Music and Eros
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Music is not only a pleasure for the ear, it is the echo of the heartbeat, breath and desire.
Professor Döpp revisits music as the catalyst for dance, love and sex. From the music sheet to dance and through instruments, music is the expression of our profound desires and most violent passions. The text revisits the history of music and art from the dances of the first men to pop and electronic music and through belly dance. Music and Eros take us on a time-travelling journey to discover the interaction of music and sex.

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Date de parution 15 septembre 2015
Nombre de lectures 2
EAN13 9781783107025
Langue English
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Exrait

Author: Hans-Jürgen Döpp
Translation: Niels Clegg

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© Alan Arkin
© Sassy Attila
© Paul Émile Bécat
© Charlotte Berend-Corinth
© Mahlon Blaine
© Ernest Borneman
© Otto Dix / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
© A. Erbert
© Fritz Erler
© Georg Erler
© César Famin
© Michel Fingesten
© Nancy Friday
© Ernst Gerhard
© Ernst Theodore Amadeus Hoffman
© Alfred Hrdlicka
© Von Hugo
© Fritz Janowski
© Jean-Michel Jarre
© Jorgi Jatromanolakis
© Allen Jones
© Erich Kästner
© Ferdinand Kora
© Martina Kügler
© Boris Laszlo
© Estate Man Ray / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
© Harry Mathews - All Rights Reserved/ Edition Plasma
© Rudolf Merènyi
© Georges Mouton
© Julian Murphy
© Marek Okrassa
© Hans Pellar
© Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York
© Karl Reisenbichler
© Eugene Reunier
© Frank Rubesch
© Vsevolod Salischev,
© Rudolf Schlichter
© Otto Schoff
© Mark Severin
© Jarka Stika
© Süddeutsche Zeitung
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ISBN: 978-1-78310-702-5
Hans-Jürgen Döpp



Music & Eros
Contents


Introduction: Music & Eros
Interlude 1 – Alan Arkin
Interlude 2 – Ernest Borneman
Darwin’s Rutting Apes
Dances of Primitive Tribes
The Eastern Belly Dance
Interlude 3 – In Case that’s the Way it is...
Interlude 4 – Voluptuous
Indian Bayaderes
Prostitution and Dance in the Ancient World
Chinese Flower–Girls
Songs of the Devil
Dionysus’ Flute
Courtly Love and Lustful Instincts Troubadours and Court Singers in the Middle Ages
Interlude 5 – Goethe
Don Juan and Music
Beethoven’s “An die ferne Geliebte”‚ (“To My Distant Love”)
Interlude 6 – Nancy Friday
Interlude 7 – Harry Mathews
Wagner’s Perfumed Eroticism
Music and Early Experiences
Interlude 8 – Harry Mathews
Interlude 9 – Jorgi Jatromanolakis
A Near Inability to Experience Pleasure
The Magic of Playing Together
Interlude 10 – Jorgi Jatromanolakis
The Instrument as a Partner
The Round Dance
“This Dancing Vice” by Anita Berber
Interlude 11 – Jean-Michel Jarre on Sex
Interlude 12 – Erich Kästner
¡El Tango me ha tocado!
Rock, Pop and Sex
Electronic Vibrations
Finale
Interlude 13 – E. Th. A. Hoffman
Coda: In Praise of Silence
Index
Notes
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres , The Turkish Bath , 1862.


