Things That Go Bump In The Night, In Your Skull (Ghosts of Halloween Costumes Past #3)

Another archival Tumblr piece, also from 2012. I’m happy to say that I WILL be attending this year’s Otoacoustic performance (like I did last year and the year before). It’s my equivalent of Christmas mass, and I am loathe to miss it. If you’re in AZ and interested in going to this year’s Otoacoustic, here are the details: https://www.facebook.com/events/1487546074873742/.

Things That Go Bump In The Night, In Your Skull

The 2010 Otoacoustic Emissions performance (photo by Jason Woodbury)
The 2010 Otoacoustic Emissions performance (photo by Jason Woodbury)

I go to church once a year. On Halloween night. For the last two years, I’ve gone to St. Augustine’s Church in Tempe. I won’t be going this year: I have a performance gig around the same time my annual “service” starts. I’m grateful for a chance to be on a stage doing what I love, but a part of me wishes I could be in Tempe. I hope whatever spirits preside over St. Augustine’s on those Halloween nights won’t damn me for my absence…

blackmass10

If you’re wondering, dear readers, what kind of service I’m referring to (no, it isn’t an orgiastic black mass, so you can close your LaVey books and pull up your pants), I’m talking about the annual Otoacoustic Emissions that Jacob Adler organizes. This will be the 5th annual incarnation of the O.E.; I’ve caught the last two, and I regret missing the 2 before it. They are transcendental, trance-inducing experiences. In short O.E. goes like this: a procession of musicians (walking into the church in 2 lines, dressed in black, some carrying LED candles) enters the church, gathering in a ring in the pulpit area, and begin playing a long drone that lasts for almost an hour, complemented by an organ and gong, a drone that produces frequencies that makes it feel like the sounds are coming OUT of your ears instead of entering them. The sheer power of the experience, the physical PRESENCE of the sound those musicians make, the immensity of it, boggles my mind…

Vocalists hum and wail as percussion and strings and wind instruments and god knows what else plays along, building and building in sonic intensity until the large church hall resonates with sounds so loud and deep and celestial it feels as though we’re listening to whale songs, gigantic whale songs, but the sounds are internal, it feels like WE’VE swallowed the whales and they are singing through our bones and cheekbones and out through the top of our skulls and the sounds get so loud my body starts to rock slowly and I feel like I’m going to lose consciousness and sometimes I do and I wake up to be lifted up higher by that whale song until I forget my own name and how much money is in my bank account and what I’m planning to do later and what I did before I came here and I even start to forget where here is anyway and then the music starts to die down and the whale song gets faint and then its quiet in the church, the church is quiet, but I’m not, my body is humming and my mind is tuning itself, trying to remember how that tune sounded, you know the song, “My name is ___” and I sit in the pews as the musicians leave; I usually don’t end up filling that blank until the last one steps out of view and it’s always a bittersweet feeling, that remembering: few things in life feel as good as being a blank… Sweet, sweet tabula rasa.

That’s how I feel at St. Augustine’s on Halloween. I don’t feel the presence of the dead or the invisible world out on the streets, but in that hall, in that drone, I feel I’m hearing something ancient and inhuman and powerful clear Its throat. I’m going to miss not being close to that throat this year.

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