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Posted 2008-02-06 14:01:23
Hey - I have some questions about Buddhism+Music.
First, I am in a course on ethnomusicology, and I have to do a presentation on Thai msuic.
As such, I am trying to find out what kinds of music are used for Buddhism? I'm particularly interested in more Southern styles. Meditation gongs and such would count as music.
I am also interested in how music fuctions in Thai Buddhism in general, a personal interest, and as well as other forms of Buddhism.
Posted 2008-02-06 15:12:18
I think you're out of luck. Theravadin Buddhist monks are forbidden music and most other forms of entertainment, therefore music forms no part of normal Thai Buddhist practice.
Thai ritual usually includes chanting which is pretty much monotone and not accompanied by instrments, that's about it.
Of course Thais are very musical people, just not at the Buddhist temple.
If it's gongs you're after you should try chinese or tibetan Buddhism.
Posted 2008-02-07 02:28:10
Thats actually what I thought. However, the chanting also counts as music. Its pretty much monotone, but it isn't. The monotone drone achieved is not only affective in its own right, it bears a resemblance to Indian music and other styles of Thai music (Nora, from what I can tell, involves droning) The drone itself is also conducive to meditation.
I'm using a very broad definition of music. Africans traditionally consider anything with repeated patterns msuic, and anything without not to be music (i.e. Mozart wasn't much of a musician) I'm defining it is tonal sound production with the purpose to be affective. (Most music is primarily self affective. Really good music is broadly affective.)
In addition, Buddhism is something that involves more than monks, so are there anything that laypeople do that involves music (including the essentially gregorian-like chanting that forms the basis for many Indian musics)
Also, why exactly are Thai monks forbidden from "music"? I would presume that it has to do with seperating oneself from the the outside world in order to focus on yourself? or something like that.... As Thai Buddhists are forbidden to particate in music, that also affects general Thai society in what forms of music and it's attitude toward music, so this is all interesting.
P.S. - SE Asian gongs are much more interesting and varies than chinese gongs. Besides, i know from my time in thailand that there are some outstanding gongs used for meditation - nothing like Chinese gongs at all - WAY cooler IMHO ... just something about the raised cup in the middle that produces much more affective overtone sequences. Chinese gongs are more popular in the West mostly because of there resemblance to Turkish gongs/cymbals (pretty much anything you see on a modern drumset is a turkish style cymbal) ... Besides, I'm not studying Tibet or China, I'm studying Thailand. Thailand has a very interesting and very broad musical tradition. Much broader in many respects than Tibet or China, as Thailand is a crossroads for cultural influence, recieving influence from (and influencing) India, Persia, Africa (African marimbas come from SE Asian ranats), China, Indonesia, as well as its direct neighbors.
Posted 2008-02-07 11:08:42
That's pretty much sums up the reasons. I guess music is seen as a hindrence to deep meditation.
One thing of interest is that the style of chanting in Thailand, Burma, and Sri Lankha are very different. The words are much the same (when chanting in Pali) but it sounds very different to the ear. Maybe that's something worth you looking into.
Posted 2008-02-07 12:33:58
That is interesting. FYI, the Vedas were the inspiration for much of Indian music. I think that it is difficult to separate music from religion - even in places where it is strictly forbidden by religion (i.e. some Islamic areas where the only allowable music is the daily prayers.)
On a side point, I'm a professional musician, and I would both agree and disagree that music can be a detractor to deep meditation. On the one hand, it is a distraction, and it can occupy your thoughts with meaningless crap, such as being able to play faster than the next guy or impressing those other musicians/listeners.
However, now, it is proving to be a great form of meditation for me, and a task that I can challenge myself with and probe my personal character. In fact, the only way to really play an instrument is by entering a meditative state - a state that is often described in musical terms as "being present" ... much like the goal of meditation, as I understand it.
I can see the argument that if I became a monk that I would have better tools, but then there is also the argument about the Dharma doors...
I am also quite curious as to how the meditative gongs seem to instantly place you in a meditative state (I might end up researching this one for a Masters)
Posted 2008-02-09 02:13:48
Uh..... ....er.....I live next door to a Wut and they use a PA system to call the monks and villagers to pray at 5am.
It's a very soft song with gongs, bells and so forth. I guess in the Ol days they had to do it themselfs.
It works, it got me up and dressed to go check it out.
Posted 2008-02-16 04:53:33
555 I've lived next to temples, too. To separate yourself from music is to partition yourself. Interestingly, some people have a disorder whereby they can't make sense of music - it might as well be someone shaking up a box full of frying pans! However, that would strike me as the excepting that proves the rule - these are people with physical abnormalities in their brains. Moreover, There are more and more studies that link music with some quite basic mental circuits - such as graceful, expressive movement and spatial perception - further supporting the idea that music is intrinsic.
In short, I reject the idea that music gets abolished. Minimized, sure. Abolished? not likely.
Thanks for the link, chutai! it is interesting. Unfortunately, still nothing about Thai music.