Statement for 49 Days (Music For A Transition)
The inspiration for this work came out of a tragic loss. I felt an overwhelming pull to create these two pieces following the sudden death of my father-in-law. In the tradition of the form of Zen Buddhism that I practice there is a ritual that is performed for 49 days following the death of a loved one. During this period, the grieving chant (assisted with a wooden drum) the name of Ji-Jang Bosal, “the bodhisattva of transitions,” everyday for an extended time during meditation.
The Buddhist mythology of this ritual is to call upon the bodhisattva to assist the dead as they navigate the bardo period, guiding them to see clearly through their karma to choose an appropriate re-birth. A less metaphysical, more secular purpose for this practice is that it can be used to help the living grieve by bringing one closer to the dead, a way to go beyond death as a separation from the living. I’ve found this approach to be very powerful and one morning, while deep in chanting meditation, I seemed to enter this transitional “other” world. The sounds, images and sensations of this place were vivid and clear to me. When I finished the ritual the sounds were still ringing in my head and I instantly had a pretty clear idea how to re-interpret and form them into compositions.
The Ghost in You is structured around a field recording that I made of the carillon at Rockefeller Chapel on the campus of University of Chicago. I recorded it many years ago while I was on a guided tour of the carillon tower. By pitching the speed down I noticed that the recording had an elegiac quality that I have never quite found a suitable use for until this idea. From this starting point I built a composition of sounds from homemade instruments and contact mic’d gong and ride cymbal. The name of this track references The Psychedelic Furs song by the same name. I’ve always loved the poetry of this title, it seems to imply that in the midst of living we are all ghosts, constantly in a state of transition.
Walking With Ji-Jang is also a track built around a field recording, one that I made on my father-in-law’s property a few years ago in Indiana. I placed the tape recorder on a bridge that he built over a creek, connecting his yard to the woods behind his house. The significance of this bridge to me represents the passing from the domestic, tame world of a familiar shore to the unknown wilderness beyond. After Rick died my son and I created a small Ji-Jang Bosal statue made from boulders, which is a tradition in Korean and Japanese Mahayana Buddhism. We placed this memorial at the entrance of the bridge and we bow to it every time we pass by on our walks into the woods.
Ji-Jang Bosal’s name means “Earth Store.” The myth says that he takes care of everyone in the six worlds that exist between Sogamonibul (the historical Buddha) and Maitreyabul (the future Buddha). He travels the sub-world realms assisting all beings. In statues, he has a staff in his right hand that is used to pry open the gates of hell so he can enter. The staff is adorned with rattles and bells to warn smaller beings while he walks so they don’t get trampled under his feet. He is also known as a guardian of children and travellers. At the Zen temple we chant Ji-Jang Bosal’s name during the evenings of the four major seasonal transitions of the year. The title of this piece references the Spaceman 3 song, Walking With Jesus.