Thursday, June 30, 2016

The composer with a thousand faces

Kevin Scott has added this as a comment to my article about Havergal Brian, but it deserves a post to itself:
No doubt that Havergal Brian has been, shall we say, "hyped" up, but in spite of all of this, bear in mind that many of Brian's symphonies have yet to be heard in this country. I should note that Bernard Herrmann was the first American conductor to perform anything of Brian's, and that was his Doctor Merryheart Overture with the CBS Symphony in the mid-1930s when Brian was practically unknown in this country. I'm sure Herrmann was familiar with some of the early symphonies, especially when he made frequent visits to England in the 1930s and 1940s, which I feel inspired, in part, his scores to the movies "Mysterious Island" and parts of "The Battle of Neretva".

That said, it would be nice if an enterprising conductor took on Brian's early symphonies, such as the epic Third with its two concertante pianos, the gargantuan fourth symphony that was inspired, in part, by Brahms' rarely-heard Triumphlied, the dark and beautiful fifth symphony for baritone and orchestra whose setting of Lord Alfred Douglas' "Wine of Summer" is very moving, the dramatic and tempestuous one-movement "Sinfonia Tragica", and the passionate and thrilling seventh symphony, his most approachable large-scale symphony, apart from his boisterous twenty-fifth symphony that is part of the wave of the later symphonies he composed in his eighties and early nineties.

Ditto the cello concerto and the Concerto for Orchestra, as well as his operas "The Cenci" and his own take on "Turandot," which I am sure is far and away different not only from Puccini's, but also Busoni's version as well. I doubt if we'll ever see "The Tigers" get mounted, but if any American orchestra or conductor wants to make a name for him/herself, they should program the "Gothic," not because it's a curiosity piece, but because they truly believe in the work's power and magnitude, structural deficiencies aside. That the press and everyone else wants to hype it up is bad enough, but a committed performance from all forces that are martialed together to bring it to the public will negate the over-excitement of the press, because it is the commitment to the music that will, in the end, win the audience over to Brian's vision.
In my original post I described how "the Havergal Brian mythology is celebrated and has become a pseudo-event in its right". That resonated for me with Joseph Campbell’s seminal book on the importance of mythic traditions The Hero with a Thousand Faces. So I toyed with the title The composer with a thousand faces for that post, but it did not link to the sub-agenda of pseudo-events. So I am grateful that Kevin's erudite and thoughtful comment now allows me to use that rejected title. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.

No one must be allowed to capture the flag

Rumours have been circulating for some time of references to Islam in Uwe Eric Laufenberg's new production of Parsifal which opens in Bayreuth on July 25th, and today comes news that the opera's conductor Andris Nelsons has pulled out for unspecified reasons four weeks before the opening night. Although the more lurid rumours about the production have been dismissed by Laufenberg, they do seem to have at least some substance as he is quoted as saying that there is a reference to Islam, albeit brief, in the new production. Which leaves me wondering whether Laufenberg has read The New Wagnerian by Ian Dallas, who is better known as the Muslim teacher and prolific author Abdalqadir as-Sufi.

Although Abdalqadir as-Sufi has achieved a degree of notoriety as a preacher, as Ian Dallas he knows his Wagner and The New Wagnerian certainly cannot be dismissed as a fundamentalist tract. In it he quotes Wagner as speaking in a letter to Hans von Wolzoen of "the future meaning and significance... of the historically intelligible figure of Jesus of Nazareth.. who must first be cleansed of the distortion that has been caused by Alexandrine, Judaic and Roman despotism" and tells how writing to Mathilde Wesendock in 1859 Wagner noted that the Grail had been previously not a cup but a stone which Wagner said "could be traced back to the earliest sources, namely the Arabic texts of the Spanish Moors". Ian Dallas devotes eight pages to a detailed analysis of Parsifal which highlights its Islamic references. My more detailed 2012 post Are we ready for an Islamic interpretation of Wagner? quoted the paragraph that closes both that analysis and the whole book*, and that conclusion bears repeating here:

And so, the Grail was nothing other than the Black Stone of the Ka'aba, the central shrine of the world's last religion, purified judaeo-christianity, Islam. Makkah is named in the Qur'an as the Mother of Cities, and thus the 'birthplace of all nations' and the Ka'aba is named the 'primal shrine of all mankind'. Embedded in one corner of the Ka'aba stands the Black Stone which every muslim raises his lips to and kisses when he arrive dusty and exhausted as a pilgrim, kisses as if quenching his thirst. This is the extraordinary tale that Wagner has, partly despite himself, and partly aware, chosen to tell the world in his farewell revolutionary message. Both the Bey of Tunis and Abd al-Hamid II, Caliph of Islam, contributed to the foundation of Bayreuth, they had not yet heard Parsifal, but their hearts drew them to this most spiritual of men among men in an age of darkness. When Parsifal ends in its vast serenity, 'One of the most beautiful edifice in sound ever raised to the glory of music' as Debussy described it, a white dove descends and hovers over Parsifal - symbol of peace which in Arabic bears the same root 'S-L-M' as pure religion itself, Islam.
Ian Dallas is right to challenge the Christian hegemony of Parsifal, and is right again when he identifies the legend as an expression of pure religion. But he is quite wrong to supplant one Abrahamic religion with another that is supposedly more 'pure'. Pure religion rises above the dogmas and conceits of any established religion, as does Wagner's most beautiful edifice in sound. Established religions and despotic forces - which all too often have overlapped at Bayreuth and elsewhere - must not be allowed to capture the flag of great art, of which Parsifal is one of the supreme examples.

When I wrote about The New Wagnerian in 2012 it was out of print and difficult to find. But it has since been republished in paperback and Kindle formats. Also on Facebook and Twitter. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How classical music became a pseudo-event

A recent thread On An Overgrown Path that culminated in a reader's assertion that it's OK to program something that isn't perfect, received widespread support. This strand was an extension of my argument that audiences need permission to like unfamiliar music. In turn this reflected the response of "I've always felt that it is and will be strong enthusiasm that will change the world" by the much-missed Jonathan Harvey to my early advocacy of his music. But despite this, I am proposing today rather contrarily that excessive enthusiasm as well as excessive neglect can harm a composer's music.

