Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Rhythm Line

Following is an excerpt from the upcoming second edition of the Muzoracle handbook, Mythopoetics of Muzoracle, A User's Guide. The guide, along with a 24x36 reference poster and a completely updated interactive website, will be published on September 22nd, the Autumnal Equinox of 2017. The new edition will be shipped free to all current Muzoracle owners.

The Rhythm Line

As vibration falls in frequency downward through light, though ranges imperceptible to us and down through sound, it eventually slows to the point where we can apprehend each individual vibration: pitch becomes pulse. Experientially, vibrations within our pitch range and above exist without regard to time: while we can point to the time when such a frequency begins and ends, while it is occurring, while we are inside of it, time is not referenced; it is irrelevant. Pulse, in contrast, measures time; it is forever concerned with where it’s been and where it’s going. Of course, just because we can’t count individual vibrations beyond a certain speed doesn’t mean they’re not occurring in time; we may experience A440, for example, as timeless, but it’s still a wave cycling 440 times per second. But the fact that we perceive pitch as timeless, and pulse as time-based, suggests two separate modalities so ubiquitous to human experience that they’re easy to miss: being and process. Our lives are spent being and doing; what we perceive as which is a matter of frequency. Again, we’re not talking about what we can scientifically measure, or imagine; we’re talking about what we perceive and experience. The implications of this are considerable: what we consider “is” and what we consider “does” defines for us what is fixed and what is mutable; our experience of reality is built around these distinctions.

In Muzoracle mythopoetics, the frequency that divides these modalities is called the Rhythm Line. It’s more than a fixed number where vibration falls out of our hearing range; it marks a shift in consciousness and varies for different people in different ways at different times. It is quite possible for us, for example, to bring more being into doing, to become more present in time, as any good drummer or meditator will tell you. Presence in life is an altering of our relationship to frequency.

Experientially, for us human critters, pitch—and by extension, harmony—is timeless. Pulse—and by extension, rhythm, scales, and melody—is time-based. In Muzoracle mythopoetics, pitch and harmony—expressed chiefly through the cards and the Musician’s Die—indicate states of being. Rhythm, scales, and melody—expressed in a handful of cards and the Solfège Dice—indicate processes or points within processes.

Friday, January 27, 2017

New Moon Casting with Piano Improv: 01/27/17

As our country, and indeed the world, takes a dark turn toward fascism, we cast the Muzoracle at the dark of the moon, a time for new beginnings.

In the dark of the new moon, preparedness is coupled with an increase of force; we are ready to burst forth. The milieu we enter, though, does not require what we have imagined—instead, we are called to improvise. In music, improvisation is not just randomly making things up—it involves deep listening in mind, feeling, and body, and responding musically in a way that serves the piece at hand. Here and now we are called to consciously respond to a constantly changing environment. The precise form of the end we wish to achieve is not known; our intent, however, our aims, are clear. There’s an old joke that says improvisation is continuously making the best of the mistake you just made. There will be missteps—but they will be first steps in something lovely and unplanned, providing we remain in intent, and listen, listen, listen.

The wherewithal to see our aims through comes from mastering our emotions—if we become overly identified with our emotions, we will become drained. This mastering, though, is not mere repression; it is a service to, a remembering of, a higher mastery, a drive toward and longing for compassion and fellowship. 

Beyond the enormous scope of the issues we face, there’s an even broader challenge at hand, a life lesson on offer for us individually and as a culture. We are called to integrate sorrow. In pain we lash out: the situation we are in is a response to pain. Shall we respond to our pain in kind? Or is there another way? Anger can crystallize into self-righteous belief—so the gun is passed. But sorrow can embrace, like two friends long estranged. Perhaps then the real work of conciliation can begin.

Casting notes. Key of A descending: Throat Chakra, issues of communication. Under do, the Point of Inception, a Major Sixth of Brass crossed by Crescendo: preparedness and increase in force. Under so, the Point of Vitality, a Conductor of Strings: mastery in feeling. Under fa, the Point of Transition, a Minor Third of Voices: sacrifice. Under ti, the Point of Revelation, Improvisation. Over te, the Point of Opportunity, al Segno: intuition. Over le, the Point of Mechanicality, a Unison of Voices: fellowship. Over ra, the Point of Broad Challenge, a Minor Third of Strings: sorrow. Under la, the Point of Governance, a Conductor of Voices: mastery in spirit.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Pondering Prediction

The following is excerpted from the 2nd edition of the Muzoracle Handbook, "The Harmonic Engine: Mythopoetics of Muzoracle", which will be published Midsummer 2016. 

