There is a power inside of me that isn’t mine
Give me strength to become it’s master
Can I be someone new
Can I do it all for you
Can it be enough
If I sacrifice my humble soul
’till my body’s turning cold
Phyical feelings locked in a cage
Will you be satisfied even if I tried
Harder and better than good
My heart is talking on it’ own
My body’s walking all alone
Remember I’m yours to be taken
Don’t wanna be forgotten and left behind
Cursed to be searching blind
Blinded by the pain, I can’t breathe
From heart till throat till mind I bleed
Finally, together, forever inside
Hope transformed in a reliable guide
Being one makes me feel more than a wife
Take me with you to the afterlife
Love is just a fling
not a bad thing
Love is just a toy
Something I enjoy
L’amore è solo un giocattolo (repeated)
BEATRICE – Project 2 was originally a dance project featuring Sander Vloebergs and Sheila Van den Broeck. Unfortunately Sheila needed to stop the collaboration due to an injury. During the summer of 2018, both dancers worked on a pas de deux based on the short treatise of the Dutch mystic Beatrice of Nazareth called the On Seven Ways of Holy Love, while searching for interesting collaboration with musicians. During this period, Sheila wrote her own lyrics based on her reading of the text and her own experiential knowledge about the excessive nature of love. These lyrics served as an inspiration for Surfing Dino who created the music for BEATRICE – Project 2. This blog post explores Sheila’s artistic process and analyses the original lyrics of Seven Ways of Loving.
Sheila is a trained dancer and dance teacher. Currently she teaches in the master’s course in ‘Training and Coaching Dance’ at the KU Leuven. She gained some experience as a singer-songwriter competing in the Youth Art Competition called Kunstbende. Sheila took the initiative to not only create the choreography but also to add an extra layer of meaning by writing her own lyrics and thus engaging in an interesting interdisciplinary exploration of the original text. The dancer-songwriter initially wrote the lyrics to make an emotional connection with Beatrice and to deepen her own personal understanding of the text.
These lyrics reveal a very intimate image of a dancer on stage, and of a lover made vulnerable during the game of love. Sheila is a dancer in love with her audience, willing to sacrifice her being on the altar of the stage, where she becomes dance-incarnated. Music initiates this ritual; it creates the temple where the dance can be performed.
The Temple of Music
Sheila’s artistic process starts with music; lyrics are of secondary importance. The goal of her art is to convey emotions in order to communicate with her audience. Music helps her to create the right atmosphere for this emotional transfer. The dancer is invited to experience the overwhelming presence of the music and to become a character in its story. According to Sheila, dance is a way to move within this overarching musical story; it is her way to play its script.
The Safe Haven/Heaven of Dance
Sheila argues that, for her, dance offers a refuge, a space where she can freely explore her inner being on the rhythm of a preselected song. As a dance teacher she still values the potential of the dance to assist dancers to develop their own emotional response to the music – and by doing so, studying their own inner being. This exploration is not primarily a rational enterprise, it occurs within the realm of feelings. Therefore, it helps to escape the dominance of everyday life. Like Love in Beatrice’s text, dance creates a safe and warm environment. However, like Love, dance has a shadow side, a property that causes pain within the dancer.
“I would be satisfied if you just understood
That I felt the need to do better than good”
Initially, this modified quote (from the lyrics) seems to suggest the dancer’s struggle to constantly improve her technique and skills in order to offer the audience a better version of herself. In the context of the original text about Love, and in the context of Sheila’s dance practice, this verse reveals insecurity about one’s own capacity to love or to dance and the fear of being judged. In Sheila’s story, the addressee of this verse could be both the (divine) lover and the audience. According to her, dance’s performative nature causes both pain and pleasure as it demands the dancer to transform herself and surrender to the gaze of the other (God, the lover, the audience).
