Digital Download & 7” Vinyl Release Date: October 15, 2013
Vinyl Available Exclusively at: www.christopherbono.com
VIDEO: The Inspiration Behind Unity & The Unexcelled Mantra
On October 15, 2013, composer Christopher Bono releases two new singles, Unity and The Unexcelled Mantra, performed by The New York Virtuoso Singers led by music director Harold Rosenbaum. These choral works will be available on Bono’s label Our Silent Canvas, distributed digitally by Naxos and released on limited edition 7” vinyl. The recordings were made at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York by Grammy-winning producer Silas Brown.
Visual artist DZO Olivier has created original illustrations for the cover art for Unity and The Unexcelled Mantra recordings, intimately influenced by Bono’s music and the concepts it explores. Videos inspired by these works created by film artists Tobias Stretch (Radiohead, Deftones) and Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir (Sigur Rós) will be released on November 5, 2013.
Bono describes Unity and The Unexcelled Mantra as contemplating the search for a modern form of spirituality. He says, “Both works explore a path to transcendence or ‘true being’ through union with the cosmos – The Unexcelled Mantra from a Mahayana Buddhist point of view and Unity from the Western philosophical tradition of Plato.”
Unity is a choral piece based on some of the musical and philosophical concepts of Plato’s Republic. The chosen text was taken from a section of the Republic in which Plato discusses the power of mathematics, but Bono immediately saw it could also be viewed as a metaphor for the phenomenon of meditation. He says, “This multi-dimensional observation was a key inspiration for me when writing the work, both considering the mathematical qualities of music and the esoteric concepts of achieving union with the All.” In addition, Bono experimented with the power Plato claimed existed in the Dorian and Phrygian modes. According to Plato, the Dorian would “fittingly imitate the utterances and accents of a brave man who is engaged in warfare,” while the Phrygian was suitable “for a man engaged in works of peace.”
The Unexcelled Mantra is a setting of text from the Heart Sutra, a sacred text in Mahayana Buddhism on understanding Shunyata, or Emptiness, in order to realize Nirvana. The mantra reads “gaté gaté paragaté parasamgaté bodhi svaha,” which can be translated as “Go, go, go beyond, go totally beyond, be rooted in the ground of enlightenment.”
The release of Unity and The Unexcelled Mantra follows Bono’s first classical album, Invocations, a chamber music collection released in fall 2012 and on vinyl in August 2013. The originality and inventiveness of Invocations was noted by composer and writer Frank Oteri in NewMusicBox, who wrote, “While much of 21st-century contemporary composition is not beholden to any rules, to the extent that I could probably claim everyone to be an ‘outsider’ in some ways, Bono’s music sounds as though everything he writes is something he is discovering for the very first time, even if there are clear reference points throughout to the sound worlds of other composers from both our own time and other eras.”
Christopher Bono entered the world of classical music much later than most of his contemporaries. He spent his childhood and teenage years devoted to baseball; in 1999 he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners but an injury kept him from playing. Filling the void left by the end of his athletic endeavors, Bono began playing the guitar when he was 21, and for several years he toured, recorded, and performed in an alternative roots-rock style. In his mid-20s, he made the choice to learn classical composition techniques in order to more fully realize his music. For seven years, in nearly hermetic isolation, he taught himself to read music, and studied composition independently with Juilliard professor Kendall Briggs and at La Scola Cantorum in Paris.