Monster Island & the Children of Mu

Mu cover web 2.jpg

Children of Mu cover art by Gary Panter.

MONSTER ISLAND/ CHILDREN OF MU DOUBLE LP SET

A double LP set has  recently been produced by The End is Here records and Monster Island. The Children of Mu is a group of songs, lyrics & extended performance revolving around the psychic and mythic origins of Mu, a Pacific island or ‘lost continent’ (and counterpart to Atlantis) some believe to be pure legend and others the ‘cradle of civilization’ and relevant to our present condition.

Madame Helena Blavatsky

The founder of Theosophy, Madame Blavatsky contends that Mu was a land bridging India and Africa, inhabited by our spiritual ancestors, non-physical “psychic beings.” Blavatsky’s theories were written in her epic occult study of humankind and our origins in The Secret Doctrine. The Tamil’s of southern India also lay claim to the belief of Lemuria and the lost continent. “Accounts of the lost continent vary, but the common theme is that a large area went under the ocean as a result of geological cataclysms, a theory that geologists of today do not subscribe to.” Frontline, The Lemuria Myth, by S. CHRISTOPHER JAYAKARAN

The Children of Mu recordings chart the historic migration of Shadow Theater, the earliest form of visual storytelling beginning from the lost island of Mu to migrations in China, Peru, and India. A Chinese puppet theater captured by a pirate vessel was established as a theater in the court of Sun King Louis the XIV – missionaries are also said to have brought shadow puppets to France in the 17th century. Later shadow puppet theater was known as the ombres chinoises and featured short, amusing fables. The avant-garde of Paris revived this in the late 19th century at Le Chat Noir which coincided with the invention of cinema.

Works on sides 1A and 1B follow the Mu/ sun culture’s migration and are performed in Chinese, French and English. An early 1907 wax recording of poet Apollinaire (reading Bridge Mirabeau) and the first Chinese Opera ever to be recorded are mixed into collaged sections within the music suite. Sides 2A and 2B are a single long improvisations over the channeled voice of Madame Blavatsky by  a psychic based in the Netherlands who reveals the history of creation according to Mu theology.

This is the fourth album by Monster Island, a four year project, that began in 2003, inspired by a dream after seeing a photograph of Xie Kitchen reproduced in The New York Times.  Monster Island’s previous recordings included; From the Michigan Floor,Dream Tiger,Peyotemind andLive in Detroit 1999.

Xie Kitchen, photo by Lewis Caroll

Performances on CoM by; Anneke Auer Vox, Aliccia Berg (Slumber Party) Vox, Lee Ambrozy Vox , Noelle Christine (Scarlet Oaks) Vox, Bill Brovald (Larval), Matthew Smith (guitar, organ, bass, Outrageous Cherry, THTX), Robert Waller (synth, Pere Ubu), H.H. Ma Meenakshi Devi (Indian Saint and classical Hindi singer), Anneke Auer (psychic voice), Johnny Evans (sax, Howling Diablos), Len Bukowski (bass clarinet, Northwoods Improvisers), Tim Barnes (percussionist, Quakebasket), Mattin (avant-noise, Sakadda), words & music: Cary Loren (guitar, Destroy All Monsters), mastered by Warn Defever and recorded in Detroit at Koko studios. Lyrics translated and sung in Chinese were done by Le Ambrozy and the lyric’s for the Alfred Jarry’s tribute The Green Candle were translated and sung in French by Noelle Lothamer.

The Children of Mu 2x Lp set is an edition of 500 copies with visionary cover art by ratty art master Gary Panter. The first 100 copies of the LP set include a two page insert describing The Theater of Mu, a live shadow theater and musical performance based on the creation and history of Mu. The shadow theater work was performed live at three venues in the Detroit area; The UFO factory in Eastern Market, The Zeitgeist Theater and for the fall opening at MOCAD. All performances of the Mu shadow theater were filmed with additional footage made with Thomas Carey at the University of Michigan gamelan theater. Additional live portions of the film were created as a performance that was taped at the Cleopatra Gallery in Brooklyn. A two year collection of animations were also produced for the film version.

Monster Island and The Children of Mu: a shadow play update

In 2003, The Children if Mu was written based a photograph and dream narrated by Xie Kitchen, a child model often photographed by Lewis Carroll. Sometimes Xie would appear in Carroll’s photos dressed in Chinese costumes, and in a dream Xie had said she was the reincarnation of a Mu princess. The Children of Mu is a story told through Xie about the world’s creation and the journey of shadow puppetry from its 50,000 year metaphysical origin (as conceived in the writings of Madame Blavatsky and James Churchwood) to the invention of cinema and the shadow theater revival by the avant-garde in the 1880s.

