Media Library

HIMALI SINGH SOIN: as grand as what

a rite of renewal by himali singh soin and david soin tappeser

16:40, 3 channel video, color, sound

as grand as what is a reimagination of the structure of the Kalachakra mandala, a geomantic diagram in which the body, the city, the earth and the universe mirror each other in a grand cosmic architecture. This is the story of a search for a lost bla, a subtle life force that runs through the world-body that has lost itself amid the crisis of the present moment. A drummer calls upon li, a spirit manifestation of the human and non-human consciousness, to conduct a series of remedic rituals that recall bla into our bodies and into the planet. In a series of transmissions and receptions, following archetypes of disembodiment and transfiguration, the palm-leaf masked figure embarks on a journey of grounding, circulation and regeneration. With the help of the resonance of sound and the force of love poetry, they seek to reinvigorate the collective self and learn from the tremulous temporality of the catastrophic.

The loss of bla, a term borrowed from Tibetan medicine, but one which echoes prana, or qi, ruh or mana across cultures, is expressed both in the weary body and the parched earth. Li then represents an imaginary technology that allows us to access, explore and celebrate this multitudinal tangle of relationships: inwardly and outwardly; with siblings and strangers; at the atomic, social, planetary and cosmic level. It allows us to flit between the meridians of the body and the meridians of time, drawing deterritorialized, seismic lines from the Himalayan mountains to the Vesuvian volcano. Li is a medium through which a community of oppressed, silenced voices, including the voice of the earth itself, might form a commons of otherness.

The music in as grand as what, written for percussion, accordion, clarinet and dunchen, emanates from the thin places connecting magic and religion, ‘folk’ and ‘high’ culture, periphery and centre. The fast-paced 6/8 rhythm makes reference to the Tarantella, a music originally conceived for women afflicted with illness (or perceived madness) to release their trauma through dance, which was consequently manipulated by composers like Chopin, associated with the ‘western classical cannon’. The nonatonic scale, around which the composition is structured, alludes to Rag Pahadi, a popular early-evening raga in Hindustani Classical Music, with origins in folk melodies from the Himalayas. But while the music hints at the violences around these ambiguities of origin and ownership, it also blurs our sense of place, collapsing the distances between the Kumaon and Naples and complicating the power dynamics of north and south, reason and superstition. The accordion and clarinet may seem firmly rooted in the western canon, but also evoque the sound of harmonium and shalmai, which are omnipresent in the musical soundscape of the Himalayas. The drums, bells and dungchen are of Himalayan origin, but – in turn – relate to percussion and brass instruments found in european marching bands and orchestras. Beyond its theoretical formulations, it is our attempt to create embodied sound, sound that might actually perform an empowering, healing function.

as grand as what is a ritual. Ritual has always been inherent in environmental, social and political life, a symbolic reenactment of the ‘super’ natural. What can a contemporary ritual be? In the face of extractive modernity, ideas of healing have been co-opted into a cult of narcissistic individualism in lieu of the continuous effort to balance the scales of life. The loss of symbols means we have been distanced from our capacity to make meaning, the capacity to inhabit a multiverse and a single atom at once. Loss implying not that which has been lost, but an ongoing erasure of the interconnectedness between a here and now worldly world, and a transnationalist, cosmist place that allows the present moment to desire differently. One that is as grand as.


Additional notes:

It both perpetuates power play and flames the passions of protest. A ritual can combine rational evidence with syncretic symbolism to carve out a utopian dreaming.





In the heart of the fountain,

We invoke rock, wind, light

To bring us from this crisis of lost presence.


It is time to begin the rituals to retrieve our lost bla.

Bla, a cosmic force that moves through our bodies

Moves through the world,

Like breath, but brighter



It’s spelt bla, as if it were something less than vital,

But it’s pronounced la, like music circulating through our bones.


Bla is strongest when it is bathed in love-


that which pulls every particle

of time into a single point

And quakes, like heat in the limbs.


We scan plant to pulse,

like detectives of arterial errors.

