Friday, March 03, 2006

"My violin"             [ghazal]

I have held her   up to my chin   my violin
ah what music   nestles within   my violin!

turn the peg &   tune up the string   silence the crowd
clamor's ended   when you begin   my violin!

some take pleasure   racing their cars   into the hills
you I love to   take for a spin   my violin!

dust your surface   taut is your bow   hair of the horse
dark the rosin   costly as sin   my violin!

prayers when uttered   some will say Om   others Amen
you're my bhajan   & my Amin   my violin!

wise Professor!   why is the raag   wide as the sky?
can it hold both   dunya & din   my violin?


Om / Amen / Amin : three kindred forms of blessing marking the conclusion of a formal prayer (respectively from Hindu, Christian, and Moslem traditions)

bhajan : a devotional song (which, in Indian classical music, can also be expounded & explored instrumentally -- and which traditionally may optionally serve as the final item in a concert program)

raag (Hindi, from Skt. raaga) : the modal & archetypal root structure underlying any given composition or improvisation in Indian classical music; the word is also used to denote any exposition of any given raag (although, conceptually speaking, the raag per se exists on a higher plane, or at a more abstracted level, than the particularlizing expression of its embodiment in any specific exposition. If seemingly a fastidious, academic distinction, in point of fact this is actually a lucid, basic distinction in the ubiquitous theory underlying classical traditions of Indian music. Among other things, this nuanced theoretical ground allows for the sophisticatedly conservative (while yet expressive, indeed expressionistic) approach to structured improvisation found in those traditions.)

dunya & din (Arabic/Urdu) : the world and the faith

[English ghazal attempting to show strict attention to cadence (equivalent to the principle of beher in traditional Urdu prosody). The poem's maatla [first couplet] is based on a sher [couplet] borrowed [stolen, but reworked a bit] from Vasudev Murthy, the Bangaluru writer-violinist. (The 1st line of sher #2 is also semi-appropriated from the same source.) The maaqta [final couplet] alludes to Dr. Murthy, via directly addressing him as "Professor" -- this title serving in the ghazal as (or, one could say, in lieu of) a takhallus [poet's own pen-name]. Dr. Murthy is, it should be remarked, both a serious quasi-professional humorist, and also a serious semi-professional violinist. Although his own (possibly impromptu) faux-ghazal lines were perhaps penned with an element of comic intent [that is, with tongue, as the saying goes, firmly planted in cheek], I've laundered out such accidental-on-purpose wrinkles and ironed (which, ironically, removes the irony), creased & folded (formalized) this small tribute poem. In fine (and en passant), let me additionally hat-tip Dr. Murthy's late music teacher, the esteemed Pandit V.G. Jog (whose performance of Hindustani violin I recall with fondness from 20 years ago).]


Blogger ~River~ said...

Oh, this sounds great. It would sound wonderful read out loud by someone with an appropriately soulful voice.

Fri Mar 03, 11:08:00 AM PST  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

ah milli grazie --
well I owe the basic structure to Vasudevji, who wrote the 1st sher [less some tweaking].

Having the rhyme = the refrain can have a nice effect, this shows.

But River, one reason this has a more musically tistinct quality, is the use of the cadence: when cadence is well used, the fact that every single syllable is called into it [every syllable must follow the same "sonic architecture" within the line], ends up -- in the best-case scenario -- making the whole work like a finely-wrought tile architectural form: the individual tiles are no longer random, they're all involved in the form. To introduce a new image to this idea: it gets tighter in a way that turns it into an echo chamber.

But I'm only (I'd say) barely starting to get the hang of writing English ghazals with a controlled cadence -- a glimmer of how it should be done. Like any technique, it can be sort of forced, where the effect isn't right. Merely to follow a cadence is one thing; to do in a way that serves the expressive qualities of the given lines, . . .

etc. blah-blah

(All the above is by way of saying: glad your keen ear reports something afoot here musicality-wise; -- I can take encouragement from this.)

cheers, d.i.

Fri Mar 03, 12:16:00 PM PST  
Blogger ~River~ said...

I think I do know a little about 'forced' and 'unforced' cadences. This is definitely unforced.

Sat Mar 04, 04:56:00 AM PST  

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