Miquette Giraudy and Steve Hillage

Soundtracking a true visual experience of sorts, “Garden of Paradise” from Steve Hillage’s Rainbow Dome Musick stirred many a visitor’s brains when it debuted looping at London’s massive proto-New Age Mind- Spirit-Body Festival. Listeners who just wandered through booths filled with info from vegetarian, vegan, yoga, shamanic, and lords knows what other kinds of holistic and spiritual spheres, were entreated to a wonderfully intriguing structure, a Rainbow Dome. Similar to IMAX theaters, this dome structure would allow anyone to come in, have a seat in the middle, and literally get engulfed by lighted imagery sent through based on specific therapeutic color schemes.

Before Oculus Rift, VR, and what have you, this was the quick/dirty way to travel into some made up world. In this case, imagery invoking pastoral English fields, bright blue Scottish skies, and the like, were muddled and mutated beyond recognition into rainbow-like visual display. Not much if any imagery exists depicting how this actually looked. Further nothing exists, showing whether this experience actually worked to send someone into an induced new state of consciousness…but some things remained for the record.

Festival location.

Released in 1979, both of the tracks recorded by sometime-Gong guitarist Steve Hillage and his long time partner Miquette Giraudy for this event, serve as beautiful reminders of what they did successfully accomplish. Like landers bringing down to Gaia all the starry eyed music that English artists had attempted to create as signifiers of getting the fuck outta there; Rainbow Dome Musick was this easily attainable recording serving as a way to stay, and enjoy the England that was thoroughly bumming everyone living in it.

Rainbow Dome Musick album cover.

Led by a small bank of synthesizers and loops, mostly played by Miquette, and an army of effects and guitars played by Steve, together they crafted this proto-ambient music that was positively, uplifting and melodic. Miquette who wrote the majority of the first track “Garden of Paradise” sets her synths to “percolate” or to “water”. Introduced by the sound of a stream, much like Sally Oldfield’s Water Bearer, Miquette starts to immerse you with some of the gentlest synthesized music she could conjure from her keyboards.

William Blake’s “The Dance of Albion”

Bits of flute-like pings, start to oscillate around reflective bass lines, and then all sorts of soft droning bits of sonic ephemera start to join in. Layers upon layers, slowly, gradually shaping a hypnotizing kind of folk music. As all these base sounds pick up some steam and get joined by Steve’s seagull-like glissando guitar (something you can hear hover around the 11-minute mark) one can’t help but realize that for certain artists all this new found technology was serving as a signifier of sorts. The rural England of their tradition was disappearing, and rebirth through its nature, had to find a different oration. In a different time, this might have sounded spacey to someone, but now that humanity had reached the cosmos and caught up to some of its myth making…the sound it made didn’t sound remotely like this. Now these blurred, lived-in, electronic analog, frail, quite “green” sounds were these generation’s new reality. Could this be the sound moving a new Albion?

William Blake’s “The Four Zoas”

William Blake, once created a whole imagined English mythology to tie his poems, art, and books under one prophecy that could combine Christian, pagan, and Pantheistic ideas into some kind of origin story. He realized that the rise of Industrialization had created a society where conformity could reign supreme. Imagination could be man’s last saving grace. In order for one to look into the future, and anticipate change, one had to draw from different traditions and create an original thought which could forecast something. This is the process of illumination, using all these colors to create a warm light that holds a new tradition (even though such an idea seems diametrically opposed on paper). Mythos knows only one thing, transfiguration. In this new era, new colors were ready to take hold of tradition, and some may come from places least expected to join in. More of that soon though…

Bonus track, a recent live performance of Rainbow Dome Musick, revealing some layers of its creation:

Listen to Rainbow Dome Musick at Grooveshark.