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Myra Melford: Mystic Manifestations

By Published: August 3, 2004
AAJ: On the inside album cover, you've quoted three poems by Rumi in full. Including one titled "Music". Clearly, music plays an integral part in Sufism and is deeply connected to expressions of mystical trance such as Sema and the ecstasies of the Whirling Dervishes. Do you have an opinion on what it is in the music that inspires that kind of mystical departure?

MM: I think now I would depart from technical musical discussion and talk more about the power of music to open people's hearts. Because that's what I think it's really about. Generally, music, when it comes from a certain intention in an artist or in a person, has the power to open someone's heart or touch someone's heart. It can be any kind of music that does that. Because of the state of the musician themselves and their intention, or simply their state when they are creating the music. Then there's other music like chanting like ecstatic dance music that primarily its goal is to do that.

AAJ: How literally are you influenced by written work?

MM: I've always had a fascination with how words can be like music. And you can take them either at the face value of how they sound, and then you can add to that what they mean, or possibly multiple meanings. I think because words are sound—when you verbalize them—there's always been a direct connection between the sound of the words and the rhythm of the words and music for me. Certain writers have a way of putting words together that will inspire me both on a musical level and because there's some sort of ambiguity or multiple meaning in the words. I think that becomes a metaphor for my own expression of music. I'm not trying to literally tell someone something, or give someone a particular kind of experience, but rather create a world or an environment in which they can have a meaningful experience, whatever it is that their heart is longing for.

AAJ: What's your most clearly defined childhood memory?

MM: For some reason I'm remembering my first recital. I wouldn't say that this is necessarily my most clearly defined, but it just happens to be on the top of the memory pile right now.

I was at my teacher's parents house and I had written a piece for my father and I got to perform that as well as I was playing a Back minuet. I really was complety at ease. I had no performance anxiety, and really just wanted to share this music that I loved so much. I think my teacher—after I had played the Bach—had forgotten I had this piece that I wanted to play for my dad. So I had to ask to be able to do that—or remind him. It was a very special moment for me. I went through all kinds of stuff after in which I did start to become very self-conscious and shy about playing, but I'm remembering that time when I just loved the music. That was the greatest thing that I could offer people. I felt like that was the best way I could express my love for people. That's still what it is all about.

Visit Myra Melford on the web at .

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