Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Also sprach Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tuni


Dependent arising means that while travelling I have been spending much time with Egyptian Sufi music, particularly with the CD seen above from the master of the munshidin - sacred song - Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tûni. This disc is living proof of the unfashionable view that music is humanity's most direct expression of its better self, and I recommend that readers intrigued, or indeed puzzled, by my preoccupation with the esoteric tradition of Islam should exit their comfort zones and enter its force field. My heavy rotation of the sultan of munshidin is evidence of how far I have strayed from today's "it's 2014, so it must be Richard Strauss" monoculture. Audience data and social media trends show that many others are being disenfranchised in the same way. Fortunately the quaint notion that classical music is more than entertainment lives on, and this week the Britten Sinfonia present Bach's St John Passion in Cambridge, Amsterdam, London, Saffron Walden (in the beautateous new Saffron Hall) and Norwich. I will be chairing a pre-concert talk with soprano Julia Doyle and counter-tenor Iestyn Davies at the Norwich performance on Easter Sunday. In his essay for the Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tûni CD Alain Weber's tells how in a Sufi ritual, the hadra - the moment of collective spirituality when the participants enter into the presence of the Divine - is "an open creative event where a whole range of emotional behaviour is expressed". Which is also a very good definition of Passion, as in Bach.

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