Taming the Mind Ox & Theater Games
Two works for video and strings
In June of 2005 I taught a workshop called “Gibberish, the Universal Language” in Seattle, as part of Unexpected Productions' Seattle International Festival of Improv. The participants were 26 highly skilled improv actors from many countries around the world. In all my decades of teaching, this was one of the most fun and satisfying experiences I have ever had.
When several months later, the video arrived, I was inspired to play with this material and make an art piece of it. I took the 12 hours of video and sped them up to 10 minutes, rendered the fuzzy outlines into lollipop colors, and then added a score of electric string music. I was joined in the music by my viola da gamba friend, Loren Ludwig. Loren is one of the few people in the world who plays an electric viola da gamba. In this piece I play the UrbanStrings Argentine electric baritone violin.
Thanks to the great performers in the festival, and to Randy Dixon, the director of Unexpected Productions.
Taming The Mind Ox
I composed an earlier version of Taming the Mind Ox in 1985 for a retrospective of my visual music pieces at the UCLA Music Department in January of 1986. That piece required two slide projectors, a dissolve unit and multitrack reel-to-reel tape. Twenty years later, this subject is still compelling to me, and I wanted a fresh approach. This is a new version with new music, for violin and viola. The video is composed directly on the computer.
The Ox-herding Pictures are a series of symbolic images important in several schools of Zen Buddhism. There have been many versions of the pictures made over the centuries, and they are still being made today by contemporary artists. There are usually 10 pictures in the series, though sometimes there are 6. This particular set is attributed to the 15th Century Japanese artist Shubun, and consists of 10 images painted on a continuous scroll.
The pictures represents stages on the path of a spiritual journey to the mastery of one's mind-heart (shin). At the beginning, the young man is lost, looking everywhere for the essence of his mind-heart, and suddenly he finds himself chasing and wrestling with a wild ox or bull. Taming that wild, irrational, powerful creature, becoming one with it - changing and being changed - finding a still point in the midst of the hubbub of life - is a lifelong effort and adventure.
Many thanks to the Shôkoku-ji Temple's Jôtenkaku Museum in Kyoto, Japan, where the original scroll is located, for their kind permission to use digital copies of the pictures.