As argued above that dance offers a space where emotions have free reign. According to Sheila, it is the ideal moment to escape reality and to focus on one’s inner voice, one’s inner rhythm. However, one cannot forget that dance is a performance art. Dance is not meant to be a private experience, it is supposed to be shared with an audience. Sheila recognizes her fear to surrender herselfcompletely – a fear known by both the dancer and the lover. She expresses the anguish of loneliness with the following passionate verses:
“My heart is yours, but still there’s no sound”
“So I’ll be forgotten and left behind
Cursed to be searching blind
Blinded by the pain, I can’t breathe,
From heart, till throat, till mind, I bleed”
With these verses, Sheila expresses the psychosomatic effects of her fear to be left alone by the other. The dance teacher refers to the term vasodilation, a medical term that explains the widening of the veins when experiencing stress. Beatrice herself refers to a similar experience in her fifth way of Love.
The Afterlife of the Dancer
Sheila confesses to be scared of an audience that will not connect with her, unable to bridge the distance between stage and seeds, when “the body is walking on its own”. The dance requires – and the audience demands – the dancer to completely surrender herself; a complete self-emptying to become dance itself. Sheila writes: “Remember I am yours to be taken,” referring to the principle of performance art, one becomes the art piece – waiting to be experienced.This artistic self-sacrifice moves on the rhythm of desire, it pulses on the passion for dance. Both dance and Love require an endless devotion, only then the dancer-lover can be cured. Sheila writes: “my heart has forsaken my body,” her passion has led her to a point of no return. Her body is displayed on the stage and the heart is beating in time to the rhythm of the music, offered to the audience. Only when this heart is pure, bleeding for the love (of dance), the harmony between body and heart is restored and the dancer becomes the dance, the audience the worshippers. Sheila calls this state of unity the afterlife:
“Finally, together, forever inside
Hope transformed into a reliable guide
Being one makes me feel more than a wife,
Take me with you to the afterlife”
7 WAYS OF LOVING – Lyrics
A sharp and restless feeling drives me insane,
No stranger to me, but I can’t give it a name,
It’s like someone lights a small fire,
And so my heart is flooded with desire.
Desire in his unhealthy stage,
Physical feeling is locked in a cage,
I shall be satisfied if I could make you understood,
That I have the need to do better than good.
If not, I will be waiting a lifetime longer,
So please answer me so I can grow stronger;
Strong enough to scream love out loud,
My heart is yours, but still there’s no sound.
My heart is talking on its own,
My body is walking all alone;
Remember, I am yours to be taken,
My heart has my body forsaken.
So I’ll be forgotten and left behind,
Cursed to be searching blind;
Blinded by the pain, I can’t breathe,
From heart, till throat, till mind, I bleed.
Finally, together, forever inside,
Hope transformed into a reliable guide;
Being one makes me feel more than a wife,
Take me with you to the afterlife.
And just when I released my fears, the end arrived;
Destroyed, crushed and broken, but I survived.
A swinging pain of desire it will be,
But I am at peace with this path, you see,
Because whatever happens, there will always be you and me.
Ondertusschen so wert minne so ongehmate ende so ouerbrekende in der sielen alse har seluen so starkeleke ende so verwoedelike berurt int herte, dat hare dunct, dat har herte menichfoudeleke wert seere gewont ende dat die wonden dagelix veruerschet werden ende verseert, in smerteliker weelichheiden en de in nuer iegenwordicheiden. Ende so dunct hare dat har adren ontpluken ende hare bloet verwalt ende hare march verswijnt ende hare been vercrencken ende hare borst verbernt ende hare kele verdroget, so dat hare anscijn ende al hare leden gevuelen der hitten van binnen en de des orwoeds van minnen.
In the fifth manner, Beatrice of Narareth – the writer of the short Middle Dutch mystical treatise On the Seven Manners of Holy Love – describes her psychosomatic response to the presence of Divine Love/God. Love rages through her body while her soul is captured in holy ecstasy. Throughout her treatise, Beatrice contemplates the nature of Love using seven manners to capture Her movement, alternating between presence and absence, ecstatic union and agonizing loneliness. In a way, the cycle of presence and absence is harmoniously repetitive, like ebb and flow, like seasons, like holy rituals.This tension between ecstasy and harmony was the main inspiration for both the video and the choreography.
