The Gypsy Scholar has been consistently amazed at the meaningful coincidences or synchronicities between his program and Robert Pollie’s. Of course, it would be logically explainable if he listened to the 7th Ave Project when it is originally aired before his program (Sunday afternoons). But the amazing thing is the fact that the GS never listens to it then, only when it’s repeated after the Tower of Song at 2 a. m. Monday. Once more, if the programs harmonized in content just once in a while, the GS wouldn’t give it a second thought. However, when it has serendipitously happened almost week after week, he can’t help but be amazed. (I mean, what are the odds of it happening with this frequency?) Therefore, since the two programs complement each other in intriguing and amazing ways (one following the other), the GS thought he would list the correspondences or "harmonies"--the wonderful synchronicities--between the Tower of Song and the 7th Avenue Project, which are sometimes not readily apparent.
The unseen harmony is mightier than the visible. --Heraclitus
Gypsy Scholar, 02/02/09
[ The Tower of Song program is uploaded to the "Archived Essays" subpage of this page and is available for listening. The 7th Avenue Project program is available on kusp.org. ]
Angel of Synchronicity
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project 2/10/14
The two programs, the Tower of Song's "New Year & Rebirth In Archaic Myth & Ritual, pt 5" and the 7th Avenue Project's "The Nicer Side Of Primates," were in thematic harmony or synchronicity.
Here's the last paragraph from the Gypsy Scholar's musical essay: In conclusion, this aversion to “history” on the part of archaic peoples (whether at the New Year or during initiatory rituals)—this need to escape profane time—may be the ancestor of James Joyce’s modern longing: “History is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake.” Perhaps it is possible for we moderns, although we are not in the same world as our primitive ancestors, to find regeneration and transcend (profane) linear time. After all, many of those that came of age in an initiatory fashion in the Sixties—with inspiration from the Beatles—believed that there was a kind of collective rebirth of the American psyche. Yes, for some young people in the “counter-culture”—the mythic “Great Time” had come today.
(Below are two links. The first, an audio clip from the last part of the 7th Avenue Project. The second, the GS's essay on the super-synchronicity between the programs.) nicer_side_of_primates.mp3
The 7th Avenue Project Soul Man Pt II: The Return of Jazz Singer-Songwriter Gregory Porter. "Gregory Porter says his goal is to make art that’s not forced or contrived, that flows like water from who he is and how he’s lived. This conversation makes it plain just how entwined the singer and his songs are. Our previous interview with Gregory was surely one of our best shows of 2012, and this second one picks up where the first left off. We talked about his precocious taste for jazz, performing gospel in church, the influence of his minister mother and her message of love even in the face of hate, and his seemingly meteoric – but actually long-in-the-making – rise on the jazz scene. We listened to some of Gregory’s recorded music and some that hasn’t been recorded (at least not until now), including his first original song, composed at the age of six."
“This song, this idea, you know, of love being king … when love is king in our lives hungry children will be taken care of, the homeless—the underneath—will be lifted up. You know, music is an interesting thing, an interesting way, to spread an idea—not a new idea, but spread an idea that’s churning in your heart….” —Gregory Porter
The Tower of Song Notes Towards A Musical Philosophy In discussing Porter’s upcoming album, Liquid Spirits, he explains what the title means to him; its symbolism: “But the liquid spirit is water—the soul, the energy the love, the music, the culture—that is sometimes pent up, dammed, rerouted by the music industry, by radio, by sometimes self-imposed …. But my point is the music can sometimes be controlled and guided and shifted and kept away from the people down the way that’s thirsty. The lyric is ‘un-reroute the river / let the dammed water be / there’s some people down the way that’s thirsty / so set the liquid spirit free’ …. And then I encourage the audience, the listener, to release the spirit, clap their hands, and get into it, because the release of energy and soul in music …. So I’m just sayin’ un-reroute the river and let the dammed water be.”
Next, after hearing a bit of the title song from his first album, Water, Porter goes into his creative process, explaining that the theme of water keeps coming up in his music: “Being open to what energy is out there for me to write about. I feel like water in a way, and just opening up and sayin’: okay, what is this next album going to be about? And then the songs come. They just kind of come to me, if I’m organic as water and just let it happen. Now, I’m not saying every song, every piece, that I’m looking for is a masterpiece, but I can say that it is something that comes right from the inspiration into my brain, into my heart, and then into the pen, and it comes organically.”
When Pollie asks him about how this inspiration comes, if his songs come as lyrics or as melody first, Porter informs him that they come together. Pollie is amazed at this and calls it “a gift.” Porter elaborates: “I think things are working themselves out as well in my subconscious before it gets to me—some devil at the back of my brain.” At which point Pollie interjects: “Angel, angel!” [Laughter] Porter responds: “But, yeah, like you know, so when you do sit down and you say, ‘wow, that song just came to me, just like … [Porter bursts into song] un-reroute the river / let the dammed water be / there’s some people down the way that’s thirsty / so set the liquid spirit free ….’ Now when it comes out and pours out of you quickly, you can say, ‘oh, it just poured out of me quickly,’ but it may have been getting itself together in the back of your brain for a little while—the energy of that; that energy is definitely inside of you. Then it’s like … [makes a noise like flowing water]” (Porter, who grew up in the church with gospel music, will later come back to this theme of inspiration and “pent-up energy” when he says; “Once you feel the power and energy of a greater source coming through your body and you feel that energy, you can replicate that sound and that feeling by other things that come naturally as well.” By which he reveals that he means singing popular love songs!)
Pollie comments to Porter that on his show he has interviewed not only musicians but scientists who talk about “what the subconscious is doing; that maybe the majority of thinking and creativity is down there and that the consciousness just gets it at the end, you know, after it’s been worked out.” Both chuckle in mutual agreement, and Pollie concludes: “So that fits right in with some other interviews we’ve done.”
I have taken the time to review some of the content of Pollie’s interview with musician Gregory Porter because I too can say that it “fits right in’’—fits right in with the musical essay I presented that same night and the previous weeks.
By June 24th (the date that the 7th Avenue Project is repeated, after my program, from the previous day) I had presented my fourth and last “Notes Towards A Musical Philosophy” musical essay series, which was about the relationship between philosophy and music in the philosophy of Socrates and Plato, which is defined by them as a “care for soul.” Specifically, it dealt with how, near the end of his life, Socrates (who was always counseled by his daemon—devil or angel in your brain?), at the behest of a voice in his dreams, takes up playing music on the lyre to express his ideas.
I related the Phaedrus dialogue in which Socrates, while walking and discussing philosophy with his pupil, Phaedrus, in the lovely countryside and river, comes to be enraptured by the spirit of inspiration that haunts the place (which is consecrated to the river-god Achelous). His soul is taken over by the mania or “divine madness” (of the Muses) and leaves off his sober argumentation; his strict philosophical rhetoric gradually flows over into lyrical eloquence, astonishing his companion. Finally, overcome by divineinspiration, he must break off his rapt speech before it threatens put him entirely out of his senses! The dialogue closes with Socrates singing a hymn to none other than Pan, the god of wild abandon! So the soul of Socrates, the master dialectician, is taken over by divine madness or inspiration, a gift from heaven, and he's transfigured out of his ordinary, supremely sober character. He is depicted in the enraptured incantation of the poet-musician, offering up hymns to gods of the irrational side of life!
Speculating on this episode in the Phaedrus, I suggested that the mania or inspiration and its resulting song probably represented the side of Socrates’ psyche/soul that was not satisfied with the common discourse of the ironic philosopher. To put it in musician Porter’s terms, the “pent-up energy” (“dammed” up either by outside demands or “self-imposed”) in Socrates’ soul finally burst through and liberated him to be a philosopher-musician (“set the liquid spirit free”).
In closing the section, I pointed out, according to Plato, you can’t be a true philosopher and find “The True” and “The Beautiful” without the gift of “Divine Madness.” (And the highest type of this is the “divine mania of Eros”. So you could say that in Platonic philosophy “love is king”.) I then followed this up with a song, “The Beauty Way,” by Eliza Gilkyson, which is about playing music and not always being able to control your music; that true inspiration isn’t something you can control.
So you can imagine my amazement when I heard Gregory Porter being interviewed on his music and creative process and likening musical inspiration to “water” and “spirit” that just “comes to you” and “flows out of you;” something—“some energy” that is bubbling up from your “subconscious” mind. (This, in common terms, is what Pollie is referring to in interviewing musicologists and neuroscientists about the creative process.) Thus, it was clear to me that both Pollie and Porter, like Socrates and Plato, recognize this kind of inspiration as a “gift” that the ego cannot control. And so I couldn’t help recognizing the uncanny synchronicity of content between our two programs (both about "the soul, the energy the love, the music, the culture"), right down to the fact that Socrates had his major inspiration in a spot consecrated to the Greek river god:
“But my point is the music can sometimes be controlled and guided and shifted and kept away from the people down the way that’s thirsty. The lyric is ‘un-reroute the river / let the dammed water be / there’s some people down the way that’s thirsty / so set the liquid spirit free’ ….” —Gregory Porter
Pollie makes the observation that the bulk of the repertoire of Gregory Porter’s songs have to do with love and love lost. His “relationship song" is a song about his break up and hence the blues. But Porter likens its paradox of sorrow/joy to the blues: “And just like the blues, you know, you can think of the blues as ‘oh, this woe-is-me sad, sorrowful music,’ but sometimes talkin’ about your pain is, you know, the genius of the blues.” Porter then goes on to make a connection with his song about the 1960s (“1960 What”)—about the civil rights movement, the assassination of MLK, the Detroit riots, etc.—to the blues, and points out that the song is about what was and where we are now as well. He then sings a blues phrase to make his point: “Oh, my baby left me / Nothin’ more that I can do / Oh, my baby left me ….” The blues singer is remembering the past, but also where he is now. Porter adds: “There’s a whole bunch of psychological ways to look at these blues, and they’re sophisticated—much more sophisticated than we give them credit for.”
I can’t help but feel that Porter is making a broader point with this; i.e., the sophistication of the blues means that the blues-singer can not only be making a connection between then and now but also between his lost love and his lost political hopes. In other words, there's a submerged connection between romantic love and politics. This, I think, may be the deeper meaning of his remark, “a whole bunch of psychological ways to look at these blues”—i.e., a whole bunch of levels of meaning to a simple blues song.
And in the genre of the love song, both these connections Porter makes about the blues reminds me of my past musical essays on the Troubadours; the 12th-century minstrels who practically invented the paradox of “bittersweet love” (love’s “happy suffering”) and mixed love and politics in their songs. ("The Troubadours used the song as a news and political commentary device." —Daniel Burn)
Speaking of the troubadours and their musical innovations, this is not the extent of Porter’s musical stylizations that can be seen as linking back to the original singers of love song in the 12th century. Pollie next observes about Porter’s musical repertoire: “We’ve been talking about blues and songs about troubles as being comforting in a way, and you have quite a few about love troubles.” He plays an example of this—“Our Love”—, and wants to know the story behind its lyrics (“How did we meet?” “This is the question of our love.” “They pray defeat, petty pallbearers of our love.” “Forces of hate have stormed the gates around the castles of our love.”) Pollie jokingly says these lyrics sound like “Romeo and Juliet or something.” Porter explains that it was inspired by the setting he was in; that the song was written while walking with his lady (who is white; Porter is black) around Tower of London: “It’s essentially a fortress with eight-foot stone walls that house the Crown Jewels of the Queen of England. And, as I was walking around it, I was considering: what if love was inside being protected from these slings and arrows that people send its way? I remember walking down the street with my then lady, and somebody within earshot of me saying: ‘Ah, that’s a weird couple!’” Porter says its been called a “tell-off song”—“to tell off the haters.” “You know, ‘Forces of hate have stormed the gates around the castles of our love’—it’s the treachery in the song; its what I’m talking about. But then, I forget it all. ‘Don’t it sound sweet, our love?’ When I say that’s the sweetest part of the song, like ‘Vultures are flyin’ around the ramparts of the towers of our love.’ Vultures are these birds that are circling for death. They’re waiting for the death of it! But it’s not coming—you’ll go hungry tonight, because … ‘Don’t it sound sweet, our love.’ It took her a while to get it, like ‘Oh it is positive, yeah!’” (She became his wife.) Porter calls this “the power of love.” Pollie comments that it does indeed remind him of a Romeo and Juliet story.
Of course, it reminds Pollie of Romeo and Juliet—but only because Romeo and Juliet should remind us of the stock love stories of the troubadours (from which Shakespeare took his forbidden love theme). The troubadour poems/songs generally contained the conventional figure or figures of the treacherous and jealous enemies of love at the court of the castle. In other words, Porter’s song about the power of love in the face of an uptight society, a song which contains a troubadour commonplace of the deniers of true love and whose lyrics refer to castles (and towers), is very much in the troubadour mold.
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project 6/11/12
The 7th Avenue Project Crossing the Political Divide with Meghan McCain and Michael Ian Black.
