ref: composition

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Composition in Storytelling | Channel Criswell

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Environment Design 1 | CGMA

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Your Heart Is A Stupid Thing To Trust explores the possibilities of revealing complex rhythmic structure visually with the use of synchronised loops of moving images. The 7 movements use a number of varied rhythmic techniques such as phasing, polymeter and polytempo, all of which involve the layering of a number of parts with similar characteristics moving at different rates. The visuals were constructed and edited as an integrated part of the composition process, and follow the same rhythmic structure as the music.

These works are an exploration into two questions: 
1) What complexities can arise from the layering and repetition of simple patterns of differing lengths or played at differing speeds? 
2) How might these patterns might be represented visually to elucidate their emergent properties and underlying regularity?

The title is a sarcastic play on the tension between the pursuit of modernist ideals in the deterministic purity of the process, and my postmodern compulsion toward immediacy and affect. The very humanistic expressivity in the music—largely driven by my choice of pitch material—clashes against a caricature of high modernist thinking that might suggest that the heart is the least reliable guide for aesthetic expression.

The series includes 7 videos, which can be roughly categorised into those which use irrational and rational rhythm. The irrational rhythms are similar to Steve Reich’s phasing techniques, where the parts do not share a single authoritative pulse. These include “Butterfly,” “Motor,” “Taxi,” and “Backflip. Butterfly uses simple crotchet durations juxtaposed against other parts in a very long Elliot Carter-esque polyrhythmic ratio of 112:111. In Motor, the placement of notes is aleatoric - the video loop was found first, and the timing of the passing vehicles defines the rhythms. “Taxi” and “Backflip” both work very much like wave pendulums—six parts start and begin together, but each must play one more loop than its neighbour, causing all parts to cycle through various configurations of phase relationships before reaching final equilibrium.

Those which are constructed upon quantised rhythms, where the polyrhythmic relationships between parts is expressible metrically, include “Locomotive,” “Droplet,” and “Footwork.” Locomotive explores the layering of simple 1:2 and 2:3 relationships, gradually building a stack of rhythms reminiscent of Henry Cowell’s Rhythmicon. Droplet explores rather simple integer ratios with short isorhythmic pitch cycles. Footwork employs a gradual expansion of loop length, beginning with a quaver-length loop and extending it by a quaver every 4 bars. This is then played in canon by two more parts with entries staggered by 16 bars, and the three parts play out until they have all reached the full 1-bar loop length.

The Buddha's Woolly Hair

Many people have taken interest in how the Buddha’s hair is portrayed in Asian art. Simply typing “black buddha” in a search engine will get you results where many suspect an African influence. The Buddha’s ‘African’ appearance in certain cultures was so convincing that some scholars of the 18th-19th century believed the Buddha was African himself (Almond 20-22).

[image description: Thai head of Buddha. ca. 701-900. Dvaravati period. Located at the British Museum]

European Scholars

[image description: A steel engraving of Sir William Jones, after a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds]

Sir William Jones was the first person in the English-speaking world to suggest the African origin hypothesis of Buddhism, his opinion was based on the characteristics he noticed on certain Buddha statues (Almond 20).

Then there was Robert Percival, who remarked “Buddou [Buddha] is always represented with thick, black frizzled hair like an African Negro” (Almond 20).

In The Hindu Pantheon, Edward Moor, and Indologist, remarked that some statues of the Buddha “exhibit thick Ethiopian lips; but all, with woolly hair” (231).

[image description: Buddha (detail).  Central Thailand, first half of the 7th century. National Museum, Bangkok]

John Davy, admitted, “It is said, they show that Boodhoo [Buddha] was an African, having marked on them the short woolly hair, the flat dilated nostrils, the thick fleshy lips, and indeed every feature of the African”, though he maintained that this was either “accidental” or “fanciful” (Almond 21).

In the Journal of a Residence in the Burmhan Empire [I’m assuming he meant the Burmese Empire], Hiram Cox comments on the erect images of the Buddha that they all have crisped hair, however a minister there denied any affiliation with Africans (415).

[image description: Thai Head of Buddha. Second half of the 7th–8th century. Located at the Metropolitan Museum]

When William Francklin visited the same caves, he reflected the same vision: "His woolly and frizzled hair, thick lips and Herculean form, are cogent reasons for believing this shape of the divinity to have been of foreign importation" (Almond 21).

It also cannot be ignored that many people of African descent do in fact identify with the tight curls of Buddhist scuptures. I believe this phenomenon does matter. 

