Here's what I've got on my hard drive:
A Lesson For The Brain (And Hands)
November 11th, 2008
Posting Number 1
Hello. This is John. I’m going to keep this blog as a place to write things for people who listen to my music. I’ll just write whatever I feel like saying whenever I feel like doing it. I don’t like the old media channels and this is a way of communicating to people without the filter of magazines and the other bullshit that has nothing to do with music.
I’d like to start by explaining an exercise (for the brain as much as the hands) that I would imagine can be done on any instrument (including the voice) but I’ll explain it using the guitar.
Example 1: Play any four notes in succession repeatedly ascending like, for instance, the first four notes of a major scale. The idea is to play the 4 notes over and over but mentally count in fives and accent the 1 of every 5. So let your left hand go on it’s own and focus on mentally counting;
Every time you’re on # 1 play that note louder than the rest. You’ll see that the first accent falls on first note. The second accent falls on the 2nd note the 2nd time around. The 3rd accent falls on the 3rd note the 3rd time around. The 4th accent falls on the 4th note the 4th time around. That brings us back to accenting the first note and the exercise repeats.
Example 2: If you accent those same four notes in 7 you’ll see the accents go backwards from the first example. You, of course, accent the first note and then if you keep playing your four notes in succession, but the 7th and 2nd accent winds up on the 4th note, the 3rd accent lands on the 3rd note, the 4th accent falls on the 2nd note and the 5th accent again falls on the first note. There are more complex versions of this exercise but these two examples express the basic idea that there is one pattern of notes being played by the left hand that is one number amount and another pattern of accents being played by the right hand that is another number amount.
To a non-musician the idea could be illustrated as two rows like this:
Look at where the ones in the bottom row occur in relationship to the upper row. The 2nd one in the bottom row has a 2 over it. The 3rd one has a 3 over it. The 4th one has a 4 over it and the 5th one again has a 1 over it, at which point the series would repeat and be the same to infinity. Any repeating 2 numbers (like 5, 7,11 and 9) occurring parallel with one another will have this circular organization that is provided by the structure of existence itself.
When we make music we are acting into numbers, which are unchanging. In music various series of numbers are occurring simultaneously, finding a certain amount of coordinate points. When we hear a band in the middle of a song, one girl is on her 100th note and another girl is on her 76th note and another girl is on her 50th note, we nevertheless hear these people as all being at the same point together. In this way music exemplifies the reconciliation of differences. Though the numbers themselves may be different we hear them as being the same. Though we perceive each and every number as being different, in the end all numbers as a whole are a single thing as they are dependant upon one another and do not exist without one another.
When playing music it is not necessary to count ones notes but it is desirable to make the most of expressing difference and at the same time having points of connection. A bass player who is accustomed to just playing whatever is the lowest note in his guitarists chord is probably not making the most of his ability to express himself. If he plays different notes and different rhythms on the bass while the guitarist does his thing, and if those two things seem to emotionally connect, then the music is expressing those two peoples differences and joining them simultaneously. It is the same in life in the way that although our senses and intelligence endow us with the ability to see each and every thing as different from everything else, we are also blessed by being able to see the relationship of those things to one another and the fact that these relationships exist shows that they all exist together as a single thing.
Numbers become more inconceivable the bigger or smaller they are. You’ll find it easy to try to visualize a friend of yours in your mind, but it’s harder to visualize two friends simultaneously and exponentially harder to visualizes 3 and so on. And since the largest possible number is inconceivable as well as the smallest fraction being inconceivable, we can see that we concern ourselves with those numbers our minds have the ability to grasp and work with. As musicians, our thoughts usually revolve around the smaller numbers. In music the number four and its first few multiples comes up a lot but we have the ability to mess with that by introducing all kinds of numbers within that. People who don’t ever think of music numerically usually group things in fours. I guess there must be something about that number we like, since most songs in the western world are in 4/4, and the first harmony man discovered was parallel fourth’s. Things occurring for 16 or 32 bar cycles seem to make sense to us, and even when time signatures are odd numbered we still resolve them and begin a new journey after 16 or 32 or 64 bars. But exceptions can and are made to these things. There are infinite possibilities here and it seems that by ignoring numbers activity in music we often end up adhering to many of the same numerical patterns over and over again. By being aware of that we can avoid those numerical tendencies (formulas) and guide our musical thoughts to conform to a new idea.
Its also good to remember that our differences as people can be points of connection, and we don’t have to dress like our friend’s, or have the same opinion as them to strengthen that connection. That is what the exercise says: My right hand is seeing things one way, my left hand is seeing them another, but they join together and their union creates a third thing. Like two people of opposite sexes having sex and a baby resulting. Or gaining a wider view by conversing with someone whose beliefs differs from yours.
