Philip K. Dick and the Heavenly Music Corporation



In Man in the High Castle (1963), Philip K. Dick’s masterpiece novel written in collaboration with the I Ching about a parallel world with its own parallel Philip K. Dick, i.e., the man in the high castle. This man in the high castle, who we never meet, is a man hidden by virtue of his being the Author, just as Dick is the hidden Author to the characters manifested in his story. The book, written through a process of interpreting the pattern of dropped yarrow stalks through the explanation of the I Ching, is something like channeling creativity, and thus similar to Italo Calvino’s creative strategy with tarot cards in The Castle of Crossed Destinies or Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies card deck. Like God, the man in the high castle in this parallel world is the subject of considerable, hopeful rumour. In so many of the writings of Philip K. Dick, a benevolent God must act through subversion to break through into a world hijacked by a Demiurge, a harmful dangerous world where we are all prisoners of the Demiurge’s insane delusion that it is the creator God.

And in the book, there is a subversion, and the illusion is broken for one character, at least briefly, through an intervention enabled by a character’s meditation on a trinket. The thing, hidden by it’s apparent worthlessness becomes the most valuable thing in the universe. The trinket was created by a man who smokes marijuana cigarettes sold under the brand name “Heavenly Music Corporation” (a Japanese brand sold in a parallel California where the Japanese won the Pacific front in World War II).

Brian Eno and Robert Fripp named side A of their 1974 proto-ambient album No Pussyfooting: “Heavenly Music Corporation.” Two years earlier, Klause Schulze had composed “Study for Philip K. Dick.” Was Klause Schulze meditating on what the Penfield Mood Organ might have sounded like, had its moods been conveyed by sound? It’s worth a listen. But it is “Heavenly Music Corporation”, by virtue of its homage to the inspiration of gnostic subversion, that can be listened to as a means of revealing for ourselves the illusion of the “Black Iron Prison.”

It’s significant to consider that Dick wrote this ten years before We Can build You (1972) where he introduces the idea of the Glock Frauenzimmer, electronic organ, six years before the “Penfield Mood Organ” in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968). Fripp & Eno chose an obscure prop name from an older PKD novel. I don’t claim to understand why they chose it, just that the name is well suited on a number of levels to the concept and the potential of the composition and genre Fripp & Eno were helping to invent.

Later, in the 1990s, Kim Cascone of industrial project PGR and founder of the now defunct Silent/Flask label (also out of San Francisco) and reviving ambient in America, named his newly christened ambient project, Heavenly Music Corporation. Kim produced four excellent ambient albums in the mid ’90s under this project name, anechoic (1996), consciousness iii (1994), in a garden of eden (1993), and lunar phase (1995).

Below, I am linking to a collection of cassette rips of what appears to be interviews with PKD in the mid-1970s. I’m also adding to the stream some of the music I referenced in this post.

Here’s Heavenly Music Corporation’s Lunar Phase:

Here’s Klaus Schulze’s “Study for Philip K. Dick”:

Here’s Fripp & Eno’s “Heavenly Music Corporation” from No Pussyfooting

And here’s PKD discussing a sequel to Man in the High Castle — ideas that he would later develop into his novel, Valis.

PKD – VALISystem (m3u)


About Aharon N. Varady

Aharon's Omphalos is the hobbit hole of Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project. He is a community planner and environmental educator working to improve stewardship of the Public Domain, be it the physical and natural commons of urban park systems or the creative and cultural commons of libraries and museums. His advocacy for open-source strategies in the Jewish community has been written about in the Atlantic Magazine, the Yiddish Forverts, Tablet, and Haaretz. He is particularly interested in pedagogies for advancing ecological wisdom, developing creative and emotional intelligence, and realizing effective theurgical praxes. He welcomes your comments, personal messages, and kind words. If you find his work helpful to your own or you'd simply like to support him, please consider donating via his Patreon account.

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