Home Institution

Siena College

Publication Date

Spring 2011

Program Name

Nepal: Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples


Tibetan Buddhism has numerous detailed and diverse traditions of ritual music that play an integral part in religious practices. Despite the prominence of such performances in Tibetan Buddhist life, spectators and researchers alike have frequently misunderstood them based purely on physical observation. As a religion that focuses on the cultivation and development of the mind, any analysis focusing only on physical description is significantly flawed. Music in Buddhist practice is at a base level a sound offering. On a higher level, however, it is much more. If done with the proper motivation, musical performance during ritual is a method to wipe away one’s own negative Karma and attachment to the realms of desire. Additionally, the traditional field of ritual music and structure is constantly undergoing change and revision in the contemporary context. This paper will examine the structure and role of ritual music in Buddhist performance as well as briefly overview the various instruments and orchestration used during ritual. Finally, it will examine the ongoing variations and changes to Buddhist ritual practice through the different instrumentations, alterations and new compositions that demonstrate how ritual music remains both a traditional and a fluid entity in a constantly changing world.


Asian Studies | Ethnomusicology | History of Religions of Eastern Origins | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures


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