Gerald Heard - Re-birth LP (1961)
EXPLORATIONS vol 2, 3 LP box-set
Original release: World Pacific 1413, US 1961 (later reissued on cassette)
Produced and engineered by Richard Bock
Written and narrated by Gerald Heard
Sleeve notes by Jay Michael Barrie
Music written by Jay Michael Barrie
Singers: William Sutherland, Jay Michael Barrie
Organ: Dr Irma Glen
The closing "Re-birth" part of this spoken word 3-LP box set is a bit of a revelation, as the legendary Mr Heard (read "Storming heaven" for clues) invokes the Tibetan Book of the Dead and goes into a full trip-death-rebirth guide mode, preceding the Leary/Alpert/Metzner project by a full 3 years. Psychedelic history must be rewritten!
The occasional music consists of crudely recorded church organ chords upon which classically trained vocalists spell out advise to the "nobly born" limbo traveller. Heard doesn't explicitly mention psychedelic drugs on the LP, but the unexpected psychout in the third part only makes sense if the listener would drop acid between LP #2 & 3. Those who weren't in on this secret must have thought it one weird LP back then. "Re-birth" was the last recording he ever made, written during 3 months in Hawaii.
The first two discs - Survival & Growth - are more lecture-oriented and fairly entertaining, with Heard's voice sounding like an uptight professor, but the contents and purpose of his lectures are pretty far out. Like any acidhead he enjoys wordplay and long etymological parables that show how wrongheaded modern society is. Some of it is obviously influenced by the Bomb and the cold war. There is also a preoccupation with the process of ageing and the fate of senior citizens. Great testament to a brilliant man - they don't make'em like that anymore.
I've received some commentary from Heard scholar John V Cody. Apart from the general interest of Cody's comments, the status of the "Re-birth" LP as one of the very first psychedelic LPs is made clear.
"Gerald was a genius and far more artistically uninhibited in his creative imaginative than was Huxley, etc. He believed that the psychedelics potentially could be employed as sacramental "medicaments" to could be used in traversing all the major life-cycle transitions. He envisioned them as catalystic agents in a life-long theraphy of growth through the major life-stages, not only as a tool for liberation from the fear of death, etc. Gerald and Aldous were close collaborators in exploring the human and transpersonal potentials of the psychedelics, and of course, Aldous knew of Gerald's recording of 'Rebirth', so it is likely that Aldous's decision to take LSD as a sacrament in his last hours of dying of cancer (while his wife, Laura, intoned parts of the Tibetan Book of the Dead) was directly inspired from Gerald's extensive research into proper psychophysical rituals to enhance such life-cycle transitions."
The 'Re-Birth' LP:
"Gerald's brilliantly creative imagination envisioned a wonderfully theatrical high-tech ritual (complex lighting, sound effects, music, choral performance, etc.) to form a soul-stirring liturgy for those making an "intentional" conscious, aware transition to the next dimension of Reality."
Regarding the connection to the similar Leary-Alpert-Metzner project, Cody points out that Gerald Heard did in fact review their 1964 "Psychedelic Experience" book, which is based on the very same ideas as his 1961 album. The review can be found in the Psychedelic Review, issue #5, pp 110-118. Heard uses "Re-Birth" in the heading for this review, probably a deliberate pointer to his own, earlier work.
"Re-birth' was later published and distributed as a cassette recording around 1976. The World-Pacific record producer and jazz aficionados who produced about 6 of Gerald's various 33 rpm recordings at WP are part of this story. There is an important LSD connection here since one of the record producers was initiated into LSD through Gerald Heard, who personally "invigilated" (watched over) this producer during his first session."
An excellent introduction to Gerald Heard, written by John Cody, can be found in Gnosis magazine, Winter 1993 issue.
© Patrick The Lama 2003-2008
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