Tuesday, 10 January 2017

In Response to Klaus Lang's "Why"

Nasim Khorassani
Graduate student at Cleveland State University
29 December 2016

In response to Klaus Lang’s “Why?”

Why should we put logic at the fundamental line of a music piece? Is that even logically possible to look through music all around the world from a small viewpoint of reasoning? These are the main questions came to my mind when I read the Farsi translation of Lang’s article (which is a written version of his lecture in Tehran). However, in more details, he mentions about Cargo Religion and a historical story of primitive tribes of isolated islands in America without giving any reference on it. It made me to check the original version in English on his website where I could not find any sources neither.
There is even no date mentioned about the lecture, but I think it must belong to the spring time in 2012, when I met him for the first time in Tehran. I was also involved with the group improvisation he mentions at the beginning of his article (not completely sure, because there is no date again) and I agree with him in many points as I used to be before. The more interesting is that I remember the concept “why”, to me, was exactly an obviously positive issue that I used to discuss about critical system I had found from German composers. In fact, it is really an interesting issue between musicians from East and West; and very complicated to answer simply. However, Lang does not mention the terms of East or West. Its audience is expected to be mostly among Iranian musicians since he starts with an example of the improvisation he had heard in Iran. So, it brought me to add some issues from the viewpoint of an Iranian in disagreement with some points.

Kalama’s quotation on avoiding repetition
Here I should claim a question: Is that practically possible to exactly repeat a music? I believe it is genetically impossible because no two people have the same DNA, and consequently, no similar thought. This is the reason that even no two performances of a single music work, say a piano sonata by Mozart, can be the same. The whole world changes every single second in microscopic details. Repetition happens once it is being decided to happen. There are also acceptable repetitions in music history of Europe; composing based on a motet, or like the era Christianity tried to spread out its chants while keeping all the same (and we all know that these were yet unable to stop it changing from a region to another). So, repetition is almost impossible even being decided. Iranian musicians had been tried to protect their traditional music by aural instruction system, memorizing, and repetition, but these all have not been enough effective to keep our historical sources during the time. In addition, we have the lack of a positive effect of repetition which could have been helpful for music scholars. Thus, it could be obvious that there cannot be a repetition of a composition, because composers always decide to build their own work.

Fashionable type of music in Iran
The term “fashionable”, here about music of Iran, is more complicated than what to be negotiated. In disagreement with Lang’s idea on “shopping the surface” of world music, this idea is what, I believe, can be caught from the surface of contemporary music in Iran. What is called “fashionable” from the viewpoint of an Austrian composer (similarly with Germans, I believe), is the term Iranian musicians are looking in serious. In fact, logics, the way Lang defines, almost has no place in Iranian music culture which cannot be negotiated. Logics in Iranian music are based on subconscious-nesses which makes it complicated to be defined in detail. Iranian musicians (mostly East) believe in the balance between intellectuals, subconscious instincts or feelings; with the less effect of intellectuals. They believe that a lot of reasoning or logics would freeze the art and ruins its passion, which is right the opposite of what Lang argues. It is the musical taste in Iran to while having logical effect, hide it with a great deal of elaborations and personal instincts or feelings. Feelings are the prominent elements of aesthetics in Iranian art as being called “Warm”. So, the term logic, of Iranian music, is defined the way which gets to a complete disagreement with that of Germans. It is the reason Lang superficially exemplifies, the performance he had heard in Iran, as a fashionable superficially performance.
However, as a member of that improvisation, I agree with Lang in some weak points which led him to this conclusion. It was just a single event in a difficult situation with many external causes and effects (which would be overwhelming to discuss them here). Yet, it cannot be acceptable to generalize a single example to a conclusion as big as the music of a country (as it seems Lang aims to conclude that).
In more details, there is another question came to my mind. How could it be logically possible to certainly measure the amount of logics behind a music? Logics in art, mostly, belongs to the most private or hidden layers. Sometimes we assume finding logics on foreground layers, whilst our observations can be just a small part of it. In contrast, there are moments that we have to refer to the composer’s quotes in order to find the logics behind the piece. Lang mentions about shopping the musical logics from the surface without getting to the deeper layers. How has he certainly measured that? On the other hand, as discussed above, the definition of logics can vary from one to another. How can Lang certainly claim that he has considered all logical points exist in the performance?

In a whole, as Lang mentions about the structure of musical instruments, I should add information in following of his interesting idea. As the same as differences between our musical instrument structures, our musical language structure can be different too. And these differences are interested composers to look differently for possibilities of their combinations. Some composers prefer more intellectual approach, while others may deny it with more instinctual preferences. Personally, as an Iranian composer, I have been in modulation between these approaches. I have recently found my Iranian intellectual taste driven from a main source of my pure instinctual approach to the sound. And this complicated story never ends.                                                                                

With great regards to Klaus Lang
Nasim Khorassani