Music of the Spheres
“Seems like the memory forms a shell around the event, or the person … then the process of remembering becomes just the memory. The next time, it’s the memory of the memory and so on; in order to know, to live, you have to forget, you can’t remember everything all the time.”
Introduction & Interview Theo Constantinou
Instead of introducing this interview, I will attempt to answer the questions Eyvind asked of me during our interview.
Who are you?
Eyvind, my name is Theo Constantinou; a 26 year old seeker of knowledge living in Philadelphia.
Are you a writer, or what do you do?
I am not a writer, and have no formal training in writing whatsoever. I publish Paradigm Magazine in the hope to inspire people all over the world through the interviews, editorials, photographs and artwork that are published on our site.
How do you find a great teacher?
I was not sure how I met Nicolas Constantinidis, so I just called my mother to have her tell me the story. She said I had not been cooperating, and was quite defiant with my other piano teacher, so she took it upon herself in finding someone that would motivate me. She had heard about this blind man who was well known in the area and asked him if he would work with me. He told her that he had to meet me first, before he would work with me: I was 12 years old. We met at his home, talked at great length, and the rest is history.
What kind of interview is this?
Eyvind, I don’t even want to think of this as an interview; more of a conversation that pushes the scope of what people are willing to talk about and, an introspection into the individual that we are talking to. Like our magazine, these deep philosophical conversations will hopefully inspire the reader to take action in their lives to create positive change, and think about new perspectives and realities.
Doesn’t everyone think about death and nothingness?
Unfortunately, not enough people think of death and nothingness. It is their personal fear of their own shadow, and inevitable demise, that they hide from instead of facing it truthfully and embracing their fate, while constantly pushing themselves in this life as far as they can with the limited amount of time that they have.
I read that, “Kepler considered the Harmonices Mundi (1619) his greatest work. The text relates his findings about the concept of congruence with respect to diverse categories of the physical domain: regularities in three-dimensional geometry, the relationships among different species of magnitude, the principles of consonance in music, and the organization of the Solar System.” What did Kepler’s work teach you, and how do you use his theory in creating your own music?
Hello, and thanks for bringing up these interesting questions. Who are you? Are you a writer, or what do you do? Myself, I’m a musician who reads many books, but that is not the best way to learn something. To be honest, I’ve never used Kepler or any other theory in music; I don’t even study physics very much. Like many musicians, I looked for models that helped to comprehend musical experiences, and was always attracted to the old image of Music of the Spheres, but stopped short of celestial mechanics. When it comes to Solar systems, the Harmonia Mundi describes a tuning theory in terms of geometry, which also relates to poetic in the sense of microcosm to macrocosm. Actually, the outer space and the inside of an atom could be the same as far as I’m concerned. It’s nothing without the poetical side, which Pythagoras was already bored of, but seems to remain at the forefront of our musical procedures…even if only through the invocation of the Muses within the proper name. It’s just that the whole sphere of sciences tend to give us more context for the poetic side.
You were quoted in an interview stating that, “In alchemy, one of the main steps is to descend into the chaos, called ‘nigredo,’ and then to let a kind of order manifest itself from that chaos. So I followed that idea, not the idea of an authority person imposing the order from above; in other words, a kind of anarchy.” Can you speak to me more about this idea of chaos and anarchy in your approach to music?
Sure, but I guess the paradox is that it should never become an “arche,” or principle. What is interesting also, from a viola standpoint, the bow, or “arco” -that is what makes everything sound; whereas, the action of the left hand is more or less silent, unless activated by the arco, arche or principle. Our arco is related to the mare’s tail, or the Earth. Ultimately, the Earth is what grounds all these experiences and makes them grow. To cultivate that through land, through social interactions, brings up questions of a political hue. Sometimes they used to burn ashes, and make that fertilize the soil – like black Earth in the Amazon jungle. When trying to learn music, we grow, study, but also need to let go, to forget – this is very important.
There are portions of Plato’s Timaeus that I find quite interesting and my understanding of them is something that I am still trying to grasp … I would love to hear your interpretation of these excerpts, either as they stand alone or as a whole, and how they relate to your life and your creative process?
Some things always are, without ever becoming (27d6).
Some things become, without ever being (27d6–28a1).
If and only if a thing always is, then it is grasped by understanding, involving a rational account (28a1–2).
If and only if a thing becomes, then it is grasped by opinion, involving unreasoning sense perception (28a2–3).
The universe is a thing that has become (28b7; from 5a–c, and 4).
Anything that becomes is caused to become by something (28a4–6, c2–3).
The universe has been caused to become by something (from 5 and 6).
