Monday, March 10, 2008

What music is

Music is what exists at the margins of the desert and the sky, near fires that burn alongside melancholy and a few hazy stars; music that exists just where midnight begins and the dust of the previous day gets heavy; music, the kind that you hear surreptitiously, outside well and badly lit bars, near the city's edge, where badly dressed students merge with sharp faced girls, that sort of music, that sort of night, that is music.

Music, the kind that is neither well known nor nameable, that shapes how childhood passes into agitated youth, when all that unrequited love brought was clamouring heartache and all that requited nights gave was an impassable yearning for the past; music, the sort that existed when rebellious soldiers ran away with willing horses and damsels in tears, at the last remaining margins of a few pitched tents in a desert strewn with youth and love; that sort of music, that kind of memory.

Music, the kind that obliterates all colour, leaving a few people with empty glasses and clouds of smoke amidst the fading embers of a few nights trespassed; music that has a bit of anger and some weariness, a bit of love and mostly heartbreak, sad and beautiful words; music that somehow ventures into the impossible after all possible has been shaken, when promises and lies seem the same, when only melancholy seems worthwhile, that hope, that kind of feeling, that is music.

Music is a kind of attitude, a kind of emotion. After the most awesome love and the least regarded nightfall have merged and gone, defeated and packed away into the list of oblivious nights; in the shimmering solitude of that moment, in the blistering haze of that hour, what you hear, what I just said, is music.


Lupe said...

You've left me with a terrible urge to say something, but absolutely out of words. This comment is, therefore, nothing but the shadow of a grin.

sisyphus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

filla, there was a cat that vanished and left the smile behind. this one was the cat left behind by the smile.

billoo said...

Kubla, have you listened to Barenboim's Reith lectures (online)?

I'm still trying to work out what you mean by "proletarian" from your comment.

Kubla Khan said...

Hi atenea
good to hear from you. your comment has brought a smile to me, which is perhaps the shadow of your grin.

Kubla Khan said...

Billoo hi

By proletarian in relation to sufism, i meant common, the average class, not the ecclectic or those given to esoteric reading. i did not specifically mean it in a marxist sense.
after all, sufism is difficult to understand. everything is based on a notion, based on love that cannot be defined with words. sufism is thus out of range, there but not touchable.

the greatest muslim mystic arguably, Ibn-arabi, wrote texts that are not comprehensible to a lay audience. his Meccan revelations for eg. so with others.

interestingly, in one of his lucid works, Agamben talks of the pen writing on tabula rasa, white unwritten paper. yet, the onus is on the reader, to read. the Islamic prophet was commanded to 'read'. but 'read what', he asked. thus the world topples, firmaments fall on firmaments, we are left with words. again, difficult to grasp.

any esoteric interpretation of religious texts is the foundation of superstition if carried to an extreme. see similiar readings amongst sevener and twelever shiites. the point is....sufism is not antiproletarian but unwordly.only some can grasp it, and even they cannot explain it.

the above is again a reflection on incommunicability, through words etc.however, sometimes we do reach out.....that point is music.

no, i have not read the Reith lectures so far.

billoo said...

But Kubla, how wrong you are! Ibn Arabi was only one of many. A lot of the sufis were known for their songs and poetry which were recited and still are today) by the illiterate.

Okay, putting your use of the word "class" to one side, it is just these very same average classes that have been drawn to sufism-not the intellectuals (until very recent times, anyway)

Well, it's not clear if it was "read" or "recite". And these are not just words but living words-neither thought nor action but both.

if sufism was "unwordly" as you say then it would not have songs, would not have poetry and festivals, shrines.

sorry, Kubla, it seems to me that you are approaching this from an academic or intellectual perspective.

