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Tom Wolfe, THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST, Farrar Straus and Giroux, Inc., 1968, Copyright 1968 by Tom Wolfe. excerpts ( JH picked out all passages describing sound or sound equipment ) Typed by Barb Golden, Aug. 17, 1994. 875w

Kesey and the Pranksters are off to one side of the Barn waiting for their turn to go on, setting up their instruments, the electric guitars and basses, Gretch's Hammond organ, Walker's drums, and the goddamnedest gleaming heap of wires, dials, amplifiers, speakers, headsets, mikes__testing, testing__The New Dimensions...Yeah.

The Pranksters have their own speakers set up all over the barn and Babbs is trying to test the microphones, watching for the needle to jump over the dials...Babbs has on his Day-Glo spirit mask and it glows in the dark, also a Shazam shirt and pants of many stripes and colors and he blows into the microphones, then hums a bit and watches the needles, then keens a bit, then croons a bit, and that's nice, so he tries a little ululation, and that's nicer, and pretty soon he is keening and gooning along with the New Dimensions and his voice sails through their sound like a stoned ghost on the airwaves. Kesey sits on a folding chair in the Control Center testing the headsets. Cassady has the Rat-tar, now painted an infinite number of colors and totally without strings. Doris Delay plays kindly aunt with the zonked-out little girl who's getting the picture... p.364

The Pranksters wind up for their set. They clamp on their headsets. The headsets are wired up to a variable-lag system. So the Pranksters don't hear what they are playing right now but what they were playing a second ago. They harmonize off themselves, break up all learned progressions, and only they can hear the full...orchestration, a symphony in their cortices, the music of the Prankster ...ah ummmm...Only the kids in The Barn, can't figure out what's going on ...It's like, weird...The Pranksters put on their headsets and pick up their instruments, Kesey on an electric guitar, Page on an electric guitar, also Hassler, Babbs on an electric bass, Gretch on the electric organ, George Walker on the drums. They look all ready to go, but nothing happens. They're waiting...for the...energy...to build up, to come crackling over the headsets...the spontaneous burst...but nothing works. Somebody starts and nobody else can pick it up and soon it's obvious that none of these crazy-looking people is going to play the instruments, except for the drummer...and they're not playing songs, they make it up as they go along...the leader, the muscular guy, Kesey, singing:

"It's a ...road map!...that ought to have been issued, about how to reach the edge of time...on a horse who flies in tungsten red..." And the guy in the mask on the bass singing: "...floods of screams on the beach in bomby raids of bloody rainbows...It's dark and I lose my vision..." Well...the kids start leaving...what the hell... Babbs belches over a microphone. That gets a laugh. But is it art? George Walker says over his microphone: "Where'd that dog go? I heard a ...dog!... under my very feet!"

They slough to a halt. Hassler starts chanting into his microphone, which is wired in only to the headsets...Only Pranksters can hear: "Begin it like we began...at the beginning...Do it like we did...at the beginning...In the beginning...in the beginning..." Chanting over the inner space network. But the slump and the slough are total...The kids all going in droves now...Just the Pranksters left...An atmosphere of total tedium...It's...all...too...much...for mortal__

Even Pranksters drifting off ...leaving the main floor, going downstairs...Hagen shakes his head. "It's like a wake..." It's that burnt-out husk of the dark hours of the morning...Black Maria finds a mattress in a utility room and lies down...Cassady, not high at all__low, in fact__offers to drive a girl home...Now it's just Kesey on the electric guitar and Babbs on the electric bass, them and their headsets picking up the sound of their instruments and their song in variable lag...Taboory himself, the manager, can't take it any more..."Just shut the door tight when you leave," he tells Kesey and he takes off...All the lights are out now, just a little glow from the dials of Prankster Control Center...Kesey and Babbs have their eyes closed, strumming slowly...alone in the center of the vast gloom of the barn .....The whole world contracts, draws closer and deeper and crawls inside the headsets, ricocheting in variable lag in the small hours, and Kesey sings over his guitar, which twangs and wobbles:

"...and every now and then you can hear her blowing smoke rings around a cloud and trying to lace up her shoe..." And Babbs: "...and the message goes out and it breaks out just a little bit but__stops__" And Kesey: "It's kind of hard, playing cello on a hypodermic needle and using a petrified bat as a bow..." And Babbs: "Yes, it's hard working with these materials, without the grins falling off your knees..."

pp365-367


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