by Dimitrius Cantemir (1673-1723)
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  • artist:BOSPHORUS
  • featured artist:Bosphorus
  • region:Athens
  • release year:2013
  • style(s):Traditional
  • country:Greece
  • formats:Audio File / Digital, CD (Compact Disc)
  • record posted by:Ankh Music & Entertainment / Ankh Productions
  • label:Ankh World Files
  • publisher:Ankh Productions

to be released 2013

dedicated to all WOMEXIcans this preview of the booklet... A story of an era...

Since the dawn of this era and the hardening of the world, for some impenetrable reason human groups opted to turn their back on ‘the Garden’ of Nature and allowed themselves to be herded into cities. Nevertheless they carried with them the memory of this lost paradise and translated it into the notion of the ‘City of God’ – ‘The Heavenly Zion’ – a golden horn of plenty for its dwellers – a refuge for all from want and need – a realm of conviviality, community, of Justice and Peace.

Domes are sound catchers. From the inner orbit of the eye to the labyrinth of the ear there is a play of sound and light under the protective dome of our skulls, a reminder of the game between the seen and the unseen. Sound whirls and unfurls spirally as through a conch* and freezes into ‘form’. Ancient Afro-Asian creation myths narrate that the first humans were sonorous and luminous beings that lost their transparent luminosity and became opaque when, entranced by the beauty of this world, they began eating its enticing fruits. Their voice is all that remained from the original sound they emitted. They make music, sing and dance in an effort to recollect those ‘days of old’ when they were pure sound and light. Other creation myths of the same learned ‘traditional’ cultures speak of a mysterious and unfathomable sound as the ‘mother’ of the creator of the universe. Mineral stone is seen as the most suitable support for its material manifestation.
A Dome is also a womb. It is the grotto of transformations and metamorphoses. There is a peculiar sublinguistic relation of the root of the English word ‘womb’ and the Greek word ‘Vómvos’ which expresses the rolling sound of thunder.

*Conch – Architecturally the roof of a semicircular apse, shaped like half a dome.

Catching the sound of this city in this transitional period at the shaking pillars of the 21st century is what has been attempted in this album. As the winds of change are sweeping in the world beyond, this majestic city, her eternal Wisdom to which her dwellers once erected an incomparable monument (Aghia Sophia) as buttress, waits patiently to weather the storm. She waits, serene, for the ominous wave of madness, which periodically engulfs human beings, to pass and fade away. She is neither a contested Babylon nor a wailing Jerusalem. She has set her throne, impassible and aloof, on the corona of the Mediterranean at the extreme East of the Occident and the extreme West of Asia. She was erected to become the real Zion, the beloved city of God

The Dervish, Melancholy, Dem and the City

Dem is an untranslatable dervish word comparable to the theological word ‘plerome’. It is that particular instant of time when our breath is taken away by the realisation, in the wink of an eye, of the oneness and stillness of the universe. Someone once said that time is not measured by how many times we breathe in and out but by how many times our breath is taken away. It is the moment when our being finds itself in complete harmony and rhythm with the simplicity of the created universe; much like the arrow of Zenon which flies yet remains perfectly still in time. Dem may also signify the continuous drone sound of the tonic or dominant harmony in the Eastern musical system – the ‘ison’ of Byzantine Music. The surrounding is harmony that upholds the melodic line. A concession to the iconoclasts, there is no perspective in Byzantine iconography. There is reverse perspective and the gold surrounding the icon is the ‘ison’(the equal) – time and the screen are there to reveal, they do not dissimulate through trickery. This dem is a quality that pervades the atmosphere of this domed city, which witnessed the rise and fall of empires and whatever conspiracies and diabolical intrigues the human mind can possibly conceive. There is nothing really new under the sun, just more efficiency in the killing fields.

Melancholy (which means black bile in Greek) is the honey pot of the dervish as was ‘black earth’ the fertile ground for the alchemist to lay the seeds for growing gold. It creates the necessary ‘mood’ for creativity in the realm of the unseen. The ‘unseen’ or the ‘unheard’ is not to be confused with the ‘invisible’. The invisible or unknowable belongs to the speculative realm of the kind of: ‘how many angels can sit on the point of a needle’, whereas the ‘unseen’ is the smile behind the veil; the deer whose fawn-speckled pelt and antlers mingle with woods and tree barks of the forest – the nostalgic call of the blackbird whose song escapes us because a truck loaded with pig iron happened to be thundering by. The unseen is real, palpable. It is stalking us; it eludes us because we are yet out of tune, our harmonics are not right and our ears do not filter the channels. The ‘unseen’ is real – it can be seen, it can be heard.“ This melancholia approaches another aesthetic form, the Persian word dard – which literally means ‘pain’, but is applied to more subtle terms to the art of direct expression of certain musicians (especially singers) in the sense of a transparent and unaffected melancholic longing for an absent transcendent or beloved. The Persian fable teaches that the pain of rejected love turns an ordinary sparrow into a nightingale. The lover is poor as the dervish is poor, because desire is that which is not fulfilled – but from this poverty there emerges an aesthetic of wealth an overflowing of generosity or even painful excess of meaning – under the guise of melancholy and disappointment.” (Hakim Bey – The Obelisk).

