the horse – neil young

rolling stone -neilyoung


Throughout Neil Young’s 2012 autobiography Waging Heavy Peace, he reserves his most potent cosmic utterances for talking about Crazy Horse, the electric group which has backed him since the mid sixties and with whom he intimates if not directly references the experience of sonic journies into the furthest reaches.
This though is a section which on first reading I felt to have real implications for the many facets of our being and our encounters.

This is important, don’t spook the Horse.
That is very essential to the success of any ride.
The Horse will head for the barn if it is spooked and the music will continue but not have that magic that the Horse possesses.
Any ride on the Horse must not have a destination. History has shown that the best way to spook the Horse is to tell it what to do or where to go, or even worse, how to get there.  You must not speak directly to the Horse or ever look the Horse in the eyes until the ride is over and the Horse is secured in the barn.  It is okay to talk to the Horse directly, but care must be taken to have respect for the muse when discussing anything with the Horse.  The Horse and the muse are very good friends. Disrespect for the muse will piss off the Horse, and possibly vice versa, although that is hard to prove.  The Horse has met no equal, although there undoubtedly is an equal to the Horse out there somewhere.  The Horse knows this well and will not tolerate anyone who is overly complimentary to the point of excluding other friends of the muse in a misguided attempt to gain the Horse’s favor.  That is absolutely not the thing to do, as it makes the Horse think and that has a bad effect generally.  The Horse has a voracious appetite.  The songs the Horse likes to consume are always heartfelt and do not need to have anything fancy associated with them.  The Horse is very suspicious of tricks.  Keeping these simple guidelines in place is always a good idea when approaching the Horse for any reason.


For good measure too is the extraordinary ‘Thrasher’

Where the vulture glides descending
On an asphalt highway bending
Thru libraries and museums,
galaxies and stars
Down the windy halls of friendship
To the rose clipped by the bullwhip
The motel of lost companions
Waits with heated pool and bar.

But me I’m not stopping there,
Got my own row left to hoe
Just another line
in the field of time
When the thrasher comes,
I’ll be stuck in the sun
Like the dinosaurs in shrines
But I’ll know the time has come
To give what’s mine.


Also interesting to see as the Guardian pointed out at the time, Young’s response to intrusive digitalism.

“Any experiment I try onstage is thrown up on YouTube, where people who think they know what I should be doing start shooting holes in it before it’s even finished… This is the single most daunting challenge the internet has provided, along with all the good things. The stage used to be my lab, where I could experiment in front of a live audience and see how it reacted and – more important – how I felt while I was doing it … Now I try to work things out in private while I develop ideas. That way I have a chance to present the first time to a large audience. Unfortunately, that is not as adventuresome for me.”

This endemic of the recorded has become almost completely common place and aside from immediately distancing people from what they are presumably so entranced by that they are enshrining it in some compacted, digitisation of posterity, it leads to an altogether distracting occurence regularly at live events.

There is an obvious contradiction in recommending and linking to recordings as such (and as above) although the difference now being the effect of the mode of capture being generalised and ubiquitous, and that in effect this too is its problematic, that it touches upon the process of capturing something.  Which minds towards the recent eye popping visualisation of ‘Mr World’ in the HBO series American Gods.

Mr World: ‘Everything that happens is recorded and stored and recalled…’ the forgetting of both the moment and of immanence itself

This proclivity in the obsessive should be understood in terms of its dangers as well as its obvious benefits, but bearing in mind also that there is a specificity to a medium which brings its own ranges of delineation and means of instantiation, to which bear in mind the specific degree of realisation to; composed words, sounds alone, images, images and sounds, images and sounds and words.

Another faceet of the digital which Neil Young raises repeatedly in Waging Heavy Peace stems from his identification that digitally compressed audio files (typically Mp3) are denuded of so much sonic form and detail that the capacity to feel in relation to them is sharply diminished.  Young has gone on to launch his own format of Master quality recordings; Pono. It should also be seen that the vinyl resurgence is in part a response to this as well as to the generalised dis-embodying effect of digital.  That an old pioneer like Neil Young should hear and be so alarmed as to the substantial cutting and dilution of the music formats should be seen as a factor in how we listen, but also as a reminder of what is possible in the contact with music in the first place.  The instructions for approaching the Horse and its relationship with the muse is at the heart of wonder which fuels the journeys, sometimes via dangerous and chronic territories, but as with navigation, the pre-eminent direction should be checked and affirmed as the basis for encounter and realisation.

As with the first video linked here the harmonies from the Horse on this version of Cortez the Killer are amazing (and from drummer Ralph Molina on When you Dance…).

(this driving, deep track from 1995 Album Mirrorball recorded with Pearl Jam)


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