Node 303

I have to be careful how I word the following entry as I would like to talk about what I’m up to creatively but not give away too much at the same time. So, expect cryptic but no spoilers.

Node 303: It’s the working title of a gradually evolving assembly of audio works I create on a day to day basis in my very limited free time. Often, it will begin on my commute, stop when I reach work, resume during my tea and lunch breaks, then continue on my ride back home.

I’ve been noodling away at audio production for a few years now. If you follow what I do via this blog or my other channels, I know it would seem like I produce little and infrequently. This isn’t actually the case at all. I’m just the kind of individual who likes to keep my creative cards close to my chest, especially while I consider myself to still be in a state of research and development or learning.

As the lights of civilisation have slowly been flickering out over the last few years, for example: the rise of ugly nationalism in various countries, the apparent political cluster-fucks of Brexit and the horrendous catastrophe that is the Trump administration, Syria, a dying biosphere etc etc, I have found at times that my creativity has suffered from a slump, particularly in making music.

I recognised that this wasn’t a mentally healthy state to be in so, as mentioned before in an earlier post, I’ve either jumped onto technical problem solving such as working out how other artists do certain things, or I’ve switched to avenues such as writing or playing with graphics as ‘gap fillers’ until I get into a better frame of mind.

Something I had always shied away from was the use of my voice. I’ve no vocal training, have never thought of myself as a singer or song writer. As I love music, and have learnt how to make my own, it always felt like a chink in my metaphoric armour.

Over the last few months, I’ve had a happy accident in my creativity, I’ve begun taking elements from certain journals that I’ve written, recording my reading of my works, then adding a soundtrack that I’ve created. I found that even though the vocals are spoken, they have served very well to act as a skeleton on which to hang the flesh of rhythm, melody and various other sonic embellishments. So far so good…

All works to date can be considered as part of a larger body of work that will eventually be grouped together as a collection called ‘Node 303’ I’d like to think that this will be an indefinitely ongoing project while I’m alive.

It may take a few more months before I share what I’ve begun creating, but I’m excited by what I’ve produced so far, even though I know when the time comes to unify the various strands, I will need to add a lot of polish to the current collection of vignettes.

There are other plus points to this current paradigm of working. The music that forms the soundtracks is personally satisfying for me to listen to, If I mute the vocal elements, I find that everything else has a certain musical flow that I’m happy with. Not necessarily following the structure of a song: opening, verse, chorus, middle eight etc but as a soundtrack, the music has a logic to it. In this light, I may well use the soundtracks as another creative point to spring from. (I said that I’d have to be cryptic, didn’t I.)

At the conclusion of this brief update, I’ve told you ‘all and nothing’ at the same time, which in turn gives me a sense of success in achieving my slippery aims as stated at the start of the post. 

As an aside:

I’ve only a limited number of subscribers to my blog here, at the time of all the GDPR mayhem, I abstained from pinging out yet another mail asking you to consent and change your privacy settings, however, I did enable some extra privacy functionality to this website to allow users to manage privacy, should anyone wish to do something out of character and actually leave a comment beneath a post. If you no longer wish to receive copies of the infrequent blog entries such as this one, just click the ‘unsubscribe’ link at the bottom of the mail. There won’t be any hard feelings if you do, I’m very much at ease with being unpopular on the web. If you don’t change anything, well, st some point soon, you’ll probably get a mail with a link to something weird and musical…

Umpsquamadic Vector

I stumbled into generating Scalable Vector Graphics by accident as I was experimenting with the Wacom pen.
I began with an app called ‘Assembly’ and it turned out that using fingers was more effective anyhow. I’ve spent most of my breaks this week having a go at making a test Umpsquamadic Peel image.

This took a bit of time and developed into the following graphic

Just for shits’n giggles. I’m encouraged that the digital files are so easy to manipulate and add quick variations to.
In Assembly, certain limitations became apparent. The repetition of dots around the perimeter involved a lot of copy/paste operations and scaling down. The end result being an object of somewhere around one thousand components. The iPad seemed to deal with this fairly well, however, once I’d attempted to duplicate the object within Assembly, adding another thousand or so components, the device went painfully slow, clearly suffering from insufficient RAM . Once again, the case for upgrading hardware becomes a consideration.

Saturday became a day of creative exploration in the visual domain. I carried on with experimental imagery based upon the fateful day in 1992 using a collection of graphics programs mainly for the iPad. These had been apps that I’d previously downloaded but found little in the way of use for as I had no particular plan in mind. Today however, I went to town messing around with all of them (as they suggest and link to each other) the following images are from those experiments.

