Conflict, Culture and Creation

An Artistic Interpretation of Religious Challenges in South Asia

That Question Mark

Filed under: Uncategorized — alana at 2:34 am on Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The piece That Question Mark by Ziauddin Sardar concerning the past politics, present struggles and future progress of Pakistan was one of my favorite readings of the semester. In the essay Sardar discusses the labels forced on the young nation by other countries like the U.S. as that of an unstable theocracy, separated by divides within the Muslim community of beliefs, prominently Shi’a and Sunni, and that would be better off fragmented into sections so that it might be, “easier to police and economically develop”. (Sardar 3) Besides Pakistan’s religious complexities, its history of government has been equally fragmented and troubled. Sardar outlines problem of the over-prevalent role of the state military, and the dysfunctional feudal system for agriculture, both causes of economic hardship for the people and the nation. Yet these negative forces have yet to be fixed due to the constant rotation of power and governing philosophies. Pakistan has swung from a democratic nation with only a common religious culture, to an Islamic Republic, to a more strictly religious system, and has leant along the way towards a more modernist approach and has even been ruled by a woman. So in all of this turmoil and conflicting schools of thoughts, Sardar poses the question that all of us have wondered: How has Pakistan survived and will it continue to?

In my interpretation of his work, Pakistan is surviving and shows glimmers improvement from one source of hope that is common among all people and crosses all cultures: art. With a rich literary history, and vibrant story-telling future, and popular music programs on television and YouTube, today’s Pakistanis have a joyful way to connect their future with the past. This was the theme I put to music.

I decided to create an original piano piece to represent my interpretation of That Question Mark and the topics of Pakistan it covers. The piece is in three short parts all with similar chord progressions and melodies, but each with its own distinction, particularly in the last section. For the first part of the piece notes within chords alternate, beginning chords being major, later being minor and each of the two series being played ending with a burst of notes. In the second portion of the song, a similar variation of chords starts, but crescendos and transitions back to major chords at the end of this next series. These two parts represent the struggles of Pakistan. The first section with it’s major then minor transitions and more quiet tones are the changing governments and political ideals of the nation, that swing from more modern, to theocratic and back again. The second section is the more boisterous portion representing the military and economic struggles, the chords are similar because these hardships too are linked with poor leadership from the theme in the first section, but the chords are played with more force. In the third and final section of the piece, the chords from the second section are begun again, but now with notes an octave higher giving a lighter, more intricate sound. With an altogether different melody in the right hand played on top of the similar chords from the first two sections in the left, lower octave, the music shifts to a more peaceful tone. The increased intricacy and lighter, happier notes of the right hand symbolize the positive aspects of Pakistan’s future that include it’s blossoming literary and musical national passions. The musical score ends as Sardar’s essay does, in a more optimistic tone, but not with any prominent finish. This quiet ending still leaves room for a question mark: will these artistic influences be enough to overcome the tumult of the country’s history?

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