Friday, October 24, 2008

the Plaintive notes of Paul Horn playing in the Great Pyramid

Thus continues the Saga of the Urban Flute Player's discovery of amazing flute music.

The story of how Paul Horn came to play his beloved Artley Flute inside the Great Pyramid of Gizeh is as wonderful as the music. The music was originally recorded with a Nagra Stereo Tape Recorder and a Studer Stereo Microphone sneaked into the Pyramid by David Greene in 1976. It seems impossible by today's recording standards; but amazingly it was done.

Paul Horn is famous for strikingly original compositions and improvisations on both silver and traditional wood flutes. Although his music is rooted in jazz, many of his avant-garde improvisations are impossible to define. Horn was one of the first world fusion artists and well ahead of his time.

Among the most famous of Horn's albums are his "Inside" recordings, featuring mysterious, haunting sounds with the sophisticated use of echo, reverberation and syncopation. The "inside" albums were created in places of spiritual or religious importance.

The series began with Horn sneaking a tape recorder into the Taj Mahal during a trip to India in 1968 and continued later with recordings inside Great Pyramid of Giza, and a return to the Taj Mahal in 1989.

I find Horn's story of playing in the Great Pyramid to be the most compelling of all and this is the story as described by the pamphlet; inserted into the CD. I am a great fan of reading musical footnotes and inserts as they usually deepen an understanding of the music.

According to Horn, the Pyramid story began in early 1975 in Los Angeles when a close friend of his gave him the idea of doing this recording. Later in the year the opportunity arose for Horn to travel to Egypt with Dr. Maxine Asher and her new age group called (AMRA) Ancient Mediterranean Research Association which concerned itself with "psychic archeology" etc. This surprised me as I had assumed that Paul Horn had an "official invitation or permission" to play in Egypt. Au contraire.

Horn prepared for his journey by reading many "diversified" books on the Great Pyramids. One day he received an interesting phone call from a man in Santa Rosa, Ca named Ben Pietsch; a pyramidologist, who had written many books on the subject and had somehow heard about Horn's intention to record his flute in the Great Pyramid. (Great link above with music samples."

Paul Horn arrived in Cairo with close friends and AMRA in Cairo on May 1st, at 10:15 PM. However, it wasn't until four days later that his tour guide "arranged" for him to enter the Great Pyramid from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. That's right; Horn had only three hours in which to play and record his album. A guard let them in and fortunately they were able to make their way into the King's Chamber. This was not at all the official musical production I had imagined.

Horn describes his experience, "The guard was going to wait below to throw the switch for the lights and then leave, locking us in for the designated time. Dave and I began the long climb. It was hard going, especially in the low ceilinged ascending passage. We caught our breath for a few minutes at the bottom of the Grand Gallery before continuing on. We reached the King's Chamber dripping wet and out of breath. I lit some candles and placed them at several points in the chamber and began to unpack my flutes."

"Dave was setting up his equipment in the ante-Chamber. In the middle of all this, the lights suddenly went out... we felt the absolute stillness of the quiet and peaceful. It was fantastic. We both hurried to finish setting up. When this was done, I lit some incense and performed a short ceremony callled a "puja" which I had learned in India. I did this on the large stone by the north wall which I had initially felt to be an altar at one time. This all happened spontaneously. Somehow I felt a strong spiritual force or energy permeating the atmosphere and simply responded to it. it was a simple way of expressing my gratitude for the privilige of being there and my respect for the sanctity of the King's Chamber and for whatever purpose it had served in the past. I innately felt that I was in a temple."

"After the ceremony I sat down cross-legged in front of the coffer and meditated. David also sat quietly and closed his eyes. In that deep, deep stillness I heard what seemed like voices far, far away. There was chanting, but so distant that I couldn't make out a specific melody-like whispered chants from milleniums ago-so long ago..."

"The moment had arrived... it was time to play my flute. A beautiful round tone was immediately produced. What a resonance! I began to play, choosing the alto flute to begin with. The echo was wonderful, about eight seconds. the chamber responded to every note equally. I waitd for the echo to decay and then played again. Groups of notes would suspend and all come back as a chord. Smetimes certain notes would stick out more than others. It was always changing. I just listened and responded as if I were playing with another musician. I hadn't preprared anything specific to play. I was just opening myself to the moment and improvising... I became totally absorbed in the music.. Two hour just flew by and with only one remaining of our precious time I thoughty we beytyer move on to the Grand Gallery and Queen's Chamber."

Horn continues his discussion of this absolute marvel, this astonishing night of music making into the depths and secrets of the Great Pyramid on May 6th, 1976. What an amazing gift that Paul Horn has given the world and this cd is one to treasure. You can hear samples of this music "Paul Horn Inside The Great Pyramid" playing on my video player on the right side of my blog. If you are fortunate, you will mange to obtain a copy of this rare recording.

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