by Gisbert Schürig


Today, I took part in Naïma Ferré´s research on whirling. This is a traditional practice of the Sufi. Naima takes it as an inspiration for her work as a modern dancer, using elements of the tradition, exploring it in a flexible, open minded way and also incorporating other influences.

If you never tried out spinning around your own axis or have no bodily memory of what it feels like, then do it, it´s pretty interesting.

Did it? Feel free to post your observations in the comments section…

When I heard of Naïma´s research, I was instantly curious about it and trying it out brings up a lot of interesting topics.

When I did the whirling today, visually the whole world outside of my body became blurred. After a while, this changed my perception:
I did not perceive the things around me as objects anymore. There were no more objects, which were in front of me and which I could inspect closely with my senses. The world which can be inspected and categorized disappeared into a stream of sensations. The only thing, that was stable visually was my own moving body. So, in a way, in whirling, there was only me, on the level of direct experience. On the other hand, the whirling movement caused momentum – I experienced this as a strong force that was moving my body. This gave me the feeling of not being in control over my body, but rather being moved by something else, the inertia, and that reduced the identification with my body.

So, with the world disappearing into a blur and my body being moved by an impersonal force a lot of categories in use in daily life are called into question here. Well, that was what I associated with the phenomena I experienced.

As a musician, I am very interested in repetition. Among many musicians that I encounter, there is a strong rejection of strict repetition. It´s monotony is a thread to being a sovereign indiviual, also it is a challenge to the mind. It´s hard to stay alert and awake within a practice of constant repetition. But it offers very intersting posibilities: the chance to become more sensitive, as the mind seeks for more information. And the chance to create a static musical state instead of a process. Constant repetition creates the impression of a steady present moment. The flow of time is somewhat put aside, as there are no discernable incidents that could function as time markers. In a static state temporal orientation is lost.
Loosing temporal orientation is a challenge to categories of our perception, just as the loss of the experience of fixed objects in the outer world and the loss of identification with one´s own body are.

The combination of both, whirling and repetitive music has great potential, as their combination reinforces the effect of altering the perception, offering intense experiences and interesting perspectives. Of course, this is not a new idea, there are lots of old traditions that combine movement and sound to achieve effects on the perception. But then, there is also the task of finding reasonable and appropriate ways of practicing such activities now, putting them into the context of life today.

So, I´m looking forward to Naïma´s Whirling workshop with me and Jennie Zimmermann making music.

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