August 31, 2011

Norwegian band Famlende Forsok has quoted TEB as the main reference for one of its album.

One of the great things of the Web is that one can discover little music treasures recorded by obscure bands around the world.
Famlende Forsok is a Norwegian band recording avant-garde music from the Eighties, known in the underground for interesting albums related to medieval folk, progressive, kraut rock, industrial... all strictly 'post'.

On a recent interview (read at, talking about their tribute album to the works of American gothic witer H.P. Lovecraft ("One night I had a frightful dream", Gurls Records 2003), the musicians quoted Third Ear Band as one of the main influential bands (with Popul Vhu) during the making of the record.

Asks the interviewer: "One night... stands out compared to your other works, not only because of the language and lyrics used, taken from HP's original texts. The music also seems a bit different, at times more old-fashioned with several acoustic instruments and more discreet use of electronics. Why?"

Brt: "We had loose atmosphere in the background, wanting to arrange came from Lump. We wanted a Third Ear Band-feel, or Univers Zero".

Chrisph: "We wanted initially the music to be directly inspired by our subjective understanding of the meaning of the words... This would possibly make it even more like effect-fuelled film music than earlier works. Next, on the other hand, there was also an effort to make more traditional tunes in there. This I guess is much due to the fact that the years before this release, Lump was much into his other band The Smell of Incense, which was/is very much folk/psych oriented. At the start the landscapes were much more ambient and lacking themes based on regular harmonies. So in the end One Night... probably is a bit of this and that. Some radio-theatrical, some film-like and some like the Third Ear Band...".

Famlende Forsok in 2007.

Over the disputable Web/social networks logic of the "if-you-like-this-listen-this", it can be interesting to verify the idea of the group about its music sources because, even on a superficial listening, tracks as "The festival", "The shadow over innsmouth", "Nyarlathotep" or "At the mountains of madness" have unequivocally a TEB's flavour, attesting once more the Band is still influential on contemporary music.

So download and listen to the Famlende Forsok's record at: 
(thanks the great blog Mutant Sounds!)
A review of the record by Luna Kafé e-zine at:

no©2011 Luca Ferrari

August 24, 2011

Brief interview with Barry Plummer, English photographer took pictures of the TEB at the Isle of Wight Festival

Barry Plummer is a well-known English photographer from the Sixties. He has taken hundred photos of famous and less famous musicians (check it at his Web site at and he's an important witness of that age.
Because he took some photos of the TEB at the legendary 1969 Isle of Wight festival (read a report at I've contacted and asked him some questions.

Barry Plummer on 2010 with his wine and winners cup.

1. You have been one of the photographer at the famous 1969 IOW festival. How did you was involved with? What do you remember about the location and the mood of that legendary event?
"I was photographing the festival for Disc & Music Magazine, a music weekly, to get the island is about 30 minute ferry ride from the mainland and then a bus ride to the other end of the island for the festival site. I think the mood was everyone waiting for Bob Dylan to play, when it was time for him to go on stage they filled the press area with chairs to seat the VIPS such as John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and wives /girl friends. I also saw Keith Richards at sometime in the audience watching Fairport Convention".

2. How many photos of the TEB you took that day? Are still available? Where? How much it costs?
"I only took 5 photos B/W. Just in case any one would ask for a picture in the future, I am sending 2 pics for you to use on the website no charge (if you want to send me something maybe a tee shirt or baseball cap something Italian as the cost of cashing small cheques !!)".

Richard Coff on stage (photo: Barry Plummer).

3. Where the picture have been published?
"As far as I can remember they have only been recently used on the cd by Mooncrest Records "Hymn to the Sphynx" a few years back 2001. They may have been used before, but out of the thousands publications I have had of all the bands I've photographed...".  

4. Do you remember something about the concert the band played? Any particular memories on the band? In the backstage? After the concert?
"I don't have any memories. I just took about 6 photos of all the folk acts on that afternoon and audience pics outside the arena".

TEB photographed that day by Barry Plummer.

5. Did (do) you like their music? What kind of music did you enjoy at that time? And now? 
"I have never listened to their music not being a folk type, musical taste would Zepp, Floyd, Free, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles and now still listen to the old 70s music! A modern band I like is Muse...".
no©2011 Luca Ferrari

August 05, 2011

TEB's " Egyptian Book of the Dead": an interpretation.

