St. Emilion 2012 by Mariette Bermowitz
Travel is a profitable exercise. The soul is there continually exercised in noticing new and unknown things, and I do not know a better school.
Michel Eyquem, Seigneur de Montaigne (1500’s)
During the seven weeks I was in Europe this summer of 2012, I was inspired by the thinking of this admirable writer and found my daily life as filled with new insights and discoveries as his must have been.
It began when I left the comfort of a rented apartment in Paris and headed for St.Emilion, where I had been invited to attend the jazz festival. My friends, Monique and Dominique had launched the musical feast. For four days and four nights I felt as if I had stepped into a dream. First there was the music reverberating against the medieval setting of St. Emilion, then there were the colors, the lights, the musicians rehearsing, the invitations to local chateaux, the taste of fine wine, and glowing faces amidst the festivities.
During rehearsals I sat next to Ustad Zakir Hussain, the percussionist and virtuoso of the Indian tabla. On the back of his album cover I read, “Music is the play of aesthetics, beauty, sensitivity, creativity and divinity in sound and in the soundless realm between and beyond sounds. Music is expression. Music is life. Music is the manifestation of every emotion of the human heart, every sense of the human body and every nuance of the spirit. Music is nature. Music is God.” And so I learned from this master about vocal expressions that can bring one closer to that divine state. Vocal expressions such as Raga, Thaya, Gamak, Meend, Choot, Murki, Taan, Prabandha, and the angas-s and Dhatu-s of Prabandha. Vocal manifestations that are rivulets of energy.
I also met Steve Shehan, a man whose presence evokes Lawrence of Arabia. Tall, handsome, gifted, an adventurer who collected the music of distant and unknown places to transform it into sounds of love. In his album “Safar,” I felt transported to those places where I lived and traveled in Iran, Afghanistan and Nepal. I also spoke with Thierry Maillard, a virtuoso pianist. What skill, and what an extraordinary presence! And above all so humble, so generous with his time. I think I fell in love with Yoran Hermann, another musical genius who set my heart aflame with the exuberance of his performance and sound. Feelings I once held as a romantic young woman were rekindled.
And then to conclude that amazing journey I had the greatest pleasure getting to know the musicians of Earth Wind & Fire. Al McKay, the instrumental force behind the music of Earth Wind and Fire is an unforgettable figure in the music world. To me he will always remain that gentleman who held my hand as I stepped out of the van on the way to the festival. There are names I will not easily forget: Tim Owen, Ben Dowling, Freddie Flewelen and Claude Woods, whose incredible knowledge and thoughts reminded me of an ageless philosopher.
I returned to Paris renewed and energized with awe and joy. Of course a dinner date with Yoran Hermann was part of it. Travel is indeed a profitable exercise. New and unknown things are revealed and enrich our lives. And like Montaigne, I do not know of a better school.