As it turns out, I can produce artwork on the fly and quickly. Yes, it’s a little rough around the edges but I’m rediscovering how to express imagery that has been kicking around in the back of my brain for years. I think the digital medium is an excellent way of expressing it. I tried with pen and ink back in the 90’s.

Back then it was the best I could do, and as any artist will agree, when a person has a photographic image in their head, although traditional mediums are a useful way of expressing the seed idea, there is always a compromise that the image is an approximation of the idea, rather than a vivid capture of what is seen in the mind’s eye.

 

Umpsquamadic Peel Song: Pt 2

Umpsquamadic Peel Song: Pt 2

Last night I put guitar practice aside to nudge the Umpsquamadic Peel song along a bit further.

I lined up four vocal variations of me singing the song as an overdub, in Logic. I then experimented with some plug-ins for vocal transformation, space designer (reverb) I was particularly pleased with the vocal transform as it managed to create a female tone amongst the masculine ones.
At some point during the noodling, I added another distortion effect to make the piece a little less human sounding. It worked very well but at the cost of losing the female sounding voicing . I’m not 100% committed to using this experiment in the final piece but it has emboldened me to know that I’m now getting better at taking sounds from my mind and have a basic enough knowledge to do a fairly accurate reproduction of them.

I took the loop I’d created and dropped it into the project ‘Walk of fear’ (working title) I was pleasantly surprised that it fit the composition without my need to time stretch or chop up in anyway. So now I know that the Umpsquamadic Peels sing somewhere around 110bpm

It occurred to me whilst singing the loop , that I could add a variation. It’s a gut feeling that my idea is faithful to the nature of the incident.
I’m thinking of a line that goes:

I’ve always known I’ve felt like this before, and I always knew that I was born before.

Two before’s …I might have to think about tweaking the first line.

(Later )

During the day I had a play around with the Umpsquamadic vocal track combining it with a copy of the ‘Walk of fear ‘ track. Rhythmically, they don’t quite line up and I’m going to have to resolve this somehow without compromising either in a significant way. It’s only the last two bars that present the issue.

When I got home I played around with a couple of other connected ideas belonging to the overall arc of what will he the entire piece. Firstly I recorded a paragraph of dialogue along the lines of

“There is a word. If you find yourself in a terrible place and you are no longer able to cope, if the world becomes mad and you need a way out, then say _________ and an exit will appear”

I inserted a high pitch tone into the blank space, added some vocal butchery to the dialogue and found that the result was a pleasing approximation of this baffling memory.

I played it back to Tanya later and she immediately picked up on errors in delivery and cadence, giving me some tips on how to deliver the vocal more commandingly. This was useful to know, besides, this recorded dialogue was only an experiment.

Down the studio later, I spent around twenty minutes recording another element I’ll refer to here as ‘supersonic bionic
A weird memory of an acid drenched flight of fancy, the amuse bouche before the main course of horror.

Back From the Dead

Shucks. Does anyone still visit? Well, I’ve reconciled a difficult issue I felt myself facing whenever I’ve updated this blog, namely age+experience+doubts=No posting

Age: Less need for having my ego fed by having a ‘Look at me’ website

Experience: The recognition that the web has mutated into a deformed monster version of its sweet little baby younger self, it is angry, full of wicked lies and crooks. If I have a personal blog, how do I know that it won’t be used against me? 

Doubts: Who gives a monkeys if I blog and have a website?

No posts: see above.

Yet I pay for my domain name every year. Well, that’s stupid If I’m not doing anything with it.

Solution: I’ve been keeping journals again using a fabulous app called ‘Day One‘ I admit that I love it as it helps organise my thoughts. I’ve subdivided the journal into Life, Dreams, Questions asked by users of (and answered by me) on Quora. Lastly, a creative journal.

In the case of the later, I’ve found that it helps and motivates me to keep a track of what I do, why I do it and how i do it. I began to think, this journal in particular would be a candidate for blogging. In this spirit, I will copy entries from my personal journal and post them here on my site for my ever invisible, somewhat limited audience. Having said that, as my SEO metadata may be picked up by search engines and attract new viewers. If what I’m doing interests you or if you feel that I could be doing it better and you know how I could, then I will always welcome correspondence from interested, creative parties.

