You are the music while the music lasts

There are beguiling parallels between Britten's 'holy triangle' of listener, composer, performer and the Hindu philosophy of Vedanta. As can be inferred from this extract from Brian Hodgkinson's The Essence of Vedanta:
Vedanta, however, does not totally abandon the lower knowledge in claiming that only higher knowledge is real. Its method of solving the problem is broadly to subsume the lower knowledge into the higher. This can be seen in two ways. Firstly, in the case of, for example, empirical knowledge by means of sense perception, there are three principal elements or constituents: the knower (or subject), the act of knowing (such as seeing), and the thing known (or object). To the ordinary mind, all three have to be present distinctly for knowledge to occur. In other words, take any one of the three away and we do not know anything. To the mind fully trained in Vedanta, however, even this threefold situation of knowing becomes subsumed in the unity of knowledge itself, as an aspect of self. Subject, act and object become one. There is knowledge, but not a separate knower, nor a separate object, nor an act between. It is like the experience people sometimes have, when listening to music and nothing else, no listener and no listening.
'...or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts.'
(T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, 'The Dry Salvages', V)
Vedanta is considered by many to be the most explicit articulation of metaphysical truth. The parallels between it and Britten's holy triangle may have substance. Britten proposed his threefold model in his 1964 Aspen Award acceptance speech. Christopher Isherwood and Britten were close friends, with the composer writing of Isherwood in 1937: "He is an awful dear & I am terribly tempted to make him into a father confessor." Britten and Isherwood were in New York together in the early 1940s. When Isherwood moved to California he became deeply involved with Vedanta and was managing editor of the Vedanta Society of Southern California from 1943 until 1945. He went on to publish several books on Vedanta including a biography of the Bengali saint and Vedantist Sri Ramakrishna. In 1955 Britten visited India and spent time in Bali, a majority Hindu island, and the 1958 Aldeburgh Festival featured Ustad Vilayat Khan (sitar), Nikhil Ghosh (tabla) and Ayana Deva Angadi (tamboura) in a programme of ragas and traditional Indian dance by Srimati Rita. And this exploration of musical and metaphysical truths can be extended from Britten's concept of the interdependancy of listener, composer, performer and the Vedanta tinged 'you are the music while the music lasts' into Sufi philosopher Ibn Arabi's teaching of waḥdat al-wujūd - oneness of being.

Thanks go to all my readers who have elected to follow my post-social media paths by RSS/email. It is humbling that so many have chosen to take the road less travelled. We haven't quite reached Norman Lebrecht's purported 1.5 million readers, but as an earlier post asked, do the arts need wide or deep audiences? On An Overgrown Path will now take an extended break while I explore Vedanta at source. Please make sure the music lasts while I am away.

The header image is from from Amelia Cuni and Ars Choralis Coeln's CD Raga Virga - a disc that for me was 'lust at first listen' . Amelia Cuni, seen in the foreground, trained in the North Indian Dhrupad vocal tradition and has recorded her own realisation of John Cage's eighteen microtonal ragas from 'Solos for Voice 3–58' in his 'Song Books'. As above, On An Overgrown Path is no longer linked on social media. But new posts can be received by RSS/email by simply entering your email address in the right-hand sidebar. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).


Unknown said…
Amelia Cuni and Ars Choralis Coeln's CD Raga Virga - a disc that for me was 'lust at first listen' : for me today too, thank You for that be discovery!T.
T.Slaw, Warsaw, Poland
Pliable said…
"thank You for that be discovery!"

My pleasure Tomasz. That is what On An Overgrown Path is all about; it is not about bragworthy but dubious claims of 1.5 million readers.

"All that you can do is make - and publicize - 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" - Libby Purves, see

Recent popular posts

A tale of two new audiences

Does it have integrity and relevance?

Is classical music obsessed by existential angst?

Will this attract young audiences? - discuss

New music for old instruments

The Berlin Philharmonic's darkest hour

Why new audiences are deaf to classical music

Master musician who experienced the pain of genius

Nada Brahma - Sound is God

The excruciating boredom of pure fact