Sunday, April 27, 2014

... towards a Pure Land

'All artists try different paths. They constantly change, and they have their 'this' period or their 'that' period. I am not saying the Buddhist 'thing' is my Buddhist period. I think it goes back rather longer than that. I came across Buddhism perhaps after [Rudolf] Steiner, but even before that when I was a student at Cambridge, but I was never really wholeheartedly into it. So I have been Buddhist most of my life. But the Buddhist phase would be quite recent if you look at the titles of my music and the explicit musical themes - maybe ten of fifteen years - and I don't mind being called a Buddhist composer. But like all artists I don't particularly like being called only a Buddhist composer. So, of course, it's a subject I could expound on for a long time, about what being a Buddhist composer is. But that's another story ' ~ Jonathan Harvey speaking in a 2010 radio interview with me*. Jonathan's ... towards a Pure Land for large orchestra evokes the state of mind beyond suffering where there is no grasping, and, together with Body Mandala and Speakings, comprises his Buddhist themed Glasgow trilogy.
'As someone with Buddhist tendencies, particularly at this stage of my life, I enjoy looking back on my life with the kind of rather objective question: why does one person have predilections this way and another that way? What is the nature of Karma? What is the mental continuum that continues through the process of reincarnation? Is there such as thing as reincarnation? These are questions which fascinate me and I can see, looking back, that I did have certain predilections. Where they came from is what fascinates me. These predilections were towards mysticism and transcendental experience [...] At Cambridge I became very absorbed, quite suddenly, in mystical writing, like that of St John of the Cross. Christian mysticism seemed to lead out of a framework that I knew and understood fairly well into a more general, more heterodox consciousness, which of course had many resonances in oriental religions. Someone said, 'You only have to squeeze St John of the Cross like a sponge and you are left with pure Buddhism'. The experiences were enhanced by visits to monasteries, where I could stay a few days; usually lonely, quiet, peaceful places' ~ Jonathan Harvey speaking to Arnold Whittall in 1999. Photos were taken at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery of the Theravadan Thai Forest Tradition. Another quiet, peaceful place provides the background to my reflections on Jonathan's Buddhist influenced Fourth String Quartet.

* That radio interview with Jonathan Harvey is a priceless document that demands to be transcribed and made available in text form online. Transcribing it is a major task which I need to tackle; perhaps it could be done as a collaborative project with interested readers. Second text is taken from Jonathan Harvey by Arnold Whittall. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

3 comments:

Pliable said...

"That radio interview with Jonathan Harvey is a priceless document that demands to be transcribed and made available in text form online. Transcribing it is a major task which I need to tackle; perhaps it could be done as a collaborative project with interested readers"

My readers really are remarkable people. Within 4 hours of posting that message the interview has been transcribed up to 24.20"

Hopefully I will soon be able to make available a full transcription of this valuable interview. To avoid duplication please check with me before transcribing, I will post details of transcription in progress here.

Pliable said...

Update: the interview is now transcribed to "It doesn’t just take the argument of a good melody and then you colour it, it starts with the colour, and then it might make a melody of colour, but it starts at the other end." at approx 40"

Takers for transcribing the balance are welcome - let me know before you start to avoid duplication.

Pliable said...

Due to the selfless commitment of a reader the interview has now been transcribed in its entirety. It will be made available online in the near future.