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TorgoX (1933)

TorgoX
  sburkeNO@SPAMcpan.org
http://search.cpan.org/~sburke/

"Il est beau comme la retractilité des serres des oiseaux rapaces [...] et surtout, comme la rencontre fortuite sur une table de dissection d'une machine à coudre et d'un parapluie !" -- Lautréamont

Journal of TorgoX (1933)

Thursday October 07, 2004
09:08 PM

Klang klang klang went the lamaaaaaaaa

[ #21243 ]
Dear Log,

And so, last Tuesday, I went to see the monk-show. The Tibetan monks sort of did the polytonic ("multitonic") chanting, with the dissonant horns and cymbals. There was an interlude of snow-tiger pantomime, basically like a two-person Chinese dragon outfit -- except that it's a snow tiger, so it gets to gambol around and do cat things instead of dragon things: it can sort of nod off, wake up, run around, gnaw at fleas, nod off, gnaw at fleas some more, and run around. A crowdpleaser.

Then more chanting; then two of the monks danced around in very Día de los Muertos outfits, the exact meaning of which I don't remember, even thought it was carefully explained (as were each of the segments) by the MC monk with a very Indian accent. The dances were sort of like hula dancing adapted to the Himalayas -- slow, ceremonial, stylized, and representational in ways you wouldn't know about unless it was explained to you.

The oddest thing about the chanting, to me, wasn't the musical or vocal qualities of it, but the phonetic properties of it: there seemed to be no /i/ or /e/ vowels in what they were chanting. It made me suspect that they were actually spelling the lyrics instead of straight reciting them to music. It's an odd idea, but then, they were odd people.

Then a segment of Tibetan comedy gold! This consists of one monk sitting down and asserting some philosophical proposition (all in Tibetan) -- in this case, I think the assertion was (as later translated) that the impermanence of sound is somehow similar to the role of terms in a syllogism. Then the other monks heckle him, by saying that his ideas are vague, unrevealing, uninteresting, counterfactual, or poorly expressed. These attacks also feature giggling, a sort of "Hah! Take THAT!" clap-gesture, and taking off the asserter's big yellow pompom-hat and handing it to him. The asserter responds with clarifications, defenses, and however you say "nu-unh!" in Tibetan. All the monks on stage start joining in the fray and then everyone collapses laughing, and that's the end of that segment.

It was a kind of Hegelian dialectic that I never could have imagined; altho in retrospect it seems to be a very logical development of a culture that answers the question "when do we start bombing?" with "never" instead of "whenever".

Then wrapup with more chanting. Applause, standing O, t-shirts and CDs on sale in the lobby.

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  • WTF, they're visiting [drepung.org] Ketchikan but not Vancouver?

    Could they not get a license from la Regie des illuminations et pensées orientales?
    • Yeah, it's pretty weird. On the other hand, I think their visit here was paid for by a big grant from the state arts council or something; and as they were already on the way to Juneau, Ketchikan is a simple stopover.

      An aside: the venue was the local high school auditorium. I went there expecting bomb-shelter architecture and bomb-shell acoustics too. But it was actually a really decent auditorium, almost verging on being an authentic concert hall. Recently built, comfortable, clean, etc. I was quite