In conjunction with the exhibition Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road, musicians from the Silk Road Ensemble are in residence at the Getty to create pop-up musical performances inspired by the art and replica caves on view.

Violist Nicholas Cords was inspired to perform “Loop” by Hungarian composer György Ligeti—which features repeated notes and rhythms—by the repetition of images of the Buddha (1,036 of them, to be exact) in replica Cave 320. In Buddhist art, replication of sacred images and texts is a devotional practice and a way to gain karmic merit.

Look for more videos coming soon featuring other artists from the Ensemble, playing music inspired by the caves.

More to Explore

Ko Umezaki Performs the Shakuhachi in Cave 285 companion video

Sandeep Das Performs Music Inspired by Cave 285 companion video

Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road exhibition information

Silk Road Ensemble Interprets Dunhuang through Spontaneous Live Music Iris article

Silk Road Ensemble musician and instrument profiles

Art, History, and Conservation of the Cave Temples of Dunhuang video

Virtual Tour of Cave 320, Mogao Grottoes

Transcript

Unlike other members of the Silk Road Ensemble that come from traditions where Buddhism features prominently in their religious and musical traditions… Other members of the ensemble come from places like Japan, India, and China, et cetera. I come from Minnesota, which has not a whole lot to do with Buddhism—if you listen to Garrison Keillor it has a lot more to do with the Lutheran Church.

What I love about visiting these replica caves is that just about anybody can find an entry point into what is here. Whether it be through religious teachings or through the aesthetic beauty of what’s here.

The first thing that I thought, was that this cave has a sort of pulsating rhythm about it, and that really spoke to me. In a way, you see in the imagery, you see 1,036 images of the Buddha on the ceiling here, in rhythmic repetition going to the apex of this tent formation. My mind immediately went to a piece that I know, a solo viola sonata, by a Hungarian composer written in 1991. György Ligeti wrote this, and this is one movement from that piece called “Loop.”

It is a very rhythmic piece and I would describe it as the movement of time. Going from slow to fast, the piece is built with basically nine cells or nine iterations of this loop that go from small note values to very fast note values.

[Nicholas plays the viola]

Unlike other members of the Silk Road Ensemble that come from traditions where Buddhism features prominently in their religious and musical traditions… Other members of the ensemble come from places like Japan, India, and China, et cetera. I come from Minnesota, which has not a whole lot to do ...

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