Where did it all begin? I think it must have started in 1975.. a dear friend of mine, David Kapralik - now known by the name of "ilili" - threw the idea out in a casual conversation sitting in his Los Angeles home. He said, "I've had the idea lately that you ought to go to Egypt and record in the Great Pyramid. It's the only logical successor to your Inside album." It was just another sentence among countless sentences, yet it was destined to provide me with one of the greatest experiences of my life in the days to come. David has been one of those individuals who have been responsible for some major directions in my life. In 1969, he was the head of the A&R department of Epic Records and purchased the tape I had brought back from India of a live recording subsequently released as Inside The Taj Mahal.
He was perceptive enough to see the potential in that tape where many others had not. We became good friends, touching on various projects here and there, but mostly just enjoying each other's company whenever our busy schedules allowed. Now five years later, he had planted another seed.
Like anything else, timing is of the essence. When to go and with whom? Political tensions and sudden wars of the Middle East make one think twice about even going in the first place, and being Jewish compounds the situation, to say the least. Then, one day in December, 1975, David called me at my home in Canada and excitedly said "I've found a safe way for you to go. A University professor and archaeologist, Dr. Maxine Asher, is taking a group over on a tour and I've made arrangements for you to be a part of that. Give her a call." I did, and found Dr. Asher to be a very charming person who heads up an organization in LosAngeles (which she founded) called The Ancient Mediterranean Research Association(AMRA).
Along with their regular archaeological research, AMRA also investigates more subtle areas under the heading of Psychic Archaeology. This tour taking place in May 1976 was to be a preliminary investigation leading to a more extensive one to follow in the fall. People going were interested in examining the Pyramids in terms of psychic phenomena revolving around crystals, vibrations, sound dowsing, meditation, etc.
The next step was to find a recording engineer who would be sensitive to the project, someone who knew me and my music and who was unconditionally qualified technically to tackle such an undertaking. David Greene from Toronto came to mind immediately. He'd recorded a recent alburn of mine, Paul Horn & Nexus, and was great to work with on both a technical and personal level. To complete what ultimately ends up to be a trinity, I asked a friend from Victoria by the name of Roger Smeeth to come along. An architect by profession and an excellent photographer; he was to keep a pictorial record of our journey.
I began collecting books on Pyramids, such as Peter Tomkin's Secrets of the Great Pyramid; The Secret Power of Pyramids By Bill Schul and Ed Pettit; Origin and Significance of the Great Pyramid by C. Staniland Wake; and A Search In Secret Egypt by Paul Brunton. In the short time remaining, wanted to expose myself to as much diversified knowledge as possible regarding the Pyramids of Gizeh. One day I received a call from Ben Pietsch from Santa Rosa, California. He introduced himself by saying he was a pyramidologist, and had lectured and written many articles on the Great Pyramid, including an unpublished book Voices In Stone (which he later sent me - a fascinating work). Somehow he had heard that I wasgoing to Egypt hoping to play my flute inside the Great Pyramid. He loved the idea and said that sound and vibrations were an integral part of the structure. In fact, he said that every room has a basic vibration to it and if we can find what it is and identify with it we become intuned with that particular space. I had never heard that theory, but it made sense to me. He went on to say that the main chamber in the Great Pyramid was the King's Chamber. In it is a hollow lidless coffer of solid granite. He said to strike this coffer and it will give off a tone. I should tune up to this note and I will be at one with, and in tune with this chamber! "And by the way," he said, "you'll find that note to be 'A' 438 (vibrations per second ... 'A' 440 is established pitch for tuning in the West).
He seemed to know this quite definitely, although he had never been there. Last minute preparations included a multitude of shots for Roger and me, including rabies vaccine. I had read stories of the many bats that have lived there over the centuries. Maybe they wouldn't like flute music and would attack us!
GOING TO EGYPT
May 1st found Roger and me on our way to Los Angeles from our horne in Victoria, BC, Canada. We were to join up with Dr. Asher; the whole group was leaving the next day. Our routing was Los Angeles-London-Cairo.
