Sunday, December 13, 2009
So Much for Art for Art's Sake
Although I'm not at all sure that I'll ever read all the books I have, some of them are just too good to get rid of. From Donn Pohren's 1962 The Art of Flamenco, another one of those enchanting lists that I so love:
The Cante is the least likely flamenco form to be mastered by a non-Spaniard. . . . [But] there are exceptions . . . . perhaps the most interesting example of a non-Spanish singer that I know of is the Pakistanian [sic] Aziz Balouch, a singer of both Pakistanian folk songs and flamenco . . . . Mr. Balouch claims that flamenco is a direct descendant of Indo-Pakistanian religiou and folk songs. Based on this premise (very likely correct, at least in part) . . . Mr. Balouch sets about to purify the flamenco "way of life" by applying Yoga and operatic training techniques to the flamenco singer. He suggests the following:
(1) Abstention from all alcoholic beverages, especially during and before singing. He suggests that the signer drink weak tea or tepid water.
(2) Special dietary practices. For best results it would be wise to go all out and become a vegetarian.
(3) Limiting sexual activities to a bare minium, with complete abstention on singing days. He has offered no solution for those who sing every night.
(4) 15 minutes of lung development a day by vigorously inhaling and exhaling fresh air.
(5) Cleaning of the nasal passages daily by sucking water up one nostril and releasing it through the other, and vice versa. Repeat as desired.
It must be recognized that these practices may give the singer a clear, bell-like tone, and perhaps an operatic resonance. What Mr. Balouch apparently does not realize is that these are the very vocal qualities that the flamenco singer avoids. He also seems unaware that flamenco is not just singing, but a unique philosophy, a way of life. These people are born flamencos, with everything the word implies: quantities of booze, women whenever and wherever possible, long lasting blasts. Their art is vital, but flamenco is their life. If they are blessed with artistic talent, well and good. But they do not see things as other cultures do, and will not behave like other cultures; they won't give up life's pleasures (and the flamenco way of life is definitely a pleasurable one) and their inherent philosophy merely to delicate [sic] themselves to an art form.