For the past two or three years, I have been walking through a desert. It is filled with the howling, gusting winds, endless skies, the unremitting bright sun, chilled nights, shimmering stars and the iridescent moon. It is a place filled with silence and where time, distance, and space have not lost their integrity but are shown the utmost respect.
I live in New Jersey. The only deserts we have here are food deserts . There are small areas within the pine barrens where the soil is so sandy that you might think is was a desert, the only place you are likely to find sand dunes is at the shore, where the land meets the Atlantic Ocean. So where, you might ask, is this desert?
I found it in a song. The first time I heard it I was walking in a field in the park across from my apartment complex. After the first few seconds I needed to sit down. I knew I had to really listen to this music. By the time the song was finished, I was on my back gazing up at the sky, a tear streaming down my face.
While I prefer listening to the ambient silence of nature while I walk, I–as I suspect we all do–have days where we want to feel something a bit more than what is right in front of us. We need to be pushed to release. Some people choose to go to the gym and exercise, lifting heavy weights and feeling their muscles burn. I choose to walk for miles through my desert. It’s a place I have come to love. The wild winds whipping everything about, the scorching sun leaving nothing hidden, and the vast space ceaselessly supporting my feet as I walk on. It’s a beautiful place. Everything is there. All the happiness, all the joy, all the sorrow and turmoil. All the frustration and exhaustion can be found and forgotten there. It is a place, this song, that can just as easily fill your lungs with air, as it can leave you breathless.
Song: Between the Heavens and Me
Album: I Will Not Stand Alone
Note: I remember shuddering, and the tingling sensation sent down my spine, when I first heard the sound of Kayhan Kalhor’s kemancheh. It is the sound of the wind carried over vast distances. When it first appears two minutes and fifty-four seconds into the song you see a moonlight landscape, large dunes of sand, and a lone figure standing there, the fabric of their clothes gently moving in the breeze. It is a soul shaking serenity, which at times becomes a longing as you hear it breathe in between Ali Bahrami Fard’s santur. The song grows into a brief, frenzied climax. It becomes wild, holding nothing back. It is honest. It respects silence and space.
More Music Featuring Kayhan Kalhor
Kayhan Kalhor Ensemble
Alia Asghar Arabshahi – Tar
Pouyan Ataei – Santour
Hadi Hoseini – Vocal
Yasamin Shah Hosseini – Oud
Damoun Akhavan – Tombak
Kayhan Kalhor – Kamancheh