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You Moving Stars

by Emilie Lebel

Supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Premiered in February 2018 at Scripps College; with subsequent performances in March 2018 at the University of Montana–Missoula, and in May 2018 at the Salzburg Mozarteum.

Recorded for Volume 3, Voices of the Pearl, forthcoming summer 2019.


Scored for voice, guitar/harp, and electronics.

Rising Canadian composer Emilie Lebel set to music two female speakers found in two ancient Buddhist scriptures: 1. the Therīgāthā in Pali, and 2. the Golden Light Sūtra in early Mandarin. The text for the Golden Light Sūtra was located  on a scroll owned by Scripps College.   The Therīgāthā is the earliest known collection of women’s literature in the world.  It collects spiritual poems by and about early female disciples of the historical Buddha (from approximately 5th century BCE). The Dunhuang scroll held by Scripps’s Denison Library is the seventh scroll of the Sūtra on the Supreme King of Golden Light, more commonly known as the Golden Light Sūtra. There were three translations of this text from Sanskrit to Chinese, and this edition was completed in the seventh century by the Tang Dynasty monk Yijing (義淨).

Program note on the scroll held by Denison and on the evolution of the piece by Andrew Nguy (PO ’19):

I first learned of this scroll of Buddhist texts held by Denison Library during an independent study on calligraphy in Spring 2016 at Scripps, under the guidance of Professor Kitty Maryatt. Drawing from my background in Buddhist texts, I helped to identify it for the Special Collections catalog. Purportedly from the Dunhuang caves in China, it is an exquisite piece of calligraphy by a monastic scribe, dating to perhaps one thousand years ago. I hand-copied an excerpt for an exhibition at Scripps, and this caught the eye of Professor Anne Harley, who suggested that we incorporate the scroll’s story of the powers of the Hindu goddess and Buddhist protector Sarasvati into the musical work.

Texts and Translations:
(Pali and Mandarin texts are interleaved below as they appear in LeBel’s piece)


With special thanks to Andrew Nguy and Bryan Levman for translation and pronunciation assistance.

Chinese texts: excerpted from seventh scroll of the Sūtra on the Supreme King of Golden Light, more commonly known as the Golden Light Sūtra. (from the holdings of the Special Collections of Scripps College’s Denison Library)

Pali texts: excerpted from the early collection of texts by and about early Buddhist female disciples of the historical Buddha, the Therīgāthā, in the verses of Mittātherīgāthā & Mittātherīgāthāvaṇṇanā 

 

四方星辰及日月,
威神擁護得延年;

The stars and constellations of the four directions and the sun and moon
With their august spiritual support and protection, longevity is obtained.

Refrain:
sājja ekena bhattena, muṇḍā saṅghāṭipārutā
devakāyaṃ na patthehaṃ, vineyya hadaye dara”nti

Refrain:
With shaven head, with one meal per day, wrapped in my (nun’s) robe
(Now) I do not wish (to be reborn in) a group of gods;
I have excised anxiety from my heart.

吉祥安隱福德增,
災變厄難皆除遣。

Auspiciousness, stability, blessings, and virtue are increased
Disasters and difficulties are completely averted and eradicated.

Refrain:
sājja ekena bhattena, muṇḍā saṅghāṭipārutā
devakāyaṃ na patthehaṃ, vineyya hadaye dara”nti

Refrain:
With shaven head, with one meal per day, wrapped in my (nun’s) robe
(Now) I do not wish (to be reborn in) a group of gods;
I have excised anxiety from my heart.

…日月…星辰…

…sun, moon,… constellations

 

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.

Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil a investi 153 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.

 

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