October 12, 2019
Randall Hall on the Theurgic Saxophone
(Living Esoteric Cultures Series Interview 2)
Randall Hall is professor of music at Augustana College in Illinois. You can read about his work on his website, and check out his published CDs here. UPDATE: as of 20 June, 2020, you can Randall has a new album out, entitled Oracle, which you can check out here. We recently caught his performing at the Trans-States conference in Northampton, and it was … well, theurgic.
In this interview Randall discusses his development as a musician toward a ‘ritual-symbolic’ perspective, his attempts to create theurgic transformation through ritual musical performance, his ways of working with traditional materials of the western esoteric tradition (including the Orphica, the Chaldæan Oracles, medieval kabbalistic temurah, and more), and much else. We also listen to some of his music.
If you are in Illinois this coming February 2020, be sure to check out the Shockingly Modern Saxophone Festival (watch this space), which will feature new music by Randall, and possibly forge a concrete link between the material and immaterial realms. [Update, April 2020: the concrete link was succesfully forged. Several saxophonists burst into flames. Angelic voices were heard. Someone started shouting about Hekate in what was later identified as Aramaic. Now that‘s the New Virtuosity.]
- Conrad Steinmann, Sardos.
- Randall Hall. Voces mysticae 1: Abulafia (excerpt).
- Idem. Voces mysticae 3: Auioeoueei (excerpt).
- Idem. Chaldæan Oracle 112 (recorded live). Chaldæan Oracles fr. 112 Majercik = Psellus P.G. 122, 1137 b 11-12: Here is the original fragment, for anyone who wants to follow along:
οἰγνύσθω ψυχῆς βάθος ἄμβροτον. ὄμματα πάντα ἄρδην ἐκπέτασον ἄνω
‘Let the immortal depth of your soul be opened. May all of your eyes stretch upward on high.’
- Idem. Chaldæan Oracle 185 (excerpt, live performance).
Works Discussed in this Episode:
- Hugh Bowden. Mystery Cults of the Ancient World. Princeton University Press,
Princeton, NJ, 2010.
- Joseph Campbell. ‘Mythological Themes in Creative Literature and Art’. In The Mythic Dimension: Selected Essays 1959-1972. Harper, San Francisco, CA, 1997.
- E. C. Clarke, J. M. Dillon, and J. P. Hershbell. Iamblichus on The Mysteries. Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, GA, 2003b. Greek text with translation and introduction.
- Ananda Coomaraswami. ‘Figures of Speech or Figures of Thought’. In Roger Lipsey, editor, Selected Papers Vol. 1: Traditional Art and Symbolism , pages 13-42. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1977.
- Umberto Eco. Foucault’s Pendulum. Secker and Warburg, London, 1989.
- Marsilio Ficino. De triplici vita (first printed edition) . Antonio Miscomini,
- Joscelyn Godwin. Harmonies of Heaven and Earth. Inner Traditions, Rochester, VT, 1995.
- Monteverdi: L’Orfeo / Act 3 – “Possente spirito”
Anthony Rolfe Johnson
English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner
1987 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Berlin [check out this recording of the piece for the kind of vocal ornamentation Randall discusses in the interview].
- Frits Staal. ‘The Meaninglessness of Ritual’. Numen, 26(1):2-22, June 1979.
- Frits Staal. Rules without Meaning: Ritual, Mantras, and the Human Sciences. P. Lang, New York, NY, 1990.
- Harvey Whitehouse. Modes of Religiosity: a Cognitive Theory of Religious Transmission. Altamira Press, Walnut Creek, CA, 2004.