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I moved to Wordpress in April! So, update your links etc to larkfall.wordpress.com !

These pages will stick around for a while, but will probably be either scrubbed or archived on the Wordpress site early next year.

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A couple more recent newsworthy items of Legardiana:

Reverb Worship kindly sent me some copies of the re-release of Stella and Astrophel. Looks (and sounds!) great! You can order copies from the Reverb Worship site, or drop me a note if you'd like to order a copy from me (UK = £6.00 / Europe = £7.00 / USA & ROW = £8.00).



I'm also pleased to say that I received some promo copies of the John Barleycorn Reborn: Rebirth compilation from Cold Spring. This is a companion to the original John Barleycorn Reborn comp that came out a few years ago, compiled by mysteriously vanishing Mark Coyle. I never actually heard this collection (originally available as a download), but I'd say that I actually prefer it to the original - some nice hurdy gurdy moments sprinkled throughout along with a few turns by the prolific Sean Breadin. More info here.



The Bang the Bore gig at the Hansard Gallery went really well! The quartet (Layla, Seth, Sara and I) started out with improvised vowel singing based on 'scores' derived from a series of 'magical' intentions. Gradually fragmented god names were introduced: originally I'd wanted to break out from the flow of the improvisation and utter the names in the style of Stockhausen's Stimmung, although this wasn't really working, so the names were fragmented became a series of abstracted syllables. Four fifths of the god names were Celtic, but I let Seth break the mould by going with Kal-el... we finished with a rousing version of King Orfeo, which seems to be becoming a standard for us...

On the way back North, Layla and I visited Avebury, and found ourselves slogging uphill in the wind and rain to do our own singing in West Kennet Long Barrow. To enter the barrow after being lashed by the elements was quite an experience - like entering a warm, welcoming home... Read her post and listen to the recording on her blog!



We ended our day with a dusky walk on Windmill Hill, a perfectly atmospheric denouement.



I forgot to mention in the last post that Layla and I did a little contribution to the latest issue of our friend Ian's comic, Seamouse. More info here! There's also a bit by our friend Herb Diamante!



Photos by Layla Smith, as ever!
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There's a rare Xenis Emputae Travelling Band performance on the 17th of December at the John Hansard Gallery, Southampton. I've gathered a four voice magical choir to a performance based around vowels. Initially the concept was to work along the lines of Peter Michael Hamel and Prima Materia's 'vowel improvisations' and overtone singing, but things have loosened up since then. Whatever may happen, we're all looking forward to the event, which also includes Mel O'Dubhslaine (Ashtray Navigations), Ignacio Agrimbau, Hossein Hadisi and Glyphs. Full info on the Bang the Bore site here. If you're on the BtB site be sure to also check out Stephen Grasso's lengthy piece of psychogeographic voodoo Smoke and Mirrors, and Seth Cooke's essay The Glossolinguist.



Much coming up in 2012 - among the things to look out for early on:
  • Re-release of Stella and Astrophel on the Reverb Worship label.
  • A chapbook: The Mirror of Elicona.
  • 5,000 word poetry article: Black Venus & Wise Hermes.
Finally - a couple of months back I was very happy to receive a complementary copy of Andy Roberts' Albion Dreaming: A Social History of LSD, which is a fascinating account of around 50 years of LSD in the British Isles. Andy also sent me his collection of Forteana and miscellaneous writings Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal. I previously knew of him for his beGlad fanzine, which made up a lot what was published in the brilliant Incredible String Band Companion.  I'll write more about this alongside my take on the Past Present Future Space Time festival of psychedelic utopia that happened at Wysing Art Centre toward the end of summer. Meanwhile, R.D. Laing is one of the important figures in Roberts' story - here's his anti-psychiatry documentary Asylum and the portrait  Did You Used to be R.D. Laing?.

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Lots of exciting news! First, I am very proud to have some of my music included in the CD that accompanies the latest volume of Abraxas journal. The standard of writing and artwork therein is very high and the production is to Fulgur's usual brilliant standard. The journal is available in softcover and hardback at the Fulgur site.