 

 

Winter Is Coming…

Here’s an update of sorts. Busy seems to remain the flavour of this part of life’s seasons. So, being rather ensconced in my career as I am, I still fill the pockets of free time that I can snatch, with musical creativity. I compose tunes in break times, always gunning for a development in my style and ability to arrange. An hour a night at meddling with my electric guitar is starting to pay off. I’ve been (according to my Instagram page) been practicing for thirty seven weeks. That’s two hundred and fifty nine hours based upon my hour a day regimen. “The path is long” as I’ve been told, I can believe it, but on the whole as each week passes, I gain a little confidence and have found on certain occasions, I have a magic hour where my hands seem to intuitively glide around the fretboard and satisfying metallic shreds occur. Given a little more time, I’ll post something for your anonymous curiosity.

Halloween 2015 has just passed. It got me thinking that I should mark the occasion in some way so I delved into my music files and dug up the first piece of music I created back in 2013. I added a simple visual from the opening sequence of Halloween 3 (An old horror favourite) and uploaded it to Youtube. The piece, as with most of my noodlings, is thought of as a work in progress, as I intend to return to it at some future point and flesh it out a little more. It was always intended to be a track with spoken narrative, mainly inspired by the Bauhaus  tracks ‘Departure’ and ‘Of Lillies and Remains’

In the mean time, I’m refining my ability to 1. Play the guitar parts myself. 2. Develop the guitar melody so that it builds and evolves more throughout the track. That said, I’m still pleased that this first version was the main reason I began this musical adventure, I found that I’d proved an old daydream to be something that would eventually find some substance. So, here’s ‘The Summoning’ a working title that may become something else eventually.

As mentioned, life is busy and it seems all available space is filled perpetually. I’m working in Bristol currently, helping restore an old Victorian hospital so that wealthy people can live there in luxury apartments. There’s a certain irony that the site is immediately adjacent to a massive, crammed block of flats inhabited mainly by the impoverished. As a partial remedy to this juxtaposition of fortunes, a new building is due to be erected that will serve as a visual barrier between to the two classes. One can almost imagine the kind of neighbourly dynamic that may present itself if civilisation reaches the kind of societal boiling point that it sometimes seems we are heading into.

I’ve digressed, what I had intended to mention is that my wife has provided me with access to her Audible – audio books account and recommended gems within. Whilst I perform architectural conservation tasks by numbers, my mind and ears are often operating in a different sphere altogether. Recently I have listened to a magnificent anthology of spooky stories by John Connolly called ‘Night Music -Nocturnes Volume 2’

I’d adored his earlier book ‘The Book of Lost Things’ and subsequently found that the aforementioned audio book was equally, if not more gripping that the previous offering. I highly recommend it and the narration is superb. I found particular delight in a section of stories around the middle of the recording under the heading ‘The Fractured Atlas’ If like me, you enjoy the spooky old yarns of M.R James, H.P Lovecraft and Arthur Machen, then you’ll find your spine suitably tingled by these stories.

Available here.

The next audio book I listened to was ‘The Versions of Us’ by Laura Barnett. A most enchanting love story about two people, Jim and Eva who meet in Cambridge during the nineteen fifties. One of the things I really loved about this beautifully written story was, the way the narrative branched out into different timelines, allowing pivotal plot points to unfold in entirely different directions to each other. It digs deep into the questions I think all of us sometimes wonder “What if I’d chosen to _________ (Insert hypothetical tangent universe question here) Instead of _____________ ? (What you actually did here) What you are left with is a rich tapestry of three vivid narratives of the same couple living their lives through seven decades with all the love, heartbreaks and loss in three entirely different universes to each other. The book saves the reader from the complications of  the ‘why?’, it isn’t necessary. Each story is so luminous with believable characters, dialogue and situations, one just easily accepts the three versions of events as they unfold. It also made me snivel repeatedly during solitary moments on my scaffolding, I don’t mind admitting it.

Available here

Once I’d regained my manly composure, I moved on to Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. In a strangely similar vein to The Versions of Us, this story follows the multiple lives and deaths of Ursula Todd, beginning in the early 1900’s. A very effective plot device takes the reader/listener through a fractal maze of the protagonist’s existence as she lives the same life over and over again branching off at various narrative points to discover the paths that never were or what might have been. She never fully recognises all the other versions of herself that had been before and we never really need to know why. In an age where concepts like the Multiverse and Parallel Universes are fairly well understood constructs, I think Atkinson makes the assumption that the reader will bear these things in mind whilst enjoying the stories. Once again, I was entranced by the richness of the narrative and the growing beauty of the characters as they are slowly revealed throughout their various subtle iterations. As the story takes place over several decades and passes through the Spanish Flu pandemic and two world wars, it creates an often harrowing account of life in both Germany and Britain, particularly during the later war, where we see through the eyes of Ursula as a young woman and consequently see the carnage from an adult perspective. It is both a wonderful story and history lesson.

