prose, story


Part One

He had learned the secrets of the universe from the manuscript itself, and had felt the tones in the best of his fingertip muscles.

The sound of winds and leaves whooshed through the plain through which the Brenta river ran, meandering the old sandy loam soil. Why it was this particular heath not moistened and not watered by rain that Gennardo Schiavone chose to write his new opera, “The Temptation of Don Salvatore”, would become clear if the traveler made three quivering steps on the dry soil, one of hard ossified structure.

After the last fiasco he went through performing the concert for piano and strings “The Espresso Variant on the Subject of Death of Saint Vitalis” in the Italian Center of Culture and the intransigent criticism at the “La Creazione”, Gennardo decided to find the musical solution for the probable salvation and continuation of his music career in the heart of the Great Heath.

„Now, wasn’t it He who went to the desert to know… that, in the wasteland of life, here, under this tree may my body be as the one of the Savior, and may the menace itself visit me, to engender within me a sacred tone…” – Gennardo piously mumbled and the moment he thought of this, he spotted the Dervish emerging from the fog, with a kaval in his hand.

– This isn’t a kaval – the Dervish said, reading his thoughts. – It is a ney..Karghy tuiduk, an instrument of wind.The oldest instrument in the world.

“He uses a ney. A Crooked Pan..Whatever did he do to him?”

– The devil had changed his garb since time immemorial, but the truth is that an Arabic fashion chic coming from a Catholic was not something I expected. O how my bitter salasplayed at the expense of this poor shepherd – the insides of his carotid arteries were overcome by darkened terror for a moment, which made his neck bulge up and his body stiffen, while he sat, perfectly calm, under the tree and as his head was encircled, halo-like, by the tops of Northern Apennines. A hum of the sea was heard in the distance.
– Have you ever heard of him? – the Sufi asked, using his free hand to scratch himself on his mohair.

– I have.

– And have you played him? And what are you hanging on that hillock for – the Dervish spoke nervously whose appearance still largely confused Gennardo considering his height which overshadowed the tree of Gennardo’s hillock and his lush blonde hair.
– It doesn’t match the goat-hair cloth. He doesn’t even look Italian. Which shepherd could this be?

Gennardo shook his head, somewhat calmer, as if a thousand honorable forces presently included him in the congregation of good spirits.

– But only if you’re not a Turk! – shouted the up until that point godlike Dervish, to which Gennardo felt goosebumps on his head and scratched it, while he was hallucinating a pentangle shape or any other life-threatening apparition

– By Saint Vitalis, should I run as fast as my legs can carry me for this is some rotten business here…

But, the Dervish said:

– I will now play for you.


And he trapped him on the spot with his first tone which sucked the composer in the vortex where music enters the man and disappears inside of him somewhere.

And he played the instrument made of hollow reed, skillfully shuffling his fingers across the ney holes. It was a round-up of the movement of music dug deep into the rhythm.

Nearly in a religious trance, Gennardo danced swept by the accord of divine forces streaming from “the spheres” – and within the Dervish’s song which bore Gennardo’s dancing body through the typhoon he spun around faster and faster in an unexpected manifestation of the universe, to perceive, through the binding of the heavens and the earth, a universe of love and a different godly principle, hypnotically repeating “Masnavi, Masnavi” pushing close to a hallucination.
– Who did he see? What happened to him?

It was an old man with a strong, thick beard a la Bektashi, in woolen clothes with a white hat on his head and while fear grew in parallel with curiosity within Gennardo, he felt that the Dervish hypnotized him more successfully than Franz Mesmer.
– This man would have mesmerized the entirety of the Scale Milano and would have made the prima donna Fibrazini perform Chaliapin’s partita, and the audience perform a group jump on stage in the style of Nureyev and all of them, made joyous in the vertigo of musical insaneness shout: Gennardo, Gennardo!
– And who are you, whitecap?

– Jalal ad-Din Muhammad. I now stand on the Pearl of Khorasan.

– Unbelievable! – sweat poured off of Gennardo out of massive excitement, thus he shot a very serious glance at the blonde God of music who abruptly stopped playing and as he caressed his ney, he was leering at the nigh-maddened Gennardo who, in the same manner, caressed his denim clothing made for him by Gianfranco Sestili himself and as shrewdness was growing within him, he asked the odd, and yet a rather…rather… simple shepherd:
– Was this an Italian stornello?