Istanbul exudes melancholy. Its tattered imperial cloak ripped by ruthless predators lies trampled in muddy waters and its “garip” reality is laid bare when the facades come crumbling down. The Redhouse dictionary gives for the word “garip” the following popular meanings: “stranger, person away from home, poor, needy, destitute, abandoned, lonely, melancholy”. The rusting skeletal hulks of their once throbbing activity surround certain cities of the west, which witnessed some sort of industrial boom or other. Gas works, furnaces, giant cogwheels and mills lie derelict among dusty buildings lined with broken windows. Tall grass, shrubs and creepers are reclaiming the land adding to the scene an aesthetic comparable to a Zen garden scattered randomly with stones eaten away by the sea. The same feeling emanates from the sight of driftwood lying silent on sandy beaches. It is this poorness, this nudity that is prized beyond all riches by the sufi dervish. More than the majestic monuments of its imperial past, a gaudily painted rickety neighborhood mosque, a Greek church where a priest alone celebrates mass for want of a congregation and community, a crumbling wooden house with black wooden beams enveloped in a billow of ivy, hollowed out neighborhoods, ghosts of a past glory, giving their last breath as refuge to the poor, the needy and the strays – this is the real dem of Istanbul, the blackbird call, the ney of neyzen Tevfik.

Neyzen Tevfik is the embodiment of the term ‘garip’ and the urban dervish. He roamed all the sprawling cities of Islamhood of his time, his ney becoming a legend in every Tekke (dervish lodge) from the Nile to the Euphrates and beyond. In popular iconography he is remembered not only for the haunting, exquisite sound of his ney but also for his panache, flaunting demeanor and his flouting of authority. He did not belong to this age. His rebellious spirit goes back at least 12.000 years ago when resistance began against the calendar, organized labor, jurists and jurisdiction. He was an extension of his ney. The ney is cut from the mere reed, a giant form of grass. It is the most humble of instruments yet capable of a richness of timbre superior to that of a Stradivarius.

Popular iconography in Turkey retains a touching yet troubling icon in the raki-drinking contest said to have taken place in mythical time between Mustapha Kemal, founder of modern Turkey and Neyzen Tevfik (both notorious inveterate raki consumers). Face to face, on one side the ‘father’ of the Turks, a strategist of genius who absorbed the campaigns of the world’s greatest generals the likes of Napoleon, Grant and Lee of the American civil war – the giant who single-handedly shunted a whole nation onto the occidental track, and on the other hand the perennial waif, the dervish, the ‘garip’, the fragile poet. Do we have here the two sides of the same coin? Or to use the terminology of William Blake: “form and spectre”? The positive and negative side of the same soul? The icon belongs to the realm of the ‘unseen’ and in this way it is ‘hermetic’. It should be read as a hieroglyph.

“It is Hermes who bridges the gap between the metalinguistic and the sublinguistic in the form of the message, language itself, the medium; he is the trickster who leads in misleading, the tremendum that echoes through the broken word. Hermes is therefore political, or rather ambassadorial—patron of intelligence and cryptography as well as an alchemy that seeks only the embodiment of the real. Hermes is between text and image, master of the hieroglyphs that are simultaneously both—Hermes is their significance, their translatability. As one who goes "up and down" between spirits and humans, Hermes Psychopomp is the shamanic consciousness, the medium of direct experience, and the interface between these other forms and the political. "Hermetic" can also mean "unseen". (Hakim Bey – the Obelisk)

At last have I lost myself in you
Bonded as an unknown metal into the basalt?
Full of veneration I am fused into your rock
And all around I get hurt by your hardness

Or is it anguish that stifles me
The fathomless anguish of far to great cities
In which you have sunk me up to my neck?

Ah! Could only a man cry out and relate
All their insanity and all their horror
Then you would rise, firstborn tempest of the world
And you would sweep them before you like dust

Rainer Maria Rilke – “The Book of Poverty and Death”

Some Reflections on Dimitrie Cantemir. (1673 – 1723)