Available here.

By now, I’ve learnt to carry robust tissues in my pocket whilst listening to these stories. It is a credit to the authors, and narrators that they can reduce a man to a snivelling wreck when he should be focussing on the job at hand.

Listening to the last two stories prompted me to think about life’s ‘What if?’ a little, quickly realising the futility of such lines of enquiry. It did make me ponder however, the recognition  of the transient nature of things and people; our lives in general. I thought of the passage of time and that curious knowledge that comes with having lived a few decades, that there are people you know, that you meet up with for one last time without either party realising that you will probably never see each other again in this life. School friends, ex lovers, occasional family members. Its a funny thing, you say  your goodbyes in such a casual manner, perhaps even say something like ‘see you soon’ and then it never happens. Its like a little death of sorts and I have pondered if we would all act very differently if we were armed with the knowledge of these fateful last encounters?

And then there are those you know you’ll never see again if you can help it, and you’re glad. Good riddance you fucker!

It’s a funny thing, this life…

Said to nobody in particular.

2015

RADIO HIAB-X 2013: Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality 2013 from hiabex303 on 8tracks Radio.

Two thousand and thirteen had its own musical flavour, I seemed to gravitate towards electronic grooves and music that, in my mind, would be the perfect soundtrack for floating around in Virtual Reality to. My enthusiasm for the Oculus Rift VR headset was constantly in the back of my mind, perhaps because I’ve been keen as a gamer to see a true paradigm shift away from monitors and screens into a realm of infinite creative possibilities, something totally immersive. The music from that I discovered in this year stoked my imagination. Enjoy this mix.

HIAB-X Headquarters.

I’ve tried a couple of times to write about how I spent the majority of my free time during the last six months of last year. It was the reason blogging and much of my other digital activity fell into a deep and procrastination-free coma.  Rather than post out of date info that was sketchy at best, I’ve just decided to write a new post and start over.

As a little bit of background, here’s how the project began. In 2007 when my career path took a U-turn and ventured into the world of stone masonry, my wife and I had also just been through a year  of minor upheaval as we’d decided that rather than moving house, we would refurbish our existing abode and extend it. Our original plan was to add some extra room onto our kitchen by buying a small plot of our neighbour’s garden that was immediately adjacent to it. When this didn’t go through, we decided instead to buy two wooden cabins to use as extended spaces away from the main property. A ‘his’n hers’ kind of arrangement of outbuildings, If you like.

Time passed and the buildings became functional, I used mine as a workshop for man jobs, and because the cabin was a respectable size with two small annex rooms, we put in a sofa bed, should we need to put up guests. It was an ok setup, damp and cold in the winter. I never felt satisfied that as a usable space, that it worked as well as I wanted it to.

In the meanwhile, my career in stone masonry fully blossomed and the cabin became a place I infrequently visited. Sometime earlier last year, It occurred to me that both cabins would benefit from some retrofitted internal insulation. The materials were ordered, arranged to be delivered at a future date after I’d had time to prepare the spaces, then promptly delivered on the non agreed date one week after ordering. A large palette of styrene backed plaster board, probably twenty large sheets of the stuff arrived one rainy Friday afternoon. Plasterboard doesn’t do rain very well, so I was forced to throw my plans out of the proverbial window and fill my cabin as quickly as possible with the sheets of board, I hadn’t been in a position to clear the place out and now I was filling it up, and taking up half of the available floor space in the process.

What do you do? Well, due to the unpredictable British climate and the desire to not have to keep shifting twenty sheets of giant plasterboard back and forth between cabin and garden, I decided to start work by working around it. “It’ll take a couple of weekends” I told myself, and the gods of D.I.Y had a good laugh.

A couple of months later both cabins were insulated.

So, close to tears, sitting in the chaotic midden of quadruple handled personal belongings plonked over to one side of my cabin, I began thinking. It had been my intention to return to business as usual, I had a work bench area in the main room and a designated guest area in one of the smaller rooms. At the time, I was considering how to decorate over the plasterboard to give the spaces a more welcoming finish for both myself and a wouldbe guest. In addition to that, I’d spent much of last year feeling frustrated that my artistic creativity had been the victim of ‘too much going on’ and no appropriate space to occupy, where my creative juices could flourish. You see, on any given week day evening or weekend, when not working down the cabin, I’d fallen into a trap of sitting at my kitchen table and zoning out in front of my computer. We live in a small terraced cottage, each room is functional but there isn’t a suitable room to bang on a stereo and get out the creative arsenal without encroaching on someone else’s plans for vegging out at the end of the day. I’d long accepted this, but felt creative inertia chewing away at my soul like an angry malnourished rat.

