10_Richard_Taruskin

10_Richard_Taruskin - The New York Times December 9, 2001...

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1 The New York Times December 9, 2001 MUSIC Music’s Dangers And The Case For Control By RICHARD TARUSKIN AND on top of everything else, the Taliban hate music, too. In an interview in October with Nicholas Wroe, a columnist for the British newspaper The Guardian, John Baily, an ethnomusicologist on the faculty of Goldsmiths College, London, gave the details. After taking power in 1996, the Islamic fundamentalists who ruled most of Afghanistan undertook search-and-destroy missions in which musical instruments and cassette players were seized and burned in public pyres. Wooden poles were festooned with great ribbons of confiscated audio and video tape as a reminder of the ban, imposed in keeping with a maxim attributed to the prophet Muhammad warning ''those who listen to music and songs in this world'' that ''on the Day of Judgment molten lead will be poured into their ears.'' Musicians caught in the act were beaten with their instruments and imprisoned for as many as 40 days. The interdiction on professional music-making closed off yet another avenue to women's participation in public life. The only sounds on the Taliban-dominated radio that Western ears would recognize as musical were those of ritual chanting (something quite distinct from ''music,'' both conceptually and linguistically, in Islamic thought as in many of the world's cultures). So what else is new? Utopians, puritans and totalitarians have always sought to regulate music, if not forbid it outright. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, probably the Taliban's immediate model, banned it from Iranian radio and television in 1979, because its effects, he said, were like those of opium, ''stupefying persons listening to it and making their brains inactive and frivolous.'' But our own ''Western'' tradition is just as full of suspicion toward music, much of it religious. In the fourth century, St. Augustine confessed that as a result of his sensuous enjoyment of the melodies he heard in church, ''I have become a problem unto myself.'' In the 12th, John of Salisbury complained that the spectacular music sung in the Paris Cathedral of Notre Dame could ''more easily occasion titillation between the legs than a sense of devotion in the brain.'' Protestant reformers in England and Switzerland seized and burned books containing ''popish ditties'' with Talibanish zeal. Somewhat later, the Orthodox patriarch of Moscow ordered bonfires of musical instruments, thought to be avatars of paganism. Religious distrust of music often arises out of distrust of its conduits, especially when female. St. John Chrysostom, the great Father of the Greek Orthodox Church, complained that when marriages were solemnized, ''dancing, and cymbals and flutes, and shameful words and songs from the lips of painted girls'' were introduced, and with them ''all the Devil's great heap of garbage.'' Near the beginning of my career as a college music teacher, a young Hasidic man in fringes and gabardines approached me on the first day of
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10_Richard_Taruskin - The New York Times December 9, 2001...

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