"When I spoke last April to comedian Michael Ian Black about his recent memoir, he mentioned his other new book, America, You Sexy Bitch, co-written with Meghan McCain. Michael’s a self-described East-Coast liberal. Meghan’s an avowed red-till-she’s-dead Republican (though an iconoclastic one) and the daughter of John McCain. Though hardly on the same ideological team, the two decry the hyper-partisan bloodsport that passes for political discourse these days in the USA. So they conducted a little experiment in fence-mending, crossing the country together in an RV in search of common ground. I talked to Meghan and Michael about their travels."
The Tower of Song
The GS would have thought that there could be no correspondence whatsoever between the GS's program on the love story of Abelard and Heloise and Robert Pollie's interview about the story of a political relationship between today's liberal and conservative.
But, surprise surprise! In the interview, the issue of how Meghan's parents (especially Senator McCain) felt about her going off on a cross-country road trip with a man, especially a man who was much older than their daughter. (I'm not in any way suggesting that Michael Ian Black and Meghan McCain had an affair! Indeed, one on-line reviewer states: "The relationship between McCain and Black doesn’t provide much entertainment.")
So the issue of social taboos about a younger woman and older man came up. Now, for all the difference in subject matter between our two programs, there was a startling correspondence to be detected here. The GS had spent a page or more discussing the issue of the age difference between Abelard and Heloise, and how that contributed both to the scandal of their love affair and to subsequent historical criticism of their relationship. The GS had noted the recent scholarly revision in the relative ages of the couple. It turns out that the conventional belief that Heloise was a mere teenager when she met and fell in love with Abelard was wrong. Heloise was in her early twenties and Abelard was around thirty-six, which makes for an age difference of about 15 years. What was the age difference, at the time of their summer tour in 2011, between Michael Ian Black (40) and Meghan McCain (27)--13 years--around the same age spread as Abelard and Heloise!
Two very different couples, with two very different relationships, living in two very different times. And, therefore, two stories that couldn't be more incomparable. Yet, for all that, a curious and striking correspondence in subject matter.
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project 6/4/12
The 7th Avenue Project Comedian and Storyteller Kumail Nanjiani
"Kumail Nanjiani’s stand-up performances and his one-man show (“Unpronounceable”) have earned him great reviews and a widening fan base. His success is especially impressive given his relatively recent plunge into comedy. He wasn’t exposed to US-style stand-up before he moved here from Pakistan at the age of 18, and he didn’t try it himself until a few years later. We talked about life and laughs in Pakistan and the US, learning American English from the movies, pushing back against South Asian stereotypes, his creative work ethic (he tries to write new material every day) and more."
"Do you know Louie CK? He's hilarious! But you can see that he's sort of obsessed with this idea of how sex is this powerful force that, you know, keeps nature going and you can't fight against it. And you see that idea and the conception of it evolve. And now, today, he does a bit about sex that at the core is the same idea, but it's evolved and sort of changed. You see that a lot. Like comedians have certain things that are interesting to them. All artistic people do…."
Talking about how comedian Louis C.K.'s stuff on sex rings true to his own life, Kumail tells a story about watching pornography on the VCR as a twelve-year-old. "Ultimately Louis C.K. would say, I couldn't fight it. I'm like a twelve-year-old kid in Pakistan fighting the very force that's kept me alive you know!" "And a big part of the show was me sort of realizing that the thing I felt really guilty about--you know, feelings of lust and looking at women--was not something to be ashamed of because it's the very force that, you know, made the very first thing crawl out of the ooze and, you know, make a VCR. So it's a very powerful force; it's beautiful."
The Tower of Song (Abelard & Heloise)
Kumail Nanjiani was, like the GS, a Philosophy major. Kumail talks about themes and patterns that keep recurring and evolving in his work., which the GS can relate to (since his musical essays repeat certain patterns he's particularly obsessed with).
On his program on the love story of Abelard and Heloise, the GS discussed the eroticism of their affair and the scandal to their societies morals. Therfore, the GS finds a correspondence between his discussing the power of sexuality in the repressive Christian society of the Middle Ages and Kumail's talking about the sexually repressed Islamic society where he grew up.
"In the totality of letters, early and late, we meet Abelard and Heloise as people: we know about their most intimate terms of endearment; we even know about the passion of their lovemaking, of frantic, stolen moments in churches, of inventive sessions and, erotic role-play. Even the early letters are so unfettered by what we might imagine to be the conventions of their age that it is quite common for anyone reading them for the first time to think that they must be fakes. Today, unshocked by their sexual candor and with fewer preconceptions about the age in which they lived, we have a chance to appreciate not only their story but their single-minded attempt to find peace in the face of adversity. Their letters have given us privileged access not only to their inner world but also to a stage of human civilization that many now see as the first step toward the modern world."
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project 3/26/12
7th Avenue Project “Philosophy Fights Back” with academic philosopher Colin McGinn
The Tower of Song
Opening the musical essay with a quote from Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy, the GS discussed the Troubadour concept of “love” (fin’amor) in relation to an esoteric tradition of eroto-spiritual practices that were designed to overcome the separation of sacred and profane love. It was pointed out that the tradition of eros (love) could be traced back to Plato or Platonic philosophy (which defined philosophy as “the love of wisdom”) and later Neo-Platonism. It was further noted that certain erotic philosophers were directly responsible for shaping the poetic love-cult called the Fedeli d’Amore (of e.g. Dante). These were called “lovers of wisdom” (philo-sophia).
The guest on the 7th Avenue Project’s “Philosophy Fights Back” was academic philosopher Colin McGinn, who argued that philosophy is a kind of science and those other sciences would do well to pay it some mind. McGinn wants to bring back the relevance of philosophy not only for science but in our daily lives, a view that has been the topic of musical essays from the GS in the past: “Man cannot live without philosophy. This is not a figure of speech, but a literal fact …. There is a yearning in the human heart that is nourished only by real philosophy and without this nourishment man dies as surely as if he were deprived of food or air. But this part of the human psyche is not known or honored in our culture….” (Jacob Needleman) Although McGinn doesn’t like “the love of wisdom” as a definition of philosophy, he does discuss Plato and Socrates and the enduring relevance of Platonic philosophy, even for some scientists.
As the GS listened to Pollie and McGinn (even though he found serious limitations), he couldn’t help recalling the lyrics from one of the last songs he played out of his musical essay: “Oh, oh, Socrates and Plato / They praised it [eros] to the skies / Anyone whose ever loved / Everyone whose ever tried.” (Van Morison, "I Forgot That Love Existed")
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project 8/15/11
The 7th Avenue Project Guitarist/Composer D.J. Sparr
In town to perform Michael Daugherty's electric guitar concerto Gee's Bend with the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, D.J. Sparr stopped by our studio with instrument in hand. We talked about his wide-ranging career (rock, country, classical...) and listened to some of his performances and original compositions. D.J. also demonstrated some wicked picking and finger-tapping.
The Tower of Song
The GS has no specific harmony or synchronicity to report for the Tower of Song and the 7th Avenue Project for this night. However, because Robert Pollie's guest was a musician the two programs can't help share a general background theme. The GS found D.J. Sparr's noted "eclecticism" in his musical repertoire corresponding to the GS's selection of music for the Tower of Song. But there was one structural harmony that came out in a spectacular way as Robert Pollie wrapped up the interview:
"Well, D.J. it's been a real pleasure to talk to you--just to listen to you just express ideas not only in words, but also on your guitar."
Anyone at all familiar with the Orphic Essay-with-Soundtrack or the ToS website will immediately recognize the connection. The same concept of mixing ideas and music occurs, for instance, not only throughout the "Manifesto" posted on this Program Guide page, but right in its introduction at the top of the page:
The Tower of Song program deals in Ideas--the ideas in music and the music in ideas.
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project 8/8/11
7th Avenue Project "The Psychology of Pleasure" with evolutionary psychologist Paul Bloom
The Tower of Song
The GS finds a particularly fascinating correspondence or synchronicity of content between his program, "The Imagination of Albion," and the 7th Avenue Project program, "The Psychology of Pleasure." The focus of connection: the Imagination.
Host Robert Pollie interviewed Yale evolutionary psychologist Paul Bloom on his latest book, How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like, which deals with the nature of human pleasure, from sex and food to art, music and fantasy. Bloom argues that what we like depends on what we think, and there may be no such thing as purely physical pleasure.
Of course, the GS definitely wants to hear the part about pleasure that deals with "music and fantasy." But, at this point, little does the GS know that this interview would be so uncannily on topic with his own program just ended. He listens intently, and at about 38' (2:38 am) into the interview, it turns to a discussion on the nature and value of the human imagination as a source of pleasure, in evolutionary terms. Now the GS is all ears.
The major question that RP raises is whether the imagination has positive adaptive benefits or is maladaptive behavior that ultimately leads to extinction (for the individual, for the member of the tribe). PB refers to evolutionary psychologists who believe that "a lot of the pleasures of the imagination are so time-consuming—they take up so much of our lives—that they rob us from doing things that on the face of it would be more useful." This draws laughter from RP and reminds him of the Everly Brothers song: “only trouble is gee whiz I’m dreaming my life away.” PB responds with: "Exactly! So it seems to be a bad adaptive strategy to dream your life away…." PB then asks us to imagine [note the term used here] the example of the hunter-gatherer, who spent all his time daydreaming and playing around with his fantasies, and suggests that such a behavior would cause him to soon starve (or, one would also presume, get eaten by a lion). At first the GS thought, as expected with hard-core scientists, that PB was using this quaint little Darwinian moral tale to make the argument that the imagination (the poetic imagination) is a maladaptive trait. (Let the GS translate the typical judgment: "Science--i.e., psychological science--can know confirm what the philosophic Realists, from the British Empiricists to the Logical Positivists, have been telling you as long as there have been those of the species who are fantasists--incurable Romantic Dreamers!") And then PB goes on to conclude that "this world of imagination that we live in now is a fairly modern invention, then it may not have been around long enough for natural selection to get its hands on it." (Let the GS translate again: "We don't yet now from a scientific evolutionary perspective whether the imagination is as frigin' bad as the Realists, Materialists, the Men of Action, etc. have claimed it is.") "Yeah, it figures," the GS thought to himself, "why should I think I would hear anything different from the authoritative men of science--from the psychologists especially, who have taken the soul--and, along with it, the imaginal--out of psychology?"
But wait, before the GS could finish the challenging out-loud response to a voice that had been prerecorded--"What the hell do you mean the imagination hasn't been around all that long!" (the GS had just finished an essay in which he pointed out that the imagination had been manifested in the archaic storytellers and ancient bards)--, RP responds with:
"Well, you know, I know I’m entering full bore storytelling [note the term used here] mode here and inserting my own opinions, but I do think that the state of nature as imagined by people like Hobbes and even by some modern evolutionists is itself a kind of made up thing that involves constant fighting and struggle and all of that, but in fact if you look at pre-technological cultures they do have a lot of leisure time to sit around and tell stories and weave baskets or do cave paintings or whatever, and so a lot of their time does seem to be consumed with these seemingly useless aesthetic activities or imaginal activities. I think we may have always had that going on." (The GS had focused in on the Celtic "storytellers" of ancient Ireland in the special holiday musical essay for Lughnasadh/Lammas (Aug. 1), which kicked off the present essay series.)
The GS was surprised: RP even used one of his favorite terms--imaginal--for the realm of the imagination, which is more positive than "imaginary." (The GS had used the very same term throughout his essay.) But instead of countering with more along these anti-imaginal arguments, PB actually did an about face (or it only seemed as such, because he did earlier indicate that he was not so sure about these particular theories) and related how he had some time ago co-written an article called “Natural Language and Natural Selection,” where it was argued: ". . . that you’d think hunter–gatherers are spending all their time grunting and running around, but what they spend a huge amount of time doing is talking—they spend a huge amount of time telling stories."
Well, you could have knocked the GS over with idealist Berkeley's feather quill! This unexpected change of viewpoint soon got, initiated by RP (who admitted he was an "idealist"), to "the Real vs. the Imagination" thing; i.e., the fundamental premise that the Imagination is just empty fantasy when compared to the "real" world of the senses. In effect RP was asking: But how do we, and in what sense do we, say the Imagination is unreal? And what about things we take for granted as the epitome of verisimilitude (like social institutions) and the most concrete of solid things--how do we know they're not actually collective fantasies? (The GS was reminded of the "Sociology of Knowledge" school and its theory of the social construction of reality.) In point of fact, as RP's astute perception of the contradiction in the conventional view of biological/anthropological science indicates, this Hobbesian world is itself a 19th-century fantasy.
From here, the "seemingly useless" function of the imagination is agreed to actually be not only "an adaptational benefit," but even better, when PB states ". . . we spend a huge amount of our time daydreaming; living in imaginary worlds. . . . But it’s also possible that this serves actually a fairly useful adaptive function in that we treat it as a form of play." Play--now there's a topic that the GS has opined about in his recent essays, linking it to the imagination! (Here, in PB's daring observation, the GS was reminded of J. Huizinga's "Homo Ludens: the Play Element in Culture" theory and his own past essays on ancient Greek philosophy as play.) And it just got better to listen to as the program was reaching its end, when PB observed: "And my hunch—it’s not more than a hunch—, but my hunch is that if you were to strip away the power to daydream from a person he or she would be grossly impaired. "If you were to tell people they had to give up one pleasure . . . I think it would be a big mistake to give up the pleasure of imagination—you would find your life bereft."
