Invited to Deva Premal's concert for the first time - and although my journey over the past few years has led me to wide and profound discoveries in music, therapy, travels, human being, exploring, my curiosity... - I'm dazzled.
From my first steps at Paris Conservatory to these mantras, what a journey, I thought ! Without forcing logic, isn't this search for the absolute through the perfection of the pages of Mozart, Chopin, Bach, Ravel, that has led me to the essence of music, the place where the breath awaits nothing other than the very being : life ? But what is "sacred" ?
Generally we discover art, transcendence, after a life journey. The momentum of life leading to the artistic question. For me it was the opposite : starting from art as a necessary, vital, essential impulse to everything, I wondered about life. Going to meet your humanity is anything but comfortable !
This is also the journey of this singer, Deva Premal. For those who do not know her, she is a woman who, with Miten, her partner in life, art and spirituality, offers concerts where music takes on a broader dimension than contemplation or entertainment. Miten, the former rocker absorbed by too much industrial machinery in his touring experience, once needed to get back to his roots... It was at this crossroads of life that he met Deva, herself in question about the meaning of life. Since then they have traveled the world sharing the deepest part of their discovery, the nugget they found by stripping their music and songs of the artifices that no longer corresponded to them. Their passion naturally spread to the world. The audience sings with them some mantras, Sanskrit songs with spiritual and, according to some, therapeutic values.
Describing the atmosphere of these concerts is a delicate matter. There is a joy as well as a modesty, a sweetness and a spark that seem to come from far away. A priori one could say to oneself that there is nothing transcendental : a very simple singer, a sober guitarist, a flute player, a percussionist, a few lights and a subdued atmosphere in Paris Grand Rex hall. Not searching for anything to prove nor to do, they come on stage inhabited, we feel it, much more than the idea of playing a concert. They come, full of themselves, to surrender themselves naked. The notion of effort is relegated to that of sincerity. Cloud cuckoo land, you might ask ? I challenge you to spend a day without a struggle, in whole authenticity ! In this way, they allow us to reveal ourselves to ourselves, whether we are virtuosos, poets, simple, imperfect, courageous, light, men, women...
About what a mantra is, the famous Indian master teacher, Osho, tells us about it : "A mantra is not only something to sing. It's not singing. A mantra is something to let sink deep into your being, just as roots go deep into the earth. The deeper the roots sink into the ground, the higher the tree will rise into the sky."
I would gladly replace the term mantra with the term music to have its most accurate definition. Music much more than music... This vibration penetrates our soul, our body, our heart, our veins, our cells, to make us greater than we thought, revealing our own power : within us. If Beethoven touches us so much, if the most grandiose pages of Bach, Chopin, Mozart, upset us so much, it is because they echo with this majesty that only asks to blossom from ourselves, to take its place, its space in each of the beats of our heart, in each of the breaths of our life.
THE ART OF BEING
Etymologically, art is a means : the art of shaping wood, creating colors, revealing sound, handling words. It was only much later that its definition took on the meaning of an end in itself, as result : an art, a work of art, an object.
Coming on stage is already an art : the art of communicating an intention in which the music itself will be the instrument.
During Deva Premal's concert, I wonder : would there be "spiritual" concerts on one hand and "classical" concerts on the other ? Where does the sacred begin, where does silence end ? Here is the reason for this gently provocative title.... What energy is it when we connect with music, this art of the abstract which, however, has the very concrete ability to come to modify a mood, a feeling, to plunge us into an emotion of joy, sadness, despair, to make us go through rage, anger, memory, heroism, love, pleasure ?
Observing the audience of these mantras, I notice that, even those who do not sing, even during songs where the audience does not participate, there is an active listening, something that is aware, by participating, of what is happening. A kind of ecology of the relationship between listening and sounding, reception and action....
Have the needs of the 21st century changed ? This would be logical since everything changes, is transformed, including in art. We seek to give the illusion that art too is becoming more "efficient", more skilful, like engineering, computer science and technology. We want people to believe that concert rituals are "modernizing" by pointing out new clothing habits, criticizing or incensing dresses, the high heels of some, the personalities of others. But we are only staying on the surface when we think that Beethoven must be appreciated only in a certain way, when we don't go down a little further to see what is really happening there - in us.
