Friday, March 07, 2008

A Concert a Day Keeps the Muslims Away

Below is a guest essay from our Danish correspondent Kepiblanc.

A Concert a Day Keeps the Muslims Away
by Kepiblanc

Haunted by vampires?

Beethoven symphonyIf so, don’t despair; the remedy is right at hand. As everyone who saw the Roman Polanski movie The Fearless Vampire Killers knows, a good bundle of garlic does the trick: the vampires go away.

Now it seems that this principle can be applied to Muslims as well, and — for those of you who aren’t especially fond of garlic — in a rather pleasant way too. And — as opposed to shark repellent — this method has proved itself effective in several, controlled studies and real-life conditions.

Obviously, a scientific breakthrough of this magnitude deserves a Nobel prize, but there is a catch: the potential laureates are all dead: Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Nielsen, Gershwin, Louis Armstrong, Ellington and all the other great composers of fine music.

Instead, the Nobel Prize goes to the director of the Central Railway Station in Copenhagen, Denmark. Ever since its erection, this facility has been plagued by scores of winos and drug addicts seeking refuge from the bitter cold in the station’s heated entrance hall. Although harmless, they were a nuisance and confronted the casual observer with a somewhat less-than-optimal impression of this beautiful, classical, fin du siècle building.

Then, a few years ago and by sheer accident, someone played a tune from Wagner’s opera The Nibelungen Ring on the station’s loudspeakers and all of a sudden the hall was empty. Repeated experiments confirmed the initial observation, and now an eventual lover of Wagner’s “music” — if such a person exists — might buy a ticket to Copenhagen and never get further than its clean and sober main railway station.
- - - - - - - - -
But scientific progress never stops. Owners of shopping centers, marts and heated bus terminals soon grabbed the idea and enhanced the principle. They experimented further and made an amazing discovery: just as Wagner was like a broomstick to winos and druggies, real music could repel Muslims. Of course, nobody can stand Wagner’s noise for more than a few minutes, but great music — not contemporary rap, rock and pop — is more selective. Civilized humans enjoy it and eventually stay a little longer (and buy more crap…) whereas Muslims of any sort, color or age mysteriously disappear like dew on an early summer morning.

So — to all of you who claim that everything is going south — rejoice: we’re now able to do our shopping and bus rides without being harassed by those “youths” formerly hanging out everywhere and — as an added benefit — we got rid of the terrible muzak and replaced it with enjoyable ear-candy.

Civilization isn’t dead.


Ethelred said...


However, allow me to demur on the association of Wagner with "noise."

There are many selected orchestral passages that are both beautiful and not overbearing.


Anonymous said...

Ha, I love this. And I also love how you have a few lines of music (it's Beethoven's Fifth, for anyone who didn't know - what a great piece to play).

I've always found it so weird that Muslims don't like music. I heard somewhere (sorry, I don't remember where) that some Muslim leader said that Mozart's music was evil or bad or something like that. Now I wonder why that doesn't surprise me...

xlbrl said...

Bernard Lewis has noted the Muslim history of immunity, or aversion, to music. This had been noted since the first Muslim ambassadors to Europe from the seventeenth century onward. Yet equally alien cultures, such as the Japanese, were immediately impacted by Western music. That illuminates the tremendous insularity of the cultures from the old Islamic Caliphate,and the foolishness of attemping to be inclusive with it. The insulating qualities of the religion itself added to the insular qualities procurred by their preference for first-cousin marriage are piled on top of the yet uncalculated damage to the gene pool.

Windy Wilson said...

Muslims are also historically averse to the visual arts.

As Mark Twain, who heard Wagner's music conducted by the man himself, "Wagner's music is better than it sounds".

thll said...

I'm not too sure I agree with Kepiblanc's choice of music greats - two or three on his list are flattered at their inclusion, and I think that by including them he waters down his point. Maybe that was his intent.

Music is an expression of culture. Culture is an expression of race. Music is racial - whether we like it or not.

