The Meditational Journey of Milarepa
Orchestration: Full Symphony Orchestra
Commissioned by: BBC Proms
Dedicated to: Jonathan Harvey
First performance: 21 August 2013, 7.30 p.m.
World Premiere with the BBC Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Sakari Oramo
Eighteen years after I wrote my first orchestral work Horse Tooth White Rock (last performed at the BBC Proms in 2005), Tibetan Buddhism is once again a source of inspiration. Cave of Luminous Mind is my third orchestral work, inspired by the meditational journey towards Enlightenment, of the Tibetan saint Milarepa (c.1052 - c.1135 CE). The meditation technique of following the in-breath and the out-breath with mindfulness has generated within me a musical response in the form of a highly sculpted work whose motion and energy propel forward non-narratively. Radiant textures are embedded within shimmering harmonic fields of varying density that generate surprising climaxes against slow moving rhythmic pulses.
Jetsun Milarepa spent years in meditation, practicing the techniques of Vajrayana discipline (the Diamond Path) as he learnt it from his teacher Marpa. Over the years Milarepa moved from cave to cave in the mountain ranges of Tibet, seeking shelter as he single-mindedly pursued the path to Enlightenment. He gave many of these caves beautiful names. One such was the ‘Cave of Luminous Awareness’, which directly inspired the title of my work.
Luminosity was naturally very much at the forefront of my mind as a core consideration underlying the vibrancy and the changing colours of the musical fabric. My composition is dedicated to the late composer Jonathan Harvey whose life and musical expression embodied qualities of luminosity in such an astonishing proliferation of works, and whose thought processes similarly took refuge in the wisdom of Tibetan Buddhist practice.