In his 1961 book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America the historian Daniel J. Boorstin coined the term 'pseudo-event' for events that are staged specifically to attract media coverage. He asserted that pseudo-events are in reality 'synthetic news', and that manipulation to maximise media exposure reduces the spontaneity and intrinsic merit of the event. In The Image Boorstin discusses pseudo-events in the context of art; suggesting that the pursuit of accessibility has turned art into a commodity, and that pseudo-events distance audiences from the felt experience, an effect that he terms 'disembodying'. The Situationist Guy Debord took a more extreme view of this commodification in his 1967 treatise The Society of the Spectacle, proposing that "passive identification with the spectacle supplants genuine activity" and observing that we need "to wake up the spectator who has been drugged by spectacular images". Like Marshall McLuhan's paradox that the medium is the message, Boorstin's theory of pseudo-events predates digital technologies and social media by decades. But despite this it is very relevant today; because pseudo events provide social media with its click bait lifeblood, and an infatuation with accessibility and new technologies means that virtual experiences - pseudo-events by another name - take precedence over visceral engagement.

The theory of pseudo-events can be productively applied to the topical subject of neglected composers; that is Havergal Brian in the photo above and I will use him as a case study. The Havergal Brian mythology is celebrated and has become a pseudo-event in its right. The myth tells how he was the most prolific 20th century composer, that he was the longest-living active composer, that he composed the longest symphony ever written, that when he died aged 97 in 1982 not a note of his music had been commercially recorded, and that therefore he ranks as the most neglected composer in the history of music. Some of which is true, but some false. In the foreword to the highly recommended HB: Aspects of Havergal Brian, the authority on the composer David J. Brown points out that between 1954 and 1980 there were a number of broadcast performances of Havergal Brian's music due to the advocacy of BBC producer (and distinguished composer) Robert Simpson. Moreover in the last decade of his life Brian became something of a minor celebrity - note the tell-tale champagne bottle in the header photo - and unlike many other 20th century composers, interest in his music has not diminished since his death.

Although HB: Aspects of Havergal Brian sometimes lapses into boosterism - there are chapters titled 'Brian and Mahler: four symphonies in comparison', 'Brian, Mahler, Shostakovich and Schoenberg: some idle thoughts' and Beethoven's Ninth in relation to Brian's First' - David J. Brown provides some reassuring reality checks. In the 1990s Klaus Heymann's Marco Polo label, the full price forerunner of Naxos, recorded a complete cycle of Havergal Brian's symphonies - see above - many of which are now re-issued on Naxos. Which would seem to be a laudable achievement. But in an online article on the gestation of the Marco Polo cycle David J. Brown provides an invaluable insight into the machinations that made the recordings such a fraught venture. While in his introduction to the Havergal Brian anthology he sounds a warning against classical music's current obsession with completism, concluding with the startingly honesty observation that:
It is of course clear that not all [Havergal Brian's] compositions are of the same high quality, but whose are? It might have been better to pick out the best of his works, instead of getting Marco Polo to record all 32 symphonies, with not always first-rate results.
Havergal Brian's Gothic Symphony provides an illuminating case study of the perils of pseudo-events. Before 2011 there had only been two performances of Brian's symphonies at the BBC Proms. So Proms director Roger Wright decided to correct that in style. Now Roger Wright was responsible almost singlehandedly for making pseudo-events a classical music fixture, including broadcasting nothing but Schubert's music for eight days in 2012. So the Havergal Brian correction came in the form of a pseudo-event par excellence: a first night performance of the 110 minute choral Gothic Symphony, backed by the BBC's mighty spin machine complete which cited the symphony's place in the Guinness Book of Records.

However, the problem is that the Gothic is a sprawling and sometimes derivative work. The symphony is certainly not without merit, but it all too easily reinforce Havergal Brian's reputation as a one man classical music freak show. If you set a composer up on a shaky pedestal he is likely to take a tumble, irrespective of his arguable genius. Which is what happened with the Gothic: with Ivan Hewett in his Telegraph review opining that the symphony is "turgidly written and lacking a coherent trajectory" and dismissing the setting of the Te Deum with these words: "Occasionally resembling Bruckner on a bad trip, it sounded more like an overblown soundtrack to a bad movie". So for a new generation of concert goers the myth of Havergal Brian as a one work composer remains intact, and the undoubted merits of his other symphonies - which are particularly accessible to devotees of the perennially popular Mahler - remain a well-kept secret. And it is not a coincidence that the reputation of John Foulds - a seriously underrated composer - suffered a similar blow when a 2008 Albert Hall performance of his unrepresentative A World Requiem by the BBC Symphony Orchestra - again masterminded by Roger Wright - was also hyped into a pseudo-event. (I am told anecdotally that Sakari Oramo, who is a great champion of Foulds' music, bravely declined to conduct that World Requiem performance because he considered - quite rightly - that the work is inherently flawed.)

Of course we should programme music that isn't perfect. But excessive enthusiasm can harm a composer's reputation; particularly when the hype takes the form of a pseudo-event showcasing a not entirely representative work. The Gothic is the first of Havergal Brian's catalogued symphonies, although there is an earlier lost symphony. What a difference it would have made to the reputations of Beethoven, Mahler and Mozart if we judged them solely on their first symphonies. As Havergal Brian matured his compositions became more succinct, better argued, and as a result more meritorious. His last symphony - No. 32 - was composed when he was 92. It lasts for just twenty minutes and is scored for much smaller forces than the Gothic, while his 'Symphonia Brevis' (No. 22) lasts for just nine minutes.

Thankfully, others have recognised that there is more to Havergal Brian than the Gothic. In 1972 Unicorn recorded Symphonies Nos. 10 and 21 in outstanding performances by the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra (LSSO). This was the first recording of his music to be released commercially and is still available - see below - coupled with CBS' 1974 recording of Symphony No. 22, 'Symphonia Brevis'. These were the recordings that won many - including this writer - over to the Havergal Brian cause. If you do not own the CD transfers do not be put off by the amateur status of the orchestra. At its peak the LSSO was arguably the equal of the National Youth Orchestra. This is fiendishly difficult music to play; but any minor intonation aberrations are more than compensated for by the sheer commitment of the young players. Total commitment is what Brian's music needs, and the playing of the Leicestershire youngsters makes some of the more recent recordings of his symphonies by professional orchestras sound like first read-throughs.