– Just a miracle I listened to inside of myself while walking along the heath, I sat on a rock, to freshen myself with a noggin of wine, it’s something akin the antic metaxa, and… This is just the intro, of course.

– It just came to you… well, that’s how it goes, my friend… – his heart beat faster – my stornellos – his fingers snap – like that. Cosi. Facile! And why did you stop playing?

The Dervish shrugged.

– The spiral is the evolution of the circle.

Ah, he felt that the spiral is open for my musical ears. I cannot even make a threepiece song out of this, let alone a sonata form. He must continue! He must!

And his hands shook.


– Well go on, then, finish it! – Gennardo grabbed the Dervish’s shoulders desperately – Finish it, I want to hear more! Until the end! You barely played anything at all, so why did you stop playing? I want you to play all the way to the coda, do you understand me? All the way to the devil’s tail! – the scream no longer slubered in the musician’s throat, and his face wend black and blue as if both tar and wax were poured on it.

– You are a Turk! – the Dervish was flabbergasted.

– I am not, I swear I’m not! I was scorched by the hot Italian sun! Blood of fire!

– I know, friend – the Dervish grabbed his hands, and it was such a gentle squeeze that Gennardo squealed and looked into his strange visitor’s eyes, and that which he saw in his eyes filled him with dread. He all but shrieked – Without question – it’s nice when blue, pink, reseda and yellow are mixed in the cornea, but all of this without pupils and a gaze full of love, but which burns…ouch! – All you’ve written up till this point are ruins. Look into yourself. This is where music is hidden. Do not despair, I shall come again and rebuild all of those ruins…in a century or two because I have something important to do.

– A-and…and what do you…cuh-cuh-call this composition? – Gennardo grinned like a road bandit.

– A Dhikr. How else? And remember. The spiral is the evolution of the circle – even though he was still speaking, a force of dead nature! It was clear to Gennardo now, and if it were dead, he does not fall under the copyright law, this Dervish who was miles away… somewhere close to the horizon, leaving only the memory of his wild stare and …oh, and… I cannot forget what I have just heard… ah, I would never forget! And some of it is already gone! Oh, if I could only write one part down – Gennardo was rocking back and forth, but a thunderous voice soared over the hard soil.

– I will help you, but only if you are a Turk. For one day the land of Khorasan will give Alexander of Macedonia, almost of Greece what he’s due.

– This must be him notifying everyone who intend to do dark misdeeds in the name of breaking copyright law – Gennardo consolingly told himself and then spoke to the spirit hovering and meditating over him.

– Gemo, I have for you a pure roton chianti classic riserva. Almost pure Sangiovese!

– A Turkish Riesling for me, if I may.

  1. – Sit, oh spiritual man – he already took the see-through Sufi into a villa bedecked in rustic design. The living room was lined with chairs made of massive fir tree with reclined back, and the red leather sofa where Jelalhudin curled up comfortably, was full of pillows filled with polyurethane foam.

– There’s the bastard!  He tricked me. Played a few notes, hypnotized me along with the Alps and the distant sea and fled. He is squinting with his pupil-less eyes and mocking me to my face.

But the Sufi master was silent.

– You said you would help me. Why do you keep silent?

The Sufi got up, somewhat less see-through, and said pensively:

– I am not that sure that you’re a Turk.

– I am, I am! Me being in Italy is pure coincidence! My great-great-seven greats grandmother was Yemina, for the time a very forward-thinking, very close cousin of the beautiful Jemila who was a grandmother on the father’s side of Saint Roxelana!

– But she had removed our Grand vizier! – the spirit added angrily.

– My grandmothers Yemina and Jemila have nothing to do with that bloody murder! I am a Turk and I can prove it. Here! – he turned towards the rectangular mirror with a textured gold-colored frame, lifted his hands up to his ears and after saying “tea, tea, tea!” the Sufi embraced him.

– Repetition is the mother of wisdom. Now I know you’re a Turk.

– I know I’m a Turk, but who is he? – Gennardo said excitedly and after an added repetition of “teateatea,” he continued. – Whoever it is, an Egyptian, a Sufi or Rumi’s illegitimate son, I must finish what he had started. But how? This piece, or rather it’s beginning… Oh, Salieri, Salieri! Why did you not sing all of this on paper like in the film and then die…?


He looked at his notes which he managed to clean out of his ears for a moment, after the Dervish had left him.

