Lung Ta

for solo percussion and fixed electronics

Premiered by Thomas Kolakowski
Recording performed by Adam Vidiksis

I. Earth
II. Water
III. Fire
IV. Wind
V. Sky

When Thomas approached me about writing this work, we discussed which percussive sounds he was most drawn to, and what sort of work he had in mind for the commission. He is drawn to music from different parts of the world, and mentioned Tibetan prayer bowls (also known as singing bowls) as a timbre he enjoyed. This became the germinal concept of this work, which features prayer bowls and is structured around the symbolism behind Tibetan prayer flags, known as Lung Ta.

Lung Ta is a Tibetan word that literally translates to “Wind Horse,” and is a type of prayer flag that is strung horizontally. Lung ta prayer flags are of square or rectangular shape, and are connected along their top edges to a long string or thread. They are commonly hung on a diagonal line from high to low between two objects (e.g., a rock and the top of a pole) in high places such as the tops of temples, monasteries, and mountain passes. Traditionally, prayer flags come in sets of five: one in each of five colors. The five colors are yellow, green, red, white, and blue. The five colors represent the five elements. Blue symbolizes the sky and space, white symbolizes the air and wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth. This musical homage to the prayer flags uses electronic sounds to evoke each of these elements, and pairs percussion instruments with the various recordings as a way to musically augment the experience. You will hear deep, low drum sounds for the Earth, real recordings of both Water and Fire for the middle movements, and the whoosh of the Wind followed by pure, quiet and crystalline sounds of the Sky. Each movement is punctuated by the sound of the prayer bowls. Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.