Thank you, Paul Bloom! The GS presented his essay(s) just because of the danger that out world, our lives, might be "bereft" of the pleasures of the Imagination. GS recently quoted William Blake, that 19th-century apostle of the Imagination, on this danger: "Art degraded. Imagination denied. War governed the nations." And thank you, too, Robert Pollie: "As you point out, a lot of our pleasure—maybe the majority of our pleasure—has a component of imagination and fantasy in it, whether it’s a pleasure we take in works of art, where we imagine the story behind the work, or fiction, or movies, or TV, or performances, or playing video games, or daydreaming. A huge part of our lives is spent in a kind of made up world. But we get real pleasure from it; the pleasure is as real in some cases as the pleasure we get from some material circumstances."
The GS was, to put it mildly, overjoyed! You don't hear this kind of positive take on the imagination every day on the media [understatement]. But he was doubly overjoyed. Why? Because he knew that anyone who had been previously listening to his program Tower of Song and then listening to the 7th Avenue Project couldn't have missed the amazing connection between the two programs. This program alone certainly justified the GS taking the trouble to post the on-going harmonies or synchronicities between them on his website. Indeed, the GS would go as far as saying that it was almost as if the two speakers on the 7th Avenue Project were reviewing the GS's "Imagination of Albion: the Summertime In England" essay and coming to a judgment as to the validity of its argument about the imagination. (And since it also dealt with the imagination s it related to the "spirit of place" in the English landscape of the Romantic poets, it was intriguing to hear RP observe late in the interview: "When we look at a beautiful landscape, sometimes we say: 'God, it’s just like a painting—that’s really great!' When we look at a painting of a landscape, we say: 'Wow, it looks just like a landscape!''' Of course, the former observation--"God, it’s just like a painting"--is what the GS discussed in his essay; the style that was called the "picturesque," which defined a natural or designed landscape that resembles a painted picture. Here's what I said: ". . . William Wordsworth and the other Lake Poets had taught people to value the picturesque, the sublime, and the Gothic.")
Thus the GS had, let's say, a vested interest in the judgment on the imagination in RP's program, since the GS had come out again in favor of the "Romantic Dreamers" (as he called them--including the tradition of the Druidic "bards" of ancient Albion/Britain) So he certainly didn't want to be shamed immediately after his program by a scientific expert! How embarrassing!--surprisingly contradicted by the very next show.
Well, you win some and you lose some when you are, like the GS, expounding your out-of-the-way views on radio every week, especially in musical essays that are about--and at the same time evoke--the (Romantic) pleasures of the imagination. Then, every once in a while, it seems--just enough to encourage you to keep you going at your lonely task--that you actually won the gold. This night was such a night for the GS!
(The only thing missing from the discussion of the virtues of the imagination in everyday life was the important role the imagination has played in scientific discovery. As that Romantic Dreamer, Albert Einstein, put it: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”)
Therefore, given the odds against you winning, you may be excused, when you are vindicated for your "oddball views" in a BIG WAY for everybody to hear--the GS may be excused, if he wants to shout out, for those Romantic Dreamers (those Beautiful Losers in western civilization), "All power to the Imagination!" and sing: "Ah, the dreamers ride against the men of action / Oh, see the men of action falling back!"
For those interested in gaining a more in-depth appreciation for the harmony and synchronicity between the two programs, the GS has transcribed the last 20+ minutes of the 7th Avenue Project interview and placed the relevant portions of the his musical essay along side for comparison. To view, click below: ToS & 7AP Imagination
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project 7/25/11
The 7th Avenue Project Interviews with John Waters and Philip Glass
"Filmmaker John Waters and composer Philip Glass are both performing (separately) in our area this summer, which gave me an opportunity to talk to them about their lives and work. John discussed his journey from troublemaker to beloved elder, his own role models and his fascination with cults and brainwashing. Philip talked about the new Days and Nights performing arts festival he's launching in Big Sur and vicinity, about writing music for film and the dialogue between modernity and tradition in classical music."
The Tower of Song The GS presented his musical essay, “Romantic Total Revolution: The Democracy Of Soul & The Goddess Of Liberty; An Essay in Argument & Song for the 235th Birthday of America. Part 4”
What nature in her grand March From each other tears apart Is bound onstage and in song. –Friedrich Schiller, “The Artist” (1789)
For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy whereas it now appears finite & corrupt. This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.–William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790)
Generally speaking, these Independence Day musical essays were concerned with the relationship of art/poetry to politics. In this final musical essay, I presented the vision of the Romantic poet, playwright and social theorist Friedrich Schiller’s ideal of a community or state founded on the “aesthetic education of man.” Here, with this “aesthetic education,” Schiller can be seen as a comrade-in-arms with his British contemporary, William Blake, whose “Arts and Sciences of the Imagination” is also the way to human emancipation. In other words, for both Romantics, art leads the way beyond modern limitations to freedom.
This ideal receives its fullest development in Schiller’s in his poetry and prose, as well as in his philosophic essays of the 1790s. Already in 1784, in his lecture on the moral value of theater, Schiller argued that we need the theater to promote the aesthetic experience that provides a “middle state,” a bridge between two states of sense and thought, moral action and idea. A few years later in 1789, he sets this idea to verse in the poem “The Artist:” “What nature in her grand March / From each other tears apart / Is bound onstage and in song.” Here, he had already suggested that art can make man whole. Schiller hopes to prove, based upon the spirit of Greek art, that in aesthetic experience, and in aesthetic education, we have a means of overcoming the obstacles to the externalization of human freedom. Once more, for Schiller the hallmark of aesthetic experience is joy and play, which is embodied in his 1785 poem “Ode To Joy.” (Beethoven used this as a basis for his Ninth Symphony.) Thus for Schiller a “joyous aesthetic character” may and should accompany acts of freedom.
I then went from Schiller and his nineteenth-century Romantic generation to Marcuse and his neo-Romantic generation of the 1960s. The political theorist Herbert Marcuse (1898 – 1979), the “Father of the New Left,” brought Schiller’s ideas into the late twentieth century, applying them to critical social theory. Thus, political revolution is now based on the ontological and epistemological principles of play, love, joy, and sensuousness, which were reflected in the mythological archetypes of Eros, Orpheus, Dionysus, and Narcissus. These mythological figures are in service to the pleasure-principle, and call for the end of alienation and the realization of freedom. Marcuse writes: “And the true mode of freedom is, not the incessant activity of conquest, but its coming to rest in the transparent knowledge and gratification of being.” (The Romantic poet Blake could be seen as aligned with these mythological archetypes, since he envisioned a new social order coming with “an improvement of sensual enjoyment.”)
This brief summary should be enough to substantiate my claim of a overall harmony or synchronicity between the sub-theme of my musical essay—let’s call it the power of art—with the general topic one could identify in the 7th Avenue Project’s program, which consisted of two interviews Robert Pollie presented: the first with filmmaker John Waters and the second with composer Philip Glass. Admittedly this is not, as in many previous synchronicities I’ve noted between our two programs, a matter of specific, stark correspondences, but only one of an indirect, over-arching theme. Thus, I would qualify this synchronicity as restricted to the general topic of the arts and society—in this case, with Waters and Glass, film, theater, and music. (And I think, despite the distance from the aesthetic tastes of the eighteenth-century Romantics, these two avant garde contemporary artists, each in their own field and their own way, are carrying on the revolutionary program that Schiller proposed for the artist.) That said, I trust, if both programs are listened to with an attentiveness to the thematic parallels, not only will one get a sense of a general arts-and-society theme—with ramifications concerning human fulfillment and freedom through art—but also, perhaps, subtle one-to-one points of connection will manifest themselves.
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project 5/2/11
The 7th Avenue Project "The Science of Happiness: Filmmaker Roko Belic"
"Thirty years ago, human happiness seemed like a pretty unserious subject for scientific study. These days positive psychology, as happiness research is known, is de rigeur. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Roko Belic (Genghis Blues) explores the science of contentment in his latest doc, Happy. Belic traveled to five continents, talking to researchers, comparing the state of satisfaction in various countries and finding some very jolly people. Does happiness depend on our material conditions? Just how much control do we have over our own sense of well-being? And whence the intellectual prejudice that happiness lacks gravitas?"
In considering all the applications of "happiness," Robert Pollie asks his guest about the famous phrase in the Declaration of Independence: "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
The Tower of Song The GS's musical essay, "Beltane/May Day 2011," discussed the medieval and early modern period Beltane/May Day festivities in terms of carnival or the sociological term "carnivalesque," and its history and relationship to collective joy. He noted that the church and state had been threatened by these festivities of carnivalesque, especially the maypole, as they became more politicized. Eventually, these May Day festivities were banned. Here's what the GS had written:
Even as it was politicized, the pagan maypole continued to play its traditional role as a signal and centerpiece for public festivity. There is “no doubt,” according to the same French historian, “of the privileged link between the maypole and collective joy”—or, we might add, between collective joy and spontaneous uprisings from below. . .
To the wealthy, carnival could only evoke what the historian Stephen J. Greenblatt describes as “the great ruling class nightmare of the Renaissance: the marauding horde, the many headed multitude, the insatiate, giddy, and murderous crowd.” As a result, the maypole was outlawed by the Puritans in the seventeenth century and by the Catholic authorities in the eighteenth. Oddly enough, this Renaissance nightmare sounds curiously similar to the one feared by our own early Federalists: the unwashed and unruly democratic mob, who had nonetheless been promised by the Declaration of Independence “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Considering the irony here, would it be too much to say that as a result of the suppression of the May Day carnival, pleasure and happiness themselves had eventually become politically subversive? . . .
The loss, to ordinary people, of so many recreations and festivities is incalculable—it must have seemed as if pleasure itself had been declared illegal.
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project 4/18/11
The 7th Avenue Project "The Dark Universe"
"Scientists thought they knew what the universe is made of. They were wrong. Over the last several decades, astronomers and physicists have come to realize they only understand about 4-5 percent of the cosmic recipe, the part that’s made of 'ordinary matter.' The remaining 95-96 percent or so consists of an as-yet-unidentified material known as 'dark matter,' together with some even more mysterious stuff known as 'dark energy.' Astrophysicist Rocky discusses what we know and don’t know about dark matter and dark energy. Then science writer Richard Panek describes the sometimes bumpy road to their discovery. Roughly 96 percent of the universe is made of something other than ordinary matter--namely, 'dark matter' and 'dark energy.'"
The Tower of Song The GS presented his musical essay, "The Troubadours & The Beloved #5," and opened the program (on a full moon night) with the song, "Full Moon, Big Circle," which began with the following verses:
woke up in the night wonderin’ why it is that i can’t sleep woke up in the night wonderin’ why it is that i can’t sleep the lady in the mirror says "it’s the company you don’t keep" you better go out in the full moon, big circle, bright light full moon, big circle, bright light come into the company of everything you know at night
a lot of what i know is in the darkness and cannot be seen a lot of what i know is in the darkness and cannot be seen but when i sit inside it, i can see the skinny outline of a dream
GS comments that this song is about "the company of everything you know in the night;" i.e., the company of those who take the via negativa path to the Tower of Song--the "Visionary Company of the Tower of Song." In other words, opined the GS, this song (and, consequently, this program) is about "Those who can see better in the dark than in the daylight"--the dreamers and visionaries of the Tower of Song. The GS went on the present his 5th in the "Troubadour & The Beloved" series of musical essays, this one discussing the the Andalusian mystic-poet-lover Ibn Arabi and his account of his "mystic night of power," where he meets his Beloved.
Imagine the GS's surprise when the 7th Avenue Project follows and host Robert Pollie opens his program and opines about the astro-physicists that these scientists, who explore dark matter, have "learned to love the dark."
As in previous harmonies between our two programs, the parallels of theme are all the more astonishing just because the topics are so different.
This is to document synchronicity between the Gypsy Scholar’s Tower of Song program and Robert Pollie’s 7th Avenue Project—an ongoing harmony of content that encompasses weeks of mutual programming, beginning around the start of the GS’s first musical essay in the series “The Troubadours & The Beloved” and RP’s 7th Avenue Project’s program, “Not Totally Insane: The New Cosmology” (both of which were broadcast on February 28) and running through the last week’s two programs (April 18). In attempting to delineate this complex synchronicity the GS hopes that by the end his listeners will think him not totally insane.
The GS felt that the synchronicity of theme was so astonishing that he decided only a full essay could do it justice, and besides it gave him an opportunity to write about the topic of the 7th Avenue Project's program (and its other programs on the same topic) from his perspective. To access the essay, "The Dark Universe, The Dark Goddess, & the Ancient-Future Cosmology," click on the link below.
