Music to my ears

“Give a man a fish and he won’t go hungry for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will never go hungry again.” I cannot think of a more suitable saying to apply to the trade of carpet weaving. It is a trade that has provided an income to millions of weavers for thousands of years. Depending on what you weave you could provide for your family for at least a season or two, maybe even a whole year. Knowing the skill of carpet weaving ensures that you can determine the income you will receive, like a freelance artist in the West, one can say.

What a creative trade to have whether you are the pattern designer, the dyer or the weaver. Every aspect requires imagination and calculation. To know that every hand movement you make creates a knot that will finally form one holistic beautiful picture, is almost like knowing that every drop in the ocean contributes to its volume and majesty. Every knot is like a pixel. Put many together in different colours and arrangements and you have an exquisite picture in the end. Not just that, it is the perfect preservation of history and a culture.

But weaving these incredible pieces that have been fantastic trading and diplomatic tools for thousands of years, has its job injuries too. Over many years many weavers can no longer walk up right from bending in front or over the looms all the time, even though they limit their weaving to six hours a day. Many develop painful calluses on their fingers from years of pulling the knots tighter and handling their tools. Their eye sight and even sometimes their lungs get affected from focusing their eyes too long and breathing in the wool particles. It isn’t easy, like many trades, it leaves its scars, but in the end your reward is the satisfaction that your handy work is providing for the needs of your household. In addition you know that someone somewhere someday will admire and adore your carpet enough to buy it for their home.

When I saw this picture of a weaver touching the warps on her loom I couldn’t help but notice the similarity between her touching the wool and a harp player touching the strings on her instrument. Then it dawned on me that they are the same in a way. It was philosopher and thinker Pythagoras that allocated a music note to every colour, so a weaver is playing a symphony, but a visual one. What if we could hear a Persian carpet “being played”, every knot a different note? How magical that would be!

Scientists have recently converted many things to music, from tree trunks to water. Knowing how creative and scientific the Persian minds are today, I am patiently waiting for someone to convert a Persian carpet into music. The warmer colours will be the lower notes with red being the lowest and the cooler colours will be the higher notes with indigo being the highest. The magic of this conversion will be in how harmoniously the melody mimics the harmonies of the design. The converter will have to know how to interpret the carpet into the symphony that originally played in the heart of the weaver.

Each carpet has a beginning and an end and the most crucial element of the conversion will be in finding that beginning point. In carpets with medallions the beginning point is always at the centre of the medallion even though it is located in the middle of the carpet. The weaver starts weaving the carpet with that centre point in her heart even though she starts the carpet from the bottom/end working her way up to the start. So if she was writing a melody, she would be writing it backwards but always having the chorus in her heart from the start.

In my investigation the golden ratio is always present in the creation of any carpet from the length/width ratio to the ratio in the designs present in the carpet, as it is present in all creation and the melodies they play. Like the seven music notes are in exact harmony with the golden ration, so are the seven layers of heaven and earth that are present in every Persian carpet. It is this that would make it perfect for conversion to music.

Until that day comes I will look at every carpet wondering what it sounds like…Maybe I will kneel down, put my ear on it and close my eyes and like a sea shell is said to hold the sound of the ocean, maybe I will hear the melody, faintly at first and then louder as it reaches its crescendo and chorus. That day I will walk away with a smile whistling the magical tune I just heard.