Dave Greene was going from Toronto to New York, where he was picking up a stereo Nagra tape recorder and then on to London for our rendezvous - if everything went according to plan. It did, and on May 3rd we came face to face for the first time since our phone conversation many months ago when all this was just a dream.
We arrived in Cairo at 10:15p.m. After the usual delays (customs and immigration), we arrived at the Manial Palace Hotel. It was after midnight and once in our rooms it was only a matter of minutes until oblivion set in. A few hours of sleep did wonders. Everyone was up early. The Hotel was situated in a fantastic setting of palm trees and Banyan trees amid desert landscaping, all within and surrounded by a huge stone wall. We found out this was once one of King Farouk's palaces. It certainly was palatial!
David, Roger, Maxine and I couldn't wait to see the pyramids, so while the others went sightseeing in Cairo, we got a cab and headed out to the Gizeh Plateau.
All of my apprehensions suddenly crystallized. After a 10,000-mile journey; the sudden realization that I'd never make the last 15 miles dawned on me. We were all going to be killed by this maniac cab driver. I've been on some wild cab rides before - Mexico, Italy, India, and Rio - but this took the cake. I closed my eyes and said my mantra a lot. When we finally came to a stop, I slowly opened my eyes, expecting to see the pearly gates. Happily instead, there stood the Great Pyramid in all of its magnificence. A miracle! We had survived the cab ride through Cairo!
A flock of guides, horsemen and camel drivers converged on us. Whether we wanted to or not, we were going on a tour of the whole plateau. Going inside of Cheops (The Great Pyramid) would have to wait for a little while longer. Actually, it was fun even in the 100°plus temperature. Our guide was informative, entertaining and protective (of his 'baksheesh'). We spent a couple of hours in the desert via horses, seeing smaller tombs and burial vaults, visiting the second and third-largest pyramids (Kephren and Mycerinus), and the Sphinx. We ended up where we started, at Cheops Pyramid. Maxine was running out of time - she had to go back to our hotel and meet the rest of the people on the tour for the afternoon's activities. David, Roger and I stayed, taking time to rest by the few remaining casing stones that at one time covered the entire pyramid in a mantle of mirror-like polished limestone.
INSIDE THE GREAT PYRAMID
The Great Pyramid of Gizeh, the largest, heaviest, oldest and most perfect structure created by human hands. We could wait no longer. Eagerly, we bounded up stairs in the rock to the entrance about twenty feet up. This was a forced entrance, created by a young caliph named Abdullah Al-Mamun in 820 AD. At that time the original secret entrance, 49 feet above the ground level, had not yet been discovered. I had seen diagrams of the inner passages and chambers, so I knew that once inside we we should be arriving shortly at what is called the "ascending passage". In about 100 feet we were there. It is a low, narrow passage (129' long, 3'5" wide, 3'11" high) and is quite steep, 26 degrees, 2 minutes and 30 seconds to be exact. There are now hand rails on each side and wooden slats covering the slick granite floor. The passage is well-lit, but still a difficult climb.
At the end, one enters an amazing passage called the "Grand Gallery" which is I57' long, ascending at the same angle. It is 6' 9" wide and 28' high, the sides of which are made from huge monolithic slabs of polished limestone - weighing up to 70 tons each. At this point, instead of continuing upward, one can follow a very low horizontal passage for 127', ending in a bare room approximately 18 feet square with a gabled ceiling (20'5" at its highest point). As the Arabs placed their women in tombs with gabled ceilings, it became known as the "Queen's Chamber". We decided to visit this room later, and continued on to the top of the Grand Gallery. Again, hand rails and wooden slats assist in the climb, which is culminated by mounting a huge rock three feet high, six feet wide and eight feet deep called the Great Step.
Looking down, we could see almost to the end of the 300 feet we had just climbed. Going ahead now, we had to stoop and pass through a horizontal passage about 28 feet long called the antechamber before entering at last the most famous and mysterious room of the Great Pyramid - the King's Chamber. It is 34 feet long, I7 feet wide and I9 feet high, the walls and ceiling of which are polished red granite. The 9 slabs comprising the ceiling are 70-ton monoliths. At one end stands the lid-less coffer or sarcophagus, carved out of one huge block of granite. One corner has been chipped awayover the years by souvenir hunters. Behind it and to one side is a big slab whose purpose is unknown, and against the north wall stands another big rock about three feet high, also a mystery. It seemed to to be an altar. Completing the room are two air vent holes on the north and south sides, both running through 200 feet of rock, emitting fresh air and keeping the room at an even 68F throughout the year.
