Watts’s words plus new electronica are entrancing

Jas Walton, left, and Miles Arntzen helped bring Eastern philosopher Alan Watts’s words to new life during a one-night-only performance at Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books.   Photos by Bob Krasner

Jas Walton, left, and Miles Arntzen helped bring Eastern philosopher Alan Watts’s words to new life during a one-night-only performance at Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books. Photos by Bob Krasner

BY BOB KRASNER  |  Zen philosopher Alan Watts died in 1973, but that has not stopped him from influencing the many who continue to listen to his abundance of recorded lectures.

Musician/composer Jas Walton, who has performed and colloborated with many musical acts over the years — Antibalas, Superhuman Happiness, EMEFE — is one such devotee. 

Although Watts died before Walton was born, Walton has spent many, many hours listening to a series entitled “Out of Your Mind: Essential Listening From the Alan Watts Audio Archives.” Walton calls it his “favorite piece of recorded history.” Sometime in 2012, Walton decided that the electronic loops that he was creating at home would work well with Watts’s words.

Collaborating with the philosopher’s son Mark Watts, he produced a four-track vinyl EP (also available digitally), “Face The Facts: Words by Alan Watts.” Lily Wen, formerly of Nonesuch Records, made it the first release on her new Figure & Ground independent record label.

May 19 saw more than 60-plus bodies crammed into the miniscule, non-climate-controlled Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books on Carmine St. to hear Walton, playing keyboards and laptop, and Miles Arntzen, on keyboards and percussion, bring three of their pieces to life.

Through meditation, among other means, Watts explored the outer limits of consciousness, a feeling Walton sought to evoke in his soundtrack for Watts’s lectures.

Through meditation, among other means, Watts explored the outer limits of consciousness, a feeling Walton sought to evoke in his soundtrack for Watts’s lectures.

Refreshments were served as the duo provided a musical-trance counterpoint to Watts’s rhythmic ramblings. Vintage video of the absent guest of honor was screened as the new record had its debut and Walton had a chance to consider the brief performance.

It was a musical departure for Walton, as he is more often found playing Afrobeat on his sax. The question arose as to whether or not he’d be performing this music in a live setting again.

“I hadn’t thought about it before this,” he said. “But now I’m considering it. Hopefully, it will be someplace with air conditioning.”

“Face The Facts: Words by Alan Watts” is available from figureandgroundrecords.com . More information about Alan Watts can be found at  alanwatts.com .

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