not every day you get seven monks in your studio! Well, a while
ago we did and we thought you may find the story interesting.
These guys are famous
for their harmonic chanting and we recorded the monks for a CD
release (for ABC Aust) mid last year.
First let's get one thing clear. That whole, lean life, no mod
cons? I asked if they would mind me taking some pictures. "Of
course not" they said and then promptly pulled out a series of
digital cameras from under their robes so I could take pictures
for them as well!! And monks like lollies. Our lolly basket took
a beating. But hey, they were really lovely people.
So what is the chanting about? The Gyuto Monks of Tibet are the
unique masters of a deep harmonic overtone chanting. Trained
over many years, each monk has the capacity to chant in three
octaves at once. The sound has been compared to the resonance of
a drum or didgeridoo and is reputed to have a transformative
effect on the physical as well as emotional body. The chanting
goes way back in history, but first came to the attention of the
Western World in 1967. Since then, the monks have been sort to
chant in many countries. You can learn more about the monks,
and rituals here.
So to the recording. They were to record a few pieces. first of
all, a one hour practise then a few shorter twenty minute
pieces. I can tell you, it looks like hard work, chanting that
way for an hour, but these guys hardly raised a sweat! And, they
are studio professionals. They seem very aware of the technology
and processes involved in making a recording.
Glenn with two
monks listening to a replay
To say the sound is
unique is an understatement. When you're right in front of them,
it's loud and totally bewildering as to how they produce the
sound. The monks aren't big men, some maybe as tall as me (six
feet) but slight builds. The low notes they achieve are amazing.
Have a listen to a sample below. (click
the 'play' arrow, second from left).
Glenn set up a stereo pair of microphones, plus a few extras to
pull out the monks further toward the back of the room. The
chanting is led by the chant master, but he passes the role on
here and there to others. This is not the stuff of having a star
out front with his backing band. Everyone is equal.
All set for
recording - our studio rug matched their
prayer mats perfectly!
It took a short time to create a balance between the voices, but
as usual when recording there are always unknowns. This turned
out to be bells. Loud bells. But it was under control very
quickly with no ill effect.
There are marked differences between the voices. even though the
sound is a sort of drone, each person is unique and they blend
their voices together to achieve what we do with standard
harmony arrangement. How they do this while each person is
singing a few tones (whereas we'd sing one only), I don't know.
The monks create a fascinating sound and are extremely devoted
to their craft. It was great fun to be a part of the recording,
even with the empty lolly basket!
We're hoping to bring
you extended recordings that will become part of The Chill
Sessions library. We'll keep you posted.