So every solstice there is an awesome huge new music concert at the Chapel of the Chimes columbarium in Oakland. What’s a columbarium, you ask? It’s where they keep dead people! Well this one is a totally gorgeous labyrinthian building with huge halls and narrow passages and lots of stained glass.
Every year they have a new music concert that is totally packed and awesome. It’s one of those things where people bring their kids to see micro-tonal string quartets and old ladies get to fuss with max patches. There are always about 200 guys in Hawaiian shirts and you think, oh man not another old guy in a Hawaiian shirt! until you realize it’s Terry Riley. Very Bay Area!
This year I have the pleasure of performing with my favorite group, the Cornelius Cardew Choir. This is a fun-loving and sincere little group that meets in Berkeley and is inspired by the works of graphic composer Cornelius Cardew. Here is one of his scores:
Our group is not doing that piece though, thank goodness. We’re actually focusing on several piece by Pauline Oliveros, including one I love very much called “Heart Chant”. That’s one where the audience can join in. Here is the score:
****The Heart Chant (2001) by Pauline Oliveros © 2001 Deep Listening Publications; performed by the Cornelius Cardew Choir and willing audience members
This is the text of the original score:
Stand together in a circle with feet about shoulder width apart and knees a little
Warm up your hands by rubbing palms together until you feel the heat.
Place your right hand over your own heart. Place your left hand on the back
of your left hand partner (back of the heart).
After a few natural breaths sing/chant/intone “AH” on any pitch that will
resonate your heart. Sense the energy of your own heart and that of your
partner over the course of several breaths.
Can you imagine that the heart energies are joining together for healing
yourself and others?
Can you imagine heart energies traveling out into the universe as a healing
for all victims and toward the end of violence?
When The Heart Chant ends, gradually release your palms and bring them
forward parallel in front of you. Sense the energy between the palms as if there
were a sphere or ball that can be moved around. Then bring your palms to
your own center, fold them over and store the energy.
We invite you to join our performance of The Heart Chant. Once we have begun singing, you are welcome to find a place in our circle and intone the syllable “ah” in length-of-breath notes that resonate your heart and those of the person to your left in the circle. (“Choreography” developed by Joe Zitt and the Cornelius Cardew Choir.)
We invite you to sing with us:
Ask a choir member (wearing jewel tone and black) for guidance OR use these directions:
1. ENTERING THE CIRCLE:
a. Warm your hands by rubbing them together
b. stand just outside the circle at a spot of your choice
c. Place your right hand over your heart and place your left hand on top of
the left hand of a person in the circle
d. That person will open the circle and place her/his left hand on your back
behind your heart
e. Use the syllable “Ah” and sing for as long as you wish, breathing deeply between your notes and
standing with relaxed knees
(At the end of the piece everyone will fall silent. If that happens while you
are in the circle, please follow the gentle chi-gathering movements)
3. LEAVING THE CIRCLE:
a. Fall silent
b. Lift your left hand from your neighbor’s back and rotate to your left until
you are out of the circle. The singers on either side will close the gap.
Maybe it sounds a little hippie, but this piece actually creates some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard. There are beautiful chords and microtones that emerge. It’s really a magical experience and if you are in Oakland tomorrow you should come by and experience it.