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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  August 1, 2017 12:30am-1:01am BST

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the top stories on bbc news: president trump brought him injust ten days ago. now he is out. anthony scaramucci, the white house communication director, is fired. the white house say anthony scaramucci made inappropriate comments in a recent interview. he is the fourth white house official to leave his post in just ten days. after the dramatic resignation of nawaz sharif, an interim prime minister is due to be formally chosen by parliament. on this story is trending on bbc .com. sam shepard, the celebrated american playwright and actor, has died at his home in kentucky at the age of 73. he was oscar—nominated for the 1983 film the right stuff. i will be back in half an hour. first on bbc news, it is hardtalk. welcome.
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i'm sarah montague. sirjohn tavener composes music for god, even referring to it as a form of divine dictation. in doing so, he has become one of britain's most celebrated living composers. a0 years ago, his work was sometimes dismissed as bland, populist, new—age. but since then, he has defied the critics. the protecting veil was one of the biggest—selling classical cds ever. six years ago, he had a heart attack that nearly killed him, and since then, he says, everything has changed — his music, his outlook on life, and his faith. so what happened, and how did he change? sirjohn tavener, welcome to hardtalk. thank you.
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what happened to your music? well, it nearly vanished altogether. because i was taken ill in switzerland, and they didn't not know whether i was conscious, whether i was brain dead or not. and my wife came over from england, and she played me mozart, and i started conducting, like that. and the doctors realised my brain wasn't dead. i didn't become conscious after that, but they realised that i reacted to mozart's music. and then, when i did become conscious, it seemed i was so weak, i was in such a poor condition, that it seemed that music had vanished from me completely. i still reacted to it if you played it, but i didn't have any music in my head.
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which was extraordinary, because all of my life i had music in the head, and it seemed to vanish. and so did my so—called belief in god. well, it did not vanish, but it didn't seem to be there anymore. both the music and the belief in another dimension have always gone together. so i had no music, i had no god, i had nothing. but i was contented, in a sort of way, to be just looked after by nurses. that's what it was like for two years. there wasn't anything sudden or dramatic that happened. gradually, i started to hear music again, and feeling a kind of spiritual interest. because the interest had all gone again, and i started to read books. one of the most extraordinary things that happened to me was that during this period, i listened to a lot of late beethoven. and beethoven had never
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meant a great deal to me. after being ill, his music was just amazing. both as a composer, it made myjaw drop as a composer. the amazing technique of beethoven, and extraordinary talent. also, it was a transcendent what of dealing with his suffering. i think that it was partly through suffering that everything changed. how did it change your music? did you find that you are writing different music as a result? yes, the music was much more condensed and terse. i mean, i'd written these long
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pieces that lasted many hours, one seven hours, all night. my interest in doing that, i had not the strength... i mean, it was both a physical and spiritual thing. i didn't have the strength to do this anymore, so the music became much more concentrated. and i suppose more transparent. and my attitude to religion was quite different. i had this very — i was very lucky to have this inspired kind of faith. but sometimes, my personal life wasn't as good as the faith might have implied. i, since i have been ill, have been much more caring for my children, for my wife. so, in a way, i've come to understand that suffering is part of existence. i don't want to be pious, but i think that god allows suffering of the most appalling kind to exist
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as part of the journey. you have had many illnesses in your life. you have marfan syndrome, which is genetically acquired and affects the connective tissue. but you talk about being grateful for some of the pain you had in your life. i think it keeps a certain humility and keeps one in touch with a childlike — i almost say with the feminine. because one has a... it's hard to explain. if you don't have this humility, you're likely to lose out on a childlike orfeminine dimensions of life. so much of modern art is masculine or aggressive, and has no sense of the feminine and no sense of the childlike. this certain sort of weakness — it is not exactly a weakness. it's a humility inside the notes. one doesn't see it in a lot of contemporary art.
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right from eliot gardiner to someone likejohn adams, everything is very masculine and very aggressive, and very well done. it is like driving a ferrari, a well—tuned ferrari. i mean, that is a danger of contemporary art. it's still my slight problem with contemporary music, contemporary art. i fear that the sort of dimensions of chopin and schumann... i mean, their music isjust full of the feminine, full of the childlike. full of this wonderful sort of outpouring, which you don't get in any contemporary art. for some reason, you can get it in painting or poetry. you don't get it in painting or poetry. it is interesting what you mean by the feminine. you immediately talk about the childlike. rhapsodic dimension. and masculine is what? it is hard—edged,
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intellectual, aggressive. and for you, the pain — you talked about suffering as being a kind of ecstasy. yes, a kind of ecstasy. what did you mean by that? it's the other side of feeling ecstatic. the pain... it's what the pain actually does. it produces a kind of ecstatic music, but a different kind of ecstatic music from the music that is influenced by making love with my wife. that's a completely different type of ecstasy, or any feeling of god's presence, which is a different kind of ecstasy. but i've come to realise that it is a part of god's plan that one suffers. it's up to one, somehow, to transcend it, and to produce again a kind of ecstasy through the suffering. i don't think to write
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about the suffering, just per se, on its own, without the dimension of god, is particularly valuable. one of the first pieces you wrote after your most recent bout of illness was from tolstoy's work. you described it as almost autobiographical — a man who is dying and reviews his life. you said in the end, there's no death, but only light. that happens on the last page of the novel. it's a harrowing description of excruciating pain — screaming that went on for three days, complete alienation from his wife, complete alienation from his son. and then suddenly, on the last page, and it is only the last page, this hope comes when he asks for forgiveness from his wife, and his little boy is holding his hand.
