This is Part Five
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

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February 20. 1997

Dear Terence,

how went the conference in Mexico? Am about to embark on a road tour myself soon. Enjoying the state of motivating semi-angst as my paranoid (or is it realistic?) part estimates the disasters which might attend the launching of my blood and bones into material space. Going to try and co-ordinate it with Cyberville by issuing regular road reports. That might solve the problem of what to do with all that excess nervous energy after the gig. Debrief!

It's been seven years since I performed my solo show onstage. Re-establishing old neural pathways to the guitar and re-learning repertoire has been a full time occupation. One interesting thing about a long lay-off is that there's a chance to retrain old habit paths and take a different approach. One reason I stopped doing it was the feeling that development had become encrusted with habit. Entropy. A singing stone. Established paths between memory and reflex become "safe," and safety leads to stagnation. It's hard to avoid accumulating a repertoire of moves which have proven successful, and thus avoiding risk. On the other hand, a risk successfully taken becomes, in turn, a part of the bag of tricks. Stage Darwinism. As with anything having to do with the law of entropy as regards human habit, formulating the problem in personal terms is the only workable way of remaining conscious.

Stage presentation is a mix of attitude and metaphor, assuming that content is metaphoric. Attitude inclines an audience to acceptance or rejection of the metaphor(s). Never mind "real." Real is some kind of breakdown in the process - a microphone on the fritz, a busted string, a fire in the theater. But the audience is very concerned with the metaphor of "the real." They require a beginning, a middle and an end. Stage context. The audience has a feeling of multiplicity, although they are truly only multiples of one. Some mighty subtle alchemy in that set of circumstances. But the performer, or band, or corps de ballet, is also only one - albeit a different one than the one of the audience: the "presenter" of the metaphor through the agency of attitude, as distinct from the receiver of the metaphor. A dissonance is created when a member of the audience decides to switch roles with the performer and draw the attention to himself. For a musical presenter, that would amount to catcalls - whereas a presenter such as yourself, one who encourages discussion, is involved in a more byzantine interaction with the audience.

From what you've told me, it sounds like you're often involved in situations where someone attempts to move the power of presentation from the stage to their own seat. I would think that grasping the structure of the audience dynamic in a theoretical way, keeping that in mind along with the actual subject of discussion, would aid in retaining the modicum of control which leads the audience to adoption of the metaphor under discussion, hopefully enlightening them to the nature of metaphor AS metaphor, rather than allowing the talk to degenerate into picking apart the metaphor itself. Obviously, every metaphor is vulnerable and attitude has as much to do with defending it as does adroit argument.

Theorizing on what an audience "is" is one of my favorite on-the-road hobbies. It can be one sympathetic individual through whom you address the rest of the assembled persons, or it can be the self-projection of a hostile aggregate waiting for you to make one wrong move then pounce! Or you can see the crowd qua crowd. But one thing is certain - both sides of the stage crave acceptance, the grounds leading to a sense of mutual respect and unity of purpose which is the desired outcome of performance art. You might even say it's real.

Not telling you anything you don't already know! Just articulating for the record. Hope this burgeoning Spring finds you percolating with health and new ideas. So far the only word that seems to fit 1997 is "vivid." Personally, it's like busting out of a thirty year cocoon hungry for adventure. So much happening at once. My experience seems to fit your metaphor of the cultural endgame to a T. Useful, that.

As ever,

Copyright 1997 by Terence McKenna and Robert Hunter

Catch up on what came before by reading Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four of Orfeo.

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