Monday, March 14, 2011

In Tribute: Owsley "Bear" Stanley: 1935 - 2011

Artifact of the Week: Correspondence from Bear to Dark Star Palace

It is the end of an era. Early this morning, Dark Star Palace received many text messages and emails alerting us that Bear (aka Owsley Stanley III) had died in a car accident yesterday. As readers of this blog know, Bear’s work throughout the years has woven an elaborate web that has influenced and affected millions of minds…including our very own.  From his advice on how we should or (more often than not) should NOT implement our “Hall of Sound”, to his offers to custom make artwork for Dark Star Palace’s eventual physical manifestation, Bear has been a great elder and advisor to Dark Star Palace.  His feedback and advise, while often not what we would have liked to have heard at the time, was always greatly cherished.  He will be missed by many, and he will continue to influence and affect many more for generations to come.

I don’t think there is any fitting tribute that one can do to a great alchemist like Owsley, but we would like to make a small offering in his memory.  For this week’s Tape of the Week, we will be streaming one of our favorite Bear-recorded shows: 10/18/74 (Bear Recorded/Mixed).  24-bit sound direct from tape. Dark Star and the Dead don’t get much better than this…. 


For our Artifact of the Week, Dark Star Palace’s Unterfunken has decided to collect a few quotes from the emails that Bear wrote him that are still sitting in his in/sent folder.  As we continue to get several emails a month inquiring about our blog post on Bear last year, we though there would be many Bear-fans out there who would appreciate a few selections from these letters and get a taste for his theories and ideas. 

Unterfunken noted that one email from Bear stated that he would likely not ever return to the USA again (this was after his meeting up with him in June 2007), but that if he did, it wouldn’t be for “at least 5 years.” We are sorry to see that Bear has been proven right, yet again!

If you haven’t done so already, please check out our post from our coffee with Bear here.  We think you will enjoy it.  In the meantime, we will eat a steak in honor of Bear, and crank up some sweet 10/18/74... Fare the well!


A few quotes from Bear’s correspondence with Dark Star Palace:

On birthing and on naming Unterfunken’s first son (as Funken’s wife was pregnant, he and Bear had been discussing raising kids, naming, the fact his wife was told by doctors that she would need a C-section, etc.):
  • Be sure to read my essay on Naming- A proper and unique name which has meaning in your own language has great power- The religions have destroyed this ancient practice.  What the fuck does Bob or Sally mean?  Name noises.
  • C-section is a very body-damaging surgical procedure to be undertaken only when natural birth would result in death or serious damage to mother or baby.  Everything which comes after this is fucked in some way- there is no 'free lunch'. Nature rules. If a normal woman chooses to have her gut cut open and the baby extracted like a malignant tumour just to avoid a bit of natural distress and pain during childbirth, then she really is not fit to have children.  Again my opinion, but consider this: there are already a hundred times the number of people that this planet can support.... some of them need not to have kids.
On using one of Bear’s buckles on a custom amp stand for the Dead’s old MC2300/MC275/MC75’s at Dark Star Palace:
  • Why use a perfectly good buckle- a wearable, signed piece of art-  on a bunch of antique, obsolete amplifiers?
  • I could send you a cast, plastic GD just like it which would let the light through (or not if you like).
On options for Dark Star Palace’s surround-sound setup with the Dead’s old gear (vs. using Bear's system instead):
  • I have no clue as to why you want to do this.
  • I am just mounting a set of five Meyer UPJuniors with a UMS-1P sub as my surround system- it can only be beaten by a set of HD-1s (I only have three of them).
  • The slew rate alone on those old amps is absurd, let alone the harmonic distortion at operating level and the severe problems with the wires from the amps to the speakers, this without mention that there are no good 'speaker cabinets' available (never were).  Beyond all this, John Meyer's systems are the only ones which can actually reproduce in the air the sound as recorded (in the medium).  Standard systems have a huge asymmetrical distortion product built in, due to the laws of physics- a simple piston will drastically shift the zero-crossing point, resulting in all asymmetrical signals being badly distorted- only a pure sine wave can handle this kind of zero shift- this is the reason this severe and quite audible distortion is not shown by distortion tests, all of which use sine waves.  In other words, as a speaker moves to follow the electrical signal actuating it, it will have to take a much more rapid movement backwards- twice the distance- as the movement forwards, if it is to create a balanced pressure wave in the air corresponding to the driving signal.  Meyer achieves this by monitoring the pressure produced by the moving cone and predistorting the signal so as to correct it.  No one else does this, primarily due to John's patents.
  • My advice is:  save your money and get the best- you can push this along by selling off the vintage stuff.  ('Vintage': buzz word for old rubbish).
On his sound theories that were used in the Grateful Dead’s Wall of Sound:
  • There is a simple rule: every source must be in time with all other sources (no separation), but a particular source must not be carried in more than one channel (no panpots or 'center' switch positions. This is true no matter how many channels the system has: 2, 6... 100. ALL channels must have a common even if virtual source point.  The audience does not have to be in any particular place, there is no 'sweet spot' and the sound is everywhere.
On one of Unterfunken’s ideas for the DSP Hall of Sound:
  • FUNKEN: I was thinking as a music source you could run a DAW at 24/192k with some great outboard D/A's on as many tracks as the computer can handle and have a software interface designed so you could pan to 8-buss, each buss being able to be located anywhere in the room. The other idea was to explore the concept of Ambisonics and do the encoding and decoding w/ plugins...
  • A recipe for very shitty sound.
  • Yes, I know what is right and works, and what is not and doesn't.
  • No matter how attractive the idea may be, the laws of physics such as the speed of sound and single-wave interference (think hologram) can not be adjusted to your liking..
  • It has to do with your brain- which contains a highly evolved sonic signal-processing ability. If a source of sound enters the room from one and one only point, and there are other sources also unique in origin pointing in various directions, the human brain will process all these sounds into a complete sonic image in 3D, it will include the direct and the reflections of the sounds, subtract any time discrepancies and present the listener with a full rich, stereophonic soundscape.  I've done it many times. I like to compare it to a bowl of gelatin- a sound entering anywhere into it is heard as if it is everywhere.  Ever examine a Bose speaker?  9 drivers point away, only one towards you.  It works, a kind of lovely spacious sound- but the maker hasn't a clue as to how or why.  I just told you- it is inside your head.
On the belief he is a rich man (due to LSD sales, the Grateful Dead, etc.):
  • You need to realise I have very little in the way of savings, a pathetic $500/mo in US SS, and never had a retirement plan.  My art and the odd music royalty from my earlier sound work are my sole sources of income.
On “believing” in things:
  • I don't deal in conjecture.  If I say something, it has been researched, measured, tested and proven.  Otherwise I just say I don't know.  You suffer from a very common delusion, that things are just what they 'logically' appear to be- or perhaps what others say (loudly) about them.  I only trust my own perceptions, then set them to the test.  I don't 'believe' in anything.
On collecting the Dead’s old Wall of Sound amps and cabinets:
  • I hate to pop your bubble, but...The cabinet you bought is basically a nostalgia piece, something to brag about owning not using. It is just antique rubbish. It is not suitable for guitar, and was used only in a specially assembled line radiator. Moreover, if it is really one of the ones used in the system it is probably worn out- worthless even for that purpose. We replaced cabinets frequently during the life of the array- but ceased doing that toward the end. Any left are likely not good.
On making his belt buckles:
  • There is literally no way to tell when a particular buckle was cast, all are absolutely identical. (editor’s note: we’re not sure this is true, see his artwork breakdown below: “This year I mark "OZ 07" on buckles I ship from down here”)
  • The foundry cost for a bronze art casting such as the buckle is a lot more than $40, in fact, it was more than that in 1984.  It is a labour-intensive product, and in fact is cast in solid investment like fine jewellery.
Bear’s breakdown to Dark Star Palace of his collected artwork catalog:
  • Sun and Moon buckles are available in two sizes, 50 mm and 60 mm for the Sun (across the points) 47 mm and 57 mm for the Moon. There is only one size, 55 mm for the GD. Moons and GD are available in silver as well as bronze.
  • From time to time I hand cast a few Suns and small, cutout GD buckles in 18k gold ($7500- I have none at the present time). I also cast occasional unique buckles in silver-- like geckos, faces, moons, owl rings, drizards and other motifs, all of these are cast by myself, in my studio. Some of these are depicted on the site. Price is $2000 on the ones I have in stock at present, except one owl ring with star ruby eyes is $2200. I have other castings, such as 'Lucy', a gold lady brooch with a diamond. There are still some of my limited edition larger works available, such as MARS I, edition of 15, only four are left- price (next sale) is $7500. Also Pluto, edition of 15, 10 are left, price is $8000. As is usual in the art market, these limited edition sculptures, as well as the Bob Thomas prints, will rise in price as the edition approaches being sold out.
  • This year I mark "OZ 07" on buckles I ship from down here.
  • Foundry buckles: The bronze GD buckles are $650 and the silver version is $1300. The Sun and the Moon buckles in bronze (in either size) are $500. The smaller silver Moon is $1000, the larger $1200. Sun buckle is not available in silver. No shipping fee at present. It will take about 4-7 days for the shipment to reach you after payment is verified here. The money is transferred by international bank telex.
  • Small cutout (skull) GD medallion, enamel on .9999 gold with heart and (partial) rose back is $4500, the plain back with side panels but no winged sun disk is $4000. *No full versions with winged sundisk and heart & rose back pieces are available at present.* I have a few other enamels of various designs including sun and moon and a couple of hand carved, Tufted Puffin and Lady with a Rose. I have one platinum moon. Due to the very high price of new metal, the low scrap price offered by refiners, and my experience of only averaging one good strike out of five, I do not plan to make any more. Most of the work on the site has been sold, but can be reproduced- (Horse with moon and southern cross has been reproduced seven times). In each case there are small differences- design is a simple outline, and is carved in relief by hand. If you see a piece you are interested in, please ask.
  • The fast disappearing Bob Thomas hand-printed and coloured woodcut GD logo prints, which were done in a single edition of 50 shortly before Bob's untimely demise are close to all sold, there are just 10 left. Next one to be sold will be $5500..Most of the people who write ask about this rare, highly collectible piece of art actually have no idea what value it represents, nor any real intention to buy it. When I quote them this absurdly low price, they usually don't even bother to reply. So far as I am aware, this is the only available work by this amazing artist who so strongly influenced me, my art, and the imagery of the Grateful Dead which is offered for sale. None of the people who own any of Bob's other art, either paintings, woodcarvings/turnings or bagpipes and flutes, are willing to sell. This edition cannot be repeated- the block was destroyed. The last remaining examples will rise in price as each is sold.



Until next time at Dark Star Palace...