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272 The Collected Writings of Michael Snow pertinent to this ceremony. The periods of playing and of rest divide up the allotted time so that in order to stop at the right moment one of the DUNG-DKAR players must know when a third of the time has passed, pause for about one-twelfth of the time, resume playing and repeat the procedure after a second one-third of the time has passed. One of the KANGLING players must mentally divide up the time into eight equal periods with rests. How this was accomplished is a mystery, as no signals were observed and a stop-watch timing of the various sections divides up quite equally with minor discrepancies. This ceremony is one of the most historically complicated we have ever encountered, starting with the presumption of its "beginnings" in Assyria which is testified to by the clay tablet and by the monks' awareness of the I Ching aspect (The Book of Changes is presumed to date from the third century B.C. and is Chinese). Involved also are the monks' studies in Tibetan psychology, particularly the examination of cognition, time, sound, memory in PRAMANASA-MUCHCHAYA TSCHAD MA KUN LAS BTUS PA by PHYOGS-GLANG, an ancient Tibetan commentary on older Sanskrit works on the mind. Study is also made of various texts, specifically on the science of music ROL-MO RIG-PA, which is also a religious text since as the Lamas say, "Religion is sound." In reference to the clay tablet, fire is essential both for the hardening of clay and in the production of metals and while "trumpets" have been made of many materials, the monks say there is a celebratory relation between the metals of some of the instrumentsand the fire involved, hinting at an early Bronze Age "beginning" for some aspects of the ceremony. The symbolism involved also has connections with the animist shamanisticpre-Buddhist Tibetan religions called BON, which intertwined with Buddhism, and which we are told are still maintained secretly in Tibet. Tibet stood at the confluence of three civilizations:the Turko-Mongolian, the Chinese and the Indian. The AMITABHA ceremony seems to embody each of these ancient influences.The specifically Buddhist aspect involves the female Bodhisattvas GHIRDIMA and ALOKE (in Tibetan GLU-MA and SNAG-SAL-MA). The first is depicted in scrolls relevant to the AMITABHA ceremony as holding a lyre symbolizing music, whereas SNAG-SAL-MA glows and symbolizes light. They are both related to the element of fire, which is personified by BHAGAVAN BUDDHA AMITABHA. The performance took place in a large stone-walled room in a DZONG (a castle/monastery). This room was about 50 x 40 feet with walls about 20 feet high and a ceiling with a large (about ten feet square) opening in it. A wood fire was started on an iron grate within a circle of stones in the centre of the room, the smoke more or less escaping out the ceiling "vent." (An ironic aspect for a Westerner concerned with pollution was that for an Air ceremony the room was extremely smoky, but perhaps that's a necessary part of it all.) The whole situation reminded one of 18th-century descriptions of the air in Iroquois longhouses or in the cedar buildings of West Coast Canadian "Indians" (Kwakiutl,Salish, etc.). The ceremony: The twelve musicians garbed in the yellow hats and red robes of their sect assemble in a circle around the fire at the sound of two bells rung by the head lama. This appears to be the only signal. About fifteen seconds later all the horns make a brief staccato announcement and commence to hold their long tones as they The Last LP 273 walk around the fire. The chord thus produced (including a later high note) is roughly rendered as: (we have placed the notes as an arpeggio for legibility) The various and varying vibratos, differences of sound quality (buzzing and flutters ) and the deliberately fluctuating intonation produce an odd harmonic variety within the meditative hypnotism of the piece. The piece ends with a return (done by pairs of instruments in turn) to the announcement, a short pause and then, as if to break the contemplative spell which has been created, each horn executes a burst of free glissandos. This ending creates an extraordinary sense of unravellingof the previous woven sonic tapestry. As with Tibetan vocal chanting, the piece is a meditation having transcendental effects on both players and listeners. The...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780889206045
Related ISBN
9780889202436
MARC Record
OCLC
180704522
Pages
293
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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