That is Robert Simpson with Havergal Brian on the disc cover; Simpson produced the LSSO recordings with the exception of the English Suite, and all were engineered by Angus McKenzie. In addition to my day job in the music industry I did a lot of freelance writing for Hi Fi News in the 1970s when Angus Mckenzie was a regular contributor of uncompromising pieces on the vital importance of recorded sound quality. In those days we were all evangelists of sound quality; by contrast in today's brave new MP3 world recorded sound quality scarcely gets a mention in record reviews . Angus McKenzie was a legend among tonmeisters, not only for his golden ears but also because he was probably the only blind member of the British Astronomical Association. More than forty years after they were committed to analogue tape his recordings of Havergal Brian's symphonies reproduce with a visceral impact that puts recent digital recordings in the virtual shade. This music demands totally committed playing and sonic slam, and the Leicestershire Schools Symphony recordings deliver both in bucket loads. If you are a Havergal Brian convert they should without a doubt be in your collection. If you are a Havergal Brian doubter they should without a doubt be in your collection because they will almost certainly convert you.

In an outstanding recording for EMI - now deleted - Sir Charles Mackerras, who championed Brian, wisely coupled the Seventh Symphony - one of Brian's most accessible works - with the 13 minute Symphony No. 31. In 1966 when pseudo-events had not yet become a major driving force, that supremely intelligent conductor Norman Del Mar coupled the first ever Proms performance of a Havergal Brian symphony - the 12th which coincidentally lasts for 12 minutes - with a Beethoven piano concerto, a Gordon Crosse premiere, and Brahms' Fourth Symphony - see programme below. To enhance a composer's reputation the right amount of enthusiasm is needed, and slipping a concise Havergal Brian symphony in with two mainstream classics is the right way to do it. All of which leads me to suggest, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, that a pseudo-event could be created around Havergal Brian's 9 minute 10 second 'Symphonia Brevis' by hyping it as the world's shortest symphony. But is it? Please could erudite readers enlighten us as to what is the shortest symphony by an established composer.

This case study has dwelt at gothic length on the impact that pseudo-events can have on the reputation of neglected composers. But these negative impact are if anything even greater for established composers, and nowhere is this more true than in the 'synthetic news' of a composer anniversary. The exposure a composer receives should depend on one thing only, the merit of her/his music. But the gross overexposure generated by anniversaries distorts the crucial balance between exposure and merit. Schubert was undoubtedly a genius; but the BBC Radio 3 pseudo-event created by Roger Wright for the composer's numerically meaningless 215th anniversary in 2012, which involved broadcasting nothing but Schubert's music for more than a week, resulted in the station's audience plunging by 15%. Roger Wright's successor at Radio 3 Alan Davey has taken pseudo-events to new and dangerous heights by joining in 2015 with Universal Classics and the charity offshoot of a major drug corporation to promote Max Richter's Sleep. This frenzied and quickly forgotten attempt to boost audience ratings and record sales was vigorously spun by the BBC Media Centre as "the longest single continuous piece of music ever broadcast live on the BBC" in yet another example of never mind the quality, feel the length,

It can be argued that misguided commercial imperatives are turning the whole of classical music into a pseudo-event, and that as Daniel J. Boorstin postulated, the resulting distancing of the audience from the felt experience explains classical music's failure to engage both with existing and new audiences. Robert Simpson's pleading for Havergal Brian's music skillfully combined enthusiasm with balance, and his views on the advocacy process are relevant not only to neglected composers, but to the whole of classical music. So I will close with this extract from his contribution to HB: Aspects of Havergal Brian:

You can exhibit fifth-rate painters without too much waste, but time which music must illuminate, cannot be wasted, and only a small proportion of music is worthwhile; in this field we are the more compelled to discriminate. There is a danger in thinking that if a composer is neglected he is something special! Even so, we must find out - both advocacy and rejection should come with knowledge, not hearsay, and it is in any case the duty of a public body like the BBC to give the listener, without obvious limits, the chance to judge for himself; most listeners can't read scores and their only means of judging is through the ear. And it's the listeners right to ask for it and to receive a sensible, fair reason for non-compliance.
Sources include:
The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America by Daniel J. Boorstin
HB: Aspects of Havergal Brian edited by Jürgen Schaarwächter (Out of print)
The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord
Havergal Brian The Gothic Symphony: Martyn Brabbins conducting BBC National Orchestra of Wales and BBC Concert Orchestra (Live recording of 2011 BBC prom) Hyperion
Havergal Brian Symphony No 3: Lionel Friend conducting BBC Symphony Orchestra Hyperion
Havergal Brian Symphonies Nos. 7,8, 9 & 31 and The Tinker's Wedding: Sir Charles Mackerras conducting Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra EMI (Deleted)
Havergal Brian Symphonies 10, 21 & 22 Psalm 23, English Suite No. 5: Leicestershire Schools Youth Orchestra, various conductors Heritage
That copyright minefield YouTube contains many Havergal Brian symphonies. Better to search for CDs listed above - the deleted Mackerras/Groves can still be found - but, if you must, sample Sir Charles' account of Symphony No. 31 on YouTube here.

