You may remember that this morning I described the situation as follows. I’m talking to you, and you understand what my words mean. Situation A. Situation B is taking the situation A as a whole my talking to you, and you understanding what I mean what does that situation mean? And we find it doesn’t mean anything. This could be a way when we say something is meaningless it’s a way of putting it down. But on the other hand when you consider a mountain or a cloud or a tree and ask what does it mean and you realize it’s not a word it’s simply an authentic existence in it’s own right it doesn’t mean anything, but it’s great. And so, in this way the nearest thing in that kind of achievement that nature does all the time in human activities is music. Once when Gustav Holst was giving a lecture on music he started out this way he said music is a natural and universal language. He took a step backwards and said that so important I’m going to say it again music is a natural universe alone. But nobody knows what it’s about.
Sometimes we say music represents emotions. But a great deal of music, although it has a very strong feeling quality, does not represent specific emotions. Inferior music copies natural noises. The sound of water. The thunder of the hooves of horses or in that dreadful composition. Eight hundred twelve overture of Tchaikovsky, you hear Napoleon’s armies retreating from Moscow. Or in some of the bad work of Debusse. Like a rocket about along with he. Makes noises like bells tolling from under the water. But are very great musicians of the West, Bach Scarlatti Mozart and so on. They don’t do anything with the music except create elaborate patterns of sound. Bach is very mathematical and yet curiously despite his tremendously developed intellect the music has a very strong feeling quality. Joyous and exuberant. But it’s all pure play with sound. And therefore one might say, the communication that you make with music is in a curious way the most important kind of communication you can make. Even though you’re saying nothing the music delivers no information. But what a form of communication. And so it is also with dancing with somebody. All you are saying with dancing is I love you. If you’re delivering any message at all. I want to play with you. All I really want to do is baby be friends with you know. What does it mean? What is the content of friendship? You can’t say, what is the content of love? I want to screw you? That’s a sort of it part of it it’s incidental it’s a way of saying. Very strongly Yes I do want to be with you.
But basically love is something we can’t put our finger on at all. If we say we use such words as warmth. Tenderness. All these things they don’t really get to the point. When you’re you are loving somebody you are simply delighting in that person as such as if another human organism and its mental and its physical aspects were a piece of music or a work of art or a glorious morning that you were just enjoying every inch of it. And you go over another person’s physical form. And look at it from every possible point of view and play with it and tickle it. And that’s what it’s about. It’s the, it’s the adoration of the form of a human being. And you do all you do that adoring in terms of physical contacts that are say dancing with your fingers across the skin or whatever it may be. But this is the this is the nitty gritty the nub of love. It is not that I here and now suddenly undertake to support you for the rest of your life. That’s a delusion of the West you think you don’t really love me unless you’ll sign on the dotted line here give me this contract and then I know I can rely on you always. What did you want to know? Why did you want the contract? Just to be fed indefinitely? Just to be supported indefinitely? What a bore. One wants something much more than that you want to be played with indefinitely. That’s more like. To have this. Vibrancy going through you.
And this then is why music of all the arts is the most meaningless. After all, music is a major industry in the United States. The the money invested in orchestras and operas in the recording business is fantastic it’s at its, horseracing is a very great industry but music I think is probably absorbs more millions in Australia. And you could make a case that this was a complete dissipation. It solves no useful purpose, it doesn’t help anyone to survive. It is a noise meaningless noise, endless meaningless noise going down the drain and all these energies of orchestras are all a power of electronics that delivers this, is total waste. And people get hooked on it. They get the thing called corditis. Which is addiction to harmonics. And they have to have this repeated day after day some people get up in the morning and they can’t function til they’ve had cup of coffee. But many more people get up in the morning and can function till they turn on the radio or guts and lose it. And what would you say then of a culture which took this standpoint?
Music not a lot of. Music is a diversion from reality. You know, you know that kind of awful utilitarian attitude. But really one of the basic things you see that we live. What makes it worth. Surviving and going on is there can be such a thing as music that can be done singing in other words that we can do things that are absolutely irrelevant so far as mere survival is concerned. Now we have the problem that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Dull for work. And people who play. Justifying their play. By making it a means to that end those people never play. Because you don’t really play until you get so absorbed in the music or the dancing or the whatever you’re making the part of doing the calligraphy. Eat until you get so absorbed in that there is no reason for it other than what you’re doing. The sheer delight of that then because you are absorbed in something. For which there is no ulterior motive which is pure play. This by way of a byproduct produces sanity. In other words, if you play in order to be healthy in order to be sane, you’re not playing. But if you play just to play, then as a byproduct as something you couldn’t aim at directly you are saying. And so, a culture which allows for this, which allows for this sort of goofing is a healthy culture. This is not the culture that we live in. Because it is extremely anxious about play. Everybody when they play they have to find an excuse for it. And say well this is culture. We’re trying to sway the city of San Francisco to support its opera. What sort of propaganda do you have to use? You can’t say, ‘We should have a good opera house because we dislike going to be opera.’ You say, ‘This improves the city’s image.’ After all, they have it in New York. And that is because we do not allow ourselves the idea that life is not serious. Because somehow we feel, if you aren’t engaged in something serious. You’re a loafer, you’re not contributing to the social welfare.