That something can be esoteric, have layers of meaning, does not mean that it isn't open to different "classes". In fact, it seems quite the opposite to me: it is the western tradition that has created barriers between a "high culture" and a "low". (for an intriguing discussion on this see Peter Brown's Cult of the Saints)

Kubla Khan said...

billoo.....i referred to sufism being unproletarian in itself, being intellectual in itself. the audience is contingent on its local manifestation, which draws on a mythical representation of sufism, which it is not in itself. re shrines, festivals, they are symbols of devotion, which quite often is misguided, laid on a foundation of paganism. i have nothing against paganism however. i find druidism quite attractive.

reading or recitation is a semantic question, but i am sure it is to read.

i am not approaching it from any way other than that of an average understanding.

and billoo, there is no value in a western or eastern division here. high or low culture, as you say. it depends on the dominant reality of a particular place. born of generally regarded societal norms. these change quite often.
the same debate can be had on any other consideration. in movies for eg, in Fassbinder, the minority v majority discourse goes away from semantics sometimes to a reality that is difficult for both groups. reality is not modified by idiosyncratic high or low divisions.the appreciation of reality is however.

anyway, we must discuss sufism sometimes. most designer interpretations of Rumi are based on a very wrong notion. he was quite conservative and sufism is not actually a watery version of anything, as you know.

re esotericism, it is a created approach. its validity must be questioned. in reality, life is quite difficult. esotericism only an escape. that said, it is beyond my understanding. hence, i stop.
it is always useful to discuss however.

Kubla Khan said...

And billoo, Ibn-arabi is still not one of the many.

billoo said...

Kubla, I don't know where to start!

Being "intellectual in itself".
you've got to be joking, right?
Bulleh Shah, Shah Latif, Waris Shah, Rumi, farid, Hallaj and so on are not "intellectual" or intellectuals! They always spoke out against the mullah and "the learned" and are in a lot of cases connected with folk traditions.

Again, you're deliberately distorting things Kubla. Whether they're pagan or "misguided" (says who?) is NOT the question. the point is, rather, that fesitvals, poetry, songs, shrines etc quite clearly shows that :

1) ordinary folk ("the average class") follow them

2) they are connected to the world

3) the form is not "intellectual" but very often poetic and musical

Go to Data saahib in Lahore and you won't see "intellectuals" but poor people. go to any urs and tell me who you see there!

I think there is a value in making this division (as long as it is not in essentialist terms. See E.P. Thompson's views on how the pleb and patrician cultures were created (or "produced") in 'Customs in Common)

"esotericism is a created approach"

Again, Kubla, have to disagree with you there. But then again, "the world loves to blacken all that shines"

Anonymous said...

I found the comments about sufism very fascinating.the point that kubla makes is worth looking at.he is trying to making a point which is valid.sufism is an intellectual journey trying to make sense of God. the sufis themselves had to stop at many occasions.when we talk about people attending shrines, they are attending the graves of the saints for a reason defintely, not what sufis were trying to explain.

Kubla Khan said...

billoo.......I quote you first.
"you're deliberately distorting things Kubla"

"the world loves to blacken all that shines"

I thought we were discussing something. how you jump to conclusions!

i am not aware of the sufi's you mentioned, except Rumi. i thought the popular appeal lies in a mix of pagan-monotheistic desperation.
that cannot be blamed on sufism.
sufism is ecclectic and now it is much misunderstood.the variety of people it draws doesn't prove a thing.

your throwing in quotes here and there doesn't make much sense either. sufism is neither rational nor irrational.
man is not rational either, but rationalising.

as i said earlier, i expressed a view. my aim is not to distort or misrepresent anything. i consider this as an affront to a rational enquiry.

but then, one must suffer for the ills of prolixity.


billoo said...

Kubla, what on earth are you talking about?
who is talking about "proof" and what can such a word mean in such a discussion?

You use words like "class", "proletarian" , "desperation" and "intellectual" and this is why I think you're distorting things.

You say that they were esoteric and not understood by the "average classes" but when I contest that you say "the variety of people it draws doesn't prove a thing"!
Not very rational, I'd suggest.

You say it is "unworldly" but when I say that the practice of sufism and the silsalas is very often connected to poetry, music, 'works', shrines, festivals, local languages, you do not answer that but make the claim about paganism (which has nothing to do with the original point as far as I can see).

So, you haven't heard of Farid, Hallaj, Bulleh Shah (who Schimmel calls the Rumi of the Punjab) or shah Latif but you have heard of Ibn arabi and from that you make a claim about sufism!

Tell me Kubla, is that being fair?

Kubla Khan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.