We called Garek Jon Druss "The Mystic" in January's Future List issue for good reason. All of Druss' work is infused with alchemy: His visual art details the structure of his musical compositions and his musical compositions aspire to describe the ineffable, instilling deeply meditative states through volume, drone and repetition. Tomorrow he launches New Expanse, a series of "active listening" events at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center with a solo performance, a presentation by Ouroboros Press author/publisher publisher William Kiesel and pianist Daniel Salo. We spoke with Druss to find out more about the show and exactly what active listening is.
What was the inspiration behind New Expanse?
I wanna foster a creative environment that has dialog directing it. Usually you rehearse and you show up and you play the record and you leave and that’s the end. I want a deeper interaction. I want to provide a chance to speak wih the artist, have them describe what they're performing and give the audience an opportunity to engage with the artist. Similar to an artist talk where you go to an exhibit, see the work and hear the artist speak on it and talk with them directly. That doesn’t happen often. William will be speaking an presenting and I'll do an audio performance with time in between to talk about the work presented. I want to put these events together to facilitate a space where people can have a more enaged interaction with sound and performing rather than the social end of it being the focal point. I want people to leave either learning something new or having something driven home that they're already aware of. An affirming event. When I say it out loud, it sounds like a jaded musician talking. But I want something more from the artist, myself included, and from the audience. Active listening.
Tell me about that—"active listening." I love the sound of it.
Active listening is an extension of ideas by Pauline Oliveros and is a deep-listening technique. She teaches at Mills College and is a composer, a minimalist. For her deep listening is an act that makes the whole world better. When I learned about it years ago I understood it as a situation I wanted to be a part of. I was really looking inside and being like, "Why am I going to these events and not being satisfied? What can I do?" It should be my job to check with the community and create something that fills in the gap with this dialog interaction, to start the dialog with the ears, mind and heart. The New Expanse is very venue-centric. I don't want it to happen at a club. The Chapel is a an important part of it.
And a unique, beautiful space.
The chapel was designed for sacred listening so the space is beautiful to play in. The work I do is about composing for the character of the space and using sound as a sculptural element that can be manipulated in regard to the space you're hearing it in. I've played at the Chapel a few times and seen a lot of performances there. A lot of it too is about writing and composing to the feeling of what the Chapel is and what the space involves. It's my favorite venue here in Seattle and probably on the West Coast.
What kind of stuff will you perform?
I'll be playing for 27 minutes with analog and digital synthesizers and drum machines and a sampler. This work was made for performing at the Chapel. All the creation and all the writing was done so I could do it here for New Expanse.
William will be presenting for 30 to 40 mintues, talking about Western esoteric tradition and symbols within that system and how you can use those symbols to unlock esoteric mysteries. The foundation of human interaction is in these esoteric works and scriptures. He's been working in that tradition for 25 years. He's one of the founding members of the Esorteric Book Conference and the directoer of Orobouros Press.
Whoa. What kind of mysteries?
He'll talk about stuff like kaballah, color spectra, alchemical symbololism, tarot, star lore. That stuff is locked away and coded—you don’t just share that knowledge. It's not easily accepted or understood. With all those things and all that symbolism you can learn the key to unlock that stuff and figure out what it means and where you can take that knowledge. It's a vast range of information and he's been studying it and publishing and sharing it for the last 25 years.
I had no idea.
William is another treasure, like the Chapel. Orobouros Press is here in Seattle but he travels and lectures all around. Oftentimes I don’t know if people know that William is here. He's one of those things that makes Seattle worthwhile. The fact that we have someone with that knoewlege who's willing to share it and provide a place for learning about it is priceless.
(located on the 4th floor of the Good Shepard Center)