I arrived at St Giles shortly after Charlemagne Palestine had begun his 6-hour version of Schlingen Blangen and walked into the near empty church.Â I’d expected to be locked into a hard on the arse pew and had been kicking myself on the way for having forgotten to bring a cushion.Â Instead it felt like I had the place to myself and found a nice spot about 2/3 of the way down from the organ where I could lie on the floor Shavasana, stretched out and ready for some serious listening.
There is something truly phenomenal about the pipe organ. As Charlemagne excitedly explained at the end of his perforamnce its like there are 100s of small speakers – one for each toneÂ – but its really the relationship or interaction between these ‘speakers’, the room and perhaps most strikingly your head that really takes listening to an organ in person to such fantastic levels.
Charlemagne’s playing (essentially holding down the keys with some kind of blocks rather that any ‘Strumming Music‘ style athleticism) worked with this phenomena beautifully.Â Increasingly complex pitch combinations forming frequency beating patterns and rhythms that shifted gradually over time and radically altered sepdneding on the position of your head.Â I seemed to get more high frequencies with my left ear to the ground – is there something wrong with it? I’m sure there is a neat physiological explanation for the variations – but really, I’d rather not know.Â As it was, it comes across as some quite magical.Â My friend Pascale leaned over at one point seeking assurance that she wasn’t halucinating the variety of tones and the changing patterns bouncing around her head.
I’ve played around with this kind of stuff before.Â When Carina and I played at Cafe Oto back in August we did an analog synth/organ duet where I tried to use the synth to both replicate and mess with the high frequency beating patterns.Â It probably worked best when we played at home – the walls of our small studio space amplifying the H.F. resonance and making for some wonderfully intense and properly psychedelic drone sound – something I find incredibly difficult to replicate in different rooms and near impossible to get on tape.
Charlemagne had it going on on a grand scale and with a grace and patience that made that saturday afternoon the listening experience of the year.