Fifty shades of Sorabji

When Tallis' Spem in Alium became a bestseller after being featured in the soft-porn movie Fifty Shades of Grey, Tallis Scholars' founder Peter Phillips declared "It doesn’t matter to me how people encounter Tallis, as long as they do". His refreshing viewpoint prompts me to suggest that a lot more people would encounter the woefully neglected music of Kaikhosru Sorabji if an enterprising director used his 'Le Jardin Parfumé, Poem for Piano' in a suitably titillating movie. 'Le Jardin Parfumé' was inspired by the treatise The Perfumed Garden written by the 14th century Berber author Sheik Nefzaoui, although the muted dynamics of Sorabji's score do not reflect the treatise's climactic prose. I do not want to stand accused of slipping a disc, so I will now turn to someone better qualified to describe The Perfumed Garden. Here is Linda Coverdale's description, taken from a footnote she provides for her masterly translation of Tahar Ben Jelloun's novel Leaving Tangier:
Once banned in the West, Sir Richard Burton's 1886 translation of The Perfumed Garden by Sheik Nefzaoui has been called the Arabic Kama Sutra. The chapter titles for this Islamic sex manual reveal a focus on - among other things - both admirable and contemptible behaviour by men and women; matters that either favour or impede coition; various causes of enjoyment, sterility, or impotence; the 'Sundry Names' given to the sexual parts of men and women; and 'Prescriptions for Increasing the Dimensions of Small Members and for Making Them Splendid.
Lang Lang what are you waiting for?

Score of Le jardin parfumé: Poem for Piano Solo (1923) via Northwestern University, and cover of The Perfumed Garden from print on demand copy. No review samples involved in this post. My copy of The Perfumed garden was bought online for 1p and is from the splendidly titled Wordsworth Classic Erotica series. 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.


Unknown said…
Copies of the ms. and the 1927 Curwen publication of Sorabji's Le Jardin Parfumé, as well as copies of pianist/composer Jonathan Powell's typeset edition of it, may be obtained from The Sorabji Archive on paper or in .pdf format.

Dating from 1923, it was first performed by the composer in a BBC broadcast in 1930.

First recorded by Yonty Solomon almost a quarter century ago, a new recording by Jonathan Powell will appear on a recital CD of Sorabji's piano works that is anticipated for release later this year.

Further details about Sorabji and his work may be found at

Enquiries to will be welcome.

Alistair Hinton
The Sorabji Archive

Recent popular posts

Does it have integrity and relevance?

The Berlin Philharmonic's darkest hour

The Perfect Wagnerite

Why new audiences are deaf to classical music

I am not from east or west

Master musician who experienced the pain of genius

Classical music has many Buddhist tendencies

Elgar and the occult

The paradox of the Dalai Lama

Why cats hate Mahler symphonies