Mit „Ode an die Nacht“ gelangte im Rahmen von Chor@Berlin am 24. Februar 2017 im Radialsystem V das letzte Werk von Harald Weiss’ „Darkness Project“ zur Uraufführung.
Kammerchor Berlin (Einstudierung: Stefan Rauh)
Concentus Neukölln – Ensemble der Musikschule Paul-Hindemith, Neukölln (Einstudierung: Thomas Hennig)
Berliner Mädchenchor (Einstudierung: Sabine Wüsthoff)
Indischer Gesang und Tambura: Manickam Yogeswaran
Blues-Gesang: Hanno Bruhn
Bajan: Mateja Zenzerovic
Klavier und Synthesizer: Peter Müller
Violine: Kinneret Sieradzki
Kontrabass: Guy Tuneh
Schlagzeug: Viorel Chiriacescu, Daniel Eichholz und Alexandros Giovanos
Elektro-akustische Vorproduktion: Harald Weiss
Stimme: Andrea Gubisch
Gesamtleitung: Thomas Hennig
Of all living creatures in the world, man has his vital and mental energy vastly in excess of his need, which urges him to work in various lines of creation for its own sake […] Life is perpetually creative because it contains in itself that surplus which ever overflows the boundaries of the immediate time and space.
Rabindranath Tagore in The Religion of an Artist *
For ten years this exhibition celebrated the sources of inspiration shared by Indian and Western artists; and at the same time, it traced the role of migrants from India via Surinam through songs, memorabilia, and documentary film footage.
Concept and research: Ludwig Pesch (www.aiume.org) in collaboration with museum staff and Architectenbureau Jowa (www.jowa.nl).
This exhibition was one of the five themes in the exhibition “Round and About India”: Wanderings
Storytellers and actors brought their stories to every corner of India. Today their narrative boxes, scrolls and performances are increasingly being replaced by modern mediums, but they have not yet disappeared.
India is a country of stories and storytellers. Opportunities abound in the exhibition Round and About India to watch and listen to narratives about people, ideas and objects. Every item has a tale, every person has something to tell. Whether it is festivals and processions, commerce and history, gods and heroes, pilgrimages and wanderings.
In this exhibition these stories are the central features of performances in dance, theatre and music.
On display until 2017
Visit the Tropenmuseum
This museum is one of Amsterdam hidden treasures. Located off city centre in a beautiful old building in East Amsterdam (Amsterdam Oost), Tropenmuseum often remains forgotten, like an old collection of post stamps. However, if you are interested in other cultures, other countries and distant lands – do no miss it.
Amsterdam Tropenmuseum exhibit is modern, fascinating on many levels and inspiring. […] Modern and intelligent presentation makes the visit pleasant to a larger public, including children. | More information: www.amsterdam.info/museums/tropenmuseum
Some notes on Rabindranath Tagore and his role in fostering “sympathy of the East and West” during his visit to The Netherlands in fall 1920
In his poetry, for which he received the Nobel Prize for Literature as Asia’s first awardee in 1913, Tagore uses musical instruments as metaphors for self-realization and transcendence; notably the vina (or “veena”, often translated as “harp”) and the flute. In a letter to Frederik van Eeden, his Dutch translator, he wrote:
“Very often I think and feel that I am like a flute – the flute that cannot talk but when the breath is upon it, can sing. I am sure you have seen me in my book and I shall never be able to make myself seen to you when we meet; for the body of the lamp is dark, it has no expression, only its flame has the language.” (signed in London, 9 August 1913) 
This recurring motif may excuse the amusing blunder by a cartoon character (the alter ego of the museum’s former Curator for South Asia), who hails Tagore as “India’s greatest flautist”! 
In an earlier letter to Van Eeden, written seven years before visiting the Netherlands, Tagore wrote:
“Still I cannot deny that this award of the Nobel Prize has been a great thing. It is the handshake of sympathy of the East and West across the water – it has proclaimed the oneness of humanity.” (signed in Shanti Niketan, 12 December 1913) 
In 1920 Tagore spoke before packed houses including the “free congregation”: the humanistic and cosmopolitan “Vrije Gemeente” whose highly placed members had built a magnificent church at the Weteringschans in Amsterdam. (It now houses Amsterdam’s prime pop venue, known as “Paradiso”.)
