This evening, I went to see the DJ/VJ duo Coldcut's tribute to Robert Anton Wilson.
It was at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, a 1960s-vintage concert hall near Waterloo Station. The audience filtered into the theatre, where one of the members of the outfit (the chap who, with his shaved head and vermillion robes looked somewhat shamanic) DJing on a set of decks on stage, just playing a DJ set. Then the lights went down and the curator of the Ether series (a series of electronic-music performances of which this was a part) went on and gave an introduction. He then introduced an older gentleman with splendidly bushy eyebrows, who turned out to be Kenneth Campbell, the author/producer of the original 1977 (or so) play of Illuminatus!. He recounted a number of anecdotes: how the play came about (after another chap found the part of Liverpool which Carl Gustav Jung dreamt of, acquired a property there and established the Liverpool Science Fiction Theatre), how his old Latin master, quite a character in himself, ended up doing much of the scripting, and more. He was an entertaining raconteur.
Then he left the stage and the music came on: it was a mix of ambient electronica, with elements of dub and shoegazer, and fragments of Wilson's lectures/recordings dubbed over that, along with topical visuals, processed, layered and mashed up in quintessential Coldcut fashion. The music was divided into four segments, with different themes: Wilson's life, conspiracies, reality tunnels, Timothy Leary's 8-circuit model of human consciousness, Aleister Crowley, Terence McKenna's 2012 singularity, and so on.
In between the segments, Campbell came out and talked more, introducing other guests. The first was the set decorator of his play, who legendarily went out to get some Araldite and then disappeared, and who was none other than Bill Drummond. He went on, seeming perhaps a bit drunk, and talked about how Illuminatus! seems to have affected his life despite him not intending it to; he mentioned rereading it recently (after getting the commission to appear tonight), and finding it a different book than when he read it in the 70s and 80s.
Then on came Alan Moore, who sat down and read a passage from Masks of the Illuminati (the drug trip at the end, where Crowley doses Joyce and Einstein with some psychoactive substance), and later a poem about Wilson and his life and work (which, I presume, he wrote for the occasion).
Anyway, it was very interesting, both the talks and anecdotes and the music and visuals. Now I'm thinking I should reread my copies of Illuminatus! and Cosmic Trigger. (The fact that they're in storage in Australia doesn't help, though.)