Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sounds Overheard: Chants At Rebuilt Monastery

Incense wafts on late afternoon sunlight at Reting Monastery North of Lhasa, Tibet. 

The Reting Monastery’s 11th century walls were freshly painted bright white, deep orange and dusty red. Gilded deities kept an eye on me from their perches atop cracked timbers supporting the roof. I felt I could reach up to touch the brilliant blue sky, as I was standing extra close at over 13, 000 feet. It was completely quiet. No breeze rustled the fall leaves, no birds chirped, no footsteps distracted me.

Listen to 1:22 recording of two Tibetan Buddhist monks chanting and playing drum and cymbals. Try headphones to hear stereo effect. iPhone & iPad link.

Suddenly two young monks rushed across the temple courtyard and disappeared through a narrow stone doorway, their red robes a quick flash of color. Soon a loud drum shattered the silence, boom, boom, boom. Then brass cymbals crashed. I followed the rhythm through the doorway and into a narrow room, a sliver of stony space with candle soot blackened walls rising two stories to an open window high above. 

The two monks began chanting in Tibetan, rapid fire fast, their voices drawn up and out the window and over the hillside temple complex, calling their brother Buddhist monks to evening prayers.

During China’s chaotic Cultural Revolution, this magnificent monastery North of Tibet’s capital Lhasa was nearly destroyed, stones and timbers torn down and salvaged for building projects, it’s monks harassed and disbanded. Since Reform and Opening of the late 1970’s, China has slowly become an economic power house tolerant of religion and money making, as long as the Communist Party is not threatened. Government and private funds are rebuilding many cultural sites, and Reting’s former splendor is slowly rising from the large piles of rubble awaiting rebirth.

During my assignments and travels I've been recording the sounds I overhear, and many don't have supporting photographs or stories. This occasional series will be my excuse to share my audio orphans, these Sounds Overheard. Please also visit my Miami commercial photography portfolio.