Music In Tibet Essay

4338 words - 18 pages

Music in Tibet

Music is a part of everyday life for almost everyone in the world. Music provides us with enjoyment and relaxation, and can be used in many ways by many different people. Some may use it to calm down after a long, hard day, while others use it for religious purposes or still others in and attempt to try and forget something that hasn’t been favorable to them. The possibilities are endless, for music is one language that can be transmitted to all people of the world, no matter their nationality, and it can be understood by everyone. Tibet is no different than any other place in the world, as it has music that serves the purpose of the people who live there. ...view middle of the document...

This shows their importance in Tibetan society, as they are among the few instruments that are permitted to be played at sacred ceremonies (usually types of bells are also used).

While it is not the only kind of cymbal present in Tibetan music, the main type is the Rölmo cymbals, which are usually double cymbals that are “held horizontally and struck vertically” (Scheidegger 60), which is different from the way that most crash cymbals are played today in the west, that being done the opposite (held vertically and struck horizontally). The left hand usually holds the lower cymbal and needs to be “very relaxed despite the heavy weight of the big cymbals” (Scheidegger 60) while the right hand, and upper cymbal, “barely touched the instruments, so as not to dampen the resonance” (Scheidegger 60). These cymbals are usually not tuned to the same pitch, but are relatively close, allowing for the small difference to produce a swift rolling sound. When played, the left hand usually never moves, except for a slight movement when the crash occurs. The right hand is lowered to the left one, and they are to be struck “quickly on two edges, first the right, then the left, by moving the left hand” (Scheidegger 65). These cymbals are usually played by the master of ceremonies, which is usually the head monk at the ritual. Their function is usually to maintain the tempo of the piece, and to lead the ceremony itself. There are at least seven different types of Rölmo, each one based on its location of origin, its material composition, thickness, and the size and shape of the dome at the center of the cymbals and each cymbal type has a different function, depending on all of these characteristics.

Another important percussion instrument is the drum, and there are several different types of drums that are present in Tibetan society. One type of drum is the Phyed-rNga, or Bön Frame-Drum. This drum has been around Tibet since the time of the ancient, pre-Buddhist religion of the Bön. It is said to have been involved in the conversion of Tibet to a Buddhist state, in a conflict between one of the main priests from each of the two religions. There are, however, slight differences in the story. Some say that it involved Milarepa (Buddhist) and Na-ro-bo-c’un (Bön), while others say it is Padmasambhava and a Bön priest from the Rongbuk monastery (Crossley-Holland, Musical… 26-28). In both cases, a trek up a mountain is involved, with the first to the top being able to have their religion as that of the area. In the first case, the holy mountain at Kailas is used, while in the second case, Everest is used. The Bön priest, on his trek up the mountain, had the drum with him while he was “moving through the air” (Crossley-Holland, Musical…27), however, he was still beaten by the Buddhist priest in both cases. In the second case, it is said that the Bön actually perished on his way, and that now “spirits of the mountain kept the...

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