Anna Göckel & Fabrice Midal: A meditation in music

- through Henry Oudin

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As part of the Imagine festival of the daily Le Monde, the philosopher and the violinist offered a unique experience: a collective and musical meditation in order to rediscover a taste for unison.

Sunday, October 6, 11:30 a.m. While some people run to mass or to the market, I head to the amphitheater of the Opéra Bastille for a collective (about 300 people) and musical meditation session, led by the violinist Anna Göckel (1) and the philosopher Fabrice Midal. Or how to meditate together and in music to get out of your ego bubble and a solo life. To do this, the organizers have planned an original device: listening to a piece interpreted by the violinist, followed by a meditation session guided by the founder of the Western School of Meditation. Then the violinist plays the same title again, and we observe if the second listening turns out to be different from the first. One way to illustrate how, by helping to open up to the world and live in the present moment, meditation also transforms the relationship to music and culture.

In the introduction, Fabrice Midal summarizes his discovery of meditation, its therapeutic benefits, then expands on the misunderstandings that irritate him: the fact that mediation is identified with religion and that it is increasingly used: "We explains to us that we should learn to manage our stress like we manage our bank account”, he regrets. It corrects some approximations in particular on the terminology "mindfulness". “No, meditation has nothing to do with consciousness, but with the body! This is why he prefers to use the term "presence". This is why he wanted to join forces with Anna Göckel in this medito-musical event, “an artist who truly makes the presence of music felt. Together, we will ask this question: does meditation help you hear better? His own songs without falling into his old tunes.

“Time is not measurable by clocks, but by experience. »

Pedagogue, Fabrice Midal explains that what will follow will not be rocket science: “The best way to stress people is to tell them to be zen”, he immediately points out. First sound illustration, a saraband lined with a jig by Johann Sebastian Bach. At the end of this mini-concert of less than ten minutes, Fabrice Midal takes the floor and, in a soft and calm voice, invites the audience to meditate. Then, in cathedral-like silence, Anna Göckel performs the same piece a second time. The floor is then given to the room. Invited to testify, a fifty-year-old admits to having had the impression of having "fallen into a temporal hole". The lecturer replies that indeed, "time is not measurable by clocks, but by experience", taking up here the Bergsonian notion of time. A sexagenarian in turn asks for the microphone, a little annoyed: “Isn't it an injunction to tell us: “Be present”? This presence, here and now, requires practice. It is not enough to say it to live it! » Pleasantly piqued, the philosopher points out to him that this injunction does not bother him, « what bothers me are the contradictory injunctions! Like: “Be effective and be yourself” at the same time. In this society, we are constantly told that we have to listen to each other in order to always do more…”

“I started to replace the musical narrative with repetition (…) To make listeners pay attention to the music rather than the history of the music. » Philip Glass

All the listeners questioned admit it: the second version of Bach's piece seems shorter because it is experienced more "in presence", more intensely. Invited to give her point of view on this general feeling, the musician admits that she forgot a cover of the piece, under the laughter of the room. More seriously, she explains that she felt more emotional space, benevolence during the recovery. How to explain it? She details the relationship between the artist and the audience: "If you, the public, are afraid of silence, then it is much harder for me, musician, to inhabit it…”

Philip Glass or the meditative form of music

Fabrice Midal offers a second practical case, this time on the part String Out for amplified violin by Philip Glass, one of his favorite composers, creator of "a meditative form of music". Pioneer of minimalist music, name of the repetitive school, in the same way as Terry Riley and Steve Reich, the American musician, born in Baltimore in 1937, has never ceased to flee academism, harmony and counterpoint in mind. It is by transcribing improvisations by Indian musician Ravi Shankar for the film Chappaqua that he is passionate about repetitive structures. In 1966, he went to India to deepen his knowledge, discovered Buddhism and Hinduism, and sympathized with Tibetan refugees.

To his delight, the music-loving philosopher paints the portrait of a meditating musician, who has revolutionized the way music is heard: "Follower of a form of withdrawal, this composer tried to get out of the register of emotion to be in that of space, time, non-intention. He quotes the composer: “I began to replace musical narrative with repetition (…) To make listeners pay attention to the music rather than the history of music. In short, that they are in full presence, not in projections, and that they welcome the music without trying to rewrite the scores. The violinist connects two versions of the piece, interspersed with a short meditation session: repetitive loops at presto tempo, deluge of notes, cascades of strings, the bow files dare-dare, hypnotic, epileptic, it sometimes creaks, breaks the cadence before setting off again at a gallop, under the mischievous smile of the master of ceremonies. You would swear that at some point we saw him beating the (dis)measure of the foot. So what ? By way of a coda, the conductor of this orchestra of a different genre reminds us that we must not confuse mindfulness and mindfulness, but, as Nietzsche said, “learn to think bodily”. Even not thinking at all of a meditative dance.

photo of author

Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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