Introduction: Music & Eros


For Doris

Cunning Odysseus had to protect his shipmates from the alluring song of the Sirens by plugging up their ears with wax. However, Odysseus himself did not want to forego the beauty and voices of these dangerous creatures. As a precaution, he had himself bound to the ship’s mast so as not to fall victim to the dangerous singing.
How can something as simple as sound transform into a powerful love spell? How is it possible through singing alone to inspire sensuality? Why does music play such a major role in love? We want to ascertain the origin of the strong erotic effect of song, dance and music. What explains the magic of musical sounds and rhythms?
Arnold Schönberg once spoke of the “instinctive life of sounds”. What is the relationship between this and the instinctive life of man?
Ovid’s Metamorphoses [1] describes the origin and meaning of music. Already in its mythological origin, music and Eros are intertwined; the sound of the pan flute is intended to reach the lost lover. Ernst Bloch, whose description we cite because of his beautiful style of writing, calls this myth one of the most beautiful fairy tales of antiquity. [2]
“Engaged in a chase with nymphs, Pan stalked one of them, the wood nymph Syrinx. She flees from him and when her flight is hindered by a river, she pleads with the waves, her “ liquidas sorores ”, to transform her. When Pan grabs her, his hands grab hold of nothing but reeds. While he is lamenting his lost love, a breath of wind and the reeds create sounds whose melody touches the god. Pan breaks the reeds, some long and some shorter pipes, connects the carefully gradated ones with wax and plays the first few notes like the breath of wind had, but instead with living breath and as a song of lamentation. This is how the pan flute was created. The music comforts Pan as he is not able to unite with the nymph who has vanished but not vanished and lives on in his hands in form of the sounds of a flute.”
At the origin of music stands a longing for the unattainable. During flute play, the absent becomes present; the instrument, Syrinx and the nymph become one. The nymph has vanished but Pan holds her in his hands in form of Syrinx.
The first few chapters sketch the close connection between music and lust by referring to the example of artistic “prostitution” showcased in different cultures. The sensual-physical relationship is emphasised in particular through dance and its rhythms.
That music exercises enormous power shows when one tries to regulate it and to limit its influence.
We attempt to sketch the roots of music that reach into a world different from ours by referencing philosophers like Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard.
Compositional creation as a way to transform unfulfilled love into happiness is a theme we explore by taking a look at Beethoven and Hugo Wolf.
Literary examples (Tolstoy, Thomas Mann, Arthur Schnitzler) show us the at times fatal power of music.
Playing music with others is just one way of finding happiness. The relationship between the musician and the instrument itself can also blossom into a loving one.
The physical element always remains the basis of eroticism. However, this element has increasingly been replaced in favour of a “spiritual” element through a process of sublimation that has gone hand in hand with cultural development. In the final chapters, which focus on music and dance in the present, an impression is created that suggests a return of the physical element, which is celebrated as “sexual liberation”.
A simple search for eroticism in romantic music has led to the discovery that music is also an echo of bodily functions: the echo of one’s own heart, one’s breath and one’s own desire.
Trying to express the relationship between eroticism and music with the help of words can only ever be described as an attempt at understanding their connection. The one who tries to catch an iridescent soap bubble with his hands will make it burst and instead will have a slight residue sticking to his fingers. The same thing can happen with our topic; we spin a web of language and all that remains are a few puddles of words on a piece of paper in which the secrets of their changing relationship can no longer be discerned. The exploration of our topic is therefore already limited by a methodological boundary due to the incompatibility of the two languages of music and speech.
So we let the iridescent bubble float unobstructed. What we are attempting, is to observe it in different lights and from varying perspectives.
Music, not unlike eroticism, is a medium of transition into another world. This is reminiscent of a question posed by Jean-Paul (Johann Paul Friedrich Richter (1763-1825)): “Oh musical art, are you the evening breeze of this life? Or are you its morning air?”
With respect to the pictures we have chosen; our topic is difficult, even impossible to illustrate. A picture that features an ecstatic facial expression could just as easily illustrate the topic as a harmonious Dutch landscape painting or a drawing with abstract and free-floating lines. Even the most abstract work of art maintains a connection with the powers of Eros, and each picture could be expressed in a composition of sounds. Subsequently we picked superficial pictures whose subject matters show an immediate connection between Eros and music. Because many of the pictures we have chosen have never been displayed, this method seems justifiable. However, those who view music as something holy will see it desecrated in these pictures. Others, on the other hand, may see in them a laughing genius. As much as we do not wish to distinguish between serious and entertaining forms of music in this essay, we also do not want to draw distinctions between sophisticated art and trivial art. The instinctual sexual drive is subject to all works of art. Everything else is merely a question of the degree of sublimation.
Anonymous , Pan teaching Daphnis to play the Flute , 4th century B.C. Naples.
Correggio (Antonio Allegri) , Leda and the Swan , 1532.
Interlude 1 – Alan Arkin


Cassie loves Beethoven
“I s there something that worries you?” David asked.
“Yes, there is something,” Cassie replied thoughtfully. “The music I just heard it has – it broke my heart. I don’t know what’s the matter with me.”
“I’m sorry the music excited you,” David said calmly. “We had hoped it would make you happy.”
“By God,” said Cassie, “It did make me happy. Happier than I thought I would ever be. It carried me off to places I didn’t even know existed. But this last piece... it has made me delirious with joy... it has aroused a yearning in me for things and places that perhaps don’t even exist in this world.”
“We are extremely sorry that the music has stirred your feelings like that.” David said in awe.
“Yes, it has really stirred me to the core,” Cassie said, “but through dreaming of something tremendously beautiful and magnificent. Perhaps it’s not so bad to become overwhelmed like that. I can feel my heart being torn open but maybe it is the only way to create room for more beautiful things.”
(Cassie, a speaking cow, has been irradiated with music to produce more milk. She heard Beethoven’s 6th symphony, the so-called Pastorale , on the radio.)
“Did Beethoven compose this symphony all by himself?” Cassie slowly shakes her large head... “How does he know all this?” she asked awestruck. “How can he feel all this? And if so, how can he make us feel exactly the same way? How can he make us think of fields and of green grass, of hills and trees and rivers, of thunder and lightning when we hear his music? He doesn’t just imitate the sounds; thunder has its particular sound, as does a murmuring river, and his music reminds me of all this, yet, it doesn’t sound exactly the same. Do you understand what I mean?”
(Cassie, the cow, ran away.)
“She went mad,” explained Myles. “Yesterday she was still a nice and content cow. What on earth happened to her?!”
“Beethoven,” David said gently and looked out the window. “Beethoven happened to her.”
Extract from an early work by Alan Arkin, Cassie loves Beethoven , New York, 2000 – Reinbek, 2002.
Interlude 2 – Ernest Borneman


