PAUL HORN INTERVIEWED (1992): The healing force within

 |   |  5 min read

Paul Horn: Agra (from Inside)
PAUL HORN INTERVIEWED (1992): The healing force within

For a man pegged as “the founding father of new age music," jazz saxophonist and flute player Paul Horn has a clear, pragmatic view of the music – which was spawned in the wake of his Inside album, recorded in the Taj Mahal in the late Sixties.

That meditative piece -- which used the long acoustic delay within the building -- has been hailed as one of the earliest of the genre which has become new age music.

But Horn is quickly dismissive of much of what passes for new age music today.

For him, a man who turned his back on recording with Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones and others back in the mid-Sixties, there must be a spiritual consciousness behind the music, and that comes from the musician.

Dissatisfied with his life and of an inquiring mind, he was led to transcendental meditation and specifically the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967.

horn“There was a paradox between all that was happening in my professional life as a musician in Hollywood at the time, and the fact that I was personally very unhappy, so I realised I had to make basic changes.

“I'd always been interested in things like Zen and yoga and, like a lot of people at that time. my antennae were up during that period of great social change.

"A friend introduced me to TM and I realised I was ready to hear and understand. One of the first things I learned from becoming more focused is I am the primary instrument and whatever instrument I play is secondary. I had never thought of myself that.”

Inevitably Horn‘s music changed because it was a reflection of his changes - “I rearranged and up-graded my values system" -- and being in India to make a film of the Maharishi at Rishikesh inevitably led him to the Taj Mahal.

mahaHis discovery of the delay of sound within the building produced a recording there one night, although he says today he had no particular intention of releasing the album which subsequently sold more than 800,000 copies.

Just as within every other sphere of music, he says, there is some shallow new age music, and the technology has allowed artists of limited musical vocabulary to record and release material with little or no consciousness behind it.

“At the time I saw there was a much higher value to music than entertainment and achieving the personal recognition or riches or fame that goes with it. That is part of a cycle you go through and when you are younger you have goals, that’s natural.

“But speaking specifically about music, if you don't get out of that you won't be fulfilled as a musician. How much fame and fortune can you get?

“Music has the power to heal and unite people and is a powerful tool which is very much needed. It’s a universal language and found in every culture. And the instrument I play, flute, seems to be part of all ancient cultures.

“But I like the words 'new age' and hope we are getting into a new age, because the old one isn’t working any more. Einstein said that with the discovery of atomic energy everything changed in the world except how man thinks. That’s the problem."

For Horn, his change involved leaving Hollywood and its attendant lifestyle for Canada, ceasing to worry about smart career moves and letting the changes in his life happen naturally.

"When you begin to meditate you gravitate towards what’s right for you, and that’s different from person to person. Some stop smoking, some don’t. Some stop eating meat, some don’t . . . there aren’t any rules. I did stop smoking and found that easy. I’m on and off as far as vegetarianism is concerned. But my lifestyle changes in a natural way and the thing is I’m not afraid, as some people are, to make changes.”

The changes in Horn’s music were as significant and have led to a lifetime of experiments and explorations where he tried to put ego out of the way and become the conduit for the music itself.

Where that music comes from before it is channelled through him is, he says, “the creative force of life. I believe there is a creative intelligence behind all this."

The music which has garnered him the most prominence has come from his recording inside particular sites like the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramid in Egypt, a cathedral in Russia and at Findhorn in Scotland. The restful, ambient nature of these recordings has been much copied, often by lesser musicians, and form a seminal point in new age music. Not that Horn had that in mind.

513Zmm8d0cL._SL500_AA300_“All I did was play solo flute in the Taj Mahal. I never went in with any preconceived notions or hope for a new genre of music to emerge, I was just enjoying an interesting experience.

“I’m also not looking to jump around the world and record in various places. It would get too gimmicky . . . and too boring. How many solo flute things can I do? They could all get to sound the same.

“But if some place presents itself in a natural way -- and it is some specific place, not a parking lot -- and has good acoustics, and if I become part of it, then that could influence me to do something. Since I play totally improvised music which is about how I feel at the time, something different has to be there."

He says he has no expectations and therefore no disappointments about the music which falls loosely under the new age label and, just as he feels he is constantly changing, so too does the elusive music.

“The label new age is just a category for marketing but often the music within falls short of what ‘it‘ is . . . and the 'it' is constantly changing.”

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Jazz articles index

AUCKLAND'S FIRST JAZZ CONCERT, 1950: Shedding some bloody light

AUCKLAND'S FIRST JAZZ CONCERT, 1950: Shedding some bloody light

The words have written themselves into the history of great New Zealand phrases in the same way as Peter Jones' comment after the 1956 Springbok test, or prime minister Jim Bolger's dismissive... > Read more

Paul Bley Quintet: Barrage (ESP-Disk)

Paul Bley Quintet: Barrage (ESP-Disk)

Recorded in one night in October '64 for the seminal free jazz label ESP-Disk (and initially re-presented in 2008 as part of their reissue programme), this selection of six pieces written by Carla... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

10 MORE SHAMEFUL RECORD COVERS I'M PROUD TO OWN

10 MORE SHAMEFUL RECORD COVERS I'M PROUD TO OWN

Further to the previous selection of bad taste or just plain awful album covers, comes this batch . . . kicking off with PIL playing the old Magritte card with their album That What is Not.... > Read more

KATCHAFIRE (2005): Slow burning their way to consciousness

KATCHAFIRE (2005): Slow burning their way to consciousness

Reggae is one of the bloodlines of New Zealand music. It is there whenever an acoustic guitar comes out on the marae or suburban barbeque, and you can hear it in the hi-tech dub incarnation in... > Read more