Sunday, June 11, 2017

Just add complexity and stir vigorously


Music is a multi-sensory experience. Many visionaries have exploited this, notably Alexander Scriabin who extended the multi-sensory experience into the olfactual domain in his uncompleted masterwork Mysterium. In the late 1960s light shows were an integral part of rock music performance, while in the classical tradition visual artists such as the still photographer Siegfreid Lauterwasser - celebrated for his images of Herbert von Karajan - and cinematographer Ken Russell - famed for music related movies such as the Tchaikovsky biopic The Music Lovers - exploited the common ground between the auditory and visual. But the advent of the digital age has diluted music into a mono-sensory experience: the art of the album sleeve is now dead, bland PR images are the stock-in-trade of the music industry, concert halls remain temples of sound and not multi-sensory temples, and Western classical music offers little to nourish the visually literate multi-sensory younger audience.


But all is not quite lost. The photos reproduced here are from the website of the photographer Stéphane Louesdon who splits his time between France and Morocco. These remarkable images were captured at a Sufi sama - ritual of divine remembrance - led by Sheikh Hassan Dyck in Essaouira, Morocco. Sheikh Hassan is an adept of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order and a classically-trained cellist, and at the sama he played with his Muhabbat Caravan ensemble and Afghan rabab master Daud Khan.

Stéphane Louesdon's atmospheric photos are a salutary reminder that music is a multi-sensory and highly complex emotional force. And that force loses much of its power and appeal when distilled down to a commercial property crammed into the size constraints of Instagram and Twitter message and MP3 files. For years Western classical music has been relentlessly pursuing an audience-chasing strategy of reducing complexity by selective dumbing down. There is no evidence at all that this strategy is working, so surely it is now time to try the alternative of putting brains in gear by adding complexity and stirring vigorously.



Related Overgrown Path resources include:
* See the light
* How sleeve artwork changes the sound of CDs
* Learn as if you were to live forever
* Why classical music needs to see the light
* Classical music must return to its esoteric roots
* Music should be dangerous

All photos are (c)Stéphane Louesdon. 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.

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