Sticking with books, I'm pleased to say that you can now get the revised third edition of Psychogeographia Ruralis at Lulu. I'd like to do a more lavish production when time and money allows, but I'm very happy with how this has turned out - it's been carefully typeset and proofed, and is accompanied by photographs by Layla Smith. You can order your copy here.

Also, Reverb Worship is starting to reissue some of the old Xenis Emputae Travelling Band catalogue, kicking off with Goat Willow. You can order a copy through the Reverb Worship site, or send me a private message and I can send you one (£5 + P&P).  



Finally, the first gig for Institute of Stone Age Sex went wonderfully, and since then we've also played a wedding! We hope to record shortly and perhaps even do another gig or two before the year is out. Pictured below: Phil Todd, Seth Cooke, Mel Crowley, Phil Legard, Layla Smith and Simon Bradley.

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It's been a while since I've played a gig, but I'm quite excited by the prospect of the first performance with my group The Institute of Stone Age Sex. The lineup includes members of the A-Band/Ultrahumanitarian, Ashtray Navigations and Almias. It's as part of the Harrogate Fringe Festival's Fringe Crawl event this Saturday (30th), leading up to a performance by Julian Cope in the evening. Cope costs, but the rest of the music is free! We'll be playing at 4:45pm in the vicinity of the circle bar at the theatre. How we'll go down, I have no idea...

Subject to a couple of minor changes, here is the leaflet for the performance, penned in remembrance or Robert Graves:

Current Music:
Peter Cora - The Rosette of Sirius (2011)
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A post in memoriam of Kenneth Grant, written as an accompaniment to the piece on The Cult of the Ku in Strange Attractor Journal:
 

On the Existence of Priapic Bat Gods:
Notes on the Secret Organisation of the Zotzil

In Hecate’s Fountain Kenneth Grant tells us that his New Isis Lodge not only participated in rites with a Cult of the Ku, but also had an association with a group known as The Secret Society of the Zotzil. Alleged to be ‘devotees of the Bat god, Camazotz’, the group invited Grant and associates to a derelict Welsh chapel for one of Grant’s most memorable rituals, culminating as it did with a priestess dressed as a butterfly giving oral sex to the priapic manifestation of a Mayan bat god... and whatever you may think about Grant’s work, that’s a pretty striking image.

So: a secret society with a hokey mystical sounding name? A Mayan bat god? The story itself seems absurd enough to be a complete fiction, but as with the Cult of the Ku, the Secret Society of the Zotzil is not entirely the fabrication of Grant’s kala-steeped imagination.

As is the case with Grant’s treatment of ku, we are dealing with an idiosyncratic interpretation of the practices of another minority group, in this instance the Tzotzil people of southern Mexico. The word Tzotzil itself means ‘people of the bat’: the Conquistadors record the destruction of a stone bat that was worshipped as an idol. The Tzotzil had a diverse pantheon, among them the terrestrial Akaj (the bee) and Chimalcan (the serpent) along the celestial Cakix (the macaw) and, most importantly, Tzotz (the bat) from whom they traced their lineage.[1] Already the seemingly random inclusion of material about a Mayan bat god seems less of a shockingly surreal aberration.

The Tzotzil possess a complex and seemingly ancient cosmology, which modern anthropologists have studied as a possible basis for interpreting prehistoric Mayan beliefs.[2] The suggestion here seems to be that, akin to the ku collectors, the Tzotzil possess some fragments of an ancient, if debased, knowledge. Grant mentions the idea of a migrant population practicing ku in England and the same idea may explain why a group of Tzotzil people turned up in Wales: the movement of people is also the movement of ideas, in this case magical ones.

A connection between the Tzotzil people and Camazotz (as opposed to plain old Tzotz) is more difficult to make. Camazotz, the ‘death bat’, is a figure that appears in the K’iche’ epic Popol Vuh during the underworld trial of Hunahpu and Xbalanque and was incorporated into a number of the pantheons of the Mayan peoples and enjoyed a significant cult following.

Of course, Grant’s description of the ritual of Camazotz is inevitably influenced by his own aesthetic of tantric horror, with its bat-like, tentacled, mauve ichor dripping apparition, but in the light of Mayan iconography this imagery explains itself as something more than an absurd Lovecraftian pastiche.

Mayan sculptures of Camazotz show the god as a either a bat, a human with a bat head or various mixed proportions of the two. A number of representations, among them sculptures from the complex at Copan and examples in the Mexican Museum of Anthropology also depict the god with an erect phallus. It is interesting that Grant alludes to the Fisherman’s God of the Cook Island, whose parallels they evoke. Within the solar-phallic mythos of Crowleyean magick it is also intriguing to note that the K’iche’ also identified Camazotz with Zotzilaha Chamalcan, the god of fire.
 
The Copan statue (Elias Gardner, Flickr)

The tentacled face is a typically Grantian motif. Sex and tentacles are natural compliments for Grant, as evidenced by high priestess Li’s eightfold orgasm in the embrace of a cephalopod during the ku ritual. However, it is worth noting that depictions of Camazotz in Mayan codices and ceramics depict the god with ‘tentacles’ of smoke or fire appearing to sprout from his face.

For Grant’s likely inspiration we need look no further than his bibliography and the work of Raphael Girard entitled The Esotericism of the Popol Vuh. The sections regarding the underworld journey of Hunahpu and Xbalanque frequently refer to Camazotz as a ‘celestial vampire’, undoubtedly a phrase that would be irresistible to Grant. The reproduction of an image from the Dresden Codex is stylised enough to suggest not only a monstrous phallus but a tentacled face. Girard discusses the relation of the beheading of Hunahpu to the mythos of the maize plant and also explicitly deals with sex in a manner that has obvious sex-magical applications. Girard’s discussion of death therein alongside a consideration of death in Tzotzil culture as the ultimate destiny of all men, should be given some consideration when speculating on Grant’s own ‘morbid’ obsessions with Trees of Death, qliphoth and other elements that appear counterproductive to the 'rational' observer.

The instance of the Society of the Zotzil again indicates that Grant usually knows more than he lets on. It is apparent that he has explored a number of diverse areas surrounding the notion of vampirism, going so far as to ruminate on the qabalistic significance of Bela Lugosi and titling a portrait of himself ‘Desmodus’. Both this title and Grant’s decision to look toward south American culture may have been inspired by Sax Rohmer’s voodoo novel Batwing in which it is stated that the “real emblem of their unclean religion is the bat, especially the Vampire Bat of South America”. The Desmodus in question could reference either to the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) or the prehistoric vampire bat Desmodus draculae once resident in South America and, cryptozoologists hypothesise, possibly responsible for a spate of giant bat sightings and mutilations in the country during the 1970s. [3] Rohmer’s work may also explain the presence of the Society of Zotzil in Wales: perhaps Grant was giving a nod toward Rohmer’s assertion that “the presence of a living vampire bat in Surrey is not to be anticipated.”[4] ... nor is it to be anticipated in Wales.

[1] Idols and Idolatry in Highland Guatemala. Sandra L. Orellana. Ethnohistory, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Spring, 1981), pp. 157-177.
[2] See Contemporary Tzotzil Cosmological Concepts as a Basis for Interpreting Prehistoric Maya Civilization. William R. Holland. American Antiquity, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Jan., 1964), pp. 301-306 and Ancient Maya and Contemporary Tzotzil Cosmology: A Comment on Some Methodological Problems. Evon Z. Vogt. American Antiquity, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Oct., 1964), pp. 192-195.
[3] Anon. Two Possible Cryptids from Precolumbian Mesoamerica. Available at: http://www.fortunecity.com/roswell/siren/552/art_mesoamerica.html
[4] Sax Rohmer. Batwing. 


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A roundup of recent bits and pieces:
 

Recently my friend Seth Cooke put together a two-part ‘This is your Life’-style feature on Ashtray Navigations. I’ve written a bit, along with Neil Campbell, Alex Neilson and the usual suspects. This is also the first time I’ve ever been called glamorous… read the first part here.