This video was a close collaboration between the video artist, Jelle Wildiers and dancers Sander Vloebergs and Ina Wellens. Therefore, it is suitable to produce one blog post covering both perspectives. The rhythmic alternation between ecstasy and harmony are repeated in both cinematic and choreographic motions. The tension between Apollonial harmony and Dionysiac ecstasy is a theme in the music as well. In order to capture the ecstatic nature of the text, the dancers decided to focus on improvisation, while repeating certain pas de deux phrases which were choreographed and rehearsed in advance to resonate with the harmonic and ordered side of the text.
The video artist used fragments of the improvisation, fragments that illustrate harmonious repetition that occurseven during moments of ecstatic dance movements. After all, every dancer is bound to his embodied state and his own bodily memory. During improvisation, the dancer plays with familiar bodily patterns and unknown movements which are conjured up by the mood and the environment where the dance takes place. Furthermore, the artists decided to play with repetitive bodily functions such as breathing and blinkingto stress the repetitive nature of human-embodied life. The same use of patterns could be found in human love relationships when two people start to trust their harmonious exchange. These patterns are then again disturbed by moments of rapture, of intense breathing after physical exhaustion or increased heart rate when Love’s arrow strikes.
The artists decided together upon the location for the recording, namely a forest during autumn in order tostrengthen the relation between the video and the repetitive patterns which are beautifully shown by Nature herself. This location allowed for some great colorful contrast between the dark, but warm, tones of the fallen leaves (representing death and harmony) and the white skins of the dancers’ bodies(representing life and movement). In some shots, the whiteness of the body even recalls angelic light while the breathing and the sound of leaves evoke moments of heavenly bliss and harmony. These moments alternate with ecstatic movement, moments that are often presented hyperrealistically by placing the original sound of the recording over the music.
The excessive bodily phenomena, described by Beatrice in her fifth manner and accompanying the ecstatic experience of Love, are projected on Mother Nature’s body. The roots represent the veins which are about to be broken. The dancers’ bodies flash between Nature’s scars, finding love andrepetitively losing it. The images flash by on the vast speed of a beating heart, causing glimpses of ecstasis within the viewer. It is these moments of ecstatic rapture that make us feel alive;these moments of excessive Love keep the heart beating. However, dark tones were kept in the video to accentuate the darkness found within the text and to counter the romantic expectations of the viewer. After all, Love seems to escape our grasp and the threat of loneliness remains. Like Beatrice, the video artist plays with this friction between expectation and his rough visual language to deconstruct harmony and conjure rapture.
The Gods, however, took pity on the human race, born to suffer as it was, and gave it relief in the form of religious festivals to serve as periods of rest from its labors. They gave us the Muses, with Apollo their leader, and Dionysus; by having these gods to share their holidays, men were to be made whole again . . .
—Plato, Laws 653c
Great music was made under the guidance of Greek Muses and Christian Saints. This blog post explores order and chaos, pleasure and pain, and the role of the divine in the making of contemporary music. The ancient art of music has greatly influenced Western culture. Its roots can be tracked from Plato via Roman Catholic Christianity to contemporary society. Music producer Surfing Dino (Benoit Dequick) was inspired by Christian writer Beatrice of Nazareth to create music that pursues the heavenly joys and the hellish pains that Love afflicts on the lover. While hearing ideal heavenly music in his mind, Surfing Dino struggled with translating it into concrete everyday reality which is limited in time and space. By analyzing Plato’s views on musicial pleasure, I will reflect on the painful nature of art and music to describe Benoit’s artistic process that led up to the creation of his song called Beatrice.
