended.

He said: “…when ye pray, use not vain repetitions.”

Vain repetitions have their place though. It is said that chanting in a such a way to stimulate a deep meditative state induces the brain to slow down from its normal beta state (13-30Hz) to the alpha (8-12 Hz) or the even slower theta state (4-8 Hz).

And apparently that’s a good thing. Theta waves are linked to “creativity, intuition, daydreaming, and fantasizing and is a repository for memories, emotions, sensations. Theta waves are strong during internal focus, meditation, prayer, and spiritual awareness.” (crossroadsinstitute.org)

Therefore, one might conclude, that in fact:

When ye pray, by all means use such vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for by thinking not –and despite reports to the contrary– you will be rewarded with abundant creativity.

* * *

Click on any link below to read the entire Mystic Audio Series:

1. Glossolalia: Speaking In Tongues
2. The Ur-Song
3. Theta Waves, Mantras & The Lord's Prayer
4. Atomic Rhythms
5. Thai Drum Samples For Sesame Workshop

Friday, February 01, 2002

The Ur-Song

Carl Jung believed that we are born, not just with our physical bodies, but also with a collective consciousness. He suggested this collective consciousness was composed of “the residues of ancestral life… (whose) origins can only be explained from assuming them to be deposits of the constantly repeated experiences of humanity.”

How else to explain, for instance, universally accepted sounds, terms, symbols, etc– for ‘Mother’?

Along these same lines there are those who believe that part of this collective consciousness includes or contains what has been called an ‘Ur-Song’, that is: A basic, fundamental and universal sequence of notes, forming a melody; and so named because of the Mesopotamian City of Ur, regarded as the first civilization.

Some academics think of melodies as symbols, and indeed a motif can heighten dramatic intent via deft symbolic use. So, it's not a great leap to consider that that this Ur-Song while itself not literally a symbol –not a graphic one, anyway– is nevertheless equivalent to a symbol, –or in fact it is a musical or sonic symbol– and therefore worthy of semiotic analysis.

FYI: Semiotics, is the study of sign processes, or signification and communication, signs and symbols, both individually and grouped into sign systems. (Wikipedia)

So what does the Ur-song sound like you ask? There are several theories, with one being that it is simply a descending minor third. Sometimes I’m inclined to think that it is the bass line from Pachelbel’s Canon, –the sequence having become so ubiquitous that I now recognize its integration into many pop compositions (do sol la mi fa do fa sol). However, most of the articles I’ve read indicate that the Ur-Song is more probably sung as: ‘sol sol mi la sol mi’. But you probably know it better as 'nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah' or 'Na-nana-nah-na nah nah', a common children's taunt sung upon said to be sung upon the universal melody.

Indeed, it’s heard on every playground around the world. Of course, the lyrics and exact rhythm change depending on the culture and language, but the tune is always the same.

In his book, The Secret Power of Music, David Tame describes this phenomenon:

“…in all lands, children from the age of eighteen months to two and a half years have been found to spontaneously sing melodic fragments with the intervals of second, minor third, and major third.”

Even Leonard Bernstein described a belief in the legitimacy of the Ur-song.

As it happens, I’m also a true believer:

When I was two years old –and living in San Juan de Marcos, Peru– my parents recall this incident: Upon seeing a motorcyclist having troubles with his bike, I spontaneously sang out, “Ha ha ha la moto”, and the words were carried upon the following melody: ‘sol sol mi la sol mi’ –what else but the Ur-song!

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Click on any link below to read the entire Mystic Audio Series:

1. Glossolalia: Speaking In Tongues
2. The Ur-Song
3. Theta Waves, Mantras & The Lord's Prayer
4. Atomic Rhythms
5. Thai Drum Samples For Sesame Workshop

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Sound Byte: Car Alarms

Car Alarms: Need I say more?

Brian C. Anderson of the Daily News suggests Car Alarms Are Useless, So Ban Them. Reminding us these annoying devices are designed to aggravate he informs us:

“More than 80% of the calls to New York's quality-of-life hotline concern noise, and many are car-alarm complaints, police say.”

Why am I not surprised?

“Top models like Viper and Hellfire boast sirens that hit a painful 125 decibels — as loud as a disco, and it's sounding right outside your window.”

Not to mention that sometimes all it takes is another passing vehicle to trigger that disco, and usually does so at five in the morning

A mockingbird once took up residence outside my window, and I could swear the thing had learned how to sound out the baneful electronic wale of a Toyota Rav4 being violated.

These pulsing devices are not without their hidden merits, though. Catch me bright eyed during a blue sky afternoon and if I hear an alarm go off I’m likely to break out into 3 or 4 eights of a jubilantly fragmented post modern dance. So there you go, it is like a disco.

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

Glossolalia: Speaking In Tongues

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:4)

While a student at the North Carolina School of the Arts, I made the acquaintance of a pair of Pentecostal students. Since I have always had an interest in the religious studies, I pressed them for background on their beliefs. To my amazement, they could each produce glossolalia, –or ‘speaking in tongues’– quite readily.

I recall the silent services at CFS, the Quaker high school I graduated from. Quakers are so called because when inspired by God they sometimes quake. Sometimes one of my fellow students would be moved to address the community, but I never witnessed anyone possessed by the spirit of God in that setting. And those who did contribute did so in plain English.

It is thought that those who speak in tongues might actually be speaking in any number of common human languages. But my new Pentecostal friends explained to me that they exclusively spoke a pre-Babel langauge. They considered the pre-Babel language to be the ‘Ur Language': the original tongue, named not after Babel –as one might think– but after Ur, an ancient Mesopotamian City and beleived to be the world’s first civilization.

The story goes that after God smashed the Tower of Babel, He disrupted men’s communications by subjugating them with different languages. The logic being that by making harder for men to communicate with each other, they would never again be able to collaborate on such a structure as threatening as a heaven reaching skyscraper.

If that were the case, I’d say our modern cities are long overdue for a divinely ordained catastrophic event.

In 1983, the arty punk band Talking Heads released an album called ‘Speaking In Tongues’. On it, David Byrne sings,: “Everything’s stuck together.” Now that's a lesson in spiritual quantum physics that I can readily understand.

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Click on any link below to read the entire Mystic Audio Series:

1. Glossolalia: Speaking In Tongues
2. The Ur-Song
3. Theta Waves, Mantras & The Lord's Prayer
4. Atomic Rhythms
5. Thai Drum Samples For Sesame Workshop