Sex in the Vernacular
The close association of sexuality and music is expressed in the vernacular by a large number of synonyms that refer to sex organs and sexual activities. The sexologist Ernest Bornemann (1915-1995) collected such terms in his book Sex in the Vernacular . This is a selection:
Sex organ: fingerboard, keyboard, keys, manual, plucked string instrument, tongue instrument.
Penis: recorder, bugle, coda, one-handed flute, English horn, bassoon, flute, fluegel horn , violin bow, hollow flute, clarinet, night horn, oboe d’amour, whistle, trombone, reed pipe, bag pipe, shawm, crescent, pocket fiddle, trumpet…
Child’s penis: Pan pipe, piccolo flute.
Coitus: evening song, evening concert, duet, duo, fugue, chamber music, songs without words, serenade, notturno , salon music, lullaby, trill, (duet)…
Copulate: to fiddle, to play the flute, to play the violin, to play the harp, to whistle…
Woman copulating in a standing position: cello
Man copulating in a standing position: cellist
Masturbator: fiddler, violinist, harpist, pianist, musician, Zupfgeigenhansel
To masturbate: strum, play the lyre, play the organ, play
Vagina: accordion, balalaika, barrel organ, bell, concertina, glockenspiel, guitar, harp, kettle drum, mandolin, music box, piano, slit drum, squeeze-box, Wurlitzer.
Extract from Ernest Borneman, Sex im Volksmund , Reinbek, 1971.
Heinrich Lossow , The Sirens , 1890.


Darwin’s Rutting Apes


At the beginning there was Darwin. In Origin of Man (1875) he wrote: “We must assume that the rhythms and cadences of oratorical speech are attributable to previously developed musical abilities. Along these lines we can comprehend why music, dance, song and poetry are such ancient arts.” We can go even further and assume that musical sounds form a foundation for the development of speech. Darwin refers to this principle in The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). Darwin points out that birdsong mainly serves to attract a mate and that it expresses the sexual drive and enchants the female. At the beginning of his development, man is supposed to have used his voice for the same purpose. Not as a form of speech, because speech was a late product of human development, but as a way to attract a female or vice versa a male through musical tones, which is a characteristic found in many primitive animals.
The origins of music are nature’s sounds: the sounds of joy, as well as the sounds of pain that emanate from humans and animals alike in times of rut and sexual enticement. During rut, animals (frogs, bucks, horses, lions and many others) scream and birds sing and tempt in extraordinary ways. The repetition of mating calls in timely intervals leads to rhythm and song. The rhythmic repetition of the same sounds exhibits something highly suggestive and fascinating and thereby serves sexual attraction. Ivan Bloch in The Sexual Life of Our Time (1906) describes this phenomenon as the origin of the profound erotic effect of song and music.
Social biologist Elster is of the opinion that “Birdsong is an elegant precursor to human music – in apes still exemplified as an unmelodious scream of the swollen larynx – that showcases a biological predisposition to music. Coloratura of the human voice is often merely a copy of the songs in the world of birds.” [3]
Darwin’s classical research demonstrates the close relationship that exists between the voice and sex life. The male voice in particular, has a sexually arousing effect on the female but the reverse can be observed as well where a female voice has the same effect on a male. Darwin assumes that the earliest relatives of humankind enticed each other with musical sounds and rhythms before they had the ability to express their love in articulated language.
In enlightened times, it is no longer the gods who speak through the medium of music: the disposition to music is biological in nature. When man creates music, it is a refined version of natural phenomena. Music’s connection to sexuality can be hidden but not completely removed. Did Schopenhauer himself not already view music as “the direct replica of volition”? The innermost part of eroticism and music is elucidated in the volition to love. Making use of the well-known intoxicative power of music is timeless, and proves that euphoria in particular has a profound effect on erotic and sexual themes. Through this process, sexuality, religion and music can intermingle and musical ecstasy can create a bridge between sexual and religious ecstasy.
Whether speech developed from song, or song from speech, is of particular contention. Philosopher and social scientist Georg Simmel (1858-1918) was convinced that song developed from speech. He hypothesises that song first developed through emotionally charged speech. Emotions, he contends, have shaped the rhythmic and modulating elements of speech. [4] It is in fact the rhythmic beating of the excited heart that influences musical expression. By emphasising humankind’s unique mastery of speech that sets us apart from the animal kingdom, Simmel seems to diverge from Darwin’s theory of evolution: song is not a creation of nature, but elevated speech, which distinguishes humankind from apes.
All the same, rhythm is a special element from which the unique effects of music transfer to physical-spiritual functions:
“Rhythm has concrete dimensions that may adequately be compared to the rhythm of the heartbeat. The tempo of the regular heartbeat is ‘moderate’ (moderato). Due to its increased speed, a more rapid tempo like allegro giusto, scherzando or presto has an invigorating and provocative effect. An accelerando (stringendo) tempo that lasts for many beats can have a strong astringent effect. This is done without help of the Melos, meaning that the effect is accomplished while the melody stays relatively homogenous, or by a simple repetition of the same sequence of notes played in increasing tempo.”
If we acknowledge that rhythm is the biological reason for the effect of musical themes, “then we also have an explanation why Gregorian song, which was a form of church music in the Middle Ages until the musical creations of Händel and Bach came about, was so utterly non-erotic and even anti-erotic, pious, passionless and lacking animalistic instinct.”
Rhythm is the biological manifestation of music. But even the tonal colour of melody is supposedly of a biological nature: “The closer it comes to the ‘sweet’ sounds of nature and sexual life, the stronger the relationship between music, eroticism and sexuality becomes!”
However, music can also be abused to create inappropriate opportunities. According to Elster, strict artistic self-restraint is the solution. “A lack of a strong means of defence brought about by a lack of musical education and upbringing, will make someone fall victim more easily to the sensual and intoxicating effect of sentimental music.” This kind of music, which is found in the rhythm of dance and the sweetness of the Viennese waltz, is also indispensable to red light districts, brothels and other premises of prostitution. Both sexuality and music have been refined and enriched by civilised human beings. As is the case in the animal kingdom, men use music to sexually excite women and make them comply with their sexual advances. “The female, sexually receptive to sentimental and euphoric music, will follow the male subconsciously and, persuaded by music, engage more easily in the first sexual act of marriage.”
Hendrick Ter Brugghen , The Duet , 1628.
François Boucher, Menade playing the Flute , 1735-1738.
Vsevolod Salischev , Siren , 1995.
Vsevolod Salischev , Siren (detail), 1995.


