Tibetan Monks, In Nine-Part Harmony

Travel Blog  •  Julia Ross  •  03.25.09 | 1:00 PM ET

Here’s a new way to express support for Tibet, if you’re so inclined: Pick up a copy of this CD, produced by the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, of the Gyuto Monks Tantric Choir, chanting in multiple overtones at once (similar to the Tuvan throat singers).  National Public Radio has a fascinating story about how the CD was produced, based on a rare 1960s recording of Tibetan monks in northern India made by religion scholar Huston Smith. NPR has a sample of Smith’s original recording online. Apparently the trained ear can discern up to nine harmonies sung by a single monk at one time; to me, the only word for it is “otherworldly.”

Proceeds from the CD support the New York-based Tibet House and the Tibetan Gyuto monastery-in-exile.

Julia Ross is a Washington, DC-based writer and frequent contributor to World Hum. She has lived in China and Taiwan, where she was a Fulbright scholar and Mandarin student. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Time, Christian Science Monitor, Plenty and other publications. Her essay, Six Degrees of Vietnam, was shortlisted for "The Best American Travel Writing 2009."

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