The Children of Mu is a group of songs & performance that revolve around the psychic and popular origins of Mu, a Pacific island or “lost continent” (and counterpart to Atlantis) some believe to be fiction and others the “cradle of civilization,” and relevant to our present condition. It has been mythologized by the founder of Theosophy, Madame Blavatsky, who published her findings in The Secret Doctrine , 1886, based on an ancient Indian manuscript she called the Book of Dzyan. Blavatsky contends that Mu was a land bridging India and Africa and was inhabited by our spiritual ancestors, non-physical "psychic beings."
In 1926, occult author Col. James Churchward published The Lost Continent of Mu. He also claimed his knowledge of Mu came from an Indian (Naga) source. For Churchward, Mu was an advanced civilization that existed 50,000 years ago and formed the basis for all Sun/God based civilizations such as the Maya, Nascals and ancient Egypt. Churchward claims a cataclysmic event caused the destruction of Mu resulting in over 64 million deaths. The migration of Mu resulted in the expanded consciousness of mankind, populating the Pacific Islands, Indonesia, China and South America. Shadow theater was the manifestation of myths and psychic storytelling, migrating to the orient and winding up in the roots of the 19th century avant-garde.
Limited edition f 500 copies, double LP, cover art by Gary Panter, Vocals:Lee Ambrozy 2,3,4,11,12. Aliccia Berg 3,5,7-9. Nöelle Christine 6,10. Anneke Auer 13,14 and H.H. Acharyaji Meenakshi Devi 13,14. Matthew Smith:Hammond B-3, guitar, bass, mandolin, pipa, sitar. Cary Loren: harmonium, guitar, toy piano, moog, angklung, tanpura, vocals 5,9,11, recording mix. David Altwerger: percussion.Tim Barnes: percussion on 13. Mattin:noise 13. Bill Brovald: Bass 5, whistles, recording engineer. Robert Waller: analog synth 10. Len Bukowski: Bass Clarinet 13,14. Johnny Evans: Tenor Sax 14. Warn Defever: mastering. Chinese translation: Lee Ambrozy. French translation: Nöelle Christine Words & Music by Cary Loren ©p2007, BMI. The Riegal: copyright Tom Rapp. Recorded in Detroit at Koko Studios. 2xLP. The End is Here#15.
The Children of Mu charts the geographic migration of Mu culture & storytelling traditions from a pure psychic state to Pacific island cultures and beyond. If communication once traveled freely through the mind as psychic beings, (telegraphing thought as images, ESP), perhaps our history of storytelling can tell us something about this past. As imagery and communication become more compressed through technology, it may bring us closer toward this “psychic condition”, closing the circle. The physical and cultural migration that began on Mu, came to China and landed in Paris, France, where the shadow play was transformed into photography and cinema. Storytelling and technology both have a relationship we can trace by the rise of spiritualism as a utopian response.*
This relationship of spiritual energy to technology is heard as forms of Musique Concrète, a collage of natural acoustic and artificial sounds. These breaks deconstruct standard ‘pop song’ formats, and become layers of formless sound between psychic and natural worlds. The sound-collages are aural landscapes – a collapse that tell the story of Mu and “avant-gardism” by using sound’s that are visually receptive; sound equivalents of images inside the story. Chant and narration fill in the distant gaps of time. Language is also perforated, used to site locations and settings in a travelogue of speech; Chinese, French and English.
The Children of Mu is a political work, cross-checking patterns of revolt, from revolutionary France, China, and America, to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE were Sri Lankan Tamil suicide bombers fighting for their homeland they also believe is Lemuria), trying to understand the ultimate sacrifice in a technocratic age. From Blavatsky’s Isis Revealed to the LTTE, Mu may be considered a geographic study of the imagination.
