Persian Surgery Dervishes
Terry Riley Persian Surgery Dervishes
(Two versions: Los Angeles 1971 & Paris 1972)
Newtone Records nt 6715.
Terry Riley [electric organ & feedback]
Durations: LA version: 43:13, Paris version: 47:15
Terry Riley's two-version issue of his organ improvisation Persian Surgery Dervishes reached cult status from the very beginning, and that effect has hardly ceased over the years. This kind of mind-bending, hallucinatory repetetive music is by its nature timeless. It was at first released on a double vinyl album on the French Shandar label. Later it appeared on a double CD from equally French label Mantra, but this second CD release comes on Italian label Newtone.
I think the best way to approach this music is to let intuition and imagination free, and just sit back and join the flow of tones. That is what I did, and this is the verbal result of that:
When it comes to Terry Riley one tends to shoot up out of the savannas and veer out into a void of round suspended shapes at the rendezvous of necks and noses in space bent, but we make a serious effort and hold on helium light just above the green masses of leaves in the jungles of South America, where the moisture boils up in the thermals in gigantic mile high hammerheads of roaring thunder, while piercing shrieks from apes and parrots cut through the auditory canals.
We soar with ease out over the savannas of Africa, where the gleaming grass is bending in the breeze, and we see zebras like black and white xerox copies move in small grazing herds. But we know nothing with certainty only that we are elevated across the landscape, in steep dives that sometimes are dizzying. We shoot out into the air space between the walls of Grand Canyon, but soon perform an air show above the gardens of Versailles, where educated people of the 18th century restfully converse at a slow walking pace.
Its Persian Surgery Dervishes at Le Théatre de la Musique in Paris May 24th 1972. Riley plays an electric organ, tuning the mind into Eastern hypnosis through the warmth of the night. He weaves a wondrous pattern of purple and gold around our conceptions, and a golden Buddha figure with legs crossed rises above Paris with worlds of enigmatic secrets in his eyes.
Rileys fingers across the keyboard tickle the back of the head, and an intoxication that borders on the total presence of the instant of the orgasm washes through the cerebral cortex. Fingertips and eyelashes glow and vibrate in the minds merger with the Great Spirit, in the merger of the drop and the ocean, in the breathless oneness with all living.
A steamroller rumbles across smoking asphalt, a tank shoves trees and cars on its way to vengeance, an eighteen wheeler roars three days on end from New York to San Francisco, a space shuttle rises in majesty over the swamps of Florida, a God walks in disguise, and fingers dance in naked ecstasy across the keyboard in Paris a night in May.
The insane micro-scraping polishes the skulls of Cambodia bony white, where they lye, piled up in heaps, as reminiscences of the evil inclinations of the human spirit, and the reliefs of Angkor Vat, encompassed by the growing grass, take on a lustre around their contours, as if Jehovah himself was participating.
Simultaneously the flood lights sweep across the Parthenon of Pallas Athena on Acropolis, and the search lights of a 747 light up the airstrip in New Delhi, just as the heavy tonnage roar in above the runway and sets the wheels onto the concrete with a sigh of relief.
The sub-bass of Rileys organ builds brown winding tunnels of infrasound deep down in the earth, through clay and pileworks, and the audience out in the darkness of the May night hovers a few inches above their seats on this magical mystery tour with Baba ORiley.
An army of blue jeans march up Champs Elysées. A horde of khaki shirts gushes out of a side street into the jeans march, and a kaleidoscopic dream takes off between the boulevard trees, sweeping forth above the absinthe-longing restfullnesses of the sidewalk cafeterias.
The engines murmur softly under the hoods of open convertibles gliding along the sidewalks like servo-steered beetles. Deep down an alley a Strindbergian Inferno-memory ducks away under the pulses of Baba ORiley, and a Stig Dagerman cult is biding its time in the suburbs.
777 shiny green colibris stand immobile in the air in front of 777 stark yellow flowers in Panama, and a swarm of butterflies explode above a parking lot outside a super market in Waxahachie.