And so in this way, the artist has a peculiar role in the society very very interesting. Because the artist is a very deceptive fellow. He appears to be the supreme luxury, the irrelevant fellow. You can afford an artist you can afford to buy paintings if you have surplus money. That’s a luxury so you can support an artist and we call it fine arts. The completely useless person. Who makes paintings which are sort of big labels or posters that you stick on your utilitarian walls to decorate them. But on the other hand, the artist is the man who shows you the future long before everybody else sees it. The artist is the Eye Opener. Just because the artist is distinct in role from the preacher and the philosopher, the artist can get away with all sorts of things. For example in our culture, if you’re a university professor a doctor or a minister like these three professions, teacher, Doctor or a minister. You have to be very careful about your private life. Because the moment you have any alliances come not quite regular, people’s tongues begin to wag. And why do they work because they say the way you behave is inconsistent with your profession with what you profess you are teaching people the good life, the healthy life, and you live in this disreputable way. You have a mistress you have something going on. But the moment an artist should take a mistress this is what is expected. Everybody says oh he’s an artist in other words he doesn’t matter he’s irrelevant. He is an entertainer some sort of clown but on the other hand if you belong to a high culture, you patronize artists.
So these the role of the artist is very fascinating. Because he appears to be the is the clown the jester, the absolutely unimportant and irrelevant person. And yet it’s actually through the artist that we learn how to live. Not through the preacher, not through the philosopher, not through the professor. It is the artist teaches us, whether he does it visually painting or sculpture actually over the above all, in music.
So, a man like Mozart, who could well claim to be the greatest man in European history was a kind of a gay happy go lucky fellow. With problems money, illness, etc. But what a songbird, what a nightingale. And so then to this day listening to Mozart as a in England the Glyndebourne opera this is about the forest out fashionable aristocratic thing you can do. Go to this lovely country house in Sussex and hear the Mozart operas. It’s as much a matter of status as going to church. Almost moreso.
You should read if you can get hold of an interview with George Harrison one of the Beatles in a recent issue of the East Village Other. Where he explains the deep philosophy of music that they understand and follow. How the the very nature of sound reveals the meaning of the world and why because of this, he regards himself as a Hindu. In Hinduism, the fundamental source of life is called Vok. Vok in Sanskrit means the word to speak, but not so much the word that communicates as the sound the utterance, the flow of tone. So you have in India the use of mantra. The use of chanted words. As one of the very basic forms of yoga, understanding the mystery of the world. The Hindus use the word ohm. Which would be spelled out a-u-m. Because the letter A. is in the back of the throat. You push it through the vowel of. And is of the lips. So the word comprehends the whole range of sound. It’s called the problem. And ohm simply means. Well it is the sound all sounds are basic to the sound of but there is the word that not only signifies but also is what there is. Everything is ohm. Ohms sweet ohm. The whole universes and his ohm. And so if this is a very good word because you can use it instead of God. God has all sorts of nasty associations attached to it of the root the political boss of the world the the preacher the prig the, the, nosy Parker in charge of everything the rotten grandfather. And all that, the sentimental mother of the world or whatever. And the word god therefore is a distasteful word now to most Westerners.
But ohm has no associations with it. In you might have encountered it in a Vedanta society in associated with swamis in yellow roses. But on the whole only has no association so it is a clean a clean word and it has no meaning, except it is the very pulse of life.
So I’m spreading a rumor, in Buddhism you know, there is a mantra from ohm mani padme me from. Ohm means nothing except everything money. Means a jewel partner is a Lotus own is correct you know. So the jewel in the lotus. In other words, imagine a monologue you see which is a lotus flower with all those petals spreading out from it and right back in the middle of that there is a little crystal ball or a diamond. And you look into that, and it contains the reflection of everything. You go way way way into that thing down, down, down, down. And that’s the ultimate turn on. So ohm. And at the end. Hum. H. you M. and say I am in English and. You are. There’s a new religion just being called hum. And this religion has no hierarchy, no organization no doctrines whatsoever. No words. Only music and ritual. And, we will find in a little while that hum is really what most people belong to. But you can’t pin it down. There is no address to write to, there’s nothing to join it just something people do like the shaving brush their teeth in the back, so they hum.