The Tower of Song This program on Nov. 29, 2010 featured the Essay-with-Soundtrack: "The Crazy Wisdom of Lady Melancholia & Leonard Cohen's Black Romanticism"
On December 20, 2010, the Gypsy Scholar presented the final installment of the "Samhain Dark Night of the Soul" series. Much of the musical essay discussed the phenomenon of the late 19th-century poetic movement of "Black Romanticism," which, as its name suggests, concerned itself with a fascination and preoccupation of the darker side of life than did the first generation of Romantic poets. Of these Black Romantic poets, Baudelaire ("The Flowers of Evil") is the most definitive and well known. Hence, the Gypsy Scholar attempted to locate Leonard Cohen's poetry and song in this transgressive Black Romantic tradition.
Now, you wouldn't think that Robert Pollie's main guest, Amy Sedaris, the epitome of wacky comedy has anything to do with such a dark theme. And you're right—she doesn't. However, if you waited long enough and listened to the last 15 minutes of the show, it's a different story. Pollie brought back a previous interview he did with John Waters, the American filmmaker, actor, writer, journalist, visual artist, and art collector, who rose to fame in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films, particularly the early '80s "trash films" (the most famous being Hairspray in 1988). Waters has written a memoir, Shock Value. Waters is the bad boy of bad taste. And it turns out that there's a primary element in his life and his art that synchronized wonderfully with the Black Romantic theme of the Gypsy Scholar's musical essay.
Below, the GS will first briefly outline the relevant content of the musical essay on Cohen and Black Romanticism and then summarize the Waters interview, with the elements that synchronize with it. However, as the GS has pointed out before, the synchronicity running through the two programs may not be so much on the surface, but there in a deeper thematic way. See if you don't agree.
The Tower of Song musical essay began with the following epigraphs:
There is no doubt that healthy-mindedness is inadequate as a philosophical doctrine, because the evil facts which it refuses to account for are a genuine portion of reality; and they may after all be the best key to life’s significance, and possibly the only openers of our eyes to the deepest levels of truth. –William James
But love has pitched his mansion / In the place of excrement; / For nothing can be sole or whole / unless it is rent. –W. B. Yeats
The world of the Black Romantic may not be a particularly pleasant one, but its awareness of the darker side of human consciousness is a helpful counterbalance to a literary tradition that professes an ignorance of the human animal as complete as any of the Polyanna Glad Books. –Sandra Djwa
The crazy artist, the daft poet and mad professor are neither romantic cliches nor antibourgeois postures. They are metaphors for the intimate relation between pathologizing and imagination. Pathologizing processes [e.g. “depression”] are a source of imaginative work, and the work provides a container for the pathologizing processes. . . . Pathologizing itself is a way of seeing . . . . –Dr. James Hillman
The Gypsy Scholar identified Leonard Cohen, or at least his poetic credo, with the late 19th-century poetic school of “Black Romanticism.” The reason for doing so is that some of his greatest songs (e.g., "Anthem" and "Boogie Street") exemplify the essential paradox of the Black Romantic spiritual worldview—in the sense that both advocate a transgressive counter-valuing of the traditional negation of the world in the name of religious transcendence and, thus, ask us to consider re-valuing the very purpose and meaning of the darkness, brokenness, and fracturedness of the world and of our lives in it. The GS identified the paradoxical spiritual dimension of what he termed the via negativa or via contrarius of Black Romanticism in Leonard Cohen’s music. In this way he both rejected the glib negative epithets that music critics have labeled Cohen with (“the grocer of despair,” “the godfather of gloom,” “the prince of bummers,” the "poet laureate of pessimism”) and re-visioned them to a deeper meaning.
The GS went on to suggest that Cohen's negative critical reception in this country was prejudiced by the American character or temperament; that, in fact, its proverbial “optimistic character” would preclude, as opposed to the European (where Cohen has consistently been greatly popular), his appreciation of his music, with its deep existential angst, which manifests a darker reality than most American popular singer-songwriters exhibit. Then, turning to the later phase of 19th-century Romanticism, where he located Cohen's art, he pointed out that the Black Romantics differed from their predecessors in that they seemed to champion the darker side or the forbidden side of human nature as a way of liberation—a sort of Western left-hand path. From the Black Romantics in the late 19th century to the Symbolists and in the early 20th century with the Surrealists, the last heirs to Black Romanticism, there was a sustained rebellion and attack on bourgeois values, logic, reason, and instead fostered an obsession with death, the dark and decadent imagination, and the uncanny. The GS maintained that Cohen would seem to be closest to this Black Romantic European tradition of Baudelaire and Genet, and to their American affiliates Henry Miller and William Burroughs. (Burroughs, by the way, was mentioned in the 7th Ave. Project interview as one of those who gave Waters praise.)
Black Romanticism was seen as rooted in the poetry of Baudelaire’s and his “flowers of evil.” As Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal makes clear, the value of “the abyss,” is not on1y the pleasure of the new sensation but the possibility of a new revelation beyond the experience itself. Thus, the Baudelairian Black Romantic paradoxically “looks for light in the darkest places” and makes a radical affirmation of the negative things in life, like its pathologies. Though often accomplished through a combination of alcohol, drugs, and sex, it would seem to be metaphysical in nature in that it is an attempt to find a new answer to the human predicament by going down instead of up—of taking sides with the outcast and despised of Western society. The Black Romantics, it was pointed out, looked for new values in the repressed; in the rejected, the lowly, the despised, and the feared—in everything that their dominant (Apollonian/Christian/Cartesian) civilization repressed. It was then pointed out that the Black Romantic's dark quest was actually a metaphorical "journey into the self."
Later in the musical essay, the Gs connected and complemented Black Romanticism through the insights of the depth-psychology school, where the pathology of the dis-integrative experience (e.g. "depression") is presented not only through the journey into the self but also through the form of the work (which, as one of the opening epigraphs reflected, accurately applies to Cohen's work):
As a creative artist, Cohen is interested in how the descent into the chaos and evil—through sex, drugs, and rock’in’roll—culminates in the creation of art. Thus in Cohen, as with Baudelaire, the value of strange beauty and the disintegrative process in general is given as the creation of art. This means that Cohen’s credo about the relationship between experience and art—that the value of experience is to be found in the art or “beauty” distilled from it—is a familiar motif of the late, “decadent school” of Romantics, or Black Romantics. Indeed, Cohen’s suggestion about the “strange beauty,” which can spring from a community of evil and suffering, particularly invokes Baudelaire’s Fleurs du mal. Within the world of the contemporary Black Romantic, like Cohen, the dis-integrative experience—“falling apart,” as the depth-psychologists would say—is presented not only through the journey into the self but also through the form of the work.
Finally, in order to bring home the outsider character of the Black Romantics, GS evoked the transgressive, antinomian sentiments of that proto-Black Romantic, the heretical Gnostic Christian, William Blake, who said of the angel of Nobodaddy: “We both read the Bible day and night / but where he reads black, I read white.” (The Gnostic element in Blake was in re-visioning the serpent in the Garden of Eden story of the Bible not as the archetypal villain of the myth, but its hero—Wisdom in disguise.) This temperamental contrariness—a via contrarius that goes the opposite way of bourgeois society—is the signature of the Black Romantics, one that manifested itself in championing the cause of the losers in Western culture, such as Cohen's "Beautiful Losers." Then his song, "The Captain," was played, which contained the verse: "I'm on the side of Always Lost /Against the side of Heaven; / I'm on the side of snake-eyes / Tossed against the side of seven."
As heard in the 7th Avenue Project interview, this Gnostic/Antinomian re-valuing of founding-myths and -stories certainly applies to the "Black Romanticism" of the filmmaking art of John Waters.
__________________________________ The 7th Avenue Project's interview with John Waters.
John Waters is the consummate Outsider, one who made despised "trash" more respectable. A provocateur, radically different form other people, Waters was never interested in what other kids in school were interested in. He claims that the reason he didn't end up in prison because of his perverse imagination was due to his show-business outlet for his strange obsessions. He hated authority with a passion. In an antinomian way, he was always, even a a kid, a fan of the villains in movies—only one who rooted for the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz. He didn't understand why everyone didn't prefer her magical castle to Dorothy's dreary old Midwest farm. RP observed, because of all Waters' anti-bourgeois obsessions: "You were from the very beginning the polar opposite of everything we're supposed to be." JW: "I was joyous though!" RP: "Did you ever have moments of weakness, though, where you tried to be good, where you tried to fit in, where you tried to swear off, you know, the dark side." JW: "No, but my parents wanted me to—they were mortified. That caused a certain bit of tension at the home. But, you know, I never fit in and I didn't want to. I was mad that I had to play sports. I was mad that my father tried to be nice and take us to the football game and I would fantasize the bleachers collapsing. I always was a little bit of the ghoul." RP observes that the press is fond of giving him nicknames and titles: "The Sultan of Sleaze," "The Prince of Puke," "The King of Bad Taste," "The Pope of Trash," "The Den-Mother of the Bizarre." (The only one Waters objects to is "The Pope of Trash." He states that he should be embarrassed to be called the "pope" of anything because of its authoritarian character.) RP also observes that despite the anti-social negativity there's always an underlying "warmth and fondness that's in all of your movies." RP: "The thing about your movies is, if people only hear about them they think: scary, dark, destructive. But there's an undertone amidst bad behavior of real sort of ... dare I say love?" JW: "Well, yeah, I only make movies about people I love. I look up to the bad taste that I use as a subject matter. . . ."
Yes, finding love in the midst of the trash; looking up at bad taste and, conversely, looking down at bourgeois good taste! Therefore, the Gypsy Scholar would suggest that for the art of John Waters, it was as if the 7th Avenue Project interview was a contemporary example of Black Romanticism in filmmaking. SYNCHRONICITY!
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project11/22/10
The 7th Avenue Project "Language Ain't What it Used to Be."
"Linguist Guy Deutscher discusses our restless, ever-changing language. Have languages gotten more complex or simpler over the centuries? Does improper usage threaten the integrity of language? How does language evolve? Are language skills innate or learned?"
The Tower of Song
This program on Nov. 29, 2010 featured the Essay-with-Soundtrack:"The Festival Season Samhain On The Neo-Pagan Calendar, Part 5: Melancholia, Saudade, & the Dark Night of the Soul" On November 22, after the Gypsy Scholar’s Essay-with-Soundtrack program, entitled “Melancholia, The Dark Night of the Soul, & the Dark Goddes,” he heard the host of the 7th Avenue Project, Robert Pollie and his guest, the linguist Guy Deutscher, tackle the obstinate question in linguistic science: Is human brain hardwired for language or is language learned by experience?
This immediately caught the GS’ attention. He had just finished his program wherein he discussed, among other related subjects, melancholia, the winter blues, and creativity through song—some oh so sad songs—, and he wanted to know, from a linguistic point of view, where music was in all this. As he listened, waiting for some hint as to the relationship between language and music, the GS couldn’t help but think back to the 7th Ave Project's Oct. 24th program, wherein Dan Levitin, the neurologist, musicologist, and musician was interviewed and asserted that music came before language in our evolution. (The World in Six Songs.) [Please refer to the link to hear the GS’ laying out the harmony—the synchronicity—between his program and this one.]
Unfortunately, the interview terminated and the GS heard nothing that would directly refer to his concern. Yet, even so, there was this minor synchronicity of content having to do with the literary metaphor of “going through the looking-glass.” In fact, there were 3 instances of it between the two programs. The GS thought that was the end of the meaningful coincidences between the content two programs. However, it wasn’t really the last chance—the real harmony or synchronicity between the programs came when Robert Pollie finished the interview with the linguist and then went out with a song—a Fado song never identified. To listen to the Essay-with-Soundtrack discuss the synchronicity between the two programs of the previous week (11/22/10), click the links below: tos_sam-mel_10_5_(1).mp3 tos_sam-mel_10_5_(2).mp3
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project10/25/10
The 7th Avenue Project "Musicality and Evolution" "Neuroscientist/musician Daniel Levitin discusses his most recent book, The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature.(Originally broadcast Dec., 2008.)" The Tower of Song
This program featured the Essay-with-Soundtrack:"Van Morrison Tribute & The World in Six Songs (Evolution and Music)"
The Tower of Song program for October 25th (12 a.m.) was a tribute program to Van Morrison (who did a concert at the Masonic Center in SF on Oct. 8), which consisted in playing his music. The 7th Ave Project program that night (2 a.m.) was about music--a musicological perspective. In this case, an interview with Dan Levitin, neuroscientist, record producer, and musician (author of This is Your Brain on Music and latest book, The World in Six Songs), who argues that music and musicality isn't just a product of evolution, but a driving force in our evolution. This, of course set up the synchronicity between the two programs. However, a scientific discussion about music and evolution doesn’t necessarily mean that the subject matter of the Gypsy Scholar’s program, which was more philosophical and literary in nature, will be synchronous. Yet, for all that, some of the statements Levitin made about the cultural history of song resonated beautifully with what the Gypsy Scholar presented. Such harmonization of perspective was enough to spin your brain around on music.
