"The earth has music for those who listen." - George Santayana
"Music heard so deeply that it is not heard
At all, but you are the music." - T. S. Eliot
"For all at last returns to the sea - to Oceanus, the ocean river, the everflowing
stream of time, the beginning and the end." - Rachel Carson
The new release of Seastones is now available in our online store. Seastones release presents most but not all of composition as originally composed. For this release, Seastones has been re-mixed and re-mastered in stereo, and includes most of the original 1970-1974 studio (core) forms (almost all have never been heard before), as well as the parts of my concurrent composition L that are shared with Seastones (L remains unfinished), and some of the moment forms generated and accreted into the composition from live performances (1973 - early 1975).
Another set of CD’s/digital downloads to be released later will complete Seastones and include the planned Round Records and carried over to United Artists second Seastones album “Make a Cat Laugh” based partly on the March 17, 1975 Seastones studio session, other 1975 studio recording sessions, live performance accreted forms, and the few remaining original Seastones core forms not included in this present release. This second release utilizes digital audio technology and processing imagined in the original composition of the time but only available after I stopped live and studio performance.
Seastones is an open form mobile composition of compositions (moment forms), and a improvisational performance form. This eighty-three moment form edition comprises most but not all of the complete Seastones, following the original intent of creating a musical composition whose constituent moment forms were not meant to be listened to (or performed) as one fixed linear progression. Instead, Seastones is composed as an “emergent whole” of different collections and orderings or sequences, of the constituent moment forms. There is no one beginning, middle, or end.
A listener can choose one or more, or all, of the eighty-three moment forms (tracks) in any desired order to make a set, a personal individual listening experience. When creating a set or collection, a listener can mix the selection of moment forms from either or both CDs; the two CDs do not represent any preferred orderings, and CD 1 does not precede CD 2. The tracks have been re-named (and re-numbered) from their originals for listener ease, and are not indicative of compositional history or listening order. The moment form selection process can be by personal preference, or some numerical, chance, or other process. Creating, listening to a set of moment forms creates a world line in Seastones musical spacetime.
This edition includes most but not all of the original studio (core) forms, and some of those moment forms generated from live performances (1972-1975) and accreted into the composition. For this two CD release, Seastones has been re-mixed and re-mastered in stereo from the surviving original 16 track, 4 track, and 2 track magnetic tape masters. Ironically, some of the Seastones tapes were lost in the flood of 1982 in northern California. The surviving Seastones tapes were transferred to digital media in 2005 and were restored and re-mixed by me between 2005 and 2017. Restoration included using digital audio tools for noise removal layer by layer, track by track. This new release uses original audio tracks and original processing of tracks that could not be used before because of layers of hiss and noise.
The technology used for this release, with the exception of software noise removal, was limited to that available at the time of the original recording, or software versions emulating the studio processing capabilities of the time available to me. The sound quality is very good.
seastones, sea stones, seas tones
Whenever I walk along the beach I find myself, like so many others, picking up stones cast up or uncovered by the waves. Each stone calling out and insisting on being picked up, to be held and experienced. Each one different, with its own shape, and color, composition, and surface texture. Each a unique presence, each a droplet of time, a moment form.
Each stone a little fragment of another place and time. Some are just one mineral, some made of many; some are crystalline; some magnetic; some meteorites from the birth of the this solar system or the universe; some contain fossils of ancient lives and little life form's, their stories imprinted. Ephemeral existence.
And each charged with its own storied experience of presence and absence, of the ever changing conditions of ancient oceans and atmosphere, of ancient rain and heat and cold and wind, of sunlight and darkness, of the passage of individual living beings and of entire species. Charged with the wildness of billions of nights and days, an immense "timescape" (time "landscape", time spatialized), under the ocean or buried in the sand amongst countless other stones.
The stones always seem to contain stories I need to see and read and hear. Stories to think about, meanings to absorb; a different story or meaning radiating out of each and every individual stone. Stories about origins (igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary), about journeys down rivers eroding ancient mountains with their forests, journeys to far away beaches. There are some stories which include biological memories, the words and songs of countless creatures from microscopic phytoplankton and zooplankton to the largest animals. And some stories that have galactic themes.
And from the sea the voices, harmonies, modulations, rhythms and tonalities of it's aliveness and presence, the sea around us and in us.
I learned to see all the seastones and the seashore as a composite universe of individual moments seen and heard and felt all at once, a whole, felt-all-at-once mosaic of individual timescapes. Moments of different type and scale and dimensionality gathered together in a special way to form a sensuous whole. Each with the kind of time (and space) sense or intuition held by modern physicists who no longer try to contain events or things in time (or space), but think of each event or thing (or moment) as making its own time (and its own space).