Tagore’s lecture tour made a lasting impression on countless listeners:
“Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and the Dutch writer, psychiatrist and Utopist Frederik van Eeden (1860-1932) exchanged correspondence between 1913 and 1928, and met in Amsterdam in 1920. When Van Eeden discovered Tagore’s poetry in 1913, he experienced a feeling of profound recognition and went on to translate a considerable amount of Tagore’s poetic work into Dutch, starting with Gitanjali [Wijzangen]. Van Eeden’s translations became very popular in the Netherlands, also among composers.” 
Van Eeden’s father (the elder Frederick van Eeden) was in fact the co-founder of what later became the Tropenmuseum, established as the “Colonial Museum” in nearby Haarlem in 1864. The grand building in Amsterdam dates from 1923. 
 Learn more about Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Frederik van Eeden (1860-1932) and the spread of Tagore’s educational ideas through Noto Soeroto in “Tagore in The Netherlands” by Liesbeth Meyer: www.parabaas.com/rabindranath/articles/pMeyer.html
(visited 14 March 2016)
 For the record: it is a well known fact that Tagore did not play any musical instrument other than the drone:
“I practiced my songs with my tamburā resting on my shoulder.” (My Boyhood Days, p. 38,Calcutta: Visva-Bharati 1997).
Later he was depicted as playing a similar string instrument, namely as a participant in his own music dramas (see the detail from Abanindranath Tagore’s painting reproduced here). So if you visit the exhibition and watch its audiovisual contents, kindly ignore this blunder by an over-enthusiastic museum team member. Here you may enjoy the rare and instructive media contents supplied by many contributors including the Embassy of India in The Hague.
 More information is found in the English Abstract by Rokus de Groot for his article titled “Van Eeden en Tagore. Ethiek en muziek” in Tijdschrift van de Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, D. 49ste, Afl. 2de (1999), pp. 98-147. The abstract and article (in Dutch) are found here: www.jstor.org
 In 1923 the building on the corner of Mauritskade and Linnaeusstraat was completed and the collections from Haarlem could be moved to Amsterdam. On 9 October 1926 Queen Wilhelmina officially opened the new Colonial Institute. The history of the Tropenmuseum is outlined here (in English): www.geheugenvannederland.nl/?/en/instellingen/tropenmuseum
Listen to “Tagore: Unlocking Cages” from the series of podcasts by BBC 4 titled “Incarnations: India in 50 Lives”. Sunil Khilnani tells the story of the Bengali writer and thinker Rabindranath Tagore. The series is found here: http://bbc.in/1KVh4Cf
The flute has played a key role in India’s artistic life since antiquity. This is evident from writings on dance-drama, mythology, sculptures and paintings. Its playing technique must have been highly developed for a very long time. Different names are used for it, for instance kuzhal (pronounced like “kulal” or “kural”) in Tamil speaking regions; and bansuri in northern India. In poetry, song lyrics, classical dance items and films, words like venu and murali evoke its association with Krishna, the ‘dark skinned’ cowherd and flute player.
Early Tamil and Sanskrit poets describe the creation of the original bamboo flute. This did not even require any human intervention: it is an easily observed fact that bumble bees make holes in bamboo stems (Sanskrit vamsha) for their nests. These openings later invite the wind to create ever changing tunes in bamboo groves like those found in some parts of the Western Ghats. Here, and in the hills of North-East India, grow the varieties of bamboo preferred by flute makers.
The nest holes made by some insects have indeed the same size as the blowing and finger holes still seen in most bamboo flutes. Any human being living close to nature is bound to be inspired by such phenomena while making music, dancing or telling stories. As expressed in song lyrics, these sounds are remembered as enchanting experiences and therefore regarded as a gift from heaven. Listening to the nuances of bird song has further contributed to a musical symbiosis that emerges time again in different places. The symbolism associated with the seven notes – and also the rāgas derived from them – still echoes such deeply rooted sentiments.
It hardly surprises, therefore, that Pannalal Ghosh, the pioneer of Hindustani flute music, was influenced by tribal musicians belonging to the Santal people.