The feeling of deep silence permeates everywhere. We sat on the floor propping our backs against the wall and relaxed. I meditated for a while. Gradually the perspiration stopped and it was very comfortable being there. We must have stayed for about an hour after which we began our descent, exploring the Queen's Chamber on the way. Its walls are built entirely of limestone which is badly chipped and peeling, besides being covered to a great extent with grafitti. There is an interesting niche in one wall; quite wide and gives the appearance of an entrance to a cave. Further exploration proved disappointing inasmuch as it ends suddenly some 20 or 30 feet back.
PLANS FOR THE WEEK
This was Tuesday, May 4th. Saturday was to be our last day in Cairo. That means I had four days left to find a means of getting permission to play and record in the Great Pyramid. We decided to ask Frank, our Egyptian tour guide for assistance. He seemed to know everyone in Cairo and was a very pleasant man. We didn't mention recording to him, but rather our desire to be alone in the Pyramid for a few hours to play the flute and meditate. It was a matter, as always, of finding the right person in authority for permission. He said he'd do his best. The pyramids are open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for tourists. After that, the iron doors and gates are padlocked. Even if we tried to play and record in the daytime, there were too many negative factors, a) the unlikelihood of the guards letting us in with all our equipment, b) tourists walking in and out, c) fluorescent lights "humming" in the Grand Gallery, and the King's and Queen's Chambers.
We asked our guide from yesterday and the guards what the possibility was of getting in after hours. The response was mostly negative. A few said it was possible but difficult. Permission had seldom been granted in the past and if it were to be arranged, it would be costly. I certainly was willing to pay, but to whom? Everyone had his hand out and no guarantees.
Back at the hotel that night we ran into Frank. Nothing had developed yet, but he said tomorrow afternoon he should have some word. We kept our fingers crossed all night, even during dinner!
The next morning Dave and I once again visited Cheops. Each time we went inside, it was feeling more and more comfortable and wondrous. What a fantastic treasure left to us by an ancient people. We wanted to stay all day but more important for now was to get back for our appointment with Frank. I was really getting anxious!
We dashed out of the cab and through the palace gates of King Farouk's ex-estate to the hotel office building. No Frank ...15 minutes, half an hour, 45 minutes! Finally he arrived apologizing for being late and all that. "Come on man, what's happening?" I said in a fit of impatience. He smiled and said, "You can go in the Great Pyramid for three hours tonight; from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. I'll be by to pick you up at 5:00." We showered him with hugs!
RECORDING IN THE GREAT PYRAMID
At 5:00 p.m. sharp, Frank picked us up and we were on our waythrough the evening rush hour traffic which, for lack of a more suitable description, I'll merely describe as utterly insane. On the way out, Frank filled us in on the details. He had managed to get permission from the main authority, the minister of Antiquities at the Cairo Museum, for just the two of us to spend three hours alone in the Great Pyramid. At 9:00 p.m. sharp we were to be out of there. Official permits were to be delivered to the authorities at the Plateau.
In half an hour we were at Gizeh. Some men were waiting for us in another car. Frank got out, some words were exchanged, and we all walked over to the police hut nearby. The permits were shown to them and everything was set. A guard with the keys joined Frank, Dave and me and the four of us walked over to the Pyramid. It was so much more peaceful in the area at this time of day. No tourists, no hustling, no cars, camels or horses. Just a warm gentle breeze and the setting sun over the vast desert. A magical beginning to a magical evening.
The guard opened the big iron gate at the entrance and threw a switch turning on all the lights. We told him that once we were in the King's Chamber and settled that we wanted all the lights out.