Header photo source Sydney Morning Herald. No review samples 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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

He found a piece of the truth

A gratifyingly positive response to yesterday's post prompts me to return to the wisdom of Jiddu Krishnamurti. My header image shows the original Deutsche Grammophon release of Mohan Kauns, which Ravi Shankar composed at white heat following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in January 1948. Gandhi famously declared that "My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God." Which underlines both the contemporary and perennial relevance of this story told by Krishnamurti*:
The devil and a friend are walking the earth. Ahead of them, they see a man bend down and pick up something shiny from the ground; he looks at it with delight, puts it in his pocket and elatedly walks off. The friend asks, 'What did that man find that changed him so much?' The devil answers, 'I know; he found a piece of the truth.' 'By jove!' exclaims his friend: 'That must be bad business for you!' 'Not at all', the devil replied with a sly smile, 'I'm going to help him organize it'.
*The fable is transcribed from The Kitchen Chronicles: 1001 Lunches with Krishnamurti by Michael Krohhnen. Although long out of print copies of this unpretentious and engaging book can still be found. It is recommended as a refreshing complement to Krishnamurti's own always wise but sometimes stilted prose. 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.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Listening to music attentively is meditation

As I grow older and as the world grows more insane - both of which seem to be happening at an accelerating rate - I find more and more wisdom in the thinking of Jiddu Krishnamurti, who is seen above. His teachings are very relevant to our current predicament, particularly his sentiment that "We are human beings, not labels". Writing in the introduction to the anthology of his teachings Freedom from the Known, his biographer and editor Mary Lutyens - mother of the still-neglected composer Elisabeth Lutyens - explains:
A major obstacle, [Krishnamurti] says, is when we misapply thought based on past experiences to a completely new challenge that demands to be looked at totally anew. Avoiding action that is wrongly dictated by the past is clearly often a problem for our political leaders.
Freedom from the Known was compiled at the request of Krishnamurti and its title was given by him to its editor Mary Lutyens. During its editing Krishnamurti said to her that "If you have read this book for a whole hour attentively, that is meditation". At the risk of being accused of misparaphrasing Krishnamurti, I suggest that, similarly, listening to music attentively for an hour is meditation. Which resonates with my recent musings about repositioning classical music as a rejuvenating, as opposed to entertaining, experience.

But the keywords in Krishnamurti's teaching, whether applied to music or reading, are for a whole hour attentively. The current obsession with accessibility dictates that virtual experiences take precedence over flesh and blood engagement. Which means masterworks are dissected to provide " snackable access to classical content", and music is now listened to inattentively - on the move via mobile devices, or in concerts where live tweeting and other distractions are encouraged. A reader commented on an earlier post that: " Listening to music, and I mean listening hard, alters the music, and preparing to listen makes it twice as strange. And wonderful". We don't need to change sartorial conventions, lighting, concert venues, or any other fashionable target. We just need to revive the lost art of listening.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Social media and the Brexit autumn

The Arab Spring in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt was dubbed the 'Twitter revolution' because of the role played by social media, and social media activity is now central to political strategies. Following the Leave victory in the UK EU referendum, considerable attention is being paid to the role of age, education and other demographics in the split between Leave and Remain. But to my knowledge there has been no attempt to correlate propensity to vote Leave with social media usage. Analysis shows that those over 60 were most likely to vote Leave, and, those with a higher level of education were more likely to vote Remain. So in the absence of empirical data I am proposing that as social media usage is highest among the young, well-educated and socially mobile, it is highly likely that Leave voters have a materially lower usage of social media.

It is acknowledged that phenomenological as opposed to virtual events provided the tipping points in the referendum; notably the now apparently disowned promise that £350million a week would be spent on the NHS if the UK backed a Brexit vote, and Remain's misguided highly negative 'campaign of fear' strategy based on the message that a vote for Leave would trigger a recession and cost UK households an average £4300 a year. It is also acknowledged that old-school media in the form of personal appearances, TV interviews and tabloid press coverage played a pivotal role in the Leave victory; a victory after which Sun editor Tony Gallagher commented: “So much for the waning power of the print media.”

Which leads me to contend that social media did not play a decisive role in the EU referendum. But moreover I propose that the inflated view of social media's ability to trigger change is both misleading and dangerous. That proposition is relevant both to classical music's ongoing digital fixation, particularly as the age profile of its core audience mirrors that for Leave voters, But far more importantly, my proposition is very relevant to the forthcoming US presidential election. The chattering classes have been replaced on both sides of the Atlantic by the twittering classes, who have failed to notice that the only audience for their twittering is fellow social media addicts. An apocryphal definition states that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Yet with Brexit almost a done deal, the twittering classes continue to repeat the same thing over and over again in the hope of a different result - see header graphic. All those on Facebook and Twitter who are similarly reprising rants againt Donald Trump et al hundreds, if not thousands of times, should learn the Brexit lesson of the voting power of the social media-lite cohort before is too late.

Yes, Brexit is insane. But the social media lamenters should heed Daniel Barenboim's wise words: "There are now two possible reactions. To lament Brexit and watch extremist movements in other countries such as France and the Netherlands seeking to follow the example of Great Britain. Or, to think about necessary improvements for the EU and to work together towards a true spirit of unity and collaboration, especially in finding a global solution for the refugee crisis and not an exclusively European one".

Header graphic via NPR. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). And yes, ironically On An Overgrown Path is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

We reap what we sow

'... the EU Commission has been dysfunctional throughout the process and unfit for purpose. What needs to be done to make these time-servers democratically accountable?' - Slipped Disc: 31/5/2016

'This EU press release has just landed. It’s an instant fudge that admits no error and patches over the recent chaos. An appalling piece of misgovernance from start to finish' - ibid: 1/6/2016
Those are just two of the public attacks made by Norman Lebrecht on the EU during his coverage of the recent European Union Youth Orchestra funding crisis. It is bad enough that this is the same 'cultural commentator' who tweeted yesterday that "Turkey just voted for Christmas" and "All things considered, we're screwed". But what is worse is that none of classical music's great and good have the balls to disassociate themselves from Lebrecht's cynical opportunism. Readers will know that I am passionately pro-inclusivity, and it goes without saying I believe that the UK EU referendum arrived at the wrong decision. But we need to understand that the 'leave' vote was not just prompted by misguided views on immigration. It was also an understandable but wrong-headed rejection of the cynical opportunism of our politicians and other opinion formers. Krishnamurti told us that leaders destroy followers and followers destroy leaders. Unless we stop behaving like sheep and following without question David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Norman Lebrecht and others, all things considered, we're screwed

Much solace during difficult times has come from Alia Vox's reissue of Jordi Savall's interpretation of the Eroica Symphony. The performance by the early instrument Le Concert des Nations was captured during an all-night session in 1994, and in remastered SACD sound it blazes even more passionately than in the original release. It's current relevance is enhanced by Beethoven's redaction of its dedication to a contemporary leader. No review samples involved 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.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

How we shot the messenger

Yesterday brought the shocking news of the murder in Karachi of the great Pakistani qawwal singer Amjad Farid Sabri, killed according to early reports by the Taliban. News media has focussed on the circumstances of his death, with minimal coverage of his art other than via the easy option of embedded YouTube clips. But Amjad Farid Sabri deserves to be remembered for more than being a famous Sufi singer who was allegedly murdered by the Taliban; both because he was part of a musical dynasty that built pioneering cultural bridges between the East and West, and because his backstory provides a valuable perspective on the sectarian violence that continues to blight the Indian subcontinent.

