Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Business is better now because of the Nats

The music above is from a compilation called "Music of Nat Pwe". It is from spiritually driven festivals that are a tradition in Burma (Myanmar). These rituals stem from belief systems that were in place long before Buddhism was introduced to the country.

In Burma (Myanmar), the spirits of those who died tragically or led great lives before passing are roaming wildly, and it takes the madly escaping energy of those playing music and those fully submitting to this music in trance states to appease these spirits. The spirits are called Nats. The music is jarring at first. The music is pummeling and cacophonous in an unconscious and organized fashion, and it's so easy to get into, and I can understand how people can be taken over by it.

The music makes me think of the sound that spiritually infused carbonation would make if it was flowed through people brandishing instruments. It simply kills me how much life there is in it.

This music also makes me think a lot about the shot at the beginning of the documentary (below) of the mirror that is swinging left and right, that my mind kept telling me was a swiftly panning shot of the crowd, even though I was fully aware that it was just the reflection in motion, swinging back and forth, and not the camera, which was generally still. A strong and simple tension between movement and stillness that is simply always present. And this tension between movement and stillness is the foundation of all music. The still space between sound and vibration encapsulates a particular music's character -- the still space defines it. It makes me think a lot about sparse minimalist music and experimental music where they were playing with the notion of what even defines music. For instance, if you play one, unceasing tone for half and hour that never changes pitch or volume, could that even be considered music? Although if we focused on and listened to a single unceasing tone for half an hour, our flawed human perception alone would fool us into thinking that the tone would go through changes of intensity and character. This would argue perhaps that the exquisite flaws in our own sensory mechanisms have a big part in what defines music from ambient noise.

Repetition, also: The same short musical phrase repeated over and over again until it's character is changed, again only by our perception would provoke the question of whether it could be considered music (or torture for some, probably).

But in reality, at least for me, I think all these questions were answered long ago by musical pioneers delving into these same ideas: if you really think about it, there is no separation from every sound you hear around you right now and all the music recorded in some form or being played live right now somewhere. It is only our focus and attention that makes one music and leaves one as ambient background noise. Different groups of humans or individuals are the only ones that can draw the defining line. The steadily deadening eardrums of noise-core enthusiasts from willingly lining up year after year to be sonically punished by musicians on stage blasting amped power tools and the like are proof enough of that alone.

Conclusion: music is better now because of the Nats.


sg said...

that mirror is total radness. it would be awesome to have a giant mirror in nature that could move slightly.

maybe at the huntington.

.db. said...

Yeah, that's an awesome idea....kind of like a moving and more practical version of those Mirror Displacements in Yucatan that Smithson did. I agree a garden or highly maintained area would be cool....I'm leaning towards the bamboo forests at the Huntington for some reason. Oh yeah, another thing that could be cool: Lindsey and I went to this big hotel in the southern part of Seoraksan National Park and the front of the building was all highly reflective glass, so when we went out around dinner time we saw this reflection of this incredible almost full moon, but when we turned around the sky was empty above the trees and mountains -- because the glass was reflecting an area higher than we could see...acting like the raised lens of a large format camera, right? Amazing, so this way, a moving tall mirror set in nature and moving at various angles could give you glimpses of viewpoints and wild things you'd never be able to see in real life without ropes and harnesses and other climbing equipment. Man in a bird sanctuary this could be bad ass as well.