Moldavia and the Carpathians were notorious for breeding curious minds searching the esoteric and hidden nature of creation, the mythology of kingship and the divine right of kings through occult and “hermetic” sciences.
Dimitrie Cantemir was born in Iassi, Moldavia, into a family of warlords. His father Constantine had risen to the title of Hospodar of Moldavia through valor on various battlefields. Constantine came from an obscure and humble background. In a shrewd and politically wise act of equilibrium, Constantine vested himself with the Tatar feudal name ‘Cantemir’ which endowed him with a ‘titre de noblesse’ reaching as far back as the Mongol tyrant Timurlenk (Tamerlane 1336 – 1405).
Dimitrie’s grooming towards the ways of a Brahman is due to the tutorship, in his early age, by the Greek monk Ieremia Cacavelas who had managed a perilous balancing act between the contemplative monastic orthodox Hesychasm and the Hermetic – alchemical theories of Van Helmont. Jan Baptista Van Helmont (1577 – 1644), a Flemish hermetist and doctor of medicine studied in Louvain under Jesuits. He stands at the junction point were medieval alchemy based on faith alone acquires an empirical and scientific approach. He is reputed to have realized transmutations and his collected alchemical writings are known in hermetical circles as: “Oriatrike or Physick reformed”
In 1688, at the age of fifteen, when life begins to unfold, Dimitrie Cantemir is sent as a hostage to the Sublime Porte of Constantinople by his father Constantine Voda, vassal to the Ottoman Padishah. Constantinople, now Istanbul, was settling with some introversion in the 17th century in its poly-ethnic, cosmopolitan and polyglot reality; consequence to the empire becoming conscious of its limitations after the debacle of its western expansion. As a Greek Orthodox Christian and a subject of the ‘Rum Mileti’ under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, he is led to resume his studies at the Patriarchate’s Academy known as the ‘Great School’. The Academy run by Phanariot Greeks was a heritage within the Ottoman Empire of the Byzantine university system with emphasis placed on humanities, ancient Greek, Latin, Pythagorean musical and mathematical theories. Only a passion for extricating the meaning of the East/West divide through the glyphs concealed in languages could explain the fact that he became fluent in Ottoman Turkish, Arabic and Persian as well as Greek, Russian, French and German.

Europe emerged from its medieval tribalism into a sort of ‘dawn of the magicians’. Hermetical sciences penetrated Europe in a two-pronged way. One from the Judeo-Islamic Spanish south with its load of cabbalism and Arab alchemy and through Florence by Byzantine renegades with their trunks of Alexandrian hermetic gnosticism and neo-Platonism. Christianity was becoming paganized. Some Islamic sects consider Hermes Trismegistus a prophet and know him as Idris. In the burgeoning cities of mercantile Europe Hermetic science offered the lure of reconciliation between the three abrahamic religions, since all of them share a primeval inherited agglomerate that precedes historical times and revealed religiousness.
The magi of the renaissance at least tried to salvage what remained of the sacrality of Nature inherent in archaic man who saw the world, the plane of the manifestation, as a hierophany, a revelation of the sacrosanct, and his work and labour a seasonal ritual. They were the first ‘universalists’ or ‘globalists’ in their utopian dream to unite all Europe into a “Christopolis”, a brave new world wherein chemistry, energy resources, metallurgy, would work towards liberating mankind towards a spiritual sphere. The concept existed in Islam in the theoria of the Vahded-i vücud – the unity of existence. The visit of Guillaume Postel as a translator for the French Embassy to the court of Suleiman the Magnificent should be seen under this light. “In 1544, in De orbis terrae concordia, Concerning the Harmony of the Earth, Postel advocated a universalist world religion. The thesis of the book was that all Jews, Muslims and heathens could be converted to the Christian religion once all of the religions of the world were shown to have common foundations and that Christianity best represented these foundations. He believed these foundations to be the love of God, the praising of God, the love of Mankind, and the helping of Mankind.” (Wikipedia – Guillaum Postel)
These wizards wished for a ritual transubstantiation of matter into spirit. Liberate matter and through the laws of harmony you liberate the human being and his work – a simple equation. They were traditional and tradition was their reference to any empirical knowledge. The industrial revolution (the satanic mills of William Blake), which was to follow and the quantitative possibilities it revealed offered unlimited satisfaction to exploitation and greed. It had no tradition and knew not what to do with ritual. Of these wizards, referring to their negative or spectral side, Hakim Bey has to say: “They were the first modern spies and the direct ancestors of all spin-doctors, PR men, advertisers and brainwashers”.
Dimitrie Cantemir is redeemed for his other “scientific” work by his music. In it we can hear the perfect amalgam of his Christian soul and Islamic inspiration. His tutors surely had introduced him to the western musical system and we know that he was well versed in Byzantine hymnology and music yet he chose to express himself through a vibrant Islamic tradition. We can suspect his dervish friends surely had some role to play in this – who does not fall for an honest dervish. In a tour de force he blends Grecian, Balkan, Turkish and Tatar folk roots into a magical carpet whose warp and weft have to be read as hieroglyphs.

Cosmogonical theories based on music, mathematics and harmony abound in ‘mystical’ speculations of both Christianity and Islam. Especially in Islam since the prohibition laid on imagery allowed the flourishing of dervish brotherhoods that based their rituals and rites on sacred dance and music. The “Sema” – (a word that derives from ‘Semah’ – the sky, the starry universe) or sacred dance of the Mevlevi and the Alevi should be read as a hieroglyph. The makams are hieroglyphs. Encrypted knowledge is found both in their names and in the way they unravel musically. Rumi writes quire openly: “We insinuate the divine mysteries graciously through the spiritual concert and dythrambic poetry because the inhabitants of Asia Minor are people of pleasure subject to the influence of the planet Venus”.