|Numinous The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr.|
The Numinosum Blog
The photos that grace the front and back of the Vipassana CD, I took on my trip to Malaysia a few years ago. What does a photo of trees have to do with Vipassana and "seeing things as they are"? Well, nature was always in my mind and served as one of the inspirations as I was composing the pieces. If you come to a Vipassana performance and open my conducting score (preferably AFTER the concert), along with my various cue markings and missives to myself ("Don't slow here", "Give a big downbeat", "building throughout") you'd find various photos of nature heading each movement. Only one of the photos (a beautiful picture of scarlet ibis taken by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, which I'll talk about in more detail in a later post about the first movement) had any direct influence in the inspiration of any composition. Rather those photos in my score just remind me of the feeling I'm looking for my pieces to evoke. Of course, that feeling is difficult to describe in words. What does seeing flying birds (or a picture of them) feel like to me? What does a lovely periwinkle and rose colored sunset sky mean to me? Trying to answer questions like those is one reason why I named my group Numinous: to create music that hopes to resonate with that indescribable numinous feeling one might get looking at a landscape or the night sky or a tree or a sleeping puppy or from many other experiences. And whether you feel the same things I feel when I hear the music is not necessary or even hoped for. What I wish is that you'll hear something that does connect you to the music.
My trip to Malaysia was a surprising wealth of inspiration with two compositions directly coming from it: Rihla and Kelip-Kelip, as well as more unmined ideas still floating around my mind. More details of the trip are in the notes to Rihla. Well, Vipassana was already about three years old by the time we took the trip. Actually the trip occurred a few weeks before the Vipassana studio sessions, so a perfect break to clear my head before having to jumping into the enjoyable abyss of recording. One of the days in Malaysia we visited a national park and walking around we came across monkeys darting about in the trees and very interesting birds and fauna all around. Along our walk, almost by accident, we came across this dry marsh filled with a stand of trees. I think I was attracted to the almost starkness of the scene because it seemed a bit odd that there were many dead trees surrounded by many leaf bearing ones and I took two photos of the forest from two slightly different perspectives.
So when it was time to start thinking about a cover design for the Vipassana CD, I immediately thought of the Yann-Arthus Bertrand photo I mentioned before. While it is a beautiful photo and had a direct inspiration to the creation to some of the music, I didn't want to go through the hassle (and expense) of trying to get rights for the photo. Also, since the photo represented only one part of the whole, I didn't feel strongly enough to pursue the idea of using the picture. So my thoughts came to the photos I took in Malaysia. Looking at the photo I used for the cover, one is struck with the dead tree stand prominent in the foreground and the lush green fields lower and in the background. I thought of the idiomatic phrase "seeing the forest for the trees" and how generally it reflects NOT seeing things as they are. If one looks at the photo and sees just some dead trees, you are missing the beauty of the whole and how there is much life on and going on around those dead trees. To me they represent an aspect of the connectivity of all things and seemed quite appropriate for Vipassana.
Check back soon for more insider tidbits about Vipassana though you'll have to come on the 28th to see the full monty for yourself.
Numinous performs Vipassana
Wednesday October 28, 2009 8 PM (one set only)
227 4th Avenue
Take the M, R Train to Union Street
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 10:08 AM
To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.