And it's not that European classical music grates on the ears of Muslims; it's that it grates on the ears of non-Europeans - with the notable exception of some Oriental peoples.

Classical music is an expression of the soul of the people - whether it's Indian, Chinese, Western, or whatever. And as such it is less 'accessible' to the majority of other peoples than say 'pop' music is. Consider Chinese classical music for instance - it is utterly alien to the Western ear and it would guarantee to alienate all but the most determined.

The reason Muslims are alienated by Western classical music is more to do with their ethnicity than it has to do with their faith. Western classical music expresses the emotions of Western classical man - generally non-Westerners have difficulty relating to them. An ethnically European Muslim would respond differently.

That said, their religion doesn't help: Islam is afraid of the joy in music - and joy is something Muslims don't do.

kepiblanc said...

I beg to differ with Thil. I'm a music addict myself and I definitely did not include any composer in order to flatter. As if some of those great men would really care.

If music should somehow 'play the race card' then how come that Copenhagen is a metropolis of jazz? - How come western music has made such fast inroads into Japan, India and China? - And so on and on...

And to me, modern western 'music' like 12-tone compositions, funk and 'heavy metal' surely sounds more alien than classical Chinese Beijing opera. Rather than a racial difference, I often wonder about the scarcity female composers...?

As far as I know all - all - races compose, perform and enjoy music - including non-muslim semites, like jews and the occasional arab, Persian and Turk.

In islam, music is haram - forbidden. Period.

Now, if the above described scenario took place in countries like The Netherlands, Britain or Sweden the muslims would immediately take the 'offended' position and demand a ban on all tonal music leaving only rap and guttural humming alone. And Balkendende, Brown and Reinfelt would follow 'their master's voice' faster than you could say sorry. But this is Denmark, and given the present, cultural and political climate around here, they can just as well forget about it. Today's poll eradicates the only remaining pro-islamic party (Enhedslisten) from parliament so now even the entire socialist opposition here talks about 'cultural incompatibilities'.

Sweet music, indeed...

Al-lat said...

kepiblanc has said it all!

Dymphna said...

kepiblanc dared to say:

Rather than a racial difference, I often wonder about the scarcity female composers...?

Racist, huh, and now you're a sexist to boot? Tut-tut, kepiblanc, have you no shame?

I like the recent theories I've been reading (recent for me)which posit that in certain areas, men score higher in greater numbers than women ever do...or ever will.
OTOH, at the opposite end of the spectrum, where the deep patholigies are found, you will also find more men. Women, though, clump in the middle. Far fewer blazing genuises than the men, but also fewer criminal and pathological personalities.
American music is such a mixture of European and African and Celtic (and Jewish), that you can only separate out the strands for the sake of analysis. If you look at the jazz masters, you won't find many women...if any. Performers, yes; composers, no.

European church music (Protestant and tending towards Bach)somewhat influenced the Africans who were brought here. The influence was "forced" since their masters wanted Christian slaves, not heathens. To this day, jazz/blues players and singers still perform in both venues: churches and low-life bars.

I especially love the music of the old lining bar gangs -- black workers who chanted rhythmically to keep the hammers driving the spikes as they built the railroads across the country.

Recordings are hard to come by but the performances draw large audiences...these old guys have kept the tradition alive. It will be gone when they are gone.

Anonymous said...

I'd play Ligeti's Requiem or Stockhausen's Gruppen instead.

Al-lat said...

"American music is such a mixture of European and African and Celtic (and Jewish), that you can only separate out the strands for the sake of analysis."

Well, so is European music a mixture. The only reason you can id all the above is because the history of music in the U.S. is only about 200 y o. But were you to go back far enough, in Europe, you'd see the separate strands.

You're aware, of course, that all the classic composers took their music from the country people, and diluted it, tweaked it their way.

But a very obvious example of the meeting points in music is that of Andalusia, and then go to those Russians that absolutely loved it: Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov.

Italian music in the south is so very similar to that of southern Spain. You know why.

