Music Buddhist Music
by
Gavin Douglas
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 July 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0158

Introduction

Buddhist music constitutes a huge array of traditions, styles, and philosophical approaches to sound. Buddhism is not one single religious tradition, but rather a loose array of countless practices. Similarly, the function, purpose, and understandings of music within Buddhist practice does not adhere to standard uniform patterns across the Buddhist world. Common threads found throughout all Buddhisms include an appeal to the philosophies of Gautama Buddha and his teachings on attachment, suffering, and escape from samsara (the cycle of rebirths) to enlightenment. The position of music within Buddhism is somewhat controversial, as some traditions embrace sound as a facilitator of meditation and ritual (Mahayana), while others are more suspicious of its power to cultivate attachment (Theravada). Regardless, the use of sculpted, organized, and intentional vocal and instrumental sounds serve important roles in all Buddhist societies. Sound or music often defines the architecture of ceremonies and rituals, and the symbolism of sound and instruments highlights aspect of the Buddha’s teachings (dharma/dhamma). Music serves a multitude of social and ritual objectives, and it also cultivates particular psychological states of mind that are the means and the goal of meditation practice. Musical sound is an intrinsic part of lay and monastic Buddhist practice and liturgy, yet it is often neglected by religious scholars or treated as peripheral to other aspects of Buddhism. The scholarly literature on Buddhism is similarly diverse. Early studies focused on instruments, ensembles, and rituals, while more recent scholarship engages a number of interdisciplinary fields, including ethnography, critical theory, and politics. Recent work also questions how contemporary practices coexist with or reflect long-held traditions.

General Overviews

There are very few examples in the literature of any attempt to comprehensively present an overview of music and Buddhism. The small quantity of general summations that are available take a wide variety of approaches to the subject. Overviews of particular schools and regions of Buddhism include Trân Van Khê 1984 for Mahayana traditions, Carter 1983 for Theravada, Helffer 1992 for Tibetan, and Lee 1987 for Korean. Qing and Tan 1994 provides a regional overview of Chinese Buddhism, while Greene, et al. 2002 provides the most comprehensive overview of Buddhist music available. Mabbett 1993 approaches Buddhist music conceptually rather than regionally, and thus draws philosophical parallels across traditions and reveals pan-Buddhist issues that are not found in regional or tradition-bounded summaries.

  • Carter, John Ross. “Music in the Theravada Buddhist Heritage: In Chant, in Song, in Sri Lanka.” In Sacred Sound: Music in Religious Thought and Practice. Edited by Joyce L. Irwin, 127–148. Journal of the American Academy of Religion Thematic Studies 50.1. Chico, CA: Scholars, 1983.

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    A broad discussion of the relationship between religious text and context and the differences between lay and monastic approaches to music in the Theravada (specifically Sri Lankan) context.

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  • Greene, Paul D., Keith Howard, Terry E. Miller, Phong T. Nguyen, and Hwee-San Tan. “Buddhism and the Musical Cultures of Asia: A Critical Literature Survey.” In Special Issue: Body and Ritual in Buddhist Musical Cultures. Edited by Paul D. Greene. The World of Music 44.2 (2002): 135–175.

    DOI: 10.2307/41699430Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article surveys over three hundred scholarly works that examine music and Buddhism, published in twelve different languages.

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  • Helffer, Mireille. “An Overview of Western Work on Ritual Music of Tibetan Buddhism (1960–1990).” In European Studies in Ethnomusicology: Historical Developments and Recent Trends: Selected Papers Presented at the VIIth European Seminar in Ethnomusicology, Berlin, October 1–6, 1990. Edited by Max Peter Baumann, Artur Simon, and Ulrich Wegner, 87–101. Wilhelmshaven, Germany: F. Noetzel, 1992.

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    A broad overview of the scholarship available on ritual music in Tibet. One of the first English-language compilations of Tibetan musical materials.

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  • Lee, Byong Won. Buddhist Music of Korea. Seoul, South Korea: Jungeumsa, 1987.

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    One of the few comprehensive surveys of Buddhist music on the Korean peninsula. The work contains a brief history of Buddhist ritual in Korea, followed by detailed musical analysis of the two styles of Buddhist ritual chant (pomp’ae): hossori and chissori.

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  • Mabbett, Ian W. “Buddhism and Music.” Asian Music 25.1–2 (1993): 9–28.

    DOI: 10.2307/834188Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of the first attempts in the ethnomusicological literature to address Buddhism in general. Emphasis is on the concept of impermanence and its relationship to music and sound. Mabbett provides a conceptual overview of the relationship of music to notation, evangelism, cosmological symbolism, ritual, and offerings.

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  • Qing, Tian, and Hwee San Tan. “Recent Trends in Buddhist Music Research in China.” British Journal of Ethnomusicology 3 (1994): 63–72.

    DOI: 10.2307/3060806Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive report by two of the leading scholars in Chinese Buddhist studies.

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  • Trân Van Khê. “Buddhist Music in Eastern Asia.” The World of Music 26.3 (1984): 22–32.

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    An overview of the terminology and styles of music employed in Mahayana Buddhism.

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  • Williams, Sean. “Buddhism and Music.” In Sacred Sound: Experiencing Music in World Religions. Edited by Guy Beck, 169–189. Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2006.

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    A short, easily accessible introduction to Buddhism and music for a general university-level audience. Article is accompanied by six recordings of works discussed in the text.

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Reference Works

There are no centralized reference sources for Buddhist music. Useful material with various emphases directed at different scholarly audiences can be found in dictionaries and encyclopedias of Buddhism, religion, and music. Up until the 1990s, music scholars had little engagement with Buddhism, and Buddhist scholars had paid little attention to sound and music. Most notable for music scholars are the large Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (see Miller and Williams 1998 and Provine, et al. 2002) and Grove Music Online. Miller and Williams 1998 provides comprehensive coverage of music in Southeast Asia; Provine, et al. 2002 examines the music of East Asia; and Tokita and Hughes 2008 is focused on Japan. There are few explicitly Buddhist entries in these reference works, but multiple entries on specific traditions, areas, and instruments can be found. Likewise, the valuable Jones 2005 and Buswell 2004 have a few articles on music, musical traditions, and chant, and they also address a multitude of specific traditions and geographical areas in valuable ways. The online resource Buddhanet provides valuable audio entries in addition to text.

Bibliographies

Very few bibliographies of global Buddhist music have been compiled. The spread of Buddhism over 2,500 years and the division and melding of traditions to adapt to local environments have resulted in a wide variety of often contradictory traditions. Most bibliographic compilations focus on particular regions or countries. Wu 1995 and Wu 1998, for example, provide valuable summaries of Tibetan material. Greene, et al. 2002 provides a summary essay along with the most comprehensive survey of bibliographic sources available (over 300, organized geographically). Rust 1996 includes dance traditions and annotates each entry. Szczepanski 2014, another Oxford Bibliographies entry, provides a significant list of resources in a wide variety of categories related to Buddhism and music.

  • Greene, Paul D., Keith Howard, Terry E. Miller, Phong T. Nguyen, and Hwee-San Tan. “Buddhism and the Musical Cultures of Asia: A Critical Literature Survey.” In Special Issue: Body and Ritual in Buddhist Musical Cultures. Edited by Paul D. Greene. The World of Music 44.2 (2002): 135–175.

    DOI: 10.2307/41699430Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The largest and most comprehensive bibliography of Buddhism and music available. Organized geographically, with accompanying essay. Contains multiple Chinese, Tibetan, and Vietnamese sources.

