The Other Side Of Lou Reed | Tai Chi & Hudson River Wind Meditations

On Lou Reed's obsession with Tai Chi and his final studio album being just as it sounds, a meditation. 06.19.24

Hudson River Wind Meditations album cover

“I first composed this music for myself as an adjunct to meditation, Tai Chi, and bodywork, and as music to play in the background of life, to replace the everyday cacophony with new and ordered sounds of an unpredictable nature. New sounds freed from preconception. …over time, friends who heard the music asked if I could make them copies. I then wrote two more pieces with the same intent: to relax the body, mind, and spirit and facilitate meditation.” - Lou Reed

Take A Walk On The Wild Side

Reed to much surprise, (or maybe no surprise at all), began practicing martial arts in the 1980s. Apart from his "body of work", Reed had another body, his physical one. One riddled with years of excessive drug and alchohol use, diabetes, and hepatitis C. Martial arts was a way for him to reclaim control of it. In an old interview with Kung Fu Magazine, he explains his relationship with martial arts, how Tai Chi for him was about learning to generate power and harness it.

He became fascinated with a specific form of Tai Chi called Chen and would become an avid student of master Ren Guanghi, funnelling the same intense energy he put into his music, into his studies of the martial arts. This would carry on all the way up until his death in 2013. It became a way of life for him, often bringing VHS tapes and swords on tour to ensure practice even when he wasn't home. After his passing his wife put together a book of his studies and writings on Tai Chi.

photo of lou reed meditating

The Art Of The Straight Line

“Not to get too flowery here, but I want more out of life than a gold record and fame. I want to mature like a warrior. I want the power and grace I never had a chance to learn … Tai Chi puts you in touch with the invisible power of—yes—the universe. The best of energies become available, and soon your body and mind become an invisible power.”—Lou Reed

The book consisting of his writings and studies on Tai Chi is titled The Art Of A Straight Line: My Tai Chi. It shows the other side of Reed, one separate from the punk-driven NYC angst we know and love. It touches base on technique, practice, and the purpose of martial arts, as well as essays, observations, and riffs on meditation and life. So how does this final record, Hudson River Wind Meditations, fit into all of this?

Hudson River Wind Meditations

Lou Reed has been hailed as one of America's most influential songwriters. His music has always been considered timeless, and this record although entirely different, doesn't seem to fall anywhere near short. It might be just the essence of who he was that carries over the timelessness. From his earlier recordings like The Velvet Underground and Nico to Loaded all the way to The Blue Mask we've seen quite an eclectic collection of music. His final record is nothing less than an extension of that.

lou reed practicing thai chi lou reed practicing thai chi lou reed practicing thai chi

Hudson River Wind Meditations was released in 2007. An ode to Reed's dedication to the martial arts and meditative mind. The record itself was crafted over a few years, never intentionally setting out to make it. It's an ambient soundscape exploring drone music and feedback harmonics. The first track is twenty eight minutes in length and doesn't stray much from it's base elements. Coming from structured pop songs with hooks and lyrics, this the the polar opposite. Four songs of existing. In his final interview, he discussed his first memory of sound, stating: “The first memory of sound would have to be your mother’s heartbeat, for all of us,” he explained. “You grow up, from when you’re a peanut, listening to rhythm. But then there are nature sounds…the sound of the wind. The sound of love.”

This is the essence of his final record. It's rhythm, love, wind, and the universe all intrinsically existing together. You can check out the record in the link below. Just simply listening to it is a form of meditation itself. Cheers.

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