Search View Archive

Storm Harp

Section 2.

"The matter of song is warm air, even breathing, and in a measure living, made up of articulated limbs, like an animal, not only bearing movement and emotion, but even signification, like a mind, so that it can be said to be, as it were, a kind of aerial and rational animal."
—Ficino, Op. Omn. (563)

"Certainly no one in their right mind will think that an image fashioned in the spirit of my fantasy can go out of my brain and get into the head of another man."
—Erastus (ca. 1572)

Elevated by the elevator, love spills over
the groceries like an all-day toothache:
every live performance now a tombstone in
some cybercemetery where it haunts the
placid vale at push of button. The traces
of everything we lost, obligatory as fifth-rate
heroin: everyone’s free but no one cares.
I know it’s mine because I paid for it.
Music? Our machines will do that for us.

All my life I’ve had reincarnation flashes of the late Mughal period. When I visited Delhi I pinpointed the flashes in the old suburb of Qutub Minar around the time of Akbar II or Bahadur Shah. The dense foliage, as in a Rajput miniature, faded in and out: kiosk, balcony, jacaranda, rotten pearl, hookah, betelnut, wine, bhang, poetry, evening monsoon, appropriate raga, parrots, palmetto, veranda, throbbing surbahar: or else for some reason I hear scratchy 78’s of Persian "classical" piano in the old Radio Tehran style, retuned like a qanun, unpedalled, played with four fingers, shimmering and broken like those Shiite shrines covered inside and out with mosaics of shattered mirrors.

Someone recites:

I visited the poetic salons
I tried to sublimate my ghazals

to mere masks of the divine. But God
is still nothing but you at a distance.

Knots are tied and breathed on somewhere
I raised the wind but it blew back in my face.

Your presence acts like poison but
Absence and disgrace are no cure.

Solomon’ld crawl to lick the feet
of any wizard with 1/10th the power of yr gaze.

If I could leave myself to you in my will
I’d deign to consider Death and Resurrection Day

and so on with various paradoxical cliches in the Hindustani style. What happened next? Perhaps the Mutiny broke out. I’m not sure the surbahar had even been invented by the 1840’s or 50’s, and certainly not the Persian piano! Also I don’t believe in reincarnation. I probably met these ghosts in a library of books stained with old ectoplasm and drilled with wormholes—an etching of overgrown ruins seen in a certain slant of rainy-season light, like the cool indifference of all pubescent poets.

In this sense, music will die.


Peter Lamborn Wilson

Peter Lamborn Wilson is an American anarchist author, primarily known for advocating the concept of Temporary Autonomous Zones.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 03-JAN 04

All Issues