Pluto Descends image

As Pluto descends... 

Mercury rises

1.        Prefiguration  3:13  click to listen    
2.        Silvigy   3:12
3.        Pulse   2:19
4.        Dusksong 2   3:52  click to listen
5.        Evensong Duet   3:47
6.        Dance in Mid-Flight   1:59
7.        Shard of Light   1:45
8.        For Keith   7:28
9.        Dusksong 4   4:23
10.     Escher Intermezzo   1:26
11.     Midnight Street Blues   6:00
12.     Fantasy 1   3:26
13.     Fantasy 2   2:03
14.     Plainsong   2:14
15.     Phantom River Boat Song   4:58  click to listen
16.     Funkydoctorgroove (mini mix)   3:05
17.     Bourrée   4:31
18.     Take My Soul to the River (gospel mix)   5:46
19.     Softly Blanketing the Quiet Earth   1:48
20.     Distempered Landscape 3   8:09  click to listen
21.    A Dream   3:30

To a large chunk of rock floating out in deepest space, it probably doesn’t much matter what big-brained bipeds several planets over think of it. (In August, 2006, Pluto was demoted from ‘planet’ status by the International Astronomical Union.) But then why shouldn’t it?  Six billion humans just might constitute the largest force of imagination the solar system has ever known (or perhaps since Mars’s demise?). The stars have always exercised a tidal pull on that imagination, an imagination that is responsible for wars, and for radical transformations of our planet’s surface.

God of the Roman Underworld, Pluto was considered to be the ruler of wealth, of the Earth’s mineral riches, and of death. His Greek counterpart, Hades, stole the maiden Persephone and brought her with him to his Underworld abode as his wife for half the year, leaving her mother Demeter in sadness while the Earth languished through the winter months.

If Pluto is descending, we can depend on Mercury, the transformer, communicator, herald of wisdom (Hermes), to remind us that Pluto's descent is always a descent into glory. His descent is an ascent (as the staircase above is a descending one that takes us upward to the Earth outside). (The image is a photograph of a tunnel beneath a hill at Lysa Hora, or Bald Mountain, in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Witches once congregated on the hilltop; today it is environmental activists who congregate, defending the hill from incursions of illegal developers.)


Photo from Lysa Gora building site

Descending in order to ascend, we humans too have seen better days.

The music on this recording was composed, or ‘comprovised,’ between January and August of 2006. The majority of these pieces are single-take solo improvisations performed on a Yamaha Clavinova; a handful (mostly later on the disk) are rhythmically embellished or more complexly layered. The tuning system used on some of these is unusual, thanks to the fact that the Clavinova allows for easy detuning and retuning. Some of these pieces may strike some listeners as ‘out of tune,’ in the same way that non-Western music may sound that way, or in the way that saxophone genius Ornette Coleman’s style in the late 1950s sounded ‘out of tune’ to listeners unaccustomed to such extended note bending, though for Ornette it was a matter of bending the scale to suit the expressive needs of the music.

Why fiddle with the tuning of a piano? The ‘equal tempered’ scale that we have all grown up with, which every piano and many other instruments are tuned to – the division of the octave into twelve equal parts – is an seventeenth century European invention intended to standardize the musical scale to make it easy for composers to change keys as often as they wished. This allowed for the high degree of harmonic complexity of western classical music, a complexity gained at the expense of the rhythmic and sonorous richness and earthy ‘groundedness’ of other musics – but that’s a topic for another discussion. Until then, that scale existed nowhere in nature. What does exist is a set of natural harmonics, and it is from these that other cultures have tended to develop their scales. Westerners’ ears have been tuned to fit the standard formula,but at the expense of hearing those natural harmonies.

‘Just Intonation’ is the generic word for tuning systems that try to bring back some of the purity of harmonies found in nature, but which, ironically, sound out of tune to people used to equal temperament. Some pieces here are in variations of Just Intonation; a few are more radically altered, the penultimate track (track 20), from a series called “Distempered Landscapes,” being the most obvious example. The intent is to free up our inner tonal coordinates, like acupuncture or Tai Chi does to our bodies. The best way I know to listen to this sort of music is to crank it up and just submit to it, letting the tones resonate and wash through you as if you were earth and they were sunlight, water, clouds, storms, lightning. The initial effect may be decentering, but they will gradually massage your ears (and body and soul) back into shape, or at least break them open a little to that natural state of wonder that they were born with. Or so I hope.

 This music here is dedicated to those who’ve served as my teachers and inspirations: LaMonte Young, Terry Riley, Cecil Taylor, Lubomyr Melnyk,
Keith Jarrett, Tanya Tkachenko, Georgii Ivanovich Gurdjieff, David Michael Bunting, and the many masters of Slavic Orthodox choral chant, West African kora, Javanese gamelan, etc etc.

At the moment this music is only available by mail order. Further information, as well as musical selections, will be forthcoming.

A. Ivakhiv  

(Adrreeyan Eevakheev)

Return to Adrian Ivakhiv web page.