Past — Present — Future

Today I bought my first tarot deck. I spent a lot of time at the shop going through the different decks they had, and the one I settled on was this one: The Illuminated Tarot by Caitlin Keegan. It’s a bit of an unconventional deck — only 53 cards, compared to the normal 78. But I got it because it’s directly correlated to a normal deck of playing cards — Major Arcana are reduced to make that work. The extra card (a normal deck of playing cards has 52 cards) is a joker.

I’m interested in using playing cards to generate musical material — Numerology is the farthest I’ve taken this so far, but I employed similar processes in the creation of Resound, What Follows From, Orbital, and Double Double. So the fact that this deck was relatable to playing cards was a big plus for me. Furthermore, It’s beautifully illustrated and simple. I don’t know that I’ll be able to do full spreads with it, and maybe one day I’ll have to get a more robust deck, but for now it’s interesting and it resonated with me.

I just concluded my first ever self-administered tarot card reading.  I used a simple spread — three cards, each card in order represents either the past, present, or future. I asked the cards to reflect on my aesthetic and creative world, past, present, and future. The results were illuminating and beautiful. 

Here’s the spread I drew:


The card in the Past slot was the Ace of Clubs. This apparently represents strength, overcoming desire, building trust, and courage. 

The card in the Present slot was a 2 of Spades — the Hanged Man. This represents peace through self discipline and freedom from distraction. 

The card in the Future slot was an Ace of Diamonds. This represents the world, peace, travel, and open-mindedness.

In the context of my creative life, it is interesting to think of the Past in terms of strength, overcoming desire, and building trust. I think that my past — my training, my learning, my education, both formally and informally — was a massive gathering of tools, frameworks, and discipline, with lots of focus on learning how to learn. Of course, this stage isn’t over for me; it never will be. But while I’m certainly interested in growth and expansion now, it is absolutely true that there are certain skills that I learned when I was younger that I fall back on and don’t have to think about anymore. They’re my foundation. Tonal harmony and music theory. How to make a gig. Learning by ear. Accompanying a vocalist. Transcription. Reading music. These are my rocks, my touchstones, my strength, the processes that I can rely on when all else fails. 

The second card was also enlightening in terms of the present moment. For starters, I was struck by the image itself. The character is blindfolded, which makes sense to me. I do feel like I’m walking myself in right now, insulating myself from a lot of attention so that I can undergo radical transformation.

This, for example, was one of my takeaways from my recent trip to New York last weekend — how can anyone grow here when everyone is so reliant on self promotion? It does seem antithetical to the openness that is required to fertilize creativity. Of course, those are broad brushstrokes; not everyone is unable to do both at the same time. And of course, it’s self centered; I’m also self promotional, and I’m trying to grow creatively. Still, it was a feeling that I picked up on.

Nonetheless, the idea behind this card — “peace through self discipline — works for me. This card is a reminder of what I should be doing, and how I should be spending every day. I think that at my best, I can find myself here, but I also ebb and flow  quite a bit.

And if I can commit to that work, then what’s waiting for me might be in the last card, the Ace of Diamonds. The world, peace, travel, and open-mindedness (read: open-heartedness). That peace and openness applies to my personal life, but also to a cultivating a more ecumenical spirit in my art. That’s my goal — to find a way to synthetize the width of my musical interests and activities. It seems that I’m on my way, if I can just be patient. 

Also interesting to me that I got Ace — 2 — Ace. The highest to the lowest and back to the highest again. It makes sense.

Stay the course. Stay open. Lead with your heart. Lead with your ears! The rest will follow.