Men and women are expressed in natural categories. The principle of genetics fits this way of thinking: Elster speaks of the inheritance of musical talent. “The sexuality of women is like rich soil, in which the musical seed of man will, almost as a matter of course, produce fruit.” This makes the woman the protective guardian of male musical talent. However, the male must not give himself over completely to music, since it has been observed that the virile power necessary to fulfil his sexual desires is not adequate when highly exciting music is played.
“He who lends himself to the euphoria of music to such a degree that his sense of pleasure also devotes itself completely to the productive or reproductive power, does not have much left for sexual tumescence. The work of art has already frittered-away, exhausted itself on the violin or the piano, and has drained the creator.”
Such artists were also often not suitable for marriage. In opposition to the artist stands the scientist, who exemplifies the displacement of the “naturalistic”. The price, however, that the scientist must pay for his cultural achievements is a “loss of happiness”, as Darwin came to realise in his old age. At one point in his autobiography, Darwin speaks of his experiences with art and music. He writes that poetry and music gave him much pleasure and joy until the age of thirty but that this joy he received was displaced by his scientific work. In his old age, he says, he had almost lost the love for art and music completely, something which he describes as a mournful “loss of elevated aesthetic sensation”. He describes in his findings that the respective parts of his brain had atrophied, and added:
“If I could live my life again, I would make it a rule to read poetry and listen to music on a weekly basis. This exercise could possibly have saved the now atrophied parts of my brain. The loss of this sensation of artistic taste results in a loss of happiness and could possibly have negative consequences for one’s intellect and, even more likely, one’s moral character because this loss weakens our emotional nature.”
Could Darwin’s theory of evolution also be the guide to finding lost happiness?
Pablo Picasso , Faun with Cymbals , 1957. Ceramic.


