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This is another beautifully designed package from the Roslyn, N.Y., company that has released such international music collections as Planet Squeezebox and Echoes of the Forest. Subtitled Buddha’s Teachings and the Music They Inspired, the CD is accompanied by a book whose 64 pages of text and photos provide an informative introduction to the history of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as to the struggles its followers have faced since the Chinese takeover in 1959. When the Communists shut down Tibet’s 6,500 monasteries and murdered or imprisoned many who lived in them, some monks and their students fled to India. The enclosed disc, produced by international music expert David Lewiston, consists of five chanted pieces recorded in the 1980s at two Indian monasteries. The first four tracks, which seem largely interchangeable, are a cappella prayers that stretch from six to 13 minutes and are meant to create a “peace-inducing trance-like state.” Call me a vulgar American, but the static bass drone of the 25 monks on these hymns instead makes me imagine an interminable Budweiser commercial in which the frogs are stoned. Perhaps like some electronic dance music, this stuff needs to be heard in its original environment. But the closing 17-minute symphonic epic rescues the CD wonderfully, as it
sets the now-familiar droning against the counterpoint of higher-pitched vocals and a traffic jam of Asian instruments: oboelike shawms,
ringing bells, honking horns, and banging cymbals. Ahhhnow I’m truly at peace.Steve Kiviat