DEAR JERRY: I first became aware of Paul Horn when I spotted a copy of “Inside the Taj Mahal” at a thrift store. It was badly worn so I didn't buy it, but it did look interesting.
Paul apparently plays the flute, along with other instruments, mostly in a jazz style.
Were those recordings really made “inside” the Taj Mahal, or just nearby?
If so, wouldn't a mausoleum, especially this one, be an unlikely place for recording music?
Tell me more about this, if you can.
Robin Maldron, Wauwatosu, Wisc.
DEAR ROBIN: I can, and I will. But even better is what Paul himself has to say about these topics.
Fortunately, among hundreds of interviews conducted over the years for my various publications, one is with Paul Horn.
In a 1989 sit-down chat with one of our freelance writers, Robert L. Miller, Mr. Horn offers these comments about playing various instruments:
“For many, many years I just played them all. In the early years I played the sax, alto mostly, and clarinet.
“I didn't play the flute until I was 19, and in my second year of college (1949).
“Later, when I was with the Chico Hamilton Quintet (1956-1958), it was alto and tenor sax, alto flute, piccolo, clarinet, and some piano. When I did studio work in L.A., for 15 years after I left Chico Hamilton, I played all my instruments.
“A time came when I just didn't feel like playing the clarinet, and others, anymore just the flute.”
That the flute instead of a horn would be Horn's instrument of choice, and him having it handy when he first visited India, resulted in the “Inside the Taj Mahal” album.
This landmark collection, followed by several others in Paul Horn's “Inside” series, gave birth to what is now known as New Age music.
About those three months in India in 1967, Paul recalls:
“I went on my own spiritual pilgrimage and a big change in my life happened when I went to India. I was with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and I started practicing TM [transcendental meditation], which I still do.”
During his three months there, Paul arranged to do some sessions in New Delhi. There he recorded enough tracks to fill two concept albums: (1967) “Paul Horn in Kashmir - Cosmic Consciousness” and (1968) “Paul Horn in India - Ragas for Flute, Venna and Violin.”
After a brief return to North America, Paul decided to produce a documentary on TM and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, which took him back to India.
Like millions of other visitors, he toured the Taj Mahal, never realizing how his being inside the Taj Mahal would lead to “Inside the Taj Mahal,” an LP that, in the view of some, redirected the course of music.
Somewhere along the way the TM documentary was scrapped, but this journey to India would not be fruitless, thanks to a professional quality tape recorder found amongst the film crew's sound equipment.
Late one night, after all the Taj Mahal tourists left the grounds, Horn and his flute, along with John Archer (audio engineer) and his tape recorder, met with one of the tomb's guards. The three men then sneaked back into the domed white mausoleum.
The Indian guard is the one providing the authentic Hindu chants heard on the album, but he is also the one who first brought the unique acoustics of the massive dome to Paul's attention.
Released in 1969, with the one-word title “Inside” (Epic BXN-26466), the album sold over 750,000 copies, securing for Paul the moniker, Father of New Age Music.
Several more “Inside” recordings followed, as Paul kept discovering exotic and inspiring themes and locations for he and his flute: “Inside the Powers of Nature” (Epic KE-31600); “Inside the Great Pyramid” (Mushroom 5507); “[Inside] China” (Kuckuck 080); “Inside the Magic of Findhorn [Scotland]” (GFR 2003); “Inside Russia” (a.k.a., “Inside the Cathedral”) (GFR 2008); “Inside the Taj Mahal II” (Kuckuck 11085); “Inside Monument Valley” (Canyon label); “Inside the Potala [Lhasa, Tibet]” (Inside label); and “Inside Canyon de Chelly [Chinle, Arizona]” (Inside label).
“I never searched out the Taj Mahal, it just happened,” says Paul. “Then someone suggested the Great Pyramid. When I was in Russia on tour, I just happened across this acoustically nice church, so that became another one.
In China is a place called Temple of Heaven, and I just happened to be there.”
For Paul Horn, it was so often a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
That plus always being willing to work “inside.”
IZ ZAT SO? When Paul Horn recorded within the walls of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, in 1998, he became the first westerner allowed to perform inside the palace the beating heart of Buddhism in Tibet.