The latest issue of Strange Attactor Journal has an illustration by myself to accompany a synopsis of Shryock and Feng’s article on Chinese Ku (Gu) magic, by Andy Sharp (English Heretic). More information here.

It was very nice of Stuart Maconie to play ‘Caer Color’, from A Prism for Annwn on his May Day Freakzone. I’m hoping to have a band together to play as part of the lead-up to Julian Cope at the Harrogate Theatre on the 30th of July. Who knows – we maybe there will be XETB renaissance later this year? I recently visited the long-barrow on Black Hill, Low Bradley Moor and I’m itching to go there,  record and have a good lie down in the cist!
 


Photo by Layla Bert Smith.
 

Also, I’m not sure I ever mentioned it on the blog, but I designed the and printed the covers and inlays for Maarten Van Der Vleuten’s album A True and Faithul Relation of what Passed for Many Years Between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits. I got my copies a few weeks ago and it looks great – the pics online don’t do it justice. I believe there are still a few copies available here
 

I’ve been working with the composer Nigel Morgan for several years now. As part of a project exploring Open Form and ‘poietic’ interaction with musical scores we did the interdisciplinary Fifteen Images project. There’s a journal article in Craft Resarch if you are interested. It’s been getting some well received performances from jazz pianist Matt Robinson – recently at the Taking Time exhibition at Plymouth Museum, and it will be performed during the Pairings 2011 conference at MMU.
 

I also went to Hong Kong to teach a course on Interactive Audio at the Insitute for Vocational Education, which was a great (and tiring, and hectic!) - experience, from which I returned with the obligatory strange (to Western tastebuds) confectionery.
 


 

Over summer I hope to get a few writing projects finished – and to finally turn my attention again to the ever fascinating (and frustrating!) Folger MS. with Dan Harms and Joe Peterson! Maybe I'll even get those extra horseman posts sorted - I found a book of horseman's receipts which I'm desperate to blog here!


 

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I've recently started archiving most of my work over the last decade. A revised site is still woefully incomplete, but in the meantime you can find around a number Xenis Emputae Travelling Band   and related recordings at Archive.org:

The Crooked Pool (2008)
Gamaaea (2007)
Split with Ashtray Navigations (2007)
Stella and Astrophel (2006)
A Prism for Annwn (2006)
Split with Jani Hellén (2006)
Grotto Grove and Shrine (2006)
Heard Gripe Hrusan (2006)
Goat Willow (2005)
Split with The North Sea (2005)
The Pyrognomic Glass (2005)
Toadsman's Bell (2005)
The Hieroglyphic Mountain (2005)
A Selenographic Lens (2004)
Lords of the Green Grass (2003)
New Etheric Muse (2003)
The Suffolk Workings (2002)
Under a Soular Moon (2001)
Full Moon June (2001)

I'll be adding to this over the next few weeks.


 
Current Music:
Tangerine Dream - Ricochet (Live) (1975)
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This was a surprising find during a trip to York... I've got a soft-spot for Nevill Drury, having read his book The Shaman and the Magician in my teens, but I'd no idea that he'd written a book entitled Music for Inner Space: Techniques for Meditation & Visualisation (Prism Press, 1985). Nor did I know that he was a complete freak for kosmische musik, reviewing electronic music for Rolling Stone and Hi-Fi Magazine!

The horrible new-age cover of the book aside, Drury has quite comprehensive recommendations for elemental music (example: Ash Ra Tempel, 'Jenseits' from Join Inn = Water) and the tarot. To give an idea of where he's coming from, I summarise his tarot discography below:

The World: Pink Floyd - 'Grantchester Meadows'; Klaus Schulze - 'Ways of Change'.
Judgement: Herbert Joos - 'Why?'; Japetus - 'The Great, Great Silence'.
The Sun: Tangerine Dream - 'Force Majeure' (last third only).
The Moon: Klaus Schulze - 'Mindphaser'.
The Star: Klaus Schulze - 'Crystal Lake'.
The Tower: Godley & Creme - 'The Flood'.
The Devil: Tangerine Dream - 'Rubycon Part One'; Rajneesh Foundation musicians - 'Nadabrahma'.
Death: Tangerine Dream - 'Through Metamorphic Rocks'.
Temperance: Ash Ra - 'Ocean of Tenderness'.
The Hanged Man: Fripp & Eno - 'Wind on Water'.
Justice: Kitaro - 'Never Let You Go'.
The Wheel of Fortune: Colosseum - 'Theme Three'; Kitaro - 'Dreams Like Yesterday'.
The Hermit: Tangerine Dream - 'Rubycon Part Two' (first third).
Strength: Tangerine Dream - 'Rubycon Part Two' (middle section).
The Charioteer: Klaus Schulze - 'Bayreuth Return' and 'Wahnfried 1883'.
The Lovers: Edgar Froese - 'Epsilon in Malaysian Pale'.
The Hierophant: Edgar Froese - 'Maroubra Bay' (first half).
The Emperor: Klaus Schulze - 'Nowhere - Now Here'.
The Empress: Tangerine Dream - 'Origin of Supernatural Probabilities'.
The High Priestess: Tangerine Dream - 'Zeit'.
The Magician: Klaus Sculze - 'Stardancer II'.
The Fool: Manuel Gottsching - 'Qasarsphere'.

To see the other entries in this series of discographies, click here and here.
 
Current Music:
Ash Ra Tempel - Join Inn
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Some random ravings about Heptonstall, with photos by Layla Bert Smith.

After reading Ted Hughes' Remains of Elmet and being inspired by Fay Godwin's beautiful photograph of the church, radiant amidst sun and mist, it was decided that we had to take a trip to Heptonstall. Walking up through Hebden Bridge, past the Hell Hole, ruddy crags and a towering wall of gritstone forced from the bowels of the earth, we found it, just beyond an estate of new housing on top of the ridge.


 

Prior to entering the church grounds curiosity took us to Sylvia Plath's grave in the adjoining churchyard. Biros and pencils are to be found in prodigious quantities. Ritual offerings to a chthonic muse, perhaps?


 

Walking round the perimeter of the new church I remarked how some of the carved figures looked as though they were dragging themselves out from the fabric of the building. It was later, having returned home, that I noted a similar image in Ted Hughes' poem Heptonstall Old Church:

A great bird landed here.

Its song drew men out of rock,
Living men out of bog and heather.


Recently in Northern Earth (Issue 123), Brian Taylor wrote a piece about Ted Hughes' poetry and the relation between poetic imagination and shamanism, and while writing this I have just discovered Ann Skea's amazing resource on Ted Hughes, magic, cabala, tarot and the bardic tradition. I know next to nothing about Hughes, although I appreciate the bleakness of his vision of the fall of the ancient kingdom of Elmet, Calder industry and its ultimate, apocalyptic redemption. However, the image is of the great bird is striking. Skea associates the bird with the illuminating spiritual song of the earth. That which once “put a light in the valley” is now forgotten:

The valleys went out.
The moorland broke loose.
 
 
In Heptonstall Churchyard Hughes connects his own lineage with feathers upon the “giant beating wing” of the moors - “a family of dark swans.” Perhaps the great bird in question is an expression of the genius of the landscape, forgotten as a consequence of mankind's relationship with the land:

Its giant bones
Blackened and became a mystery.

The crystal in men's heads
Blackened and fell to pieces.


Later to be transformed into an angel:

[...]And it was a swan the size of a city!

Far too heavy for the air, it pounded towards me,
Low over Hathershelf.

And it was no swan.

It was an angel made of smoking snow.


Within the Old Church itself the seat of the genius loci would have to be found not at the altar (still consecrated and used on occasion), but within the peculiar medieval sculpture of a lion's head to its immediate left. Not blackened, but green from the tincture of time, the beast gazes across nave and transept, a silent guardian. Here is a place of green lions, dark swans, smoking angels: players in a shamanic, alchemical and imaginative drama...

Any audience is incidental.


 

 

 
Current Music:
William Taylor - The Two Worlds of Welsh Harp
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