Amjad Farid Sabri - seen above - was born in 1976. He was the son of Ghulam Farid Sabri (1930-1994), who was one of the two musicians - the other was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - responsible for popularising the genre of Sufi devotional music known as qawwali. Ghulam Farid Sabri came from a celebrated family of musicians that stretched back to the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great (1542-1605). In contrast to the cultural dualism of the 21st century, Ghulam Farid Sabri was trained in both qawwali and Hindustani classical music; the latter being a product of the Hindu culture of Northern India.

Their involvement with Hindustani music reflected the Sabri family's roots in the part of the Punjab that is now in India. Following Partition in 1947 into the Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan sectarian violence erupted in the Punjab; so the Muslim Sabri family relocated to a squalid refugee camp outside Karachi in the new state of Pakistan where they lived for two years. The Partition of India, which was no more than a fatally flawed but expedient exit strategy for colonial Britain, prompted a conveniently forgotten humanitarian tragedy. In the first two years of Partition more than fifteen million people were uprooted; the final death toll is unknown but conservative estimates put it at more than one million. Writing in his history of Partition Midnight’s Furies, Nisid Hajari reports how "Some British soldiers and journalists who had witnessed the Nazi death camps claimed Partition’s brutalities were worse: pregnant women had their breasts cut off and babies hacked out of their bellies; infants were found literally roasted on spits.”

Ghulam Farid Sabri survived the post-Partition horrors and established a reputation as an outstanding exponent of Qawwali. In 1956 he formed the Sabri Brothers qawwali party with his brother Maqbool Ahmed Sabri, and he started his recording career with EMI Pakistan in 1958. The Sabri Brothers played a seminal role in the evolution of qawwali as we know it today. They fused popular ragas associated with the Mughal court of Akbar the Great with Middle Eastern rhythms driven by the dholak and tabla which invoked the heartland of Islam. The arrival of television in Pakistan in 1967 with weekly qawwali programmes boosted the popularity of the Sabri Brothers in their homeland. In 1975 the Sabri Brothers undertook a pioneering American tour and performed at Carnegie Hall. During a second American tour in 1978 they recorded the album for Nonesuch's Explorer Series seen below, a disc which introduced many Western listeners - including this writer - to qawwali. Amjad Farid Sabri had been taught by his father since a young age, and in 1982 at the age of twelve he joined his father's qawwali party. Following the deaths of his father in 1994 and uncle Maqbool Ahmed in 2011 he became a leading exponent of qawwali, and his genre-bending performances with ensembles such as the Chicago-based hip-hop band FEW connected with a new young audience.

There is absolutely no debate that the Taliban should be condemned for the murder of Amjad Farid Sabri, if they were indeed responsible. But as H.L. Mencken told us, for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. And it is clear, simple, and wrong to blame the Taliban alone for his death. As William Dalrymple explained in a thoughtful New Yorker article: "Today, both India and Pakistan remain crippled by the narratives built around memories of the crimes of Partition, as politicians (particularly in India) and the military (particularly in Pakistan) continue to stoke the hatreds of 1947 for their own ends". The Taliban and their inexcusable atrocities are part of the monstrous legacy from British colonial ambitions in India and American political ambitions in Afghanistan and elsewhere. So it can be argued that we are all in some way responsible for the murder of Amjad Farid Sabri. But let us avoid the trap that has ensnared other commentators of allocating blame. Tragic though his death is, we must remember Amjad Farid Sabri for his music which brought a venerable spiritual tradition to 21st century audiences.

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Riches brew

The revelation that the music director of an American orchestra received more than $5 million US dollars in remuneration in 2013/14 reminds me of a quote from Miles Davis, whose wise words explain many of classical music's current problems:

'Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent'.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Every picture tells a story

Eight years ago I was among the first to highlight the imminent technology-driven demise of the traditional halakis - storytellers - in the famous Djemaa el Fna public space in Marrakech, Morocco. Since then others have paid homage to the dying oral art of the halakis, including Richard Hamilton whose excellent book The Last Storytellers documents some of the stories they tell. When I revisited Marrakech a few weeks ago I was delighted to find that one of the biggest night time crowds in the Djemaa el Fna was gathered around a young storyteller. This was a story worth sharing. So standing at the back of the audience I took out my camera to discretely - no flash - snatch the photograph seen above. But the halaki saw me out of the corner of his eye, cut off his story in mid sentence, and barged his way through the listeners to thrust his hat in my face and demand money. So the good news is that storytelling is alive and well in Marrakech. But at a price.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Racism disguised as patriotism must not prevail

Hubert Parry’s inspired setting of William Blake includes the famous lines ‘Till we have built Jerusalem, In England’s green and pleasant land’. Over the years Parry's Jerusalem has become associated with rabid nationalism, and racism disguised as patriotism is dominating the current political agenda both in Britain and the US. However the album artwork above is not there to illustrate the danger of nuanced racism, but rather to explode the beguiling myth surrounding Parry's Jerusalem. Because far from being the product of ethnic nationalism, Jerusalem started life as a rallying cry for a spiritual movement formed, to quote its founder, to appeal "to the whole of humanity... Hindus, Mohammedans, Buddhists... " And that is only the start of a long but remarkable story, because Sir Francis Younghusband, who commissioned Jerusalem in 1916, was an evangelical Christian Colonel who led colonial forces in a bloody invasion of Tibet. But in his mature years he became a champion of spiritualism, free love, extraterrestrials, nature festivals, Indian gurus and multiculturalism, and advocated a world where “the saint and sage are honoured above the richest capitalist”.