We all have the ability to predict the future to some degree: if the sky is full of black clouds, for example, we might predict rain. Beyond that, we’ve all experienced hunch: the phone rings and we know who it is before we answer, or we’re filled with an unreasonable certainty that something’s going to happen and then it does. These “hunches” can be written off as the brain quickly calculating probabilities and then jumping to conclusions, but if we are observant we recognize a momentary shift in perception at a level much deeper than that. It’s more like a shift in being. For a moment, the line between past and future goes slack; the knots that hold it taut loosen. A similar thing occurs with déjà vu. For the psychics among us, the past/future line is flexible more often and for longer periods. The boundaries between the psychic and others may be less concrete, as might be the usual divisions between the living and the dead. Occasional hunches, a developed intuition, psychic ability: it’s a matter of degree.
Intuitions, gut feelings, aha! moments: these occur within us at a level deeper than that of our ordinary experience. As soon as the magic passes, however, we can’t help but begin to process these moments in an ordinary way. This can be problematic when we base our advice to others on those intuitions. Example: say we have an insight regarding another person’s behavior: we see an underlying fear manifesting as aggression. That insight might engender compassion for them, and a compassionate response from us. It also, however, might trigger judgement in us at some unseen level, and we end up unknowingly mixing our compassion and insight with our opinions and conclusions. With all the best intentions, we wipe our drama on them—in the name of "help." The psychics we consult are only human, too: no matter how profound their insights, they can’t automatically be trusted to give it to us clean. 
"Know thyself": Excavation from the
San Gregorio convent in Rome.
So how do we proceed? Skip oracles altogether? Perhaps. Throw intuition out the window, pretend it doesn’t exist? Become fundamentalist materialists, vigorously thumping our bibles of empirical data? Hopefully not. The same dictum holds true when navigating oracles and intuition as when undertaking any inner work worth its salt: know thyself. Observe yourself, detachedly and ruthlessly. Learn to see your unconscious mechanisms in action, learn what runs you; learn to discern one part within from another, the higher from the lower. Learn what it means to be present. Learn silence, and so listening: a good part of “psychic” is simply being quiet enough to hear. 

And when do we know ourselves enough? When are we silent enough? When are we prepared enough? Quite possibly never. What we can be, though, is humble. Wherever we fall on the spectrum of self-awareness or psychic ability, we can be assured that we don’t know it all: we can remain in question. Each of us is such a complex combination of beliefs, ideas, feelings, histories, hopes, fears, subterfuge… whether we’re reading or being read for, it is best to maintain between reader and querent a sense of creative conspiracy. The glimpses and hints and metaphoric possibilities that they see, that you see—what from them can you together make that is useful? Sometimes circumstances are playing out in a way that is clear, and it is not possible to change them. We can, however, always redefine our relationship to those circumstances, and an oracle can shine light on the possibilities. Whatever the aims of a Muzoracle casting or reading of any sort, empowerment and choice for the querent should be foremost.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Other Side of Darkness

The dark is done, the light is born: we have crossed into Winter. In the long dark of last night, I cast the Muzoracle. How might we navigate this time?

The keycenter, G# Ascending, energy moving upward from the Throat to Third Eye: being understood. The first position, Timbre under se: destiny at the Point of Inception. The second position: a Conductor of Strings over ti: mastery in the realm of feeling at the Point of Transition. The final position and axis of the casting, Improvisation crossed with a Minor Second of Woodwinds under me: creative response and conflicting ideas at the Point of Opportunity.

This casting can be pertinent to many areas of life. The first that comes to mind, though, is politics, especially those of the US. Every musical instrument has its unique timbre, its own sound determined by its shape; the Timbre card refers to becoming ourselves. That it occurs at the Point of Inception implies that the process is already underway: seeded in the dark, a new form is emerging. The very fact of where Sanders stands in the culture is visible proof of such an emergence — it is a hopeful time. 

