In 1994, the composer and musician Roy Whelden made a beautiful album called Like a Passing River. The tracks includes several sections of me reading from All the Visions. Roy mixed my voice with performances by the American Baroque ensemble, and with the singing of soprano Karen Clark. The result is wonderful; it is kind of a transcendentalized operatic version of All the Visions. You can buy the Like a Passing River album, or individual tracks from it, via iTunes, via Amazon, and in other places. Meanwhile, Roy and his music publisher, New Albion Records, have agreed that I can post a few of the tracks from the album as podcasts. You can play the songs without leaving this page, just by clicking on the play bars where they appear in the post below.
“Rucker Songs” is the most amazing cut on the album. It’s about my notion of God as a white light, and includes a line I really like, which Karen begins with.
“Oh man we are in heaven, for sure for sure.”
In composing “Rucker Songs,” Roy built a hauntingly lovely operatic oratorio onto on that, followed by a bridge of wondrous sine-wave-humming, leading to a sprachgesang or spoken-song passage including my line, “What’s the point, can’t somebody tell me,” and then goes into my vision of flying “into the light” and reaching a zone with “no space, no time.”
“Give us this day our daily rush, on the nod as thou art in heaven.”
I actually wrote that line. Words to live by. And we get to hear Karen Clark’s great lush opera voice singing it. I’ve always kind of wanted to hear lines like these when I listen to religious songs. Karen caresses and burnishes the words.
I Was At the New Year’s Eve Dance, or, I’m Going To Die
“I Was At the New Year’s Eve Dance,” which might also be called “I’m Going To Die,” is a recording of me reading a passage describing my my teenage realization of the inevitability of death—which took place at a party at the Riverview Valley Country Club in Louisville, Kentucky, 1962.
“It first hit me when I was sixteen: you’re going to die.”
In setting up this song, Roy uses a few bars of “Teenager in Love” by Dion and the Belmonts, which fits, as I myself sampled this song in my line: “I know the answer: sometimes I’m happy sometimes I’m blue.”
Surf it, bro.
What’s the Point?
“What’s the Point?” isn’t really a song, it’s more just a recording of my voice, wondering what’s the point of existence—this is near the end of the novel, it comes from the long passage that I’m reprinting below, yes, I’m running the final long passage of All the Visions here. You might want to listen to “Rucker Songs” again after you read it.
By the way, you can also access these three podcast songs via by clicking the icon below.
As most of you probably know, I’m running a Kickstarter project, Transreal Trilogy + All the Visions. I want to reprint three of my SF novels plus a scrolly Kerouac-like novel All the Visions. You might think of today’s post as providing you with a musical and spoken word material relating to All the Visions, as well as this mammoth reprint of the book’s closing rant:
Final Section of All The Visions
So what’s the point? I mean, it ought to add up to something, shouldn’t it? A guy telling his life story, at length, but it doesn’t really come to anything. Well…I guess I would have been glad to read it, glad to see the footprints in the sands of time, yes, glad to know there was once someone vaguely like me, and will be again, no doubt, we are a hive, us humans, no individual death really matters, like when we were at the beach last year and Conrad Jr. caught a lot of crabs—crabs are so stupid that all you do is lower a fish-head or chicken-neck down in the water and the crab grabs it and won’t let go and you pull up the string and net him and put him in a bucket with the other crabs you caught, unless you haven’t caught any crabs yet, in which case the bucket is empty—and we cooked them for supper, they screamed when I threw them into the boiling water, but screamed so high that it was hard to hear, but not quite so high a scream as lobsters do, we cooked the crabs for supper and poor Conrad started crying, because, you understand, these crabs and him had been out on the dock for several hours, doing a number together, biped catching crustacean, and now the poor crabs were dead, but the consoling factor was that, after all, there are still a whole lot more crabs in the ocean, the race of crab not one whit diminished by these individual deaths,
no man is an island, if you think of it the right way, “no man is an island,” means that in fact an individual death doesn’t matter, it’s the whole thing, the gestalt that matters, so that, as old Bill suggests, our best way for space colonization would be to send out probes full of bacteria or viruses, just so they have that buddy-buddy double-strand of DNA, ribonucleic acid, the genes, if you think about it, the genes are sitting down deep in us—we are in fact big space probes for the genes, we are meat robots that the genes build in order to reproduce themselves, the other form of immortality being, yeah, software backups, but the final is the realization that even these stabs at immortality are relative, try like 10-to-the-30th years from now, man, when most of the protons have broke down, or 10-to-the-100th years away, and, really if you think about it, what difference would it make if the world lasted forever, and would it even matter if you yourself didn’t have to die, oh, it would get too old, but still, something in one’s soul does kind of leap up at the thought of immortality, but it’s a con, we have to learn not to fall for it, not get sucked in, because mortality is an essential part of the human condition,
