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Lions Roar : March 2013
THE PIONEERS SETTING THE WESTERN STAGE Meredith Monk, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, John Cage, Yoko Ono: These are the names that come to mind right away when we consider Buddhism’s influence on contemporary music. And rightly so; these composers have been instrumental in blending dharma and adventurousness from the get-go, seizing on the attitudes adopted by America’s Beat poets—Allen Ginsberg was only too happy to bust out his harmonium and perform his lov- ing takes on Buddhist sutras—and applying them to a range of musical endeavors. Others would join them in bringing a dharmic influence into so-called serious music. Avant-garde composers such as Eliane Radigue, Toshiro Mayuzumi, and Terry Riley harnessed orches- tras and electronics alike to mimic Tibetan chants and drones and to create musical complements to actual Buddhist teachings. Classic Classics: The Kundun soundtrack and his Symphony No. 5 are fine examples of Philip Glass’ work and its dharmic content. The late Peter Lieberson balanced classical and avant-garde elements in Ashoka’s Dream. All-out experimentalism rules the day in Toshiro Mayuzumi’s Nirvana Symphonie and Eliane Radigue’s Trilogie de la Morte. Peter Lieberson’s “Drala” was commissioned by the Boston Philharmonic and his “King Gesar” was recorded by Yo-Yo Ma. In the pop realm, Laurie Anderson and now-husband Lou Reed would reflect their own dharma studies in their later work, and poet/balladeer Leonard Cohen would take up serious Zen prac- tice with the master Joshu Sasaki Roshi. Meredith Monk, speaking on Public Radio’s On Being, neatly explained how Buddhism and music-making complement one another: “It’s really about fluidity, about being so in the moment that you are in pinpoint focus, but at the same time you’re com- pletely open to what the moment has to give you or to tell you.” Putting that openness and focus to work, these pioneers helped set the stage for whole new generations of genre-busting, Buddhist-inspired music. PHOTO:JOHNCAGEBYMARIONKALTER Clockwise from center: John Cage, Philip Glass, Yoko Ono, Meredith Monk, Terry Riley, Laurie Anderson SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2013 62