To hear the full program the Gypsy Scholar devoted to this amazing synchronicity, click links below:
The 7th Avenue Project "By Heart: Prison. Poetry. Two Lives" "Judtih Tannenbaum was a teacher working in San Quentin. Spoon Jackson was an inmate serving a life sentence. On this edition of the show, they talk about how they met, discovered a mutual love of poetry and formed a lasting friendship."
The Tower of Song The program featured an Orphic Essay-with-Soundtrack: "Notes Toward A Musekal Philosophy." Gypsy Scholar logs yet another "synchronicity" (or harmony) on content between his Tower of Song and the 7th Avenue Project programs. He presents his evidence here for all to read. The GS is both truly elated to hear Spoon Jackson's prison story and its significance for his own program and profoundly humbled by Spoon's journey in overcoming the impossible obstacles to his poetic vocation and his learning.
The Prisoner as Poet & the Spirit of Socrates
The Gypsy Scholar's Tower of Song program featured an Orphic Essay-with-Soundtrack on "philosophy" [Inspired by the same topic on KUSP's Agony Column a week before. See post above this section for details.] In this musical essay, the GS tried to reconnect Western philosophy back to its poetic/shamanic origins. The essay opens by describing the Platonic dialogue wherein the founder of Western rationalistic "philosophy," Socrates, after imprisoned and sentenced to death, unexpectedly begins, in obedience to a voice in a recurring dream, to write verse and compose hymns to the gods(Apollo, the god of music and father of the Muses, Eros, the god of love, and Pan, god of the wilds, sexuality, music, and companion of the nymphs). It also describes the dialogue that took place in nature, a place consecrated to Achelous (river god and father of Sirens) and the Nymphs, a place where Socrates gradually falls under its inspiration and his strict rhetoric gradually flows over into lyrical eloquence and rapture, astonishing his companion. The GS identifies Socrates, the sober dialectician (the inventor of the "Socratic method" or "elenctic method"), as a "Dionysian poet-musician" (since the latter dialogue closes with a hymn to none other than Pan, the god of wild abandon). The essay goes on to show how Plato (the ex-dramatist), despite his distancing his "philosophy" from poetry, actually brought about a new synthesis of "philosophy" and mytho-poetics. ("The important thing to recognize here is the close relationship between Plato’s poetic writing and his philosophizing in the form of narrative dialogues.") Once more, it demonstrated that, like poetry, "philosophy" was also a cultural form of "play," and, therefore, "philosophy" is more like a poetic art. (The Romantics would later declare that "the end of philosophy is poetry.")
Now, what does any of this have to do with the 7th Avenue Project interview with Spoon Jackson, who discovered that he was a poet after being in prison several years? I will answer this in a way that demonstrates the corresponding connections (i.e. "harmonies") between the content of the two programs.
First of all, the obvious: Socrates was tried in 399 BCE on the basis of two notoriously ambiguous charges: corrupting the youth and impiety, and Spoon began serving a sentence of Life Without Possibility of Parole in 1977 for murder. Ergo, both Socrates and Spoon are prisoners. But, their respective lives are in reverse of each other: Socrates was old when he went to prison and (according to my essay) was reborn as a special type of poet; on the other hand, Spoon was young when he went to prison and (according to the interview) matured into an accomplished poetic vocation. He learned to "own language" as Socrates/Plato owned language (i.e., dialectic).
Secondly, Spoon is a fine example of Socratic education of the streets. To explain: In the Meno dialogue, Socrates demonstrates that an uneducated plebeian boy nevertheless understands geometric principles. Plato theorizes about the relationship between knowledge and experience and provides an explanation for how it is possible to know something that one has never been explicitly taught. Thus, Plato believed that we possess innate ideas that precede any knowledge that we gain through experience. This is why for Plato, education (paideia) was a drawing-out of knowledge already in the student. This leads to the Socratic principle of "self-examination" ("The unexamined life is not worth living."). But here, in order to make a valid connection, we must get away from the idea that Socrates is exclusively a historical figure who founded the "Socratic method." So who or what is Socrates? As I quoted in my essay, Socrates represents a type of philosophic spirit; the spirit of interrogation to penetrate beyond appearances, the spirit of self-inquiry as an act of deep attention:"Socrates represents a higher level of the mind that is more than just about ideas; indeed, it could be said that the mythic Socrates 'represents an energy of soul within our human nature that holds the potential for transformation.'" Furthermore, it has been observed that the entire teaching of "philosophy" is summed up in the phrase "give attention to (care for) soul."
Thirdly, there is a literal parallel with the Athenian street-philosopher himself here. Socrates thought of himself as a "self-taught" philosopher. He presents the perfect picture of the self-taught amateur, who rhetorically upsets dull-witted men in general and the more highly-educated in particular. Ergo, I would suggest that the impoverished street kid Spoon, who no one wanted was self-taught or, more to the point, taught by his inner Socrates, the spirit of soulful, introspective attention--the energy of real philosophy.
And, finally, what about the prison-poet's muse, the woman who Spoon credits as helping him to find himself as a poet? Would it be too much to compare this relationship to Socrates and his muse(s)? Socrates frequently says his ideas are not his own, but his teachers'. He mentions several influences. But most primary are, perhaps surprisingly, two women who been influenced him: Diotima, the priestess from Mantinea, who taught him all he knows about eros, or love, and Aspasia, the mistress of Pericles, taught him the art of rhetoric. So take your pick, either of these could be analogous Spoon's Judith.
By Heart: Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives by Judith Tannenbaum is the book that tells Spoon Jackson's amazing story. The review of the book sums it up this way:
"Spoon’s hunger to transcend his past and open his world. Judith longs to find, like Gertrude Stein, a 'charmed circle' of artists; the one she discovers is in a basement classroom at San Quentin Prison. As a teacher in California's Arts-in-Corrections program, Judith recognizes Spoon’s true gifts as a poet, and so begins their decades-long relationship as writers, friends and explorers of human imagination and spirit."
There is much of Socratic irony here. The Socratic irony of where Judith finds Stein's proverbial “charmed circle” of artists. (There is also the Socratic irony of the man permanently in prison being, in reality, a free man--and, conversely, the men outside of the bars the real prisoners).
Gloria Steinem's review provides me with the last connection I want to male with the subject of my program, Socrates and philosophy.
"A boy with no one to listen becomes a man in prison for life and discovers his mind can be free. A woman enters prison to teach and becomes his first listener. And so begins a twenty-five year friendship between two gifted writers and poets. The result is By Heart — a book that will anger you, give you hope, and break your heart."
A mere coincidence, or a synchronicity that her book is entitled By Heart and my favorite book on philosophy is entitled The Heart of Philosophy? And talk about "break your heart"! Here's a passage from my favorite book:
"The heart of philosophy is always breaking. Truth, ideas that come from a higher level, pass judgment on me--and on you, the reader. Do you think that you can escape that."
(Anymore than a convict can escape prison?) Since I played a song for my musical essay which spoke in harmony with its insights, I will repeat the relevant verses to conclude this piece. But before that, the rest of the relevant sentences from the aforementioned book on philosophy:
"There is a real yearning in the human heart that is nourished only by real philosophy . . . . Therefore we need to enter once again the stream of great ideas in order to magnetize the heart, the eros, the sense of wonder . . . ."
"Down deep, we have been forbidden by fear and vanity to ask the questions of the heart. Thus we grow up settling for the answers of the personality."
". . . the human history of the repeated failure of great ideas to penetrate the human heart."
". . . it must touch not only the intellect but also the heart."
"These questions must touch the heart. As a general rule, the great questions of philosophy are those that we have all but given up hope of ever seeing asked or answered, questions that somewhere deep within us, in the child within us, we long to think about, dream about. These questions that have a certain quality of magic about them. That means they touch something in us, something that is at the same time utterly intimate and impersonal, something that we can refer to by the paradoxical words 'the warmth of real objectivity.'"
"Are we prepared to let the Question break through into our awareness, there to begin its journey toward the heart? . . . The Question is our Socrates--within a certain scale and limit. To be authentic it has to shake the mind and heart in ways that parallel the impact of Socrates on Alcibiades, bringing both sides of our nature into view."
" . . . the latter call the heart of the man to seek out 'Socrates.' Philosophy is for calling the heart within the mind."
Oh, oh Socrates and Plato they Praised it to the skies. Anyone who's ever loved Everyone who's ever tried.
If my heart could do my thinking And my head begin to feel I would look upon the world anew And know what's truly real.
(Note: In making the point about the paradoxical/dialectical synthesis of head and heart through "philosophy," I quoted in the essay William Blake's verse that begins with "A tear is an intellectual thing." Thus, upon hearing about Spoon Jackson's "crying with a pain that cannot be comforted," I marveled how true it was that for Spoon "a tear is an intellectual thing.")
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project4/5/10
The 7th Avenue Project "What's So Special About Tango?"
Robert Pollie explores the music and dance that captured the hearts of millions. Guests include tango historians Donald Cohen and Christine Denniston, and members of the Santa Cruz tango community, Michael Wheeler and Nancy Lingeman.
This is a repeat program from exactly a year ago. I have already posted my catalogue of synchronistic harmonies for this program and my own. (See below.) However, now that I'm doing another series of essays, "The New Year & Rebirth In Archaic Myth & Ritual," it offers a second chance to display another round of synchronistic harmonies. This time, it was a real challenge for the GS to find a synchronicity between his program on the topic of this week's Tower of Song musical essay (New Year & Rebirth/Polar Myth/Easter) and the 7th Ave Project's "What's So Special About Tango?".
But since the GS has an indomitable penchant for finding correspondences/harmonies in content between the two programs, he has come up with the following. And though these may not be as readily apparent as those listed last time, the GS believes they are nevertheless there under the surface and are profound. ("The unseen harmony is mightier than the visible.")
The Tower of Song
The GS's program featured Essay-with-Soundtrack: "The New Year & Rebirth in Archaic Myth & Ritual: Part 11, The Pre-Christian Origins of Easter"
(1) Don Cohen on Tango: "Tango was born in brothels mostly—bars and taverns and brothels." "It is [Tango] a very ritualized, formalized structure within which a great deal of passion is contained."
(2) GS on Easter and the love of Ishtar and Tammuz: "Of all the pagan goddess from whom the festival of Easter derived, Ishtar and her mythology contain the most intriguing elements of association. In the Babylonian pantheon, Ishtar is a goddess of fertility, love, and sex, and she was the divine personification of the planet Venus. Ishtar was above all associated with sexuality: her cult involved sacred prostitution; her holy city Erech was called the "town of the sacred courtesans;" and she herself was the "courtesan of the gods." Ishtar had many lovers, chief among which was Tammuz, god of vegetation and the harvest."
(3) Nancy Lingeman on Tango: " . . . I feel like I’m the Eternal Woman dancing with the Eternal Man. And I don’t even know this person but we can create a beautiful dance together ans then we just go our separate ways. But it is a chance to express the femininity of the Tango follower and he can express the masculine element of the Tango leader. So it’s just a man and a woman relating, but it’s not anything but the Tango . . . .”
(4) GS on the Pre-Christian Origins of Easter: "One of the greatest Sumerian rites was the 'sacred marriage' between the goddess and the god—Inanna and Dumuzi or Ishtar and Tummuz."
The hierogamy or "sacred marriage" is a repeating theme that runs through many of these essays in this series. Simply put, the King sexually unites with the Goddess--personified by a temple priestess--in order to bring fertility, abundance, and well-being to the people. Thus Nancy Lingeman's way of putting what happens in the relationship of Tango dancers is very much to the point of the hierogamy ritual: they become the archetypal "Eternal Man" and "Eternal Woman."
(5) Christine Denniston on Tango: “To me, the most important thing about a good relationship between a leader and a follower in Tango is that they pay attention to each other." "Leader and follower do not equate to dominance and submission. And that’s a very important point. It’s very easy to get the idea that the man is in control and that the woman is his slave, being thrown around at his whim. But that’s not the relationship at all. In reality, it’s a very cooperative action, and if one of the dancers is in a higher status position it is, in fact, the woman. First of all, the dance was created in an environment where the woman naturally had a high status. So that was inevitably reflected in the dance. But more than that, the relationship between the man and the woman when they’re dancing . . . is the man job to please the woman and the woman’s job is to allow herself to be pleased." "In learning to Tango, because of the scarcity of women, men had to dance with men and so the novice had to take on the role of the follower, and so take on the role that was the woman’s before he could become a leader." "The man must learn the dance like a child learns to talk. He has to listen. This is exactly the situation of the men learning to dance in Buenos Aires. To begin with, they followed, which is listening. . . . Once they started to understand the grammar and the vocabulary of the dance, then, once they knew how it worked, they were in a position to have a go at it from the other side; to have a go at speaking. So it’s a very natural and organic way of learning how to do something. Plus the experience of dancing the woman’s role makes it absolutely clear what feels good to the woman and what doesn’t. It’s a really vital component of learning how to do it properly."