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  • Rust, Ezra Gardner. The Music and Dance of the World’s Religions: A Comprehensive, Annotated Bibliography of Materials in the English Language. London: Greenwood, 1996.

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    Chapter 1 consists of general references to religious music and dance. The remaining thirty-six chapters are organized according to major geographical areas. Most chapters begin with general reference works and bibliographies, and then continue with topics specific to the region or religion.

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  • Szczepanski, Beth. “Buddhism and Music.” In Oxford Bibliographies in Buddhism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    This entry in Oxford Bibliographies provides an overview of Buddhism and music, directed primarily at Buddhist scholars.

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  • Wu, Ben. “Bibliography of Tibetan Music.” ACMR Reports 8.1 (1995): 21–28.

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    An extensive list of resources on Tibetan music, published in the newsletter of the Association for Chinese Music Research. Bibliography is divided into two sections: English publications and Chinese publications. Available online.

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  • Wu, Ben. “Music Scholarship, West and East: Tibetan Music as a Case Study.” Asian Music 29.2 (1998): 31–56.

    DOI: 10.2307/834363Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Building on Wu 1995, this article presents a “state of the field” account of Tibetan music scholarship. The author argues that Eastern and Western scholarly traditions have presented radically different pictures of Tibetan music-making and musical life. Roughly 120 published pieces are discussed and compared.

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Journals

The most timely and pertinent research is available to religion and music scholars in a range of peer-reviewed and refereed journals. Scholarly articles about various aspects of Buddhist music have appeared in ethnomusicology journals, including Ethnomusicology, Asian Music, the World of Music, Zhongguo Yinyue Nianjian, and CHIME. There is no journal devoted exclusively to Buddhist music. Area studies journals, such as the Journal of Chinese Ritual, Theatre and Folklore and Journal of Asian Studies, are also potentially valuable sources.

Chant

Chanting, set inside a personal or communal ritual, is the liturgical avenue for transforming Buddhist doctrine into experience. There exists a large body of literature on various kinds of Buddhist chant. Very few studies approach chant across the Buddhist world, however, since there is little commonality across all traditions. The techniques and sounds used in these traditions vary tremendously, as do the meanings ascribed to the chants. Most chant scholarship focuses on regional trends within the major Buddhist traditions found in Tibet, China, and japan, and to a lesser extent within the Theravada traditions in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand.

China, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam

Buddhism in China has a long history dating to the 1st century CE. Throughout the past two millennia, Chinese Mahayana Buddhism has infiltrated many aspects of Chinese society. Chinese Buddhist historiography is plentiful, but writings on music, despite its centrality to Buddhist activity, are sparse. Numerous regional studies are found throughout the literature, with the most significant interest centered on the Wutai Mountain area, described in Han 2004. Li 1992 provides some early sociocultural analysis of the categories of Buddhist music and changes due to forces of modernization and Westernization. Chen 2002 continues this line of research, exploring the discrepancies between doctrine and practice. Chen 2004 (cited under Contemporary Trends: Rock and Popular Music) and Chen 2010 contribute to an understanding of contemporary changes in chanting, sound, and ritual. Boundaries between the sacred and the secular are examined in Li 1992. Less voluminous scholarship in Taiwan, Korea, and Vietnam note the commonalities and differences with the mainland traditions. Hahn 1983 and Lee 1987 attempt to organize the chant genres found on the Korean peninsula, while Nguyen 1982, a dissertation on Vietnamese chant, provides valuable insight into the localization of Mahayana trends in Vietnam. Contemporary schools, such as Thich Nhat Hahn’s worldwide sangha, provide interesting comparative resources (see Nhat Hahn 2000).

  • Chen, Pi-yen. “The Contemporary Practice of the Chinese Buddhist Daily Service: Two Case Studies of the Traditional in the Post-traditional World.” Ethnomusicology 46.2 (2002): 226–249.

    DOI: 10.2307/852780Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author explains the overall change in Buddhism from traditional to modern, as well as the typical daily services of Chinese Buddhists. Chen discusses the connection between modern monastic life and politics.

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  • Chen, Pi-yen. Chinese Buddhist Monastic Chants. Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2010.

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    This volume aims to show how combinations of specially selected texts, styles, and ritual actions foster spiritual growth and promote Buddhist ideals. Divided into three parts: a history and background of Chinese Buddhist chant; a discussion of chant types, with analysis; and an analysis of the daily liturgies. Includes transcriptions and CD.

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  • Hahn, Man-young. “The Four Musical Types of Buddhist Chant in Korea.” Yearbook for Traditional Music 15 (1983): 45–58.

    DOI: 10.2307/768641Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analysis of different chant genres found on the Korean peninsula, with historical background and discussion of ritual context. See also Lee 1987.

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  • Han, Jun. Wutaishan fojiao yinyue (五台山音乐研究). Shanghai: Shanghai Yinyue Chubanshe, 2004.

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    This work introduces Buddhist music at Wutai Mountain, a historical center of Buddhist culture. It includes a brief history of Buddhist music at the site; a descriptive introduction to the music, its rituals, and musical instruments; and scores, in numerical notation, of the currently known repertory.

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  • Lee, Byong Won. Buddhist Music of Korea. Seoul, South Korea: Jungeumsa, 1987.

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    One of the few comprehensive surveys of Buddhist music on the Korean peninsula. The work contains a brief history of Buddhist ritual in Korea, followed by detailed musical analysis of the two styles of Korean Buddhist ritual chant (pomp’ae): hossori and chissori.

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  • Li, Wei. “The Duality of the Sacred and the Secular in Chinese Buddhist Music: An Introduction.” Yearbook for Traditional Music 24 (1992): 81–90.

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    Examines discrepancies between doctrine and practice in Chinese Buddhist contexts, and demonstrates how musical norms have been reinterpreted in contemporary practice.

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  • Nguyen, Phong T. “La musique bouddhique du Vietnam.” PhD diss., University of Paris, 1982.

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    Focuses on three main areas: the history of the propagation of Buddhism, a musicological analysis of Vietnamese Buddhist chants and instrumental music, and a comparison of the Mahayana traditions in Vietnam and East Asia. Includes a classification of the ten chanting styles in Vietnamese Buddhism. Further developed in Nguyen 2002 (cited under Dance).

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  • Nhat Hahn, Thich, comp. Plum Village Chanting and Recitation Book. Berkeley, CA: Parallax, 2000.

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    The primary resource for monastic and lay practitioners in Thich Nhat Hanh’s worldwide sangha. It is a widely available reference and contains many chants, recitations, and ceremonial texts. Music notation is included with many of the chants.

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Japan

The Japanese Buddhist musical repertory was written down comparatively early, with different schools of shōmyō chant established by the 8th and 9th centuries. Today, the Tendai and the Shingon schools are the most prominent and established. Most scholarly studies examine one school or the other, with the exception of Nelson 2008 and Malm 2000. Shōmyō liturgy is traditionally organized according to the characteristics of the text chanted. With such an extensive documented history, the scholarship on shōmyō is extensive. The dominant area of scholarship, represented here by Arai 1995, Kaufmann 1967, and Wolpert and Markham 2010, focuses on notational analysis. Hill 1982 provides a taxonomy of chant styles, and Nelson 1998 provides a listening guide with notations.

