Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Buddha of Bayreuth

Slowly, however, I was drawn into the sacred rhythm of Wagner's music drama, its strange and unfamiliar time. I understood that what was being enacted with such slowness on the stage in front of me was the inner drama of all the spectators; that it was the psyche itself, in its different dignities and powers, whose progress towards transformation was being charted and displayed; that the external forces, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas the singers were representing, were no differences from the inner forces of the psyche, that psyche in which the music lived and whose life contained all the drama within it. I ceased being the half-bored spectator; I entered the drama; I allowed it to begin to enact itself within me, in its own rhythms.
That passage illustrates the importance of meta content in Wagner's Ring while recasting the main protagonists as Buddhist deities. Richard Wagner's interest in Buddhism has been the subject of informed speculation, most notably in Jonathan Harvey's opera Wagner Dream. In fact the text above is also speculative as it paraphrases a description of sacred Buddhist dances at the Takthok monastery in the Ladakh region of northern India. I created it by changing just a few words in the synchronistically surnamed Andrew Harvey's classic account of travel and Buddhism A Journey in Ladakh. Here is the original text:
Slowly, however, I was drawn into the sacred rhythm of the dances, their strange and unfamiliar time. I understood that what was being danced with such slowness on the stage in front of me was the inner drama of all the spectators; that it was the psyche itself, in its different dignities and powers, whose progress towards transformation was being charted and displayed; that the external forces, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas the dancers were representing, were no differences from the inner forces of the psyche, that psyche in which the dances lived and whose life contained all the dances within it. I ceased being the half-bored spectator; I entered the drama; I allowed it to begin to enact itself within me, in its own rhythms.
Speculative Buddhist and Islamic interpretations of Wagner simply confirm that the universal truth of perennial wisdom is found in all great art. The header visual art was photographed taken by me at the Temple of a Thousand Buddhas in Boulaye, France to illustrate an early post on Jonathan Harvey's string quartets. There is more meta content, opera and Buddhism in Classical music as Ritual.

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