Friday, January 10, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Wallpaper music Originally posted on Unzen Koans on 2/21/02

There are times when I want music for the sole purpose of calming down, setting the mood…falling asleep. Why not music for falling asleep to - music that doesn’t beg to be actively listened to? Tuneless, wordless music that almost works like wallpaper. Brian Eno was a pioneer of such ‘ambient music’, putting together ‘functional music’ albums, such as “Music For Airports” which was intended to lull flyers into bliss while facing a possible flaming death at 20,000 feet – not the most pleasant pre-sleep post-9/11 thought. One of Eno’s many collaborators was an unusual, colorful Philadelphia area artist and teacher by the name of Laraaji.

I first discovered Laraaji’s music on two tapes buried in a bin of cutout cassettes at a record store in the local shopping mall; all three, now obsolete concepts. “Day of Radiance” had an unassuming enlarged image of a topographic map on the cover, and “Essence/Universe” showed a fluffy white cloud on a deep sky blue background; very Zen. Several years ago I found a more recent work on CD called “Flow Goes The Universe” – which I think subtly relates to the concept of ‘flow’, or ‘peak experience’, a topic studied in depth by University of Chicago psychology researcher Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi. Flow is what happens when you are lost in the experience, becoming one with what you are doing; the process is effortless and exceptional.

Got flow?

There is something extremely hypnotic about the electric zither, Laraaji’s instrument of choice. The sound quality is akin to smoke or water, fluidly rising and falling in one’s consciousness, but ungraspable – the more you think about the sound, the less real it seems. It is superb for meditation or relaxation, and for creative visualization techniques…there is a soothing, healing quality to it, like a delightfully warm cup of tea for the inner light. I had listened to “Essence/Universe” many evenings before sleep – very softly, with the treble turned down to produce a muffled, distant effect - until the plastic hub on the cassette broke. Obsolete technologies can be so frustrating. If you’d like to check out Laraaji’s music, I recommend:

Edward Larry Gordon: Celestial Realms (Spirit Music, 19##)
Edward Larry Gordon: Celestial Vibrations (Spirit Music, 19##)
Laraaji: Day Of Radiance (EG Records, 1980) with Brian Eno
Laraaji: Essence/ Universe (Audion, 1987)
Laraaji: Sun Zither (Laraaji, 1984)
Laraaji: Live At WNYC (Laraaji, 1985)
Laraaji: Flow Goes The Universe (Gyroscope, 1992)
Laraaji: The Way Out Is The Way In (Gyroscope, 1995) with Audio Active

Update, September, 2002 - The following list was kindly provided by a fellow reader, who cautions that some of the recordings are not available, out of print, or (*) part of a private collection, available only from the musician by request. We suggest visiting the websites listed for current availability.

*1978 Celestial Vibration (Swan) [LP only]
1980 Day Of Radiance (Editions EG) [CD is in print]
*1981 I Am Ocean (Celestial Vibration) [private cassette]
*1982 Rhythm And Bliss (Third Ear) [private cassette release]
*1984 Om Namah Shivaya (Celestial Vibration) [private cassette release]
*1984 Sun Zither (Laraaji) [private cassette release]
1985 Open Sky (Celestial Vibration)(w. Brother Ah; CD is available from brotherah.com]
*1985 Live At WNYC (Laraaji) [private cassette release]
1986 Celestial Realms (Spirit Music)(w. Lyghte a.k.a. Jonathan Goldman) [commercial cassette]
1987 Essence/Universe (Jem) [out-of-print in LP/CD/cassette]
1989 Music For Films III (Opal) (various artists) [CD is in print]
*1989? Zither Bliss (Laraaji) [private cassette release]
1991 Selected New Music III (Clear Music) (various artists) [out of print]
1993 Flow Goes The Universe (Gyroscope) [CD is in print]
1994 Channel Light Vessel (Gyroscope) a collaboration with Roger Eno, Bill Nelson, Kate St. John and Mayumi Tachibana [CD is in print]
1995 The Way Out Is The Way In (Gyroscope) (with Audio Active) [I think CD is in print]
1995 Islands (Sine)(w. Roger Eno) [CD is o.p., but not hard to find]
1997 Cascade (Relaxation Company) [CD in print]
1998 Excellent Spirits (Gyroscope) a collaboration with Roger Eno, Bill Nelson, and Kate St. John [CD is in print]
1998 Divination/Sacrifice (Meta(w. Bill Laswell) [CD in print]
2000 Celestial Reiki (Etherean) (w. Jonathan Goldman) [CD in print]
2000 Shiva Shakti Groove (Collective) [CD is available from www.collectiverecordings.com]
2002 My Orangeness (VelNet) [CD available from cdbaby.com]