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), India’s first Nobel laureate, established his Santiniketan school and Viswa-BharatiUniversity amidst Santal villages. He compares the infinite Being to a flute player whose ‘music of beauty and love helps us to transcend our egotistic preoccupations’.*
The world famous poet, composer, pedagogue, painter and scholar is part of a tradition wherein barriers such as language and faith are best overcome with the help of music. His poetry also reminds us of the fact that the flute is the most ‘democratic’ of all instruments. * Source: My memories of Einstein (German ed. ’Meine Erinnerungen an Einstein’, 1931) in Das Goldene Boot, Winkler Weltliteratur, Blaue Reihe (2005) – WorldCat.org >>
Ludwig Pesch specialized in the Carnatic bamboo flute at Kalakshetra College under the guidance of Ramachandra Shastry (1906-1992) whom he accompanied on many occasions. More>>
Mridangam maestro Trichy Sankaran – Photo: courtesy The Hindu
The Hindu, 31 Dec. 2011
Tiruvarur to Texas, Carnatic musicians have transcended global cultures, echoing the seven notes to the West. Trichy Sankaran,to be honoured with the Sangita Kalanidhi today, summarises Carnatic music’s history in America in a chat with critic Veejay Sai
While everyone is aware of how Hindustani music became popular in the West, especially America, with maestros like Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan’s early overseas concert tours, how and when was Carnatic music an active part of the American culture? “It was Tanjore Viswanathan, the brother of Bharatanatyam legend Balasaraswati, who went on a Fulbright fellowship in 1958 to study Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Veena Balachander went in 1962 with Umayalpuram Sivaraman (mridangam) and Vellore Ramabhadran (kanjira, for this tour),” says mridangam maestro Trichy Sankaran. Balachander and flautist Ramani along with the aforementioned percussionists ideated a project called ‘Sangeetam Madras’ and extensively toured North America. By 1963, mridangam vidwan Palghat Raghu travelled as a member of Ravi Shankar’s ensemble. By then a slow process of institutional interest seeped in amongst the American academia. “It was ethnomusicologist Robert Brown of Wesleyan University who showed great interest in bringing Carnatic music to America. He was a student of T. Ranganathan, the other brother (and a senior student of my guru Palani Subramnia Pillai) of Balasaraswati They were invited as artistes in residence at Wesleyan University and that was the first ever such occasion for Carnatic musicians to go there,” adds Sankaran, in fond remembrance of his guru-bhai. Brown’s interest in Indian music grew from strength to strength and he would think up newer methods of spreading it to American music lovers. “Bob, as we called Robert, started an experimental project called ‘Curry Concerts’ which he would organise. These were a combination of a sumptuous Indian dinner followed by a concert and gained popularity in no time. He was one of the few ethnomusicologists who believed that the study of the art is important with its performing element. He put an emphasis on the performing artistes as well,” recollects Sankaran.
Brown later invited several other musicians like K.V. Narayanaswamy (KVN) and Palghat Raghu to Wesleyan. KVN, as an artiste in residency at the university, went on a coast-to-coast concert tour along with Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan and earned fame at the Hollywood Bowl music festival by 1967. Several vidwans left for American shores to take part in festivals like the Monterey pop festival and Woodstock festival. “Brown went ahead to invite Ramnad Krishnan and Ramnad Raghavan. But Krishnan didn’t stay around for too long as he was very homesick and wanted to return to his family in India. But while in America, he was recorded by a music company with T. Thyagarajan (violin) and T. Ranganathan (mridangam),” says Sankaran, with a chuckle in his voice. “The Western students were also not acquainted with our Indian manners. I had an initial culture shock with students addressing me with a “Hey”, but I slowly got used to it and we taught them Indian manners! Here, we were used to people calling us ‘sir”, “vidwan”, and so on. Ramnad Krishnan was in disbelief when students would walk up to him asking, “Hey Krishna, when is my next lesson man?” and he wasn’t used to being addressed in such a tone!” laughs Sankaran heartily, recollecting how many musicians took the effort to culture Western audiences to guru-shishya traditions. […]
Today, Carnatic musicians rub shoulders with world music greats and collaborate with music practitioners from every other genre. The seductive swaras have showed their triumph once again, reminding how great the power of Indian music is.
In their 1930 discussion, Rabindranath Tagore and Albert Einstein sought to overcome the predicament that “really good music, whether of the East or of the West, cannot be analyzed [Einstein] … and what deeply affects the hearer is beyond himself [Tagore]”
It is in this spirit of learning from one another that we invite fellow musicians and educators to join us; each pursuing his or her quest for the “treasure which is our own” (Zimmer), irrespective of our cultural roots.
As initiators of AIUME, we invite all members of the teaching community to resist compartmentalisation of the arts in general (Coomaraswamy) when they have the potential to transcend discrimination based on ethnicity, gender issues or sectarian beliefs.
“The rhythmic, breathing quality of formis the test of a work of art”
– Stella Kramrisch
Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. The Transformation of Nature in Art. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2004.
Kramrisch, Stella. The Art of India: Traditions of Indian Sculpture, Painting and Architecture. London: The Phaidon Press (2nd ed.) 1955.
Dutta, Krishna and Andrew Robinson (eds.). Rabindranath Tagore: an anthology. London: Picador, 1997.
