Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Music lessons for Rumi's birthday


Trade your cleverness for abandonment. 
~ Rumi

Frederick Leighton’s painting of a music lesson (see note below), perhaps between mother and daughter, and the photograph below of John Coltrane giving piano tips to his wife Alice, offer a pretty, demure picture of music lessons. I am here to tell you that taking piano lessons from my mother was, at times, aggravating. She was so lovely, metaphorically like Leighton's silken mother above. But me, I had no diligence, where she had nothing but. I didn’t care enough about the piano, and I did not like to be told when I was doing something wrong, like when I didn't strike the keys with my fingertips as if they were the hammers on the strings inside the piano.

(Doesn't the porch these two are sitting on resemble a piano keyboard?)

I do care about poetry, with a passion. Because of this, diligence doesn’t feel like diligence. Discipline? Discipline is what you need for doing what you don’t want to do, or want to do but can't seem to find the time, or enough skill for. I am a lethargic procrastinator for nearly everything but writing. (As you witness, in part.)

This week to celebrate Jalalu'ddin Rumi’s 804th birthday (September 30) I’ve been swilling Rumi wine. (Normally I sip slowly.) There's a drunk donkey kicking down fences with all these words turning into wine. I wrote the two poems posted this week after guzzling his words. I don’t want to just imitate Rumi’s poems. I want to bust down mind fences, let the heart kick her way out of the pen of language, while putting my soul out there like fly paper.

Alice and John Coltrane

Rumi's way:
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

translated by John Moyne and Coleman Barks

Poetry should be heard. Listen to Coleman Barks read these lines for a couple of minutes, with musical accompaniment, introduced by Garrison Keillor. I can hardly separate Rumi from Barks' voice, in translation, and sonorous recitation. In this recording, you can feel, there are no fences.

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī
30 September 1207 – 17 December 1273

"Poems are rough notations for the music we are."


Image of Rumi on an old book in the Mevlâna museum;
Konya, Turkey; Rumi's body was buried in Konya, but
his spirit lives here, eight centuries later.

Frederic Leighton's "The Music Lesson" at the top is in
the Guildhall Art Gallery of the City of London Corporation,
is oil on canvas, 104cm x 101cm, painted 1877. If the scene
seems to be well suited for a post about Persian Rumi, who
lived most of his life in Konya, Turkey, maybe it's because
it is one of the paintings inspired by Leighton's visit to the
Middle East. The Leighton House Museum in London
interprets the painting thus:

An older woman helps a girl to play a guitar, possibly of Syrian origin. Leighton developed a deep interest in Eastern art and architecture after his first trip to Algeria in 1857, and here we can see him introducing this into his art. The two figures are surrounded by and dressed in souvenirs from Damascus. The architectural setting for the painting shares an affinity with George Aitchinson's contemporary designs for the Arab Hall at Leighton House, although it has also been linked with the sixteenth century mosque of Suleiman Pasha at Damascus.

You can see more paintings inspired by the Middle East by Leighton here.



Heather said...

Dear Ruth, I also disliked piano lessons--perhaps because I really wanted to take ballet lessons? I had a wonderful piano teacher, and I have long slender fingers, but virtually no musicality. I love to listen to people playing the piano, however. My mother-in-law plays beautifully and it is wonderful to visit and hear her play. Chris says, "she plays piano when she's happy" and I know she's happy when we come to visit, because the house is filled with her music.

Ruth said...

Oh Heather, is it really you? Lesley and I were just telling Peter's girlfriend, a chef and cake baker, about your Zingerman's wedding cake, designed after that gorgeous vintage lampshade. And then Lesley said, "Wasn't Heather a pixie bride?"

You have a ballet dancer's body, and well, you have a poet's dancing mind. I loved listening to my mom play, especially Saturday mornings, when I was waking up in my bed in the room above her piano. We can be enthusiasts together, eh what?

How I've missed you. Hello to Critter too, and Diesel.

Grandmother said...

I feel so full after I read your posts. Oh, those colors of mother and daughter, rich and gorgeous. Your words about writing resonate in me. Of course we make time for that which sustains us. If this weeks poems are from swigging Rumi, I need to be drunk. I long for the freedom of heart and mind to emerge from my words. I pray for passion. You do put your heart out there. You're my teacher.

missing moments said...

Delightful info ... and tribute.

Brendan said...

I don't think any child takes lessons as willingly as the passionate adult ... especially from a parent. I sure hated guitar lessons, all that drone work of becoming a rock 'n' roll star. (It's one reason, besides massive thirst, that I didn't become one.) Nor did I take to learning poetry eagerly, though I was old enough by then to know I sucked without help. Age makes us pragmatic, perhaps, and then lovers ... Thanks for the exquisite Rumi. I got one of my favorite phrases, "fluid freedom," from a translation of a Rumi poem by Coleman Barks. How many poets stay popular after eight centuries?

JeannetteLS said...

I was amused by the piano lessons, and enjoyed listening and appreciated your love of the poet, but...

"There's a drunk donkey kicking down fences with all these words turning into wine. I wrote the two poems posted this week after guzzling his words. I don’t want to just imitate Rumi’s poems. I want to bust down mind fences, let the heart kick her way out of the pen of language, while putting my soul out there like fly paper."

Those sentences kicked me at the core. WONDERFUL. Had to read those sentences aloud. Yup. I DO love your blog, Ruth. (Thank you for visiting mine.)

Kanelstrand said...

Where have you been all this time and why haven't I found you earlier? In a mediocre blogosphere abundant in false pretense, I felt here as in an oasis.


hedgewitch said...