  • Arai, Kôjun. “The Historical Development of Music Notation for Shomyo (Japanese Buddhist Chant): Centering in Hakase Graphs.” In “Lux Oriente”: Begegnungen der Kulturen in der Musikforschung: Festschrift Robert Günther zum 65. Geburtstag. Edited by Klaus Wolfgang Niemöller, Uwe Pätzold, und Chung Kyo-chul, 1–30. Kassel, Germany: G. Bosse Verlag, 1995.

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    This essay provides a broad history of shōmyō and an analysis of scales, rhythmic, patterns and rules of melodic construction through different Buddhist sects. It also points to the musical relationships between shōmyō and gagaku court music.

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  • Hill, Jackson. “Ritual Music in Japanese Esoteric Buddhism: Shingon Shōmyō.” Ethnomusicology 26.1 (1982): 27–39.

    DOI: 10.2307/851399Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Historical description of the many branches of Japanese Buddhism and the wide range of styles of Shingon chant.

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  • Kaufmann, Walter. “The Mudrās in Sāmavedic Chant and Their Probable Relationship to the Go-on Hakase of the Shōmyō of Japan.” Ethnomusicology 11.2 (1967): 161–169.

    DOI: 10.2307/849815Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues for a direct relationship between the mudras associated with Hindu chant and the notational system of Japanese shōmyō. Provides an account of the historical connection between Japan and India.

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  • Malm, William P. Traditional Japanese Music and Musical Instruments. New ed. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2000.

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    A revised version of Malm’s 1959 book. Provides a comprehensive and still relevant account of Japanese music. Chapter 2 provides a description of Buddhist shōmyō chants that is accessible to the lay reader or student.

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  • Nelson, Steven G. “Shingi Shingon Shōmyō Shūsei Gakufu-hen, Nika Hōyō-shū.” In Buddhist Chant of Shingi-Shingon: A Guide to Readers and Listeners. Vol. 2. Edited by Steven G. Nelson, 458–503. Tokyo: Shingi Shingonshū Buzan-ha Bukkyō Seinenkai, 1998.

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    Scholarly commentary in English for a set of notations and transcriptions of shōmyō, with four CDs (Victor PRCD-1616-19).

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  • Nelson, Steven G. “Court and Religious Music: Music of Gagaku and Shōmyō.” In The Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music. Edited by Alison McQueen Tokita and David W. Hughes, 49–76. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    An introduction to Tendai and Shingon shōmyō. The entry covers ritual context; pitch, mode, and vocal range; melody and ornamentation; and text translations and musical transcriptions. Nelson classifies various systems of neumatic notation (hakase) by the way pitch is represented.

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  • Wolpert, Rembrandt F., and Elizabeth J. Markham. “Developing a NeumeScribe for Sino-Japanese Buddhist Musical Notations.” Chung-Hwa Buddhist Journal 23 (2010): 167–182.

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    Develops an encoding scheme for Sino-Japanese musical graphs, or neumes, for engagement with premodern manuscripts in which accurate vocal expression is written in both text and musical notation. The authors enable transformations on representations of neumes through a computer program.

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Tibet

Tibetan Buddhist music, organized broadly into four schools, has a comparatively large body of scholarly literature. Ellingson 1979, Ellingson 1977, Helffer 2004, Kaufmann 1967, and Kaufmann 1975 are prominent works in this field. All provide valuable critiques and commentaries of the others, and all have numerous written materials beyond those listed here. Scholarly emphasis in Tibetan chant is directed at polyphonic style, unique notation practices, and the context of the sound within ritual and meditative practice. Scheidegger 1988 examines the Mindroling tradition and its relationship to Tibetan Buddhist music. Tsukamoto 1983 looks at a particular ritual, and Chang 1999 provides some access to historical resources. Wu 1995 (cited under Bibliographies) provides a comprehensive discussion of Tibetan scholarship.

  • Chang, Garma C. C. The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa: The Life-Story and Teaching of the Greatest Poet-Saint Ever to Appear in the History of Buddhism. Boston: Shambhala, 1999.

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    Used to pass on teachings to disciples, the didactic changes (mgur) have a prominent place in several Buddhist schools. The most famous chants are attributed to the Poet-Saint Milarepa (b. c. 1040–d. 1123).

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  • Ellingson, Ter. “Review of Tibetan Buddhist Chant: Musical Notations and Interpretations of a Song Book by the Bkah Brgyud Pa and Sa Skya Pa Sects by Walter Kaufmann.” Asian Music 8.2 (1977): 64–81.

    DOI: 10.2307/833999Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analysis of Tibetan dbyang style chant and discussion of melody types and taxonomies. One of the first comprehensive accounts of Tibetan dbyang in English.

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  • Ellingson, Ter. “’Don Rta Dbyangs Gsum: Tibetan Chant and Melodic Categories.” Asian Music 10.2 (1979): 112–156.

    DOI: 10.2307/833989Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Extensive analysis, critique, and commentary on Kaufmann 1975.

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  • Helffer, Mireille. “Traditions musicales dans un monastère du bouddhisme tibétain.” L’Homme 171–172 (2004): 173–195.

    DOI: 10.2307/27976185Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A meticulous observation of a Buddhist ceremony through the study of several recordings and written Tibetan sources (texts, musical notation manuals, and instructions). In French.

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  • Kaufmann, Walter. “The Notation of the Buddhist Chant (Tibet).” In Musical Notations of the Orient. By Walter Kaufmann, 355–417. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1967.

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    A close examination of Tibetan notation, set within a broad discussion of notation practices in Asian music.

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  • Kaufmann, Walter. Tibetan Buddhist Chant: Musical Notations and Interpretations of a Song Book by the Bkah Brgyud Pa and Sa Skya Pa Sects. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975.

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    A large (500+ pages), comprehensive account of a manuscript from the Karma Kargyudpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Contains 360 pages of transliterations, translation, performance transcriptions, and comments, and 141 pages of analysis of performing styles and notational symbols. Ellingson 1977 provides a valuable commentary on this book.

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  • Scheidegger, Daniel A. Tibetan Ritual Music: A General Survey with Special Reference to the Mindroling Tradition. Opuscula Tibetana 19. Rikon, Switzerland: Tibet Institute, 1988.

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    Scheidegger presents a general survey of Tibetan Buddhist ritual music, with some detailed information of the Mindroling tradition of the Nyingma sect. Elucidates various distinctions between the Tibetan traditions.

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  • Tsukamoto, Atsuko. “The Music of Tibetan Buddhism in Ladakh: The Musical Structure of Tibetan Buddhist Chant in the Ritual Bskaṅ-gso of the Dge-Lugs-pa Sect.” Yearbook for Traditional Music 15 (1983): 126–140.

    DOI: 10.2307/768646Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A focused study of Tibetan chant in Ladakh. Author examines the bskaṅ-gso ritual held for deities who protect and defend Buddhism. Ladakh’s isolation, resulting from boundary disputes between India and Pakistan, and a primarily oral/aural transmission of the liturgy have resulted in the preservation of unique aspects of Tibetan traditional culture.

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Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand

The Theravada traditions, for the most part, lack the scholarly attractions of musical instruments, elaborate chanting/singing styles, dance, or theater. Theravada chant is not considered song or music, so its study as “music” requires one to overcome the view of practitioners that it is merely heightened speech. Sri Lanka provides the largest body of work, with Kulatillake 1982, Laade 1993, and Seneviratna 1979 being important early studies. Recent scholarship on Myanmar Buddhist practice is examined in Schwörer-Kohl 2008 and Greene 2004. Miller 1992 and Miller 1998 provide overviews of Buddhist traditions in Thailand.

