October 12th, 2004

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10:28 am - reflections
When I was finishing up high school in the US Virgin Islands, I made money to buy my own clothes and food by DJ'ing part time after school for a local radio station.  There was (and is) a pretty big Islamic presence among the Cruzan locals, and the station I worked for made an effort to gain some listener loyalty amongst those folks by doing things like playing the muezzin at all the appropriate times during the month of Ramadan.

I always found the call to prayer haunting and beautiful.  My friends used to talk about "that horrible screeching" and grimace, but when I was in the control room by myself doing homework and playing some godawful failure-pop record on the air, I would sometimes grab the cart for Azan and cue it up on the monitor, where nobody but me could hear it, and I'd imagine myself in a dusty souk somewhere, hearing one of God's faithful pouring out his tortured and impassionate plea.

It's interesting to me how different cultures and different religions seem to express themselves the most movingly.  The beauty that I see in Islam, when I see it, lies within the expression of so much genuine passion leaking through the boundaries of so much tortuous ritual.  When you hear the muezzin wailed, it sounds so very heartfelt.  You (or at least I) hear all the pain of it, all the stricture of adhering to hard ritual in a hard world, and yet so much impassioned feeling crying out around it.

By contrast, the more a Christian hymn or gospel song talks about the laws of the faith or God's rules or anything else to do with law and restraint, the less joy I can hear in it.  It seems to me that within the Christian faith, the more authoritarian it becomes, the less passion is allowed to remain - that while Islam emphasizes the passion and the heart of its followers through tortuous constraint, Christianity simply stifles and oppresses more with the more it tries to control.  The Christian music that moves me is that which is the least concerned with hidebound restraint; the sort that seems to care not in the slightest about what you have done or who you should be, but simply expresses a carefree barefoot joy; a transport of forgiveness that someone has felt, and feels that they've gotten simply because the world is an innately good place after all.

If you'd like, feel free to listen to these examples, and see if you hear the same things that I do.  (If it matters, I myself am a rather agnostic flavor of atheist.)

Carl Story and his Rambling Mountaineers - I Saw the Light (MP3, 3.4MB)
Azan, a call to prayer (RealAudio, 387K - go here and download RealAlternative if you need a spyware-free RealAudio player)

Current Mood: reflective
Current Music: Carl Story and his Rambling Mountaineers - I Saw The Light

(6 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture] From: scarlett723
Date: October 12th, 2004 - 08:14 am
Dustin and I argue about this. He gets paid to sing latin hymns at the cathedral. He's a music snob. It's only good if it's in latin. Me, on the other hand, I actually like the hippie music that he disdains. My favorite is the canticle of the sun. "the heavens are telling the glory of god/and all creation is shouting for joy/come dance in the forest, come play in the field/ and sing sing to the glory of the lord." I think part of this is because the first time I heard it I was helping with vacation bible school and bunch of little kids singing that song is soo cute and damnit, I want to go play in the field and dance in the forest. I also like simple gifts.

[User Picture] From: ravenword
Date: October 12th, 2004 - 01:47 pm
Latin hymns are prettier, I think, but mainly for linguistic reasons -- the vowel/consonant combinations in Latin and Italian sound better when sung than Germanic simple English words. Compare "O Come All Ye Faithful" to "Adeste Fideles" for example -- the Latin has fewer difficult consonant blends than the English, and more broad vowel sounds that I think are just lovely.

As far as the sentiment behind the music, I can go either way -- sometimes the more restrained, peaceful feeling is what I want, but sometimes, yes, it's good to dance in the forest. I recommend Unitarian Universalist services -- they also have pretty good coffee.

From: (Anonymous)
Date: October 12th, 2004 - 11:03 am

Respect for Jimbo down by 30%

WTF Jimbo, I've been visiting this site for a long time now and I have enjoyed your view on life, and disgust for all things wrong in this world - like Christianity. But now I read this block of text that sympathizes with Islam. This religion is even more ridiculous and authoritarian than Christianity. What are you trying to say here?

[User Picture] From: jimbojones
Date: October 12th, 2004 - 11:05 am

Re: Respect for Jimbo down by 30%

That whether I think the religion itself is a crock of shit or not, the human passion leaking out through the music is beautiful.

[User Picture] From: 69vetis420xxx
Date: October 12th, 2004 - 11:21 am

Admiral Vetis sez: No sympathy for the terrists!

[User Picture] From: discogravy
Date: October 12th, 2004 - 12:11 pm
i highly recommend you find yourself some recordings of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan ASAP. From your post above I can guess that you will enjoy it immensely. There are parts that are just pure unadulatared rapture.

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