Satori is a Japanese word and means „understanding“. In Zen Buddhism, it is used to describe a sudden and unexpected glance into the state of enlightenment. In most cases this is a volatile occurrence, caused by some outer event like being overwhelmed of an impressive sight into nature or anything like that.
When I was about 17 years old, I had such an experience while sitting by a small river at night with my head full of thoughts (dealing with a girl…).
My mind was taking up all my attention, as it is in the most usual state of human (un)consciousness. But at some point, the sound of that steady noise from the river startet to slowly creep into my awareness, filling up more and more space in my mind. As soon as those thoughts ceased to fire and bounce around in my head, I felt that sound had completely taken over my mind. There was no thinking anymore, just the sound of the river and pure awareness. Then I noticed, this awareness and the sound of the river were both the same. Time didn’t exist anymore and without a thought, I knew that this experience was the essence of being. Pure being, so to say, without being cluttered by thoughts or the perception of time.
My mind became active again and the experience faded. All senses returned to the ordinary state. But after that short epiphany, I couldn’t completely return to business as usual. Some things had shifted irreversibly. At the time, I didn‘t know anyone to tell this story and I was sure that if I did, they would tell me I had simply lost my mind for a minute. Yes, that‘s what happened. But as opposed to the common usage of that term, it felt like I was unconscious all the time before that experience, and just then came to wake up for a moment, before slipping into unconsciousness again. But now I KNEW I was dreaming when I dwelled in that so called normal state of mind. I suddenly knew that I could become aware of my own thinking and that “I” wasn’t those thoughts, but the one observing them.
René Descartes was fundamentally wrong with his famous statement: „I think, therefore I am.“ I experienced the opposite: The essence of our being is constantly covered up by compulsive and unconscious thinking and only when we become aware of this and let this go for a while, then we truly “are”.
I felt detached of the people around me for a while and only after many years, when I was reading Hermann Hesse, Eckard Tolle and some of the ancient eastern sacred writings, it turned out that I was not alone and that I experienced something which was written about throughout human history, in poetry and in religion and spirituality alike.
And I discovered that I could intentionally enter that state though meditation.
I also discovered over time that, when all the circumstances are right, it is possible to pull other people into that state when making music with or for them. Or rather than actively being pulled in, everyone is uniting naturally when that kind of Satori happens during a musical performance.
The piece Satori is my soundtrack to this experience. I wanted to have the sound of a river flowing, since this was causing it in the first place, and I wanted these recordings to be special. So I waited for the most sacred time of the year -which for me is midsummer night – and went to Triebtal, which is a sacred place for me. There, I recorded the river Trieb.
In the piece, the incessant, vibrant but steady noise of the flowing water is complemented by a self-repeating arpeggio from the Roland Juno 60 Synthesizer whose sound I am modulating while it is playing. Enter the piano, which is embodying the thoughts, running though the mind discontinuously, improvising with ever new ideas.
Then, different synthesizers come in, superseding the piano and building up to the actual Satori which happens with the thunderous Moog Taurus bass pedals and the Moog Prodigy lead synthesizer, which is the smallest keyboard synth I have available, but it’s able to drown out all the others with its screaming oscillator sync sound.
Later on, the piano returns, as the thoughts come back. The song becomes quite again and then the Theremin – played by my friend Carolina Eyck, one of the few people in the world who mastered to play this unusual instrument in a virtuous way – reopens the melody of the Satori in a subdued but ever-present mood.
In the very end, all sounds are drowned in the shores of the Mediterranean Sea – which have been recorded in Venezia, Italy at the day of autumn equinox.
Roland Juno 60 + Reverb by Eventide H3000
Louis Zwicki Pianette, owned by Nils Frahm
Sequential Circuits Prophet 5
Oberheim Matrix 1000
Oberheim SEM Pro
GForce Software M-Tron Pro Mellotron Plugin
Moog Taurus I
Moog Prodigy + Roland RE-201 Space Echo
Moog Etherwave Pro Theremin, played by Carolina Eyck
Yamaha CF6 Grand Piano, owned by Nils Frahm
Dynacord DC200 Leslie Cabinet