The second and third positions address the how-to. First, in order to navigate the transition to the next level, we are required to become masters of our emotions. That doesn’t mean repressing them — they arise and must be honored — it means mustering will with regard to expressing them, and not identifying with and indulging them. This is a work: there’s a lot to be distressed and pissed off about. When is it effective to get in people’s faces, and when is it not? The I Ching advises that in a time of emergence, gentleness is in order:  “Everything must be treated tenderly and with care at the beginning, so that the return may lead to a flowering.” Sound advice, so to speak.

The final position speaks of improvising, of responding creatively, in the face of conflicting philosophies and ideas. Creative responding without reactive emoting: this is where the opportunity to fill our emerging form lies.

We have reached the other side of darkness — may it be light.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Full Moon Casting for 8/29/15

You are on the cusp of understanding: your mind has begun to comprehend what the heart and spirit knows. Remember your intentions regarding fulfillment — this new understanding is a support toward those ends. In order to move forward some things must be abandoned; intuitively you know what those things are.

Beyond the mundane challenges you face, there is a life lesson at hand. You are at center stage, all eyes are upon you, it is a moment to shine; and you are called to respond in an unexpected way, a way that may not at first be obvious. The path is clear when you ride the right horse: proceed calmly, with heart open and intuition fully engaged.

click for larger image

Casting notes. Under do descending, the point of inception, we find Theory; in the same position, we find the Nine of Cups moving upward from the point of intention. Under la descending, the point of governance, we find Editing in conjunction with the High Priestess. The axis of the casting is over ra ascending, the point of broad challenge, of karmic debts and payments; here we find Performance crossed with Ossia, with the Knight of Cups descending from the point of vitality.

The Muzoracle cards in this casting are all compositionals: a rare occurrence. Emotion and intuition loom large: the casting begins and ends in Cups, with the High Priestess at center. The necessary culling that Editing calls for is represented by the sickle-shaped new moon; this is echoed in the same moon/sickle at the feet of the Priestess. But the new moon is coming; the full moon is here, and we see it shining on the face of Performance. It crosses Ossia, the alternate passage; karmically, we are called to an “alternate performance.”

Further subtleties. This casting is in the key of D descending, and so resonates in the body primarily at the second chakra, the seat of creativity. The burgeoning understanding at position 1 seems miles away from the karmic call at position 3: they are separated by a major seventh, which is a long way. The culling at position 2 fills the hole. That culling is somber business in relation to this new understanding — positions 1 and 2 are separated by a minor third. Finally, there is a longing urgency between the culling at 2 and the karma at 3, as they are separated by a minor sixth.

Musically, though based in the key of D, this casting feels very much in the key of G; this “future is now” aspect reinforces the “already underway” qualities of position 1. It also brings the throat chakra into play, which resonates with Performance. The sweetness of the harmony at position 2 suggests that the culling at hand may include a sense of relief.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Muzoracle, Tarot, I Ching: Similarities and Differences

The Muzoracle is subtitled “The Tarot of Music,” and is sometimes described as “a musical cross between Tarot and the I Ching.” How exactly is the Muzoracle related to those two systems? What are the differences between it and them?

The Tarot deck is divided into two types of cards, the Major and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana is made up of the 22 archetypal, pictorial cards most commonly associated with Tarot: cards like The Fool, The Empress, Death, The Sun, and so on. The Minor Arcana is made up of 56 cards divided into four suits, and includes numbered cards and court cards; those are the cards from which our standard playing cards are derived.

The Muzoracle deck is analogous to the Tarot deck in that its cards, too, are divided into two types: the 34 Compositionals and the 55 Harmony Cards. Honestly, though, the similarity between the two decks pretty much ends there. The Compositionals are based on musical concepts and directives found in musical composition: things like Melody, Tonality, Rhythm; slow down, get louder, repeat, pause. The Harmony Cards, divided into five suits, are the more archetype-driven cards in the Muzoracle Deck; but they are based on sonic archetypes, two and three note combinations that convey their meaning primarily through their sound rather than their images and ideas. The Harmony Cards also include their version of the court cards; in lieu of kings, queens, knights, and pages, however, there are conductors, soloists, and accompanists.

The similarities between the Muzoracle and the I Ching are even more amorphous, with one significant exception: like the hexagrams of the I Ching, the positions in a Muzoracle casting are characterized by underlying movement. Muzoracle mythopoetics are driven by something called The Harmonic Engine: all of the elements in a casting contain and are contained within other elements, which are all on the way to and from somewhere else. The workings of the Engine may not be obvious in a casting, and a theoretical knowledge of them is not necessary in order to use the oracle; nonetheless, the Engine’s action pervades the Muzoracle experience. There is a sense of things in motion that one can tap into and use, rather than some sort of fixed doom that one is sentenced to live out.