(6) "Epilogue to Part 10, The Shamanic Journey To The North Pole Star & The Golden-Age Arctic Homeland"
The important thing here is Christine Denniston's idea of the man switching gender roles, humbling himself, and learning to feel what it is to be a woman in the subordinate position. All in order to be a real leader. (". . . so the novice had to take on the role of the follower, and so take on the role that was the woman’s before he could become a leader.") The correspondence or parallel here is harder to see, but it is there in the first hour of my program wherein a presented the Epilogue to essay #10. There I discussed the myth-theme of the "night-sea journey" of the solar hero, which C.G. Jung found to be an analogy to the individuating person's "descent into the unconscious" (the inner sea). Now in the mythic narratives its either about the sun itself going down into the sea every evening and being reborn at dawn, or the solar hero-god (the dying-and-reborn gods of the ancient Near East) enacting the same story--death and rebirth. As I also pointed out about the essential meaning of Easter symbolism in the second essay of the night, it is about "the universal death and resurrection theme;" how out of death comes life. But this "death" doesn't have to be literal: "Sometimes the 'death' in question is a physical death. But at other times it is, and has long been, understood as a 'psychic death'—that is, as self denial, self sacrifice, or self forgetting, while yet in the midst of life."
Now, putting these two essays together, I think there's a pretty good synchronicity here between the two programs. The Jungian idea of the night-sea journey as the "descent into the unconscious" during the "individuation process" oftentimes takes the form of a man seeking wholeness (the circular "quaternity of the self," which is connected to the unity of opposites at the North Pole: "It is a model of the structure of the self") by integrating his repressed feminine into his conscious personality. This is experienced as a kind of descent and death for the male (solar) ego. (In my essay on the "Polar Myth," I identified the archetype of the "night-sea journey" as the sun's descent into the maternal sea each evening.) Actually, this recovering the feminine other for the male ego to become whole is told in the myth of the most macho of all the Greek heroes--Heracles. There is a cycle of Heracles' twelve labors where he must become a woman. (Here, I had mentioned in my essay on the "Polar Myth" that Hercules' "Twelve Labors" are recognized to be emblematic of the sun's annual journey through the twelve signs of the zodiac.) He is enslaved to Omphale, queen in Asiatic Greece. He dresses in women's clothes and becomes one of the several transvestite heroes in Greek myth. (Omphale is significant. Her name means "navel," as in the omphalos, the navel of the world.) Again, this archaic idea comes up repeatedly in my series of essays, as well as in this week's, as the "symbolism of the center;" the macrocosmic axis mundi, the pole of the earth, as well the microcosmic spinal column of Kundalini Yoga. Thus Omphale would be, in Jungian terms, the archetypal anima at the center of the self, which needs to be integrated into the conscious male ego. Thus, I would suggest that what we can see in the ritual dance of Tango an analogy of the "process of individuation" whereby the male becomes integrated with the female.
(7) Michael Wheeler on Tango: “In ballroom Tango, all of the energy is cast out from the center of the relationship of the ballroom dancers, where in Argentine Tango—in authentic, traditional Tango—all of the energy is drawn into the center of the relationship of the two dancers, and it focus around the co-joined hearts and the axis of the dancers . . . it naturalizes your heart and your soul through the music and the movement."
(8) "Epilogue to Part 10, The Shamanic Journey To The North Pole Star & The Golden-Age Arctic Homeland"
Michael Wheeler's idea of "the axis of the dancers" coincides with my series of essays focusing on the mythical world axis; the world tree, the shaman's staff, the pole of the earth, the spinal column etc. There is a sacred dance that embodies the world axis and the stars in its rotating movement. This is the Whirling Dervish dance of the Mawlawi Order. (The Mawlawi was founded in 1273 by Rumi's followers after his death.) The whirling is part of the formal Sema ceremony and was practiced according to a precisely prescribed symbolic ritual with the dervishes whirling in a circle around their sheikh, who is the only one circling around his axis. The dance represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through mind and love to the "Perfect." (This fits in with my discussion of the various "ascent journey's" to the stars of shamanic and classical times. I also discussed the mystical ascent to the perfection of the "spiritual pole" and "North Star" in Iranian Sufism.) This is just interesting speculation, but since (as pointed out in my entry of harmonies for the first time this Tango program was aired--see below) the Tango has it roots in the same place Troubadour poetry originated--Hispano-Arab Al-Andalus or Andalusia, where major Sufi poet-mystics like Ibn 'Arabi originated--, then perhaps Tango is a secular offshoot of sacred dance. (Tango authority Robert Farris Thompson writes about its origins: "Traces of Arabized Muslim music and dance inform Andalusia, the southern region of Spain from which migrants brought flamencolike finger-snapping and heel-stamping dance to Argentina.")
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project3/22/10 The 7th Avenue Project "Edge of Physics" "In recent years, physics theory has gotten way ahead of the evidence. Now, researchers are going to extremes to figure out what’s true and what isn’t. They’ve launched a set of ambitious experiments in some of the most remote places on Earth. Anil Anathaswamy traveled to these far-flung laboratories and tells us what he saw."
The Tower of Song Vernal Equinox program It is stated at the outset of the program that the two main mysteries of physics are (1) Dark Matter and (2) Dark Energy. These two make up more than 90% of the stuff of the universe.
Here’s the main content synchronicity between our two programs: “dark matter” and “dark energy” in physics and the “dark goddess” in mythology. The GS had focused his Vernal Equinox program on the myth of Persephone, “Queen of the Underworld,” who is the Greek version of the “dark goddess,” more accurately known as Persephone-Hekate. The myth of her journey to the Underworld of Hades and return to the middle region of Earth is taken to be the myth behind the season of Spring. The GS suggests that there is a cosmic synchronicity between the discovery of “dark matter/energy” in physics and the rediscovery of the phenomenon of the “dark goddess” in thealogy, lending a symbolic meaning to the scientific discovery.
Stating that things have changed dramatically since the 70s for experimental physicists, AA says, “. . . you have to go to some deep, deep underground mine to do your experiment.
RP: “Deep underground, to the South Pole, to mountaintops, to remote high-altitude valleys, frozen lakes in Siberia—we’re describing your itinerary here.”
AA: “Yes, it was an amazing journey to take.”
Here is the second aspect of the same synchronicity in content between our two programs: the idea of an amazing journey taken to the deep underground. The GS had put Persephone’s journey into the Underworld in a psycho-spiritual context and suggested that the “Persephone-experience” is an archetypal one that can be taken by all of us in search of the wisdom of wholeness.
Thus, this is essentially the harmony between the two programs. (There would have been a further, more particular synchronicity, if the GS hadn’t preempted his planned 9th and final installment in his series of essays on the topic of the myth and symbolism of the North Pole, North Star, and the “Polar Myth” in order to include an essay for the Vernal Equinox for that week. That essay had a concluding section of a writer’s journey to Antarctica, which was part of AA’s journey also!) That said, the GS still wants to comment on the apparent dis-harmonies between his world view and Anil Anathaswamy’s. (Notice I said “apparent” dis-harmonies.) The GS wants to use this interview with a very interesting physicist to analyze relationship between an important issue that is broached in the interview; the relationship between physics and mysticism (some would say, more generally, science and religion). AA holds, as do most mainstream scientists and science writers do, that there is no relationship between these two, nor should there be. But does AA’s answers to RP’s questions about physics and the journey described in his book bear this out? However, this will take a more lengthy analysis than is room for in this section of the webpage. The GS, therefore, will post his comments (along with further transcript) on another webpage.
To read the GS's analysis ("The Edge of Physics, Where Physics & the New Mysticism Meet?"), go to his"Posted Essays" sub-page.It is at the bottom of the page, under the section heading "Random Essays."
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project3/1/10
The 7th Avenue Project "Adventures in Lizardland "
What Jane Goodall was to chimps, biologist Barry Sinervo is to lizards. He's spent the last 20 years studying lizards in the wild, gaining extraordinary insights into the workings of evolution, social behavior and cooperation. He shares his discoveries, along with some very funny lizard stories.
The Tower of Song "The New Year & Rebirth in Archaic Myth & Ritual: Part 6, The Moon & Regeneration"
RP's guest was an evolutionary biologist from UCSC, whose specialty is lizards. We heard about the intriguing discoveries he's made about their genetic makeup and behavior. We found out about three basic types of lizard, ranging from the very aggressive (yellow-belly and orange-belly) to the cooperative and altruistic (blue-belly).
[Note: Show not posted on KUSP website as of Sunday morning (3/7), so cannot give details but relying on memory of hearing the show after my own show last Monday morning at 2 a.m.]
Again, the harmonies or the synchronistic material is pretty amazing, although it is not readily apparent but nonetheless even more amazing for its under-the-surface connection. (To repeat, I only hear the program after my own, and have no foreknowledge of what topic or guests will be on the 7th Ave. Project.) And even though I was dealing with mythological material (the full moon and ancient lunar mythology), the scientist's image of "the lizard" seemed to evoke mythological, pre-scientific images. Below I will cite material I presented in my essay, "The New Year & Rebirth in Archaic Myth & Ritual: Part 6, The Moon & Regeneration." It's from two pages that discussed lunar myth and symbols of regeneration, which included . . . yes, the lizard!
There is a leitmotif common to all lunar mythology that associates the Moon, Woman, and Snakes. The moon then can also be personified as reptile and masculine, but such personifications (which often break away from the original pattern and follow a path of their own in myth and legend), are still fundamentally based on the notion of the moon as source of living reality, and basis of all fertility and periodic regeneration. (World mythology is rife with images of the woman-snake relationship.) The same central symbolism of fertility and regeneration governed by the moon, and bestowed by the moon itself or by forms the same in substance (magna mater, terra mater) explains the presence of snakes in the imagery and rites of the Great Goddesses of universal fertility. As an attribute of the Great Goddess, the snake (and other lunar animals) keep their lunar character of periodic regeneration and symbolize the cycle of "eternal return" . . . . And this symbolism of regeneration also explains the presence of snakes in initiation ceremonies. What emerges clearly from all this varied symbolism of snakes is their lunar character—that is, their powers of fertility, of regeneration, of immortality through metamorphosis (of shedding its skin). Thus the whole pattern is moon-rain-fertility-woman-serpent-death-periodic-regeneration. A lot of lunar mythology has grown around this complex. . . . A mass of myths describe a “message” given to men by the moon through the intermediary of an animal (a hare, dog, lizard, etc.) in which it promises that “as l die and rise to life again, so you shall also die and rise to life again."
Lunar mythology can take more esoteric forms, such as “Cosmo-Biology and Mystical Physiology.” They are an attempt to integrate man and the universe fully into the same divine rhythm. The meaning is primarily magic and redemptive; by taking to himself the powers that lie hidden in “letters” and “sounds” man places himself in various central points of cosmic energy and thus effects complete harmony between himself and all that is. Clearly, man’s integration into the cosmos can only take place if he can bring himself into harmony with the two astral rhythms, “unifying” the sun and moon in his living body. The “unification” of the two centers of sacred and natural energy aims—in this technique of mystical physiology—at integrating them in the primal undifferentiated unity, as it was when not yet broken up by the act that created the universe; and this “unification” realizes a transcendence of the cosmos. (The primary example is Tantric-Hathayoga of India. In the West, perhaps medieval alchemy is a good example, with its polarity of sun and moon unified.) . . . . That is why the moon is seen in so mar traditions personified by a divinity, or acting through a lunar animal (hare, snake, lizard), “weaving” the cosmic veil, or the destinies of men.
The lunar metaphysics of the hierophanies (manifestations of the sacred) of the moon that we have noted may be grouped round the following themes: . . . (b) periodic regeneration (the symbolism of the serpent and all the lunar animals; “the new man” who has survived a watery catastrophe caused by the moon; the death and resurrection of initiations; etc.) . . . . In all these themes the dominant idea is one of rhythm carried out by a succession of contraries, of “becoming” through the succession of opposing modalities (being and non-being; forms and hidden essences; life and death, etc.). . . . Again, in certain Tantric techniques, an attempt is made to “unify” the moon and the sun, to get beyond the opposition between things, to be reintegrated in the primeval unity.
Now, after my program, I listen to the 7th Ave Project while I take care of what I have to do at the station before I go home. I wasn't particularly listening closely, as I wrongly assumed that RP's topic and mine were worlds apart. (Lizard behavior is not a priority for me at that time of the morning. But, I should have remembered his former programs: Saluting the Birds and the Bugs, 3/22/9, and Our Parasites, Ourselves, 4/19/9. See my entries on their synchronicities below.) However, eventually, I couldn't carry on my tasks because it was so associative, and I gave my undivided attention to it (This is not to say I agreed with the guest's conclusions as applied to human behavior). If you haven't heard it, wait for it to be posted on KUSP's 7th Ave. Project archive--and then see what I mean!