Dances of Primitive Tribes


The movements before and during sexual intercourse were the origin of erotic dances. Lyricist and publicist Ludwig Jacobowski (1868-1900) [5] explains how primitive sexual life was accompanied by the drive for movement, through which the powerful expression of sexual desire could operate unrestrictedly and spontaneously. Jacobowski also describes how these primitive sexual impulses of movement were repressed throughout the history of cultural development, and how this can be exemplified by looking at the history of erotic dance, which, in its modern form (Contre, Francaise, Quadrille), merely demonstrates the “refined, dissimilar and eccentric modification and variation of the search for, and the distancing to, a sexual act”.
Music and uninhibited speech in erotic songs can be viewed as a way of releasing sexual impulses through movement. This movement pervades all primitive forms of sexual attraction. A combination of music, uninhibited speech and bodily movement is employed at sexual celebrations and orgies during which an intoxicating ecstasy is meant to be achieved.
The Hos and the Mundaris, two ancient tribes, [6] are “examples of sexual selection in their crudest form. During their annual festivities they organise Dionysian dances that combine lewd and wicked speeches with wild orgies”. Such public festivals that included wild round dances and great sexual liberties occurred in Malaysian lands and Formosa. The Australian “Korroboree”, the Hawaiian “Hula-Hula”, the Tahitian “Timoradi” dances and the indecent Micronesian (Yap) Girl Dance were also in part linked with orgies that gave free reign to unbridled and primitive sexual desires.
Samuel Gason said of the dance of the Australian Dieyerie tribe: “Only men and women participate in this dance. They are wonderfully able to stay in rhythm to the clatter of boomerangs and the clapping of the hands of a few females. This dance is followed by promiscuous sexual intercourse during which no displays of jealousy are permitted.” Of an autumn festival, Gason says: “The dance is preceded by week-long preparations. Fights and squabbles are prohibited, and during the festival itself sexual promiscuity is the norm.” Obscene dances and wild movements that served as preparation to coitus were also practised by the Watschandi in Australia, the inhabitants of the Kuango region in West Africa, the Pari and the girls of the Pebas tribe in South Americ.
The anonymous author of L’amour aux Colonies , [7] a French military physician, describes a highly erotic dance of the Wolof tribe located near the Senegal River. The Anamalis fobil , also known as the Danse du canard amoureux (“Dance of the amorous mallard”) is a dance where the male dancer mimics the sexual movements of the animal and the female dancer lifts her robes and moves her lower body back and forth in a most lascivious way, accompanied by obscene song. These dances were performed coram publico in public view and in the streets.
The slow rhythmic dance, the Pilu-Pilu dance of New Caledonia, was danced by both men and women and mimicked all coital movements. The same dance was performed on the islands of the New Hebrides, accompanied by the beating of the Tam Tam drums and wild jumps and screams of women. The Upa-Upa dance, performed at night by decoratively dressed girls of the Tahiti and Pomotu tribes by clapping their hands and singing in chorus lasciviously, until they were overcome with ecstasy, was of even greater exuberance and boisterousness. The festival ended with sexual promiscuity. The most uninhibited debauchery took place in Northern India in form of the Karama dance that involved downright Saturnalia.
According to Ivan Bloch, the replacement of “primitive” sexual independence with varying forms of marriage, has led to prostitution – the cultural remnant of uninhibited romance – having adopted romance’s artistic and ecstatic elements. In many cultures, the terms “female dancer” and “female singer” are synonymous with “prostitute”.
Subsequently, on the Yap Islands in Micronesia, each gender dances separately. Only the “Mongols” – the prostitute girls – are allowed to be present at (even the most obscene) male dances. According to ethnologist Joachim Born, such obscene dances are a type of choreographic Ars Amandi that could not be more multifarious and realistic in nature.
“Coital movements in all positions – in the most multifarious variations (sitting, on the knees, standing) – make up the dance. Interjected between different positional elements, a whole row of participants makes masturbatory movements whereby the male dancers intimate symbolic sexual organs of enormous size. Such a dance usually ends with wild calls of ‘meh-meh’. The final spoken word is the Yap expression for sexual intercourse, which apparently is only very rarely used in daily life by Yap’s indigenous population. The girls present, who live in the brothels, do not change facial expression at even the most obscene movements and gestures. Instead, with an air of composure, they smoke their cigarettes or continue to chew on their betel nut. This is proof for how used they are to seeing these dances being performed in front of the town halls.”
Subsequently, these female prostitutes are then designated to perform their own erotic dance, called the Dafell .
“During this performance, the men sit together in a big circle and in their midst sits a girl from a brothel. The singing, which is exclusively erotic in nature, is performed alternatively by the men and the girls and merely accompanied by slight movements of the hips and arms.”
Many ethnological reports of the nineteenth century include an undertone: mourning the loss of physical and sexual freedom in the western world. Oftentimes, erotic desires were projected onto so-called “primitive cultures”. However, during the last few decades of the twentieth century, a de-sublimation process concerning sexual relations took hold. As a result, a contemporary Australian or Senegalese ethnologist would be able to recognise the rites and rituals of his or her own ethnic background in form of the dances performed at the Love Parade.
Greco-Egyptian Faience, towards the beginning of the Common Era.
A. Erbert , Tingeltangel in Tunis , 1925.


