Clear Light, Magic Body
ORCHESTRATION: solo guitar
COMMISSIONED BY: Park Lane Group
DEDICATION: Jonathan Leathwood
PREMIERE DATE: January 14, 1993
Purcell Room, London
The inspiration for Clear Light, Magic Body came after a visit to an exhibition of Tibetan sacred art at the Royal Academy in London in autumn 1992. The exhibits included several depictions of a tantric icon important to Tibetan Buddhists, known as Paramsukh Chakrasamvar (Supreme Bliss Wheel Integration), a male and female deity in passionate union, symbolising the Buddha as father-mother, or the fusion of wisdom (clear light/female) and compassion (magic body/male).
The union is celebrated in the two fast-paced outer movements – Shamvar 1 and Shamvar 2 – which are based strictly on symmetrical scales (modes of limited transposition). Complementary techniques of development and prolongation organise the collage of rhythmic and harmonic characters. Expanding and contracting rhythmic shapes, non-literal palindromes and three-fold rhythmic cadences (this last borrowed from Indian tala structure) support the temporal surface.
The second movement, Clear Light, explores the female aspect – wisdom – exclusively. A chorale (once repeated isorhythmically) is interlocked with a freely developing line – reminiscent of an Indian string player’s improvising, especially in relation to the left hand technique.
The third movement, Magic Body, is a meditation on the male aspect – compassion. It unfolds two lines of melody that frame a central commentary.
Classical Guitar (August 1, 1997)
Reviewer: Stephen Kenyon