We figured 20 minutes should do it. Frank said goodbye and that he would be back to pick us up. The guard was going to wait below to throw the switch for the lights and then leave, locking us in for the designated time. Dave and I began the long climb. It would be hard this time since we had so much to carry and we didn't want to make two trips! I had my flutes in a bag over one shoulder and another bag with blank tapes and some extra things over the other shoulder. Dave had the tape recorder, mike, and all the cables to deal with. It was hard going, especially in the low ceilinged passage. We caught our breath for a few minutes at the bottom of the Grand Gallery before continuing on. We reached ,the King's Chamber-dripping wet and out of breath. I lit some candles and placed them at several points in the chamber and began to unpack my flutes.
Dave was setting·up his equipment in the ante-Chamber. In the middle of all this the lights suddenly went out. What a difference! The humming from the Fluorescent lights was gone and for the first time we felt the absolute stillness of the Pyramid... so quiet and peaceful. It was fantastic. We both hurried to finish settling up. When this was done, I lit some incense and performed a short ceremony called a "puja" which I had learned in India. I did this on the large stone by the north wall which I'd initially felt to be an altar at one time. This all happened spontaneously. Somehow I felt a strong spiritual force or energy permeating the atmosphere and responded to it. It was a simple way of expressing my gratitude for the privilege of being there and my respect for the sanctity of the King's Chamber and for whatever purpose it had served in the past. I innately felt that I was in a temple. After the ceremony I sat down cross-legged in front of the coffer and meditated. David also sat quietly and closed his eyes. In that deep, deep stillness I heard what seemed like voices far, far away. There was chanting, but so distant that I couldn't make out a specific melody like whispered chants from millenniums ago-so long ago. It wasvery beautiful and seemed to envelop me as did the whole room. I felt very warm and comfortable being there. Nothing spooky at all, as if the chamber had accepted me and welcomed my presence. I was very happy. After ten minutes or so I opened my eyes. David looked very comfortable, peaceful and relaxed. At first I wasn't going to say anything to him about the voices but it seemed so real that I thought I'd mention it. I said, "You know, as I was sitting here I heard what I thought were voices, like angels, softly chanting from far, far away."
After saying this I had almost wished I hadn't-it sounded pretty weird, David simply looked at me and said, "So did I."
The moment had arrived, it was time to play my flute, I thought of Ben Pietsch and his suggestion to strike the coffer, I leaned over and hit the inside with the fleshy part of the side of my fist. A beautiful round tone was imrnediately produced. What a resonance! I remember him also saying when you hear that tone you will be "poised in history that is ever present". I took the Korg Tuning Trainer I had brought along in one hand and struck the coffer again with the other and there it was - 'A' 438, just as Ben had predicted. I tuned up to this pitch and was ready to begin. (The album opens with these events so that you can hear all of these things for yourselves.)
Sitting on the floor in front of the coffer with the stereo mike in the centre of the room , I began to play, choosing the alto flute to begin with. The echo was wonderful, about eight seconds. The chamber responded to every note equally. I waited for the echo to decay and then played again.
Groups of notes would suspend and all come back as a chord. Sometimes certain notes would stick out more than others. It was always changing. I just listened and responded as if I were playing with another musician. I hadn't prepared anything specific to play. I was just opening myself to the moment and improvising. All of the music that evening was this way-totally improvised. Therefore, it is a true expression of the feelings that transpired. I became totally absorbed in the music. Each reel of tape lasts about 22 minutes and Dave would signal me with the flashlight about a minute before the end so I could bring my solo to a close.
I switched to 'C' flute for some time but the alto flute seemed more right for the room somehow. I've never sung before on a record, but I felt like trying it. The voice had a different resonance than the flutes and I must say was the most personal experience I had. I was the instrument resonating rather than the flutes and it was a great feeling. Two hours just flew by and with only one remaining of our precious time I thought we better move on to the Grand Gallery and Queen's Chamber, I was anxious to try the Grand Gallery since the "unusual echo" of that room is mentioned several times by Peter Tompkins in his book Secrets of the Great Pyramid. I stood at the top of the Grand Gallery and played a few notes. Much to my surprise there was no echo. In fact, it was very dead sounding.
There was an echo coming from someplace else though, and we discovered that it was the King's Chamber! The sound was going out in the Grand Gallery, bouncing off the walls and corning back through the ante-Chamber and into the King's Chamber.
