New music. We approach the subject of laughter with a very playful spirit. I still play with them. Aquarium Drunkard: You started on the piano, but During those five days, I noticed the difference between my pace and the pace of New York.I felt isolation. Laraaji: Yes, it comes through as that way. What can you tell me about performing and improvising that song? Born Edward Larry Gordon in Philadelphia in 1943, he studied Eastern mysticism in the early seventies and bought his first zither from a local pawn shop. Or somebody from Bali would say that it sounded like gamelan music. [Laughs] It’s a challenge and an invigorating experiment to let that more soulful, gutsy rhythm and blues primal, earthy feeling show up in this kind of setting. The laughter workshops are very musical. The term “New Age” is tricky. Always on the edge of my awareness is the omni-spatiality of the timelessness of the universe and that a lightness and the ethers that are moving from density, moving from compression, moving from dark energy into lightness. “Across the wide Missouri…”. exercises, then we go into exploring the sound and the physical force of our After those playful That’s the real meaning of “new” in New Age, continuously now. up in concert work though. I wanted to have the I’m no longer on a stage, and the audience is down there. Where do you think we are now with it? It was not only a source of income and social life, but also an experiment to observe the relationship between performing in mindful meditative states and how participants or listeners received the music. She invested in a piano in the house, and then invested in piano lessons for me. wasn’t big on my radar. Eventually, I was able to develop it into a workshop, and so here I am now in a world of laughter. Did that affect how you were playing? For example, someone from a Muslim country would say the music sounded like the Peace of Islam. For heads, by heads. They’re in touch with the joy Laraaji: Donny Hathaway for one. Laraaji: Yes. career became disenchanting. I’m bringing forth new music for me. inspired by the likes of Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor and a few other artists. It really feels like it’s moving upwards. A smile that involves intentional crinkles on the sides of the eyes and the sides of the mouth. 1970 when I deliberately investigated the practice of meditation to find my own 1969 to mid-1970s, I came to New York But I can just say being at the piano in general for that session was just a grand feeling of connecting with a vision to share my piano sensibilities. It is beautiful there. It kind of reflects how concerts have been conducted for the last three months. AD: You also do a very beautiful, very free interpretation of the traditional song “Shenandoah.” Why did you choose that song and what does it mean to you? AD: Tell me about the workshops you lead. I was very drawn to reading metaphysical the deep relaxation, gongs, mounted gongs or hand-held gongs, are used to disregard those early styles. It’s directed inwardly into the brain to stimulate the release of Something about the song…we must have sung it in high school choir or college choir. months. Aquarium Drunkard: Did you improvise all these songs on the spot there at the church? I wanted to talk about your history with the piano, because it seems like it is very bound up with your development as a musician. AD: There was a real flowering of that sort of New Age spirituality in the early 1970s, and then we head into the 1980s and everybody wants to make as much money as possible. Laraaji: I’m not clear what the New Age market is. Here I am playing piano in an empty church. Awakened to mysticism in the 70's, Laraaji bought a second hand zither and began busking around Manhattan and Brooklyn - he was playing in Washington … So, my All of this occurred during that recording session in Brooklyn. Laraaji: In a sense, it was, Jennifer, in that it was a large church. Then I got in touch with a meditation teacher who suggested laughing as a meditation. A great teacher was once reminded by a disciple of a famous saying: "In the beginning was the word." stimulate the thymus which is claimed to be the seat of our immune system, then We open up with music. I’ve never been quite sure what the lyrics are supposed to mean. So, I would just rock out on the piano in the church basement. We open up with music. I see Spotify and Pandora have set aside special categories for that kind of music. At that time, we were performing in smoke filled Laraaji: I had a very intimate, warm, loving, insightful experience in the mid-1970s when I, for about two weeks, experienced what was as close as I’ve ever come to being homeless. And Egyptian, Ra, for the sun god, and also, it’s a soft transition from my legal birth name, Edward Larry Gordon. different ways of talking. What am I visionary experience in the mid-1970s that inspired my going toward a more new themselves in the R&B and in the pop world. What do you remember about that period? So, I’m noticing people are gravitating toward that or the people have there. the center of it?” That’s what I did in the early 1970s. The stand-up was fun, but the prospects of it becoming a Laraaji is a multi-instrumentalist and new-age musician who first came to prominence for the Brian Eno-produced Day of Radiance, released in 1980. It’s about 15 minutes. expanded my musical creativity so big that I decided to put my life on hold and AD: Can you tell me how you connected to that music early on and is it still there in the way you play now? a digital piano. Laraaji: Yes. Going back to your history, I was reading this story about how you were discovered by Brian Eno in Washington Square Park. It was different hours — workshop hours— and a different relationship with the people. Have you been playing all along? So, eventually while looking for a spiritual name later on, I felt like I would want a three-syllable name that somehow honored the sun.