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he asks forforgiveness. his little boy is holding his hand. he asks forforgiveness, and at that moment, the pain seems to disappear. there is no death, there is only light. let's talk about the importance of god. you have described the way you write music as almost like divine dictation. yes, that's a bit pompous of me. it's clear when you talk about it that you sort of hesitate from using it. an expression of william blake's. but it is, in a sense, you channelling god. it seems to me that is what is happening. when i wrote 99 names, which are the 99 names of allah, according to the koran, i said i meditated on it. it's more accurate to say i walked around the garden, repeating the arab word of a particular name of god. and then it seemed, on a daily
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basis, that a melody started to form in my mind to the arabic words. (music plays). everything today tends to be on one dimension. people criticise muslims, they criticise catholics, too easily. journalists too easily jab at catholics. they don't deal with the massive depth of catholicism, or the massive depth of islam. and i think it's... you know, maybe there are programmes that want to disprove
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mohammed, or... but it's notjust the historical dimensions of religion, but that they're speaking on a different level. there is only one dimension of their thinking which is only historical and mystical. but this is what is surprising about you. you talk unapologetically about your belief in god, and what you are trying to do. which almost seems surprising in these times, when we have militant atheism, religion being at its extremes, fundamentalism. i agree, it's reached a kind of senility, old age and decrepitude. these things are likely to happen. what has — all religion? all religions have reached old age. there are aspects of senility
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and decrepitude start to emerge. so what happens to them? do they die? no, i'm speaking above my depth at the moment. but the hindus say that we're at the end of a period, where they forecast that this would happen, that there would be a kind of disillusionment of religion. then there will be a mighty resurgence. i don't know what will happen. that is what the hindu doctrine is. this is one that you believe? well, when i say i believe, i would put it to music. perhaps it is the power of the position that you find yourself in, where you are talking about god. i mean, i wonder whether it makes you more or less popular. i think the critics hate it. they love it when i say that religion is in a state of decrepitude, because they think i've therefore given up on religion.
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but you haven't? not at all. because you said you were presbyterian, but you were attracted by catholicism, and you converted to orthodox in 1977. yes. and since then you have sort of fused it with...hinduism and buddhism? well i believe all religions are equally true. it must be that, otherwise they're equally false. that's another perspective. plato's argument is that in the beginning, once god — heaven and earth were joined, and there was only one primal being. therefore, in logic, all religions must be equally true. so you are no longer orthodox? you have to be something, i think, in this life, because it's a fallen world. you cannot be a hindu and a muslim and christian. all at once.
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then it becomes a kind of new age kerfuffle. you have to be something. up to a point, you have to acknowledge the discipline of that particular religion. although you say that you are member of the orthodox church, you are adapting in taking things from other religions, people listen to you and say it is only new age nonsense. i do not think it is. what you say to them? i say i am an orthodox, i have to live by the disciplines of the orthodox religion. we have an orthodox chapel right here, i used to be quite fanatical about it but i... that seems to have passed. you converted a bargain, here? —— barn.
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i converted it into a chapel. but i have been rethinking my relationship with one of the most powerful influences in my life. i have not spoken about this before, i knew a protestant and presbyterian minister who was tortured by his faith. he used to break down at sermons, he was a very unique character. he told me that life is a creeping tragedy. only at the end of my life do i understand what he meant by it. that life is tragic, that there is another dimension to it. you have the critics occasionally railing against you. the recent concert they did not seem to do that so much. they thought there was a substance and transparency, i think so too. you didn't used to say that you cared, but yes, i care. for those people who buy your cds, that one was one of the biggest selling classical cds ever,
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and also after the death of princess diana where your piece for her was used as the coffin was being taken out and that prompted a remarkable response. i wrote that piece for a family friend, a girl who had been knocked off a bicycle and died. it was extraordinary for her parents to see the life of that piece because i only wrote it as a private tribute to a friend. somehow gained that national recognition. you said you are trying to channel god and people seem receptive to that, yet it is a remarkably secular age. yes. are they responding to the god in your work
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or are they responding to you? i do not know. i don't. i honestly believe that it is impossible to fall out of the transcendent, that no matter how much noise atheists make they do not think they fall out of the transcendent. if we are made in the image of god is impossible. explain what you mean. you mean that atheists are made in the image of god too? yes, no matter how hard they try and rail against him i do not think they fall completely out of god. i mean, i have neverfound an atheist, and my daughters says atheists are so boring, but i've never found an atheist who convinces me. i know when i read sometimes any of the great mystical poets, i do not know why, ijust know that it is right. i listen to atheists but no matter how intelligent and brilliant they are, no atheist
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writer convinces me. they do not inspire me. there must be something wrong. you have described at least for some of your work that it has come to you fully formed? yes, very often when a person dies they seem to leave a gift of a piece of music. it has happened countless times, when a catholic monk died and as i drove home from the funeral these notes came into my head and that became the requiem for him. is that fully formed? no, no, that is an artistic... i get the initial idea and then i go home and work it out, not fully formed.
