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Shaking the Foundations of Meaning: The logic and illogic of Zen chant and thought

October 17, 2022, 10:00:00 PM
Pucker Gallery

About the Event:

Join Professor Steven Nuss of Colby College on a journey through the musical and meditative practices of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. After an introduction to some basics of Zen meditation practice with its heavy emphasis on sutra chanting and its often non-linear approaches to language, Steven will encourage us to discuss and think through the logic/anti-logic of Zen's complicated uses of music and language.


The session will end with a session of seated meditation and chanting led by Professor Nuss and student practitioners from Colby College. Participants will have the chance to practice the discipline of Zen chanting and meditation as a group. All this chanting and discussion will help us formulate creative answers to a deceptively simple nest of questions – How do we use spoken language? What happens when music meets language? Why do many religious traditions insist that their texts be sung? What is lost? What is gained?

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Professor Steven Nuss

About the Speaker:

Professor Nuss received his PhD in Music Theory from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York where he was a Gilleece Fellow as well as a Graduate Instructor at Queens College. His dissertation demonstrated Toru Takemitsu's substantial debt to forms, sounds, and performance techniques of traditional Japanese music. A former orchestral conducting fellow of the Aspen Music Festival, faculty member of the Seishin International School and University in Tokyo, and former student of Kanze Noh actor Tsuta Kazutada, his research is a unique blend of Western and non-Western analytical techniques and theoretical models of form and process.

His work has appeared in Perspectives of New Music, Contemporary Music Review, Music Theory Spectrum, Theory and Practice, and analytical essays in A Way Alone: Writings on Toru Takemitsu published by Academia Musicae, and in Locating East Asia in Western Art Music published by Wesleyan University Press. In 2018 Christian Longchamp, noted artistic adviser and dramaturg with the Opéra national de Paris and Strasbourg’s Opéra national du Rhin commissioned Professor Nuss to write the program essay for the first performance in France of Japanese composer Toshiro Mayuzumi’s grand opera Kinkakuji (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion). Based on the novel of the same name by renowned Japanese author Yukio Mishima, this production of Kinkakuji was the central event at the Arsmondo Japan festival in Strasbourg in March 2018.

Professor Nuss has presented his research at a wide range of academic conferences in the US, Japan, the UK, Canada and Indonesia as well as invited lectures at Yale University, Tokyo University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Catholic University, Columbia University, and Fordham University among others. Professor Nuss is currently at work on a book that explores the influences of Jewish devotional and ritual thought in the music of Morton Feldman. He is a recipient of grants from the Mellon Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies.

He is joined at this event by Colby students Samuel Xue (Art, Neuroscience, Music) and Vincent Li (Mathematics, Music, Japanese).

Professor Steven Nuss