Friday, July 19, 2019

Deep in the sea are riches beyond compare


That album by the psychedelic electronica duo Shpongle is featured here not only because it is more visually striking than current classical releases. The main reason for featuring it is to celebrate the many music festivals taking place around the globe this summer; notably Latitude here in East Anglia and Tomorrowland in Boom, Belgium, both of which take place this weekend. The BBC Proms is not the only game in town this summer, although the cultural commentators would like you to think otherwise.

Raja Ram and Simon Posford are Shpongle's founder members. Australian-born Raja Ram transcended music genres by studying flute at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and going on via the 60s rock group Quintessence to pioneer the psychedelic trance music that is a key component of Tomorrowland and other hugely popular festivals. His artistic journey shows the error of our ways in rigidly pigeonholing music into popular, classical, trance, rock, world etc etc. If the art form variously and falsely described as classical, serious or art music really wants to expand its reach and reach a bigger audience it must realise that not only is there just one music, there is also only one audience.

Dismissing music from beyond our personal comfort zone as 'decidedly mediocre and banal' is unhelpful and dangerous. Others take a more enlightened position: for instance I learned recently that a longtime Overgrown Path reader is both devoted to the music of Edmund Rubbra and also a big Pink Floyd fan. Transcending habitual responses and prejudices is the first step to seeing the big picture and seeing the big audience. As is explained by the psychotherapist Ivan Tyrrell in his memoir about about the non-sectarian Sufi teacher Idries Shah*:
One thing [Idries Shah] taught was that we only learn something new when our expectations aren't fulfilled, that is to say, when something interrupts our habitual responses. It's only when we leave our comfort zone, involve ourselves in the world and make sufficient effort to understand what's happening to us that we really lean: an insight summed up by the lines of the 13th century Persian poet, Saadi of Shiraz: 'Deep in the sea are riches beyond compare, but if you seek safety, it is on the shore'.
* Useful archive BBC documentary about Idries Shah via this link.

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