The Eastern Belly Dance


The close relationship of prostitution to art, and in particular, the way that prostitution mediates different types of ecstasy, is especially prevalent with civilised people of the old and new Orient and classical antiquity. Amongst these people, we again and again find the expression “female dancer-prostitute”. It is the task of such prostitutes to guarantee men the pleasures of the flesh, which are part of an uninhibited love life, in combination with artistic presentations. These spectacles transcend the boundaries of the ordinary, and are even enhanced through artificial drugs like alcohol and hashish.
Since ancient times, prostitutes in Egypt were recruited almost exclusively from the social class of female dancers and musicians who showcased their art and charm in special hostess bars. They entertained young males with music, dance and caresses in elegantly equipped wine and beer establishments. During such festivities, these girls performed a belly dance similarly lascivious to the contemporary belly dance. The dance’s sensuality increased as it went on and, in combination with the consumption of alcoholic beverages, transported spectators into an ecstatic form of intoxication.
According to Egyptologist Adolf Erman (1854-1937), [8] ancient Egyptian dances dating to the time of the new empire were very similar to those being performed today in the Orient.
“Dressed in long, transparent robes and beating the tambourine or the castanet, the girls spun their bodies in rapid tempo. The entire body is contorted in a flirtatious way and the buttocks protrude conspicuously. The ancient Egyptians took as little exception to such lascivious movements of female dancers as their contemporary counterparts.”
Proof for the important role dance and song played in Middle Eastern prostitution can also be found in the Old Testament. Isaiah 23:16: “Take your harp, walk about the city, O forgotten harlot; Pluck the strings skilfully, sing many songs, that you may be remembered.” To Isaiah, the song of the prostitute is the ultimate example of seduction (Isaiah 23:15). Sirach as well, already warned us in the second century B.C.: “Use not much the company of a woman that is a singer, lest thou be taken with her attempts” (Ecclesiastes 9:4).
Already at an early time in Persia, apart from the temple girls, female dancers and lute players functioned as prostitutes. They had to perform their art and charm during lavish feasts, hunting parties and river journeys. This type of prostitute was known as a “ Jahika ”. They also had the epithet “ hvandraka ” (“pleasing” or “agreeable”) or “ jatumaiti ” (“enchanting” or “the libertine”).
During Indian temple prostitution, the role of dance is so important that the term “bayadere dancer” (“bayadere” is Portuguese for “dancing”) has become the prominent term used to describe Indian prostitutes. Since ancient times, female dancers made up most of the prostitutes in Kashmiri society. The majority of highly revered prostitutes came from the city of Changus. They performed and sold their sexual favours in the residences of the rich and amidst public festivals. These female dancers typically travelled cross country in groups, accompanied by an old duenna, whose hideousness stood in sharp contrast to the charm and loveliness of the girls.
In Afghanistan, prostitutes emanated exclusively from the artistic crowd and distinguished themselves noticeably from uneducated wives and concubines, which is why men preferred the company of prostitutes to the monotonous life of the household.
A peculiar dance, the so called “oriental dance” or “belly dance” ( Dance du ventre ), is the central performance of all Eastern dancing prostitutes. In general, this dance is understood as an imitation of coital movements; as “lustful dancing”, as a glorification of a “triumphant rapture of love”, that leads all the way to utter ecstasy and a relinquishing of self, which the audience can perceive vividly. Hans Kistemaecker ( Oskar Panizza , 1853-1921) [9] offered the most powerful and graphic description of the belly dance and the resulting sensations of ecstasy. He wrote:
“Here the southern heavens were spread out. The African sun glowed in these slim, nearly emaciated female bodies. Their slender eyes glowed with a mysterious fire the colour of cherries. Their sulky little heads and their prominent sphinx-like lips indicated to us that where they lived, men were subservient to female desire.
“The music I had listened to for some time already, became louder and more intense. Oriental music, unlike its occidental counterpart, is not founded on a particular phrasing – a canon – that introduces a theme, puts the first two musical beats in opposition to the next two, then alters the theme and, by using the exact same number of beats, brings the melody to a conclusion, similarly like we arrange verses according to their length and number. Instead, oriental music works according to the principle of mechanical repetition, similar to Hebraic poetry. It repeats short rhythmic thrusts hundreds or even thousands of times. No matter how many repetitions there are, it is not the actual sound of the music that makes the difference but how often these sounds are repeated (this is the principle of gutta cavat lapidem ). This is not unlike Richard Wagner’s music, where the listener, if he or she so chooses, can leave the theatre after 2,000 or 4,000 beats, without losing the overall impression of the performance. I have to say that there is nothing more damaging to the destruction of contemporary man, the easing of all high and moral disciplines that our brain has finally achieved through decades-long practice, the destruction of cultural considerations than this oriental music that has led to the conjuring of a grinning, snarling sensual monster that rests deeply hidden in our souls as part of our hereditary history.
Adolphe Léon Willette , The Gourmand , 1923.
Hans Pellar , The Amorous Flamingo , 1923.
Pablo Picasso , The Oriental Dancer , 1968.


