Without water, we could not survive. We bathe in it. Play in it. Measure it. Study it. Drink it. We even think with it?morphing experience into analogy, metaphor, and symbol. Water, as symbol, holds a prominent place in many cultures, religions, and philosophies, and its myriad meanings and interpretations reflect the multitude of forms and properties it possesses. Water, like very little else, IS??being? without permanent form or structure, separable, but bearing no sign of that separation when rejoined. Active, passive, flowing, and frozen, ?water as symbol? is an appropriate vessel for holding (if but for an instant) ?consciousness.? Accordingly, it should not be surprising to uncover connections between mystic thinking and water symbolism; nor should it be surprising for a Sufi musician like Mercan Dede to create a CD permeated so completely by a water theme.
This is doubly appropriate, first for the reason outlined above, and second because of a paradox lurking just beneath the surface of the music: On the one hand the music is extremely visual, not only by evoking imagery, but in another, more peculiar sense?listening to this music feels like seeing; like watching water if I wanted to be more precise. All the descriptors that sprang to my mind when writing this review match this feeling??one is immersed in the experience of listening,? ?the songs flow smoothly,? ?multi-layered music washes over the listener.?
But on the other hand, water in several of its more symbolic forms flows?as such it is outside any symbols predicated upon seeing. We don?t need to form false dichotomies?water, in this form, is not the antithesis of sight. It is instead another mode of being. ?The complement of a Great Truth is also a Great Truth? (if I may paraphrase slightly). The heart of the paradox lies within the interplay of vision, consciousness, and flow?within light, water, and watcher. And, if your mind runs along similar channels as my own, this is exactly the sort of interplay that is captured within the music.
There are twelve tracks each of whose titles begins ?Ab-I,? meaning water. Although the songs are all different, and some vary in beat and tempo, the flow of all twelve feels similar. I think there is a similar structure to the rising and falling cadences of all twelve, despite the individual variations and complicated rhythms. It is a very trance-inducing combination of elements; even the tracks using human voices have this quality.
Stylistically, the music has a pleasantly eastern feel, while simultaneously sounding as if it could be the soundtrack to a movie. That characterization is more then a bit unfair; it is the lush, evocative feel that gives the impression, but there is too much internal structure and character for it to be mistaken as music meant to fulfill a supporting role.
Su is neither acoustic, nor electronic, but a seamless mélange of both. Many of the songs are open, by which I mean they sound as if the performance is taking place outside of a studio, and in an open-air environment. Not in the sense of being raw or unpolished, but as if the listener is standing outside and hearing the music intermingled with the sounds of nature; it makes for an extremely immersive experience.
The music is calming and I found it exceptionally useful as work music when the ebb and flow of the task matched the cadence of the album, but when the pacing of the task doesn?t match the music the combination can be agitating rather than soothing. I think this is a side-effect of the music?s compelling nature. It is so strongly immersive that it forces a constant split in attention between the task and the music. It was an odd sensation that I?d never before experienced. I think it speaks well for the artists involved in this album (there are many of them).
This is not a CD that will appeal to all tastes, but I found it to be enjoyable, compelling, and thought-provoking. It also bears the distinction of being one of the best background CDs I?ve yet encountered for high-level abstract work?something about the combination of trance-cadence, complicated percussion, and acoustic texture makes it perfect for that sort of thing.