"Egyptian Book of the Dead" is one of the most popular TEB tracks. The band played the tune from the very first beginning of its career (the first documented performance is from "Night Ride" BBC radio programme on January 1st, 1969) and it was played constantly through the years until the last Italian tour in 1992 even if with different titles (i.e. "Live Ghosts" on the live from Bergamo or "Necromanticus" in a new studio rendition) and outcomes.
Composed by Sweeney, Coff and Minns almost surely in the second half of 1968, it  was included at the beginning of the second side of "Alchemy", the first  album published by Harvest Records on May 1969. It lasts 6:48, while on the last period, performed just at the end of the gig as a sort of seal, it could last also around 12:00.
Being so lucky to listening to the band playing live (even if after the '80's), my personal memories bring me to the concert in Gorizia (November 24th, 1989), during the third Italian tour: you can listen to the performance on some records (i.e. "Live", published by Voiceprint in 1996), but if you wasn't there that night you cannot feel on your spine that undescribable hanging atmosphere of gelid, sinister terror. As Italian journalist Piero Bielli wrote on the gig ("Auditorium" n. 4, 1990): "(...) "The Book of the Dead", another fantastic piece, has ended the gig with an anguish crescendo, so that the frailest minds feel confused as after a peyotl".

What kind of power has this incredible track?

From a musical point of view, "Egyptian Book of the Dead" (studio album version) has a simple structure: basically it is a hand drums drone with tonal/atonal improvisations of violin and oboe. One of the last version of the track,   "Necromanticus" (as bonus track on "Live Ghosts" CD reissue) is a powerful crescendo, based on a progressive accumulation of instruments (bells - hand drums - oboe - violin - electronic effects) that picks up speed culminating in a very strong cacophony just before to stop abruptly.

About the sources of inspiration, we know the band took it from the original ancient "Egyptian book of the dead" (the papirus of Ani, 24o BC), circulating in those years also inside the English undergound culture (an edition of the first version edited by E.A. Wallis Budge in 1895 was published in England also in 1967). The book was not a single text but a compilation of spells and instructions designed to guide the deceased through the dangers of the underworld, ultimately ensuring eternal life, and comprised a collection of hymns, spells to allow the deceased to pass through obstacles in the afterlifeThe Book of the Dead was most commonly written on a papyrus scroll and placed in the coffin or burial chamber of the deceased.
It could be considered very superficial and quite semplicistic imagine that Sweeney intended the track as a soundtrack of the main rite included in the book, one of the most terrific sequence of the book: the weighing of the heart.
But I think it can be very plausible. If it were so, we'd have an attractive appliance to imagine the atmosphere of the ritual and the structure of the track could be interpreted in a brand new way.

As Wikipedia states, "the path to the afterlife as laid out in the Book of the Dead was a difficult one. The deceased was required to pass a series of gates, caverns and mounds guarded by supernatural creatures. These terrifying entities were armed with enormous knives and are illustrated in grotesque forms, typically as human figures with the heads of animals or combinations of different ferocious beasts. Their names—for instance, "He who lives on snakes" or "He who dances in blood"—are equally grotesque. These creatures had to be pacified by reciting the appropriate spells included in the Book of the Dead; once pacified they posed no further threat, and could even extend their protection to the dead person. Another breed of supernatural creatures was 'slaughterers' who killed the unrighteous on behalf of Osiris; the Book of the Dead equipped its owner to escape their attentions. As well as these supernatural entities, there were also threats from natural or supernatural animals, including crocodiles, snakes, and beetles".

The TEB's "Experiences" (Harvest 1975) retro cover with clear references to the rite.
Again from Wikipedia: "If all the obstacles of the Duat could be negotiated, the deceased would be judged in the Weighing of the Heart ritual, depicted in Spell 125. The deceased was led by the god Anubis into the presence of Osiris. There, the dead person swore that he had not committed any sin from a liste of 42 reciting a text known as the "Negative Confession".