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that is not quite true. one i had fully formed, my mother was driving me home from cornwall and ijust knew where the piece existed. that is the only time that it has come out fully formed. some have said that your music is simple music for simple minds. listen to the recent music, it is not so simple. but i love simplicity. you cannot say that beethoven was a simplistic composer, but you can say that mozart... everything he wrote was simple but there are bits that come in from time to time, but you can say he is a simple composer. he is like a being that was dropped out of paradise. is all good music, does it all come from god? i think it must do.
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for you, it seems the ritual is important. forgive me to use the phrase, but you use the ideas, use the universality of religion, you use it because of its rituals... because of its rituals and its beauty. the problem with western rituals is they have thrown out so many things. they have thrown out the beauty. throwing out the latin language, the catholic church seems to have lost a great deal. they are bringing it back to some extent, but it is just that ritual. i am sure the orthodox church is just as corrupt as the catholic church but they do not pronounce on world issues, they keep quiet on world issues. i am sure they are just as corrupt. not pronouncing on moral issues is a good thing? people should be free to...
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it embarrasses me when the catholic church announces on moral issues. i do not think they are able to deal with it, i think the present pope is a very good idea, he is very special. in terms of what the ritual means for you, and your music, you talk about being inspired by devotional music, part of it is not music, it is creating a space for contemplation. but do you think that is true of all music? i think you are right, it is creating space for contemplation. it is the one thing i have contributed to music. i have written large ritual pieces written to be performed in large spaces usually churches, large spaces. there are certain pieces that last all night. in a way i have tried to reinvent
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what has been taken away from the churches, in a sense. for many, the way you became a public figure way back in 1968, because you listen to that piece now and how it is so different to where you are now, what do you think of it? i love it. it is a piece you ought to write when you are 20, is full of ideas, imaginative, surrealist, i was interested in surrealism, all of those ideas were interested to be engaged with when you are young. it starts with a description of a whale and then... incorporates so many different things. you said it was written by an angry young man and some of the things you were railing against them have not changed.
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you mean the po—faced nature of modern art? the po—faced nature of modern art. the fundamentalist... it was an area you could not criticise. they were writing this stuff that was very dangerously near mathematics. it must contain mathematics but it must contain inspiration and divine inspiration. are you still angry about the same things? and you are still writing as much as you always have been? some days i am flat out. there is a considerable amount. it is stuff of which you are proud? yes, yes. so john tavener, thank you for coming on hardtalk.
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hello. good morning and welcome to august. but if you were hoping the new month would bring a new type of weather, well, actually, we'rejust going to continue with the theme we had at the end ofjuly. a mixture of sunshine and showers. the earlier satellite picture showers clumps of cloud circulating around an area of low pressure. and with that, we will continue to see some showers as we go through the day. some places starting of dry, in south scotland in the north and east of england. for wales, not starting dry. in fact, here, through the first part of the morning,
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the showers are likely to gang up into a longer spell of rain, then extending across merseyside and northern england and southern scotland. so a soggy start for the day in edinburgh and glasgow. dry for a time in scotland, and northern england starting with some decent sunshine. 1a degrees in inverness. in eastern england, it is generally, the midlands, and into the south—east, a fine start with good spells of sunshine. temperatures at about 15 or 16 degrees at 8am in the morning. central and southern england in fine shape and a lot of venture in the south—west as well. but a few showers even at this early stage. as we go through the day, those showers will become widespread, right across the map. some places will see more showers than others — some will see shower after shower after shower, perhaps with hail and thunder. other places might avoid the showers and stay dry.
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that will mostly be in the south—east of england. there we will see the warmest temperatures. 23 in london. cooler and fresher north and west. going through tuesday and into the early hours of wednesday, most places will turn dry with some clear spells. this mist works into the south—west of england and into wales. could be some gales in the south—west. this area of low pressure is pushing in, bringing tightly squeezed isobars, signalling strong and gusty winds. wednesday will start dry. some places of eastern scotland, eastern england will stay dry all day. the rain migrates eastward, and that could be heavy across some parts of southern england late on wednesday afternoon. but thursday, we are back to where we started. our area of low pressure is still with us sitting across scotland at this stage. a cool, fresh feel in blustery winds and for the end of the week, you guessed it — a mixture
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of sunshine showers. cool and fresh, particularly in the north—west. i'm sharanjit leyl in singapore. the headlines: farewell to the mooch. afterjust ten days in the job, president trump fires his director of communications, anthony scaramucci. political turmoil in pakistan. after the dramatic resignation of nawaz sharif, an interim prime minster is due to be chosen. i'm babita sharma in london. also in the programme: los angeles strikes a deal to host the summer olympics in 2028, paving the way for paris to put on the games in 202a. this chinese woman is heading overseas to get treatment to freeze her eggs, a procedure she's not allowed at home. we'll have her story.
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