“The primary dancer, Janella, has now risen. Her lower body is entirely free of clothes or perhaps covered with a very fine tricot that will serve to accentuate any future movements. Her breasts are hanging freely in this tricot shirt that is barely covered by a tiny jacket, not unlike the one worn by a Spanish torero, and which loses itself in her necklaces and frill. Her waist, where her chest ends, is held together by a narrow red satin tourniquet which serves to divide her large, slim, gleaming upper body into two halves. The breasts compose the upper half, while the lower half encompasses the curvaceous shape down to her thighs. The battlefield of the anticipated – likely delicate but eventually exhaustive – twitches and convulsions is daringly presented like an execution ground for our own abstinence. This is because Turkish trousers – creating a picturesque and discreet impression with their unending billows and creases – commence at the thighs, rise on the left and right to hip level and only then reach the height of the European waist line. Towards the bottom, Turkish trousers – which are straight and heavy, cut from expensive cloth and which purposely hamper leg movement since they do not fall sideways across the hips – hide the continuation of those lascivious convolutions and twists that the female dancer is performing with remarkable assuredness and carefree sexual self-confidence. The shape of the lower body – that is cut off at the side of the hip and increasingly narrowed toward the legs with European women – is accentuated by rustling and baggy garments that give the impression of concealing a mysterious reservoir of enticing and challenging movements similar to those of the upper body. Of all nations, it is the Mohammedans who have best succeeded at correcting the aesthetically dangerous figure of the female hip line. By transforming hardship into virtue, and with the help of true artistic talent, they reconciled the dangerous female form and have helped nature and gender achieve mutual triumph.
“‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da’ – ‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da’ – ‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da’ – other girls sitting in the background and the near the side walls are vocally accompanying the female dancer who is standing on a small raised podium opposite the audience and has raised her hands in prayer. ‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da’ – ‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da’ – ‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da’ – the other girls are beating tambourines with painful constancy. The tambourines’ little bells pierce the muffled, wailing and lethargic atmosphere. ‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da’ – the female dancer with the sphinx-like face is the most slender of all the girls and, sitting on a high throne, towers above them. She is holding a differently shaped potbellied tambourine. Its muffled drumming sounds provide, like a cowbell, the bass sound to the rhythmic screams. ‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da’ – the female dancer holds her hands up high so we can observe her body. But too late. We have missed the beginning. Her eyes are already glazed. ‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da’ – like gushing, rising, surging water that is close to boiling, the abdomen is contorted as though child labour is approaching: urgent, inexorable, demanding, a force of destiny, transgressing all moral boundaries, like sea sickness, surprising, demanding its entitlement, like a roaring animal. … ‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da’.
“She now places her right leg forward to support herself – she drags her left leg – this woman was suffering – yes, yes: these hands are raised in desperation – her face is filled with fear – the eyes are frozen – her expression is gawky – some kind of desperation has gripped this woman – a foreign power has come over her…
“‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da’ – ‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da.’
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres , Odalisque with a Slave , 1840.


“No! She is using her raised and folded hands as a balancing pole – her lower body is almost motionless – in a half split – this is one of her points of support – the other is her chest, which she keeps steady and to lengthen her leverage she is desperately holding up her arms – and between these two fixed points – the hip and the lower costal arch – this terrible creature that wants to escape this woman to reveal itself, gushes, foams and spits. It wants to relinquish itself and drives the lower body to exorbitant heights…
“She steadies her hips with the help of her legs and uses her hip muscles as a punctum fixum to thereby accentuate her abdominal muscles’ contractions. Yes, this is an anatomical consideration! – this does not help us here! – We want to reach an aesthetic conclusion! – What is the sense of all this?
“‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da’ – ‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da.’
“Now she lowers herself onto her left knee – her right leg is raised – her face still has an expression of utter desperation – a formal infatuation – this body position is substantially more advantageous – substantially more advantageous if she wanted to continue these convulsions until reaching ecstasy – whose ecstasy? – of the spectator of course! – but also her own! – oh yes: also her own – she bends slightly backward – raising her hands – and from this triangle formed by the bulging pants and the two, now clearly visible thighs, the rose-pink shrouded abdomen gushes forth – it is like epilepsy – an image from a medical ward – a swaying ocean wave that throws the vessel that carries our fantasies up into seventh heaven – Holy Magdalene – I mean: the Magdalene – the woman from Magdala – who had seven devils in her body.
“‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da’ – ‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da.’
“This horrible music! – the Holy Magdalene, was she like one of these? – did she offer up her body like this? – did she charm men like this? – Now she bends backwards even further – Almighty God! This bursting figure with her arms raised to the heavens and her swaying abdomen – like a cast down animal – like an animal in stretched run that is suddenly thrown to the ground ‘and it never wants to exhaust or empty, as though the ocean wants to beget another ocean…’
“‘Uelulululululululululululu…..’. Suddenly the sphinx-like figure sitting in the back interrupts the wailing music and the horrible ecstasy with a deafening trill. And now this! This awful nerve shattering mating call of the Oriental women! Behind me the audience shudders. One hears individual breaths.
“‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da’ – ‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da.’
“She is recovering now – the act is over – her upper body moves back forward – her hands, for the first time her hands part – she looks at the audience – this gyrating monster emerges from its squatting position – it is all over – the danger has passed – she is now standing on two legs.
“‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da.’
“She shakes her body so that her pearls fly up and the glass necklace jingles.
“‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da.’
Persian Miniature, 19th century.
Julian Murphy , Calling the Tune , 2001.