Sitting in my personal midden, an idea popped up rather innocently…”What if, I shifted my work bench over to the small guest area, and what if I turned the main room into a more comfortable recreational area?” followed by “What if, that area was decorated to look a little ‘Bohemian’?”  At the time, I’d recently seen an image on Tumblr that I’d felt a wistful bit of affection for:

boho

Although not entirely to my tastes, it seemed like the person whose room this was, had made themselves a little nest of comforts and stimulations that harkened back to another era. I liked that, and the seeds were sewn in my own imagination. I set to work moving my work bench, then cursing the fact that, having built plasterboard insulation around it, I now had a bloody great gap to sort out, which I did.

The following months saw a flurry of intense activity during my evenings and weekends, sometimes that activity just involved going down the cabin and taking a perch then staring intently into the contents of my own skull. I was working out problems, imagining things that hadn’t materialised yet, just basically building the space in my own mind. I’d come to the conclusion that I’d borrow from earlier ideas I’d tried out in my early twenties, where I’d cheered up dismal bedsits with strategically placed Indian bed sheets to hide flaking, lumpen ceilings and cracked plaster walls.

My wife had been banned from entering the cabin since about June, I’d sold her the idea of there now being a second living room, come reading room, and I wanted her to see the final product without worrying about the gigantic mess leading up to it. During my working days on a large construction site, I’d noted that a fair amount of useable timber was being skipped; off cuts from roof joists and the like, so began rescuing bits and pieces to recycle and repurpose them. My original idea had been to make storage using old scaffold boards, but with my bohemian direction starting to take shape, the idea upgraded to using joist offcuts to fashion shelves that would start in one room, turn corners and continue into another room. Silly ideas began floating up.

  • It needed flocked, damask wallpaper.
  • It needed skirting board
  • It needed to have a bank of shelving areas to store various house cluttering artefacts, like ornaments, movies and books.
  • It needed to look fucking cool with some alternative lighting methods…just in case the need to dance around should occur.
  • It needed a much comfier and welcoming sofa bed than the shitty Ikea one I’d kept down there.
  • OK, the cabin needed to be multi functional because of the above and more.

These aims and ambitions kept me busy all the way through until December the 31st, by which point, if it hadn’t been the Christmas break, I’d have seriously burnt myself out. It’s pretty hard being a stonemason by day and an interior mover and shaker at any other given moment of free time.

Finishing touches and a grand scale tidy up took place and completed around five p.m on New Years Eve 2013, later that evening I escorted my wife down the garden to see the fruits of my labours over the last six months. I must admit, I felt very uneasy about the prospect as her former banishment from entering the cabin had potentially conjured up ideas of some kind of palatial den, that may or may not have lived up to expectation.

She was thoroughly delighted with her visit, so much so, we spent the rest of the evening celebrating in there. You know you’ve done a good job when your wife is happy to spend her evening in the shed!

Slideshow of the cabin so far: Hover over an image to skip back and forth.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As it stands, the cabin will remain a work in progress, it needs to be lived in and added to, I may well add images of its development here as I go along. Needless to say, it’s now a great little place to be creative, or just read and listen to music.

 

 

42

42

 

I turned 42 a few days ago. As birthday’s go, it was quite unremarkable from the point of view of opting to go to work, the usual wakeup start of 6 a.m, then a day spent in the cold, doing my usual stonemasonry routine in a nine hour day. I had a celebratory meal with my family after work (which was lovely) then came home and the day was just as good as over. It added a sharp contrast to my 41st, which was spent lounging around in the beautiful Caribbean sun of Grenada, I have now vowed to myself that I won’t do a working day on my 43rd, 44th etc. I felt quite flat.

Entering 42 has been a poignant experience lurking in the back of my mind, mainly because it has provided me with a little opportunity to dwell on the numbers involved. It caused me to reflect on ‘halves’, specifically half of my lifetime, twenty one years ago.

At 21 in 1992 I’d just moved to Bristol, having left the comfort zone of my familiar home county in Norfolk. It had been a massive step in my independence as a young man, no longer reliant on the familiar faces and locations I had always known as home. It was a leap into the unknown and uncertainty. I took the move in a brazen spirit, it felt a little risky and dangerous, I won’t deny that deep in my heart I felt the call of adventure and the unknown variables just meant excitement to me.