We moved on quickly to the Queen's Chamber. Time was running out. I felt more inclined toward the lighter flutes in here and played the piccolo as well as the "C" flute. Whilst the room doesn't have the acoustical qualities of its own. I think the improvisations obviously reflect this difference.
David signaled the end of the tape. lt was 8:55 p.m. We started to pack up. At exactly 9:00 p.m., the lights went on. We hurriedly finished gathering everything and got down to the main entrance as quickly as possible.
I didn't want to take advantage of the great opportunity given to us.
The guard asked if everything was alright. I said "great". Dave and I strolled across the sand to the road a few hundred yards away and sat down on the curb to wait for Frank. We were both very quiet, just sitting there looking at the Pyramid and reflecting on what was now a thing of the past.
After a little while Dave put his arm around my shoulder and said, "You did it, man." I just looked at him and smiled. Thursday, May 6th 1976 would be an evening never to be forgotten.
The next day we saw Frank at the hotel. I had a thought in mind and decided to speak out. "What are our chances of getting in the other two Pyramids (Kephren and Mycerinus) after hours?" I expected some resistance, but instead he said. "The big one was the hardest. The other two should be no problem. I'll see what I can do." Roger and I spent several hours at the Plateau taking photos of the Great Pyramid inside and out. Later that evening Frank came by to say that everything was set for tomorrow night (Saturday). Same arrangement, three hours from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00p.m. He would be by at 5:00 p.m. to pick us up. I couldn't believe our good fortune.
At 5:00 p.m. the next afternoon we were once again on our way to Gizeh, only this time through a sandstorm. "Very unusual for this time of year", said Frank. It was pretty bad-the driver could hardly see the car in front of him. For once the traffic was moving along at a sane pace.
The official permits were once again handed to the police authorities and the car drove past the Great Pyramid to the entrance of Kephren about a half mile away. Since we had three hours to cover two pyramids, we asked the driver to please come and pick us up in an hour and a half and take us to the Mycerinus pyramid, another half mile or so away.
We entered a long low descending passage which led to the one main burial chamber of the Pyramid; supposedly the resting place of Kephren, the brother of Cheops for whom this pyramid is named. It was larger than the King's Chamber of Cheops (46 1/2' long by 16' wide) and had a gabled ceiling 22' high. An open granite sarcophagus was at one end with the lid placed behind it. More grafitti all over the walls. The sound was quite good-somewhere in between the King's and Queen's Chambers. The feeling was quite different though, sort of heavy arid oppressive. Dave and I both felt this. I lit some incense, gave a "puja" and meditated.
Afterwards, I began by tuning up to the room. This time I struck the lid of the sarcophagus and the tone turned out to be "G". I played the flutes and chanted again, improvising freely all the while. The time flew by and we were a little late for our 7:30 appointment. When we got outside the sandstorm had increased in intensity. The driver was apprehensive, but we urged him to take us over to the third pyramid-we had one hour left.
Once again we entered, all loaded down with equipment and bent over in the long, low descent. This pyramid had two subterranean chambers. One with an arched roof is smaller in size than the Queen's Chamber of Cheops and contains a sarcophagus. The second is a smaller adjacent room with a low flat ceiling containing six separate indented chambers, four on the east wall and two on the north. This is known as the children's burial chamber, for the children of Mycerinus, son of Cheops, whose burial place was next door and for whom this pyramid was named.
The ritual of incense and candles, "puja" and meditation were performed to set the atmosphere. No tuning this time, however since the coffer didn't produce a distinct tone.
Because of the smaller dimensions and low ceiling there is relatively little echo. I played and sang mostly in Mycerinus' chamber. We were running out of time and I recorded only one selection in the children's chamber.
There was a loud knock on the iron door, resounding throughout the passages, that had the ring of urgency about it. We packed and hurried up the narrow passageway. Our driver was getting panicky and almost left without us. The storm was very severe and his car was getting a terrible beating from the sand. As we got into town the wind subsided and he felt much better. At the hotel it was hugs and farewells and good wishes, from Dave and me to Frank. What a beautiful person. I realized for the first time that the main instrument these past nights in the Pyramids was not my flute but Frank. God bless him!