Depictions of black Africans in European Art:

[image description: Four heads emerge from bunches of acanthus leaves to form the corners of this capital. One is a Moor with tightly curled hair. ca. 1230. Metropolitan Museum]

[image description: Corbel decorated with a head of a black man with tightly curled hair. 14th century]

[image description: Terracotta vase in the form of a black African youth’s head. 4th century B.C. Metropolitan Museum]

A depiction of a black African in Chinese Art

[image description: A statuette of a black African with tight curls. Tang Dynasty. 7th-10th century. Located at the Seattle Museum]

Do you see any resemblance?

As I show on my blog, afro-textured hair can be rendered through art in various patterns, not all would would appear with clear tight curls. And depending on local influences the Buddha’s hair can be straight or wavy. However, the similarities that we do see, whether intentionally or not, do pose a question on why it seems like the Buddha have afro-textured hair in some cultures.

See more pictorial examples [here].

But what did the Buddha really looked like?

The truth of the matter is that we may never know what the Buddha really looked like. Anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha didn’t exist until centuries after his death and there are no reliable documents on his physical traits either. 

[image description: The face of the Standing Buddha viewed at three angles 1st-2nd century CE. Tokyo National Museum]

The early depictions of the Buddha look much like the Standing Buddha, with wavy hair, most likely reflecting local influences. 

So What’s Behind the Seemingly African Influence? 

African Influence?

As for the 'African’ features seen in some sculptures, this may also be a reflection of the local influences of those who made the images. The idea that a people in Asia with any combination of the typical African features such as afro-textured hair, full lips, and/or dark skin as a result of diaspora is possible. The Khmer people of Cambodia and other South Asians used to be considered a subset of the Black race by the Tang Dynasty of Imperial China, though that may have been based skin color alone (Schafer 46).

[image description: Left, Mani person of Thailand. Right, Jarawa person of India. Both persons’ hair appears to be tightly curled]

And we cannot forget that there actually is an indigenous black population present in Asia commonly known as Negritos, meaning little black people. 

Accidental

According to folklore, the curls are only there to show that the Buddha had cut his long  hair after leaving his former life behind. The remaining hair curled up never needing to be cut again (Chanda 669). Though this still suggest the Buddha had curly hair to begin with.

[image description: A detail of the Buddha’s hair of an unknown sculpture]

The Buddha’s curly hair is most likely owed to the 32 Signs of a Great Man which was used as a model for many Buddhist sculptures (Shaw 114). These signs contain a number of references to having curly hair. Similar hair is usually given to a Tirthankara of Jainism.

Conclusion

We may never know if afro-textured hair served as inspiration for some Buddhist sculptures. It could all be a rendering accident or perhaps influences from local peoples.

This would not be the first time afro-textured hair was used for an Asian figure. An example being the painting, Kali as the Supreme Deity, where the goddess is shown wearing an Afro.

[image description: Kali as the Supreme Deity. ca. 1800 India. Walters Art Museum]

Bibliography

Almond, Philip C. “Buddhism: Its Place of Origin." The British Discovery of Buddhism. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988. 20-24. Print.

Chanda, Ramaprasad. The hair and the Usnisa on the head of the Buddha and the jinars. Indian Historical Quarterly, 1934. pp.669-673. Textfile.

Cox, Hiram. Journal of a Residence in the Burmham Empire, and More Particularly at the Court of Amarapoorah. London: J. Warren, 1821. Print.

Moor, Edward. "Buddha." The Hindu Pantheon. London: Printed for J. Johnson, St. Paul’s Church-Yard, by T. Bensley, Bolt-Court, Fleet-Street, 1810. 220-58. Print.

Schafer, Edward H. "Men." The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of Tʻang Exotics. Berkeley: U of California, 1963. 40-57. Print.

Shaw, Sarah. "Recollection of the Buddha." Buddhist Meditation: An Anthology of Texts from the Pāli Canon. London: Routledge, 2006. 113-19. Print.

Broken Crown

I can’t play the piano as good as my friends. I play by ear, and I was self-taught, and that’s probably not an excuse but I’m not that talented like those people with amazing god-given talents that don’t need to practice or be taught by masters. anywaysssss… I’m very lazy, and I can’t read notes. So I pretty much incorporate what I see from YouTube, and/or I use the chords from what I play with the guitar and then figure out the melody.

Anyways, I usually never finish anything (LAAAAZZZYYYY) and it was embarrassing because my friends played badass pieces (consistency-gap ehem ehem ehem) (chartomio-zone even though I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing you ehem ehem).

So I ended up trying to piece together some melodies that kinda made sense. Reflecting on what I feel and a poem, this is what I ended up with two days later. And since I couldn’t write it down, I had to memorize everything, and I’ve forgotten a lot of parts but this is the end result.