Saturday, September 1, 2012

Blood Music Sex Magick panel at SxSW 2012

On March 16, the SxSW Music Conference in Austin, TX played host to the Blood Music Sex Magick panel discussing the interplay between magickal theory and practice and popular music over the last 100 or so years.

The panel was moderated by myself and comprised, Andrew WK, Erik Davis, Alison Fensterstock and Brother Joshua Sharp

On his website Andrew W.K. describes himself as "the KING OF PARTYING. Infamous for his bloody nose, famous for his high-life attitude, beloved for his songs like, "PARTY HARD", "WE WANT FUN", and "YOU WILL REMEMBER TONIGHT", Andrew's true will is to use all forms of entertainment to create feelings of pure joy, fun, love, freedom, and possibility.

"He is a multi-faceted musician and performer. Starting his musical career at age 4 with classical piano lessons, then exploring experimental and fine art interests, Andrew went on to create his own brand of extremely high-energy rock 'n' roll. Andrew grew up in the open-minded Midwestern city of Ann Arbor. At age 18, after being accepted into The Art Institute of Chicago, Andrew decided instead to move to New York City and pursue art and music on his own. He released his first album ‘I Get Wet” in 2001 and has been busy recording, touring, lecturing, making television appearances, producing other artists and the like ever since.

Erik Davis has been writing about the intersection of popular culture, media technology, and alternative religion for over twenty years. He has written a number of books, including the 33 1/3 book on Led Zeppelin IV and the more recent Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica. He hosts the popular podcast Expanding Mind, and is currently earning his PhD in religious studies at Rice University.

Alison Fensterstock is a New Orleans-based music and pop culture writer. Her work has appeared in Paste, Vibe,, MOJO, Q, the Oxford American, the New Orleans alt-weekly Gambit and the New Orleans Times-Picayune where she blogs regularly

In 2011, she co-wrote the book "The Definition of Bounce" with rapper 10th Ward Buck She was the bounce consultant for season 2 of HBO's dramatic program "Treme" and co-curated the bounce and hip-hop documentary exhibition and oral history archive "Where They At," with the photographer Aubrey Edwards.

She is also the programming director for the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation, for whom she researched the Louisiana State Museum’s “Unsung Heroes” exhibit on Louisiana R&B, rock, garage and blues.

Joshua Sharp was the founding Master of Alombrados Oasis, the New Orleans based body of the Ordo Templi Orientis, a Thelemic initiatory fraternity. He has been an initiate of this Order since 2002 and has had an avid interest in Thelema, the discipline of Magick, and the method of Scientific Illuminism since 1999. He has also been an Aspirant to the A.'.A.'. since 2008 and continues to prosecute this Great Work.

Joshua is a graduate of the University of New Orleans and holds a continuing interest in neuropsychology, philosophy, and the sciences in general. He holds a strong interested in the intersection between ritual and music. He continues to explore both of these as sources for inspiration and as techniques for producing the ecstasy of transcendence.

The major revelations of the Blood Music Sex Magick panel were:

The practice of magick is alive, well and apparently valid in our scientific era; that most popular American music was infected by the conventions of religio-magickal practice at their inception; that these conventions have been affecting and been manifest in the work of a number of massively popular musical performers, sometimes intentional and sometimes not; and finally that an acknowledgement of what’s popularly termed “magick” at the very least can lead to an appreciation of one’s environment and circumstances that results in additional zest and excitement.

The panel was led off by Joshua Sharp, a long time member of the Ordo Templi Orientis, a magickal Order once helmed by notorious ceremonial magician Aleister Crowley. Sharp explained the myriad areas of study and types of practice that comprised his pursuit of this interest which included the works of Christian mystics, Hebrew Qabalahists, and Greek magical papyri to name a few and as yoga , meditation and martial arts. No magic wands, no sacrificing virgins, no crystal balls, just lots of intense earnest study and application. The goal of all this was first and foremost self-understanding and self-mastery but also having visionary experiences and creating objective change. None of this conforming to popular stereotypes of Dungeons and Dragons aficionados wielding elaborate, arcane spells, wearing gaudy costumes primarily to bring a bit of glamor into otherwise pathetic lives.

Alison Fenstertock, an active music journalist from New Orleans then addressed the influence that the ritual music of Vodun practioners performing in Congo Square had on the Jazz, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll that would eventually emerge in that city. She identified the distinctive rhythms, peculiar syncopations that were intended to induce particular trance states, opening up participants in rituals to possession by respective Loa/deities with different Loa having distinctive emotional make-ups -- aggressive, erotic, serene and so on -- affects echoed in the mood altering powers of differently composed and performed secular music. Fensterstock also discussed the relationship that various performers had with the religio-magical traditions of New Orleans pointing out that even those who weren’t devotees still were notably influenced - comparing this to how many New Yorkers, whatever their ethnicity, use a smattering of Yiddish and have to have their bagel and lox in the morning!

Author and radio show host Erik Davis addressed the matter how seriously prominent rock musicians had been in their involvement with the occult. He cited artists like Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, David Bowie and the band Black Sabbath among others and noted that there was a range of actual practice and belief ranging from Black Sabbath’s viewing occult topics as purely spooky trappings, straight out of horror movies and intended are entertainment and nothing more to Jimmy Page who’s discreetly but vervetntly discussed his belief in and practice of the magickal techniques established by Aleister Crowley for decades now. One of his main points was that even when artists are using occult language and symbolism without any sincere belief in its efficacy that they do in fact have a life of their own that becomes activate by such use; it creates a “current,” or flow of synchronicity that impacts the objective world and the audience in ways that the artist likely never intended.

Musician Andrew WK expressed his excitement at sharing the panel with these other speaks, thanked them for all he learned from their presentations. He voiced his opinion that involving such studies and practices in one’s life should and could lead to a strong, healthy and more deliberate sense and expression of individuality and thus life as a celebration of joy and creativity.

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