Radiohead’s “Videotape” as an example of orbital music and inspiration for orbital dance

Musician WARRENMUSIC created a wonderful analysis of Radiohead’s Videotape (1). As a musician, after meticulous analysis, he noticed that there was something magical with the song. He calls this syncopation. Wikipedia describes syncopation as follows:

In music, syncopation involves a variety of rhythms which are in some way unexpected which make part or all of a tune or piece of music off-beat. More simply, syncopation is a general term for “a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm”: a “placement of rhythmic stresses or accents where they wouldn’t normally occur.”[1] 

It is lovely to see how his musical analysis proves that this apparently simple song is in fact quite complicated. For example, it took the drummer two years to find the ‘1’ in the song and even Thom Yorke lost the beat during a live performance.

I myself have been intrigued by this song for some time now. Recently, I wrote a blog about the deeper meaning of the lyrics of the song (2 – Radiohead’s Videotape as a hopeful Akasha’s record).

But most of all, my love I for the song comes from dancing on it. When I dance on this song, I feel exactly the syncopation of what WARRENMUSIC is speaking about. For me Videotape is an example of what I call Orbital Music.

Orbital Music

Actually, I love to dance most of the music by Radiohead. Over the years they have been able to add multiple levels to their music what I would define as orbital music:

Orbital music is music which consists of a) multiple different sounds / instruments, which have b) their own seemingly independent rhythms, but which c) are drawn towards a mysterious point of gravity and d) which are interacting during the song.

This is what I think WARRENMUSIC refers to with the mysterious syncopation in the song Videotape. I leave the excellent musical analysis to WARRENMUSIC. But I will try to explain how the different musical elements become visible in something which I call Orbital Dance.

Orbital Dance

Although I have no formal dance background, I consider myself a dancer. More and more I have become interested in what I would call multilayered dance or orbital dance:

Orbital dance is dance form where a) different parts of the body, b) move in their own rhythm on different elements of the music simultaneously but which are c) all aligned to a single point of gravity and d) where the different parts of the body interact with each other.

Gurdjieff Movements the best example of this concept (see 3 for a link). These movements are temple dances and are considered to be sacred dances by some people. Here different parts of the body have their own rhythm and symbolism, but there is a great interconnectedness between the body parts (and the different dancers as it is essentially a group dance). The Movements give a glimpse to a higher reality. On similar principles as the Gurdjieff Movements but less structured, I have developed a dance form called Hermetic Flow Dance (4).

The reason why I speak about orbital music and dance is that both seem to refer to astrological principles about how different planets (elements) circulate around the sun (a single point of gravity) in different configurations. Each different configuration of planets has a different effect on each other: some are positive, while other configurations don’t seem to get along at all (5). In a similar line of thinking, some sounds and movements could be linked to certain planets and some ‘clashes’ between instruments / movements can be symbolized as planetary aspects.

In my opinion orbital music and dance hint to these deeper insights and they enable us to encorporate the Hermetic axiom ‘as above so below’. Because by means of orbital music and dance we can experience the macro cosmos of the solar system in the micro cosmos of our body.

It is this non-linear, almost paradoxical, aspect of Videotape which makes it fascinating. At a first glance, something seems to be off on the song. But after closer listening, it all makes sense on a deeper, but much harder to grasp, level. This is what I also tried to visualize and explain with my dance interpretation of Videotape below.

Example of Videotape as Orbital Dance

As you can see in this clip, I try to follow the various rhythms with different parts of my body. For example, the main piano is represented by the circular movements of my upper body. Let’s assume that this is the watery energy of the moon. The drums at the beginning of the song are visualized by my feet stepping forward and backward. Could this be the straight marching energy of Mars? Sometimes, the movements of both body parts come together and all is in flow. At other times the rhythms of both elements drift apart and as a result my movements become unbalanced. Around 3.15 a light drum break beat comes in, which results in my body jumping slightly up and down: this is active Mercurial energy. Although it goes nicely with the Mars energy, it does disturb the moon turning energy somewhat. Next at 3.25 a heavy Saturnine energy beat comes in. It is so heavy that at first it pushes me to the floor and tends to disrupt the other melodies. Later this Saturnine beat starts to balance with the Moon piano. Against this melody, at 3.40, a Drum-‘n-bass beat comes in, which pushes me up and supports the Mercurial energy. Lets say that this is a Juperterian force. At the climax of the song there is a tension between Moon / Saturn energies on one side and Mercurian / Juperterian energies on the other side.