Than another example are the Jotas in the NOrth of Spain - that's the far as we can ID ('cause Romans labelled everybody as Celts)..i.e. Celtic and probably Visigoths, etc. BTW, the bagpipes originated in the Grecian area. Then the Greeks were really a disparate Peoples, incl. Macedonians coming in at the time of Alex. And since Greece in 5th c. B.C. flourished with their contact with Egypt.... And modern Greek music is a muxture of the Indigenous and Turk. And so it goes.

I may add that in mod. music - as in the case of the American contribution to the world, New Age music should be included in the CLassic" genre, esp. that of the prolific composer David Arkenston ("Visionary" and his "Atlantis"): Cusco (Ancient Journeys); Phil Thornton (his Egyptian Albums); Anugama (Shamanic Dreams); Vangelis (Conquest of Paradise); Tulku (Seasons of Souls and the "A Universe to Come" and the older "Trance ndence"; David & Steve Gordon ( "Sacred Earth Drums," their "Garden of Serenity") as well as so many other genius composers of that music.

Al-lat said...

I forgot the following, bear with me, it's just that I'm amazed there are so many:

Mike Oldfield (11 pp. from Borders

Steve Halpern

Kali Ma
Magna Canta (Sanctuary)
James Asher (Feet in the Soil)
Robert Miles (Dreamland)
Mythos (Mythos)
Chorus of Tribes (MCMXC A.D.)

Joseph LoDuca ( of Xena WP fame)

etc, etc and so forth

Ypp said...

This story may contain some truth - people from eastern background cannot stand classical music. When I lived in Israel, I knew a lady, who was from Russia and was a children psychologist. She worked with retarded children in a special kindergarden, and nurses were from eastern background, mostly from Morocco. During her breaks she heard classical music, which helped her to relax. However, nurses moved out of the room immediately, when they heard the sounds. They told her, that they absolutely could not stand that music. Its not that they could not stand noise, their own "moroccan" music, which was played by Jews from Morocco, was very loud. But classic music made them sick.

Anonymous said...

Vietnamese are fine with classical music - which would lead me to suppose that Chinese are fine with it also.

Al-lat said...

"But classic music made them sick."

Classic music is supposed to havr vibrations that raise the Inner Being to higher Levels.

It must be the demons they possess that are made sick and can't stand it. Q:<

There may indeed, be some truth of demon possession.

And yes, there are Chinese that are great Classical musicians, and the young people and their familites are sacrificing much to study it.

VinceP1974 said...

I know when I see some Middle East-based Muslim clerics on MEMRI TV the thought goes through my head that some of them look almost like their physical apperance has been altered by some Exorcist (movie) - type demonic influence. (not to the full extent of course)

thll said...


I didn't say that your intention was to flatter composers. I said that some were flattered by their inclusion on your list of greats.

I'm not sure what your argument is, so I'll restate mine as succinctly as I can, and if you would be so kind as to do the same with yours, maybe we can better understand each other.

I'm arguing from the standpoint of Western classical music as a fact. Further, my argument is that classical music is a facet of culture, in the same way that architecture, modes of dress, jurisprudence, art, science, et al are facets of culture.

I also argue that a culture in its totality is a function of a people's interaction with nature, and that the individual facet is a solution to a particular problem as perceived by that people.

And as people differ, so do their cultures - hence the difference.

Why do so many here have a problem with this? That's how it is, live with it for goodness sake.

Thus, to return to the source of this thread and my original contention, Muslims are more likely to be alienated by western (classical) music because of their ethnicity than because of their culture.

ghytred said...

What is the name of this Muslim 'ethnicity'?

xlbrl said...

Your parsing between ethnicity and culture is a distinction without a difference.
This is all beating around the bush. The great deficiencies of certain Muslim cultures are illuminated by a UNIQUE immunity to most forms of music. This has the benefit of being a warning most of us can readily understand as clearly as the sound of rattles on a snake. It's a no-go zone, and always will be.

kepiblanc said...

