Music is the space between the Mahler symphonies

In that famous image of Rubin's vase do you see the two faces or the vase in between? The faces are the perceived reality equivalent to the binary digits of 0 and 1. The vase is the void in between, which in fact defines the perceived reality of the faces. This void is manifest in the sunyata - emptiness - and bardo - state in between life and death - of Tibetan Buddhism. It also is central to the teachings of the twelfth-century Andalusian Sufi mystic, poet, and philosopher Ibn 'Arabi, who identified the voidness of the vase as barzah - the entity that differentiates between two things but, paradoxically, provides for their unity.

Our binary culture conditions us to see the perceived reality of the faces, not the vase in the void. But not only is there much richness in that void, but also, as Ibn 'Arabi explained, the void actually defines the perceived reality. Today, the demands of instant gratification and the pressure to maximise backsides on seats mean that great emphasis is placed on classical music easily assignable to the comfort zone of perceived reality - the glut of Mahler symphonies is just one example. If On An Overgrown Path has achieved anything over the years it has been to champion the many composers whose music languishes in the richness of the void. Such as that of Philippa Schuyler, Jonathan Harvey, Eliane Radigue, Malcolm Arnold, Elizabeth Maconchy, Robert Rich, Edmund Rubbra, Claude Vivier, and Elisabeth Lutyens.

Hat tip to Bruce Miller's newly published Rumi Comes to America which sparked this post. New Overgrown Path posts are available via RSS/email by entering your email address in the right-hand sidebar. Any copyrighted material is included for critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).


Will Wilkin said…
Problem with this article is that Mahler symphonies are so much more listenable than anything by, say, Malcolm Arnold.
Pliable said…
That is a typically unhelpful comment above. The post is not about whether Mahler or Malcolm Arnold is more 'listenable' - whatever that means. It is about giving Arnold and many other neglected composers the space to be listened to; irrespective of whatever personal and highly subjective judgement we individually and differently apply to their music.

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