  • Greene, Paul D. “The Dhamma as Sonic Praxis: Paritta Chant in Burmese Theravāda Buddhism.” Asian Music 35.2 (2004): 43–78.

    DOI: 10.2307/4098445Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examination of Theravada chant in a Burmese context. The author highlights the interlocking of paritta (protective) chants with local belief in animistic Nat spirits. Greene examines the tension between lay people who treat parittas as prophylactic magic and the monks who consider paritta ritual as a pathway, leading from ignorance toward enlightenment.

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  • Kulatillake, Cyril de Silva. “Buddhist Chant in Sri Lanka and Its Musical Elements.” Jahrbuch für Musikalische Volks-und Völkerkunde 10 (1982): 20–32.

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    Examination of three-toned pirit, Sinhalese Buddhist chant, and its relationship to the Pali language. One of the earliest studies focused exclusively on music in the Sri Lankan tradition, with specific attention on the didactic Pirit Sajjhayana Buddhist ceremony.

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  • Laade, Wolfgang. “The Influence of Buddhism on the Singhalese Music of Sri Lanka.” Asian Music 25.1–2 (1993): 51–68.

    DOI: 10.2307/834190Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of the first attempts to summarize the position of music in Sri Lankan Buddhism. Much discussion of history and nationalism and the contemporary place of music in national schools.

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  • Miller, Terry. “A Melody Not Sung: The Performance of Lao Buddhist Texts in Northeast Thailand.” In Text, Context, and Performance in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Edited by Amy Catlin, 161–188. Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, 1992.

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    An examination of Lao Buddhist sounds (chant, sermons, stories, palm-leaf manuscript recitations, and congregational responses) within the local categories, where such sounds are deemed not to be music.

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  • Miller, Terry. “Thailand: The Place of Buddhism in Thai Music.” In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Vol. 4, Southeast Asia. Edited by Terry E. Miller and Sean Williams, 287–296. New York and London: Garland, 1998.

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    Miller provides an overview of Buddhist music in Thailand that includes descriptions of contexts for chanting, monastic practice, and types of chant. The author also examines the Hindu-derived sukhwan ritual (rite of passage) and the place of chant in executing the rite.

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  • Perera, G. Ariyapala. “Ariyapala, and Bauddha Saṃskr̥tika Madhyasthyānaya (Dehiwala Lanka) Sri.” In Buddhist Paritta Chanting Ritual: A Comparative Study of the Buddhist Benedictory Ritual. By G. Ariyapala Perera. Dehiwela, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Cultural Centre, 2000.

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    A discussion of paritta chanting in the Sri Lankan context. Author shows the manner by which paritta chant came to meet the religious needs of laypeople who also practice ancient traditions of exorcism in Sri Lanka.

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  • Schwörer-Kohl, Gretel, prod. Music of Myanmar: Buddhist Chant in the Pāli Tradition. Celestial Harmonies 14219–2. Two compact discs, with 90-page booklet. Tucson, AZ: Celestial Harmonies, 2008.

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    Schwörer-Kohl provides extensive program notes to accompany 2 CDs of Myanmar Buddhist chant. Recording, analysis, transliterations, and translations of Pali and Burmese texts of the Mahā Paritta, the great protection chants. Presented by Sayadaw (abbot) Baddanta Visuta Mahā Gantha Vācaka Pandita of the Bargayar Monastery in Yangon.

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  • Seneviratna, Anuradha. “Pañcatūrya Nāda and the Hēwisi Pūjā.” Ethnomusicology 23.1 (1979): 49–56.

    DOI: 10.2307/851337Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The Pañcatūrya (fivefold musical sounds) and the Hēwisi Pūjā (homage of the drums) are traditions that combine the influence of Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism, and folk beliefs with Theravada orthodoxy. The author describes a village culture with rituals and ceremonies embodying dance, drama, music, and other folk arts.

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Instrumental Music

The lion’s share of scholarly work on instrumental music comes from the Tibetan, Chinese, and Japanese traditions. Little work has been done on this topic in the Theravada tradition, where musical instruments are rare in Buddhist contexts and instrumental music is considered suspect. Performance practice on specific instruments is described in Crossley-Holland 1970, Lu 2012, and Scheidegger 1988. Formal musical structures are examined in Ellingson 1979 and Gutzwiller and Bennett 1991. Szczepanski 2012 provides a book-length ethnographic account of Wutaishan practice. Greene 2002 and Greene 2003 show how instruments facilitate the mapping of geographical and spiritual space.

  • Crossley-Holland, Peter. “rGya-gLing Hymns of the Karmu-Kagyu: The Rhythmitonal Architecture of Some Tibetan Instrumental Airs.” Selected Reports in Ethnomusicology 1.3 (1970): 79–114.

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    An examination of the rgya-gling shawm through its physical properties, performance practice, and repertoire. Provides close analysis of two pieces.

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  • Ellingson, Ter. “The Mathematics of Tibetan Rol Mo.” Ethnomusicology 23:2 (1979): 225–243.

    DOI: 10.2307/851463Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rol mo—Tibetan ritual music—is believed to originate in superhuman levels of existence, and therefore is largely beyond the notions of human aesthetics. Ellingson finds that rhythm in rol mo is derived from complex mathematical formulas designed to cultivate the performer’s mental abilities and to reflect time as perceived by beings outside the cycles of samsara.

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  • Greene, Paul D. “Sounding the Body in Buddhist Nepal: Neku Horns, Himalayan Shamanism, and the Transmigration of the Disembodied Spirit.” In Special Issue: Body and Ritual in Buddhist Musical Cultures. Edited by Paul D. Greene. The World of Music 44.2 (2002): 93–114.

    DOI: 10.2307/41699428Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Regional account of the lay funeral practices of the Buddhist Manandhar (oil presser) caste of Newars. Particular attention is directed at the neku horns that are recognized by the recently deceased as he or she journeys through the stages of death, disembodiment, and reintegration.

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  • Greene, Paul D. “Ordering a Sacred Terrain: Melodic Pathways of Himalayan Flute Pilgrimage.” Ethnomusicology 47.2 (2003): 205–227.

    DOI: 10.2307/3113918Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An examination of flute and drum ensembles that lead pilgrims through sacred space in the Kathmandu Valley. Seeking punya (religious merit), the pilgrims play specific songs associated with particular places as they journey through the region, collapsing and reconfiguring physical space into mental terrain.

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  • Gutzwiller, Andreas, and Gerald Bennett. “The World of a Single Sound: Basic Structure of the Music of the Japanese Flute Shakuhachi.” In Musica Asiatica. Vol. 6. Edited by Allan Marett, 36–60. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511896071Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Traces the history of the shakuhachi from Chinese instrument to Zen meditative tool to professional performance instrument with applications in jazz and contemporary musics. Because shakuhachi performance involves such irregular rhythmic and metric patterns, it is inappropriate to analyze its music in terms of concepts like “melody,” but rather in terms of tonzellen, or “tone cells.”

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  • Lu, Wei-Yu. “The Performance Practice of Buddhist Baiqi in Contemporary Taiwan” PhD diss., University of Maryland, 2012.

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    Doctoral dissertation investigating multiple facets of Buddhist baiqi (Buddhist percussion instruments) in their performance practice, function, application, notation, and transmission, exploring the interaction between baiqi and chant, the practitioner, monastic space, and other Buddhist contexts.