One hundred beats, then

a glitch, a snatch, a spasm,

a stertor, a stop.


The absence of bla is indicated by broken flowers,

As if the earth were having wild, thrashing dreams.


There has been a catastrophe.

Bla slinks out of us like a snake from its skin.

We are lava and the spring has emptied.


We feel a crushing pain in the base of the mind.






A crack, a fissure, a wound.

a rock oozes, the head aches, the heart closes.


We ring in the drummer, copper vessels

riding and splashing and crashing.


First, the ritual of grounding.

We must learn to love a rock.


[a rock resembling] [god]

a [rock] resembling a [protective] spirit.


The rock has a hundred entrances

Each with a different story

entwined like passages leading to each other


[and other rocks] that look like seated forms

of goddesses

the [topography of] the site-being.

[representations of] the subtle energy body.

rock [meaning] stillness and movement at once


Two arms swinging

on an undulating horizon

with no place to stay.


We chant, I love you.

The rock repeats the phrase, tintinnabulating in

Ecstatic, possessed or oracular language.


Our bodies are a multitude of lines: stretching, trembling, yawning and sweating.


Lines with eyes closed. Plates with shoulders shimmying.

Igneous feet shuffling. Tectonic torso turning.

Loam of flesh and fault into the collective corpus.


Transmission of love by contact at a distance,

What’s ours is yours. Thou are us,

Now we be body.





The air is heavy, dense with particles of poison.

We must still our disturbed winds.

We breathe so deep, that we mentally produce music.

Next, the ritual of circulation.


Where does wind begin?

From a slit. A nib.

A ray, a gash, a measure, a beam, a line, a hole, a horn, a quill.

A string, a skin, a wing.


From a black square wet with worship.

Negative space carved into the sides of cliffs.

Intuition in the darkness.


Slipping through loopholes.


Obstructions and obstacles.

Odours, itches, scratches, swellings.


so we open the windows to the outer worlds

we blow our horns and

and our mouths spill with the sound of the word.



We draw channels across our medi-meridians

Vitruvius vesuvians.


tracing a different order

a cosmology of relations

between what is solid and spirit.


Clearing the throat with a command.

Opening the lungs with a whistle.

Harmonising the binaural brain.


Our fingers hold the atmosphere

like tuning forks touching pitch.


We feel love blow into us

blow us away

And we inspire it.





Light comes in varying degrees of opacities.

Light fades by glowing brighter.

No darkness truly dark.

Only Impressions, impacts, lost remains.


The ritual of regeneration.


We look for clues.

Messages voluted in minerals

Engraved by our ancestors

Interstellar dust mixed with seabed sediment.

Photons bolting towards us from the past.

diffused, obscured, deflected.


Gathering what we don’t need and kneading it.

Like wet, sticky dough, some parts don’t let go.


the fossil has slept through ruin before

it asks us to rouse our shadows

where love flickers and flashes like a lantern at dusk


Darkness sweeping over us till we fall asleep in the mantle of the mountain.

Steadying our circadian cycles


we open our eyes and blink, solar

An awakening. a wake.


love smeared red onto our hearts,

like turmeric and lime on the gates of a shrine.





Zero multiplied by infinity is the realization of emptiness.

The drummer reaches into the aether, calling bla back.

The bla has visited four hundred sacred sites and returned.

It enters us.

The spirits of the earth emerge from the vessel, enacting time.

We rise, hybrid beings.

Primordial, bewitched.


Our thighs are melting crags with rivers flowing out of them.

Our bellies are temple after temple, consecrated with petals like tongues.

Our breasts are mountains in the clouds.

Our heart is a lake, our blood, brine.

Our armpits are wells into which you laid your ropes.

Our tongues are smoke and our eyes are the concentric circles of your wilding, finding.


A body is a field

on which meteorites fall

-iron wedges of fate-

like a mirror marking distance.

The distance is always love.

This is the commons of otherness.


Time passes.

Another catastrophe.

A crater in our consciousness.


And we begin making up the world again.

We art.