Friday, January 04, 2019

True artists are murderers as well a creators


On An Overgrown Path was one of the first blogs to advocate gender equality in classical music. But while I am delighted to see women now taking their rightful place in the classical cosmology, I am disappointed that so many have done so by claiming a share of the Establishment high ground, rather than opening up new creative territory.

Among the select group of women musicians who have dared to explore new creative territory are Missy Mazzoli - seen above* - and those in her creative orbit. On the highly recommended CD of her Vespers for a New Dark Age the coupling is Lorna Dune's remix of Missy's A Thousand Tongues. Lorna Dune is a keyboardist/synthesist and new music animateur who works with Missy's all-female chamber-rock quintet Victoire - do watch this video of the remix. A Thousand Tongues was commissioned by cellist and new music dynamo Jody Redhage, and appeared in its original version on her 2011 album Of Minutiae and Memory - see Jody play it in this YouTube video. Also on Of Minutiae and Memory is another Jody Redhage commission, Anna Clyne's Paint Box - music sample via this link.

Following the three links to music samples in the previous paragraph confirms that Missy Mazzoli, Lorna Dune, Jody Redhage and Anna Clyne are making music that challenges and often destroys comfort zones. True artists are murderers of artistic conventions as well a creators; because only on the ashes of the old can genuinely new art be born. In Hinduism the omnipotent are involved not only in creation, but also in dissolution. Which is why Krishna, who is an avatar of Vishnu the preserver, famously speaks the superficially contrary words 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds' in the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu's fellow deity Shiva is the Hindu god of destruction; his followers who are members of the Shaivite sect the Aghori still practise tantric rites that create an inner psychic revolution by challenging accepted notions of repulsion and attraction, and by exploring the limits of social taboos. These include post-mortem rituals which involve living in cemeteries and sitting on and even eating corpses.

Drawing parallels between Shaivite sadhus and classical music is not as ridiculous as it may first seem. Practitioners of Shaivite Tantra regard every human being as already dead, since the fact of birth makes death inevitable. Similarly, exploring new creative territory means regarding every music masterpiece as already dead, since the act of creation makes destruction inevitable. It can be argued that classical music now lives in a cemetery where it feeds off the corpses of 19th century composers. And it can also be argued that Missy Mazzoli and her co-conspirators are much-needed Aghori challenging accepted notions of repulsion and attraction by exploring established artistic taboos. To remain a dynamic art form classical music does not need social media approval. What it urgently needs is more people like Missy Mazzoli, Lorna Dune, Jody Redhage and Anna Clyne destroying comfort zones.

* Photo comes via Texas Public Radio. Those wishing to explore the dark world of the Aghori are referred to Robert Svoboda's Aghora: At the Left Hand of God. 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).

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