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  • Scheidegger, Daniel A. Tibetan Ritual Music: A General Survey with Special Reference to the Mindroling Tradition. Opuscula Tibetana 19. Rikon, Switzerland: Tibet Institute, 1988.

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    Scheidegger presents a general survey of Tibetan Buddhist ritual music, with some detailed information of the Mindroling tradition of the Nyingma sect. Extensive description of musical instruments, followed by copies, transcriptions, and analyses of approximately twenty chants.

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  • Szczepanski, Beth. The Instrumental Music of Wutaishan’s Buddhist Monasteries: Social and Ritual Contexts. Farnham, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012.

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    Szczepanski examines how traditional and modern elements interact in the current practice, reception, and functions of wind music (shengguan) at Wutaishan monasteries. The work analyzes the political and economic history of Wutaishan and its music, as well as the instrumentation, notation, repertoires, transmission, and ritual function of monastic music at Wutaishan.

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Instruments

A rich body of literature on musical instrument is available for Buddhist music researchers. Instruments are investigated both as sound producers and as ritual objects imbued with religious power and evocative symbolism. In some traditions, ritual instruments are referred to as Dharma instruments and explicitly not as musical instruments. Symbol studies have been central to an examination of Tibetan musical instruments, and Crossley-Holland 1982 and Ellingson 1980 are examples of such studies. Ho 2006, Malm 2000, and Thrasher 2000 examine the formal properties (shape and materials) of instruments, including their contextual placement. Cupchick 2013 revisits the analysis of musical symbolism in Dorje and Ellingson 1979. Simonson 1987 is a rare contribution on Buddhist symbolism in the Theravada world.

  • Crossley-Holland, Peter. Musical Instruments in Tibetan Legend and Folklore. Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, 1982.

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    A discussion of legends, myths, and histories of musical instruments in Tibet. Provides rich descriptions of six commonly used instruments (sgra-snayn, lute; dung-dkar, conch-shell trumpet; rkang-gling, thigh-bone trumpet; dung-chen, long trumpet; phyed-rnga, frame drum; and the damaru, hand drum). Gives valuable insights into the religious thinking embedded in the instruments and their performance.

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  • Cupchick, Jeffrey W. “The gCod Damaru—A Reprise: Symbolism, Function, and Difference in a Tibetan Adept’s Interpretive Community.” Asian Music 44.1 (2013): 113–139.

    DOI: 10.1353/amu.2013.0005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A follow-up to Dorje and Ellingson 1979. Cupchick expands on that work through a multisite ethnographic study. He argues that practitioners link the gCod damaru’s “outer” musical performance with its “inner” meditational performance through symbolic meanings, and shows how meditative experiences are shared communally.

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  • Dorje, Rinjing, and Ter Ellingson. “‘Explanation of the Secret Gcod Ḍa Ma Ru’ an Exploration of Musical Instrument Symbolism.” Asian Music 10.2 (1979): 63–91.

    DOI: 10.2307/833987Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The Buddhist music scholar Ter Ellingson collaborates with traditional master Rinjing Dorje to elucidate a commentary on the gCod damaru’s symbolic elements and attributes.

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  • Ellingson, Ter. “Ancient Indian Drum Syllables and Bu Ston’s Sham Pa Ta Ritual.” Ethnomusicology 24.3 (1980): 431–452.

    DOI: 10.2307/851152Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ellingson explores the historical meanings of Tibetan drums and Indian drum syllables, and includes an account of some of the history of Indian Buddhist and Tantric music and dance.

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  • Ho, Li-Hua. “Dharma Instruments (Faqi) in Chinese Han Buddhist Rituals.” Galpin Society Journal 59 (2006): 217–261.

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    Focuses on the definition and classification of Dharma instruments in Han Buddhist rituals. The instrumentation utilized in rituals and monks’ daily lives are called Dharma instruments, or faqi, from the religious perspective.

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  • Malm, William P. Traditional Japanese Music and Musical Instruments. New ed. Tokyo and New York: Kodansha International, 2000.

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    Survey of Japanese instruments, with special attention to Buddhist theory, practice, and ritual. A revised version of the author’s 1959 book.

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  • Simonson, Linda. “A Burmese Arched Harp (Saùng-gauk) and Its Pervasive Buddhist Symbolism.” Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society 13 (1987): 39–64.

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    A detailed examination of dozens of symbolic and structural elements found in the Burmese harp, and of their relationship to Buddhist history, philosophy, and practice.

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  • Thrasher, Alan R. Chinese Musical Instruments. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    A comprehensive overview of Chinese musical instruments, with a detailed look at their history, symbolism, and musical context.

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Dance

While not common in the Theravada tradition, choreography and dance are significant concerns in Mahayana Buddhist scholarship. Greene 2002, a special issue of The World of Music, provides a substantial overview of the current state of the literature. Helffer 1980 and Nebesky-Wojkowitz 2007 describe the contexualization of dance in Tibetan ritual. Movement and choreography are increasingly found in ethnomusicological studies of ritual, as in Nguyen 2002 and Tsai 2002. Widdess 2006 engages dance in the negotiation and control of social space. Pegg 2001 and Singer 1995 show how Buddhist stories and mythologies provide the source material for Mongolian and Burmese dances, respectively.

  • Greene, Paul D., ed. Special Issue: Body and Ritual In Buddhist Musical Cultures. The World of Music 44.2 (2002).

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    A special issue of the ethnomusicology journal The World of Music devoted to body and ritual in Buddhist musical cultures. Includes current research from Nepal, China, Vietnam, and Kalimantan, Indonesia, and a discussion of music in the jātaka tales. Also includes a substantial bibliography.

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  • Helffer, Mireille. “The ’Cham of Padmasambhava in the Monastery of Hemis.’” World of Music 12.1 (1980): 107–124.

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    Description of the cham (Holy Lama mask dance) in the Hemis monastery of Ladakh, and its ritual context and meaning within the Drukpa lineage.

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  • Nebesky-Wojkowitz, René de. Tibetan Religious Dances: Tibetan Text and Annotated Translation of the ’Chams Yig. Edited by Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf. Appendix by Walter Graf. Varanasi, India: Pilgrims, 2007.

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    Examines a variety of Tibetan sacred dances that are disappearing with the destruction of monastic life in Tibet. Much of the material is drawn from Sikkim.

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  • Nguyen, Phong T. “Music and Movement in Vietnamese Buddhism.” In Special Issue: Body and Ritual in Buddhist Musical Cultures. Edited by Paul D. Greene. The World of Music 44.2 (2002): 57–71.

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    Nguyen analyzes ung phu monastic chanting in Vietnamese liturgical ceremonies that consist of a complex system of dances, rituals, and chants.

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  • Pegg, Carole. Mongolian Music, Dance, and Oral Narrative: Performing Diverse Identities. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001.

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    A detailed account of the performance arts of Mongolia, focusing on the different ethnic groups that inhabit the state proper and its bordering areas in China and Siberia. It is a broad-ranging and all-encompassing ethnography, and also contains an exhaustive bibliography of Mongolian, Russian, and European sources.

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  • Singer, Noel F. Burmese Dance and Theatre. Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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    Provides a historical description of Burmese dance, with occasional references to Buddhist lay and monastic contexts.

