Bad Habits of the Disco Nuns (1979)

by Hermione Harvestman

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Bad Habits of the Disco Nuns was originally released in a limited edition of three C60 cassettes - one each for the three old nun friends o' mine who sought me out in the Summer of 1979 having got wind that I'd gone atheist. (1)

My erstwhile sistren stood aghast - Agnosticism they could understand, but Atheism was anathema. How could anyone, they reasoned, know for sure that which cannot be proven? Best, therefore, to keep an open mind, they exhorted - even though they'd had their own minds closed for them long, long ago.

In my defence I reasoned that Agnosticism is predicated on a warped sort of logic - that we might negate the very existence of God simply by looking at the diversity of religions and subjecting them to a simple equation, i.e. that whilst they can't all be RIGHT, they can all be WRONG - and, furthermore, that if one of them is wrong, they all must be wrong.

Too, was the fact that the Abrahamic Tradition is a relatively recent one in the 50,000 year history of Modern Humanity - a mere 4.000 years or so - before which time there was no God of Abraham, just another several thousand belief systems all arising from the same wondrous bafflement in the face of which humanity seeks patterns in nature and makes stuff up accordingly - telling stories ad nauseam until they start believing their own hype. Happily, we are each of us born innocent of religion and its various concepts and constructs; happily such are as optional as they are utterly unnecessary. (2)

Impasse, of course. But we remained in good spirits throughout, old friends who, at last, only agreed to differ, even though (as I was at pains to point out) their world view was predicated on exclusion whereas mine was all inclusive. Nor was I in anyway in thrall to the supernatural - I was simply celebrating what we all were anyway : empirical star-stuff and part of a cosmic nature far more wondrous than anything you might find in religion.

By this point we were all quite merrily drunk and, as though to change the subject, they asked me about my music. I explained to them that I'd all but abandoned the western classical tradition much as I'd abandoned my Roman Catholic Faith. Instead of offering them any sort of explanation of what it was that I did exactly, I invited them into my studio and gave them an impromptu recital. The lighting was dim - three or four lava lamps - the music was 100% improvised and the play-back speakers were turned up very loud indeed and I exhorted them to simply listen with open ears and minds and follow the flow.

To this day I'm not sure how things turned out quite as they did but that's the nature of life, the nature of nature, and the nature the music I do - as if the instruments are antennas attuned to the cosmic vibrations of the universe. I did try and explain this to them - that the music was coming in from OUT THERE - that I was merely a medium, trancelike in my Shamanic channeling as I went from one piece to the next without giving the matter any thought whatsoever other than to keep each one fairly brief and rhythmically & melodically as accessible as possible without being too obvious about it.

A few seconds silent contemplation followed each improvisation then I'd begin the next and see where it took me, each one forming part of wider sequence born of only wanting to be slightly different from what had gone before in terms of the traditional process of evolution, continuity and mutation by which all things come in being. There was one truly dodgy start (BHotDN #6), but happily this was immediately redeemed once I opened myself up to the powers that be and let the narrative take on a life of its own. (3)

All of which is by the by, because as this impromptu recital went on, and my three erstwhile sistren became more intoxicated, (4), things began to loosen up rather. In the glowing red lava light I became aware of dark shapes a-dancing, a spontaneous choreography as clouts were cast and such hair as they had was let down; faces smiled, mids were freed and asses followed, and it all fell away, somehow, as the mood enclosed us with a buoyancy entirely unprecedented in that particular company hitherto, this giving rise to a particular liberation which I found particularly gratifying. (5)

As usual I recorded everything I did that night straight into the tape machine, only returning to it a few weeks later in a state of quiet astonishment with what had happened that night - not so quietly astonished that it all should fit so snugly onto a C60 cassette, five tracks a side in sequence which struck me as serendipitous in the extreme. So it was all included as it happened - all but the last piece that came to me that night, the longest one at 13 minutes, which I kept to myself all these years but which features here as the 'extra track' even though in many ways it defines the entire session - the culmination, indeed, of a perfect evening in which four old friends found a measure of empirical cosmic connection regardless of belief.

Hermione Harvestman - May 2003.

1 : Had I ever believed in God I wonder? Even as a child I remember having serious doubts on the one hand but loving the ritual and tradition of the Roman Catholic Church on the other, a dichotomy that would lead me, in time, to spending a good few years of my life in celibate hermeticism of which The Faith was only ever a material context for a personal experience the nature of which was as much sexual as it was spiritual, supposing I ever perceived a difference. When I was a nun I never confided, nor yet rebelled - I just obeyed. I lived happily and contentedly celibate by the sort routine and discipline I could never impose upon myself, finding therein a deeper liberation which enabled me to at least catch a glimpse of my objective - or rather THE objective - the very nature of The Empirical Commonality of All Regardless (TECOAR) which only served to confirm my suspicions that the Cosmos was entirely Godless and all the more Sacred for being so. In short - the Godless surpasses all human understanding, whereas God is simply a device we came up to explain the bits beyond our ken. God is a metaphor for our ignorance; Godlessness is the key to all understanding.

2 : I love religion as an aspect of human culture. Marginally less offensive than war, it nevertheless stands testimony to the collective insanity of human imagination in which we might believe implicitly in the things that earlier generations made up in their ignorance of the facts. And so it goes on. And on. Though of course being nuns of the Catholic faith my friends didn't believe in the entire Bible. They didn't, for example, believe in the literal six day creation. But why not? I asked. Why believe some of it and not all of it? Surely if one bit's wrong then it all must be wrong - just as if one bit of it's right, then it all must be right.

3 : By other means than alcohol I might add, having just been gifted a nice block of Gold Seal Charas by An Admirer.

4 : Towards the close of BHotDN #3 there is a quote from Sun Ra's 'There Are Other Worlds (They Have Not Told You Of)' from his 1978 LP Lanquidity. I've no memory of playing this, though I was pretty immersed in that record of the time. All part of the Traditional Process, born from random mutations, not one of which is never quite as 'anonymous' (nor yet as random) as the folklorists would have us believe.

5 : Of those three nuns only one would return to the motherhouse - the other two finding open expression and experience of the love they'd been feeling for each for several years previous which at last found expression (and indeed consummation) in the immediate aftermath of our little soiree. I'm happy to report that not only are they're still together, but are running a centre for Atheist Spirituality in the Devonshire countryside in which electronic music forms no small part and yours truly has been the resident composer on various occasions.


released May 12, 2016



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Hermione Harvestman UK

'I feel like Wainwright - we are both hermetic ramblers. He made his books for when he was no longer capable of rambling his beloved fells, and I made my music for when I'm no longer able to ramble the by-ways of Albion - but only to listen, and think "Was that really me? That solitary figure who stood in a landscape dreaming of ages past in dread fear of the future."

Hermione Harvestman
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