Music of Morocco: Recorded by Paul Bowles (1959)


“The Hypnotic Clamor of Morocco. In 1931, a twenty-one-year-old American composer in Paris named Paul Bowles visited Morocco at the suggestion of Gertrude Stein. His travel companion was his composition teacher, Aaron Copland. They rented a home in Tangier, where Bowles, a composer of svelte, jazzy music in the Poulenc mould, wrote one of his first scores, an impressionistic piano piece called ‘Tamamar,’ after a village in the Atlas mountains. Copland was unsettled by the clamor of drums during wedding season, and thought Tangier a ‘madhouse,’ but Bowles was enraptured. He collected 78s of local music, just as he had collected old blues recordings back home, and sent copies to Béla Bartók. … By the time Bowles finally moved to Tangier, with his wife, the writer Jane Bowles, in 1947, he had refashioned himself as a novelist, and was busy writing The Sheltering Sky, the tale of American expatriates in Morocco that remains his best-known work. Yet it was in large part the music of Morocco that led him to make his life there. A decade later, on a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, Bowles travelled throughout Morocco, recording traditional music of a startling variety—Berber, Arabic, Andalusian, and Jewish—for the Library of Congress. For years known mostly to specialists, the recordings from that remarkable project have now been re-edited and re-released in a meticulously prepared box set by Dust to Digital, Music of Morocco. Morocco was rich in hypnotic sounds, and in his novels Bowles described them with a composer’s precision. In Let It Come Down (1952), he recreated a scene he had witnessed at a concert in Chefchaouen, where a man went into a trance, slashing his arms with a long knife and covering himself in blood, as he danced in ‘perfect rhythm with the increasing hysteria of the drums and the low cracked voice of the flute.’ John Stenham, the hero of The Spider’s House (1955), imagines that he can find his way blindfolded through the old city of Fez merely by listening to the sounds of footsteps and water. … As Bowles saw it, Morocco’s sounds were forms of experience that had yet to be contaminated by Western influence. In his 1981 preface to The Spider’s House, Bowles explained that he had naively ‘imagined that after Independence the old manner of life would be resumed and the country would return to being more or less what it had been before the French presence.’ …”
NYBooks (Audio)
Paul Bowles in Morocco: The Lost Recordings (Audio)
Guernica: Paul Bowles & the Music of Morocco
amazon
YouTube: Music of Morocco – Paul Bowles, 1959    29

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