Historically, twenty one years ago was a pivotal junction in my life, the choices I made in relocation became life changing circumstances which echoed on to present day. I live in Bath now, having spent eleven years in Bristol. Those years, upon reflection were like a burning forge for fashioning the man I would eventually become. I won’t deny that they were emotionally incredibly difficult years in the most part, much of my life in Bristol became a stormy season of letting go of ‘kidulthood’ even though I wasn’t aware of this at the time. I’d wrestled with myself and my often complicated emotions throughout the most of it. I generally don’t look at my ‘twenty something’ years with much affection, I was lost, directionless, emotionally lonely, acutely aware of being in a boat without a rudder and terrified of what that actually meant in the long run. At the same time, the connections I had made with new friends had helped me through the most difficult of those times, I will always be grateful to those who cared.

By the time I reached my thirties, I felt a great relief, It seemed that the most desolate and difficult emotions had passed. Life still seemed difficult but I felt that I’d survived a lot of the shit I had either put myself through or been put through. This gave me a core of resilience, I knew I had it, and it pleased me to know I could survive. Is that how one starts to grow up?

I’m quickly heading into the tenth anniversary of meeting the lady who is now my wife, this adds another contrast for processing half of what happened over the course of twenty one years ago. She has been the greatest personal catalyst I have ever known, my lover and my best friend.

Becoming 42, has been a ponderous experience because of the above reasons. I know that I have lived my whole life all over again since being 21. In turn, the memory of my twenty one year old self has been akin to remembering being a child; something I could never have anticipated feeling. Unlike the string of small recollections I have about being an infant, the memory of who I was as a younger man, seems very fresh, as if two decades worth of living feel like something that happened last year. It makes me feel a kind of emotional vertigo.

It’s easy to imagine further down the line, advice I would have given my younger self, changes I might have made to do things differently, but, I don’t really go too far into those thoughts because I’m mostly happy with who I am and how life has changed for the better. Remembering half a lifetime ago is bittersweet, of course there are things I would do differently if I could do them all again, yet at the same time I’m very aware that my greatest mistakes and challenges have also been my greatest teachers, and now I’m old enough to appreciate such an insight. Isn’t this a case of Ouroboros eating its own tail?

2142

*Hat worn like a lemon for artistic purposes

 

 

World’s End

The actual playlist on my computer was 20+ tracks covering my favourite tunes from 2012, when it came to creating this compilation I had to strip it down to twenty of my favourites for the year where Terence McKenna’s ‘Timewave’ was supposed to reach it’s Omega Point. Needless to say, it didn’t, you get another musical compilation and I in turn can look at the empty playlist for 2013 and wonder what audio delights the next year will bring. Enjoy my 2012.

World’s End from hiabex303 on 8tracks Radio.

He Craved Lucidity.

As HIAB-X.COM evolves and fills with more content, I’ll be dedicating more of my writing to  experiences with altered states of consciousness. I haven’t deliberately meddled with my perceptions for many years now although the historical legacy of my adventures during my twenties still has a very profound impact on my world view today. I’m not ashamed of where I’ve taken myself, I sought answers to questions that couldn’t be adequately be answered by anyone else’s written accounts, I had to see things and experience them for myself.

During the period of my twenties, probably somewhere around 1996, I began taking an interest in the phenomenon of lucid dreaming. I’d read a fair amount about the subject and felt a natural gravity towards experimentation with techniques suggested to induce one.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept, it’s pretty straight forward. Ordinarily, everyone dreams, you may not always remember it but it’s a hardwired biological fact. If, like me, you are fortunate to have good dream recall, it logically follows that all dreams as most of us experience them, are events that occur in the night, where the dreamer remains completely unaware of the condition of being in a dream until awakening in the morning. At this point, the awareness of the dream is that of a collection of fragmented, recollections of what had happened in the dreamers mind at night.

Happy with that definition? Good.

OK, a lucid dream is a dream in which the dreamer’s critical faculties kick in and conclude  with the general notion “Oh, this must be a dream!” or thoughts to that effect. Most of us have experienced this also. From my own experiences and speaking with countless friends about it, many people gain this brief insight during uncomfortable dreams and nightmares only to awaken from the dream a moment later. The dream is lost and we are safely back in the reality of being in bed in the dead of night.

There is another way of going about it, the one in which the dreamer gains the self awareness of the situation at large and remains in that awareness as the dream continues.