And from the wild sea stones, each with its individual presence and resonance, I am reminded of some things I think are very important:
- We live within and not separate from all the things we perceive: clouds, surf, the green and yellow beach grasses, the small wavelets of water disappearing into the beach sand, and the wild sea stones.
- The world, the universe, is still being made and we, our bodies and minds, are part of nature, of the world, of the universe. We are biology, and geology, chemistry, physics, cosmology. Our bodies are made of elements that once were (and will be again) in the bodies of other organisms, and in rocks, in streams, in plants, and in the oceans and in the sky, and originally came from the stars. Our thoughts and feelings (and those of all other life forms) are nature, like waves and clouds, rocks and water, grass, flowers, trees, forests, hills, streams. As is the music we play and sing, the pictures we make, the words we write. Star dust becomes life, desire, love, spirit.
- Life moves through moments of form, and beauty can come from a collection of carefully selected (or crafted) moments perceived not as a linear sequence or progression alone, in which the present moment is the consequence of the previous one and the prelude of the coming one, but perceived all at once, shimmering and alive with movement and energy, outside the illusion of a linear and continuous flow of time.
The wild sea stones reaffirm both the mystical connectedness and the solitary ephemeral presence of all things.
"True music must repeat the thought and inspirations of the people and the time."
- George Gershwin
The composition of Seastones encompassed a time (1970 and before) when the world was filled with the promise of new ideas and a hopeful and positive future. 20th century art and individualism and modernism, science and technology, satellites and space travel and moon landings, transistors, miniature electronics, new chemistry and physics, and new ecological world views combining environmental and spiritual consciousness. And the contrasting worlds of current affairs, the historical and personal realities of war (Vietnam), fears of nuclear holocaust, and social change. Science and technology changing our views of the world, with new perspectives and perceptions.
A time characterized by cultural metaphors of creation and synthesis associated with science, especially electronics, chemistry, and biology. And aesthetic ideas inherent in 20th century visual arts, literature, and music. All becoming part of the imagination of the composer, all becoming present in new forms, processes, and means of expression.
Seastones was composed over the course of more than five years and spans the period from analog magnetic tape composition and electronic synthesis to the beginnings of digital audio synthesis and control. Composing started on paper (written graphical and musical scores and notes); over some time multitrack recording tape (audio “scores”) replaced most but not all paper for me. No digital music media existed at or near the time, but one could see a future with digital random-access media and technologies.
Seastones is a collection of pre-compositional philosophies (reflection and spontaneity, formalism and intuitionism, composition and improvisation) and the electronic music compositional practices and technologies of the time: musique concrete and magnetic tape composition (the cutting up and assembly of many small pieces of tape); analog additive, subtractive, FM synthesis; digital, hybrid analog-computer control; sequencer; mathematical, stochastic, aleatoric, noise, random, generative.
And additionally, some forming concepts for composing, playing, and improvising: modular mobile moment forms with no one temporal sequence, polymorphic and polysemic assemblage through multitrack recording, different kinds of time and the micro/macro time continuum of rhythm and tone, immersive spatial sound and the articulation of form in space, and the interconnection and modulation of ensemble musicians.
Most of my written and recorded music, on paper and on tape, was either stolen (1975) or destroyed by the massive storm and flooding on January 2, 1982 in Northern California. Here are a few recently found survivors:
ways of being in the world
Seastones moment form compositions are individual, independent forms. Playing and improvising on the piano when I was young, I evolved my own ideas about individual musical moments as forms. Derived mostly from music associated or made for TV, radio, movies, classical composed music, and jazz improvisation. Moments form moment forms.
Like real seastones, the Seastones moment forms are each a placetime, a time island, a droplet of time. They are composed and synthesized and skeletal improvisational forms. Some moment forms are ideogrammatic; they communicate their own self-contained structure, each a sensuous object in and of itself. Some of the moment form compositions are an individual, some are related.
Some are metaphoric abstracted forms derived from geology and natural history and paleontology, electronics and electricity, organic and biochemical synthesis, physical processes, mathematics, physics and quantum mechanics, language and linguistic structure, and different forms and perspectives from pictorial (and abstract) visual art (paintings - cubism, pointillism, impressionism, expressionism, color field). And some from the sea, with tonalities that are complex ocean surface and deep wave forms and currents, with the superposition of many wave forms from many sources. Some moment forms are just one wave form cycle.
