Howdy anyone out there reading!
I completed this afternoon a new quick music project on electric bass. A year or so ago I took Terry Riley's "In C" and recorded it multitracked with on 15 different bass voices. The difference with that was I shifted the subdivision to 16ths, instead of eighth notes, and gave it more of an ambient/techno vibe. Well I just did a new multitracked electric bass project, taking Jackson Mac Low's piece, "Milarepa Gatha" which is similar to the picture above, although the vertical mantra from this piece was "Je Mila Zhadpa Dorje La Solwa Debso." I believe it is a tibetan mantra, but still have yet to find any translation.
Essentially the piece can be performed as vocal music/spoken word, by reading (or singing) the line vertically, and then reading it horizontally on a chosen line. So to take the example from above you could sing/say "Namu Amida Butsu" and then choose another line that would say "AAUUMMMMMMMM" which is the horizontal line that starts on A from Amida. With the Gatha poem that I chose from Jackson Mac Low, it came with a pitch representation of each letter of the mantra. So instrumentalists could also play this idea, almost like a GIANT TONE ROW MATRIX! One of the other ideas is to have space/silences when there are spaces in between the letters/words, which also translates musically.
So the gatha poem that I chose came with its own pitch interpretation that worked like this:
Je Mila Zhadpa Dorje La Solwa Debso =
G E, G C# F A, C B A D B A, D F# Ab G E, F A, Eb Gb F G# A, D E Bb Eb Gb.
With the horizontal lines, there were 44 new variations with these same letters and pitches, so I went through line by line copying out the pitch version of the poem, not musical notation paper in order to not be biased on register issues.
When I recorded it, I recorded 5 low register and 5 high register versions of the main mantra, and then only 1 version of each of the 44 variations. With each individual voice I alternated the mantra with a variation, formally like ABACADAE... I used 11 electric bass voices to realize the piece, starting with one part, and then stacking another by another until eventually all 11 were in, to give it a 6 minute or so build. The piece turned out to be around twenty minutes, and I have just uploaded it on my myspace page.
I still do not know much about Jackson Mac Low, other than his writings and his graph work influenced some of John Cage's writings, but I checked out his book, "Things of Beauty," containing selections of his work, and these Gathas are some of the few musical pieces in them. I can't wait to dive deeper into his poetry though!