This is the proper art of lucid dreaming and at best, it can be very tricky to attain this state either regularly or for any significant duration.

The Nineties was an exciting era for technological innovation, particularly for the emergence of gadgets that suitably fell into the niche category of ‘Techno-shamanic devices’. These were things like the early Mind machines and creations like Stephen LaBerge’s ‘Nova Dreamer.‘ I’ll cover Mind machines in other post, for now, I’ll keep on topic with the Nova Dreamer.

The Nova Dreamer was a device designed to be worn during sleep and resembled a slightly over sized eye mask.It contained a small computer situated above the centre of the eyebrows which had infrared sensors in place just above the eyelids. What it it did was very clever, it would detect when the sleeping wearer was going into REM sleep (The mental state where dreams begin to occur, then it would gently flash tiny LED lights just above the eyelids which in turn would appear as a light orientated visual cue within the dream. The cue of the lights would not last long but the theory was, that the will and attention of the wearer, hoping to have a lucid dream, would be sufficiently invoked to a point where the cue was understood and lucidity could begin.

A certain degree of mental preparation was also involved, simple daily practices such as keeping a dream diary, employing critical thinking to discern the multitude of ‘unlikely’ occurrences that might suggest that ordinary linear reality was not being experienced.

There was also the practice of ‘reality checking’ whereby the would-be lucid dreamer should take pause during certain random points during the waking day and perform some brief mental tests to ascertain that a dream was either occurring or not occurring.

I’m pretty certain that nothing much has changed in the routines and practices of the budding lucid dreamer. I was particularly interested in using the mask as it seemed like a good shortcut to lucid dream induction. Although effort was involved, there was also a little bit of electronic help at hand. I briefly had access to a Nova Dreamer which I’d obtained on a trial basis. Unfortunately for me, I found the mask incredibly uncomfortable to go to sleep with, as it was quite rigid and felt like a clunky facial object. I’d wake up every morning with it somewhere next to me in bed and no recollection of having experienced a lucid dream. Even though I’d followed all the instructions that accompanied it, including a rather in depth course in lucid dream induction, I just couldn’t get on with the mask. Within the safe period of my trial, I repacked it and sent it back to the company who’d supplied it.

Irony ultimately ensued, on the day I returned my briefly owned Nova Dreamer, I went to bed and experienced my first ever lucid dream.

The Dream.

It began with a false awakening, I remember sitting up in my sofa bed and feeling a momentary disorientation. I was in the right bed but it had somehow shifted position within the bedsit I was living in. I just couldn’t fathom why this should be and promptly decided to try a reality check, I took a look at my hands. (As suggested in the lengthy procedures outlined in A Course in Lucid Dreaming) I was immediately surprised to see that I held a tube of Colegate Toothpaste between my hands. This immediately began the realisation that I was in fact experiencing a dream.

The sheer thrill and excitement of this awareness began to destabilise the dream, I could feel the room around me beginning to fade and vibrate as if it were a bubble about to pop. Fortunately as I was quick enough to realise this, I returned my gaze to my dream hands and felt a general calming down of my surroundings. A sense  of stability descended and I hoped out of bed.

I was struck initially by the appearance of my bedsit in its dream form. It looked like the place I actually lived in, the layout was almost the same yet all personal objects decorating the abode were other worldly and unfamiliar. I briefly took notice of a black pyramid ornament sitting on top of my TV set. The object resonated faintly glowing red lines that looked like drifting parallel laser beams. I was fascinated yet at the same time hungry for further experience of my environment, I wanted to see what the outside world looked like and promptly left the bedsit via the exterior kitchen door. I was incredibly unprepared for what I would then discover.

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=intJbX4OUR4&feature=youtu.be’]

In reality, my back garden was nothing special; some compacted soil and a horrible little Hawthorn tree.

Until that point, I'd never given fairies serious thought.

In my dream reality, the garden was the same scale but had now gained two rows of parallel trees evenly spaced on opposite sides of the garden to each other, i think there were six trees in total and they were swarming with flying life forms that looked like fairies from folklore. The only noticeable difference with these fairies was that they had  flickering lights glowing from their backs, the lights appeared to fan and had a fluttering wing like appearance. The beings took no notice of my presence, my dream jaw was on the dream floor at the sight of them but then I was distracted by yet another surprise; I felt a warm air current breeze over my bare arms. It caused me to look around and notice the radiant sun. It was a beautiful, non blinding giant orange orb hanging in a golden sky. Vivid to behold, probably four times greater in size than the brilliant sun of reality. I was noting as I witnessed this, the vivid hyperreality of the situation, everything before me stood in vibrant, tangible,infinitely detailed form. This observation appeared to occur in my head as a thought processing the perceived world before me.