like in Gravity’s Rainbow, Pynchon writes about the angels looking down, “all unaware of the dark beauty of the death-sentence we labor under,” the dark beauty, take me now Jesus, well, give me 35 more years, I wanna be 72 when I croak, and I’m past the midpoint, up here in real time real time real time, auughh, it’s not real for you anymore, my time, or for me, it’s ripped back from me by the current, the flow, I’m going to die, oh so what, who cares, it’ll be a relief for sure for sure, though there’s no rush is there , but still…as I thought once, “Death is the only thing that makes life bearable,” I mean how awful it would be to stand forever on a cloud, all stiff, strumming it, listening to hymns, nasty God walking past to pee on the floor, a chance of a peek up the bluesky folds of Mary’s skirt to her skin more whiter than a harp of gold, strum it, baby, there must be some way out of here,
I’m a desperate man, but why bother to be desperate, why do anything when you can groove, though grooving gets so boring, well, not boring, really, it’s the hangovers and the stoneover dissociation that’s hard to take, year after year, “And do your folks say you are a stranger / do your friends think you be too weird / it’s hard to learn to live with so much danger, bay-bih / year after year after year after year,” psycho rant stifflegged dead pig axe cross the stage, making everyone feel better they aren’t up there, scraping it right down to the rind, what’s the point, what’s the fucking point, man, why are you alive, why is there something instead of nothing, what’s the answer, “The answer,” sez Wittgenstein, “is experienced as the vanishing of the questions,” right, I kin dig it, but hey, the questions come back don’t they, you have to come down and make some money, baby, the questions come back later, you get the answer fine,
you fall asleep, you lose it, lose it totally, gag me with a chain-saw, baby, lose it totally and then start scratching your head, showering lice-eggs across the schizo-scenario and wondering why be working so hard just to get a stiff dick soft, get a stomach full, horrible animal functions, the way that if you really really have to take a shit you can’t think of anything else, just kind of crab-scuttle around, do the limbo under the pay-toilet door, find a guy already in there, flub-gubba-geep, go on outside and “lay your load upon the road / when toilets weren’t invented,” all this hassle to keep the system at maintenance level, putting bug spray on yourself, all the work to keep your hair oiled and your butt clean and your fillings in, your socks up, your wounds disinfected and bandaged, your eyesight corrected, your hearing amplified, your behavior modified, reformed-alcoholic radio-evangelist republican-congressman, yes!—your fungus damped, your itch scratched, and the piece of food picked out between those two dancey molars, the brain amused with TV paper book magazine drug cigarette booze coffee frisco-speedball organ-music-piped-in-from-the-catacombs-of-Thoth, the frisson, my dear,
“Give us this day our daily rush, on the nod as thou art in Heaven,” in heaven, oh man we are in heaven for sure for sure…or maybe it’d be better to be in Hell and limp, instead of forever in Heaven with your tremendous aching stiff salute, with God’s horrible bunion feet the size of mountains and you’re in fact standing on them though you don’t realize it, just singing, and feeling the better for it, soothing the itch the flaw the egg the lurking scream the origin of the species, the way Brits are supposed to always say “D” instead of “R,” The Gdeat Pydamids, those guys thought they had something going, one would imagine, those Egyptians mounding up those rocks and sand, Chariots of the Gods????????? naw, the power of the weak, what man can do, Izzy Tuskman used to yell at me, “What man can do,” is, uh, turn other men on, like, “Take this my body which is given for you,” do you think I’ll go to hell for writing that? Oh what’s the point, can’t somebody tell me please, not that I’d listen, I’ve got it all figured out, I tell you, I know the answer and it’s “Sometimes I feel so happy / sometimes I feel so blue,” I mean surf it, bro, hang ten, ho-dad, slide in and out of the reckless wash of snit-snit bubbles, each a galaxy in itself, and what can we ever know of the fish who swim below, just be there, why why, just do this, do that,
as a good “bad-attitude” attitude keep in mind that if enough people believe anything it’s probably wrong, eternally subject to revision, the idea in history, though each time you figure it out you still have to go to sleep and again wake up and again start over—a day is such a very long time, why would anyone want to live forever, throb, the Muse getting in bed with him…throb, he’s up again, out of bed, around the bend agin, over and over, until, if you’re lucky as John Lennon, some mushroom from West Yakshit blows you away, or if you’re lucky as Aldous Huxley, your wife shoots you up with acid, meanwhile JFK croaking on TV in the nurses’ room, and your old lady’s like shooting you up every time your stroke-twitched big wise forever-talking mouth tries to move, uh uh uh, “yes dear, take another hit of chemicals…and fucking die, man, and shut up,” into the light now darling, into the light, go now, go peacefully into the light.
Yeah, baby. Back me if you can. Transreal Trilogy + All the Visions.