Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Buddhist Bells, Drums, and Chants

This is a great Lyrichord recording of Zen services in the temples of Kyoto, Japan. The Japanese Zen tradition developed from the Chinese Ch’an division of Mahayana, or Great Vehicle, Buddhism in the 12th century. During their services they recite and chant important sutras from the Buddhist literature. They have also incorporated the use of traditional Japanese percussion instruments, and in some cases flutes, to begin, accompany, and end ceremonies.

This recording presents some beautifully recorded recitations of Sutras accompanied by bells. The chants themselves are relatively simple and repetitive without any understanding of the text, but the rich accompaniment of the bells renders the whole thing beautifully ethereal. The chanters don’t seem to be terribly exact in their unisons, but these melodies do hint at the aching bends and micro-tonal inflections that make Japanese court music so hauntingly beautiful.

It should be noted that these are live recordings of ceremonies and they therefore include the odd background noise such as shuffling feet or coughing. I like to think it adds to the ambiance though.

- Ryan Kirk


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