20Preface to Boundless Light

Preface to Boundless Light

Although the Tibetan Book of the Dead, or Bardo Thödol, is used in Tibet as a breviary, read or recited on the occasion of death, it was originally conceived to serve as a guide not only for the dying and the dead, but for the living as well. Since first reading the text in 1978, the notion of a musical work for solo flute and electronics embodying the rich imagery and events of the Bardo, or after-death state, was one I found immediately appealing, yet completely daunting. Depicting the fourteen post-mortal "days," during which the departed soul is presented with the karmic results of its worldly thoughts and actions as apparitions, a determining process for either re-birth into one of the many physical realms or the attainment of liberation from the cycle of suffering, seemed a task epic in scope for both composer and performer. As I listen to what is now Boundless Light, my initial sense of apprehension has been replaced with one of inevitability. The work flows as a single strand of very clear events. Opening as a singular, scathing trauma, it collapses, seeming to vanish within the infinite void that underlies every moment. The flute, shedding the beloved ornithological stereotype, assumes a stance of human scale. A resonance of the mortal coil. A second flash, almost as a remnant of the first, propels stasis to stream of consciousness. The instant of physical death, to the instant of awareness beyond the physical. This links to a section based upon the single pitch, E natural. Symbolic of the soul as it struggles to attain even the most minuscule sense of beingness, identity and foundation. This initial encounter with "mediocre space" is further compounded by the first appearance of visions and deities, peaceful and wrathful, symbolizing the "messy beauty" and pristine horrors of deeds come to pass. This first "sifting" of karma complete, the soul is lulled into a state of illusionary peace. But there is no respite, no real peace to be found here. Past misdeeds stab and punctuate, leading the weary, confused soul through a final opaque corridor of karmic checks and balances. The Wheel of Karma turns as it has always done. Relentless. Reducing. Minimizing. Distilling what has been, into the breath of what will be. The Dance of Maya, Lord of Illusion, continues.

- Carlton Vickers, September 2004

03-2004 Season Programing



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