Kayhan Kalhor plays the kamencheh, a four-stringed fiddle-like instrument. The piece he plays is a 12 minute improvisation. It is otherworldly and unlike anything I’ve heard–although the blurb makes it sound like a fairly common instrument in his native country. I don’t have much to say about the piece, so I’ll let the blurb do most of the talking:
For Persians, the New Year comes not in the dead of winter, but right at the vernal equinox. As spring renews the earth, people celebrate this fresh beginning as Nowruz, a joyous 12-day festival to celebrate beauty and abundance. We were lucky enough to have a master musician and composer from Iran, Kayhan Kalhor, visit us in time to celebrate with his gorgeous and deeply moving music.
As one of our interns observed during Kalhor’s mic check, Kalhor’s instrument does the dancing as he kneels with his legs folded beneath him. (This performance actually marks a Tiny Desk Concert first: having a musician perform on top of Bob Boilen’s desk, covered for the occasion by a rug, as Persian tradition dictates.) As Kalhor plays, his bowed, four-stringed kamencheh, a spiked fiddle, spins this way and that, swaying gracefully from side to side.
Before Kalhor played for us, I asked him what he was going to perform. He told me that it was to be an improvisation: “I don’t know yet where I’ll start, or where I’ll end up,” Kalhor said simply. That humble comment aside, Kalhor is a great master who embodies the core principles of this style of music: the ability to perform, entirely by heart, a huge amount of music composed over centuries — but then to take that tradition to new places through the art of improvisation. For us, he then proceeded to spin out a soulful, contemplative and beautifully moving improvisation in the mode of Nava.
The piece has been given the title: “Improvisation In Dastgah Nava.”
As the screen goes black, Kalhor asks: “Was this enough for you? I wanted to go on but I wasn’t sure how much time you had.”
[READ: February 1, 2017] Congratulations, By the Way
Children’s books will commence shortly. But as hatred continues to spread in Washington, one more post on kindness.
Have you ever read George Saunders’ convocation speech at Syracuse University for the class of 2013? It is stunning and moving and profound. And yet at heart it is so simple–be kind.
This book, much like David Foster Wallace’s This is Water, is a padded-out book version of Saunders’ speech. (With illustrations of stars by Chelsea Cardinal). I am generally opposed to this sort of cash grab book ($14 list price for content that is freely available), but as with Wallace’s book, the speech is so great that any way it can get into people’s hands is a good thing.
There’s not much I can say about the speech, because it is all true and beautiful and doesn’t bear me summarizing. But I wanted to compare the wisdom of this speech with our horrifying new President and his band of hate-spreaders. As you read this and know it to be true, wonder what in the hell happened to the people currently running our country that they have fallen so far from the common decency of this speech.
I was thinking how we are taught as children not to lie (Trump lies daily, egregiously) to study hard (Trump is unqualified and none of his cabinet picks are qualified–half of them are downright simpletons), to be kind and obey the golden rule (Trump is literally harming / hurting / damaging / ostracizing / potentially killing people every day with his executive orders). How did a wicked liar actually win? Why aren’t the good guys coming to take him out? I am prepared to RESIST, but it get harder every day with every evil thing he and his minions do. And watching our spineless elected officials (on both sides, but especially Democrats who were pushed around for eight years) cave to this dictator’s dreams is the most disheartening thing I have ever experienced.
And so, it takes someone liked George Saunders to lift you up. To believe that somehow this will all be made right. And to espouse try to kindness where you can. Because it sure isn’t coming from anyone elected.
The full content of the speech is below. Read it all, it’s worth it. Share it with everyone.