In anticipation of the posting, here's some scientific information on "lizards" that will be elucidating to my point of view. (I'm also thinking of the biologist's reference to the fact that snakes and lizards came from a common ancestor.) In the second section, I'm drawing analogies to lunar symbolism, alchemical symbolism, and Tantric yoga. (1) Scientific: There are four groups in the reptile family. Snakes and Lizards belong to the same group. In this way we can say that Snakes and Lizards are cousins. the snake and the lizard are different in many ways, but they have some similarities. Snakes are reptiles, and the branch of zoology that deals with this class of animals is known as "herpetology." The word herpetology is derived from the Greek word herpeton, which means "a creeping thing". Modern reptiles include the crocodilians, the turtles, the lizards and the snakes - not forgetting the lizard-like Tuatara, a single species that has an order all to itself. Snakes, lizards and Amphisbaenia are closely related and belong to a single order. The ancestors of our modern snakes and lizards appeared along with the first dinosaurs during the late Triassic period, almost 200 million years ago, although fossil records of these reptiles are sparse. The modern lizards (suborder Lacertilia) are likely to have branched off from the primitive order Eosuchia during the Triassic period, but the oldest definite fossil links between modern lizards and their ancestors originated in the Upper Jurassic period, about 140 million years ago. During the same period, the first bird ancestors arose. It is generally accepted that modern snakes (suborder Serpentes) arose from the lizards in the early Cretaceous period, about 130 million years ago, but there is no hard and fast fossil evidence to link the two suborders. The earliest known fossil creatures resembling snakes are from the Cretaceous period some 130 million years ago. These were short and heavy and had a mixture of lizard and snake characteristics. Unfortunately, there is no intermediary evidence to link these creatures with modern snakes. One of the most widely accepted theories is that all snakes evolved from burrowing lizards. At a further stage of their evolution, some of these burrowing creatures found it convenient to return to the surface.
To the Romans, who believed it hibernated, the lizard meant death and resurrection. The Ancient Greek symbol of self-reference, the Ouroboros, is very close in looks to a curled armadillo lizard and perhaps derived from it. The Ouroboros often represents self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things perceived as cycles that begin anew as soon as they end. It can also represent the idea of primordial unity related to something existing in or persisting from the beginning with such force or qualities it cannot be extinguished. The Ouroboros has been important in religious and mythological symbolism, but has also been frequently used in alchemical illustrations, where it symbolizes the circular nature of the alchemist's opus. Perhaps one of the most widely used dragons in alchemy, the Ouroboros is the symbol of the cyclical nature of alchemy. It spans across several kinds of alchemy, notably Greek and Arabic as well as European. The Greek viewed the Ouroboros as a sort of Western Yin Yang; it displays the qualities of two opposites in one. The psychologist Carl Jung interpreted the Ouroboros as having an archetypal significance to the human psyche. Lizards, Jung noted, often appear in dreams as archetypes at important stages of psychological development.
(In alchemical symbolism, the following equation can be made: "Fire=Spirit=Hermes = Lizard.") The salamander was the usual alchemical representation of this. However, it should be noted that these two symbolic reptiles were interchangeable. The legendary salamander is most often depicted much like a typical salamander in shape, with a lizard-like form, but it is usually ascribed an affinity with fire (sometimes specifically elemental fire). In the alchemical process, the lizard is associated with the third element, fire. "Fire elemental. A small salamander manages hearth and furnace . . . . This powerful nature spirit, however, does not easily communicate with man and is the most difficult for us to understand. Its etymology, of course, is the Persian word for any lizard, samandar." In Arabic alchemy (the original art), the salamander is a symbol. In alchemy, the salamander was one symbol of the prima materia, which is roasted in a fire. In the alchemical process, it plays the role of helping the substance under transformation give up its secret fire, which will help the philosopher's stone claim its final power, as this alchemical verse describes:
[The Salamander] is caught and pierced So that it dies and yields up its life with its blood. But this, too, happens for its good; For from its blood it wins immortal life, And then death has no more power over it.
Another famous symbolic image in alchemy is that of the roasted salamander known by alchemists as the "Starry Salamander That lives in the Fire." It is also known as the Mercurial Spirit of the prima materia.
(From an alchemical image) Touching the wings of the caduceus are a salamander engulfed in flames on the left side of the drawing and a standing bird on the right. Below the salamander is the inscription Anima (Soul); below the bird is the inscription Spiritus (Spirit). The salamander, as a symbol of soul, is attracted to and exposed in the blazing fire of the Sun. Likewise, the bird of spirit is attracted to the coolness of the Moon and is reflected in it. This is a subtle statement of the fundamental bipolar energies that drive the alchemy of transformation. Spiritus, Anima, and Corpus form a large inverted triangle that stands behind the central emblem. Together they symbolize the three archetypal celestial forces that the alchemists termed Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt. Again, these chemicals are not chemicals at all, but our feelings, thoughts, and body. Thus, the Gypsy Scholar was wondering as he finished listening to the 7th Ave. Project: Was the evolutionary split that brought about the cooperative and altruistic "blue-belly" lizard due to an ancestor that was mythological; that phantastical creature of transformational alchemy?
PS: I was also wondering: Is the Geico lizard a close relative of the blue-belly?
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project2/22/10
The 7th Avenue Project "Richard Mayhew: A Life in Art" "Noted landscape painter Richard Mayhew discusses his life and work, including his childhood in a mixed African American and Native American community, joining the New York art scene at the height of the abstract expressionist movement, his second career as a jazz singer and helping to organize African-American artists in the 1960s."
The Tower of Song
To anyone who has heard my program for a while, Mayhew's views are familiar in everything he says about the "mystery of creative consciousness." [See GS's webpage #2 Imaginarium Library. Section at bottom of page, "Gallery of Inspirational Images," where "The Gypsy Scholar Celebrates Creativity."]
Mayhew's thoughts an art and religion reminds the GS of his favorite 19th-century artist, poet, and visionary, William Blake:
“The man who never in his mind and thoughts travel'd to heaven is no artist.” "The Man who on Examining his own Mind finds nothing of Inspiration ought not to dare to be an Artist ...." "A Poet, a Painter, a Musician, an Architect: the man Or Woman / who is not one of these is not a Christian. / You must leave Fathers & Mothers & Houses & Lands if they stand in the way of Art./ Prayer is the Study of Art./ Praise is the Practice of Art./ Fasting &c., all relate to Art.... The Eternal Body of Man is The Imagination, that is, God himself, the Divine Body, Jesus: we are his Members. / It manifests itself in his Works of Art (In Eternity All is Vision)." Mayhew also incarnates the GS's ideal of the "artist-musician." [See webpage, #6 Musekal Philosophy, particularly section at bottom of page, "Musekal Philosophy & the Troubadour's 'Joyous Science': Scholarship as Performance Art".]
And speaking of the Troubadours, this is where this week's harmony or synchronicity between the two programs comes in. (Again, the GS did not have any foreknowledge of the guest or content of the 7th Ave. Project. Indeed, since that week's essay repeated much of the material from the previous week's essay, it means that pretty much of the coincidence of content was written and presented a full week before the 7th Ave. Project aired.) From the Essay-with-Soundtrack, entitled
"The New Year & Rebirth in Archaic Myth & Ritual: Part 5, The Ancient Hierogamy & the Troubadour Love-Cult of the Eros-Rose," the GS read the following:
Hidden in the verse of Troubadour poetry . . . is a sacramental vision of nature, a sort of eroticized perception, in which nature and the body is affirmed as the way to the Goddess. . . . In his Provençal studies, poet Ezra Pound ". . . came to see troubadour poetry and its emphasis on spiritualized eroticism as reflective of a pagan-style nature religion.” Eventually, he came to believe that the Albigensian heresy had a great deal to do with affirming the body and nature, which it viewed as “the gate of wisdom.” This notion had two appealing corollaries for Pound. It meant that (1) Provençal religion was about an experience of heightened perception; and (2) its natural hierophants were artists, whose specialty is intense experience and its communication.
Now keep in mind here that this 5th installment of the essay is part of the series that is about rebirth (hence the essay's title). Thus, in many of the essays, the subject discussed was the changing seasons of nature and rebirth, which got ritualized in archaic and ancient societies. Once more, much of what the GS had to say throughout these past essays (and has continued and will continue in up-coming essays) is reflected in Mayhew's views of the artist and nature. And on Mayhew's focus on mystical consciousness, I should also point out that this is the essay in which the GS played the van Morrison song "Into the Mystic." (Last week, in the GS's 6th essay, "The Moon & Regeneration," he continued this discussion in terms of "lunar mythology" and "moon-mysticism." The GS should also note that his discussion of the "sacred marriage," as regards to archaic and ancient New Year rituals and Tantric sex, was the subject of the newspaper, Good Times cover article,"Sexual Healing," which came out just a few days after the program.)
In closing, the GS offers this transcription of the dialogue that came near the end of the 7th Ave. Project's program with Mayhew:
RP: "When you're not painting, are you thinking about painting?" RM: "I'm thinking about painting, but I'm thinking about creative thinking. . . . constantly involved with the mind-set of creativity and thinking, and how can it be applied. Is writing the best form to do it? Is painting the best form to make this contribution, or is music the best form to make the best contribution? What is the better form to communicate in terms of creative development? . . . Everyone has this possibility--everyone has it! But some never find a niche to use it or to apply it, or find some way to make the contribution. But everyone has it."
Thus, in terms of "performance on the canvas," the GS would hint at performance on radio, or what he calls "scholarship as performance art." And about Mayhew's notion of the religion of the artist ("They didn't want any disturbance; they want to live in this special world of isolation and creative thinking")--the GS calls this special world of spiritual creativity and inspiration THE TOWER OF SONG.
The lyric line artist-musician, or performing artist, Robert Mayhew sang for the show could be heard as a motto for the Tower of Song program:
"Without a song, a day would never end."
Without a song the day would never end Without a song the road would never bend When things go wrong a man ain't got a friend Without a song
That field of corn would never see a plow That field of corn would be deserted now A man is born but he's no good no how Without a song
I got my trouble and woe but, sure as I know, the Jordan will roll And I'll get along as long as a song is strong in my soul
I'll never know what makes the rain to fall I'll never know what makes that grass so tall I only know there ain't no love at all Without a song
I've-a got my trouble and woe and, sure as I know, the Jordan will roll And I'll get along as long as a song is strong in my soul
I'll-a never know what makes that rain to fall I'll never know what makes the grass so tall I only know there ain't no love at all Without a song.
Thus, the GS feels that these "synchronicities" (or harmonies) between the two programs are not just minor, but nothing sort of spectacular! He hopes you will agree.
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project12/28/9
The 7th Avenue Project "Armenian Lullabies and Songs of Longing" "In this end-of-the-year musical special, we put 2009 to bed with some exquisite, ethereal lullabies and other songs from the famed Armenian singer Hasmik Harutyunyan and the Kitka women's vocal ensemble. Along with the music, Hasmik and Shira Cion of Kitka discuss the tragic history and haunting music of Armenia."
[Note: These Armenian lullabies connect the child to nature and history and are considered an essential part of early childhood education. Hasmik Harutyunyan states that "The lullaby connects the cradle to the clock of the universe." Hasmik recites the verses of one such lullaby: "The sun will be your father and the moon your mother, / the wild deer will give you milk, / and the trees will rock you."]
RP: (observing that these songs give a friendly and gentle idea of nature) Where does that come from in Armenian culture; what is the world that that came from?
HH: I think that it comes from old, old emotions--old days before Christianity. Yeah? Because Armenians were pagans, and before in pagan times they had goddesses. I think we became Christians, but we didn't lose the connection with goddesses. And maybe that's why we're comparing all the time stars, moons, and we have other songs for the kids, like children's songs, where everything they're asking from the different goddesses and their names.
RP: And these are still remembered?
HH: Oh, yes! They became like girls names, boys names. [She gives example of the water goddess and how they sing special songs. This water goddess is there "in many love songs, in children's songs--she's everywhere!"]
RP: Listening to these and not speaking Armenian, not knowing the lyrics, the feeling I get is that they are spiritual; that they're kind of ethereal; that even if the theme isn't Christian they're almost religious sounding. Is that your feeling as well?
HH: Yes! You are right because in old times they're whole life was kind of ceremony--whole life. And they never sing like for nothing, for amusement. They never dance for exercise. Dancing is a big ceremonial part. And singing too. And every ceremonial day, every traditional ceremony we have special dances, special songs. We are lucky because we kept that tradition.
RP: You said that some of the imagery and themes come from pre-Christian times, and didn't Christianity come to Armenia in the 4th century?
HH: We were the first country to become a Christian country in the world--in 301.
[Note: Armenia was historically Mazdean Zoroastrian, particularly focused on the worship of Mihr (Avestan Mithra), and Christianity spread into the country as early as AD 40. King Tiridates III (AD 238–314) made Christianity the state religion in AD 301, becoming the first officially Christian state, ten years before the Roman Empire granted Christianity an official toleration under Galerius, and 36 years before Constantine the Great was baptized.]
RP: So that means that these lullabies that are pre-Christian in content go back even earlier. How old do you think these are?
HH: I think nobody can say that. The first man, or first whoever was born, lullaby is there--by the cradle.
RP: So they're ancient.
HH: Yes! Because every basic tale with some kind of sound--that's already lullaby! [Laughter.]
