Tuesday, February 9, 2010

63 Days Walking Around the Rocks

Garbhagriha with Shiva-lingam | Kandariya Mahadeva Temple

Garbhagriha is also known as the sanctum sanctorum of the temple building. Within the garbhagriha the primary idol of the goddess is kept. Garbhagriha literally means the "womb chamber." These rooms closely resemble a cave and are generally etched out of granite. In the temples only the priests are allowed to enter the garbhagrihas. It would be wrong to suggest that these architectural structures are found only in Hindu temples. They are also part of the Jain and Buddhist temples. [...]

These structures are created on a plinth and are square in shape. The construction of religious temples in India is done according to Vastu Shastra. As a result the place where the garbhagriha is created is considered to be the spot where harmony prevails. Moreover according to the norms of the Hinduism the garbhagriha is considered to be the macrocosm of the universe.
- Garbhagriha, Indian Temple Sculpture

Long ago, music had a profound effect upon me. I remember how, at the time, simple pop songs expressed the truth of the world more completely than I could imagine. The feeling was that the song was mine, that the words were written for me. The music spoke to me. I identified myself through the music. Was defined by it. It transcended me.

I would wait for the song to come on the radio. If I was alone, I became quiet and opened myself up, allowing the deepest parts of my still developing self to be spoken to. If others were around, I tried to possess the song, stopping conversation, turning the volume up, wanting to be associated with it, making the song's sentiments my own. I have no doubt that this is a common experience. However, as I grew older and attained a stronger sense of self, those songs that once defined me were no longer satisfactory. I wince at scenes of my younger self desperately cuing up the perfect "driving down the highway at night" song, over and over again.

Still, even those songs, carried some measure of redemptive potential - if only as nostalgia. And while I may have been able to get around and move beyond certain songs of my youth, I have never been able to get beyond music itself. Indeed, I do not believe it is humanly possible. Music always prevails. No matter how deep I sink, music is more profound. No matter how high I rise, music is more ascendant.

All of this preamble to my current situation. With everything that has happened, I lost my sense of music. It doesn't move me. I can summon distinct memories of how music used to make me feel. But, hearing the music first hand, I don't feel it any more. I can't get inside of it. I am "locked-out."

The effect is similar to looking at a photograph of someone you love while they are standing right in front of you. I can only "see" the photograph. When I try to look at the person in the face, I do not see anything.

The secondary representation of music is accessible to me, but not the primary primal experience. I hear it. I cannot listen to it.

Often now, the sound of music is irritating to me, rhythmic waves of electrical current whipping and thudding through the pristine rings of silence, annoying drips of water in a glacial blue serenity, taut twistings of metal through skin, coughing rasps sawing upon the bone, insects eating into the skull.

I believe that, along with everything else, I am rebuilding my capacity to listen to music, to be inhabited by music, to be played, performed, by music. I imagine sacred architectural forms, temples, constructed according to the musical elements of rhythm and harmony, embodying symmetry and proportion, mediating between heaven and earth, and pulsing in the heart of the sanctum sanctorum, the garbhagriha: melody.

The problem is here: the meaning of melody is occluded, the notes do not adhere together. The imperative is to locate the meaning that is carried between the notes - as a metaphor carries meaning between two ideas.

Recently, I watched an animated video of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor where notes are broken down into bar graphs. Very ingenious, oddly fascinating, almost amusing and utterly sad. I have listened to this piece many times, conjuring cathedrals in my imagination, seeing the blood of sunsets pour out of the white bellies of clouds as they are ripped open by mountain peaks, felt the marble hands of the gods reach through the tissue of my skin and wrap fingers around my spine, but not this animated bar graph. Nevertheless this is how it is for me now. Music reduced down to a series of graphs, black notations on a page, dead, static.

It's been 63 days since I have used. I ask myself at least once a day, do you want to go back? Close the eyes, imagine a pile of rocks, an empty house, no threat of being interrupted for hours. Perfect crack scenario. Imagine no one will ever know. Say all of this, then... what am I going to do?

Without music, life is not worth living. I ruined that cathedral in my brain where the pleasure for music resides. Burned it out. But the stones remain. Where there is stone, there is an altar, threshold. Upon this, seven notes.

Seven notes over a pile of rocks. There is no going back.

With each passing hour, I endure the silence, tightening the strings of my resolve, holding seven notes in my memory, slowly turning the keys, listening for harmony, longing for melody.

The invention of melody is the supreme mystery in the sciences of man.
- Claude Levi-Strauss