Sir Francis Younghusband was born in a hill station in India's North West Frontier region in 1863. His mother was an evangelical Christian and his father came from a military family and played a central role in setting up the Indian police force. Younghusband was educated at Clifton School, Bristol, an establishment which followed the principle pioneered by Dr Arnold at Rugby School of producing pupils dedicated to "a new Christian chivalry of patriotic service". After graduating with honours from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Younghusband was commissioned in the King's Dragoon Guards and returned to the land of his birth India, where he was eventually stationed at Rawal Pindi in the shadow of the mountains that were to feature so prominently in his life, the Himalayas. But soon Younghusband felt stifled by military discipline, and his career as both geographic and spiritual explorer started when he took a two month leave of absence to travel north to Turkestan. Here the political aspirations of Britain, China and Russia overlapped, and it was this overlap which later triggered Younghusbands' infamous invasion of Tibet.

Geopolitical machinations then took Sir Francis Younghusband to the borders of Afghanistan. Here his Christian faith began to weaken and he embarked on a remarkable journey from evangelical Christianity to Eastern mysticism. But he was not yet free of Victorian values, and in 1897 he married an older woman whose horror of physical intimacy prompted him to tell her "We shall have a happier union if all that perfectly natural but lower part is eliminated from it”. However, despite a no-sex-before-death pact, his new wife was pregnant by the end of their Paris honeymoon. Sir Francis and Lady Younghusband are seen below with their daughter and the Maharajah of Kashmir.

Although Younghusband's Christain faith weakened his commitment to Britain's colonial ambitions remained intact, and he pursued a career in the border regions of India that moved seamlessly between the military and the political. At this time he was still committed to Britain’s colonial ambitions and he became a disciple of the social theorist and racial determinist John Beattie Crozier. In 1903 the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, appointed Younghusband to head an expedition to the frontier with Tibet. This precursor of the disastrous Western incursions into the Middle East a century later was justified, in Lord Curzon's words, because "the Tibetans has been troublesome neighbours of late... and were now trying to have secret dealings with the Russians". The photo below shows Colonel Younghusband shortly before he left for Tibet.

The original objective of the expedition was to do no more than advance to Sikkim on the Tibetan border. But the headstrong Colonel Younghusband pressed on into Tibet, and, when negotiations with a representative of the thirteenth Dalai Lama collapsed, a confrontation ensued. This resulted in the notorious Chumi Shengo massacre in which 622 Tibetans died. Further killings and lootings of monasteries followed and by the time Younghusband's expedition reached Lhasa and imposed a penal peace treaty, 2800 Tibetans had been killed. Under the terms imposed by Younghusband but later rescinded by the British government, the Tibetans were to pay half a million pounds sterling in reparation and British troops could remain in Tibet until 1979. Below is the view in August 1904 as British troops enter Lhasa with the Potala Palace in the background.

Younghusband's highhanded leadership of the Tibet expedition met with an equivocal response in London. But despite this he was made a Knight Companion of the British Empire and appointed to the influential position of British resident in Kashmir. In the English press a Church of England bishop boasted that the Chumi Shengo massacre "will be the means of lighting up the torches of enlightement and Christianity in Tibet", but the effect on Younghusband was quite the opposite. After the peace treaty was signed he underwent a spiritual epiphany in the mountains of Tibet. With this came the revelation that is central to traditions ranging from Gnosticism to Islam, namely that men are at heart divine. Following this and while serving in Kashmir, he took the first tentative steps towards creating a new religion inspired by his epiphany; at this point his proto-religion drew on Christianity and Islam, coupled with his own vision of Empire. Francis Younghusband is seen below in Kashmir with his Ladakhi guide.

As his spiritual preoccupations increased, political diplomacy lost its appeal for the new knighted Sir Francis, and he resigned from his position in Kashmir to make an abortive foray into British politics. Following a near fatal road accident in Belgium he set out his proposals for the new religion in the book Within: Thoughts During Convalescence. In this he replaced the commonly accepted concept of a superior deity with a divine power residing within each individual. Writing in 1912 Younghusband introduced the distinctly New Age and counterculture concepts of free love and messages from aliens living on other planets, and went on to predict that a new spiritual leader would arrive in the form of a God-Child.

The outbreak of the First World War strengthened Sir Francis' religious fervour; he declared that "We are engaged in a spiritual conflict - a holy war - the Fight for Right” and that the spirit of the people “would respond to music, speech, song”, a belief that prompted him to form the Fight for Right movement. In a pioneering example of multiculturalism Younghusband resisted attempts to make the Fight for Right movement exclusively Christian: stating instead that he wanted it to appeal "to the whole of humanity... Hindus, Mohammedans, Buddhists..." This concept appealed to a wide constituency, and the supporters of the movement included a number of cultural celebrities, among them the novelist Thomas Hardy.

As part of a drive to widen the Fight for Right membership, Younghusband wanted a catchy rallying anthem. In 1916 the poet laureate and supporter of the movement Robert Bridges sent Hubert Parry, seen above, a copy of William Blake's 'Milton'. Bridges suggested that Parry compose "suitable, simple music to Blake's stanzas', and the result is history, or rather Jerusalem. Parry's setting of Blake was sung for the first time in March 1916 by three hundred members of Fight for Right conducted by Walford Davies in the Queen's Hall, then home to Henry Wood's Promenade concerts. Jerusalem achieved the Edwardian equivalent of trending, but Fight for Right fared less well, and in 1917 a split opened in the movement between belligerent patriots and committed pacifists. As Fight for Right became increasingly miltaristic Parry withdrew Jerusalem as its anthem, and Younghusband sided with the pacifists and severed connections, and the movement was eventually wound up.

