Tag Archives: trepidation

Jethro Tull’s Aqualung

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Jethro Tull’s Aqualung (33 1/3) by Allan F Moore, book 14 in the 33 1/3 series from Bloomsbury Academic:

Allan F Moore's Jethro Tull's Aqualung from Bloomsbury Academic

 

Author Allan Moore (just one L, not the celebrated comics writer) heads up a university department of music and sound recording, and it shows in this study of the Jethro Tull album Aqualung. Writing for a popular audience, Moore takes some care not to get too musically arcane, and he explains technical terms as he introduces them. Even so, there are a few passages in the book where his discussion of chord sequences made my eyes glaze over a bit, and I’m enough of a musician to have played many of those chords myself out of a Jethro Tull sheet music book I have.

One aspect of the musical discussion that I found very worthwhile was consideration of the “sound box” — i.e. the virtual acoustic environment engineered through stereo sound — in tandem with the instrumentation and other recording effects. I’ve read one other volume in this “33 1/3” series about the masterpieces of audio vinyl, and this element didn’t come up in that case.

Besides the musical features of Aqualung, a chief part of its incontrovertible lyrical and semiotic substance is a struggle with/over religion. In this case, the lack of sophistication in Moore’s treatment might be due to either his trepidation about confronting readers with difficult religious ideas, or his own anemic grasp of them. Anyhow, while he makes a few interesting points on these lines — such as his consideration of the charcters in “Locomotive Breath,” — he ultimately doesn’t do justice to Ian Anderson’s perversely pious and profound confrontation with conventional Christianity.

Still, the whole book is a quick read, and if its only effect had been to motivate me to reacquaint myself with a terrific album of music, it would have been well worth my time. [via]

 

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

Endless Things

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Endless Things: A Part of AEgypt by John Crowley:

John Crowley's Endless Things

 

Months before Rowling’s fans were able to blog their disappointment or outrage over the terminal Harry Potter book, my Other Reader was expressing her rue and quiet lamentation over Endless Things, the fourth and final volume of John Crowley’s Aegypt. These books have been published over a twenty-year period, and I read the first volume myself in the late 1980s, taking in the second and third each within a year of their issuance. In light of my intelligent wife’s evident dissatisfaction, it was with some trepidation that I finally embarked upon the last of them.

Crowley’s prose is gorgeous as always, and littered with wonderful observations. The scholars of esotericism who have so informed the writing of the three previous books actually begin to intrude as characters in this one; the brief appearances of Frances Yates and Gilles Quispel were special treats for those who are familiar with the academic underpinnings of Aegypt. And protagonist Pierce’s gnostic attainment in the antepenultimate chapter is a very wise and beautiful passage.

But it’s not a happy ending—not as I reckon them anyhow. How can you expect a happy ending from a work with an explicit structure that works its way through the astrological houses from Birth to the Prison? Crowley metafictionally tips his hand in describing a manuscript within the novel that does not provide linear or cyclic resolution, nor even the sense of a completed part of an adumbrated whole: “It was without end but it was finished.” Finishing Aegypt involves a great deal of calculated disenchantment that can feel like betrayal to those of us who have been so under the spell of the earlier volumes. Once or twice too often for my taste, the numinous is reduced to the neurotic.

At a couple of points in Endless Things, Crowley seems to intimate that genuine, world-transforming magic was only possible during the 1970s. Perhaps that was really true for him, although it would be a genuine shame if so. After reading the exercise in disenchantment of Endless Things, on behalf of 21st-century magicians, conventicled and unconventicled, I feel I may—in all readerly friendliness—rebuke him as a splitter. [via]

 

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.