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  • Tsai, Tsan-Huang. “Is the Wind, the Banner, or the Mind Moving? The Concept of Body in Chinese Han Buddhist Ritual Performance and Its Musical Practices.” In Special Issue: Body and Ritual in Buddhist Musical Cultures. Edited by Paul D. Greene. The World of Music 44.2 (2002): 73–92.

    DOI: 10.2307/41699427Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An exploration of various concepts of the body and its role in ritual practice. Emphasis is on the concept of the “profane body” and the “sacred body,” as well as the “moving” body and the “unmoving” body. The relationship between the physical body and the ritual body are discussed in relation to the distinction between musical practice and Buddhist theory.

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  • Widdess, Richard. “Musical Structure, Performance and Meaning: The Case of a Stick-Dance from Nepal.” Ethnomusicology Forum 15.2 (2006): 179–213.

    DOI: 10.2307/20184558Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Dance and movement articulate the social and religious configuration of urban space, and the qualities of cyclicity, enclosure, and intensification that permeate various domains of Newar experience. Widdess examines these qualities in light of certain Hindu-Buddhist cosmological concepts.

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Theater

Theater traditions, especially those of Tibet, are found throughout the ethnomusicological literature. Ritualistic Tibetan lhamo opera is described and contextualized in Calkowski 1991 and Mackerras 1988. Ahmed 2006 examines the relocation of lhamo in a Tibetan refugee camp. Shadow theater at a Guanyin temple in China is examined in Chen 1999. Singer 1995 provides an overview of theater styles in Myanmar, many of which are based upon jātaka tales (stories of the Buddha’s previous lives).

Ritual

The literature on Buddhist ritual has only recently included music as an area of inquiry. Ethnographic descriptions and case studies, such as Goldblatt, 1993, Nguyen 1992, and Wong 2001, show how music is central to understanding how rituals work. Changes over time in light of fluctuating economic and political climates are explored in Tan 2002, Tan 2005, and Tarocco 2005. Widdess 2004 uses ritual to argue for deep historical connections with other communities. While most studies focus on monastic ritual, a growing number of case studies of lay (or nominally lay) practices can be found, as in Greene 2002.

  • Goldblatt, Elizabeth Ann. “Vajrayana Buddhism as Viewed through a Tibetan Ritual, the Padmasambhava Ceremony.” PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1993.

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    Goldblatt examines the musicological aspects of the ritual ceremony Padmasambhava dbyangs-yig, performed by the Karma-Kagyu school. The chanting of ritual texts in the dbyangs style alternates with instrumental musical sections, with the goal of affecting the practitioner’s deepest recesses of mind and being. The music of the ritual is examined in light of historical, philosophical, religious, geographical, and cultural contexts.

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  • Greene, Paul D., ed. “Special Issue: Body and Ritual In Buddhist Musical Cultures.” The World of Music 44.2 (2002).

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    A special issue of the ethnomusicology journal The Worlds of Music devoted to body and ritual in Buddhist musical cultures. Includes current research from Nepal, China, Vietnam, and Kalimantan, Indonesia, and a discussion of music in the jātaka tales. Also includes a substantial bibliography.

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  • Nguyen, T. Phong. “Text, Context and Performance: A Case Study of the Vietnamese Buddhist Liturgy.” In Text, Context and Performance in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Edited by Amy R. Catlin, 225–232. Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, 1992.

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    An exploration of the text, context, and performance in Vietnamese Buddhist liturgy. The work provides an account of the blending of Buddhism with the local system of folk beliefs. It further notes that Buddhist liturgy also results in the interaction of musical style and text.

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  • Tan, Hwee-San. “Saving the Soul in Red China: Music and Ideology in the Gongde Ritual of Merit in Fujian.” British Journal of Ethnomusicology 11.1 (2002): 119–140.

    DOI: 10.2307/4149888Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study of the reinvention of the Gongde Buddhist ritual in Mainland China, and of the ensuing musical changes.

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  • Tan, Hwee-San. “Journey through the Underworld: Music and Meaning in a Folk Buddhist Ritual for the Dead.” In Power, Beauty and Meaning: Eight Studies on Chinese Music. Edited by Luciana Galliano, 223–247. Florence: L. S. Olschki, 2005.

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    This study focuses on the music of the Gongde ritual for the dead in the southern part of Fujian Province. Xianghua priests and lay folk Buddhist ritual specialists use the associative meanings of regional secular musics to bring significance to their rituals.

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  • Tarocco, Francesca. “Buddhist and Daoist Rituals and their Musical Dimensions.” In Power, Beauty and Meaning: Eight Studies on Chinese Music. Edited by Luciana Galliano, 175–196. Florence: L. S. Olschki, 2005.

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    An analysis of the Buddhist and Daoist musical underpinnings to Chinese ritual. The author seeks to challenge conventional histories of China that marginalize or ignore the importance of religious and ritual traditions.

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  • Widdess, Richard. “Caryā and Cacā: Change and Continuity in Newar Buddhist Ritual Song.” Asian Music 35.2 (2004): 7–41.

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    An examination of caryā and cacā songs, and their associated dances and instrumental music, performed by Newar Buddhist priests of the Kathmandu Valley. The author links the tradition to Indian Buddhist ritual practice of the pre-Islamic period, arguing that it is one of the oldest performance traditions in the region.

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  • Wong, Deborah Anne. Sounding the Center: History and Aesthetics in Thai Buddhist Performance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

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    Focuses on the Thai wai khruu ritual, an elaborate ceremony honoring music teachers and their esoteric knowledge. Wong elucidates the religious, musical, and cultural dimensions of the ritual through a detailed ethnographic account.

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Comparative and Contextual Studies

There are a wide variety of studies that engage with Buddhist musics through a comparative lens or examine Buddhist sounds in new ritual or performative contexts. The variety of examples that follow speak to the diversity of different types of research, either as straight comparisons of Buddhist rituals with non-Buddhist rituals, as in Wong and Lysloff 1991, or as examinations of Buddhist musical antecedents in Muslim or Hindu environments, as in Harnish 1993 and Kartomi 2002. Kaufmann 1967 and McLeod 2009 examine comparative religious practice, and Lan and Qiu 2008 and Lopez y Royo 2005 look at Buddhist music in secular contexts. The articles cited here reveal the prominence of Buddhist music elements in other, non-Buddhist, religious and secular settings.

  • Harnish, David. “The Future Meets the Past in the Present: Music and Buddhism in Lombok.” Asian Music 25.1–2 (1993): 29–50.

    DOI: 10.2307/834189Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Anaylsis of a particular Buddhist festival in Lombok. Examines the relationships between indigenous beliefs and music and the national push for Islamic monotheism.

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  • Kartomi, Margaret. “Meaning, Style and Change in Gamalan and Wayang Kulit Banjar Since Their Transplantation from Hindu-Buddhist Java to South Kalimantan.” In Special Issue: Body and Ritual in Buddhist Musical Cultures. Edited by Paul D. Greene. The World of Music 44.2 (2002): 17–55.

    DOI: 10.2307/41699425Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article examines the origins and development of a syncretic Hindu-Buddhist-Animist musical theater known as wayan kulit banjar. Texts and characters of the theater preserve archaic Buddhist elements.

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  • Kaufmann, Walter. “The Mudrās in Sāmavedic Chant and Their Probable Relationship to the Go-on Hakase of the Shōmyō of Japan.” Ethnomusicology 11.2 (1967): 161–169.

    DOI: 10.2307/849815Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues for a direct relationship between the mudras associated with Hindu chant and the notational system of Japanese shōmyō.