On March 1st, 1954, a secret hydrogen bomb test by the USA was detonated off the island atoll of Namu, a circle of 54 islands in the pacific. A Japanese fishing vessel caught the fallout of the bomb. One crew member died and the rest had severe radiation sickness. Many island residents around Namu developed birth defects. The Japanese were outraged and the incident was considered a new Hiroshima. The first Japanese monster film Gojira,(Godzilla) released later that year, was inspired by these nuclear tests. The word Namu in sanskrit means “to become one.” The tribal sequence in the Japanese film Godzilla vs Mothra, was inspired by Easter island, Pacific “tiki” culture and the mystic origins of Mu.
Ancient underwater ceremonial pyramids, similar to Incan architecture, with apparent man-made carvings and unusual stone tools were found off the Ryukyu Islands of Japan in 1987. Underwater geologists and marine archeologists have determined that this a man-made site built over 10,000 years ago. A museum devoted to this discovery and Mu was recently opened in Japan. The Japanese Zen character for emptiness and “no self” is known as the experience of Mu. “What is Mu? Nothing and everything....Mu does not exist.” http://www.soundofmu.no/about-mu.html
Other Mu in Music: In 1969 Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell recorded the Mu sessions for BYG Actuel. These improvised duets are masterworks in the free-jazz genre. In 1970 musicians Jeff Cotton and Merrell Fankhauser formed the band MU to explore the origins and mystery of the lost continent. The group moved to a communal hideaway on the Hawaiian island of Maui, where between 1972-1974, they recorded two psych albums that explored their own private investigations of Mu., and claimed to communicate with UFOs. Monster Island has touched on the various histories and meanings of Mu and combined them in this unique “travelogue” and homage to an island lost in time.
Notes on individual tracks:
1. Mu Incantation or Overture, the soloist is from the earliest wax recording of a Chinese opera circa 1907.
2. Shadows of the Sun is a lamentation sung in Chinese by the Mu priestess Xie. She relays her sadness, as the sparrow sings alone in a tree and the full moon reflects across the ocean as endless shadows of the moon are drifting by… included is a wax recording from 1909 of the last stanzas from the poem Bridge Mirabeau recited by Apollinaire, one of the first poets of the avant-garde, and friend of Alfred Jarry: Love runs away, Like running water flows, Love flows away, But oh how slow life goes. This was the origin of the first shadow theater. Vocals & Chinese translation by Lee Ambrozy.
3. Song of Tears tells the story of migration from Mu after the great cataclysm as refugees traveled to the new motherland. They sing of death and destruction; Rain, rain and blood ran down, clouds grew heavy and the rains poured on… and about the disenchantment of modernity.** Doomed is the truth on this deadly earth. The past destruction of Mu is brought into a renewed cycle with our exploitation of the earth and the reins of conflict that hold us in bondage. Vocals by Lee Ambrozy & Aliccia Berg.
4. Xie-Xie is about the garden utopia of edenic Mu, the purity and beauty of the island is described as only mountain and sun. It was the first song written in the Mu cycle and is optimistic about an idyllic time, forever in harmony with nature. It is sung from a distant time, where Xie’s search for freedom is about liberation for the motherland, the first sun culture. She is left with her memory and must roam the world. Never to forget the fires and flood, from this distant time, all I do is roam. Vocals & English to Chinese translation by Lee Ambrozy.
5. Swamp America is a fable about the backwoods wilderness and violent history of the USA. It is a duet that invokes Rimbaud’s Wandering Soul and Louis Céline’s anti-heroic vision of human suffering. Slavery and Voudoo arrive in the swamp of the western world: blood makes a fire, water makes a song, possum in a pot, chewing water rat bones… zombies out there walkin’ after your soul… it calls up gumbo America and its urban cinematic portrayal in Sergio Leonie’s epic: “pictures of the world gone insane, Once Upon a Time in America, flicker on the opium walls, a fable from another time…” The song ends in a chant about violence, race & war; an homage to Amiri Baraka’s epic poem:,Somebody Blew Up America. Vocals by Aliccia Berg & Cary Loren.