Zimmer, Heinrich and Campbell, Joseph (Editor). Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. Bollingen Series VI, Princeton University Press. Princeton, 1946/1972.
Science recognizes atoms, all of which can he weighed and measured, but never recognizes personality, the one thing that lies at the basis of reality. All creation is that, for apart from personality, there is no meaning in creation.
Celebrating Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary, we at AIUME gladly share our delight in the great Bengali poet-composer’s contribution to world civilization and peace.
He is remembered for his far sighted contributions to many fields. Perhaps more than even during his lifetime (1861-1941), his insights are relevant and inspiring.
Many of Rabindranath Tagore’s creations and contributions are yet to be made accessible to the general public outside his native Bengal. Some of his literary works are presently being made available in English, German and other languages for the first time as to reach a global audience.
His love for nature and faith in the future of mankind found their highest expression in Santiniketan (“Abode of Peace”), the school and centre for rural development he established in rural West Bengal in 1901. Unlike the schools known until then, pupils and teaches alike could put the concept of learning without fear into practice. By making lifelong learning a requirement rather than a pious wish, Rabindranath Tagore was far ahead of his time:
A most important truth, which we are apt to forget, is that a teacher can never truly teach unless he is still learning himself. A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame. Visva-Bharati and its institutions–Santiniketan1961, p. 28
In Nationalism (1917) “he discusses the resurgence of the East and the challenge it poses to Western supremacy, calling for a future beyond nationalism, based instead on cooperation and racial tolerance.” – Synopsis for the Penguin reprint as part of the “Great Ideas” series (2010)
As observed by Harish Trivedi in his insightful 1991 Introduction to Edward Thompson’s Rabindranath Tagore: Poet and Dramatist, “Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was arguably the greatest writer of modern India. Yet the precise nature of his literary greatness and the evidence for it have by and large remained a fairly well kept Bengali secret.” This has remained the case in most parts of the world ever since his short-lived and quite unexpected stardom among western readers and listeners in the wake of receiving the Nobelprize in 1913:
Tagore had early success as a writer in his native Bengal. With his translations of some of his poems he became rapidly known in the West. In fact his fame attained a luminous height, taking him across continents on lecture tours and tours of friendship. For the world he became the voice of India’s spiritual heritage; and for India, especially for Bengal, he became a great living institution.
His immeasurable friendship found its appropriate expression in the works of fellow poets, artists, composers and peace activists around the world. Dutch artist Rie Cramer (1887-1977), reckoned among the best illustrators of children’s books of the 20th century, created a series of six miniatures for the Dutch edition of The Post Office. Just one of these very illustrations will suffice to convey the tenderness that permeates Tagore’s literary and educational work and continues to inspire fellow artists; and this even at a time when he suffered personal tragedies and challenges from political leaders.
The world of sound is a tiny bubble in the silence of the infinite. The universe has its own language of gesture; it talks in the voice of pictures and dance. Every object in the world proclaims in the dumb signal of lines and colours, the fact that it is not a mere logical abstraction or a mere thing of use, but it is unique in itself, it carries the miracle of its existence.–Rabindranath Tagore quoted by Dinkar Kowshik in Doodled Fancy, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan 1999, p. 8
The following quotation leaves no doubt that it is never too late to rediscover the intrinsic beauty and timelessness of his contribution. In order to do justice to his genius, this effort needs to make sense to a younger generation, the world’s youth he cared for so much but as yet knows so little about him:
Amal: And what about streams and waterfalls? Thakurda: … They flow like molten diamonds, and how the drops dance! The small pebbles in the streams hum and murmur as the waters gush over them, until finally they plunge into the ocean. No one, not even a doctor, can restrain them for even a single second.
By way of homage to Rabindranath Tagore, we invite you to join in Thiruvalluvar’s ancient celebration of water in chaste Tamil; here in a modern rendition appropriately set to Amritavarshini, the raga traditionally associated with rain in South India and Sri Lanka:
By the continuance of rain the world is preserved in existence; it is therefore worthy to be called ambrosia.– Thirukkural (from Rev. Pope’s 1886 English Translation and Commentary found on the projectmadurai website)–Recording: Thirukkural in 133 Raagams by Saint Thiruvalluvar– Tamil Classics CD 2000
One of the open air classes held at Santiniketan during the dry season
The opening quotes, “My mind took wing. Fly! Fly! …” are taken from the Translator’s Preface for Dak Ghar, English The Post Office. The following should be of special interest in our present context, namely the need for actively involving the world’s youth in issues that concern the future of all of mankind; be it in terms of peaceful coexistence or care for nature and the natural resources we all depend upon. Is this a matter for an enlightened westernized elite? Far from it, and this is why Tagore founded a centre for rural reconstruction to which the modern ecological movement owes so much. In the words of Satish Kumar, paying homage to Rabindranath Tagore in his capacity as Editor-in-Chief at Resurgence:
He not only healed the sorrow and suffering which he had experienced due to death, depression and disappointment in his own life but he worked too to heal the wounds of injustice and inequality within Indian society. …
The worldview of Tagore is seeing the unity of reason and religion, spirit and matter and letting them dance together. This is the big vision where science complements spirituality, art complements ecology and freedom complements equality.