In regard to the exercise, when a musician plays a conventional instrument every note is played at a different velocity. I have noticed that when musicians have really good chemistry, their individual choices of playing notes at their various degrees of velocity have a cosmic way of interweaving and balancing one another. Its not something our brains have the ability to keep track of in a numerical sense, but a good relationship to your instrument and a feeling for the music you’re playing takes care of this for us. The exercise I gave, and many others I have like it, wake up your ability to not let your choice of how hard you play a certain note be determined by the obvious leanings that the physical arrangement of the notes themselves dictate. It really just helps you be more expressive in a less predictable way. Then it becomes second nature to be just as attentive to how hard or soft each note is played as to the notes themselves. You might try the exercise slowly at first, by playing all the ones as loud as you can and all the other notes as soft as you can, and see how fast you can play it before you’re forced to compromise the difference in volumes. It’s very difficult to have large differences in volume from note to note at fast speeds. You can also try different amounts of notes crossed with accents in different places. Like 7 notes, while accenting the one of every 5 notes struck as well as accenting the third of every 5. ONE two THREE four FIVE. There’s a lot of room to creatively make your own exercises based on this idea. I believe you’ll find yourself playing more expressively and with more feeling as a result of doing them.
November 15th, 2008
The Empyrean is my new record and will be released worldwide via Record Collection on January 20th 2009. It was recorded on and off between December 2006 and March 2008. It is a concept record that tells a single story both musically and lyrically. The story takes place within one person, and there are two characters. It contains a version of Tim Buckley’s, ‘Song To The Siren’ and the rest of the songs are written by me. My friend Josh plays on it, as does Flea. It also features Sonus Quartet, Johnny Marr and The New Dimension Singers. I’m really happy with it and I’ve listened to it a lot for the psychedelic experience it provides. It should be played as loud as possible and it is suited to dark living rooms late at night.
- John Frusciante, November 3rd, 2008
The Empyrean Track listing:
1. Before The Beginning
2. Song To The Siren
7. Enough Of Me
9. One More Of Me
10. After The Ending
The Empyrean - part two
November 24th, 2008
Journal Entry Number 3
The Empyrean is a story that has no action in the physical world. It all takes place in one persons mind throughout his life. The only other character is someone who does not live in the physical world but is inside it, in the sense that he exists in peoples minds. The mind is the only place that anything can be truly said to exist. The outside world is only known to us as it appears within us by the testament of our senses. The imagination is the most real world that we know because we each know it first hand. Seeing our ideas take form is like being able to see the sun come into being. We have no equivelent to the purity of that in our account of the outside world. The outer world appears to each of us as one thing and it is always also a multitude of others. Inside to outside and outside to inside are neverending. Trying and giving up are a form of breathing.
The Empyrean - part three
January 5th, 2009
My describing The Empyrean as a story is accurate from my viewpoint, but misleading, as there are no road signs to lead someone else to perceive a clear story out of it. There was no intention to write what would be seen as clear-cut story, though it is one to me. Being that it takes place in the mind of one person, no laws of time and space, or concrete relationships exist therein. This is to say that if you look into it with your logical brain you will only strain yourself and come up with nothing. The words were specifically written to document an inner experience of life, the kind that a person has extreme difficulty translating to anyone else. Part of the intention was to write words to connect with other people who have been, or are, overwhelmed by the confusing, inescapable inner world they must live in. Equal attention was given to writing words that would gently direct themselves towards the listeners’ intuitive brain, and their sub-conscience, which I believe comprehends and catalogues everything in a much richer and more multi layered way than our conscious mind. Like a lot of lyrics, it was written to be perceived in as many ways as there are people hearing it. A person to whom the words have no clear, conscious meaning may derive more from it than someone who reads it as I do, and so I recommend hearing or reading it however you will. It would have been simpler to say nothing at all but this only fully occurred to me today, as I have gradually realized that by saying what it is to me, I am encouraging people to see it my way and to me, that’s not what rock lyrics are for. I believe rock lyrics should be open to interpretation and I wrote these so they could be. While I could explain the story as I see it that would detract from the potential multifarious meanings that will come about from people applying their own sense of feeling from their life experience, much as they always do.
The following words vaguely express the lyrical and musical form:
From within confusion and darkness
Reaching up to the source of light
Darkness becomes lighter
January 20th, 2009
An Introduction to the Description
Here are some thoughts I have about the story of The Empyrean. I don’t think they detract from anyone reading their own things into it, but they provide a guideline through which to see the basic form of the lyrics more clearly. I’m just explaining the way I see the outline, but the contents and the details remain open to interpretation. I avoided discussing any of this in the small amount of press I did. In those I just try to be myself. These ideas are too dear to me to let someone else filter them. I’m posting this only because these ideas may be of some value to some people. Not as a way of trying to inspire interest in my work.
