Sacred chanting and its accompanying instrumental music are vital elements of Tibetan ritual practice, performed in the context of consecration or empowerment ceremonies and rites of spiritual attainment, including communal offerings, protector liturgies and masked dances. This music is traditionally included among the arts, which constitute one of the five major fields of classical Indo- Tibetan learning, but its theoretical basis has rarely been explored.
Ethnomusicologist and Tibetanist Ricardo Canzio has dedicated a lifetime of research to the musical heritage of Tibet–Buddhist and Bon. His landmark translation of the seminal Treatise on Music, composed by the illustrious Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen (1182 - 1251), and its long-awaited publication will be well received. This translation is contextualized by the commentary of Kunga Sonam Lhundrub (1571-1642) and quotations from Dawa Pelrin of Zhalu (b. circa 1375), writings on chant, drumming and the playing of cymbals.
The Treatise on Music in its three chapters deals respectively with the four melodic contours of vocal chanting and their combinations, lyrics and their eulogistic and other functions in composition and finally the context of musical performance–the appropriate mental attitude, bodily posture, fundamental defects and causes of failure. Original texts are juxtaposed throughout by Prof. Canzio’s insightful remarks, relating the Tibetan notion of melodic contour with the Indian notion of fixed melodic pitch, and commenting on the research of recent Western and Chinese ethnomusicologists in the study of Tibetan ritual music.
- Dr. Gyurme Dorje, Tibetologist