INTRODUCTION + POETRY + MUSIC + ESSAYS + TRAVEL + FICTION + TEXTILE ART + HAAG'S BIO
However, in 1993, finding myself unexpectedly in Marin County and living only a mile from the AACM, as well as being older and capable of learning, as Alan Tate puts it: "Who am I that I should not be for the song's sake a fool?" (Which I find, years later, is a paraphrase of "O what am I that I should not seem/For the song's sake a fool?" from "A Prayer for Old Age" by Yeats. How appropriate! Even so, for this most life-influencing of all quotes, I continue to like the intimacy and urgency of Tate's version better.) I decided to go to the school just to acquire a little more understanding of this joyous and unutterably poignant music. I was blissfully unaware that I was about to become ensorceled by, perhaps, the most complex musical system ever invented. Certainly one of the greatest -- and the most addictive.
I went to class -- to all the classes -- I practiced, I learned much, I am still not a musician. But almost immediately upon beginning to study the music, especially the drum (tabla) and its bols (words for the drum syllables) of North Indian Classical music, I "saw" the bols as visual patterns -- wonderfully linear, mathematically precise, grid patterns -- like needlepoint! After just a few weeks at the school, I was already dreaming of tabla rhythms as the basis of needlepoint designs, but it took me another year to actually begin my first "musical" piece.
When my mother died in 1986, her little canvas coin purse had about $15 dollars in it. I used the money to buy two Sanskrit grammars. The purse itself became my favorite. It wore out. Completely. To tatters. But I couldn't bring myself to throw it away.
The 16 beat theka (rhythm pattern) of Tintal, the most common of the Talas (rhythm cycles) in Indian music -- beautifully regular, and based, so they say, on the beat of the human heart -- worked out exactly to fit the size of the purse. Quite easily I embellished it to encode a fair amount of information about the bols.
Thus, the pattern on the purse is made up of various layas (or "speeds") of Tintal, one, two and three lines of color per beat, are repeated, as all thekas are, over and over again:
The top section on Side 1 (the first side I stitched) is one stitch per beat. The second section is one vertical line per beat; the third section, two lines per beat; the fourth section, three lines per beat. The symbols are OM, the first and universal sound, and Ta La which derives from Tandava and Lasya, the dance which Shiva, Lord of Drummers, and Shakti, his feminine energy aspect, were said to be dancing as He/She danced the world into existence.
The top section on Side 2 is one stitch equal one beat. The second section is also one stitch per beat, but it reads both horizontally and vertically. The third section is two lines per beat. The fourth section is three lines per beat, analysed by right and left hand drum strokes. The symbols, as on Side 1, are OM and Ta La written in the Devanagari script which is most frequently used for writing Sanskrit.
The white squares mark the sam (pronounced "sum") which indicates the last and the first beat of a rhythm cycle. The sam is almost always subtly accented -- and at times accented with great enthusiasm. During a concert, no matter how far the instrumentalist and/or tabla player may venture from the underlying rhythm, they will -- creating, building, tightening the tension, the delight, the excitement -- come together again on sam. Often musicians will lift their hands from their instruments with a triumphant laugh as the final sam of a Raga is successfully attained together.
I had begun my study of Indian music with the study of voice, as is proper, for it is the very basis, as well as being considered the pinnacle, of North Indian Classical music. I studied for a year with Khansahib. Then in the fall of 1994, I took my first class on the tabla, a beginner's class with Brad Van Cleave, and soon after started the TINTAL COIN PURSE. I finished it that winter in Palm Springs. I have used it ever since. Use enhances the beauty and softness of the needlepoints.
In the spring I began studying with Swapan Chaudhuri.
Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
II The Unicorn
III Green Pillow
VI Chinese Chair Pillow
VII Great Grandmother's Legacy
VIII Octagonal Beanbag
IX Flora and Fauna Beanbag
X Asian Diary #1, Kundalini
XI Asian Diary #2
XII Tibetan Yantra Beanbag
XIV Eye of Horus Amulet
XV Erika Sachet
THE FOLLOWING NEEDLEPOINTS ARE BASED ON THE RHYTHMS AND MELODY OF
NORTH INDIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC
IXX Tintal Coin Purse
XX Kaida, Tabla Covers
XXI Tukra, Tabla Covers
XXIII The Ten Thats