Saturday, January 21, 2012

The sound is just following its own nature

In our practice, we think that noises, cars, voices, sights are distractions that come and bother us when we want to be quiet. But who is bothering whom? Actually, we are the ones who go and bother them. The car, the sound, is just following its own nature. We bother things through some false idea that they are outside us and cling to the idea of remaining quiet, undisturbed.
That refeshingly lateral thought is relevant both to John Cage's view of music as "just an attention to the activity of sounds" and to a certain symphonic ringtone. It comes from Achaan Chah who was an important Buddhist teacher and founded two major monasteries in the Thai Forest Tradition. This Tradition is worth exploring for those who are attracted by the common sense approach of Buddhism but find Zen too austere and Tibetan Buddhism too arcane. To keep the playing field level Zen provides the graphic in the form of a photo I took recently in the Musée Guimet, Paris, while Tibetan Buddhism supplies the soundtrack in the form of Jonathan Harvey's Tranquil Abiding for chamber orchestra. This is one of the works on the CD of his music by Ilan Volkov and the BBC Scottish Sympony Orchestra titled Body Mandala - more on that contemporary classic here.


* Quotation is from A Still Forest Pool, the Insightful Meditation of Achaan Chah edited by Jack Kornfield and Paul Brieter. This thought-provoking little book can be read online here.

* Body Mandala is being performed as part of the BBC Symphony Orchestra's Jonathan Harvey festival at the Barbican on Jan 28, 29 and 30. The festival also includes the UK premiere of the composer's opera Wagner Dream.

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