As our Western Civilisation careens into the abyss of its own histrionics, and we thinking apes are dragged down by its vortex, I suggest an experiment…
You have a record player, right? And a sizeable collection of vinyl records from way-back-when, yes? So, use these two resources to step back in time. You can do it if you really want to and know how to use your powers of imagination. The disc and its player can’t do it alone. They require your perception to complete the circle. You can’t influence the abyss but, at least momentarily, you can escape its pull if you deny its presence. Here’s how it’s done:
First, you must be alone. In your familiar den. With booze and, preferably, a sleeping dog. Hunt out a record from the 1950s – I suggest an original Blue Note, maybe a big band or lesser-known jazz quartet. Don’t bother to clean it. Fire up your audio system and devote at least five minutes to contemplate in silence your impending journey into what was. You must be still, and you must be prepared to let go. Don’t be pissing about with hi-fi. Focus on your escape plan.
Lower the stylus into the run-in groove and take your seat. Marvel at the surface noise, gathered over the years as a result of your ordinary manliness, close your eyes and give in to the sounds of yesteryear. Visualise. Go with the flow. Don’t do anything else or think about anything else. Keep visualising. What is the drummer wearing (not a red dress)? And the saxophone player? Black or white man? Does the bass player smile or grimace as he traverses the neck of his instrument? What were these guys thinking about at the time of the recording? What cars did they pass on the way to the studio? Are they stoned?
Now, with the music filling your habitats both external and internal, imagine the world that produced this music: its fancies and concerns, its glories and defeats, its ambitions and ghettoes. This is your past, whether you lived it or not. These sounds are the precursors of today’s sounds, without which today’s sounds could not be. Your participation in them revives them. Thus, you are transported into them, and they into you, as fully as you wish it to be so.
Don’t work at it. Just let it be. Allow yourself to be captivated. Don’t analyse. Be what the record is.