Music is emptiness

That CD above features the shakuhachi flute. It was originally used by the monks of the Fuke Zen Buddhist sect in the practice of suizen (blowing meditation), and for those wanting to learn more Blowing Zen by Ray Brooks is recommended. Below is an excerpt from the Heart Sutra in a translation used at Zen Mountain Monastery, Mount Tremper, New York. In the Buddhist context emptiness is not nihilistic: it does not refer to a conceptual ground zero.  Emptiness refers to transcendental impermanence - the absence of ego, and the absence of judgement and discrimination. 

John Cage was heavily influenced by Zen, and there is so much the classical music industry could learn from Zen and other wisdom traditions, if it would simply put egos aside and listen,. As Aaron Copland explained, "When the audience changes, the music changes". Technology and lifestyle changes mean classical audiences are impermanent. Just as performance styles, concert conventions, musicians, concert halls, and even music blogs are impermanent. Even the music itself is impermanent: it exists no longer than the last reverberation of a performance. So it is appropriate to leave you for a while with this extract from the Heart Sutra.

Oh Shariputra, all dharmas are forms of emptiness;
not born, not destroyed, not stained, not pure, without loss, without gain.
So in emptiness there is no form;
no sensation, conception, discrimination, awareness;
no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind;
no color, sound, smell, taste, touch, phenomena;
no realm of sight, no realm of consciousness;
no ignorance and no end to ignorance,
no old age and death and no end to old age and death,
no suffering, no cause of suffering,
no extinguishing, no path, no wisdom, and no gain.


Pliable said…
The grossly underrated Toru Takemitsu has composed several works for shakuhachi including November Steps, for shakuhachi, biwa & orchestra -

Recent popular posts

The Berlin Philharmonic's darkest hour

Does it have integrity and relevance?

Why new audiences are deaf to classical music

Master musician who experienced the pain of genius

I am not from east or west

Classical music has many Buddhist tendencies

The paradox of the Dalai Lama

Why cats hate Mahler symphonies

Elgar and the occult

Nada Brahma - Sound is God