William Burroughs and Jimmy Page talk music & magic

WB: Have you been to Morocco?

JP: No. I haven’t, and it’s a very sad admission to make. I’ve only been to, you know, India and Bangkok and places like that through the Southeast.

WB: Well, I’ve never been east of Athens.

JP: Because during the period when everybody was going through trips over to, you know, Morocco, going down, way down, making their own journeys too Istanbul, I was at art college during that period and then I eventually went straight into music. So I really missed out on all that sort of traveling. But I know musicians that have gone there and actually sat in with the Arabs and played with them.

WB: Yeah, well they think of music entirely in magical terms.

JP: Yes.

WB: And their music is definitely used for magical purposes. For example, the Gnaoua music is to drive out evil spirits and Joujouka music is invoking the God Pan. Musicians there are all magicians, quite consciously.

WB: Have you used the lasers in all of the concerts?

JP: Over here, yes.

WB: Very effective.

JP: I think we should have more of them, don’t you? About thirty of them! Do you know they bounced that one off the moon. But it’s been condensed….it’s the very one that they used for the moon. I was quite impressed by that.

WB: That isn’t the kind of machine that would cause any damage….

JP: Uh, if you look straight into it, yes.

WB: Yes, but I mean…it doesn’t burn a hole in…

JP: No….it’s been taken right down. I’m just waiting for the day when you can get the holograms…get three-dimensional. The other thing I wanted to do was the Van de Graaff Generator. You used to see them in the old horror films….

WB: Oh yes…Frankenstein, and all that.

WB: Did you ever hear about something called infra-sound?

JP: Uh, carry on.

WB: Well, infra-sound is sound below the level of hearing. And it was developed by someone named Professor Gavreau in France as a military weapon. He had an infra-sound installation that he could turn on and kill everything within five miles. It can also knock down walls and break windows. But it kills by setting up vibrations within the body. Well, what I was wondering was, whether rhythmical music at sort of the borderline of infra-sound could be used to produce rhythms in the audience–because, of course, any music with volume will set up these vibrations. That is part of the way the effect is achieved.

JP: Hmm.

WB: It’s apparently…it’s not complicated to build these infra-sound things.

JP: I’ve heard of this, actually but not in such a detailed explanation. I’ve heard that certain frequencies can make you physically ill.

WB: Yes. Well, this can be fatal. That’s not what you’re looking for. But it could be used just to set up vibrations….

JP: Ah hah…A death ray machine! Of course, when radio first came out they were picketing all the radio stations, weren’t they, saying “We don’t want these poisonous rays” [laughter]….Yes, well…certain notes can break glasses. I mean, opera singers can break glasses with sound, this is true?

WB: That was one of Caruso’s tricks.

JP: But it is true?

WB: Of course.

JP: I’ve never seen it done.

WB: I’ve never seen it done, but I know that you can do it.

JP: I want laser NOTES, that’s what I’m after! Cut right through.

WB: Apparently you can make one of these things out of parts you can buy in a junk yard. It’s not a complicated machine to make. And actually the patent…it’s patented in France, and according to French law, you can obtain a copy of the patent. For a very small fee.

JP: Well, you see the thing is, it’s hard to know just exactly what is going on, from the stage to the audience…You can only…I mean I’ve never seen the group play, obviously. Because I’m part of it….I can only see it on celluloid, or hear it. But I know what I see. And this thing about rhythms within the audience. I would say yes. Yes, definitely. And it is…Music which involves riffs, anyway, will have a trance-like effect, and it’s really like a mantra….And we’ve been attacked for that.

WB: What a mantra does is set up certain vibrations within the body, and this, obviously does the same thing. Of course, it goes….it comes out too far. But I was wondering if on the borderline of infra-sound that possibly some interesting things could be done.

JP: Ah.

From Arthur Magazine.

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