Bolinas Om Generator
In 1967, on one of my almost daily beachcombing walks at Agate Beach near Bolinas, California, I found a piece of very weathered, scarred, and pitted black plastic pipe about 12 feet long. The inside diameter was approximately 3 inches and the wall of the pipe was about 1/2″ thick. The pipe was rather heavy and had a very slight curve to it.
The amazing thing about this piece of pipe was the sound it produced when an observer picked it up and stuck his or her ear in one end of the pipe. It was the same old shell-to-the-ear effect we all discovered as children, but on a huge scale. The pipe seemed to take whatever the local ambient sounds happened to be at the time and combined them into a unique mix and variation of a wonderfully low-pitched OMMMMMMM sound.
Listening to it with eyes closed was a very soothing and relaxing experience. I included it in one of my solo exhibits at the Unicorn Gallery in San Francisco, in 1968 I think. It was positioned atop a large rusty metal object I had also found at the beach. I placed the two objects right in the middle of the gallery floor. Next to this assemblage I put a large card with printed instructions on how to best use the device.
The sound created by the Om Generator in the gallery on Fillmore was very different from the sound it made on the mesa in Bolinas. The sound was always different, combining all the ambient sounds, spinning them around inside the pipe and converting them into the Om. In my mind, it revealed the Om that is ever-present in any environment.
Ben Van Meter and I recorded the Om Generator one windy day by sticking one end of the pipe out the window of Ben’s studio in downtown Bolinas then putting a microphone in the other end. That sound is used in much of the soundtrack of boc ging, the 16mm film Ben and I made in 1968.
Here is 38 seconds of 1968 Bolinas wind as processed by the Om Generator: