mantra:imagine – mind.action.image.magic

In Buddhist practice, mantras are used in chanting, where attention is focused on the sound qualities of the phonemes. The first movement uses the mantra of the Heart Sutra. While mantra texts usually are meaningless, this mantra can be translated as: "Gone, gone, gone all the way over, everyone gone to the other shore, enlightenment, svaha !", where “svaha is a cry of joy or excitement.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

The idea for the text in the second movement comes from a conversation between the Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn Soen-sa and a student, in which the Zen Master in his direct but humorous way suggested that with the right focus, even words like ʻCoca Colaʼ and ʻPepsi Colaʼ can be used in chanting practice. The musical material for this movement is derived from Ockeghemʼs (ca. 1420-1497) Agnus Dei I in his Missa De plus en plus. This work, being an imitation mass, is based on the tenor part of Binchoisʼ chason, De plus en plus (more and more). In writing my ʻimitation/parodyʼ piece, I have employed a variety of techniques from all the centuries of polyphonic practices since Binchois (ca.1400-1460), connecting the dots to present-day with traces of Bruckner, Stravinsky and others. In the spirit of irreverent ʻparodyʼ, I have dedicated this movement to Banksy.

The third movement uses the mantra of Avalokiteshvara, and it is a little canonic study on the transformations of the chain of phonemes in this six-syllable mantra.

Commissioned by the Singers Ensemble with funds from the National Arts Council of Singapore


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