Despite this setback Younghusband continued his mystical explorations and between 1920 and 1930 published twelve books on a range of subjects. In one of these he took as his alter ego a mythical Indian Brahmin, and in another he anticipated aspects of the currently fashionable Gaia theory and of the worship of omniscient Mother figures such as Mother Meera. Elsewhere he extolled the virtues of "Sacred Dramas, Community Singing and Nature Festivals", and the photo below shows the Religious Drama Society which he founded in performance. The sky was literally the limit for Sir Francis and his final essay into spirituality introduced higher beings from a distant planet called Altair. However Younghusband was also concerned with more practical matters, and as president of the Royal Geographical Society he laid the ground for the first unsuccessful Everest expeditions; these included the 1924 attempt which cost the life of George Mallory and another climber.

During the 1930s the retired colonialist turned sage dramatically changed his view on Indian politics. Younghusband became a supporter of Gandhi, an early champion of self-rule; it was at this time that he advocated an India where "the saint and sage are honoured above the richest capitalist". A fascination with saints and sages drew Younghusband into the circle of the radical Bengali poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who is seen below. Younghusband also adopted various gurus, these included Shri Purohit Swami who was to the 1930's counter culture what Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was to the Beatles’ circle thirty years later In 1937 a shared enthusiasm with 'supersensory phenomena' brought Younghusband into contact with the aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh in India, where the two adventurers met a variety of mystics and sages as well as taking to the air together.

While in India Younghusband joined in the inter-faith celebrations held by the Parliament of Religions to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the Hindu religious leader Ramakrishna, an event he attended as the official representative of the League of Nations. In 1934 the increasingly syncretic Sir Francis had founded the World Congress of Faiths to promote religious fellowship; its first congress in London had been addressed by the influential Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki, and a subsequent meeting was addressed by the Iman of Woking Mosque. Among those attending the first Congress was a young Alan Watts who later became a populariser of Zen Buddhism and an important counterculture figure. Watts became closely involved with the organisation and served on its executive committee. In the photo below Sir Francis is seen at a meeting of the World Congress of Faiths flanked by Britain's first high commissioner for Palestine Herbert Samuel and pioneering pacifist Gilbert Murray.

Later in the 1930s Younghusband's volte face on colonial matters was matched with a similar change in his views on racial determinism, and he became an early and outspoken critic of the German fascist movement. At the end of the decade his pursuit of religious fellowship took him to Paris to give the opening address at the Congrès Mondial des Croyances which had been formed by the French Islamic scholar and advocate of perennial wisdom Louis Massignon with the private suppport of the radical Catholic theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Despite his advancing years Sir Francis still managed to combine spiritual and earthly passions; in 1939 the 76 year old and still-married knight embarked on a passionate affair with an also-married and mother of six titled lady thirty-two years his junior. Unsurprisingly the septuagenarian's health slowly declined, and he died on July 31st 1942 in the arms of his mistress, Madeline, Lady Lees. The tributes were fulsome, and some years later the Indian historian Sardar Pannikar wrote that "there were only two Englishman who really penetrated into the soul of India, and they were both soldiers" - Archibald Wavell and Francis Younghusband.

Sir Francis Younghusband is buried in the rural churchyard of Lytchett Minster in Dorset, home of Madeline, Lady Lees. His last resting place is the kind of green and pleasant place that advocates of Little England approve of, but any hint of ethnic nationalism is dispelled by the depiction of Lhasa's Potala Palace on his headstone. So Parry’s Jerusalem provides the perfect metaphor for a 21st century world torn between global reality and a mythical nationalist idyll. Sir Francis Younghusband was right when he chose global reality; let us hope that his example will be followed by those voting in the UK this week and in the US in November.

* We are fortunate to have the exemplary biography Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer by Patrick French seen above, and this provides the primary source for this post.

This post is a revised version of one originally published in July 2012. It was uploaded from l'Union européenne profonde. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Music answering the growing cry for help

'With one Church you have tyranny; with two, civil war; but with a hundred, peace' - Voltaire
That photo was taken yesterday evening in the Catholic church of Notre Dame de l'Assomption at Coëx in the Pays de la Loire region of France. The concert of north Indian music and Sufi chants was given by Nawab Khan and his ensemble Mantra - santoor, sarangi, tabla and voice. Nawab Khan comes from a family of musicians who performed in the royal courts of the Maharajas of Rajasthan. His very topical mission is to explore the spiritual and healing elements of Indian classical music, and he studied with two great Indian practitioners of music therapy. Mantra take a syncretic approach to spirituality and their music mixes Hinduism, Islam and the Christian tradition. The audience for last night's concert included a sizeable group of adults with developmental disabilities, and the communication between the musicians and this group was particularly striking. Mantra's late evening concert was followed by an al fresco morning session of meditation and vocal yoga and movement in Coëx's Le Jardin des Olfacties. Nawab Khan and Mantra are compelling evidence of how music can answer the growing cry for help.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

There is nowhere near enough success to go around

My recent question as to whatever happened to the future of classical music has gone unanswered. So in the absence of exclusive revelations from the inside track cultural commentators I am forced to conclude that the Bristol Proms suffered the same fate as Sinfini Music - another big new idea that wasn't quite big enough to survive the perpetual game of musical chairs at executive level in Universal Classics. But this is not the time for schadenfreude. Because classical music needs to change, and if we drill down through the inevitable corporate posturing and ego massaging, both the Bristol Proms and Sinfini Music offered a worthwhile challenge to some of the art forms silly conventions. So the purpose of this post is not to gloat, but to ask if there are any lessons to be learnt from yet another failed attempt to reach a new audience.

In the absence of any inside information I have to conclude that the Bristol Proms, like Sinfini, was a heavily funded initiative to promote musicians signed to Universal Classics. The unfortunate departure of Max Hole due to ill-health was clearly a factor in their demise, because he championed both initiatives. But it is fair to conclude that the return on the investment - reportedly several million pounds in the case of Sinfini - was not big enough. Because if there was any evidence at all that these initiatives were indeed reshaping the future of classical music, the plug would surely not have been pulled – with or without Max Hole.

Based on this conclusion I suggest there are two lessons to learn from the failure of both the Bristol Proms and Sinfini Music. The first is that the future of classical music lies in the hands of classical musicians, and not with media corporations or any other third party. Of course productive partnerships are needed. But classical music has shown itself to be all too willing to sell its soul to the corporate devil in return for the promised rewards of scale. Which is a mistake: both because the ambitions of corporations and art forms are very different – an example is how the Proms have morphed from being a celebration of classical music to a celebration of the BBC brand – and because increased scale is the wrong goal to aim for.

