A Mystic Preview of Hawkwind's Latest Project, Space Ritual

Melody Maker – 28 October 1972

The problem is to write anything that bears any resemblance to Hawkwind.

They cloak themselves in ambiguity to such an extent that impressions shed far more light on them than facts. Their music, their ideas imitate the vastness of one of their constant preoccupations, space. Ambiguity stretches away from an observer of their new concert project, the Space Ritual, like a sea. Let explanation begin with the following excerpt from the Space Ritual manual.

“Space is a remorseless, senseless, impersonal fact. Space is the absence of time and of matter.”

The medium is thus defined. Any attempt at expressing that infinity results in a finite experience. Each observer develops an impression on the strength of his own conceptions, and external suggestions. It’s at this point that the Space Ritual materialises.

It contains a skeleton of patterns – sound, colour, shape, design – that dictate remarkably little and yet hint at monumental ideas. As with any symbol, the Ritual incorporates fathomless concepts in compact form.

” You can make so many things out of it. But the whole concept is just to let people indulge in their own fantasies.”

” What we feel must come out in the music, but basically we’re not trying to lay our trip on everybody.”

Even so, if it works in practice, and who knows if it will, the Ritual will certainly be one of the most creatively ambitious shows ever put together by a rock and roll band.

Ambiguity is the Hawkwind keystone. There’s a general reluctance to make any statement that might seem outspoken. There were moments when the Ritual details themselves seemed likely to remain secret so that the group’s ideas weren’t imposed on their audiences. At the same time, cultural change is an essential part of Hawkwind’s linage. Cultural, never “the obsolescence” of politics.

“Basically we’re musicians anyway, we’re not politicians. We’re trying to entertain people. How they interpret it is something else.”

There’s a glimmer of security in their stand. Are they unwilling to he more specific in their music and general communication simply to let people work things out for themselves, or is it lack of self-confidence and a reluctance to get labelled “pseudo -intellectual”? A fear that the group will become less entertaining as their ideas become more sophisticated. A fear of a gap opening up between the group and ” their friends.”

” I get a funny feeling from the band that they get no security from bread. The only security they get is from being together.”

Great importance is attached to feedback from other people. The band is an axis, acting as an essential focus but nevertheless useless without spokes and rim. This position no doubt breeds insecurity, because exaggeration envelopes them as the rim concentrates energy on the axis and then reabsorbs it. Their case can sound overstated when put down in print, and gives some cause for their wish to remain ambiguous. To quote from UA promotion dept:

” . . . spearheads new music, heralding profound social and economic change and spiritual regeneration.”

“In sound, Hawkwind are as gloriously free as were the astronauts on the space walk. They are today’s acolytes . . .”

The Space Ritual manual contains much seemingly vital information. Hopefully this will become available to audiences when the show goes on the road, but so far there are no plans to distribute it. The manual explains the theory behind the Ritual’s use of sound, and to a lesser extent, colour.

” The basic principle for the starship and the space ritual is based on the Pythagorean concept of sound. Briefly, this conceived the Universe to be an immense monochord, with its single string stretched between absolute spirit and at its lowest end – absolute matter. Along this string were positioned the planets of our solar system. Each of these spheres as it rushed through space was believed to sound a certain tone caused by its continuous displacement of the ether. These intervals and harmonies are called ‘ The Sound Of The Spheres.’ The interval between earth and the fixed stars being the most perfect harmonic interval.”

on stageThe passage goes on to explain that the musical intervals generally accepted as relating the planets – i.e. Earth to Moon one tone – ” do not coincide with the reality of their actual positions.” That doesn’t debase the concept. Theories of the relativity between colours, sounds, numbers and natural and geometric proportions are numerous and of long standing and any allusion to this can only act as a stimulant.

A souvenir booklet of a different description is planned for distribution at the concerts. This will contain a fantasy, written by Barney who is also responsible for some of the design and painting, which is designed to set a preliminary mood amongst the audiences in customary ambiguous style.

“The idea of the fantasy is not so much informative. It’s for people to take home and read and keep in their bedrooms. It’s to make people happy.”

As far as the practical aspects of the Space Ritual are concerned everything is dependent upon positioning – the positioning of speaker and amplifier columns (painted to represent the planets) in order to initiate certain sound patterns, the positioning of the members of the band on certain planetary seals painted on the floor in order to represent ” spheres of influence ” – the symbolism is not extended into the music, but is imaginatively stimulating nonetheless. Ultimately it’s the positioning, reaction and feedback of the audience that is important.

The actual Space Ritual story/programme – not to be interpreted in conventional consecutive terms – is loosely based on the dreams of astronauts in suspended animation. Once again, the group recommend a wide interpretation.

Although the Ritual quite definitely begins in a spaceship, the barriers between outer and inner space begin to blur until the landmarks are neither here nor there.

There are however a series of images which will act as a common axis – quite apart from sound or colour that is. Throughout the songs light shows and dancers will be used, and a series of film images will he evoked as the lyrics require them.

The relevance of the theory about sound is realised when a plan of the stage is considered. Each group member will have a set of speakers, and it should be possible to plot each of the resulting beams of sound as they radiate through the auditorium. In that way it should be found that there are points where sound from two instruments intersects.

The complications arising from putting such ideas on the road are many. For a start, there’s new equipment. Then there’s the task of synchronising the stage design with all the shapes and sizes of concert halls involved in the tour.

Preparations for the launching of the Space Ritual began about a year ago, and steadily a team of people accumulated to help with the design and operation of each mode of expression – music, lights, dance etc. Concurrently the musical element of Hawkwind was working on their new album, entitled ” Doremi Faso Lati Do.”

Although songs from the Space Ritual will be used on the new album, it is not a recorded Ritual as such. A live double album pieced together from various performances will cover that. “Doremi Fasol Latido ” is a continuation of the style of ” In Search of Space,” but musically it’s a more inventive album. It is scheduled for release on November 10, with the Space Ritual album following in early 73.

ANDREW MEANS

A Plastic Fragment Hawkwind Press Cutting

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