By: Bshara Rezik
So, John Cage, Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso walk into a bar.
Observing a meditating monk
Unless you are also meditation yourself, it could become quite the boring experience. The concert began with 2 solo pieces – one on the saxophone by Jamal Moore, then on the electric bass guitar by Luke Stewart. I have to admit I wasn’t very impressed and all I was thinking was “pfff… I can do that..! Hell, I’ve even done that a hundred times”. My overblown ego was not impressed by the musical meditation created using delay and looper pedals. I felt like I was watching a meditating musician and I did not want to watch one.
The solo sessions ended, Jamal and Luke started playing together, it suddenly got a little more exciting, then to be joined by Dirar Kalash on piano. What happened next was about an hour long of a dynamic, continuous musical experience which cannot be put into any genre or framework. It was simply a juxtaposition of notes and instruments, rhythms and non-rhythms (if such a thing exists), harmonies and a-tonalities, it made no musical sense whatsoever, yet it made so much sense! It was raw, unfiltered, unlearned, yet, comprehensible. How can you even approach such music? One can only let go of all filters in himself too as a listener and enjoy this experience in the most basic and primal sense.
Progress Moves Backwards
“I like what you did there,” Dirar said to me, “but you didn’t manage to completely break loose from the things they taught you in popular music”. The year was 2013, I had just sent Dirar a piano piece I had recorded inspired by his teachings. I’ve known Dirar for quite a long time. He taught me that the most important lesson in music is to unlearn what you’ve learnt. Music does not have to be harmonic. Music does not have to comply to patterns. Music does not have to be understood.
Luke Stewart picks up the double bass, a bow, and messes with the strings in ways that were never meant to be. The bass was squealing, screaming, aching, talking, walking, telling a story. That wasn’t a 2 minute piece, it lasted longer and longer, the hairs on the bow were breaking by the tens and the sound of the bass was sometimes unbearable. But whoever said that music has always to be pleasant? What if music was meant to make you suffer? Music is a sort of reflection of life, and life can be unpleasant.
Dirar and Jamal joined Luke using every instrument (and non-instrument) possible on the stage. This session lasted another hour or so, the audience was sometimes enchanted and meditating, sometimes laughing out of inconvenience, sometimes just unable to understand and analyze what is happening on stage. For me it was a musical journey free of all rules and expectations. It was simply good.
So, John Cage, Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso walk into a bar. The rest is history.