In the overwhelming presence of ubiquitous and trite pop music, it is difficult to remember that people used to take music seriously. The acts of performing music and listening to music were moral matters of immediate social and psychic relevance. The Egyptian Book of the Dead refers to the way Egyptians used sound for healing purposes. In Chinese culture, the symbol for medicine derives from the symbol for music and the entirety of Chinese music is based upon the harmony in nature of the five notes of the pentatonic scale with the five elements of the universe and the five organs of humankind. Ancient Greeks were equally serious about it, with the Pythagorean belief that music had a direct effect upon the political society of the musician, stressing that music should always be harmonious to ensure a harmonious, healthy society.
These beliefs continue to this day in more or less attenuated fashion – using music to encourage plant growth, for instance. But many musicians have returned to the primordial faith of the ancients with all seriousness. Seeing the discord of the world around them and the trivial status of music in contemporary society, they have taken up the challenge of producing music that will re-harmonize society. A tall order, but one certainly worth trying.
The 2011 Seattle Occultural Music Festival gathers fifteen of these artists together, with their stated mission "to celebrate new & experimental music in the Pacific Northwest of psychic, ecological, or otherwise deeply resonant importance." Over the past four years, various luminaries of the Pacific Northwest have performed at the festival: Stuart Dempster, Gust Burns, Amy Denio, Lori Goldston, Wayne Horvitz, even local experimental film legend Jon Behrens. The genres range from electronic to classical to post-rock; this is meant to be an inclusive festival and it is.
This year’s festival brings musicians from Anacortes, Olympia, Eugene, Vancouver – even New York. Past events at the festival have been quite remarkable and this year should be no exception. This is music for listening, in ways that many people have forgotten how. If you have any interest in music beyond its use as sonic wallpaper, the Occultural Music Festival might help restore your faith.
Wednesday, May 11th @ Gallery 1412
Honey.Moon.Tree. / Arsenlives / Technicolor Yawn’s Drone for Peace in the Key of F
Thursday May 12th @ Chapel Performance Space
Mt. Eerie / Novemthree / Paintings for Animals / Noisepoetnobody
Friday May 13th @ Rendezvous
BT. HN. / Pink Void / Chaostic Magic / dyna*girl
Saturday May 14th @ Rendezvous
John Mannion / Spark Applied to Powder / Stan Reed / Pavonine
May 11-14 // various venues: check the Seattle Occultural Music Festival website for a complete listing // Tickets $5-15, suggested donation