This obsession with increased scale provides the second lesson from the demise of Universal Music's big new ideas. In his thoughtful book Messengers Julian Sayarer points out that “there are seven billion of us kicking around and nowhere near enough success to go around”, and proposes that an obsession with unachievable success lies at the heart of many current problems. Nowhere is the infatuation with scale more evident than in classical music, with metrics of scale - big new mass market audiences - driving every strategy, and symbols of success - Rolex maestro role models, winner takes all talent competitions, and designer pad envy - dictating the tactics that underpin the strategy of increased scale.

A future for classical music built on ever increasing success and scale is an impossible dream. Because there is nowhere near enough success to go around; particularly when the supply of classical music is allowed to increase unchecked despite there being no parallel increase in demand. And to make matters worse the limited rewards of success are heavily skewed towards an elite clique of lavishly renumerated, ever-younger, white, and - until recently - male musicians. Multi-media concerts, jargon-free websites and other convention-busters have a role to play in the future. But what is far more important is the rethinking of long term objectives. Classical music must forget about thinking big and changing the world, and instead focus on thinking small and changing someone's world.

Libby Purves joined the BBC in the same year as I did. Back in 1972 attitudes towards scale, success and audiences were very different. I suggest that the key to the future of classical music cannot be found in the big new ideas of corporate gurus, but in this perennial wisdom expressed in her book Radio: A True Love Affair:
To run radio you must be like an old-fashioned publisher, a 1930s Gollancz or Faber & Faber, working on faith and idealism and wanting to share what you yourself love. All that you can do is to make - and publicise - the best and most passionately well-crafted programmes you can think of. Ratings have to be watched, but calmly and with a sense of proportion. You have to believe that if even one person is swayed, or inspired, or changed, or comforted, by a programme, then that programme has been worthwhile.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

These ocean crossings gave birth to a new society

Jardins Migrateurs is a new CD from Montreal-based Ensemble Constantinople (Iranian setar and tombak, and viola da gamba) and Sengalese kora master Ablaye Cissoko - sample the album here. The title refers to the travelling gardens - jardins migrateurs - that invoked paradise in Persian culture. These travelling gardens found expression in the walled gardens of Moroccan riads and reached their apogee in Granada's Alhambra. Setar player Kiya Tabassian's note for the track Traversées (Crossings) contains a very important message:
Drawn from the manuscript Luz, y Norte by travelling musician Ruiz de Ribayaz, together with a traditional piece, this work is dedicate to the thousands of migrants who left Africa for the New World during the colonial era. These ocean crossings gave birth to a new society. The destiny of mankind lies in its quest for the new.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Classical music should be answering a cry for help

Last year 12 million adult colouring books were sold in the US. Which means the adult colouring market is worth half that of the American recorded classical music market. A recent Quartz article headlined 'America’s obsession with adult coloring is a cry for help' explained that adult colouring books appeal to America’s stressed, anxious, overworked and always connected cohorts. Colouring books may be a short-lived craze, but the classical music industry can learn from it. Just a few weeks ago I proposed that a classical concert should be a healing ceremony that placates the spirit, while back in 2011 I suggested that classical music should look to the booming $11 billion mind, body and spirit market for a new audience instead of reinventing itself as a sub-set of the entertainment industry. The Quarz article describes how the appeal of colouring books is that they are therapeutic without being therapy, meditative without being meditation, creative without being creation, and artsy without being art. Which is also a perfect description of classical music. As Osho wrote in The Great Pilgrimage from Here to Here:
In the East, music has always been accepted as a spiritual phenomenon. If your music cannot create silence in the people who are listening it is not music.
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Friday, June 10, 2016

Leaders destroy followers and followers destroy leaders

That photo of Marrakech's celebrated Jemma el-Fnaa was taken by me a few weeks ago. One of the books that illuminated my visit to the Red City was Stephen Davis' To Marrakech by Aeroplane. Stephen is best known as the biographer of Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley and the Rolling Stones, and ghost writer for Michael Jackson, but he also collaborated with me on a two part feature about the Master Musicians of Jajouka, who come from the Rif Mountains in the north of Morocco.

Performance artist Brion Gysin, who was a long time resident of Morocco, played a pivotal role in bring the Master Musicians to the attention of Brian Jones, and it was the Rolling Stones' posthumously released album of their music which introduced the Master Musicians to an international audience. To Marrakech by Aeroplane, which is rich in anecdotes about Brion Gysin's Moroccan circle, is published by Inkblot Publications, and that Rhode Island based independent publisher has also made available Brion Gysin's previously unpublished manuscript Living With Islam which dates from the 1950s.

In his introduction to Living With Islam Theo Green of Inkblot Publications stresses that “One must remember Gysin did not become a Muslim. He felt all religion should be taxed out of existence”. Despite this Gysin paints a largely sympathetic portrait of the faith, and his prediction of a dangerous tension between traditional Islam and Western culture raises the status of the slim volume above that of a historic curiosity.

But it is Brion Gysin's observation that: “As in other Holy Books, one can find a text to suit one's need of the moment; but it must be realized that Islam is essentially a war-like religion, as is any structure of opinions which is authoritarian” that I found particularly perceptive. My many Muslim friends will no doubt argue vociferously that the Qu'ran does not condone violence. But that is not my point. Based on history it can be argued that any structure of opinions - particularly religious dogma - is war-like in the sense of being confrontational, and as we have seen recently that includes Tibetan Buddhism.

Many from Kabir and Ramakrishna to Aurobindo, William James and Krishnamurti, have argued the case in their different ways for a religion of no religion which recognises an ultimate Truth but refuses to apply authoritarian structures to that Truth. Even the visionary 12th century Muslim philosopher Ibn Arabi warned against dogma that impedes the beautiful play of the divine. As Krishnamurti told us: “ All authority of any kind, especially in the field of thought and understanding, is the most destructive, evil thing. Leaders destroy the followers and followers destroy the leaders. You have to be your own teacher and your own disciple. You have to question everything that man has accepted as valuable, as necessary”.

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