Music that brings light into an increasingly dark world
Music from the esoteric realm on my current personal playlist includes the therapeutic syncreticism of Nawab Khan from India and Ahmed Abdelhak Kaâb from Morocco, and Jonathan Harvey's tantric hymn for cello and electronics Advaya. On the website of his Mantra Ensemble Nawab Khan makes a persuasive case for using sacred music from the great faith traditions as a non-doctrinal force for good. The wide appeal of sacred music is evidenced by the sales of Gregorian Chant. An album of plainsong by the monks of the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos in Spain reached number 3 in the Billboard pop chart in 1994 and has gone on to sell more than five million copies, while Gregorian Chant is one of the few resilient genres in a depressed classical market. And in our metric driven age it is worth remembering that the US mind, body and spirit market is worth $11 billion compared with a recorded classical music market of less than $200 million.
Yet despite this, classical fundamentalists continue to sneer at "monkish chant", while in these supposedly inclusive times the classical industry refuses to even contemplate any sacred music from beyond the Judeo-Christian tradition. Which is inexplicable. Because as Western composer Peteris Vasks explains "...people go to the concert hall because they are looking for answers.. We have gigantic technological developments, but the souls of people are neglected. I always ask myself how I can compose so as to bring more light into this world. That is the purpose of music".
Is therapeutic syncreticism any less relevant to a more inclusive BBC Proms series than the therapeutic escapism of Strictly Come Dancing and David Bowie? And those who dismiss this post as mere Eastern whimsy may be surprised to learn that the following quote comes from an exponent of the mantra who was a key figure in the contemporary Western classical tradition, Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Every genuine composition makes conscious something of this esoteric realm. This process is endless, and there will be more and more esotericism as knowledge and science become increasingly capable of revealing human beings as perceivers.
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