And then we forget that "The earth revolves around the sun but that every day the sunlight settles on the earth from a different angle" (Paul Auster) and that then every work, every concert, every ritual is an act in perpetual restart.
In spiritual, there is ritual. An etymology of the spiritual word leds, funnily as an abyss setting, to interpret, reinterpret, through the Latin root of the word which is not "connect" commonly accepted but "reread", which by extension leads us to rewrite, that is, to place ourselves in the perspective of a new reading. A ritual, like a concert, is an act in perpetual recreation. The interpretation itself is a creative act that is renewed every time. But then, how do you know when it sounds "right" ? What is true about a scene of costumes, masks, glitters and stage settings ? Neither too tense nor too relaxed, when do we know that the string of the instrument, this means of the balancing act that must be refined to resonate with the vibrations of the moment, is in the right place at the right time ?
The only answer I could find was : intention. As in the ritual, as in the interpreter's process, there is only one meaningful question : where does it come from and where does it go ? Like a chef's master ingredient, without intention, there is a good chance that the string of your heart will not resonate, that your taste buds will not dull, neither by listening nor by playing. A flavor may have more appeal to one than the other, but in the chef's own gesture remains the spark that is transmitted beyond the plate.
Intention is something very silent. It may even be the quietest place in us. "To know who you are, listen to your silence" says the Japanese proverb. Here we are at the heart of the spirituality. Religious spirituality originaly comes from the Latin "eligare" : "to tie, connect, moor ships to the shore". Isn't it this feeling, when during a meditation, a time for oneself, a communion with any art, we connect ourselves to the most precious part of ourselves ? One of the most beautiful sentences I heard from a participant during the weekend of hypnosis discovery that I offer to musicians as mental preparation was : "I feel connected to my precious."
What else can I say after that ?! Of course, we can talk about God, the divine, the transcendent reality in what the word "spiritual" contains. But isn't it, above all, the greatest - and only - intention of Man seeking to connect (or rather live this link that is already there and perhaps illusory lost) to himself, to others, to nature, to the universe ?
So, are we coming to the concert as a somewhat boring ceremony, as a museum that we have already visited a thousand times but whose paintings remain, eternal still, soothing our anxieties about the process of disintegration of our own body, which is only a passage in these corridors of timeless works ? And when I talk about museums, I am not talking about the age of the works that are often, on the contrary, eternally actual, but rather about the absence of life precisely, of intention, of humanity when one seeks perfect neutrality... Or do we come to experience an exhibition curator who has chosen precisely this angle, this light and this shadow to bring out a detail, an element, to tell the story from this perspective, one of the millions that are the hollows and the convolutions of a cathedral mirror of our soul ? Is the audience really as passive as we think it is ?
When I accompany someone in a hypnosis session, I am officially "doing" something. Yet, really, he / she is dpoing everything... The art of bringing an emotion, of suggesting the story that is yours in resonance with what you see, what you perceive, what you feel, what you hear, is what happens in concert. So everything is right when the starting point is right. The recital concert was created by Liszt exactly in his image (19th Century). He was then considered a rock star and people rushed from all over the world by horse-drawn carriages, boats, on foot, on pilgrimage, to witness this "miracle". Women fainted, the elderly cried, newborns were taken there as if they were at the Pope's, and the whole audience was fascinated, hypnotized. A kind of catharsis, Liszt offered an experience to live through the pages of his colleagues, contemporaries or predecessors by performing them in public under his fingers. At the same time, Paganini was having fun sawing the strings of his violin just before the concert to finish with a single string and show how diabolical it was to be able to play everything so wonderfully on a single string... The devil came to meet the divine. Isn't that a "show" ? However, it aroused the emotions, the feelings of those who also came to hear these souls of extraordinary musicians.
If Liszt shaped the concert in his image, if Wagner built a hall to hear his operas, if Deva Premal found the form that delivers its content, isn'it the most beautiful invitation to create your own theatre of the imagination ? Promise that everything is always new every time, it is only if we are in touch with ourselves, this most sincere part that inhabits us, that we can celebrate the score that is ours.
Whether in a church, on a mixing desk, with a stradivarius, on the most popular stage in the world or in the street, ritual and spiritual can be everywhere where consciousness is allowed through this alignment between heart, mind and action.
The world is a stage and I wonder what your symphony is...
Wishing you a magnificent November month !