An article by WARRENMUSIC which investigated the depth and complexity of the music of Radiohead’s Videotape, inspired my to investigate the same song, but then from a dance perspective. I tried to explain that the syncopation of Radiohead’s music is intentional and in fact an indication to a deeper concept which I call orbital music. Orbital music is characterized by multiple instruments and melodies which seem to be independent, but which interact with each other and swirl around a single point of musical gravity. Orbital music is complemented by orbital dance which basically follows a similar definition. Both are based on astrological principles of planets, each being in their own orbits around the sun and interacting with one another. Based on the Hermetic axiom ‘ As above, so below’, orbital music and dance allow micro cosmically to experience these macro cosmic principles and astrological planetairy aspects. Finally, I presented a clip of my orbital dance interpretation of Videotape with a loose attribution of movements to their respective planetary influences.


1 – The Hidden Syncopation of Radiohead’s “Videotape” by WARRENMUSIC –

2 –

3 – Example of Gurdjieff Movements

4 – Website Hermetic Flow Dance:

5 – Interestingly, in astrology all planetary configurations are part of the ‘flow’ of our solar system. Some are labelled beneficial and others are not. But none are out of key or wrong. In other words: astrology doesn’t know false rhythms or mistakes as our musical theory does.

Redefining magic with insights from ritual dance

I have been part of the Western Mystery Tradition for about 4.5 years. Alongside with this, I have also been practicing ritual dance in the form of Gurdjieff Movements for about 3 years. Intuitively I feel that there is a mutual benefit in the integration between the two practices. It is my opinion that that the Gurdjieff Movements have the same quality as the rituals in the Western Mystery Tradition. As a result I feel that the Gurdjieff Movements are an extension and integration of the Western Mystery Tradition wit the body. More and more I come to the belief that traditional magic might benefit from ritual dance in a couple of ways. I will elaborate on these benefits by redefining the definition of magic in this article.

Crowley defines magic as: ‘Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will’. Dion Fortune has a similar definition, although she removed the science part and includes changes in consciousness.

In my opinion science should be included in the definition in order to have a balanced definition of magic. In Kabalistic terms: if Art is Netzach, then Science is Hod. The path which connects these two on the Tree of Life is symbolized by the tarot card The Tower. This seems quite fitting. The Tower is the card of the destruction of the ego (will) which is needed to make space for something higher: the Will. But where could this come from?

The center of the horizontal line between Hod and Netzach (The Tower) is crossed by a vertical line between Yeshod and Tiphareth. This line is represented by the tarot card Temperance and, although they meet on the same place, paradoxically it is the inversion of the tarot card The Tower. Here, instead of destruction, seemingly opposite things are combined in an alchemical fusion. This card depicts an angel which could represent the higher self. This is the Will of the higher self we are looking for in our definition of magic.

temperance tree of life.jpg

A beautiful representation of the tarot card Temperance on the Tree of Life. The tarot card The Tower (red horizontal line) and Temperance (blue vertical line) meet at the crossing of the lines. Where the ego is shattered on the horizontal, the soul resurrects on the vertical.

The zodiac sign Sagitarius is attributed to Temperance. There is an insightful glyph where the bow of Sagitarius is fixed between Hod and Netzach on the path of The Tower. Its string however is pulled back to Yeshod (in the picture above Yeshod is the pool of water where the angel stands in). Yeshod, being the source of (sexual) power, gives the strength to destroy the ego, go beyond the veil of Paroketh and to land at Tiphareth. It is there where you can experience the so-called Tiphareth experience: the mythical experience of devotion to the great work. Here is the Will of our soul.

So in order to truly exercise our Will we need one more element: Power. Therefore, the enhanced definition of magic would be: ‘Magic is the Power, Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will’.

