Over the weekend (in addition to everything else) I received a “press copy” of a new, compilation CD from a company called More than Sound (that, oddly, has something to do with George Lucas): “Dhamma Gita: music of young practitioners inspired by the Dhamma.” While the fellow who sent me the copy didn’t say so explicitly, I suspect he sent it to me under the assumption that I’d do what I am currently doing blog about it. And I do have a couple of things to say about this album. One, I fear, may be more the purview of the Angry Asian Buddhist, but I think that it’s nevertheless important to say. So, if you’re of the opinion that these are just nut-job, guilty liberal tirades, feel free to skip the later half of this post. If, on the other hand, you’ve got an open mind to alternative points of views (not to mention music), by all means, read on. But the other thing I want to say about this compilation album is actually about the music which, on the whole, is quite good, Angry Asian-esque asides notwithstanding. So, without further ado, I think I’ll start with the good news.
It started with a short bit I read (via Loden Jinpa) about the demise of publishers due to the rise of e-book readers. It suggests that in five year’s time, Amazon, Apple, whomever, will cut out the “middle-man” of traditional publishers and work with authors directly to deliver content to our devices of choice. It really is a short bit, and I didn’t have time this week to read the article it’s referencing. And, let’s be honest, this is an an area of expertise that’s a little far-afield for me. (Like, for example, the article suggests that the iTunes Music Store is circumventing music labels. That’s not actually true, is it?) Nevertheless, it raises some interesting questions for me.
Moments of truth and beauty can come from all manner of place. Be aware.
I just got home and the good ol’ media center started downloading Wilco’s new album, Wilco (the Album). I’ll say up front the following two things: first, I’m not going to do a formal review of it (now) because it just came out and I want to let it sink in; second, it’s good. Not mind-blowing-on-the-first-listen-oh-my-god-my-life-is-changed-forever good. But good.
What would be really interesting, of course, would be something bringing these elements together. What would be really cool would be someone making music that brings together the best of both worlds. Which, of course, isnâ€™t a radically new idea, and I think you could make a case for Ravenna Michalsenâ€™s music being a representative example of such blending of traditions â€” hers is, essentially, devotional music directed toward her teacher, the Buddha, and the Dharma, but arranged in the Western musical tradition.
As part of the National Council Meeting of the Buddhist Churches of America, the Institute of Buddhist Studies hosts an annual symposium. I was asked to contribute a paper to the 2009 Symposium, and the theme was American Shin Buddhist music or, more extravagantly, “The Great Sound of Enlightenment.”
Over the last year or so I’ve made several minimalist changes to this blog, cutting out clutter. Lost in the shuffle have been long-winded explanations about me or the site that I thought would be self-evident or the type of thing that, if you were really curious, you’d just ask.
It might just be the Fugazi talking, and I don’t really know if these ideas are worth the digital ink I’ve spilled on them, but I think American Buddhist sanghas (of any variety) need to seriously think about how they’re planning on carrying the dharma into the next generation. And truly inclusive, community-based models of practice may be where it’s at.
As you all know, I really like music. A few weeks ago, I got the idea in my head to create a massive but well thought-out playlist devoted to songs about America. Specifically, one song for each state. It occurred to me that I’ve got a lot of music, and a lot of that music references certain parts of this country. And it being election time, a time when folks run all across this country talking about its “core decency” and its “values,” I thought it’d be fun to see what I could come up with.