6. Toujour Avant is a revolutionary rant. It opens with Jesse Crawford’s intro to the MC5 from their first album: Brothers and sisters, it takes five seconds to decide your purpose here on the planet… It then relates how European pirates captured the shadow puppet theater found aboard Chinese ships, installing it in the early court of Versailles. Puppetry soon took to the streets to satirize the bourgeoisie, who helped support the French revolution, but were now sinking into materialism and greed. Vocals and French translation by Noelle Christine.
7. Magic Lantern is a gypsy folk dance about hypocrisy and power. Pay for your passage to the next side, the gods bring you the miracle cure… The Magic Lantern was the earliest light and shadow projection device, first used and described in medieval church services to frighten parishioners and portray devils, demons and convey a convincing afterlife. Movement, smoke and color were added to lantern shows, which became more complex by the 1700s, and were forerunners of the haunted house amusements of today. America’s affair with the afterlife began with the Fox sisters, founders of spiritualism who hear details of a past murder by the raps of a ghost “and then took to the stage with something to sell.” The work divides into abstract sound that mimic séance conversations. Vocals by Aliccia Berg.
8. La La Löie is a lyric biography of the famous dance and early performance artist who in 1889, in Paris, used light projection from the first electric colored lights and long folded swatches of fabric to create a whirling mass of colored movement on stage. She was known as Löie-Löie “a goddess of light… flower of fire… and burned up the stage at the Paris Expo…” She was a muse to all bohemian Paris, and greatly influenced her famous understudy Isadora Duncan, a modernist dancer that would never acknowledge her. Toulouse Lautrec attended many of Fuller’s performances, was awestruck by the magical light movements and painted her many times as a flame and burning flower. Nobel laureate Madame Curie was a close friend who gave her experimental radium to further enhance her iridescent onstage appearance and literally “glow” in the dark. Fuller died onstage from radium-radioactive poisoning. The collage section blends a Paris café scene, electricity, radio waves, French children songs, the call of Japanese monster-moth Mothra, butterfly wings dancing in flames…clouds of light shooting up in the sky and the group of female acolytes Löie called her dancing elves my army of elves leaping up at my side. Vocals by Aliccia Berg.
9. Pere Ubu Roi is a study of playwright Alfred Jarry, a key element in the history of the avant-garde. Ubu Roi was an absurdist puppet play Jarry composed as a young student that would influence theater, Picasso, Satie and many key components of budding surrealism. The two analog synthesizer breaks are performed by Robert Waller, the current synth player in the band Pere Ubu as led by David Thomas. The song’s refrain in French refrains, “light a green candle for father Ubu”, a reference to the “Green Candle”, Jarry’s unfinished autobiography he was working on before his death, and a nod to the green absinthe he was fond of consuming. Vocals and translation by Noelle Christine.
10. Ride the Tiger is sung in English and Chinese, a song of love and anarchy: when winds are wild our souls revolt… who wants the world like it is? Who has the match lights the fire… the middle section is sung by Xie who is caught falling between Heaven and Earth, and knows she will never look upon love’s face again, destined to put her energy into revolt and destroy all power, destroy the path. At the same time, to “ride the tiger” is to love. It is the only exit or path a person can take in a destructible and corrupted world. Julius Evola (1898-1974) was an occult author and Marinetti Futurist who wrote Ride the Tiger in 1961, a manifesto for an age of spiritual vacancy and darkness ruled under Saturnian influence. The 70s rock band Jefferson Starship recorded their album Blows Against the Empire which won a Hugo (science fiction) award, a rare honor for a rock album about hijacking a spaceship, and had a top 100 hit with their political song Ride the Tiger. In Tibetan Buddhism to ride the tiger is a form of tantric liberation. The Liberation Tamil Tiger Ellam rebels (LTTE) of Sri Lanka invented the suicide bombing vest later adopted by Muslim extremists. The LTTE have been involved in more suicide missions than any other group in history. Fighting for an independent state for over 25 years, they believe Tamil civilization migrated north from the submerged continent of Lemuria which they call Kumarinatu. Tamil literature describes several ancient tsunamis and floods that have destroyed their homeland. Chinese translation by Lee Ambrozy, vocals by Lee & Cary.
