The Ocean completes Infinitia. Written in verse and accompanied by the ocean, synth, and Bo Diddley, Michael Nesmith's final book with a soundtrack is the fruitage of a life spent studying metaphysics. Nez returns the listen/reader to Jason in the garden to follow him on a quest to the ocean -- continuing his exploration of the Infinite. It is a culmination of his artistic work, delivering previously addressed ideas with maturity of thought and expression.
The work is presented in two audio tracks -- one with Nez reading the poem and one without -- and a booklet of the poem's complete text and nine full-color artworks by Katsushika Hokusai.
The soundtrack samples the beat from "Bo Diddley" by Bo Diddley. In Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff, Nez describes the song as "a seminal record" for him. "Once one feels the bones of [Bo Diddley's] rhythm," he writes, "it becomes commanding and contains everything from metabolism to metaphysics." When asked about the use of Diddley's rhythm to complement ocean waves in The Ocean, Nez shared:
"The question is answered by there being continuity of Mind and this rhythm connects through large plains and panoramas of that. It seems basic to me -- and I think to most beings. That is why it is foundational to The Ocean and really to all of Infinitia. A kind of irregular ticking -- like a heart murmur -- but without the disease reference of it.
"As I play ["Bo Diddley" rhythm] there is something so fundamental that it almost plays itself. There are people that can't play it -- good musicians usually try to square it to math or the math of music. And it won't work that way. There is an unplayed and unspoken part of it that Bo and his ilk play that sets the rhythm as the heartbeat of Nature herself. And it can't be parsed or understood by any formal system I know of. It can be mapped of course. But cannot be played according to that map or found on it. It is very very high stuff.
"Physiologically I feel it in my loins, some shoulders, but I don't wag my head to it, and I don't count it, and I can hardly dance to it. So it stays mysterious. A player can get a boost from a machine -- like a drum machine -- that sets a tight repeating pattern but leaves a space for the wiggle -- or murmur -- and the musician can insert that. This is a reason for Lady Bo and the others Bo played with -- it really does take two to 'tango' so to speak. There is a pulse rolling under the strikes. The pulse is continuous but syncopated and the strikes are all syncopated and continual -- not continuous.
"The Bo Diddley 'beat' is a distilled essence of all motion in life -- Life. Moving water is a huge part of it. As is wind and rain -- and so on.
"It is the golden rectangle of sound -- but without the math confining it. It can safely be called the Diddley Set -- as in the Mandelbrot Set -- again with much less math -- so much of the pulse depends upon the unfolding context. When an ensemble plays -- especially with a machine -- it unfolds like the Mandelbrot Set."