A composer with Buddhist tendencies
'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 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.
* A transcript of this interview is available as Jonathan Harvey on the record. 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).