Sunday, November 8, 2009
Tibetan Tantric Choir - The Gyuto Monks
The Western world became familiar with overtone singing--the process by which an overtone, or second note, is generated by one's voice--primarily through Tuvan throat singers. The monks of Llhasa, Tibet, have handed down this tradition for centuries. TIBETAN TANTRIC CHOIR is a recording of two pieces by the Gyuto Monks, produced by former Grateful Dead member and famed ethnomusicologist Mickey Hart during the monks' brief 1986 visit to the U.S. Each member of the Gyuto ensemble is capable of generating three tones at once, and they combine their voices on two lengthy pieces full of low-frequency drones and gently arcing overtones.
The first piece is for unaccompanied voices, and its focus on the low register is alternately spooky and enthralling. The second piece, "Melody for Mahakala," finds the monks accompanying themselves on a variety of handmade percussive instruments. The effect is like that of primal industrial music wedded to ancient religious rites. Intense concentration on the monks' work is rewarded by a deeper understanding of the relationship between sonic frequencies, but this album also functions well as somewhat ominous ambient music.