Thll, maybe I was mistaken by your reference to 'race'. While 'race' may be the determining factor for irrelevancies like skin color I don't think it has anything to do with one's abilities in music. Neither do I know what 'ethnicity' really means. That word is so abused here in Denmark that it has lost all meaning.

Music, however, has everything to do with culture or, as in the case of Muslims, lack thereoff. To illustrate:

If my wife and I raised a newborn, Arabic baby here in Denmark I'll bet this person could grow up to be a civilized human being and live a decent life - and enjoy music, eventually. Maybe even perform it or become a composer. And if an orphaned Danish baby was raised in Saudi Barbaria by Muslim parents I'll likewise bet this person would grow up as a savage ignorant, living his or her entire life without ever hearing, much less enjoying any kind of music.

Finally, to repeat myself: Arabs and Jews are both semites. Arabs become Muslims and hence blatant failures in every aspect of human endeavor like science, technology and music. Jews become, well, Jews I need say more?

Al-lat said...

"This has the benefit of being a warning most of us can readily understand as clearly as the sound of rattles on a snake."

That is truth..

And they have a forked tongue!

Félicie said...

An Indian woman told me once that she cannot stand the opera. To such a degree that it literally made her sick.

On the other hand, my pet peeve is arabic bus drivers who play Oriental music. It sounds like the worst torture in my ears. When I'm not in a hurry, I simply get off the bus and walk or wait for the next one.

Al-lat said...

"An Indian woman told me once that she cannot stand the opera. To such a degree that it literally made her sick."

Was she islamic?....But anyway, that's certainly Not the only music in the West. Yes, it's an acquired taste, I myself would rather listen to Merengues:

I wouldn't pay $100+ to sit through an opera (mainly tragedies and sob stories- who wants to pay to be depressed?), when there is radio, the Internet, and vids from the Library, but there are some Great Arias (the most delightful are Mozart's) and gorgeous costumes.

Al-lat said...

Dianas of the Firemen- Part 2

Al-lat said...

Dianas of the Firemen- Part 2

Zenster said...

Kipiblanc: Now, if the above described scenario took place in countries like The Netherlands, Britain or Sweden the muslims would immediately take the 'offended' position and demand a ban on all tonal music leaving only rap and guttural humming alone.
[Emphasis Added]

The living would envy the dead!

[/Herschel Schmoikel Krustofski]

thll said...

xlbrl said, "Your parsing between ethnicity and culture is a distinction without a difference," I'm sorry, I don't understand what this means. Will you please rephrase?

But I agree with the point that the Muslim's indifference to music gives us an insight into his mentality.

kepiblanc - Many thanks for your response.

Again I appear to have given you the wrong impression. I wasn't talking about 'abilities' in music - surely the concept is out of place in a discussion about music as a facet of culture since ability in (cultural) music is culture-specific.

You allude to the nature-nurture argument to support the contention that the ability to appreciate 'cultural' music is a function of culture rather than one of race.

I suppose it is possible for someone not of this culture to adopt the mores of this culture, but of course we can't see them through his eyes and therefore can never know how much at ease with them he really is. But that aside, I accept your line of reasoning but only up to a point.

A culture is the manifestation of a people's interaction with nature. So the culture that we now have would not be as it is had some people other than Europeans been the inhabitants of Europe. We must never forget thll's law, "The higher Europe's population of non Europeans is the less likely it is that non-Europeans will assimilate with European culture."

Yes the argument about Arabs and Jews both being semitic peoples is a persuasive one - but it's incorrect. It ignores the European influence.

Yes, music does have everything to do with culture because it is a product of culture. And culture is a product of a people - non-Westerners couldn't have composed Western music, and nor could Westerners compose non-Western music. And any attempts at either would be nothing more than a sorry pastiche. How can a non-Westerner truly know what inhabits the soul of western man... and obviously the reverse is true also.

Yes Western music is an affront to Islam because it is an expression of Western man; Islam is an expression of Eastern man.