This Fleeting World

(2004) 18 min.

Mezzo soprano and two celli
(Sanskrit text from the Diamond Sutra)


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The text for 'This Fleeting World' is drawn from one of the most important texts in Buddhism. The Diamond Sutra is essentially about the illusory nature of the world. Buddhists consider everything to be illusory - defined as much by what is absent as by what is present, in this way making something "real" only relative to the way it is perceived. (Similar sentiments have been expressed by physicists of the last century.) The four line gatha (stanza) used for this piece is taken from near the very end or the Diamond Sutra:

As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom and a dream.
Thus shall you think of this fleeting world.

(translation adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh)

Not present in this recording is a spatial setup which has one cellist on stage, the other and the singer (and a water fountain) behind the audience. The singer, singing in Sanskrit, ends up not being the focus of attention until she has actually left the performing space; instead the focus is on the two cellists and their interaction with the omnipresent water fountain. The sound of flowing water is central to Buddhist thought, representing the constant flux and change of things. In this sound lies the answers to the questions this piece presents. 'This Fleeting World' was commissioned by Winnipeg's Groundswell through the assistance of the Canada Council.

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