This enhanced definition in accordance with the definition of the Fourth Way as defined by Gurdjieff. He states that there are three traditional ways of spiritual development which essentially boil down to: power, heart and mind. Although these are valuable spiritual paths in their own rights, they are also essentially unbalanced as they focus on a single aspect of divinity. Gurdjieff argues that we should take a balanced approach and develop all three aspects simultaneously. Then a new force may arise. Gurdjieff calls this force the Watcher, but I would call it Will. This integrational approach most notably comes forward in his sacred dance practices (also called the Movements).

There are a couple of ways to see these three spiritual paths on the Tree of Life. Traditionally, Power might be Yeshod, Heart might be Tiphareth and Mind might be Chokmah. But alternatively we could also see these three approaches below the veil of Paroketh. Then Yeshod remains Power, Hod becomes Mind (Chokmah on a lower arc), and Netzach represents the Heart (Tiphareth on a lower arc). Seen this way, Gurdjieff’s Fourth way fits quite nicely with the enhanced definition of magic.

Looking at the Tree of Life from the perspective of the Movements give the following insights. Netzach can be seen as the art of dance. Hod can be seen in its strong mental aspects of exact movements (further challenged by circular counting). And Yeshod can be seen as the cultivation of power by means of Kundalini energy. When these 3 centers (body, head and heart) are combined in Movements, the experience of Beauty in Tiphareth can be attained.

Let’s continue this enquiry by asking ourselves: what are changes in consciousness exactly? In my view (and in accordance with the adagio as above so below) a change in consciousness should result both in a change of spirituality and in a change of behavior (matter).

One of the pitfalls of spirituality is its tendency to become dreamy and disconnected with reality. This occurs because of the failure to effectively ground Yeshod into Malkuth.

For this reason in the Western Mystery Tradition, rituals are used. Rituals are predefined recipes of symbolical actions (sometimes with physical attributes) which help to reach higher forms of consciousness.

But the involvement of the body in these rituals is quite limited. In the Gurdjieff Movements however the body is central. It is seen as our temple and grail. The degree to which we are able to direct our body to perform the Movements, is the degree to which we have mastered to execute our Will.

I have experienced myself how the Movements in fact are group rituals which have enabled me to reach a level of consciousness, which I am (currently) unable to attain in ‘normal’ rituals. I had been practicing a set of Movements intensely with a group for 10 days and every day I was able to go to an even deeper level into the Movements. In two hours of Movements I feel to achieve a similar result in increased consciousness as I would have in a complete day of meditation.

One other benefit of ritual dance is that its spiritual attainment has verifiable results. In sacred dance it is immediately clear if someone has mastered a certain level of development or if the person is present or not. It would show directly in his/her movements. I even suspect that for this reason ritual dances were used as advanced temple passwords at temples in the Far East.

In the Tree of Life, matter is represented by Malkuth. So in order to include our body into magic, we need to draw the string of the bow of Sagitarius back even further. The vertical line between Yeshod and Malkuth is represented by the tarot card The World. When looking at the different paths connecting the Sephiroth, there is a strong link with the three lowest paths (1): Moon (qoph), Judgment (shin), and The Universe (tau). The 3 letters spell the name bow. These three paths are forces, when combined, send the arrow of Temperance skyward toward Tiphareth. And although the letter Tau (which means cross) is attributed to it, it is also known as the universal dancer. Shiva, when depicted as Nataraj, has similarities with the classic Raider Waite depiction of The World. Summarized this path can be seen as a very passionate dance.

world shiva nataraj.png

The image of Nataraja (depiction of the Hindu god Shiva as the cosmic ecstatic dance) has quite some similarities with the tarot card The World, which is also sometimes called ‘Universal dancer’.

As people with experience with spirituality will attest: it takes effort and passion in order to lift your consciousness from the level of matter to the spiritual realms. This effort is even greater when you want to raise your body consciousness as well. Ritual dance, however, is a great medium for achieving this.

After the integration of magic into matter (Malkuth), we can add the final element to the definition of magic. For this I changed the element ‘changes in consciousnesses’ from Dion Fortune’s definition to ‘changes in conscious behavior’. The definition of magic has thus become: ‘Magic is the Power, Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conscious behavior in conformity with Will’.

