ONE SONG/MANY VOICES ~ MUSICAL & RELIGIOUS FUSION
As for those who fear that oneness in religion will mean sameness, conformity and the stifling of creativity, I would say that if we remain true to the
ideal, something very different will occur. Every Western and every Eastern religion is in itself a vastly complex, variegated amalgamation, a weaving
together of ritual, belief, symbolism, scripture, ethical code, philosophy, sacred art, music, dance, myth and story from various sources. Every Western
and every Eastern religion is in itself syncretistic. There is no more a “genetically” pure religion than there is a genetically pure human being.
Even within a single religion these elements are combined in different ways from time to time in order to form new strands, new sub-communities and
even new denominations, each of which then provides yet another unique framework for religious expression, another unique context for experiencing
God. When you contemplate the number of ways in which the elements, not just of one religious tradition but of ALL major religious traditions can be
combined, blended, synthesized or fused, it is clear that the age of religious unification I believe is coming will offer a creative challenge for the
individual, for the collective, for the human race as a whole that will be richer and more complete than any the world of religion has known. Thus, I
believe that, while the basic principles of religious and spiritual unification are already taking hold and will continue to expand, the unfolding of all this
richness will be a gradual process that stretches out for generations.
As an analogy, today when I meet with other musicians, the creative challenge which stimulates us the most and which we find the most rewarding is
the challenge of taking the diverse cultural threads we embody, and weaving them together into a rich, complex musical cloth. Along with the
exploration of new technologies, this is how originality and innovation in music and art in general are being pursued.
We do not begin with a presumption that our musical styles and identities are the same, nor is it our goal to make them the same, to fuse them into
something indistinguishable. Our goal is to mingle contrasting elements in a non-destructive manner, in a manner that respects the integrity of the
musical spirit within each individual and each tradition, which allows the individual to be him or herself while giving them the opportunity to see if they
can find a way to blend who they are with someone very different. It may not be as easy as "taking the blinders off" and "realizing that we are all
already one ... and that everything is already working together perfectly" to quote a "new age" woman I know, but it is possible. In music and in life,
when the contrast or conflict is greater, so is the resolution. All songs come ultimately from the same place and as different as we are, we are not so
different that we cannot make a song together.
I dream a dream in which a Native American figure asks me where the "Ch" sound (as in L'Chaim), I make when I sing originates...
I reply that,
"I've heard it in Middle Eastern, Asian and some forms of Latin music because when you get down to that level from which folk and ethnic music comes,
we're all pretty much the same."
“It's one country. The same country."
What we find, the musicians and I who sometimes play together, is that rather than losing our identity, each individual player in the group retains the
quality which makes them unique while simultaneously complimenting and stimulating every other musician. Indeed, the unique musical flavor of each
tradition shines even more brightly when it is part of a multi-cultural mix. What we, and the many musicians like us all over the world have found, is a
more creative, more complex, more exciting way of collaborating than that which occurs when the collaboration is between those who are all playing in
the same musical style, all coming from the same “planet” to quote the dream figure above, the same cultural and musical ground.
People say "I'm afraid we will all be the same." But this is not what happens when I make music with my colleagues and friends. What happens is that
the sound of Anubodhs bamboo flute is as beautiful and distinctly Indian as it is when he plays it in the Himalayan mountains where he was born. What
happens is that Dawn-Wolf's drum is as unmistakably Native American in our jam sessions, as it is when he plays it on the Crow reservation. Together
with my western-trained classical voice, my friend John's jazz guitar and Walters funky bass, we make a kind of music in which the spirits of multiple
cultures and sub-cultures enrich, compliment and complete each other in ways that are surprising, powerful and new. This can happen in the world of
religious tradition as well.
It is natural for human beings to form groups for various purposes in order to achieve goals that are easier to achieve collectively. This is as true for
music as it is for religion. In a certain sense the House of We as I imagine it, will be like the musical group I play with: a group of groups - a class or set of
organized elements: cultures, tribes, civilizations which are themselves collective, united on a higher level. It follows that a higher level group should be
able to reach a higher level goal. A religious group where diverse yet complimentary beliefs are incorporated into a single, unified whole respected and
celebrated as facets of a multi-voiced, planetary "song," should be able to do good works on a planetary scale, should be able to inspire and support the
spiritual growth and fulfillment of the individual in a way that is more profound.
If musicians from all over the world can play together and make beautiful music, so can people who practice different faiths. It is not that diversity or
creativity will disappear. It's that the context or framework in which they flourish will shift, like the musical traditions which come together in Bread at
the Gate, to a larger box.
Not a melting pot, a tapestry of threads.