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Apocalypse Raver: Terence McKenna as Medium (Amsterdance lecture, 21 June 2022)

From organiser Oliver Seibt: "We are happy to announce a new instalment in the Amsterdance lecture series. On Tuesday 21 June, Graham St John will join us in Amsterdam as keynote speaker of the 7th IASPM Benelux Student Conference. The talk will be at the Theatre Building on Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16-18, room 3.01, and will begin at 4.00 p.m. (Amsterdam time)."

For those unable to join come in person, the event will be streamed on Zoom, for which you can register through the following link:

Amsterdance Keynote of the IASPM Benelux Annual Student Conference

Title: Apocalypse Raver: Terence McKenna as Medium

The underground rave scene of the early nineties sought its champions and there was no bard more willing, more vocal, and more weird, than Terence K. McKenna (1946-2000), a figure for whom acid house was a novelty signal in his forecasted apocalypse. A slate of collaborations with McKenna between 1991-93 – i.e. The Shamen, Space Time Continuum/Rose X and Zuvuya – had one feature in common. They featured performances of McKenna emulating the “elf chatter” that had poured out of him in trance states on Psilocybe mushrooms and DMT. Subsequently, electronic music producers mined the elven sprechen of this surreal psychopomp as if it were precious sonic ore. McKenna himself held that rather than “channelling” intelligible messages, the spontaneous emissions enabled him to uncover “the source of meaning before it is contextually located.” This “translinguistic” notion took hold within psychedelic electronica, where McKenna’s mind became iconic for going out of one’s mind – a circumstance magnified in the global present in which McKenna’s appeal remains undiminished. Drawing upon research for a forthcoming biography of McKenna, this presentation explores his role as a medium of the unspeakable. As digital alchemists sample from a vast archive of spoken word material to sculpt epic audio-narratives of dream travel, soul flight, and cosmic transit, McKenna’s voice became a medium for transcendent states. Elven or regular, McKenna’s mellifluous voice retains appeal within psychedelic electronica two decades after his death, with producers regarding his voice as a sonic template for the unknown, the apocalypse of the self – the McKennaesque aesthetic.


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