Pleasure in Music (Order and Law)
In her article Music and Pedagogy in the Platonic City, Sophie Bourgault states that Plato believes that music can strengthen the education of children by shaping them be ideal citizens. She argues against an excessive scholarly focus on Plato’s metaphysics (his world of ideas) at the expense of his practical interest in the working of the city and his (cautious) approval of sensuous pleasure. Human beings are musical animals and therefore music is naturally perceived as pleasurable, especially when movement and sounds are given a certain order and harmony. According to Bourgault, music matters to Plato because it could be used in education, combining natural pleasure children experience in music with necessary understanding of conventions/principles and of order/structure which are inherent to music. When learned well and practiced in the orderly manner, children can develop moral qualitiesand habits that will assist their philosophical reflections later in life.
Music is an art based on measure, ratio and order. It has enormous power and therefore enormous potential to be good or bad. One should not make pleasure the standard by which music ought to be judged – it is only a secondary effect, according to Plato. Its virtue lies in expertise, tradition and social coherence.
He says: “no one shall sing a note or perform a dancemovement that is not in the canon of public songs” – Plato Repblic 800a
Public song create harmonic patters in the city. Harmonic patters which could also be found in the heavens: the ideal city made after divine proportions. Good music mimics these proportions, and this gives pleasure. Through music, the eternal could be made present in the space and time continuum, and, through music’s structure, we could mimic the divine proportions.
Plato’s structured city resembles Benoit’s artistic process. Benoit was working on a PhD in engineering, and experimenting with sound technology brought him closer to music. Due to his studies, he was quick to pick up this technology and create his music without any former musical training. He noted that music unlocked the creative parts of his brain, allowing him to tap into the ordered harmonious cosmos that Plato philosophized about. According to Benoit, contemporary pop music follows clear structures. While drawing on these clearly defined structures, Benoit still allowed for his own, less regimented style, challenging the clear structures of pop music He argued that creating music is a natural process, like cooking. Moreover, he stated that “Creativity challenges logics”. Benoit wanted to create new music and propose an improved order that approaches – what Plato referred to as – Beauty, heavenly harmony.
Pain in Music
Nevertheless, the translation from heavenly harmony to earthly music does not happen overnight. Often it is the a process of trial and error; a painful process of numerous frustrations. It is in the dark of night that many artists find their Muse. Benoit often felt inspired when he entered a dreamlike state. In this curious state of unconsciousness, he heard new music yet to be written down and produced. According to him, the brain is a bottomless container of musical ideas and a world of endless possibilities. Benoit, together with many artists, experienced this platonic world of Beauty and Order during translucid consciousness. Art theorist Jacques Maritain described this as:
Thus a place is prepared in the highest parts of the soul, in the primeval translucid night where intelligence stirs the images under the light of the Illuminating Intellect, for the separate Muse of Plato to descend into man, and dwell within him, and become a part of our spiritual organism. – Maritain, Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry
Plato’s Muse incarnated in the human soul. For Maritain, divine inspiration becomes human illumination. According to him, the artist creates Art without any divine intervention, if he/she is willing to turn inwards and to explore the depths of the human soul. These depths are often experienced, not as a heavenly order, but as a hellish anxiety. Bataille described his encounter with the abys of existence – an artistic night of the soul – as follows:
Trembling. To remain immobile, standing, in a solitary darkness, in an attitude without the gesture of a supplicant: supplication, but without gesture and above all without hope. Lost and pleading, blind, half dead. Like Job on the dung heap, in the darkness of night, but imagining nothing – defenseless, knowing that all is lost. – George Bataille, Inner Experience
Although Benoit does not use these dramatic expressions when describing his inner experience and artistic process, the artist still acknowledged another painful experience that is related to the eternal Beauty he pursued. Pain and frustration appear when he exited the orderly world of ideas and when he tried to shape the eternal music in the here and now. To struggle with the limitations of reality is an intrinsic part of the artistic process. When leaving the world of sounds, he was trapped again in the imperfect world, which left him with a dangerous desire and an erotic craving for Beauty that cannot be grasped. Both artists and mystics call this experience exile. Although music and dance could have healing properties (a relief for the people, Plato argues), for the musician music is also painful – because he/she is not capable of capturing its perfect harmonies.