When I buy a record I like, I listen without reading the lyrics the first time. Then I read the lyrics at some point later (maybe on the second listen, maybe months later). Often years later I’ve enjoyed hearing what the artist says about what they’ve done. But to be honest if it was someone I liked I’d want to know the second I could. Anyhow, I suggest using your own discretion in choosing when to read both the lyrics and the following description of them.
Also, throughout the making of this record, I felt that some force was expressing itself through me, and so I don’t claim that my understanding of it is at all definitive. But since a story such as this would have helped me at various times in my life, I figured I’d make it as clear as I think would be necessary for someone else to benefit from its contents, and to possibly outwit fate and conditioning in their own way.
Description to the Story of The Empyrean
The main character is a creative person who experiences the full spectrum of life’s ups and downs. All dialogue takes place in his mind. The other character could accurately be called the creative force, which constantly creates and perpetuates existence. It could also be called the energy which fuels the engine we call the mind, with all of its creative potential. It could also accurately be called ones true self. It sometimes takes the form of a voice in your in your head or voices in your head. The more out of step your actions are with your true self or the creative force, the more disruptive those voices will be. This serves as a guide. This characters action is usually on track enough to where, when he hears the force as a voice, it speaks truth. The main character is, to one degree or another, in a perpetual state of confusion.
On the path to merging with the force, material life and the self (the fluctuating, impermanent self as determined by conditioning and environment) will at times seem meaningless, leaving one feeling stranded. The main character goes through extreme loneliness (in song two and the first half of song five) and at times thinks he can only merge with this force upon dying. In the 8th song of the story, a kind of suicide takes place, which results in a rebirth. It could be actual death or a shedding of the unnecessary parts of the personality. In any case, a rebirth takes place (songs 9 and 10) in which he finds himself filled with wonderment in regards to life. The more someone’s actions are aligned with the creative force inherent in everything we know, the more that persons imagination will become one with that persons surroundings.
He eventually realizes that the highest point in heaven is a potential inside him, and that no thing is any different than anything else. What is beyond him is inside him and inside everyone. And that the feelings within him are perfectly suited to the opportunities to be creative here on earth. The attempt to be one with that force is an ongoing challenge that is such a privilege, the fruits of which make all the confusion of the path part of the privilege. He realizes that the ways in which the imaginations source is hidden from him are guides and road signs to help him become one with that source by means of his own resourcefulness. He realizes that confusion and pain have been as much the cause of what’s made his life meaningful and pleasureful as things he mistook for being pure goodness. Everything here contains its contradiction and so up and down, left and right, forwards and backwards, happy and sad, pleasure and pain, are each two things, which are one. And all things we believe to be separate are one thing. The illusion of separateness is the cause of pain, and it is also part of the cause of all the works of beauty people have created. Things like social position, positions of power, identification of the self with the body, identification of the self with ones thought patterns, are all false (though obviously very conceivable as true). False in that they are useless to the true self. To live by them is like giving in to the illusion of separateness and accepting it as reality. This amounts to nothing and matters only to the transient aspects of what you are. All that matters to your true, permanent self is to do what you are here to do. To establish direct contact with your true self and follow the course of action your heart dictates. Not to say that that means you will always be happy and content, but along the way you will know the meaning of pure happiness at the times when it comes. Not the shallow happiness of satisfaction in feeling you have more possessions than someone else, or have more money and power, or a prettier face, but happiness that comes from living in harmony with the same force that sets possibility into motion to become actuality. Happiness derived from the beauty of the things that come through the channels within you. From listening with your inner ears and seeing with your inner eyes. Happiness in seeing something within you manifest as something around you. Pain sets us to work and gives us a basis out of which to create works, which inspire pleasure, in the same way that darkness gives the sun a basis through which to shine light. The triumphant aspect of feeling great depends on one having absorbed pain. Appreciating your own value can be achieved to whatever degree you have faced feelings of your own worthlessness. Opposites give one another their meaning.
The record documents the ways in which a person strives for what is beyond his reach. In his effort to go higher with every step, he sometimes dives down, only to find that when he reemerges he is always higher than he was before. The musical dynamics work in tandem with these inner rises and falls he experiences. He necessarily remains in a state of confusion and longing but is grateful for that, as without that he would not be becoming anything. Growing and changing is its own reward, and it is sometimes necessary to stop in order to be rejuvenated. It may even be necessary to resent the universe and its creative force from time to time. But meaning is meaning and emptiness is emptiness and a person who can distinguish between them will always come around to embrace the space into which everything is created. And, upon death, this space of complete potential will give everyone a kiss, without exception. The story of this record is one mans reaching for something outside him and finding that it was always within him
January 22nd, 2009
Here is a poem that reflects the composition of the story in The Empyrean. I don’t feel that reading any of these posts is essential to the album. They are just my way of offering something to people who are interested.
