The Final Countdown
-- fade out Europe's hit (fExit) --
I'm down to the last week before I leave and I've largely sorted out most of the things needed to get ready for the trip. All my teaching is finished, I managed to write and record my two piano sketches and now I've been running around sorting final errands, such as currently on the train to grab my passport with my Pakistan visa in.
In terms of travel the first year will look something loosely like: Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, India again and then Nepal. Obviously with current relationships between India and Pakistan fraying - I will have to evaluate a bit later on whether that journey is worth making. But then having studied at points how music can change and bring new meaning in areas and times like this, it might be a hugely interesting time - if not more reason to visit these places.
In terms of hard-set plans I have been working hard and finalised documents of music activities that I might be able to run workshops with locals that experiment with composition and improvisation in group settings - especially with challenges like language barriers, and working how to overcome these. I am also finalising a week of workshops in Bikaner through a company called Sound Travels [https://soundtravelsindia.com], whom have helped me to source some folk musicians to play with and learn from in North India. This for me - I am hoping and sure is going to be a huge highlight.
In addition to this I have been thinking a lot about my position as a musician and composer, and the nature of the inspiration I might take from this trip. In a sense, I want this journey to add to my voice, but I would like this addition to come from a genuine place. In a sense, I am very conscious of avoiding cultural tourism - engaging with cultures in a farcical fashion - almost using the culture as a feature, for a flair, without a genuine engagement.
Whilst new ideas happen when different cultures meet, this collaboration has to understand each new culture within its correct context. I have been thinking about the ways in which this must happen. To avoid this 'cultural tourism', I would like to fully engage with music in its original context, understand where it comes from but not to imitate. If I find myself playing with another musician, this may be the most natural way to create this synthesis - as each musician is performing from within their own context, and so this creation comes from a point of understanding and respect. It is imitating from outside this, or imitating without understanding that this 'tourism' arises. I would seek to understand the music I am engaging with, in order to be able to use or engage with it in my own music. I might use styles or ideas I hear, as a seed for a new idea - as that is often the synthesis from collaboration - but the importance is then to fully adapt and take it into my own, rather than imitate.
I'm sure that as I get myself into these environments, this will be less of a problem than I anticipate, but it's worth keeping it in mind.
I'll finish with a quote I found from T.S. Eliot:
We shall never cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
Five days to go!