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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dennis Palmer clarifies his celestial figure of speech


CELESTIAL SOUNDS: Dennis Palmer of the Shaking Ray Levis works out his cosmic constants. (Courtesy Dennis Palmer)

Hindsight does not always bring with it a clear vision, especially when reflecting on a conversation with Dennis Palmer of the twisted Chattanooga improv duo the Shaking Ray Levis.

When interviewing him for a feature story that appears in Creative Loafing this week regarding his show with Col. Bruce Hampton at Eyedrum ($7, 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19), I asked him to tell me about his relationship with the Colonel and how they interact as musicians. At the time his response felt odd but not out of place.

"He's a dang Southern avant-garde hero to me," he said. "Bruce has been tapped into the mystery of the seven vowels and the cosmic constants before and since he landed on this here planet. You don't bump into someone like Bruce by accident."

Palmer is a mild-mannered, polite and articulate fellow, and his use of colorful Southern slang and equally colorful drawl flow smoothly, maybe even too smoothly. It's definitely accentuated to provoke a humorous, albeit weird affect.

There are dozens of atrocities committed against the English language in the name of Southern vernacular everyday. Walk down the city streets of Atlanta and they're everywhere. On the corner of Ponce and Moreland, you can buy "vine ripen" tomatoes at the fruit stand. Go around the corner to Atkins Park and the lunch special is "blacken catfish." At Philips Arena you can buy "bottle water" before you go sing the "natural anthem" at the Atlanta "Flacons" game.

All of these are reeling in my mind when talking with Palmer. He's well-aware of these atrocities and makes light of them by injecting them into the conversation every chance he gets.

So what the heck are the "Seven Vowels and Cosmic Constants" anyway? Is it just another way for Palmer to exploit the tongue of his Southern character and replace "consonants" with "constants" just for fun, or is he talking about something real here?

I thought it would be appropriate to include at least some sort of explanation with the printed story, but the allotted 650 words wouldn't allow it.

Regardless, I asked Hampton about this and he was just as puzzled as me, so I went back to Palmer to see if he could shed a little light on the matter via e-mail, and though his explanation is just as cryptic as his initial quote, it's an intriguing reply nonetheless:

here's the the cosmic realm (to that which we can see with the naked eye) – it's the vowel song tradition that connects the vowels to the 7 celestial worlds/heavens:

moon (a)

mercury (short e)

venus (long e)

sun (i)

mars (short o)

jupiter (u)

saturn (long o)'s these tones & harmonics (beyond the western scale) that can heal & uplift a soul while centering oneself on the planet earth. OAUM for example, uplifts with the vowels & the constant "m" centers it on earth. Rudolf Steiner (among many) covers this study extensively in many of his translated lectures on speech.

there is a lot to be said about this topic-especially on, how the human ear is tuned to the harmonies of the vowels - like being able to "i-dent-ti-fy" familiar voices in a crowd with your eyes closed (or in the dark) now, that's perfect pitch, and we all have it!

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