The Tower of Song Listening to this 7th Ave Project program immediately after my own, gave me a definite sense of the uncanny--it gave me what I would call a "Harvey experience" of synchronicity.
"Harvey," as in the movie. For those who may not remember the famous movie, Mr. Wilson, the orderly from the sanitarium (where Elwood P. Dowd is going to be committed because he claims to have an invisible friend--a 6' tall rabbit named Harvey), looks up this fantasy creature in an encyclopedia.
Mr. Wilson:[reading from an encyclopedia] "P O O K A - Pooka - from old Celtic mythology - a fairy spirit in animal form - always very large. The Pooka appears here and there - now and then - to this one and that one - a benign but mischievous creature - very fond of rumpots, crackpots, and how are you, Mr. Wilson?" "How are you, Mr. Wilson?" Who in the encyclopedia wants to know?
When I heard what Hasmik had to say about the nature and origins of these "lullabies," I could have sworn someone in the empty studio addressed me with: "... and how are you Mr. Gypsy Scholar?" To explain:
I had just finished a two-part special program for the holiday season (Christmas/Winter Solstice), which attempted to show how our Christmas festival was an overlay on a much older, pre-Christian festival of the Winter Solstice. I pointed out that in pre-Christian Rome it was called “Saturnalia,” a period of unrestrained revelry and licentiousness. It also was the celebration of "Sol Invictus," ("Victory of the Sun-God"), which was a popular cult in Rome. But also in Rome was the older (Iranean-Persian) cult of the sun-god Mithras, whose birthday was celebrated on December 25th. I also showed that this midwinter festival was even much older than even this, for the Roman version was a continuation of the very ancient Babylonian cult from Mesopotamia, "the cradle of civilization." I stated that I had found "an archaic solar myth of the dying-and-reborn sun-gods," who were son/consorts of the all-pervasive Great-Mother Goddess of the Near East. The celebration of the sun-gods was because of their dying in winter and resurrecting after the longest night of the year--Winter Solstice. My conclusion was that all these pagan, archetypal sun-gods were the forerunners of the son of God, called "the Christ." When Constantine made Christianity the official state religion, these older pagan gods and their festival was transferred to that of Christ.
I cite my arguments here from that program: The Roman Emperor Aurelian blended Saturnalia with a number of birth celebrations of savior Gods from other religions, into a single holy day: December 25th. This was also the two-week Winter Solstice festival of the sun-god Mithras, “the Savior,” who was born on December 25th the “light of the world.” The Iranean-Persian calendar celebration is on the eve of Winter Solstice and called Yalda) When Constantine made the cult of Christianity the Roman state religion, this all changed. So by the 4th century, the church selected the approximate time of the Winter Solstice as the date to recognize Jesus’ birth. In other words, the establishment of the victory of the sun-god over darkness and chaos (when the days became longer again) became the appointed time to commemorate the birthday of the “Son of Man,” Jesus Christ, and so the old religious customs were taken over under a new name. . . .
In my first Winter Solstice essay, I identified a great solar myth that underlies all the ancient mythologies concerning sun gods and explained that I had found an archetypal pattern in the solar myth. All over the ancient world the elements are the same. There is the sun, a tree, the great mother-goddess, and the sun-god, who is her son-consort. The story commemorates the death and resurrection of the sun in the persons of the dying and reborn gods or solar heroes. The leitmotif of the great solar myth signifies the destruction of the light by the darkness and the eventual return or victory of the great luminary of the world. When the sun stays up longer on the mid-winter solstice (commonly celebrated under the disguise of “Christmas” today) he has triumphed and conquered death, thus bringing spring. The name of the Babylonian dying-and-reborn sun-god, Tammuz, in Sumerian is Dumu-zi, meaning “true or faithful son.” Tammuz, the beautiful youth who died and was mourned for and came to life again, was the ancient nature deity who personified the creative powers of the sun. As discussed in detail in my first essay, Christmas, the birth of the Son, was transplanted onto the pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice, the rebirth of the sun, some 1,600 years ago, centuries before the English language emerged from its Germanic roots. This is probably why the words for the two mythic concepts of sun and son are so similar, because the pagan Winter Solstice and Yuletide was overlaid with Christmas. . . .
I went on to bring to light a very old ritual performed at Winter Solstice in ancient Babylonian, a "weeping ritual" that was part of the religion of Mesopotamia ("This weeping ceremony was connected with agricultural rites of the earliest civilizations of the Near East, where lived the diverse peoples of the fertile valleys lying between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, or Mesopotamia, which in Greek means, 'between the rivers.'"), which was centered around the worship of the Great Goddess, or Queen of Heaven, Ishtar, and her son/consort, Tammuz, the sun-god. The Goddess and the women of Babylonia wept for the dead sun-god and their laments and tears had the power to revive him. (“... the image of the Weeping Goddess is a favorite recurrent motif in the Sumerian dirges and laments.” Some of these are found in the Sumerian and Babylonian Psalms.) Thus the celebration at Winter Solstice: This Babylonian Winter Solstice ritual of mourning and weeping for the dead sun-god was initiated by the fertility goddess Ishtar, the amorous Queen of Heaven. Ishtar still retained traces of her ancient character. Originally she was a great Mother Goddess. As has been shown, Ishtar is referred to in a Tammuz hymn as the mother of the child god of fertility. In her role as a mother goddess, she links closely with other famous Near-Eastern goddesses, such as Innana, Astarte, Ashtoreth, and Isis. . . . A part of the myth of Ishtar and Tammuz survives in the famous Assyrian hymn known as “The Descent of Ishtar.” Ishtar must descend to the underworld to find the dead Tammuz.
In my concluding section, because we have lost the deeper meanings of the Winter Solstice rituals and festival, I brought in the ancient "weeping Mother-Goddess" (whom the Babylonians worshiped as Ishtar), in a modern form by giving two contemporary examples of women who are trying to trying to reclaim these deeper ritual truths for our own time. I noted how important this is, since these archaic rituals are centered around stories (the death and rebirth of the sun) that "keep the universe going."
I could have perfectly used Hasmik as another example (except for the fact that the two women cited were modern American women and not from a continuous traditional culture). Any any case, my point is that Hasmik perfectly stated by core arguments in the essay I presented for Winter Solstice: (1) The "songs of longing" or "lullabies" are very ancient ("pre-Christian"), just like the Mesopotamian women's "laments" (the "Sumerian dirges and laments"). (2) ". . . in pagan times they had goddesses. I think we became Christians, but we didn't lose the connection with goddesses." This is central to my thesis, along with the connection the nature and the seasonality of life, which is demonstrated in festivals like Winter Solstice and the dying-and-reborn sun-god. (These Armenian lullabies connect the child to nature and history, and are considered an essential part of early childhood education. Hasmik states that "The lullaby connects the cradle to the clock of the universe." Hasmik recites the verses of one such lullaby: "The sun will be your father and the moon your mother, / the wild deer will give you milk, / and the trees will rock you.") My concluding examples dealt with two contemporary women trying to reconnect with the Goddess in song, dance ans story. (3)The importance of ritual and story: "old times they're whole life was kind of ceremony--whole life." "Because every basic tale with some kind of sound--that's already lullaby!" (4) The native religion of Hasmik's country was Mithraism--exactly the sun-god whose birthday was celebrated in Rome on December 25th. (5) My Essay-with-Soundtrack for Winter Solstice demonstrated its thesis musically by finding the goddesses in special love songs (of longing): "goddess is therein many love songs, in children's songs--she's everywhere!" Of course, these harmonies between the content of my Winter Solstice essay were synchronous, not vague or haphazard connections. I figured that something was going on here to account for these ancient songs of Armenia and my research into ancient Mesopotamian myth and ritual. As soon as I could, I went to the internet and brought up an ancient map of the Near East . . . I should have known! Geographically, Armenia was right next to Mesopotamia; in fact, the Empire of Armenia once incorporated northern Mesopotamia. Here's what I found: Mesopotamia (from Greek "[land] between the rivers") is a toponym for the area of the Tigris-Euphrates river system, along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, largely corresponding to modern Iraq, as well as some parts of northeastern Syria, some parts of southeastern Turkey, and some parts of the Khūzestān Province of southwestern Iran. Widely considered as the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer, Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian empires. In the Iron Age, it was ruled by the Neo-Assyrian Empire and Neo-Babylonian Empire, and later conquered by the Achaemenid Empire. It mostly remained under Persian rule until the 7th century Islamic conquest of the Sassanid Empire. Mesopotamia encompasses the land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, both of which have their headwaters in the mountains of Armenia in modern Turkey. Ancient maps show Armenia in Asia Minor on the Black Sea and Mesopotamia and Assyria share its southern border, with Babylon farther south. Armenian Mesopotamia was the region in Mesopotamia that was once part of the Kingdom of Armenia under Tigranes the Great.
Thus, whether the "lullaby is there--by the cradle," or by the cradle of civilization, it's a shared song and story that connects our two programs at the time of the Winter Solstice festival. And that's why upon hearing Hasmik on the 7th Ave Project caused the Gypsy Scholar to have the "And how are you Mr. Wilson?" experience of synchronicity. However, after all is said and done, for my Tower of Song program (and perhaps for RP's 7th Ave Project--its "end-of-the-year musical special") there is the singular devotion to MUSIC (and "musekal philosophy"). And for Hasmik as well:
"For Hasmik, music is life itself — its happiness, sadness, and struggle. She feels it is her responsibility to keep traditional Armenian music alive, and to keep it free from foreign influence. She believes Armenian music is a living thing, not meant for history books." (Hasmik Harutyunyan website.)
Tower of Song & 7th Avenue Project11/16/9
The 7th Ave Project "All About Fado" Robert talks to musicologist Don Cohen about fados, the soul-stirring songs of the Portuguese. Featuring music by fado singers Mariza, Amalia Rodrigues, Carlos Do Carmo, Caminé and others.Donald Cohen is the author of Fado Portugues: Songs from the Soul of Portugal.Fado is the urban folk music of Portugal. The fado singers, both female and male, are called fadistas.
RP: ". . . the melancholic feel of the music." DC: "The fado singers from Quiembra, Portugal, a university town, wear a university gown." DC: "Amalia expands pure fado repertoire by singing things involved with the rest of life—other situations, more creative love poems of loss. What she did was broaden the subject matter and styles." RP: "So as we listen to Amalia, you can hear this amazing intensity—I want to call it almost like a sobbing style." DC: "That was something that she brought in. It was very similar in ways to what was being sung in Spain in Flamenco, or among the Jewish and Moorish chanters in Portugal and Spain. Remember Portugal was occupied by the Moors for several hundred years, just like in southern Spain. So, I mean, she borrowed their singing style . . . she popularized it." RP: "What is the origin of fado; when did it begin?" DC: "Well, fado, as we know it now, is no more than a couple of hundred years old. However, I always say that music doesn’t evolve in a vacuum. The background goes back to several influences. Number one, it was first formed when several hundred knights and troubadours were brought to Portugal by Henry of Burgundy, whose son became the first king of Portugal. And that means they brought Provencal influence. You had an institution of Provencal poetry in Portugal. So that were some of the ballads came from." RP: "You have the Provencal influence coming from France. You have the Moorish influence coming from North Africa . . . ." DC: "Then you have the Jews singing very heavy chants and ballads of their own in Portugal. Then you have the next influence, and that is the Portuguese sailors going to various places—Africa, Brazil—, and the sailors brought back the their own influences." RP: "So you’ve got the old Portuguese empire, which included Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde—so many different places all pulling in musical influences." DC: "There is a group of historians who believe that fado came from Brazil, and some people dispute that because, if it came from Brazil it would have syncopation and fado has absolutely none; it’s very straight unsyncopated music." RP: "The Portuguese guitar is small and called the guitara that has a high plangent sound with a beautiful vibrato. It’s got a sound all its own and really adds to that plaintive, mournful quality of fado." RP: "Now, as you say, the meaning of the word fado in Portuguese means ‘fate,” and certainly one of the obvious observations one can make about fado is it sounds awful sad most of the time." DC: "Well, it is awful sad most of the time!" RP: "Is it fatalistic?" DC: "Well, by definition, it is fatalistic, right! But there are exceptions. Whimsical songs. And there’s some that are complaints about topical things, like the price of food. . . . There’s laments. In the early days there were sung—political fados—about your opponent. And in the early period before fado, there were laments from the Provencal school I mentioned of poetry; songs of love from a man to a woman, or from a woman to a man . . . . So aside from our normal romantic stuff, it was used in a lot of ways." RP: "And a word that is used to describe that emotional quality is saudade." DC: "You can’t discuss fado without mentioning saudade, but you can’t translate saudade, which makes it extremely difficult. Any everybody tries to translate it differently. And one definition I’ve heard is a kind of 'sad, nostalgic yearning for may or may not have been'. But what it is is more than loneliness. It’s a word of art, and it started out meaning lonely, just like in Spanish, soledad, but it started to broaden, to the point that there’s a different word in Portuguese for loneliness, and saudade has a different meaning; it’s more than that—solitude, loneliness, nostalgia, sadness."