Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"Who runs may read": Brion Gysin and The Thousand and One Nights, 1954

Who runs may read but few run fast enough. What are we here for? Does the great metaphysical nut revolve around that? Well, I'll crack it for you right now. What are we here for? We are here to go! (Brion Gysin)

In 1954 Brion Gysin operated The Thousand and One Nights, a Tangier restaurant, "in order to hear the musicians of Jajouka every night for the rest of my life." That bond remained even as Gysin went on to other things; eventually, in 1968, Gysin himself would introduce Brian Jones to the musicians and be involved in the recording of The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka, released in 1971 by the Rolling Stones.
According to a note from Paul Bowles included in One Night @ the 1001 he recalls bringing a tape recorder and capturing performances by the master musicians. Bowles writes: "Brion was wildly enthusiastic about the music, but he was not sure about my recording it" -- ironic, considering Gysin's later sound experiments and ever-present Uher tape-recorder. He must have had a change of heart: Ramuntcho Matta, the disc's producer writes in the liner notes that 'Brion gave me 23 reel-to-reel tapes that he recorded himself" before Gysin died in 1986.
Gysin's nature as an artist was quicksilver: he tried his hand at so many arts, and loved to cross disciplines, that he remained an elusive figure throughout his life. This two-disc set presents two aspects of Gysin's Tangier stay. The first disc is an edited hour-long recording of the master musicians. The performance is intimate and energetic, almost sounding like wild chamber-music for Tangier's international set.
This is not the 24-hour-long pipes of Pan -- but it is mysterious, sometimes frantic, and otherworldly, qualities enhanced by the obvious on-site recording. Presented here without titles or text, translation or lyrics, the music remains as inscrutable as Gysin would have wished, and just as mesmerizing.
"Dilaloo," Gysin's 1955 recitation inspired by the rites of Pan, is on the second disc. It is included here with an added, improvised musical accompaniment by producer Ramuntcho Matta. Gysin's poem recreates the ritual of initiation and transformation in the village of Jajouka.
His reading has moments of force and power, an incantation that mirrors the swirling rhythms on the first disc. It's also a fascinating attempt at putting the ineffable into words. While the music of Jajouka speaks for itself, on their own Gysin's words are as much an explanation as the listener could ask of this strange and powerful music.
The "Dilaloo" lyrics -- incantations, really -- are included in the CD, and are also printed in full in Back in No Time: A Brion Gysin Reader, a 2002 anthology edited by Jason Weiss.
Like Gysin's novels, this re-issued CD set has slipped in-and-out-of-print over the years, a result of the artist's multifaceted legacy as a writer, performer, and artist. In a twist on the increasing popularity of other artists associated with the beat generation, Gysin's reputation remains as elusive as ever.

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