Well now, it’s very very fascinating for purposes of understanding music as communication. To look for a moment at different fundamental differences between Western and Oriental music as I know a very very great musicologist who thoroughly understands the world of Bach and Beethoven. And is one of the greatest scholars and really. Of around. But went to his ear Hindu music is childish. And he sees no subtlety. He’s quite deaf. But when it comes to Chinese and Japanese music, most westerners are flabbergasted, because they can’t make any sense of it at all, because it sounds as if somebody were making the most ridiculous noises. So when there’s a Japanese. No drama, singer and dog. [sings] Sounds like he’s being strangled. But he’s giving sounds of passionate love. For them into our ears that’s a deplorable you know when you want to. Give examples of love the. Dot E O O you know you know we’re really upset we’re in love. Well now, here’s the thing, in Western music, when we study music, the first thing we’ve done is notation. We have, most people begin with a piano. Or a generate some instrument Well the important thing is to be able to read the music and then do the stuff from the the written paper.
Now this limits you in a curious way because our notation. First of all, is based on the chromatic scale. And secondly it has fixed rhythmic intervals you have you see your whole note half note quarter note eighth note sixteenth note, and you can change the value of the dotting them to give them half their value. And you tend to write in bars four four, three eight or whatever it may be and when an Oriental listens to our music it doesn’t matter whether it’s a love song or a. Grandiose paean of praise or whatever, all of it sounds like a military march because it’s that one two three follow up to the fall one two three four one before the quantity of the class of the year that. All the time. And he hears a mechanism and you see he hears this absolute regularity.
Now in Indian music you’ll have bars. Very long measure you can count twenty to the Bar none of them are. And when you do you learn music from a Hindu teacher, you don’t. Learn notation. You learn directly from the teacher. In other words, he takes the instrument and plays it and you copy them. With the same instrument sitting in front of them. And they think, you see, that notation could never record music they do use a notation they use a notation to remember simply themes. There is a certain rag, a certain theme, and they’ve that you can write that down. But they don’t play from it. What they do is they according to certain traditional procedures they improvise on the basic forms. And you, therefore play the instrument, and what you’re trying to do is to make it as completely as possible responsive to the subtle motions of which a human organism is capable. In other words, just as in in moving your hand, there’s an infinity of waves you can put it through.
So likewise in using your voice, there is an infinity of sound that you can produce. Because the same you can with a strained instrument in moving your finger whether or no rigid stops as there would be on a piano so on the continuum of a violin, you can move your finger and produce an infinity of subtle sound. And what they do is they delight in the infinite possibility of making sound of the human organ, and they like instruments which are very easily and directly related to the organism. So the flute, the vena, the drums, so these are direct human contact with an instrument with a piano you’ve got something interspersed you’ve got a hammer mechanism. And every bit tune string. With a harpsichord the same way, the pluck, and went Wonderland Mosgrove marvelous as she is plays the harpsichord you get a hurdy gurdy effect to get a kick top top top top to kick talk to get a tick tick tick tock clock tick tick tick tick tick tick tick the of this going on all the time with a clavichord there’s a difference because the track record doesn’t have a mechanical relationship between the finger and the straight so that by. Every variation of touch you make on the clavicle is represented in the sound. In other words the piano in the harpsichord alike. Electric typewriters which have a uniform touch whereas the type because it is more like an old fashioned typewriter however hard you put it has some effect on the on the print. So, the it is in Oriental music, while there is an incredibly subtle discipline. And the Hindu drum can do the most astounding things, and you can count it out, he counts it out in these very very elaborate patterns but at the same time there is a an attitude about of the Sixers just fascinating. We attended a concert of the DeYoung Museum a few weeks ago where the son Ali Akbar Khan’s orchestra, and there was a drummer in this it was just out of this world. Wonderful thing about it was that as he was playing with the rest of the orchestra they were all talking to each other with their instruments. And if they made eye contact, while they were playing, and this guy it was just it sheer delight, he was laughing as he was playing, and all the other musicians were just loving it so that he was of the dead honest person looking at his music you know reading that doing he was joining in with everybody dancing to his fingers were like. Butterflies. Hummingbirds, that is to say, just vibrating in the most extraordinary way because it takes years and years and years to learn. But he would really a joy. But what was he saying?
They have a language for the drums and they can speak a drum by using syllables like the that done. It does or didn’t mean one kind of a hit and then and ten didn’t ten didn’t ten didn’t think that they did it if that if they don’t get done that that dahdahdah, dahdahdah, dahdahdah, you know and they do they explain a rhythm like that sometimes. First, they say it, and then they play it. But it’s all it’s all about, that’s all about. Dit-da. Dit-da.