Shōmyō

Buddhist ritual song from Japan

worldmap overtone singin Japan

The overtones in Shōmyō are even more pronounced than in Tibetan monk singing. They are so clear in solo singing that you can write them down in notes. And the overtones occur reproducibly in the same syllables. This means at least that the second formant for identical vowels is very precisely adjusted and always adapted to the partials of the voice. Whether the overtones are conscious to the singer, or whether they are sung in a targeted way, I could not find out from the literature so far. If you can tell me more about it, please feel free to comment.

The eyes cannot pierce a screen,
But neither can mouth nor nose,
Body only feels when it is touched.
Mindís thoughts are confused and unconnected,
(But) voice whether near or far
At all times can be heard.
The five other organs are not perfect,
But hearing really is pervasive.
The presence or absence of sound and voice
Is registered by ear as is or is not.
Absence of sound means nothing heard,
Not hearing devoid of nature.
Absence of sound is not the end of hearing,
And sound when present is not its beginning.
The faculty of hearing, beyond creation
And annihilation, truly is permanent.
Even when isolated thoughts in a dream arise,
Though the thinking process stops, hearing does not end,

For the faculty of hearing is beyond All thought, beyond both mind and body.

In this Saha world teaching is by voice.
Living beings who cognize not hearing’s nature,
Follow sound to continue transmigrating.
– Surangama Sutra, 5.2http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/surangama.pdf
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