Poppies and Electrodes
Benoit used the metaphor of the poppy, noting that it resembled the melodies he received in this translucid state. When he woke up and captured the melody with his audio recorder, one petal fell down. When he then searched for musicians and singers who could perform these melodies, other petals got lost because the original music was corrupted due to technical or artistic shortcomings. At the end of the production process one petal remained, only a mere reflection of its original Beauty. He also referred to the metaphor of an electrode, which can only be seen when disturbed. Original Beauty cannot be observed, there is always corruption due to the need for mediation. Most of all, Benoit longed for an artistic process without intermediacy, a direct connection between his mind and the speakers, a well-ordered and harmonious transfer of Beauty.
BEATRICE – Project 2
A prayer to Dionysius
Benoit’s art process was very structured. He enjoyed working on a well-defined project with a limited scope. Within these parameters, he explored his creativity and searched for inspiration. Then he proceeded in a forward manner, creating a piece informed by analysis that was extracted by an inspirational idea. For the Beatrice Project Benoit was given carte blanche. He was asked to read Beatrice of Nazareth’s Seven manieren der heiliger minne and to make his own interpretation of this mystical treatise on the nature of the love relationship between God and the believer. Beatrice told an orderly yet disturbing story of a God who wounds and heals his beloved. Like Love, He is mercilessly cruel and wondrously kind at the same time. It is hard to neglect Beatrice passionate lines and her erotic desire that ran through her complete work.
Left without restrictions Benoit decided to let go of his structured approach and focus on the text’s erotic play. According to Gerardus van der Leeuw, art is both Apollonial and Dionysiac (following Nietzsche’s distinction). The art process we have talked about so far is mainly Apollonial, the structured and harmonious art Plato favored. Beatrice’s text about Love forces us to embrace the ecstatic movement of Dionysiac music. Van der Leeuw says :
Dionysiac rhythm lives ecstatically in raving dance of the dervishes and maenads. In mysticism it becomes the symbol of dissolution, of the complete loss of self in the god.
Benoit decided to deconstruct pop music’s clear structure and tell a story about Love’s fickleness through increasing musical tensions. Benoit first looked for musical textures that suited medieval mysticism: dark but not sad. He wanted to create a sphere that conjured awe. After setting the tone and opening with a mystical atmosphere, Benoit increased the tempo, like a heart beat that runs faster and faster, mimicking the increase in desire expressed in the text. He decided to follow the Dionysiac movement of music, following the heart beat that brought him further along the path of loving union.
Arriving at the end of the song, Benoit experienced a need for a drastic fracture, disrupting the logical structure of the music even further. According to Benoit the text and the music focus too strongly on the painful side of love. He argues that Love is joyful too. That is why he interrupted the music with a playful twist. He created a small intro based on an Italian translation of the lyrics. Like Beatrice’s sixth manner, this part celebrates the joyous presence of love which Benoit associated with travel, adventure and freedom shared by two lovers.
Here you can find the lyrics of Surfing Dino – Beatrice. The lyrics are inspired on the original lyrics written by dancer and writer Sheila Van den Broeck. The music was used to create the dance video called BEARTICE – Project 2. One can find a blog about the choreography and video here.
Sophie Bourgault, Music and Pedagogy in the Platonic City, in The Journal of Aesthetic Education 46 (2012) 59-72.
Jacques Maritain, Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry, London, The Harvill Press, 1954.
George Bataille, Inner Experience (trans. Leslie Anne Boldt), New York, State University of New York Press, 1988.
Gerardus van der Leeuw, Sacred and Profane Beauty. The Holy in Art (trans. David E. Green), Londen, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1963.