Released December 21, 2020
Read the full album review by The Visionary Commonwealth: Here
Morning Bells, Sean Kiley: December 2020
“No sleep yet cools my eyes;
day is already beginning
outside my chamber window.
My troubled senses rummage still
here and there among my doubts,
creating nightly visions -
Alarm and rack yourself
no longer, my soul.
Be blithe. Already, here and there,
morning bells are awakening.”
I can no longer recall who wrote these so fitting lines, I only know them to be of German origin and set by some eminent composer to song sometime in the prime of the German Lieder. In seeing it translated, I was struck by its significance, so much so I re-translated sections of it. This album many in respects may be considered the sister album to that of the undercover coroner, for its inception came about during that long year of the delicate mixing process that is the undercover coroner. Many elements are in fact borrowed and repurposed from undercover coroner, but what lies at the true heart of this work is its role as a personal and mystical initiation into the mysteries.
The bells harken back to a time when tradition stood firm at the center of civilization, where the church towers where the tallest structures in every city and atop them sung those heavenly bells. At the time of composition for Morning Bells I cared not for such things, but what so compelled me to revel in those ancient, celestial clangs?
“Morning bells are ringing
that motion those phantom clangs
You know it’s the kind that –
strives towards the quality of
and aims for the feeling of being
but is careful not to over-rehearse.”
“strives towards the quality of being unearthed” – What is it I wrote as part of the mission statement for rgms this year, two years after the inception of Morning Bells and its companion poem? “By cultivating a heuristic to retroactively assess the unconscious workings of music making, the rgms aims to excavate what lingers in the unconscious and bring it forth in the form of a conscious framework, from which new works may be born.” I knew not what I was getting at then. That desire for the return of those bells, not necessarily their builders, but their transcendence began to stir in me as Morning Bells took form.
In the process of composition, I made use of that ever-present trope in my music, which is a raging curiosity for the realm of density – that which elicits an environment the listener can immerse oneself in, that which is beyond the imaginal capabilities of the composer. The process for the creation of this track thus became an extended dialogue with the spirit of Morning Bells. Compositionally, it is nothing more than a time-stretched loop, recorded in low fidelity from my days spent in Chicago, Il, weaved together with improvisations on bass, piano, and organ, fragments of scores to unfinished films, complimented by chimes, percussive clicks, and non-recursive bowed vibraphone loops, as well as those repurposed elements from the undercover coroner. Having all of these components layered on top of one another and playing out simultaneously, I would export the file and listen on the bus on my way to university in Victoria, BC where I was completing my masters in music composition. On these perfectly timed trips I would take notes as to what should go where and how loud or how soft ‘x’ should be within Morning Bells, then later apply these notes to the project itself. Repeat, ad nauseam. During this process, a strange phenomena began to occur. As my intimacy with Morning Bells grew through repeated listens and continuous engagement, like how one gets to know another person or anything in this life for that matter, I could identify every element and locate myself in the unfolding of the piece. However, suddenly, one day I was fooled. For it seemed my sheer anticipation of a sonic event had projected itself onto the density of texture that is Morning Bells and resulted in a true auditory hallucination. Imagine my surprise when that loop from the undercover corner I knew so well burst into the texture, when I had thought it to be playing all the while! It is like encountering a friend’s twin you had previously been unaware of for the first time, thinking you are seeing doubles or a time travelled incarnation of your friend. But here, in Morning Bells, there was no twin; it was some sort of time travel, an aural clairvoyance, which convinced me the future was now the present. This event shook my senses and incepted a suspicion in me about the nature of reality as I had come to understand it.
With this, an empirical veil had been lifted, for not long after this event, I awaited the bus at an unusual stop during sundown. As I looked out on the pink, red, blue, and yellow hues on the horizon, I began to see these strange tiny translucent dots or sprites flitting about the air in front of me. Perplexed, I nearly asked my fellow bus anticipators if they could see what I saw, but fear of being called mad kept me quiet. After, confiding in a few close friends and doing a bit of research, I discovered this was a not at all too uncommon experience, in fact, it could be experienced by everyone for it is a biological phenomenon referred for as the ‘Blue Entopic Field Phenomenon’. The dots or ‘blue-sky sprites’ as I learned they were sometimes called, were actually white blood cells moving in the capillaries in front of the retina in the eye. Since blue light is absorbed by red blood cells, but not white blood cells because of its short wavelength (similar reason for why the sky is blue), the eye perceives the gaps in the blood column as these dots. This event marked my inward journey into a personal mysticism as I began to reconsider the ancient (and not so-ancient) recounts of “things not of this world” with this new ‘delicate empiricism’.
This mode of perception is however, not only isolated to the senses, but also extends to the experience of time. At the inception of Morning Bells, there was a blissful contentment with the singular instance of the loop or drone driving the piece. And so the composition began with a complacency for whichever wayward or recursive structure might unfold from this loop and all its nuances. However, as the dialogue with the piece progressed and changes were continuously and intuitively being made, it soon became clear that the music desired something more transcendent than that mere wandering of the thing in the essence of itself. It rather preferred some sort of ‘kairosis’ or synthesis of development; a proverbial ‘slaying of the dragon’ had to be accomplished. That is not to say, it altogether abandoned the circular quest of ‘Soul’ in and of itself, which preferred the journey over the destination, but rather it was incorporated into the active force desiring a kairosis. For that inaugural time-stretched loop persists throughout the work unceasingly, only fluctuating in dynamics or having its appearance altered by the elements which develop over top it. This omnipresent force serves as the luminiferous aether, substrata environment, or stage, on which the kairosis unfolds. It is the frame of reference, for anything which takes place, and it serves as a reminder of that which pervades both the past, present, and the future simultaneously; for in the present we may see all forces past, which have led us here, carried on the ship of being, and which will continue to lead us into the future. This force has many manifestations, but only one transcendent energy, which herein is this recursive time-stretched loop. It beckons us to see the unfurling of time through a lens, which is simultaneously consigned to this very moment, yet also removed to the perspective of eternity. In the midst of this, the quest for the Grail is sewn, as the initiate awakens to the light of day with the task at hand, and moves towards a transfiguration, which thrusts the querent into the mysteries of life, into the mysteries of the universe, ascending towards the ‘One’.
Composed and Produced by Sean Kiley
Mastered by Davis Connors