Friday, August 05, 2016

Following the path of truth and non-violence


This is composer Robert Simpson's account* of his appearance before a tribunal for the registration of conscientious objectors in 1940:

Chairman: Are your objections religious?
Robert Simpson: No
Ch: On what ground are they based?
RS: Humanitarian and logic. Are you a Christian?
Ch: Yes
RS: Then you must believe that Christ on the cross refrained from using the power that he had to destroy those who were crucifying him?
Ch: Yes, but Christ had divine power behind him. You don't.
RS: How do you know that?

Robert Simpson was accepted as a conscientious objector and he undertook dangerous work in the London Blitz as the driver of a mobile surgical unit. In 1943 Michael Tippett was sentenced to three months in prison for his pacifist views; in the previous year Benjamin Britten had been categorised as a conscientious objector, but being Britten he managed to avoid the hardships suffered by his fellow composers. I took the header photo at the Gandhi Smriti in New Delhi; the footprints follow the path of Mahatma Gandhi's last walk on 30th January 1948 and the pergola marks where he was assassinated. Gandhi had famously declared that "My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God". Seen below is Ravi Shankar's recording of his Homage to Mahatma Gandhi: Mohan Kauns, which was composed at white heat following the assassination.



* The story is told in The Power of Robert Simpson: A Biography by Donald Macauley.No review sample used in this post. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.

3 comments:

Pliable said...

On this path Hidayat Inayat Khan's "Gandhi Symphony" should be noted - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_BGb7pEq30 and http://www.overgrownpath.com/2014/12/what-really-matters-is-whether-music.html

JMW said...

I listened to the work, and found it interesting and original, if not necessarily compelling. Perhaps i lack the grounding to fully appreciate it, but I shall hear more of the composer's work. Thanks for suggesting this.

Pliable said...

John, a little background lifted from that earlier post.

Virtuoso musician, author of the influential Mysticism of Sound and Music and founder of the International Sufi Movement Hazrat Inayat Khan has been mentioned here many times. His son Hidayat Inayat-Khan (b. 1917) - composer of the Gandhi Symphony - studied at L'Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris where his composition teachers included Nadia Boulanger. Hidayat Inayat-Khan's music expresses the syncretic beliefs of the International Sufi Movement of which he is a senior member, and its tonal and programmatic idiom is very much out of fashion.