RIP Hayman, photographed by Robert Masotti (1980)
The history of avant-garde and experimental music is tangled mess. Names, places, and actions rise to surface, taking center stage, while other other crucial actors and events drift into the shadowy unknown. Like most visions of the past, the narrative is in constant flux – a full vision of occurrence elusive, if not impossible to gain.
Over the last two decades, largely in the hands of fans, driven by a passion to explore new territories of sound and a need to right the wrongs of unjustifiable neglect, we’ve witnessed a remarkable period historical reappraisal, ultimately taking form in a near countless number of reissues, archival releases, and publications. There have, in fact, been so many, that the landscape of contemporary music has been flooded by these objects, leading some of us – often those who played in a part in the beginnings of these efforts – to worry that it’s gone too far, wondering if we’re culling the dregs for the sake of a compelling story, at the expense of the attention deserved by all the incredible work that’s happening now.
While I remain a tireless advocate of historical reappraisal, I have, admittedly, begun to be slightly skeptical of the flood of objects which follow in its wake. How many lost “holy grails” can there actually be? How much have these weathered ears yet to hear? What is to be gained, and at what cost? And then, inevitably, comes something which pulls the rug from beneath all the questions and doubt, reminding you of what it’s all about. Such was the case with Dreams of India & China, a survey of historical audio works by the artist, writer, performer, and editor, RIP Hayman, issued by Recital in late April. For decades, Hayman played a seminal role in the New York scene, but had, until the album’s release, remained almost entirely unknown to the generations who have followed in his wake.
RIP Hayman – Dreams of India & China (2019)
At this stage in the game, it’s incredible rare to encounter a figure as important as RIP Hayman for the first time. Like many others, these circumstances are, to some small extent, a consequence of his own doing – his self-imposed retirement from music, and fairly casual regard for his own legacy as he pursued other paths. Fortunately, Sean McCann from Recital – as he has in so many other instances – intervened. The simple existence of Dreams of India & China stands as an important reminder of how collective and evolving the construction of history is. Artists should not be expected, nor forced, to stand entirely on their own, acting as the sole preservationists and points for the dissemination of their own work. We all belong to a symbiotic ecosystem, each with our role to play.
A student of John Cage, Ravi Shankar, and Philip Corner, who issued his solo full length, Hearsayseeing, on the now legendary New Wilderness Audiographics series in 1980, followed by two cassettes, Dreamsound and Nightsongs / China Diary, on Charlie Morrow‘s Other Media in 1987, the more studious might caught a glimpse of RIP Hayman’s name as one of the three figures who realized Yoshi Wada’s Singing In Unison, recorded at The Kitchen during March of 1978, and issued by EM Records in 2012. Some will know him as a member of the Ocarina Orchestra, which released their lone cassette in 1982 (also on New Wilderness Audiographics), or for his association with Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening Institute (which releases his album, On The Way…, in 1987). The elders among us will certainly know him for his contributions as a writer and founding editor, with Beth Anderson and Laurie Spiegel, at Ear Magazine – among the more important periodicals in the history of avant-garde and experimental music, which published between 1973 and 1991. Those, like myself, who are drawn to older drinking establishments in NY, might have even caught a glimpse of him at the Ear Inn, which he has co-owned and run since the late 1970s. Very few, with the exception of those who were there, will have been prepared for the wonders of Dreams of India & China, as they unfold.
Rip Hayman – Dreams of India & China (Excerpt)
Not only is the album a complete revelation and a challenge to historical complacency, but it rapidly topped the list of my favorite records of the year. The sounds which stretch across its two sides are visionary, radical, game-changing, and of astoundingly artistic quality – one of those rare artifacts which leaves you wondering where it’s been all of your life.
Drawn from a body of work which has lain dormant for over 30 years, recorded from 1975-1986, the LP spans the discrete, delicate, harmonically rich, and conceptually challenging, folding field recordings, performances, private experiments, into a “total” compositional approach – an ethnographic journey of body, sound, and self, taking the listener into a realm of long organ tones, intermingled with the sounds of birds and trees, to more saturated terms of materiality – fragments of meandering melody, woven into dissonances generated by every day and/or musical objects, sculpt visions of an expansive and intricate world, punctuated by the body of its creator, laden with metal and bells. In the simplest terms, Dreams of India & China is an absolutely overwhelming body of work, now standing in the contemporary landscape as potent reminder of how far we have yet to go before the past can be put to rest.
R.I.P. Hayman, from Musicworks 38 (1986)
For better or worse, the construction and understanding of history is almost always dependent on the relative availability of artifacts – the degree to which what was said and done was captured or documented, and how easy those objects are to encounter. Particularly for artists of Hayman’s generation, many of whom took a fairly radical approach in embracing the temporal limitations of a performative work, often paying humble regard for the significance of their own efforts, retention of an accurate understanding can fleeting at best. It’s not simply a matter of knowing where to look, it’s knowing to look at all.
Fortunately, Hayman made a number of the video documents, capturing his now historical efforts, available to a wider public a couple of years back. I have chosen five of my favorites, but recommend checking the rest out when time allows. Spanning the years between 1973 and 1985, they capture a beautiful glimpse into intellectually brilliant, while often joyously irreverent interventionary radicalism, embraced by the incredible generation of artists who occupied these years – an avant-garde of ideology, experiment, and play – a counterculture, deadly serious in their attempts to change the world, which managed dispel the weight. I love each of these works, and encourage you to take the time to do the same. I have also embedded streams of Hayman’s Hearsayseeing, and the Ocarina Orchestra’s It Must Have Been the Candle, both of which are available on the New Wilderness Audiographics Bandcamp page. Hopefully the imprint’s catalog will get the reissue treatment soon. Until then, I recommend checking it out, and picking up Dreams of India & China from Recital, or your favorite record store, before it goes out of print. Enjoy the wonders below.
R.I.P. Hayman & Nina Lundborg – Love Duet (1973)
Rip Hayman – Hearsayseeing : Waves for 40 Cellos (Wave Hill Estate, New York, 1977)
R.I.P. Hayman – Bell Roll (San Francisco, 1979)
R.I.P. Hayman – Blind Beat (For Prisoners of Conscience) 
R.I.P. Hayman – String Foliage (1985)
R.I.P. Hayman – Hearsayseeing (1980)
Ocarina Orchestra – It Must Have Been the Candle (1982)