Finally, I like to end with a statement about Will. The Will of the soul has a different quality than the will of the ego. We all want to achieve certain things and some would use magic for this. The Will in Gurdjieff Movements however is not goal oriented, but process oriented. You don’t achieve a certain goal, but you train your executive capacity in order to be able to fulfill your long term life’s mission. Often you would not know what that is, but your mission would become clearer when continuing with the Movements. In this sense ritual dance is mythical, rather than magical.

In this article I have elaborated on the traditional definition of magic inspired by ritual dance. With the insights learned from ritual dance, I have added two elements to it: power and matter (conscious behavior). In my opinion, these two elements improve the current limitations to magic being: the pitfall to get lost in illusions, not having enough power, the tendency to focus on will instead of Will and the overemphasis on goals as opposed to improving spiritual capacity.

1 – The Qabalistic Tarot, Robert Wank, p. 180

Radiohead’s Videotape as an hopeful Akasha’s record

In short Videotape tells the farewell story of man at the end of his life documented on a videotape. Interestingly enough, instead of being sorrowful, he is grateful. Symbolically, what could this song Videotape be about? In 2006, the videotape already was an archaic medium for recording. The song could have easily been called Betamax for that matter (it even rhymes!). The first sentence of the song is: ‘When I’m at the pearly gates, this will be on my videotape’. The pearly gates clearly refer to the gates of heaven. Thus this videotape is this famous summary of one’s life which one sees at the end of the tunnel. This movie would be shown to a higher force. Perhaps for judgement or lessons learned. In the lyrics the Faustian Mephistopheles is ‘just beneath reaching out to grab me’, so it might be a close call for our dear friend to reach Heaven! In the second verse, the Videotape becomes a farewell for a loved one back on earth. Here the message is that the videotape is the best way to communicate his message and that this day is the best day of his life. And the latter is quite intriguing as he is about to die! But maybe when you know that you will die, you will experience every moment with a vivid intensity. Or maybe he is happy to go ‘home’ again (pearly gates). The videotape in this song seems to be a means of documenting ones soul. At the moment of passing it is stored somewhere and here it can be accessed by higher forces (at the pearly gates) or even ordinary humans (by means of the right prayer or meditation exercises?). Although, at first glance, it might seem a gloomy song, in fact, it is a very hopeful song. All our experiences and love are not lost, but stored in the Akasha records. And although there is physical loss when we pass over, energetically there is no loss. Yes, after our passing, we return to the source, but we don’t lose our unique lifelong experiences. Our life on earth, with all its hardships and wonderful moments, returns to the source and enriches it. Some people say that the purpose of Life is that God wanted to know himself and that for this reason he created the Universe. I imagine that at our return to the Source He asks us: how was it? And we would hand over our Betamax videotape. In joy and marvel He would watch it, thank us and store it in the Akasha Video store.

Lachend de Godin van Verleiding aangezien

Ik heb lachend de Godin van Verleiding aangezien.
Ik keek haar aan en ze nam mijn hand.
Ik keek haar aan en ze draaide weg
bij mij vandaan. Alsof ze wist dat ik haar
volgen zou. Geen ontkomen aan. De ban
in haar ogen. Geen donderslag of bliksem.
Geen onzekerheid. Stille zekerheid. Ik wist:
in haar ga ik verdwijnen. Nee, ik wilde geen
lappen voor mijn ogen of was in mijn oren.
Ik wilde ten onder gaan. In haar. Lachend
lachte ik. Terwijl ik haar vast hield met mijn eigen handen
wist ik: ik ben verloren. Ik ben niets
zonder haar. De Godin keek mij verbaasd aan.
Niet begrijpend. Waarom ik lachte. Alles kwijt
en bevrijd
in een.
Na een moment kwam ik aan het eind van mijn vermogen en
het oneindige eindigde. Met mijn handpalmen gesloten voor mijn borst
boog ik naar de Godin van de Verleiding
Niet begrijpend keek ze me aan
en ik lachte.