And some from nature and biology, and from other creatures; music as something shared with other forms of life - other sensing beings' perspectives, their concepts of place and time, self and presence. Their instinctive innate eco-syntonic music(s) and forms of sound and musical induction, entrainment, and entanglement. Their, and our, sensing and feeling of sound and music through and around the body, the physiological effects of music on body and mind and heart. How sound touches. The physicality and sensuality of sound vibrations - sensory fields with harmonics of feelings and meanings.
Playing music is about creating feelings and meanings in (other) creatures. As much about being felt as about being heard. Ways of being in the world.
"Music in the soul can be heard by the universe." - Lao Tzu
shaping electricity, tuning the world
“The earth has music for those who listen.” - George Santayana
“Music heard so deeply that it is not heard
At all, but you are the music.” - T. S. Eliot
As a kid, electricity and electronics, nature and natural history, chemistry and minerals, sound and music, and electromagnetic fields were all connected. When I was seven I had a crystal radio set, with a galena mineral crystal for signal detection, a wire coil for tuning, and a long wire antenna outside my upstairs bedroom window stretching about 30 feet to a tree across our backyard. The set was connected to "ground" through the steam radiator pipe in my room, and I had a set of (Army surplus) headphones. Tuning was accomplished by finding a place ("sweet spot") on the mineral (galena) crystal surface with the little wire (called a "cat's whisker") connected to the tuning coil and antenna, and sometimes other homemade components. The length of the antenna (it looked like a big long piano string) and the tuning circuit determined the signals, stations, places, atmospheric and cosmic sounds one could receive. I sometimes replaced the galena crystal with different minerals. I made my own wire coils (with different spatial field geometries), and modified other components to tune-in unknown or imagined signals.
With my crystal radio, and subsequent radios, I could tune-in stations from all over the world, broadcasting in different languages and every kind of music. And a variety of naturally occurring radio emissions, electromagnetic signals produced by several processes of nature - geologic, atmospheric, oceanic and other phenomena. Sounds associated with, or created by, the earth oscillating with cycles of fractions of seconds, seconds, minutes, hours, and some much longer. I listened at times to two (or more) stations or signals playing different sounds or voices or music intermodulating one another, electromagnetic collage and superposition.
I learned that my radio's circuit components were made originally from minerals, or materials derived from minerals or other naturally occurring materials. With electronic circuitry made from some of these components one could receive (be in tune, syntonic with) signals within a sea of electromagnetic fields. And with a few changes, and a source of energy, circuits of these same or similar components could be used to create oscillations; amplify, filter, mix or otherwise combine signals; and generate and transmit signals as electromagnetic fields. There is a continuum from star dust to chemistry and minerals, to the creation of life forms (biology), to semiconductors (man-made minerals) and transistors, to computers and software, to symbolic consciousness. That continuum is electricity, electromagnetism.
My first electronic synthesis - creating and putting signals through modular home-made circuitry built from these same kinds of components. Electronic sound and music synthesis and processing began for me as shaping electricity.
synthesiers and computers
The compositional tools for both the studio realizations and live performances of Seastones were acoustic, electric, electro-acoustic, electronic instruments, voices, magnetic tape recording, and electronic processing, modulation, and transformation of instruments and voice (words and tones) through modular analog, hybrid analog-digital and computer hardware and software.
The first use made by me of computers for Seastones music synthesis was with an Interdata Model 1 minicomputer (MIT). In a very primitive fashion it was used to generate some of the first Seastones basic source audio: collections of pitches and scales (like a historic one bit monochord), and pseudo-random pitches and noise.
Beginning in 1974, I used an Interdata 7/16 minicomputer and a customized Eu Modular Analog Synthesizer, creating a software-scanned polyphonic keyboard and hybrid computer-controlled instrument. The minicomputer had 16k magnetic core memory, a teletype electro-mechanical keyboard and paper tape reader, and was programmed in assembly language and machine code. The Eu had four voice channels of voltage controlled oscillators, filters, amplifiers and envelope generators, as well as other modules. All the controls on each module that had an adjustment knob also had a custom voltage control input added for computer control or adjustment of that function. The Eu analog system was large enough to input audio and control signals from the other musician's instruments, and vocal and percussion microphones.
The Interdata 7/16 computer was equipped with a hardware interface containing 16 channels of digital-to-analog conversion used to voltage control all the modular functions in the Eu synthesizer, as well as some in customized external circuitry, and on each musician's ring modulators and other effects pedals that had external control inputs. Additionally, the system provided (voltage) speed control of rotary speakers, and customized Echoplex, four- and sixteen- track tape machines.
Small software programs were created to implement the polyphonic Eu keyboard, to change synthesizer patches, settings on external instruments and voices, ensemble interconnections, and for simple sequencing.
