|Someday I may write about the influence Mr. Ma has had on my own career; more than two decades ago it was he who encouraged me to take a leap into the challenges of artistic leadership. Since 1999 when we first met to plan for his receiving Canada’s Glenn Gould Prize, I’ve closely followed his life and his example. Late last year, as his personal effort to reach out to a world struggling with the dismays of the Covid-19 pandemic, he released a new Sony Classical CD compilation, Songs of Comfort & Hope.
One of Yo-Yo’s collaborators in this project was the composer/performer, Wu Tong, who wrote a note about his composition,Rain Falling from the Roof. On the CD the version is for cello and piano but my own, preferred version is with Tong’s instrument of note, the sheng. Before you hear the two men in this beautiful performance, read Wu Tong’s:
There is a story that has greatly inspired me from (China’s) Northern Song Dynasty (AD 960-1127). It is about a novice Zen monk who experienced a moment of enlightenment by observing rain falling from the eaves of a roof. The story is told in the form of a Zen riddle.
One rainy day, a novice monk asked the renowned Zen master Guixing about the fundamental meaning of Buddhism. The master pointed to the raindrops dripping from the eaves of a nearby roof. The novice monk who had been perplexed for a long time suddenly experienced an epiphany. He immediately improvised the following koan:
“Raindrops dripping from the eaves, clear sound of splitter-splatter falling on the leaves; Heaven and Earth then take a breath, for in that instant my mind is at peace.” (In this Zen koan a Chinese word representing Heaven and Earth “Qiankun” is used. This term not only refers to material existence, but also represents the concept of Yinyang, and in a Buddhist sense refers to time and space. A mind at peace is a state achieved through mediation, whereby one comes into contact with their true nature unfettered by prejudice and selfish subjectivity.)
It was during a rainstorm that I first read this story. At that time, the entirety of humankind was dealing with the trials and tribulations of the coronavirus pandemic. Upon hearing the sound of the falling raindrops, I also had a realization. It was a reminder that people depend upon peaceful coexistence with each other and with Mother Nature to live in true harmony. No one exists in isolation.
Here is the song interpreted by composer and cellist.
Rain Falling from the Roof is my choice to complete our February newsletter because I hope it can bring us all some comfort as we personally struggle towards the end of this grim era.