11. Mu is Gone is sung in Chinese by the priestess Xie who watches hopeless as her homeland is sinking low, deep into the ocean like the setting sun. She sings about the ultimate victory of time and nature of mankind. Her refrain is to crash and burn the empire down… there is nothing is left of my home, no tears are left to be cried, they have taken all there is… no time is left for dreams, while the innocent are lying dead, Several of the previous themes are played out in this last lyric, ode to the end of empires. Vocals & translation by Lee Ambrozy.
12. Creation is a narrative of the genesis of Mu. It is told through the mystic channeling of Madame Blavatsky. Deep in trance, she connects to the forces of the creator and the lonely entity of Xie. She recites passages from the Book of Dyzan, and describes the events of creation. Her Holiness Acharyaji Meenakshi Devi chants from the Vedas, reminding us that the physical universe & spirit are one. The background is a continuous organ drone in b-flat, which is the recorded vibration of the universe. Tim Barnes plays a continuous cymbal crash, his French companion plays computer effects and bass clarinet is provided by Len Bukowski. The mood is oceanic, deep, anti-melodic, anti-rhythmic, a door to endless space.
13. The Story of Mu is a narrative spoken through the channeled spirit of Madame Blavatsky over an improvised background. It tells a general history of Mu and events concerning the migration of nations and the transference of shadow theater and puppetry from island cultures to the origins of cinema and the avant-garde of Paris. The session includes Johnny Evans: tenor sax, Len Bukowski: bass clarinet, Matthew Smith: organ, H.H. Ma Meenakshi Devi: chant, David Altwerger: percussion, Bill Brovald: whistle, Cary Loren: harmonium, sampler and synths, Anneke Auer as the voice of Blavatsky.
--Cary Loren, Detroit, 2006
* The relationship of electronic technology to psychic response was explored in Jeffrey Sconce’s book Haunted Media (Duke University Press, 2000). This book looks at the various ways technology has been absorbed into a trajectory of the supernatural. The speed of technology across space as found in cyberspace or virtual reality, is one projection of the eternal survival of the human soul and consciousness reaching beyond mortality. In the future, electronic media may be seen as either the first in a long series of innovations, or a final collapse, a last step, replaced by something yet undreamed of waiting to change reality.
** The spread of shadow theater from Pacific Islands to mainland China and onto Europe is well documented. Chinese and Indian shadow theater is considered the first performing art, going back thousands of years, predating written language. Shadow theater was performed in ancient Egypt as reflections of dancers were projected on the sides of polished stone. It was highly developed by the 7th century AD, when it began to be discovered by the Western world. The influence of shadow theater on modernism is less well known. After Chinese vessels were attacked, shadow puppets were brought back and installed in the first French court of Versailles. Puppetry came to Italy as part of Commedia dell'Arte in the 1500s, its roots taken from ancient Roman plays and pageantry spectacles. Improvised performance, Punchinello satires and masked actors influenced the high opera as well as street theater. In the late 1880s high school student Alfred Jarry composed Ubu Roi, a cornerstone of absurdist wit that inspired the first Surrealist manifesto. Ubu Roi and similar plays were performed in revived shadow theaters such as Henri Rivière's, Théâtre d’Ombres. It was at "Le Chat Noir," the most notorious dive of Bohemian Paris, where all the elements of the first avant-garde came together. Erik Satie played a-rhythmic, non-melodic background music, George Sand and Zola wrote shadow plays, colored images flickered with fire on the screens, Apollinaire reviewed them, and Degas, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, & Pissarro were an enthusiastic audience. Shadow theater was one of the last gesamtkunstwerks; multi-media artworks where sound, color, lighting, language, drugs & design were brought to their fullest expression in public view. It was inside these last shadow theaters where the impulse for expanded consciousness and the cinema (its most contemporary manifestation) was born.