In early 1975, an Altair 8800, the first "home computer", was added. The Altair was used for rhythm synthesis and sequencing, and to generate digital sequences and noise, and simple tone synthesis.
interwoven musical identities
"Your head is a living forest full of songbirds." - e e cummings
An important Seastones compositional and improvisational dimension (from1970): the musicians and their musical persona and creativity could manifest, not only directly as each individual's audio, but also in other ways.
For both recorded and live performances of Seastones musicians instruments and voices (audio) were each routed into the Eu analog synthesizer or other electronic signal processing circuitry so that amplitude envelopes, threshold gating signals and triggers (events and rhythms) could be extracted or derived from each individual musician's audio. These became sources of modulation that are the imprints, the musical touch and articulation, personality and presence of each musician. Imprints that could be used to further process their own audio, and imprints that could be used to modulate or otherwise control audio signal processing and synthesis of other musicians’ sound. One musician's instrument or voice (sound and words) modulating or otherwise affecting the sound of other musicians’ instruments and voices. Interweaving multiple individual musical identities within an interconnected group. Playing and collectively improvising within composed musical structures.
"A single word even may be a spark of inextinguishable thought."
– Percy Bysshe Shelley
"Language is fossil poetry. As the limestone of the continent consists of infinite masses of the shells of animalcules, so language is made up of images, or tropes, which now, in their secondary use, have long ceased to remind us of their poetic origin."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Seastones vocals and sung words were written over four years. Mostly my own words but having literary and music influences from many sources. Sources of continuity with the past as well as the then present. Sung and spoken words and lyrics performed through a network of synthesis and processing hardware modulated by the instruments and the voices of others musicians (both heard and unheard). Voices and instruments integrated into one sound world creating a continuum between spoken and sung language and music and sound, and establishing continual metamorphoses of one into the other. Combining and transforming fragments, atomization of words and sentences, poetic compression . Words with layered metamorphic sedimented meanings and connections. Words as fields. Words as waves - the diffraction, refraction, reflection of words. Words with reverberations, with harmonics of feelings, meaning(s). Words as molecules of sound - vibrating and resonating. Word (literary) textual resonances becoming deep electronic sound.
SEASTONES written, composed, and produced by Ned Lagin
Copyright and (P) 1975, 1990, 2017 Ned Lagin
All rights reserved. Published by Ned Lagin
Ned Lagin: piano, clavichord, organ, prepared piano, electric piano, percussion, voice, synthesizers*, computers**, electronics***
Jerry Garcia: electric guitar, pedal steel guitar, voice
Phil Lesh: quad electric bass
David Crosby: electric 12-string guitar, voice
Grace Slick: voice
David Freiberg: voice
Mickey Hart: percussion, gong
Spencer Dryden: percussion
* Eu Modular Synthesizer, Arp 2500, Arp 2600, Arp Odyssey, Electro-Comp, Buchla Modular System
** Interdata 7/16 computer with high speed arithmetic logic unit, Altair 8800
*** homemade analog and digital circuits
Recording Studios (1971-1977): Mickey Hart's Rolling Thunder, Novato, CA; Massachusetts Institute of Technology Architecture Machine Group, Cambridge, Mass.; Bob Weir's Studio, Mill Valley, CA; Brandeis University Electronic Music Studio, Waltham, Mass.; Ned’s Apt., Fairfax, CA
Engineering (1974-5): Betty Cantor, Bob Matthews, Bill Wolf
Additional Engineering (1975-7): Bear, Ned Lagin
Computer Interfacing and Software: Scott Wedge and Ned Lagin
Mix-down Studio (1975): His Master's Wheels, San Francisco, CA
Mix (1974-5): Ned Lagin, Phil Lesh
Mastering (1975): Artisan Sound Recorders, Hollywood, CA
Digital Conversion (2005): Fantasy Records, Berkeley, CA
Mix-down Studio (2007-2017): Ned's laptop, Novato, CA
Mix (2005-2017): Ned Lagin
Mastering (2007): Paul Stubblebine
Additional Engineering (2012): Celso Alberti
Additional Mastering (2017): Ned Lagin
Package Production (2017): Brad Starks and Loopy
Special Thanks (1975): Ruth Poland, Andy Moorer, Dan Healey, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Behren Reeves and Interdata, Inc., Scott Wedge and Eu Systems, Darrell Johnson, Ramrod, Joe Winslow, and The Grateful Dead
Special Thanks (2017): g, ty, n, bb, s, te
Photo of wild sea stones: Ned Lagin
Copyright 2017 Ned Lagin. All rights reserved