–The Wisdom of Tagore (Resurgence, Issue 266 May/June 2011)
Like water, or rather the increasing scarcity of this life-giving resource for millions around the world, there are other issues that, according to Tagore, deserve our attention. To set an example, he dedicated his personal resources to an institution that provides modern education to children irrespective of their social background. Their education would include first hand knowledge of several arts as part of their daily routines; and combine the observation of nature with scientific insights. Such knowledge would be provided by visiting experts from many parts of the country and all over the world. The open spaces in Santiniketan, shaded by large trees planted for this purpose, became the preferred locations for holding classes. This effective approach has become a role model wherever resources need to be devoted to the welfare of children and their teachers rather than investing in cement.
Tagore wrote The Post Office in Bengal in 1911, not long after losing his son, daughter and wife to disease. In the middle of the night, while lying under the stars on the roof of his house in Shantiniketan (the “Abode or Peace”), he had a strange experience. “My mind took wing. Fly! Fly! – I felt an anguish … There was a call to go somewhere and a premonition of death, together with intense emotion – this feeling of restlessness I expressed in I writing Dak Ghar The Post Office.” Soon afterward, Tagore’s worldwide odyssey began.
–From the Translators’ Preface to The Post Office translated by Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robinson with illustrations by Michael McCurdy and an Introduction by Anita Desai, St. Martin’s press New York, 1996. (Amal’s dialogue with the Thakura, Tagore’s alter ego, is found on p. 35.)
In About the author, the translators provide a succinct biography that ends on a note readers will never forget:
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1913, the first Asian writer so honored. Widely regarded as the greatest modern Indian writer, Tagore was also an accomplished song composer and painter. An educational and social reformer on a par with Gandhi, Tagore was one of the very first to perceive that East and West would be compelled to meet in the twentieth century, a theme taken up in many of his works. His most spiritually moving work and his only play that is still regularly performed outside Bengal, The Post Office served as inspiration to the children of the Warsaw ghetto. It was read over French radio in André Gide’s translation the night before the Nazis seized Paris.
Postscript 8 May 2011
William Radice, renowned translator of Tagore’s work and himself a poet and writer teaching in London, cautions modern admirers of Rabindranath Tagore not to get carried away by their good intentions. Pious speeches and reflections on Rabindranath Tagore’s ideas and ideals are all very well, but what ultimately makes him relevant is the power of his art:
Putting Tagore the thinker above Tagore the writer has set up a barrier to the full appreciation of his creative achievements, ever since Gitanjali in 1912 launched his international career. His Nobel Prize of 1913 was given to him for his literature (though not for his Bengali writings), but the audiences who flocked to hear him on his extensive foreign tours wanted his message rather than his poetry. He gave them what they wanted, and lived up to his role as a sage by his long beard and unique, ‘pan-Asian’ style of dress. But he often felt constricted by that role. In 1930, he wrote to his close friend, William Rothenstein: “The rich luxury of leisure is not for me while I am in Europe — I am doomed to be unrelentingly good to humanity and remain harnessed to a cause. The artist in me ever urges me to be naughty and natural — but it requires a good deal of courage to be what I truly am. Then again I do not really know myself and dare not play tricks with my nature. So the good for nothing artist must have for his bed-fellow the man of a hundred good intentions.”
Revealing words that all organisers of the 150th anniversary events and publications would do well to remember!–Read the full piece in The Hindu, 7 May 2011
By contrast, an Indian authority, Prof. Namwar Singh, urged that Tagore “should not be loaded under a wreath of flowers so that he is not even visible” at a seminar on “Tagore’s Universalism” organised by the Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation: “in making him a global figure, we had forgotten that he laid stress on very small things that mattered in everyday life — from a seed flourishing in nature to rural economic development.”–Read the full report in The Hindu, 8 May 2011