As always, your blog is like an oasis--albeit one of lmules kicking the fences down--but i say, more power to 'em. Loved the music behind Coleman Barks in that clip--so full of the joy of life--I really like that in music, that it communicates emotions with the immediacy of a kiss or a touch. Thanks for sharing your story, and Rumi's birthday with the world. I must read more of him now.

Gwen Buchanan said...

I love the whole feeling of your post Ruth.. the feeling I get from it is that the world is unfolding the way it should.

erin said...

how timely was this, ruth? are we zapping away on the same note, or what? strange and wonderful, this coincidence today.

(can i tell you, just now, i listen to the translation and of course, i am so happy for it, for who would we be without hearing these words, but aren't translations such strange things? i can't quite get my mind around it, or how he speaks as though they are his own words. but perhaps we do this with one another all the time, how we affect one another, become one another.)

i never learned a thing about music. i never believed i could. never really thought i could learn of anything, i think, except life as it unfolded. hearing a mother play a piano is as impossible to me as walking on ceilings or mangoes or deserts. (and yet, ironically, my first inference in my music poem was in relationship to my mother wiping my feverish brow. perhaps i was channelling you:)


Jeanie said...

I had heard of Rumi before you, of course. But knew little. Since I've followed your blog, I am more familiar (don't confuse that with knowledgeable!). I loved how you defined diligence as opposed to disciplined. Hadn't thought of that before -- makes perfect sense. And your piano lessons story reminds me of more than a few similar incidents in my life -- although my mother wasn't my teacher. The Leighton (he is one of my favorites) is simply divine. As always, thank you!

Loring Wirbel said...

I'm writing in a homemade Kichwa notebook I got from Ecuador that says Rumi on it. So that's my birthday nod. Praise the Rumi reference and praise the recognition that relatives have no business giving music lessons - in fact, neither do close friends!

Louise Gallagher said...

And you are. Doing just that. Kicking down mind fences, kicking the heart out with the pen and putting your soul out there, way out there, like fly paper.

Write on!

Ruth said...

Mary, I wonder how passion finds us? Do we fall, in one glimpse? Or do we keep feeding ourselves with something and thus build a passion? There are a thousand ways . . .

Thank you for such generosity, such a thought you end your comment with. I resist it . . . no, I'm not a teacher . . , but, but, I rejoice (!) if following my heart and soul shows you something you need. We do this for each other. Just you, being there where you are, every day living your dream.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Reena, I'm happy you enjoyed it.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Brendan. I sometimes wonder how homeschooling parents and their kids can stand the tension that I imagine, based on my own experience of a mother's piano lessons.

The phrase "fluid freedom" is a good one, and it's what I think happens when you get just enough training in any skill to get past being sucky, and into that sweet spot when what is in you flows integrally.

Ruth said...

Jeannette, abundant thanks for your generous response.

Ruth said...

Kanelstrand, what a fragrant visit from you. Thank you. Your blog is very lovely, and I look forward to following you.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Hedgewitch. You give daily power to the donkey kicks. Your poems knock me out. Yesterday's "The Griffin King" is a brilliant example. Maybe him rolling sensuously in / the dust of bones . . . is like the donkey kicking down fences. And I say, more power to him. I hope you will find a lot of joy, depth and meaning in Rumi as I have.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Gwen. I don't know about you, but the fact that this poet is read so widely eight centuries after his birth lends some perspective to our times.

Ruth said...

erin, I loved our congruence of posts. The clarity of each note, that truth, the forwardness of it, as you say in your piece, the mother's influence and light.

Well you know Coleman Barks does not know Persian. He translated from translations, apparently. He is a poet himself, but I feel that he almost channels Rumi. I do feel they are his own words, and as I say, I can't separate the two of them.

I don't know. I think we constantly reprocess what we hear and read and see. Everything I bring in through my senses today will affect what will come out of me. But it is quite interesting when two people render similar expressions without having read each other first. :-)

Ruth said...

Thanks, Jeanie. I am reading Rumi's Big Red Book and I had no idea how many poems he wrote. He dictated to a scribe, they just flowed out.

I can see how it seems I was contrasting diligence and discipline, but I was actually using them almost synonymously.

This painting makes me want to scrunch up their silk in my fingers and caress it.

Ruth said...

Loring, how cool is that? A Kichwa notebook with Rumi. I wish we could sit down and talk about your trip to the Galapagos.

Sounds like there is a story there for you about close friends and music lessons . . .

Ruth said...

Louise, thanks so much for the encouragement, always.

Arti said...

Ruth, your visuals here present the romantic side of what music lessons can/should be... but reality is what we live, right? All the pressure, the corrections, the hard work, the toil and practices... And you're a living example of what drives success: passion. Your passion for poetry makes toiling a pleasure, doesn't it?

Ehsan Ashrafi said...

Hi Dear All frinds:
I am Ehsan Ashrafi from Iran. I saw your weblog and I am happy that you have disscutions about Mowlana(you cal him Rumi). I have a facebook group in which I interpret Mowlana's poems. I will be very happy if you join to this group and tell us your ideads. In order to join us, please go the the following address:!/groups/147349418678144/

Let the light of Mowlana spreads to all parts of the world.

amy@ Souldipper said...

Just simply "amen".

Oliag said...

Hey! I could have sworn that I already made a comment here...naturally it was very pithy and wise....but now I see that I either made that up in my mind or it got lost in the etherland...

...any ways I loved the video you shared! ...and the line "There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground..."and your delightful way of making connections....

I also believe I wrote Happy Birthday dear Rumi!

Ginnie said...

I can understand how you associate Rumi's words with Barks' voice! (I especially liked hearing Garrison Keillor again.) This is very powerful, Ruth.

Ginnie said...

I forgot to add that I had no idea Rumi and Amy share birthdays. :)