Something which continues to be a subject of fascination for me is the development of independent thought. I find it intriguing to ponder the idea that independent conscious awareness is a relatively recent development. Some neuropsychologists think it could have developed in the last 5-10,000 years, or even sooner. It is theorized that the sudden intermingling of cultures spurred the need for independent thought. Who am I? What do I think? What is right? All of these types of questions only occur when a person encounters something that is truly different.
The development of Reason and thought as we know it dates from about 2500 years in Greece. Reason became the foundation of Western Philosophy and ultimately the underpinning of Science. Reason, in the form of the Mohists, also arose in China at about the same time (both occurred at times of great upheaval), but it is interesting that in China, the idea was ultimately rejected.
Before Reason, the primary forms of decision making were 1) tradition, 2) visions (or dreams), and 3) divination. When tradition worked, there was no conflict. When it didn’t, they needed to find an answer some other way. If there was a vision, dream, or some other form of direct inspiration, that was usually convincing enough. But those methods don’t show up on demand, usually, so they were obliged to look elsewhere.
Divination, in its various forms, showed up all over the world as another decision making possibility. None of the methods of divination were designed to tell the truth, they were designed to help someone decide upon a course of action. They were all sufficiently abstract enough that an individual could read into them the specifics of their problem, and use it as a guide to determine what it was they needed to do. Divination has been surprisingly effective, witness its durability and survival to the present day. With the help of an experienced interpreter, reader, etc., a person can often convince themselves of the course of action they need to take.
The forms and methods of divination are many. Some methods, such as the I Ching, have serious philosophical underpinnings, while others, such as crystal ball readings, are more associated with charlatanism, showmanship, and con games. But as a method for making important decisions, they have lasted for thousands of years.
I am interested in divination because it is a practical application of emotion and intuition. I have found intuition to be a surprisingly valuable source of knowledge and inspiration. It has become my primary musical methodology and definitive compositional device. Emotion has been shown to be that which provides value when making a decision. Reason is useless unless you can assign value to the propositions and statements being reasoned. Value resolves conflict. Emotion is also the language of music, and vice versa.
This album features six tracks representing six forms of divination. There is no attempt to portray each form directly; their representation is fanciful and abstract. Hopefully they are abstract enough, in fact, that the listener will find in them something of personal value and significance, maybe even something they could divine.
Glenn Stallcop is a composer, pianist, and a long-time double bassist with the Phoenix Symphony. He has recorded many
albums of piano improvisation over the last 20 years. He is a well-established composer with over 100 published works for orchestra, chamber music and vocal works, solo piano and double bass....more