I’d like to think the religions of Asia provide a level of awareness that seems rather conspicuously to be missing from the religions that originated in the Middle East. Hinduism and Buddhism are more appealing to me than Christianity (to say nothing of Judaism and Islam, of which the less said the better).

But possibly the grass is just greener on the other side of the fence. On using the Web to learn a bit about Tantra, I’m finding myself baffled. It’s not just that the authors of these texts use a bunch of unfamiliar terms. They seem not to be interested in defining the terms in a way that anybody could make sense of.

Before too long, I discovered that the practitioners of Tantra still (in the 21st century) sacrifice goats and other animals in their temples. Okay, never mind. I’ll look into some other tradition. I don’t care what kind of alleged ancient wisdom you’re hanging out with; if you’re killing animals to make your gods and goddesses happy, your ancient wisdom is a crock of shit, and that’s the truth.

Still, researching other cultures and their spiritual practices is probably worth doing. Somewhere along the path, being a musician, I noticed a link to a page on Indian music for meditation. Hmm — maybe knowing about that will give me a handle on the larger subject matter. Unfortunately, the nameless author of this page slathers it on pretty thick.

“Music has been used as meditation music since the very dawn of civilization,” we’re told, “because it balances the human organism through its rhythmic pattern of tones, which are generated in a harmonic relationship with each other.” Hey, I’m a musician. Can you tell me about the rhythmic patterns or the harmonic relationship? No, that would be too easy.

“Listening to music which is synchronized to the sympathetic overtones of the season, time, and hour of the day makes us flow in harmony with our natural environment, saves energy, regulates moods, and provides inspiration to live and joy to enjoy.” Okay, what sympathetic overtones are we talking about? How do the sympathetic overtones of, say, autumn compare with those of spring? Good luck tracking down that information.

“Music for morning and evening meditation should be composed with the consciousness of the harmonics of the time and the hour of the day. The instruments used should be generating tones which are in perfect harmonic scale of the time of the day and induce calmness and create a meditative mood.” And which tones might those be, for morning as opposed to evening?

Well, maybe the unnamed author will be willing to divulge that information. “Music for morning meditation should produce a very tender, calming, and refreshing meditative mood that helps us step out of sleep and into a harmonious waking state.” Whereas, on the other hand, “Music for evening meditation should inspire feelings of joy, confidence, satisfaction, inspiration, and the calmness of moonlight. Listening to it improves mental and physical health and relieves stress. The droning sound of the tambura should have sympathetic overtones that subtly influence the nervous system.”

If that ain’t enough to drive you back to Walter Piston, I don’t know what would be.

It’s not that more precise information is not available online; by searching for “morning raga theory,” I turned up a whole page on the association of particular ragas with seasons and times of day. This page lists more than 80 ragas. But of course there’s not a word about what notes (or rhythms?) are used in any of the ragas.

By digging around I found another page that had some information on the scales in a variety of ragas. Still nothing about the rhythms, but I suppose I might be able to track down a word or two about rhythms too, if I work at it. So okay, I’m mainly just being grumpy.

But hold your horses, I’m making a point here. The point is, esoteric gobbledygook is not helpful. If you’re going to present information to people, you have an obligation to engage your brain and take responsibility for the clarity and completeness of what you’re writing. If you’re no good at explaining things, maybe you need to sacrifice a goat — beforehand, or instead.

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One thought on “Sympathetic Twang

  1. Ah, the problem with the interweb. Any moron can publish his drivel for essentially nothing. The corollary to that was the hand-written tome wherein the expense was so great that only a few really good texts were published for a very exclusive audience. The problem being the paucity of information available, and available to whom. The height of information balance, I believe, was during our youth. Although much of the media was controlled by the traditional monied interests (religions, governments, political parties, corporations, etc.) the small guy could, for a modest investment, put out his own work and market it himself. The key being “modest investment.” This was the state of affairs from about the latter-eighteenth to the latter twentieth centuries. Of course for every Tom Paine, self-publishing and standing on the street corner to hawk it, there was a multitude of the vain doing the same with their own personal nonsense, but, nevertheless, they had a pony in the race, because there was an investment involved. Probably similar to buying that first TV, when they were so expensive a down payment needed to be saved up, and the monthly payments factored into the household budget some how. Since computers have become cheap and ubiquitous, and bandwidth is readily and seemingly limitlessly available, any idiot (I’m not excluding myself here) can prattle on and on about any inanity they like, without any investment.

    And while here let me say that I appreciate your blog posts for my own selfish reasons. They give me an opportunity to throw my thoughts against yours, and though you leave me in the dust with the technical stuff regarding music, all the rest is challenging and thought provoking. I have a great respect for your thinking process and you give me an opportunity to exercise my own in ways I wouldn’t otherwise use. Back to religion, where you started, all the “great” religions have creation start with their particular god or gods uttering words out loud, changing a mere fleeting thought into a concrete manifestation, a chimera wrought solid. Thanks for being a friend. I hope my particular nonsense is adequate payback for what I owe you.

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