The following words vaguely express the lyrical and musical form:
From within confusion and darkness,
Reaching up to the source of light,
Darkness becomes lighter,
Confusion becomes clearer,
January 27th, 2009
Lyrically this record became a concept album and was not initially written that way though I had a clear idea of what sort of things I wanted to write about. I did not write the songs as a character but as myself. The form revealed itself as it took shape and I added songs to complete the flow I perceived. I also left off two songs since the singer’s words were somewhat from the inside out. All the remaining songs lyrical viewpoint is from the inside in. They are very personal, hence my being uncomfortable talking about them in any specific terms. Even in the long “description” I wrote, I’m being very cagey. The actual experience was, and is, very specific and did not involve anything vague. But to explain it in plain terms would serve no purpose other than to make me look insane to people who have no correlating inner experience. What I’ve said so far is vague insomuch as it has to be to be open and universal. But I’ve said enough to where anyone who has had a similar inner experience may be gently directed towards finding some clarity in areas, which are confusing. I’m sharing it to the degree I am because I have, at times, been so lost in the course of my life, and have been gently directed towards making sense of lots of confusing things from reading certain writers and from obsessing on lyrics of rock songs about this same subject, of which I believe there to be many, though perhaps often unbeknownst to the writers of the songs themselves.
We are all reaching up in our own way and so even when we choose concrete things as the object of our desire, I feel that they are only symbols and that the real object of our desire is the creative force inherent in everything. It is what created us and perpetuates our lives, and so our creations are its creations. Kind of like if you built a robot that could think and feel, and then it painted a picture, that picture would be the result of the precise structure of thought and feeling you endowed the robot with. We’re all grateful for what we’ve been given. Even when we are unhappy with everything, its “poor me”, showing that we still think of that “me” and its feelings, as having a lot of significance. It’s a pretty amazing thing to have this complex network of thought and feeling in these bodies. From where does it come? We’ve traced the cause of matter to something that required the preexistence of time, the principles of motion, space and many other things. The laws of motion, time and the space everything exists into, all have an untraced cause. And likewise we don’t have any idea where things like perception and thought came from. So why anything whatsoever exists, whether as actuality or potential, is unknown. I just attribute all these things to the creative force, since, though its essence is unknown, it is in plain view inside each one of us. And it becomes clearer the more generative and positive a persons thoughts and actions are, until it doesn’t seem unknown at all. Our own creative nature is a small version of the creative force we owe existence to, so we can understand that force for ourselves just by doing creative acts.
The life giving properties that the suns rays contain is something we imitate ourselves, whether by smiling at someone or telling a joke, or singing a song. It is a human need when you feel something inside to express it outwardly. And that life giving substance the sun shines out is a lot like our own creative actions. The sun is telling us that if you repeat an action every day (like learning something, playing something or making something), the object of your efforts will grow and grow. Your ability to express yourself or to give to the world around you will grow with your persistence in doing whatever that thing is you do. And even though the sun appears to go up and down, having its process of apparently rising up, peaking, going down, and then hiding, science has taught us that this only appears this way to our point of view and it is circling around, and shining at full strength always. Likewise our own ups and downs just appear as they do to us. In actuality we are thriving all the time. Everything we do is directed towards shining our form of light. We couldn’t do it if we were just peaking all the time, just as life as we know it would end if the sun always stayed at what appears to us as its highest point of strength. A person could never exceed at something if they just did it once in a while, it’s a hint and half that the thing we owe our existence to repeats its rounds every day. Persistence is an incredibly potent thing. We are lucky that life isn’t like dreams, in which the result of our actions is lost by the next dream. Here we have the ability to build a thing from day to day, whether it is skill at something or an actual edifice. Whether in the physical world or in our minds, this principle stands. We read one page of a book, and upon reading the next page its events appear to us as following the last one. In music, one note leads to the next, the new one heard in relationship to the ones, which preceded it. Or we learn the basics of something and then gradually learn that subjects complexities. These gifts are ours to do whatever we want with.
Trying and giving up go hand in hand. But it’s trying that deserves the attention of our will. Giving up is just breathing out. Breathing in is the one we need to remember to do. Breathing out naturally follows. The important thing is just to keep breathing. To try and then just go through all that happens, including not trying. And so we hold our breath sometimes. These things aren’t problems. They are just living. As long as the message you send yourself is that it is important to you to be guided by the creative force inside you, in the long run you are on the same path as the sun. Of course you’ll seem to go up and down, and be in darkness and light. That’s life. The reality of it is that you are a shining star circling through space all the time. So by making your own circular actions (doing some creative or educational activity consistently) you will naturally become more of what you really are. And you are that already. It’s just a game to learn to be it more completely amidst environment, and the illusions of constant change and separateness. One entirety of everything is all there is, ever was, and ever will be.
Tags: Breathing In, Existence, Imrael, Reaching Up, The Sun, Trying and Giving Up