An overfed Texas accountant with a cigar between his lips and a stetson on his head stops on his way to the V8 which embraces 375 horsepowers under the merciless glare of the sun.
Riley OBaba! Baba ORiley!
In Paris Riley slices thin layers of the night sky above Place de la Concorde and rolls them up into tacos filled with arithmetics and eastern spices, and in the red soil of Palestine ancient scrolls rest undiscovered under the settlers whitewashed houses in the occupied territories.
A shiny metallic cylinder shoots out of the ground at Place Pigalle; the traffic stops to a halt, and the people well out of their cars to listen.
Riley OBaba! Baba ORiley!
A cargo ship rounds Cape Horn, and the champagne corks fly through the salty air of the sea. The albatrosses soar with motionless wings over the last outposts of the Falklands, and in a tenament room on 89th Street on Manhattan a construction worker from Ohio suffers fever hallucinations while Baba ORiley looks for an entrance to the fifth dimension high up in the register of the electric organ.
Down in Antarctica the edge of the ice calves, and big icebergs are launched in rumbling slow-motion.
A thought is born out of a crack in the Greenland inland ice, and the thought is as thin as 18th century silk, and as strong as the Arabs love for Om Kalsoum.
The ringed plovers in Karelia leave hieroglyphic messages in the sand on the shores of distant spruce-needle-black islands of Lake Saimaa, and far across the waters a beach hammock shines raging red , like a land mark for hung-over fishermen.
Saukkonen family on Lake Saimaa early 1950s
At Porkala farm a golden frog-totem stands, and in its shadow the treacherous connoisseur, the panic poet who is the slayer of ants, lurks with the oral cavity filled with the unborn, the stillborn and the immature, but in the wilderness of the forest he picks a bouquet for the swirling mosquito dance of the porch, and from the far away beaver dam the sharp shrill of a Phylloscopus collybita cuts through the wind of the bay.
In the dusk of the sauna the storyteller from Sarkisalmi, with her hair wild and her body gleaming with sweat, is ascending through the steam like a fairytale being out of the Karelian raven forests, where the memories of Vainamoinens fleeing Aino and Lemminkainens loving mother grow wild in the scent of the wild rosemary across the bogs.
The light of night hums goldleaf-thin over the silver strokes of mist along the glass surface of Lake Saimaa.
Under the airy dome of night, owl-dreamy border forests halt before the beavery loon-call-expanses of Lake Saimaa, and the call of the cuckoo rises out of open straits. A woodcock sweeps orrk-orrk-ptssiing just above the tree tops, and in dim ditchbanks beyond the gardens the marsh marigolds glow in the cool moisture of the night.
The swifts dive in steep slants round the bastions of Savonlinna.
Karelian novelist Sirkka Laine in the Porkala cabin 1985
In the Porkala cabin the crackling of the birchwood fire mixes with the faint jingling from the storytellers knitting needles and the transparent silver ringing of Shivkumar Sharmas santoor hammers in Raga Karjala, while the timeless folkloristic tapestries of Lake Saimaas night nail the Porkala people firmly in legendary gracefulnesses.
The Finnish icon painter with her marten-hair brush is leaning towards the faint breathing of the window, and in Paris Terry Riley pours spirit into matter while virgin worlds rise out of the organ.
In the constellation of the Lyre a super nova gulps unknown worlds, and in the thin air of Lhasa a thought transforms into action while the salty yak tea washes through Tibetan monkthroats.
In Southern Jordan the cardamom for the coffee is grinded in the bronze mortars of the Bedouin tents, and the fragile sound falls like cognac coins through the chilly desert night.
Screwed out of the contexts the existentialistic spinning top races through the ages. Phase shifted God hurries away between the galaxy clusters with the collected genes of humanity in a trimble, and Terry Riley builds fairytale castles with towers and pinnacles in the soap bubble bubbling organ minimalism at Théatre de la Musique.
An incredible pressure rests over the point in Universe which is Terry Riley, and he incises Zorro marks in the velvet dome of the Parisian night sky with the sharpest tones of his organ, and Cosmos bleads over Creation.
Riley OBaba! Baba ORiley!