Post #4: Heavenly Prototype

March 20th, 2018

The fourth, final, and most dramatic track of my mini-album, “heavenly prototype,” can be heard at this link:

I am particularly excited about how this song turned out. It is just short of 9 minutes long, and is fairly packed with numerous thematic elements. I’ll do my best to break it down as concisely as possible.

First and foremost, “heavenly prototype” ultimately engages with one question: How do we, the humans who are so inclined to forget God and God’s word, interact with and understand that word in our lives of faith(s)? The central image, from which the song gets its name, is the Umm al-Kitab, the “Mother of the Book,” otherwise known as the “heavenly prototype from which all scriptures come” (a quote from my lecture notes). This book is referred to in the song as “the heavenly prototype,” “our mother book,” and “the book above.” The first lyrical section of the song is concerned with Creation, and I connect the idea of this eternal, ever-writing book to what Nasr calls “the Primordial Word,” the original word that began the process of creation, and the “Divine Pen” (al-Qalam) which writes “the realities of all things” (Nasr 17). The Divine Pen is present (referenced as simply “The Pen”) throughout the song, and continues to write constantly in the language of God’s love.

How does that heavenly word get to us? I touch upon this in the song also. Way back at the beginning of the course, we discussed “Incarnation” and “Inlibration” (Word Made Flesh, Word Made Book, Lecture on January 30), and how the Word in Christianity is manifest in Jesus, whereas the Word in Islam is manifest in the Qur’an (which, as Sells points out on page 4 of Approaching the Qur’an, is why the parallel is not as strong between Jesus and Muhammad as it is between Jesus and the Recitation itself). The Word becomes manifest for Christian in Jesus (who “walks,” as I say in the song, with reference to Jesus’ adventurous traveling mystery), whereas the Word in Islam is manifest in the recited Qur’an (as I sing, “and Muhammad talks,” in reference to recitation, and also as a nod to Lupe Fiasco’s song about the Prophets). These are some ways that the Word, ancient and divine, gets to us, the young and God-forgetting humans. I make sure to mention both Jesus and the Qur’an as a way of remembering how the Heavenly Prototype is supposed to inform the scriptures of all the People of the Book, not just the Qur’an.

But what we do with the Word when we receive it through some kind of manifestation is not always as holy as the Word itself. This is the musing of the chaotic climax of the song, in which I lament that while the Word is a Word of love, it comes to us through different religious traditions (whether incarnated or inlibrated) and is twisted by some of us. It can be forged into a weapon, or a tool of oppression. As myriad interpretations of the Word arise in diverse religious traditions and sub-traditions, conflict is created. We disagree about the Word, we interpret it differently in different communities–this is exemplified by the chaotic instrumental that builds up halfway through the song. While the chaos is sometimes indicative of actual bloody or bigoted conflict, I think it also can simply reflect the sheer extent of the multiplicity of interpretations, on a scale which is difficult to wrap one’s mind around (generally, I’m influenced by the course’s cultural-studies approach when thinking about this. Different Islams, different Christianities, etc. all cry out in different ways during the chaotic sonic climax that makes any clarity or continuity harder to discern).

However, it ends on a peaceful, hopeful note, with quiet ambient instrumental and a meditation on how the divine Word itself, written by that Divine Pen, is so much more enduring than the petty hermeneutical conflicts we perpetuate with each other; God has the final Word, and thankfully, Creation can never be completely separate from it (Every leaf is a page of sacred scripture, to reference a Saadi line we discussed in class). Therefore, the trajectory of the song is meant to reflect the trajectory of the Word and the Heavenly Prototype as it is presented. It begins in peaceful ambience with the blissful institution of Creation by God, and then follows the Word as it is given as a gift through different scriptures and traditions to mankind, and then bastardized or confused by competing communities of interpretation, reaching an almost jarring sonic climax, before ending again in the peace of Divinity, the peace which the true Word always had since Creation began, the peace that defines the Heavenly Prototype even as all earthly scriptures face problems of interpretation. There is therefore ultimately a hope in God and God’s Love present at the end of the song, and I think it’s a fitting way to end the mini-album.

I really hope you enjoy these music pieces as much as I enjoyed composing and recording them!

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