I looked down to check my body was still there, I felt quite unbothered by the fact that I seemed to be naked. I briefly focussed on my left nipple and I decided as this was all happening in a dream, that perhaps I could shift form. Was there any reason why not?

No. I willed my body to shift gender and it immediately responded. I could hear a noise like air filling a balloon as I watched my chest suddenly inflate into two hairless, perfect female breasts. In retrospect, I regret that I didn’t explore further below but I was reeling in psychological awe at the simple effectiveness at willing the transition. I reflect repeating the phrase over and over to myself “This is a dream, this is a dream…”

I looked up again to see over to the corner of the garden, I noticed that there was an open gate that wasn’t normally there, I took steps towards it and briefly recognised a distinct similarity to the garden gate of my best friend’s old house, even the paving leading into this other garden looked the same… I started to walk through and would have continued my exploration had it not been for the sense of physically acute sensitivity in my left nipple. I looked down and saw that it had become erect, in a perfectly female way so that it was a little fleshy raspberry shape. I couldn’t help but touch it with my fingers, It felt solid, utterly tangible and full of sensation. I started to laugh, a proper belly laugh, at the absurdity of the experience, and that unfortunately, was all it took to wake me up.

Waking up was a strange and heady mix of excitement, the continuity of being conscious from the state of lucid dream to ordinary consensus reality was practically seamless and so on a very rare occasion for me personally, my waking mind was sharp and supercharged. I felt like some kind of time traveller or super human with the ability to jump from one universe to another. The memory of the experience rocked my world for the rest of the day, and in many respects the rest of my life until now. I cannot adequately convey the extraordinary other worldliness of walking through a dream with present awareness perfectly intact.

Since that fateful day in 1996 I have had several other lucid dreams, mostly occurring spontaneously. A few of them were clustered around that original episode. I remember watching Inception the movie when it came out and thinking how accurate the scene was when the streets of Paris reached into the sky then folded over to make a curved reflection of the city.

Around 1996 or 1997 I’d experienced another lucid dream where I looked across the dream city of Bristol, thought of travelling to another part of it and seemed to will a large urban swathe of the cityscape to come rushing towards me as if on rails, my dream feet never walked a step.

Enter the Remee.

A chance conversation with an old friend on Facebook recently reminded me of dream machines, which in turn sparked a reminder of the frustrating Nova Dreamer. I hadn’t forgotten it in spite of its clunky and uncomfortable liaison with my head, I loved what it represented and admired the ingenuity of its design. I never liked the price tag however.

In thinking of it again, I decided to see if time and technology had perhaps refined the design, and I was initially disappointed to discover that it appears to be a discontinued product. I checked the Lucidity Institute’s page on the device and noted that they mentioned that someone else has devised a similar device called ‘The Remee’. Following the link took me to the Remee homepage, and I was thrilled to see that some guys have developed a superb looking sleep mask that operates on the same principles as the Nova Dreamer, even better still, at a very accessible fraction of the cost.

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03ouH9Pw_sk’]

I haven’t had a lucid dream for about a year, when I last had one it was frustratingly short, my mind has been generally unprepared for things like reality checks etc so I have found that I tend to reach lucidity briefly before slipping back into a non self conscious state of ordinary dreaming. Needless to say, I’d very much like to acquire a Remee in the near future.

As a dream artist, such a tool will be an invaluable investment, as an adventurer into altered states of consciousness, a chemical free solution into really travelling to the wild side of reality makes this too good an opportunity to ignore. The general demands of day to day living have really tempered my former psychedelic exploration down to a base line of zero activity for at least sixteen years, I’ve had opportunities but generally passed them up in favour of keeping the rest of my life on track and running smoothly as possible. My general muse and drug of choice for creativity has been my fortunate ability to recall most of my nightly excursions in dreams. If Dr Rick Strassman is to be believed, then, these nightly visions I (we all) experience, are largely thanks to naturally occurring DMT released in the Pineal gland. Once again, to use technology to make the most of this wonderfully quirky side of neurochemistry is too good to miss.

When I’ve acquired a Remee, I’ll update these pages and start posting my written and visual results. In the meanwhile, I’ll post some links for you relating to points I’ve mentioned earlier in this post.

Lucidity Institute

The Remee

Dr Rick Strassman