Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Work is cut out for me

This morning I did a spontaneous presentation (very little from me) based on a little of the last chapter in a book by Francis Landy (The Beauty and the Enigma 2001 - p 399, chapter 13 Ghostwriting). I had coffee with Francis a few days ago. He wasn't at our conversation today, but the beauty of his writing stands alone in this chapter. It is fiction in the voice of the young Isaiah:
Uriahu taught me to read. To read for the most hidden implications, for the music of the letters, for the spirit of the one, the one who wrote. To watch the letters disappear invisible into the depths from which they came. Letters are pathways for the one who knows. We could count them, transpose them, perceive their secret symmetries. We could read black for white, space for silence, the gaps between the letters. Uriahu taught me to concentrate on one text, a few lines, for many months. It became living matter, shape, sound. And was divested of those properties, until it was pure letter, the slightest movement and trace of breath.
I read it twice, the second time putting just a little of the before and after into the reading. Why? someone asked, and I said, because he mentions the music of the letters. From there I went on to show a little of the music that I see in the text and which I an learning to hear. And I learned that the response to such a claim will be multiply complex depending on what the background of the hearers is. Whether one has a Judaic background as some might, or Islamic, and whether it is from this continent or that, and whether one is Christian, and whether we have historical information or not, and whether the music is sealed, or not. So many online have said to me that I am wrong or Haïk-Vantoura is wrong, but no one said that today. Yet I could hear the wheels turning and the gears clinking into place - whether of the multiple traditions of cantillation or of the Muslim call to prayer, or music from Christian tradition, gears turning from round the world.

How will I write what must be one of thousands of possible explorations of this music - with beauty, and the light of Yah (אוּרִיּהוּ) as Francis has named the young Isaiah's teacher above.

To be understood, I must have a singable book but not a music book. I must have an accurate book, but not a scholarly book. I must have a gentle book, but focused. I use easily the language of music, tonic, dominant, supertonic, mode. But even this editor does not know the words! I would not use the language of diacritics, te'amim, atnah, munah, etc because it will be unreadable. I must have a book in English that can be read in English by a non-musician and yet I must have the Hebrew and its transcription or there will be nothing there. I am working on it. Here - could you / would you read this?

Last week I explained between boards to a fellow bridge-player what I was doing. When he hear about the hand-signals in the Hebrew Bible, he was amazed and said "Who knew!"

A few weeks ago I sang a little to my 2 year old grandson, (a musician already). He heard and took note. His whole body understood without words both Hebrew and music. He just knew. And I knew he knew. There was no paradigm shift required for him with his already deep knowledge of Prokofiev and the rhythm of real music. But there is for the rest of us. If we will learn to hear, we must shift our fondly held positions.

The young Isaiah can teach us the reality of the word. Thank-you Francis Landy for this marvellous jumping off point.