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Charlemagne Palestine Meditative Sound Environments

«I met Simone through Dr. Richard Alpert, a professor at Columbia University who went to India to study with a Hindu guru and he himself became a guru afterwards called Baba Ram Dass. Coming back to US he brought Pandit Pran Nath with him. It was a time when everybody was experimenting. All came with a lot of orientalism because people were into timelessness, meditation and being stoned. It was in that atmosphere that I met Simone because she also knew Pran Nath. Around that time I moved from NY to California to work with electronic music at the newly invented school California Institute of the Arts. Simone was also living in LA and even though she was not officially connected to CalArts she knew many of the artists who were teaching there. It was in the halls of CalArts that Simone first approached me around the possibility to have Pran Nath invited to LA. In summer 1970 Simone was invited by Allan Kaprow (one of the Deans of CalArts) to do an evening of dance at the Pasadena Art Museum. One day she came to me and said “I’ve been given this commission to do a piece and I’d like to do it with music and I was wondering if you would want to do it with me?”. So I replied “Well why don’t you come to the electronic studio where I work and see how it goes? I’ll put on some sounds, we’ll make some space and see how you feel”. It immediately clicked!!!! So we decided to perform a duet together. In January 1971 in Pasadena we did our first “Illuminationss”. I played the piano, I sang a little bit, she moved a little bit when I was singing, I moved when I was singing. A Jewishy-kinf-of singing. Not only singing, but singing and running, singing and falling. I did all what eventually became my “Body Music”. Simone was also doing it but coming from a different tradition. All of a sudden we were doing a new kind of jamming together. Everybody in the audience loved it because it was so dreamy and they found amazing how a man and a woman can act in that strange, very dreamlike oriental way as in trance,,,,,together. This kind of collaboration between man and woman was uncommon at that time. Mostly other artists were doing very structural works while our performances were totally like we were on magicness drugs. Our performances had certain fixed elements like the piano or some electronics. It turned out we liked red lights so we started to always do it in red light. We liked to do it in a resonant spaces. It became more an approach than a piece, because there were never two Illuminations that were alike.» - Charlemagne Palestine «The aspect of Charlemagne’s music that most inspired my imagination was his melodies. Sometimes their texture of repetitions and evolving variations are so close that the term melody doesn’t seem to apply. What most determined our “Illuminations” was Charlemagne’s way of letting the elements in the music develop only very gradually. Once, just before a performance, Charlemagne sang to me, “Simoney don’t worry, you will dance and sing all right.” And of course I did as we walked arm in arm circling the wide-open space, a grand piano to one side shining black and covered with Teddy Bear deities, Charlemagne reflecting his childhood time as devotional cantor, and I, my childhood time striding along in the Tuscan hills, belting out Italian folksongs with my cousins. And sometimes when Charlemagne drew clear, high tones from his brandy snifter we would play our voices together more softly. Our recurring melodies were mostly Charlemagne’s. But I brought one too, with a song about not drifting away into the beyond.» - Simone Forti
  • Meditative Sound Environments
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