Thursday, August 17, 2017

Lit up with sound

That photo was taken by me at Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh looking across to the Himalayas. In the programme note for his orchestral Body Mandala Jonathan Harvey wrote:
The score is headed "...reside in the mandala, the celestial mansion, which is the nature of the purified gross body". I was in North India recently where I witnessed purification rituals in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. This work is influenced by those experiences. The famous low horns, tungchens, the magnificently raucous 4-note oboes, gelings, the distinctive rolmo cymbals - all these and more were played by the monks in deeply moving ceremonies full of lama dances, chanting and ritual actions. There is a fierce wildness about some of the purifications, as if great energy is needed to purge the bad ego-tendencies. But also great exhilaration is present. And calm. The body, when moved with chanting, begins to vibrate and warm at different chakra points and 'sing' internally. As it were, 'lit up' with sound.
Below senior Tibetan Buddhist monk Kenrap-la is seen hearing Jonathan's Body Mandala for the first time. He is listening on my iPod as we approach his monastery at Thiksey at the end of the arduous 800 km drive from Kalka on the edge of the Ganges plain over the western end of the Himalayas to the alpine desert of Ladakh on the border of India and Tibet*. When I took the photo we were more than 1000 km from the nearest concert hall and in a culture where the Western classical music tradition is totally alien. Despite this Kenrap-la was 'lit up' with sound.


* In deference to my readers in Pakistan I should qualify that sentence by adding that Ladakh is in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.

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