– Oh Cavallasca… Oh cosmic dignity! Yes…I could put in something of a back-up, on lute, perhaps. Btu what what? Go on, tell me, Mozart of Khorasan!  – his finger pointed to the smiling Sufi.

– Be guided by your sense of orientalism, Gennardo…

– A Phrygian scale then. Therein lies the key! All oriental scales come from the pentatonic one – he was thinking rapidly. – But how can I turn this Dervish’s composition performed from a rotating dance sensation, more repetitive than my nagging wife which fortunately stayed back in Venice…how can I turn it into a symphony? Or at least a sonata form? “Gennardo’s sonata” – he was daydreaming, when suddenly Sufi’s voice exploded anew.

– I am back to help you in the name of the once widespread honorable Ottoman empire. Allah Allah, have you no trust?

– Well alright, who…hmm…were you?

– Rumi. But not the self-taught philosopher. He had been a very distant cousin. I, too, am dead, hope you don’t mind? This tiny composition that bothers you so is but a mere trifle when compared to “Sufi’s War Games” which I composed in the thirteenth century.

– And why did your colleague flee?

– That was Apollo. He did not want to mess with Turks since they vetoed Greek credit debt…

The spirit got up and walked about the room, deep in his thoughts. His gaze paused on the rectangle mirror, danced a few Dervish circles around him and stopped before the glassy surface. – I am glad I’m still both smart, and spiritual, and reflectible! –he caressed his Sufi beard while listening to this.
True, the old ghost does have an expression. Though, nothing strange about that. The aging Sufi spirit is nothing similar to the imaginary count of Bram Stocker.

– The truth is you need the pentatonic scale. But, we want an authentic melody, like what Wagner would compose. For this to happen, the job must be done differently. – attracted by Gennardo’s squeals, astonished he turned around, upon which realizing that the composer went mad with happiness and that he was between two separate cycles, one of which was insanity, the other enthusiasm.

– Tell me, what would you want to do, a sonata, a concerto, a symphony based on Orpheus? Ah, Orpheus, you minx, you’ll get what’s coming to you – there never was an empire bigger than the Ottoman empire… – the ghost went on and on.

– A sonata form… but… but… – Gennardo was concentrating staring at a few notes – I need the bridge, the B theme and the closing section.

Oh enough with the book terms! There were no such words back in my day, and still I was the most famous composer that ever lived in Asia! The only condition I have before helping you is that this sonata be written in honor of the Turks and that its name reflects this, Sonata a la Turca!

– But that’s already been writ–

– Never mind. What did Orpheus give you… – he extended his slender and candle-lit bright hand.

The minute Sufi said this, Gennardo snapped from his dream.

There was nobody in the room.

– O dark chamber of evil, I swear I did not dream this!

True, he was reminded of this by the Dervish’s manuscript which fell from a semi concert grand piano with a deafening bang as if it were slammed down by someone’s invisible, beefy hand.

A deep, ice-cold night was impregnated by eerie goosebumps. Out of reasons unknown, his own reflection made him engrave all of his shapes in the midnight glass. He saw himself, but in a mintan shirt and leather boots. Over the shirt was a carelessly flung short caftan. ‘As if somebody else had flung it there.’ By some unknown miracle a calpac, a conical woolen hat, was on his head.

– So it did happen. – He concluded happily and even though he felt neither hunger nor thirst, despite not eating nor drinking a thing throughout the day, the old spirit selflessly treated him to a sultan’s pilaf and Istanbul’s Risotto, as well as various dishes completely covered by the expensive Il Tavolo Italiano.

The composer carefully set aside two sultan plates from the table and spread out a magical manuscript of the most beautiful opening theme ever uncovered to the human ear, at the same time pouring a bit of raki in his glass in order to devotedly bend over the manuscript.

– Transcendental, indeed. It can be performed with an echo. Oh, how sonorous. This Orpheus, whatever he is, is good… Still, let’s see what I can do with the exposition that this Sufi, Apollo, whatever… gave to me.

He said and flung open the sheet music.

– The good man wants the sonata and then sleepwalk a bit! I’ll show you, tiny Wop! This is a threepiece song in an A B A pattern, with the first part being changed to the point of being beyond recognition. And I like this, just like the good old chaotic tunes, O the Berberian choruses, fight on fight on against Gennardian lulling of sacred music into mediocrity.