The Children of Mu was created by friends and members of Monster Island. Artist Tom Carey who specializes in creating prints and handmade books using woodcuts, produced most of the puppets for Children of Mu. We studied the Indonesian methods of shadow puppetry and applied gamelan theory (practiced by Monster Island since 1995) to the music and performances. We practiced and did filming of the play using the screen and additional puppets at the University of Michigan gamelan society.

Woodcuts are one of the oldest known printmaking techniques, going back to the 1400s – where the development of moveable type and the invention of the book began. Between the jump between shadow puppetry and woodcuts, there’s a natural storytelling relationship. Both forms are dependent on the negative cut out space –the line that defines light.

The Mu shadow play was written first in song and narration and then produced as a double LP, released in 2007. Sections included Chinese translations written and sung by Lee Ambrozy, as Princess Xie –who in character tells the story in song. Alfred Jarry’s avant-garde lament, The Green Candle was sung and translated into French by Noelle Lothamer. One song also concerned the use of the Magic Lantern. The second narrated (commentary) version of the story was recorded live using the voice of Annke Auer, a Dutch psychic and web designer, who channeled the spirit of Blavatsky.

 

Live video and light show projections helped to frame the shadow screen during performances. The Children of Mu was staged several times in the Detroit area in 2007. Since that time, an unfinished video of the play was begun that includes several dozen animations and live performance works such as The Palace of the Lost Lagoon (2009)was a performance and Mu ritual recreated underwater by video taping through an aquarium and projecting that onto a gallery window that was also being filmed. Various plays-within-plays move the focus of Mu from the general to the specific -opening a microcosm of Mu Island life into a view inside the royal courts. Some sections in The Children of Mu may stand alone, (such as the music) but arranging all the fragments into a single film or expanded installation is a long-range goal. Here the Mu song “Magic Lantern” is a Monster Island video collage:

Monster Island myspace site with several mp3s available for download at: http://myspace.com/monsterisland13 The first Monster Island LP, From the Michigan Floor (Ecstatic Peace records) was reissued in late December with 11 bonus tracks.

MONSTER ISLAND HISTORY

Monster Island was formed in 1995 at a concert held at Alvins in the Cass corridor for the psych rock band Ghost.  The original members were Erika Hoffman Dilloway, Warren Defever, Matthew Smith and Cary Loren. Their music has been described as psychedelic, folk, world noise, concept art rock and acid-folk. They have been exploring ideas about opera, theater and narrative verse. Monster Island performs live on occasion and records with a variety of guest artists. For more information, contact: The Book Beat, 26010 Greenfield, Oak Park, MI 48237. Further information and online purchase of the LPs can be made from the Book Beat at Children of Mu.

[ Above; Monster Island at Zoots coffee house in Detroit with Erika Hoffman, Cary Loren and Matthew Smith , photo by Carrie Kelly, 1995]

DISCOGRAPHY: From the Michigan Floor LP, 1996 (Ecstatic Peace!), Detroit Live at Alvins CD, 1999 (Time Stereo), Dream Tiger CD, 2001 (The End is Here) , Peyotemind with John Sinclair CD, 2002 (The End is Here).

MONSTER ISLAND reviews:

From the Michigan Floor: “The band unfurls each song like a found fairy tale gene spliced with the most exotic of flowers.” Scram Magazine

“11 songs about death, Jesus, war, magic mirrors, and Japanese movie monsters with such conviction that it doesn’t take much suspension of disbelief to imagine this album is some lost psych-rock gem.” — All Music Review

Dream Tiger

“I just got this CD in the mail today and I’ve already listened to it three times because I love it. Even if I listen to something twice in a week, it usually means I love it. Take the very first track, ‘Dream Tiger’, a delicate little string band song, driven by tambura, sung by Erika Hoffman in a dreamy sweet voice, totally living up to its title until it ends aprubtly as the listener snaps to after two minutes and two seconds. Next song ‘Hob Goblin’ is a little more minor-keyed, and a little spookier, being a completely kitsch-free monster story.”Blastitude Issue 13

Peyotemind:

“There are really only two other bands who readily pull the same kind of obvious jam-band mentality off: Laser Temple of Bon Matin and, of course, the No-Neck Blues Band. I have a feeling this style was arrived at by all three bands entirely independently, which is why these three wipe the floor with almost all of their inevitable competition. A good example of Monster Island’s independence and maturity is the way (on track four of this disc) Matt Smith so eloquently plays Ra-styled free jazz piano, something that wouldn’t pop up with NNCK.” –Blastitude

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