The Universe: Explained ft The Membranes
Saturday 20th July 2013
Words: Rev. David Gray (Punk Monk)
My take on how the UNIVERSE was EXPLAINED:
What happens if scientists and musicians who are all passionate about what they do perform for an audience of scientist, musicians and music fans all thirsty to be entertained on a Saturday evening in a popular Manchester club? “The Universe Explained” – a daring experiment involving Manchester musicians, scientists, artists and poets intended to find out.
Being a seven on the eniagram; a Franciscan with Aspergers and a Punk, there seemed no need to prepare or plan – just a willingness to be there with a readiness to be spontaneous – so it was in excited anticipation that Punk Monk crossed the Gorilla threshold for the gig of the billennium.
Drummer Rob Haynes met me in the restaurant area. “We only got a chance to rehearse together this afternoon”, he told me.
I was in good company then. When I bumped into Jim from the astronomical society, who asked me what I was going to do and I told him I had no idea, we both broke into huge grins.
Moving into the inner sanctum of the venue itself, a group of Goldblade fans approached and asked to have their photo taken with me.
“No, use a bloody camera!” We laughed as we fell into pose.
The first part of the evening began gently enough as Goldblade and Membranes front man, music journalist John Robb, interviewed leading theoretical physicist Prof. John Ellis. The good professor, who is involved with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, slowly tuned our minds to concepts of super-symmetry and got us wondering about possible locations for dark matter and what it may or may not be.
Next, TV science consultant, cosmologist and author Doctor Stuart Clark shared his personal insights, before we were treated to a selection of poetry delivered by star poet Maurice Riordan. Our brain cells were then stimulated by experimental philosopher and artist Jonathon Keats – affectionately known as “God’s Pornographer”, followed by astronomer and science educator Radmila, who had travelled up especially from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.
The first half closed with Chella, who shared space related news stories through the medium of cringe worthy love letters from her quirky book “It’s not you – I just need space”.
We were in the capable hands throughout of artist, writer and light specialist Michael Trainor.
As well as being an opportunity to visit the bar or take a stroll on Whitworth Street West, the interval was an opportunity to explore some of the ideas we had been exposed to. Punks, students, folkies and geeks alike were running round as gleefully as kids in a Whacky Warehouse as they used tubes, vacuums and hundreds of ping-pong balls to recreate the cosmic dance patterns of microscopic particles. When you have just been reminded that your origins can be traced back trillions of years to exploding stars and that the gold and silver in your jewellery was deposited during pre-historic,non-organic alien visitation, ancient memories are triggered that tend to inspire feelings of glee and wonder that trip people into play mode.
Spotting my M8 Jan Cole from the Gorton Morris affecting a shower of sub-atomic missiles across the space, I looked around for her husband Chris and their daughter Grace. They and several other familiar faces were scattered among the constellation of club goers. Some of our Punk regulars were still not getting it. Regular Goldblade gig goer Martin looked at me bewildered at one point.
“What’s going on, Punk Monk? Where’s the music?”
“Be patient”, I told him, “the best sauce on any meal is a blend of hunger and anticipation!”
“So this is just the horse’s do-dahs?”
Martin and his mates were still uncertain as part two opened with composer Suzie Shrubb explaining how she had been researching the sounds pulsars make as they travel towards earth from a distance of around 16,000 light years. As the stage behind her filled with some fifteen musicians with a range of string, percussion, wind and keyboard instruments, Suzie told us that there were patterns in the spaces between the clicks of pulsars that were similar to the spacing in music.
“The cosmos”, she told us excitedly, “has been singing since the big bang. At last we are starting to learn how to hear it. This is how it translates …”
A violin began a haunting throb that was soon accompanied by extraordinary intermittent pulses from the other instruments. The scientists and musicians in the room were enthralled. I glanced across at Martin who had the appearance of a rabbit caught in headlights.
At last, the time had come for the Membranes, featuring The Falls Steve Hanley. The raw energy of their music had the floor heaving with pogoing bodies. A couple of songs in John Robb paused to shout:
“Have we any religious people here tonight?”
“There’s Punk Monk!” someone shouted.
Clambering on stage, John asked me what I made of the night so far.
“We are all on the same cosmic orientated socio-political scene”, I replied. “There are no absolutes. I’m a priest – but you must not mistake me for a religious man, for I lock nothing within my own limited understanding. The truth being out there, we are invited to discover it together in an encounter of equals!”
“Then feck off back to your flock”, cried John as the crowded floor absorbed me once again.
We had modelled the egregore of a Hadron Collider in which the sub-atomic particles of punk, science and theology collided to explode cosmic glimpses of pure insight into the brains of punks and geeks simultaneously. In that moment, everyone was flooded on a high of string theory, Matrioshka conception and space-time paradoxes. The universe was within us and beyond us and we were its collective consciousness.
What happened next was the biggest cherry on the most enormous cake as we all tucked in to a final helping of authentic heart expansion: Suzie and her classical pulsar musicians mingled on stage among the punk maestro’s.
That’s when the room really went wild as everything fell in place. The last cosmic jig-saw piece slotted in and we soared in that bliss of humanness where the head, heart and emotions merge in a realisation that nothing is left out and no one excluded from the song of the One … the next moment we were falling through the liminal spaces on hyper-drive in the dance of expanding life.
© Rev. David Gray (Punk Monk) July 2013