“With a quick move of her lower body, she now casts off the thin chains a half metre away so that they ripple and jingle – as though to separate the chaff from the wheat, to cast off burdensome down, she now shakes only the part of her body below the waist – she grows ever more liberated, cheerful – her gorgeous body takes a few steps in the direction of centre stage, the steps seem like a form of liberation – what thighs! What breasts!
“Now she shakes only her upper body. As she had done with her lower body, she casts off the rippling pearls with her shaking breasts – she rustles like a young foal – tosses tufts and mane into the air – laughs and presents the massive abundance of her abdomen – it is all over…
“Yes, without a doubt. It is the act of birth that is symbolised through painful postures and spasms – the squatting position at birth and a prayer to the Gods. It also considers the lack of preparation regarding the sexual desire that occurs before childbirth in the mind of the spectator, speculation of which the essential factor rests with the viewer. Look at all this action and reaction that is taking place.
“‘Da-ra-re-ra-re-da.’
“It is all over – Janella has taken a bow – That body! – Those limbs! – the music is silenced with a final stroke.... The audience has sluggishly arisen as if from a deep sleep – the “joint” now appears grey and ordinary. Everyone is heading for the exit. Only once outside, in the fresh air, does one realise the kind of frenzy one has just been subjected to... A young girl says ‘oh la la’ and brushes a strand of hair from her forehead.”
What makes this portrayal so interesting is its neurotic and hysterical character that expresses the centre of conflict of the sexual character of the working class. The audience experiences the dance like a fit of hysteria. Correspondingly, the language is delivered in a twitching and convulsing manner, always brought under control again with objectified anatomical descriptions. A true release may not be permitted: the language is often a denunciation (“wailing music”); the performance is being pathologised (“medical ward”, “epilepsy”), and: What is erotic about the act of childbirth?! The seventh heaven is prayed to just, as is the “thrown-down animal”. There is no place for sensuality between these two areas. The civil conscience experiences them simply as an ordeal, a test of endurance.
One can feel Kistemaecker’s resistance to Dionysian ecstasy and rapture in his description. In no way does this dance transport him to a sphere of unbound sexuality. And yet, it is especially this expression of conflict that unearths the power that emanates from this music and dance: a frightening power.
At the same time, this example demonstrates how dependent the act of experiencing music is on the subject’s state of mind. Whether music is experienced as something “erotic” depends also on whether the listener accepts or rejects this musical dimension. However, the degree of resistance the listener offers to “erotic” music is also an indication of the experience.
According to travellers’ reports, the “Orientals’” sensuality was aroused and excited to new heights with the help of these dances. These dances had a fascinating and irresistible effect on audiences, and even reasonable men – who were under the spell of a dancer – reported that they believed it would be impossible to free themselves of the dancers’ enchantment. They explained their irresistible attraction to the dancers by claiming their lovers had bewitched them. The intimate association of ecstatic passion and masochistic sensations of relinquishing one’s self and self-abasement, originated from these dancers’ love slaves frequently inflicting brand marks on their own arms and sides with red-hot irons. These marks are all the more numerous and pronounced the more in love they are and the more they want to convince their mistresses of their love.
These prostitute-dancers’ magic powers, and the intensity of the lustful appetites they incite, are remarkable.
Through his own observations, the poet, painter and world traveller Max Dauthendey (1867-1918) gave a detailed account of the strange and enraptured sensuality these female dancers incited: [10]
“In small cafés, behind stained glass, castanets and tambourines are ringing,
And the silver and glass pearl necklaces of fat, luxuriant women are clinkering,
The women have lined up like fleshy plants in front of a blue backdrop,
Carefree and without a worry in the world,
A haze and binds fell from their faces, and yet they are nothing but smiling blind women.
There they stand at the worldly celebration and are lust’s lyre...
Like stallions’ nostrils tremble when they smell the scent of mares,
They push and shove among whispers, between red, dark fires, between house shadows and the moon,
The men, in droves, in the narrow streets and among the ruins...
Close by I bought Abrazo cigarettes, blew smoke, saw belly dance through the haze in the café,
Listened to hand-clapping and song, likely for many dark hours;
Colourful, round spheres made of quicksilver were hanging from all the ceilings in smoky halls,
They were like planets and like bodies from space, as though the life of space could not be amiss during music and dance.”
Persian Miniature, 1372.
Interlude 3 – In Case that’s the Way it is...


Translated from the Arabic – Omar Khayam Make sure that you have dancers and good wine and girls as beautiful as houris...
If there are houris!
Look in her company for a spring, bright and singing, and lie by her side in the soft moss...
If there is moss!
Love, sing and drink, and don’t worry too much about the faded hell.

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