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Posts Tagged ‘tibetan’

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Photo: Tom Gralish / Philadelphia Inquirer
Composer Andrea Clearfield sought new sounds when composing her Buddhist-enlightenment opera. Here she is pictured with Tibetan instruments from her personal collection.

A Philadelphia composer who was writing an opera decided that, much as she loved Western classical instruments, they wouldn’t be enough to capture “enlightenment.” So she ordered new sounds.

David Patrick Stearns had a report at the Inquirer in January.

“Philadelphia composer Andrea Clearfield knows to warn her downstairs neighbors when her opera is scheduled to erupt. ‘I’m writing a destruction scene. Beware!’ …

“The commotion-causing opera is Mila, Great Sorcerer: It will have a semi-staged presentation Jan. 12-13 [2019] in New York City’s Prototype Festival and dramatizes a Tibetan Buddhist parable of annihilation and enlightenment. The more demonic sections have music she describes as ‘macabre circus … dark tango … a nod to the Mummers strut,’ played by Western orchestra augmented with horns, bowls, and bells from Nepal.

“Yet the story — about a young man who acquires dark powers for revenge and is later transformed into one of the most venerated teachers in Tibetan Buddhism — still asked for something more.

Clearfield wanted sounds she had never heard, from an ethereal tricked-out music box to a drone that suggests something primeval welling up from the center of the Earth. Instrument maker David Kontak created seven new instruments to produce them.

” ‘I was looking for a third world,’ Clearfield said in her Philadelphia studio, ‘a world that is not electronic, not acoustic, blends the voices and instruments, is East and West, and is capable of transmitting this story of ultimate transformation.’ …

“Clearfield had been thinking about the subject matter for a while when by chance she met playwright Jean-Claude Van Itallie, who had adapted The Tibetan Book of the Dead for the stage and who had already written a libretto about Mila with Lois Walden. …

“Even better, the libretto was commissioned by a pair of producers who originally considered a film about Mila but concluded opera would be a better way to tell the story.

“ ‘I’m a composer who met the writer who had written the libretto to the opera I wanted to write,’ Clearfield said. ‘How often does that conversation happen?’ …

“[Says] Gene Kaufman, ‘and some moments choose you.’ Kaufman, who is producing the opera with his wife, Terry Eder, finds that ancient religious mythology contains ‘the accumulated wisdom of centuries to which modern life is only a retelling. We just need to listen. …

“Interestingly, much Mila iconography shows him with hand cupped to his ear: Listening was a major element of his enlightenment. …

“During Clearfield’s residency at the Yaddo artist colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., she often asked other Yaddo artists what enlightenment sounds like to them. The artist/author/musician/documentarian Laurie Anderson replied, ‘The resonance [that is] left in the room.’ …

“As much as Clearfield and her collaborators have immersed themselves in Tibetan culture, the greatest impact on the opera itself may not be religious or even philosophical, but elemental.

” ‘You feel the aliveness of everything [in Nepal]. Even in the rocks,’ she said.”

More here.

Bhutanese painting thanka of Milarepa [Mila]. Here Mila is listening, “reminding you to stay awake. Stay awake to your life — and move forward,” says Inquirer reporter David Patrick Stearns.

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You have heard of “slow food” and perhaps “slow money” (a loan with a long time to pay back) and other efforts designed to help us reduce the often meaningless haste of modern life. Well, Cousin Claire has been posting news on Facebook about another slow movement that is sure to intrigue you, Slow Textiles.

Says Slow Fiber Studios on its About page, “We are founded on a simple intention: to offer real-world insight into the multifaceted and holistic practice of textile-making. Slow Fiber Studios™ offers dynamic, hands-on field study programs in diverse areas of the world where textile culture runs deep — India, Mexico, Japan, France, Italy, and on. We believe the best way to understand a philosophy is to see it being lived.”

Here is a description of a 2012 offering: “Special opportunity to travel throughout India with Yoshiko, who has been exploring this country for over 30 years (lived in Ahmedabad in 1983/84 on an Education & Culture Fellowship and frequent 3-month residencies spanning 3 decades). Yoshiko will introduce her friends in India who are involved in welfare, community empowerment, and cultural sustainability projects.

“Tour Highlights: natural dyes, organic cotton cultivation, handloom weaving, khadi, biodynamic farming, architecture, local food and religion, contemporary art and design educational institutions, museums, solar energy development, hand spinning and weaving wild silks and Tibetan wool in Himalayan communities.” More here.

How well I remember the wistful feeling I got in reading the book Lark Rise to Candleford when the beautiful handmade lace was spurned as soon as the factory-made came in. There is something to be said for speed and efficiency, but also something to be said for craft.

Photos: Slow  Fiber Studios

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Photo: Geoff Childs
Cleaning harvested yartsa gunbu prior to sale. 

Thanks so much to the folks who recently signed up to follow this blog. If you joined hoping that I would blog often about the topic that drew you here, you will soon find that the posts are rather eclectic. A couple years back, Suzanne thought it would be nice to have a blog tied to Luna & Stella, and she said I could write about anything that interested me. I thought, Wow! What an opportunity!

Today’s story is from the radio show Living on Earth. It’s about Tibetans in Nepal who have managed to avoid overharvesting a fungus that’s wildly popular in China.

“Anthropologist Geoff Childs of Washington University tells host Steve Curwood how one [area] is managing to harvest the resource sustainably. …

“Nubri is a valley in Gurkha district in the country of Nepal. The residents are ethnically Tibetan. They’ve been living there for about 700 or 800 years, so it’s an indigenous population of Nepal. What they have done in contrast to other areas is they’ve limited the number of collectors to only residents of the villages, and so that keeps the number of collectors way down. …

“CHILDS: What they’ve arrived at in Nubri is a combination of what they call ‘yultim,’ which we could translate as village regulations, secular regulations, and ‘chutim,’ which are religious regulations. … What they will do is, they will decree certain areas off-limits to human exploitation, and usually that’s a sacred grove of trees, a certain slope of a mountain that a deity inhabits or something like that. … In terms of the sustainability of Yartsa Gunbu, that’s going to be important because those are areas where annually nobody will harvest it. So it can come to fruition. It can spore. It can live out its normal life cycle.

In terms of the village regulations the first one that I just mentioned is the exclusion of all outsiders. The second one is they’ve got a designated starting date, and they arrive at that by looking at the snow melt, looking at the conditions in the alpine pasture and figuring out what’s going to be the likely time when it’s best to gather it.

“And so for a couple weeks prior to the official starting date, every adult in the village has to check in four times daily to the village meetinghouse to prove that you’re not collecting early. A third thing that they do is they tax it. For the first member of your household, the tax is very low; it’s 100 rupees or approximately $1 dollar … they gather that tax and use it for communal purposes.

“CURWOOD: So this consensus process, everybody agrees, everybody trusts, but they also verify. … looking at this from a broader resource management perspective, what are some lessons that we can take away from what’s happening in Nubri?

“CHILDS: Trust indigenous people. Don’t immediately assume that as outsiders with more education we can come in and devise a system that will work for them. I think, first of all, study what’s in place. Study with an open mind and move from there.”

Photo: Geoff Childs 
Mt. Manaslu (26,759ft.) in Nubri is the 8th highest mountain in the world.

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