Indeed, it is this “lack of fixedness” that separates the Muzoracle from other divinatory tools, especially the Tarot. Each card in the Tarot brings a lot with it: those images, those terms, those numbers, its history of use as a predictor. Therein lies its power, and its attraction, and its potential for good use and misuse. The Muzoracle is not meant to supplant the Tarot, nor to pose itself as greater-than; it is simply different. Each position in a Muzoracle casting is defined by keywords, a sound, a place in a scale, a geometric shape, a color… a combination of abstract elements that fire the imagination and intuition. The relationship between querent and reader is more one of creative co-conspiracy than prophecy; the endgame is empowerment, a sense of choices one owns.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Navigating the Halcyon Days, December 14–28

This year, Sunday, December 14th marks the beginning of the Halcyon Days, which run 7 days before and 7 days after the Winter Solstice. In Greek mythology, these days – the “Alcedonia” – marked a time when the Mediterranean seas became unusually calm, so that halcyon birds – kingfishers – could nest. And there is a quiet that becomes available around this time, if we stop to notice. In the short days and long nights leading up to the solstice, there’s a kind of turning inward that happens, a reflectiveness, and a tenderness toward others; gatherings with friends have a different quality, as does our quiet time alone. In the lengthening days after the solstice – in the days between Christmas and the New Year – we find a kind of bright emptiness, spare and clean, and a sense of space to begin; and these days, too, are imbued with a singular quiet and calm.

In the bustle of the season, with it’s parties and shopping and travel and crowds, how can we remember, how can we live more fully, this magical, gentle quiet that’s on offer? How can we be it, share it, make the best of it?

click to enlarge

The casting opens with a gift of seeing: a seismic shift is underway for us at a being level, an evolutionary step up, and we have a sense of it. We are asked to set an intention to commit to this fledgling self, to allow what we are becoming to become our center. We find opportunities for this in our relationships with others: opportunity to see, and opportunity to be. At the same time, opportunities arise for closeness and understanding in the relationships themselves. It’s a lovely thing. All of this happens best during the rituals the season provides: gatherings of two or twenty, dinners, walks in nature, trips to the snow, kids around the tree… whichever best suits us.

Walking out the door, however, we run into difficulty: schedules conflict, traffic snarls, people are late or no-shows, tempers flare. We try and get on people’s wavelength, but we try too hard – perhaps we’re pushing to be heard without listening, or bucking for approval; perhaps they are. The effort required in these situations: lead with the heart. Give. Let go, listen, and give. If it’s their turn to give, give first anyway. You’ll find yourself loved and appreciated without asking for it – and there’ll be room for some of that shiny new stuff to emerge.

The Halcyon Days have their own rhythm, and it’s a polyrhythm: the big boomers of gatherings and events, the crazy cacophony of the mall parking lot, and the quiet pulse of the season itself, gentle as the sea. Focus on one aspect of the rhythm, and you’ll choke and sputter; embrace it all and, like the halcyon, you’ll soar.

A blessed Yule to you all. –JSK

Casting Notes.  Keycenter, D ascending: 2nd Chakra (sacral, creative.) 1st position: Tritone of Voices over fa, impetus in the realm of spirit at the point of revelation. 2nd position: Tonality over do, centeredness at the point of intention. 3rd position: Harmony under te, relationship at the point of opportunity. 4th position: Form under ra, form at the point of vitality. 5th position, axis: Minor Second of Brass crossed with Tuning over re: tuning into others and conflict in the realm of movement over the point of mechanicality. 6th position: Perfect Fifth of Strings over mi, initiative in the realm of feeling at the point of effort required. 7th position: Soloist of Woodwinds under se, autonomy in the realm of thought at the point of inception. 8th position: Octave of Strings under me, strength in the realm of feeling at the point of governance. 9th position: Rhythm under le, rhythm at the point of dependence.

The Halcyon Days derive from the myth of Alcyone and Ceyx, which can be found in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.”  

Muzoracle creator J S Kingfisher is available for private castings with music, as well as instruction, workshops, and presentations. For more information, contact him here.