Ryōan-ji is a Zen monastery in Kyoto, Japan, founded by Hosokawa Katsumodo in 1450. It is particularly famous due to its extant karesansui, or dry landscape garden. This is said to be added by Hosokawa Masamoto in 1488 during reconstruction of the monastery (Brinker 80).The karesansui was used for the basic purpose of meditation by Zen monks. (expand)
John Cage was a composer who lived from 1912-1992. He is famous for minimalist works that frequently explore different aspects of rhythm. In 1983, he started writing “Ryoanji,” named after Ryōan-ji in Kyoto. In this piece, he combines traditional and non-traditional forms of notation in order to create unique temporal relations that seek to express the essence of the karesansui at Ryōan-ji. The piece consists of a part for percussion (or orchestra) and a number of different solo parts that can be played together or not. Cage has composed “Ryoanji” for flute, oboe, trombone, voice, and double bass. He allows the performance to include one or more than one solo part played simultaneously with the percussion or orchestral accompaniment. The accompaniment is rhythmically notated in a traditional manner, with quarter notes and rests set in specific meters. The solo parts are notated in a highly non-traditional manner. They are essentially linear representations of pitch over time, and will be discussed in more detail below.
In this paper, I will attempt to examine the composition of the karesansui at Ryōan-ji and its musical translation by John Cage.
I will start by outlining some of the physical observations that can be made of the garden. The karesansui at Ryōan-ji is 248m2 rectangle that can be divided into three main components. They are stones, moss, and gravel. There are 15 lar...
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... compare them to natural sounds and their relationships. Natural sounds include sounds made by animals (including the human voice), natural forces such as wind and water, and percussive sounds made by events in nature, among other things. These could be events such as falling trees, crashing waves on the beach, or tectonic rumbling. (develop this)
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