Programme notes from the composer, Lucy Pankhurst:
Ascension is a Musical depiction of the Spiritual Journey towards enlightenment, sanctuary and ultimate inner peace.
As my initial muse for this work, the Singing Bowl is utilised with the Brass Band in order to represent this path to Serenity. “Tibetan” Singing Bowls date back to the 8th Century A.D., originating in the pre-Buddhist shamanic Bon Po culture in the Himalayas and are still used in modern Monasteries. The original purpose of them still remains a mystery, with accounts stating that it is forbidden to disclose the true function of the Bowls, as the “secrets of sound” yield so much Power, that they must be kept hidden.
Listening to the tones created by the Singing Bowl effectively silences the internal dialogue of the listener, making it an excellent tool for Meditation, Centering and entering trance-like states. In Buddhism, as with many cultures, sound is an important part of Spiritual Practice. There are 9 methods to reach Enlightenment in the Buddhist Doctrine ; the seventh is SOUND.
These Bowls are used by Healers in a similar way to help balance the body’s residual energies. The Bowls are usually made from seven different sacred metals, intended to correlate directly to the seven sacred “Planets” : GOLD (Sun), SILVER (Moon), MERCURY (Mercury), COPPER (Venus), IRON (Mars), TIN (Jupiter), ANTIMONY (Saturn). Any one Bowl can create up to seven different frequencies (tones) simultaneously. In Healing, the Singing Bowl is played whilst balanced on the palm of the hand, struck three times to stabilise the surrounding energies, before rotating the wooden “beater” around the outer circumference of the Bowl to create the “singing” effect.
I have included an optional Vibraphone part (to be played with a Double Bass Bow) with Tubular Bells, to be used only in performances where a Singing Bowl cannot be acquired. However, a traditional Bowl should be used whenever possible, to create this specific and unique sound.
Baoding Balls or Chinese Health Balls are also utilised in this work. Their appearance in the Music here, however, is to mark the point of Final Ascension, where the music reaches its ultimate goal. These delicate cloisonné iron Balls are said to stimulate the acupressure points on the hand, thus improving the Chi and Energy Paths (Life Force) throughout the entire body. The delicate “tinkle” produced by these spheres is hypnotic and captivating. For this reason, where no Baoding Balls are obtainable for performance, only delicate metallic percussion should be used in replacement (i.e. Crotales, Antique Cymbals or (liberal) single strikes on a Triangle etc.). Bell Trees, Wind Chimes and Cow Bells should not be used.
As in many cultures, the number three is important in Ascension, as it represents not only the purification from the Singing Bowl, but also it is a number of confirmation, reiterated throughout the music in the metallic percussion in addition to the Brass, re-affirming the correct path to Enlightenment.