Monday, January 29, 2018

On the Nature of Daylight

Max Richter is a very gifted being. If being a musician isn't beatific enough, he makes the sort of music that cannot quite be catalogued as belonging to any particular genre. The outcome of his pursuit is much beyond music; it is a certain substitute for language itself, the kind of expression that requires little articulation, in comparison to the burdensome semantics of any language, but can be understood clearly and instantly. His work has a certain subliminal effect of appealing to the innermost self as an intensely powerful substance that can evoke a multitude of feelings - truly rapturous and capable of consigning the beholder to faraway worlds and places that have no names or directions. Yet, that is merely the beginning.

The tone of his music plumbs depths that are deeper than the fathomless, the undiscernable. Profound and penetrating, in so many ways, and so much beyond description, there is considerable evenness, and yet the avoidance of any obvious structure or form, causing cataclysmic euphoria, like nothing else. While there is a very steady pulse, often throughout each piece, the distinction lies in the absence of any strong culmination. It causes the beholder to remain in a zone of the eternal. Perhaps, this is a very conscious effort to render it formless or minimalistic, and yet enormously evocative and haunting.

But what is most characteristic of Richter's music is not the music, it is the sensation of it - the undefined and yet permanent effect of the ephemeral, or the transient nature of feelings and emotions that it so skillfully causes to examine. Like a déjà vu, a deeply intuitive experience that is familiar only for a brief moment and is soon incomprehensible.

In creating what he has, Richter has ventured beyond limits of the classical and the postmodern, and his work, often interspersed, is a demonstration of his creative brilliance. However, that is the material part. What lies beyond is how his music seeks to offer a perspective, to the mind, to experience passions and sentiments as they are called upon by the notes and the hues, the feeling of the indescribable, the observation of memories, the trail of thoughts, and a glimpse of the unknown, of what is perhaps consciousness itself.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

With Winter Gone

The notion of normality or the purpose to seek normalcy is perhaps the biggest undoing of our lives. It is a hideous fallacy. Nothing is normal. There is no state of normalcy. Normalcy can at best be defined as a state of inertia or inertness - 'as having no inherent power of action, motion, or resistance.' Normalcy is also perhaps indicative of the only kind of certainty there is - that of mortality.

In truth, there is only change, the transcendental, the evolutionary. The human mind, linear, and morbidly fearful that it is, refuses to accept this ultimate truth. It goes as far as even rejecting it and drumming down all notions that contradict the acceptable. Not surprising then to see how people, collectives, and organizations spend a lifetime defining structures, systems, and processes in a quest to attain a normal state of being. Our institutions and social systems are built on this premise - contrived by linear beliefs and ignorant or disregarding of contrast. Consequently, so much of life is unseen, unknown, and unexplored. Worse, life is oft lived in a state of not being able to deal with life itself!

The intricacies of our lives are aplenty. They come in all forms and dimensions - overt, subtle, or unseen. But, they are there nevertheless. We don't see it, though, for we are consumed in defining our lives in the paradigm of what is normal and acceptable. In keeping with the need to exact purpose, form, and structure, we are caught in a compulsion to see and define things as being absolute, normal, and complete, as a means, as the ultimate.

The truth couldn't be further from this. The truth is that life is dynamic, as momentary as the clouds in the sky, and as formless as the river that runs its course.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Birds of Paradise

It is late in the afternoon. As I sit on the porch to savour this beautiful moment of calm stillness, soaking in the intensely beautiful greenery all around, a lot of movements catch my eye. It is magical and picturesque, to say the least - like a silent motion picture abuzz with countless characters in perfect harmony. With the sun preparing its descent, long creeping shadows fall across the expanse. There is a mild breeze, and it is quite cold this winter day. What appears to be a Honey Buzzard, one of the many species of raptors found in this region, circles overhead calling out intently, mimicking the cry of a kitten. A restless pair of Racket-tailed Drongos flitter about trying to catch insects mid-flight, putting up a spectacular dance of sorts in the air. Warblers, colourful and in plenty, hop about in unison, like a well-choreographed troupe of performers milling about to silent orchestration. Scaly-breasted Munias, an entire community of them, have descended on the wayward grassy patch, diligently scouring it and feeding on grass seeds.

Not far away, a pair of Sunbirds flitter about on the bushy Hibiscus plant, constantly hovering about near the flowers and drilling tiny holes on them in a dexterous effort to extract nectar. Surely, modern-day aviation must have designed the intricacies of mid-air refuelling, learning the ropes from these wonderful birds. A Vernal Hanging Parrot arrives to perch on a Banana plant. For a moment, it does absolutely nothing except to slowly tilt its head in a comical motion. Having satisfied itself, it ambles its way, rather clumsily, to the large unripe cluster of fruits. However, the fruits are not its objective. The heart-shaped crimson-coloured inflorescence, or the 'banana-heart', is what this creature is after. Settling down on the edge in a precarious balance, it begins a meticulous process of tearing away the bracts and extracting nectar.

Meanwhile, on the Silver Oak tree, a family of Scarlet Minivets, bright orange and yellow, are milling about, hopping across branches. They are not alone! Unperturbed by their going about, a flock of Magpie Robins dart to the ground below and make off to the tree, with insects, where they can devour them. It appears to be some sort of a merry-go-round with these radiant white and black creatures jumping about and flying back to their perches of safety and repeating themselves endlessly. Elsewhere, a funny looking White-cheeked Barbet descends on a Papaya tree and investigates the possibility of cutting up a fruit. But, the tender fruit is not ripe yet and the bird abandons its endeavour and flies away, perhaps to locate another possibility.

The neighbouring coffee estate abounds with hectic activity. A Greater Coucal is noisily foraging in the undergrowth. It hops about in a very unbirdlike manner and its striking red eyes stare at me ominously before satisfying itself of the inconsequential nature of my being. Not far away, an extended family of noisy Red-whiskered and Black-collared Bulbuls are enjoying themselves in the bird bath. Vying ardently to secure a moment longer at the bath, they fight and scramble among themselves causing a roisterous ruckus, while a more gentle and well-mannered pair of spotted doves walk about on the courtyard, nibbling scattered grain. And, there are sparrows! Where couldn't they be! A crew of sparrows has perched assertively on prime spots of real-estate - the bushy juvenile Mango tree in the courtyard, the White Bauhinia, the electricity line, and wherever 'sparrowly' possible. From their vantage sit-out, they scurry about to gather grain or seeds and aggressively drive away all competition - often, many times their size!

But, unbeknown to them all is a pair of intent eyes, regarding every move with malevolent glare and discerning these happenings as if to be ready and to pounce on an unsuspecting visitor, like a blitzkrieg! However, on this pristine day, there would be no casualties. His Royal Majesty, Lord Fudicus Cattus Fudicus, aka the Mighty Lord Puddix, the benevolent ruler of the stately provinces of Wayanad, and of our humble home  - the friendly (and opportunistic) neighbourhood tabby is satiated after a veritable meal of leftover fish heads. He is no mood for ambush and so, his subjects, our winged visitors, have survived to live another day, in what is surely paradise regained!