Amazing question, but the format here is too brief to really answer. What kind of interview is this? These excerpts that you’ve lined up show how the typical dialectic that gets made between Being and Becoming can lead to a concept of causality that is so linear, one can go on from there to sort of prove the existence of first cause, prime mover, or what have you…which may seem quaint but was developed in an interesting way by the Scholastics, analytics, etc. It brings up many paradoxes – axiomatic reasoning by itself has to be supported by principles too, so it easily becomes circular. You have to name something: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. What we normally call music, is usually just the presentation of music, so we get into the same problems in our ontology. I don’t want to join any category of perceptual music, but at the same time, I don’t really believe in a particular perennial sound. If you have a sound, you have another sound, you have an octave, you have a 5th, a 3rd, and so on: the whole harmonic series; so you get all the natural numbers right off the bat. From there, you can get your incommensurates, to the chagrin of Timaeus and company, and on to the transfinite and beyond. At the same time I wonder, if Being and Becoming could both be part of the same, like stillness and rest in the Chinese “I” or “change” – as in “change is unchangeable” – wouldn’t that make things a lot clearer? So, infinitely more interesting to me than the Pythagorean Timaeus, is the Parmenedes.
I read that you won’t disclose the meaning of ‘NADE,’ Can you tell me more about the principles or driving forces of NADE without disclosing its direct meaning?
It’s not that I didn’t want to disclose it, but just that it didn’t mean anything. Nowadays, I’m interested in sound itself, to be honest. How do you approach it? The Guidonian hand, the letter names…the various points and stems in music writing are constructions which seem to represent notes; to a bird they could sound like melodies, to an insect maybe they sound like a whole genre, to a rock or sand, it sounds like nothing at all. So all these sounds are nothing in a way, but they could become anything, like in a sudden dream.
Nearly a decade ago, I studied classical piano from a blind man, and that experience and lessons still impact me to this day … Can you talk more about the influence and impact of your studies with the great violinist, Dr. N. Rajam?
Certainly. How do you find a great teacher? You can’t just “sign up.” And then, it’s not a walk in the park; you know from your piano experience, every musician knows, and when it comes to violinists, we know. Michael White: great violinist; he basically prepped me for the larger encounter with the bowed string, oriented me to his principles concerning the nature of music to be healing, to be spiritual, that kind of thing. There was no technical discussion or any pedantry, just the positive intention, the creative theosophy, which you find in jazz, especially of Michael’s generation, vis, the Coltranes, Sun Ra, Pharoah, Fourth Way, etc. Dr. N. Rajam is one of the other great teachers I met and worked with. The question at hand was “raga” – but as with any teacher, there were some secrets which could be learned by transmission only. I worked with her for only four short months, long years ago, so its nothing, really; nothing about Indian classical music, I don’t claim that. But for me, she’s always there, every time I play the instrument. Also, there is a current from her teacher, Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, which affects me in my studies. I really can’t describe the devotion I feel towards them.
I recently revisited the film The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman, and found this dialogue quite fascinating … Why do you think that most people don’t seek knowledge, and neither think of death or nothingness?
Antonius Block: I want knowledge! Not faith, not assumptions, but knowledge. I want God to stretch out His hand, uncover His face and speak to me.
Death: But He remains silent.
Antonius Block: I call out to Him in the darkness. But it’s as if no one was there.
Death: Perhaps there isn’t anyone.
Antonius Block: Then life is a preposterous horror. No man can live faced with Death, knowing everything’s nothingness.
Death: Most people think neither of death nor nothingness.
Antonius Block: But one day you stand at the edge of life and face darkness.
Death: That day.
Antonius Block: I understand what you mean.
Doesn’t everyone think about death and nothingness? I guess thinking about it is natural, but talking about it is not too easy.
One of my favorite poets, Constantine Cavafy has a poem called ‘Long Ago’ … You described ‘Narrow Garden’ as, “a concept of love, of poetry, like a troubadour or ashugh, courtly love that goes in two directions.” The poem is below; I am curious to hear your thoughts on memory specifically about people who you have loved in your life and are now gone, are they just faded memories to you now?
‘Long Ago’ by Constantine Cavafy
I’d like to speak of this memory, But it’s so faded now – as though nothing’s left – Because it was so long ago, in my adolescent years.
A skin as though of jasmine . . . That August evening – was it August? – I can still just recall the eyes: blue, I think they were . . . Ah yes, blue: a sapphire blue.
Seems like the memory forms a shell around the event, or the person … then the process of remembering becomes just the memory. The next time, it’s the memory of the memory and so on; in order to know, to live, you have to forget, you can’t remember everything all the time. The function of time consciousness doesn’t really condition the experience of love, or of a person’s soul. Thanks again, and take it easy!