– Few can use this strong tonal ace to win in a cruel and uncompromising game of destruction for the purpose of creation. This brave Aladdin does not hesitate.

The staff lines with their spaces waved in order to enthrone themselves alongside the mute Sufi choruses into an expertly performed final note which Gennardo used to line up the following notes, and those after, and those after.

– By this raki in my hand, I will be disharmonic – bathing in blinding light, while his hand shone at the same time, and the calpac went a bit askew, with glassy Gorgon eyes he wrote savagely akin to the first musical maniac genius on skinned animal hide. He went for some unexpected solutions for melodic degrees, implementing the forbidden sixth degree in the exposition, where the dominant was not to be resolved.

– I bet that that solfeggio composer Gennardo would have resolved in as early as the tonic! – the Sufi said with no bitterness, as he sung, pure-heartedly and with his eyes closed the Mevlevi chorus unifying poetry, music and dance. – Ah, to hell with him, the sixth degree is seeking new resolutions to itself and new salvations from sin which ego te absolvo will provide for it…

But, when he heard Latin, he was taken slightly aback and grabbed his calpac with both hands. – Oh Daemon, daemon, control those who are to follow and in line, if necessary I will light a thousand candles and switch off all artificial lights so that this a la Turca music might drone onward and not stop in time, let alone in etertiny!

To this a giggle followed, and then a bang, and at long last, all went quiet.

This fear, where could it come from? This language I speak I could not utilize to understand it, and why should I fear Latin and then remember it? What hurt can the ego of this language inflict upon me, and surely its ego-lingue is hurt!

At the same time several psychological phenomena intersected within him. And yet another just as creepy as it is unresolved in the pensiveness of his decisions shook his heart down along with the quaking hand. Candles, quiver on this wind of doubt, light bulbs, burst for you are in contact with a musical evolution far bigger than your own!

At that moment all lights went out in the villa, and someone called him by the name. – Qasim, I generously offer you candles so that you do not have to walk all the way to the wardrobe in your living room, fifth drawer from the bottom, on the left.

– Qasim… – he was overcome with joy, but his heart was overtaken by a dark shadow which was completely shooed away by the candles. They appeared, out of nowhere, finding room on the table among all of this rice pudding.

– These candles only reproduce themselves from your memory, Qasim of Khorasan, do not fear. Never fear the deep memory, oh Qasim! – a rotting ghost of sorts walked about the room for a second, making dance circles with its creaking voice, taming them one by one with its arms outspread and eyes closed. – Oh I can do it, with both hands! – Sure you can – the old apparition said. – You always could, Qasim. – At this point the apparition disappeared.

He continued writing the music of the spheres at the same time, filling in the part with both hands.

– Allah is great and He will not return me to the old resolution, but rather make me anew… There it is! There’s the resolution! – He grabbed the notes and with a mild conductor gesture he sang with a crystal clear voice the rest of the exposition admiring the fullness and clarity of sound. Each contact of Gennardo’s senses with a melodic line created fervor in the Being whose substance was limitless sound, and the pulse was the rhythm of the Timeless.

– Any criticisms of this, Jelalhudin? Perhaps Gennardo cannot Sufi-ize like you, but I swear to you that he was here as well, and that we resolved everything together…

Invisible, spectral arms snatched his throat.

– Do not vex me. Being invisible does not make me any less dangerous, quite the contrary! That bastard would not even be able to start this Khorasan pearl which you’re crafting, one of the ancestor of Yemina and Jemila, and Saint Roxelana, let alone finish it. However, you still have work, if you didn’t notice! You damned little sloth, why did I ever bestow upon you the symbol of Logos? Allah curse and punish me! I will tune you in Kairo yet once more, you soulless villain! Ben sonsuza kadar lanetlenmiş olacağım!

And he hit Qasim/Gennardo on the head with a kaval with all his might.

– Forgive me, teacher, woe is me Holy Spirit, I shall finish what must be finished, oh by both of your saintly hands of Khorasan!

A holy silence was sprinkled in the room anew.

– East. West. I will suffer a nervous breakdown from this garish Sufi. Tomorrow I will tell him to leave my house – Gennardo thought as the morning sun bathed his face, yanking him from the eerie nightmare.

– What a dream! What a curse!
persequendum est (this thing must be continued)….. Part Two


One thought on “DERVISH, Part One

  1. Pingback: Dervish, Part Two – Leila Samarrai

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