The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

July 6, 2013

So/aring (best)

Roughly fifty-three Cambodias constitute the area of China. The
Chinese erhu is a somewhat complicated instrument complete with
advertised fine-tuners, mutes, a variety of bows and strings,
varying woods. The Cambodian tro so or tro sor is almost invisible
on the Net; I haven't found any for sale, much less specialized
strings. But the tro so has instantaneous response, as if
emanating a clear light, and my fingers dance on the strings. The
tro so bow is heavier and thicker than the erhu bow, and I delight
in the weight and exactitude of the wood. The tro body is
cylindrical, and the wood rests anywhere along the rim; on the
erhu, the body is hexagonal (sometimes cylindrical, sometimes
octagonal), and the light bow tends to flip over the 'corners.' I
know this is a fault of mine, slowing me up, creating a rougher
movement, although the erhu can be as sweet as you like. The tro
so, on the other hand, has a broader tone, but one susceptible of
amazing variation, and the tone doesn't imitate the violin; it
holds its own. It's beautiful and I can soar on it. I'm awaiting
the day I can do the same on the erhu, but perhaps a certain
imperial history obscures my relationship, just as Khmer history
transforms the tro so for me. It's confusing; I bring to both the
collapse of an American Empire that's still busy poisoning the
world, but no place is safe from itself and its originary
violence. I keep all of this in mind as I move from one instrument
to the other; the truth is, that the tro so is easier and lighter
for me, and makes me happier - while the erhu remains a dark and
complex challenge. The two seem so similar, and yet for me are as
different as organ from piano, and I work on both with widely
varying techniques and degrees of proficiency. Here are the erhu
and tro so again, and here I am, again, lost in the music (as) we
speak to one other.

From Heidegger's Nietzsche, "Rapture as Aesthetic State": "We are
not first of all 'alive,' only then getting an apparatus to
sustain our living which we call 'the body,' but we are some body
who is alive. Our being embodied is essentially other tan merely
being encumbered with an organism." "Rapture is a feeling, and it
is all the more genuinely a feeling the ore essentially a unity
of embodying attunement prevails." "At the outset Nietzsche
emphasizes two things  about rapture: first, the feeling of
enhancement of force; second, the feeling of plenitude."

Yes, and force and plenitude constitute a lifting out of an
instrument or a "merely," a billowing when the fingers move of
their own accord, when history is lost and absolved in the
fecundity of sound. This is where we are, when we are there, not
among either language or a mis-interpreted Wittgensteinian silence
- but among Rilke's angelic orders. Something doesn't "have to be
said" about this under any circumstances, nor does the music
"speak for itself"; the music does not _speak_ and is hardly
programmatic or the ordered sequence of a song-form. An other
immersion is occurring and it's this that I'm interested in, with
both erhu and tro so, with one country roughly fifty-three times
the area of the other, One and an Other, neither with capitals,
neither capitalized, capitulated.

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