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  • Lan Xiaowei, and Qiu Zihua. “The Influence of Chan Buddhism Spirit on Chinese Music.” Canadian Social Science 4.2 (2008): 81–86.

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    The article examines the influence philosophical thinking of the Chan Buddhist school on the development of Chinese musics. The influence is most apparent through a focus on artistic conception, spiritual charm, self-intuition, and the value of natural beauty.

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  • Lopez y Royo, Alessandra. “Rock Corridor: Buddhism with a Contemporary Javanese Inflection through a Site-Specific Performance in Tokyo.” Indonesia & the Malay World 33.95 (2005): 19–36.

    DOI: 10.1080/13639810500192533Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This work focuses on a videotaped version of the dance performance called Rock Corridor, by the Javanese performer-director Sardono Kusumo. The author examines the performance through a number of different lenses, including the use of ritual in a secular context, the career history of Kusumo, and various influences behind contemporary Indonesian secular performance.

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  • McLeod, Mark W. “The Way of the Mendicants: History, Philosophy, and Practice at the Central Vihara in Hồ Chí Minh City.” Journal of Vietnamese Studies 4.2 (2009): 69–116.

    DOI: 10.1525/vs.2009.4.2.69Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of the Vietnam mendicant sect at the sect’s Central Vihara in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The study contributes to a revision of the dominant understanding of Vietnamese Buddhism as exclusively Mahayanist, seeing it rather as a creative blend of Northern, Southeast Asian, and indigenous influences.

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  • Wong, Deborah, and René T. A. Lysloff. “Threshold to the Sacred: The Overture in Thai and Javanese Ritual Performance.” Ethnomusicology 35.3 (1991): 315–348.

    DOI: 10.2307/851966Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Wong and Lysloff examine the musical overture in Thai and Javanese ritual contexts, and display a variety of parallels and contrasts between the two traditions. The overture, they argue, interrupts the everyday flow of time and establishes a boundary between belief and suspended belief, creating a passage beyond the mundane to the extraordinary.

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Contemporary Trends

The globalization of Buddhist practice and philosophy manifests in many new contexts that connect Buddhist ideas to non-Buddhist music, or Buddhist sounds to new performance contexts. Countless examples exist of Western composers finding inspiration or compositional ideas in Buddhist traditions. Many of these new forms are, arguably, not explicitly Buddhist, but they are a direct result of Buddhist influence. Likewise, global musical and ritual trends have increasingly found application in traditionally Buddhist contexts.

Classical and Western Music Fusion

Buddhist sound, symbolism, and thought have permeated many musical traditions beyond Asia. There are many ways in which Buddhist thought is used in the work of concert music composers. Green 2007, Larson 2012, Lowe 2011, and Taylor 1993 examine the Buddhist elements in the works of John Cage, Zhou Long, Pauline Oliveros, and other composers, and offer insights on the perception philosophies that inform different ways of engaging with their works. Claus-Bachmann 2002 argues for preservation through new media, and Levi 2003, Mitchell 2005, and Yip 1994 show how Western and global sounds, from Christian hymns to Beethoven, penetrate Buddhist practice.

  • Claus-Bachmann, Martina. “Jataka Narrations as Multimedial Reconstructive Embodiments of the Mental System Buddha Shakyamuni.” In Special Issue: Body and Ritual in Buddhist Musical Cultures. Edited by Paul D. Greene. The World of Music 44.2 (2002): 115–134.

    DOI: 10.2307/41699429Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article aims to unify constructivistic-systemic philosophy with Buddhist conceptions of embodiment. The article shows how multimedia performances of jātaka tales preserve networks of Buddhist culture. Through music, both individual psychic systems and collective, cultural ones are created and maintained. Examples used include storytellers, funeral theater, and contemporary pop/rap performances.

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  • Green, Edward. “The Impact of Buddhist Thought on the Music of Zhou Long: A Consideration of Dhyana.” Contemporary Music Review 26.5–6 (2007): 547–567.

    DOI: 10.1080/07494460701652970Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A close analysis at Zhou Long’s 1990 composition Dhyana. The 9½-minute piece for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano examines key concepts embedded in the term dhyana, specifically the oneness of concentration of thought and expansion of consciousness.

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  • Larson, Kay. Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists. New York: Penguin, 2012.

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    One of the many biographies of John Cage that comments on the influence of Buddhist thought on his work. Larson pays particular attention to Cage’s spiritual path and the importance of Zen Buddhism and D. T. Suzuki on his life and work.

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  • Levi, McLaughlin. “Faith and Practice: Bringing Religion, Music and Beethoven to Life in Soka Gakkai.” Social Science Japan Journal 6.2 (2003): 161–179.

    DOI: 10.1093/ssjj/6.2.161Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This work illustrates how Soka Gakkai activities are a fusion of Buddhist practice, value inculcation, and musical expression. The latter informs participants religious experience, manifest on the one hand as Western musical elements infused into Buddhist chant, and on the other as a deep reverence for one particular composer—Ludwig van Beethoven.

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  • Lowe, Bethany. “‘In the Heard, Only the Heard. .’: Music, Consciousness, and Buddhism.” In Music and Consciousness: Philosophical, Psychological, and Cultural Perspectives. Edited by David Clarke and Eric Clarke, 111–135. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199553792.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This essay explores the connections between sound/music and consciousness within Buddhist thought. The author seeks to illuminate the way that new approaches to sonic materials by composers such as John Cage, Philip Glass, and Jonathan Harvey radicalized Western art music. She argues for examining the mental processes of the listener rather than simply the work.

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  • Mitchell, Scott A. “Sunday Morning Songs: English Language Gāthās in American Shinshū Temples.” Pure Land 21 (2005): 127–138.

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    Mitchell provides historical background for the development of Shin Buddhist hymns set to Western-style music. He locates the singing of Buddhist songs both in the larger ritual context of American Shin Buddhism and in the transnational relationship with Japan.

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  • Taylor, Timothy D. “The Gendered Construction of the Musical Self: The Music of Pauline Oliveros.” Musical Quarterly 77.3 (1993): 385–396.

    DOI: 10.1093/mq/77.3.385Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A brief theoretical discussion of Pauline Oliveros’s feminist thought and music under a framework of cultural feminism. Taylor offers an examination of Crow Two by Oliveros, and argues that it is a realization of her feminist aesthetic. Emphasizing feminine characteristics, her music is an amalgamation of Native American cultures and Buddhism.

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  • Yip, Ming-mei. “A Study of New Buddhist Music Composed in Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.” Nhạc Việt: The Journal of Vietnamese Music 3.1–2 (1994): 63.

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    A discussion of new music composed for the purpose of popularizing Buddhist teachings in a new form. The composers Zhang Zhi-Wen (b. 1879–d. 1929), Shen Xin-Gong (b. 1869–d. 1947), and Master Hong Yi (b. 1880–d. 1942) created new Buddhist songs by reworking texts from Buddhist masters. Yip presents a taxonomy designed to classify the different song types.

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Rock and Popular Music

Buddhist engagement with global rock and popular music (and rock and popular music’s engagement with Buddhism) has created a fast growing body of literature, most published in the 21st century. The varieties of work take a number of different approaches. Schafer 2007 focuses on a particular artist, while Lopez y Royo 2005 examines a particular artistic work. The recontextualization of instruments is examined in Gutzwiller and Bennett 1991 and Keister 2004. General cultural trends and new performance contexts are reviewed by Chen 2004, Chen 2005, Sounsamut 2008, and Steen 1998.