The weighing of the heart.
Then the dead person's heart was weighed on a pair of scales, against the goddess Ma'at, who embodied truth and justice. Ma'at was often represented by an ostrich feather, the hieroglyphic sign for her name. At this point, there was a risk that the deceased's heart would bear witness, owning up to sins committed in life; Spell 30B guarded against this eventuality. If the scales balanced, this meant the deceased had led a good life. Anubis would take them to Osiris and they would find their place in the afterlife, becoming maa-kheru, meaning "vindicated" or "true of voice". If the heart was out of balance with Ma'at, then another fearsome beast called Ammit, the Devourer, stood ready to eat it and put the dead person's afterlife to an early and unpleasant end".

Section of the Book of the Dead depicting the Weighing of the Heart.

The beginning of the track, a suggestive (Stravinskian) prelude with wind chimes and a dreaming (Debussian) oboe is marked by the violin low notes in an incessant incisive contracpuntual pattern, until the hand drums start to play on a metronomical rhythm never changed.
Oboe and violin improvising on the bordone with progression of notes by the violin and oboe scales.
Here the deceased is going through the path of the afterlife and you can understand the journey is not so easy for him at all...
Around the minute 6:00 violin accords as ghosts flying around and high oboe notes, while at the 8:48 the tracks is stopped with a quiet almost relaxed end (an ironic Paul Minns about the track's coda in 1996: "I remember nothing of the production except that a few unnecessary effects were introduced, the worst at the end of "Egyptian Book of the Dead" sounding like a pyramid's bathroom...").
On "Necromanticus", after the first quite similar part, around 6:00 you can listen to a sort of interlude just before the track has a clear acceleration of the hand drums.
Listening to this version, around 7:25, the deceased is in front of Ma'at for the weighting of the heart and the pathos here is at its highest level on awaiting the result. 
At 8:49 the music stops but the result is not so clear...

Other versions, as like that played at Gorizia (one of my favourite ever!), are even more direct and powerful because the progression is clear and very speedy and the music stops abruptly leaving the listener absolutely shocked.

There, at 8:55, after a very long sequence of Carter's electronic effects, when Sweeney's hand drums start to beat his invariable pattern, you can listen a wall of sound of noise, electronics, strong electric guitar chords, Dobson's soprano free jazz improvisations build itself before you and you can just see the deceased terrified on awaiting the verdict.

Another excerpt with the weighing of the heart.

Anyway, as in the original studio version, TEB seems doesn't want to tell us what will happen to the deceased: the verdict is open to all interpretations because it seems more important to focalize that specific momentum, the state of consciousness where everyone knows inside himself if he lies or not... 

The Weighing of the Heart step is one of the few parts of the Book of the Dead with an explicit moral content.
The judgement of the deceased and the Negative Confession were a representation of the conventional moral code which governed Egyptian society.

When Sweeney dead, I'm sure it wasn't a simple casuality or just an eccentricity his wife Carolyn decided to read excerpts from the Egyptian ancient text at the funeral. She wrote me on September 2005 about it: "(...) It was a beautiful ceremony rather than a conventional funeral, Steve Pank read from the "Egyptian Book of the Dead" and tracks from "Alchemy" were played, incense was burning, Glen was in a raffia coffin with sunflowers on top. Everyone said what a wonderful experience it was and some were reminded of being at an early Third Ear Band concert. I'm sure Glen would have approved".
I'm persuaded "Egyptian Book of the Dead" was the sign the TEB play to advise the people of their responsability into the life. No words, just sounds and emotions.
As a pagan, earthly prayer.

Book of the dead on Wikipedia:
Book of the Dead (English version) download:].

"Alchemy" (LP/CD - Harvest Records, UK 1969-2004)
"Live Ghosts" (LP/CD - Materiali Sonori, ITA 1987 live) as "Live Ghosts"
"Live Ghosts" (LP/CD - Materiali Sonori, ITA 1990 live/studio) as "Live Ghosts" and "Necromanticus" (studio bonus track)
"New Forecasts from the third ear almanac" (cassette - ADN Records, ITA 1989 live) 
"Live"(CD - Voiceprint, UK 1996 live)
"Hymn to the Sphynx" (2CD - Mooncrest Records, UK 2001 live/studio M)
"Raga Live" (2LPs - Turning Point, ITA 2002 live)

 BBC "Night Ride" (January 1st, 1969)

no©2011 Luca Ferrari