  • Chen, Pi-yen. “The Chant of the Pure and the Music of the Popular: Conceptual Transformations in Contemporary Chinese Buddhist Chants.” Asian Music 35.2 (2004): 79–97.

    DOI: 10.2307/4098446Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Chen analyzes transformations in the conceptualization of monastic rituals, highlighting the substitution of the term yinyue (music) for fanbai (chant) and the inclusion of commercial Buddhist liturgical music in monastic practice. The shift (from chant to music) is associated with modernism and largely a response to various social ideological forces.

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  • Chen, Pi-yen. “Buddhist Chant, Devotional Song, and Commercial Popular Music: From Ritual to Rock Mantra.” Ethnomusicology 49.2 (2005): 266–286.

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    This work outlines a comprehensive picture of contemporary Chinese Buddhist music, through an exploration of the relationships between its major types. Focus is directed at monastic liturgical chant, modern devotional song, and commercial popular music. The author challenges what much of the literature has heretofore referred to as “Buddhist music.”

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  • Gutzwiller, Andreas, and Gerald Bennett. “The World of a Single Sound: Basic Structure of the Music of the Japanese Flute Shakuhachi.” In Musica Asiatica. Vol. 6. Edited by Allan Marett, 36–60. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511896071Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Traces the history of the shakuhachi from Chinese instrument to Zen meditative tool to professional performance instrument with applications in jazz and contemporary musics. The authors examine performance practice and suggest analytical tools for understanding different performance contexts.

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  • Keister, Jay. “The Shakuhachi as Spiritual Tool: A Japanese Buddhist Instrument in the West.” Asian Music 35.2 (2004): 99–131.

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    This article examines the dual lives of the shakuhachi as a mainstay of Japanese classical (hogaku) music and as the meditation tool of Fuke sect monks. Key factors in the popularity of the shakuhachi outside of Japan are its historical link to Buddhism and the ease with which philosophical ideas can be articulated and felt through the instrument.

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  • Lopez y Royo, Alessandra. “Rock Corridor: Buddhism with a Contemporary Javanese Inflection through a Site-Specific Performance in Tokyo.” Indonesia & the Malay World 33.95 (2005): 19–36.

    DOI: 10.1080/13639810500192533Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on a version of the dance performance called Rock Corridor by the Javanese performer-director Sardono Kusumo. The author examines the use of ritual in a secular context, the career history of Kusumo, the characteristics of Javanese court dance, and the influences behind contemporary Indonesian secular performance.

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  • Schafer, John C. “Death, Buddhism, and Existentialism in the Songs of Trinh Công Són.” Journal of Vietnamese Studies 2.1 (2007): 144–186.

    DOI: 10.1525/vs.2007.2.1.144Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A close reading of the Buddhist elements found in the works of the Vietnamese composer Trinh Công Són.

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  • Sounsamut, Pram. “Buddha Bless and Dharma Products: A New Trend of Teaching Dharma in Thailand.” Rian Thai: International Journal of Thai Studies 1 (2008): 107–128.

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    Describes new trends in using popular music and pop culture to teach the dharma in Thailand.

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  • Steen, Andreas. “Buddhism and Rock Music: A New Music Style?” CHIME 12/13 (1998): 151–164.

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    The author looks into a number of Buddhist-inspired rock songs and examines prospects for future Buddhist rock. Works by Wang Yong and Zijue Yuedui reveal both musical and philosophical elements drawn from Buddhist ritual music, despite having questionable commercial value.

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Political Engagement

Given that understanding the concept of “attachment” is a concern for all Buddhist traditions, it might seem paradoxical that Buddhists, and Buddhist monks in particular, engage in worldly political activities. Scholarship that explores explicit political activities through Buddhist sound is found in Douglas 2010, Diehl 2002, and Tan 2002. Wong 1998 examines international and interethnic politics negotiated through Buddhist sounds. Changes of practice within new political environments provide another avenue for exploring the relationship between Buddhist music and politics. Communism, for example, is an imported political system with an ideology that attempts to shape all values, as discussed in Perris 1986 and Jones 1999. Buddhist musical behavior is often used as a tool for asserting personal or group rights, highlighting injustices or securing positions of authority, as shown in Blackburn 1999, which focuses on monestaries, and in Ahmed 2006 and Tan 2002, which focus on people and governments.

  • Ahmed, Syed Jamil. “Tibetan Folk Opera: Lhamo in Contemporary Cultural Politics.” Asian Theatre Journal 23.1 (2006): 149–178.

    DOI: 10.1353/atj.2006.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines lhamo opera in the context of Tibetan refugee camps.

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  • Blackburn, Anne M. “Magic in the Monastery: Textual Practice and Monastic Identity in Sri Lanka.” History of Religions 38.4 (1999): 354–372.

    DOI: 10.2307/3176323Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An examination of paritta (protective) chant in the Sri Lankan context. The author critiques previous ethnographic and historical studies for failing to note how monks have appropriated paritta chant for the formation of monastic identities and to stake particular genealogical claims within the monastic community.

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  • Diehl, Keila. Echoes from Dharamsala: Music in the Life of a Tibetan Refugee Community. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520230439.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An ethnographic monograph describing musical activities in a Dharamsala (India) Tibetan refugee camp. Diehl does not explicitly focus on Buddhist music, but on Buddhist beliefs, rituals, and other behaviors that permeate the secular activities of life in the camp.

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  • Douglas, Gavin. Music in Mainland Southeast Asia: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    An overview of musical traditions in mainland Southeast Asia. Buddhist foundations permeate the musical activities of the region, and the book contains an explicit discussion of monastic chant used during the 2007 Saffron Revolution in Myanmar.

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  • Jones, Stephen. “Chinese Ritual Music under Mao and Deng.” British Journal of Ethnomusicology 8 (1999): 27–66.

    DOI: 10.1080/09681229908567280Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Jones examines how various traditions were maintained over the turbulent course of the 20th century. The paper examines a variety of challenges faced by associations that serve funeral and calendric rituals. While many related traditions were eradicated under Mao, these rituals were able to survive and retain local relevance.

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  • Perris, Arnold. “Feeding the Hungry Ghosts: Some Observations on Buddhist Music and Buddhism from Both Sides of the Taiwan Strait.” Ethnomusicology 30.3 (1986): 428–448.

    DOI: 10.2307/851588Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a broad survey of how the liturgical tradition was preserved on Taiwan and mainland China after the implementation of Communist policies. Perris examines the ideological explanations for the support of Buddhist temples and such clerical duties as chanting prayers for the souls of someone’s ancestors.

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  • Tan, Hwee-San. “Saving the Soul in Red China: Music and Ideology in the Gongde Ritual of Merit in Fujian.” British Journal of Ethnomusicology 11.1 (2002): 119–140.

    DOI: 10.2307/4149888Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of the reinvention of the Gongde Buddhist ritual in mainland China and the ensuing musical changes brought on by new a new political landscape in the late 20th century.

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  • Wong, Deborah. “Mon Music for Thai Deaths: Ethnicity and Status in Thai Urban Funerals.” Asian Folklore Studies 57.1 (1998): 99–130.

    DOI: 10.2307/1178999Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Throughout the 20th century, Mon musical practices have gradually replaced Thai music at funerals in Thailand. Wong asks, “Why do Bangkok Thais use ‘foreign’ music in their own funerals”? The article articulates some of the interethnic relationships found embedded in ritual forms.

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