Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Simply enchanting

On Morning Edition, this morning:
It was 3 o'clock one morning in 1964, on the eve of the highest holiday in the Tibetan calendar, when renowned religion scholar Huston Smith awoke in a monastery in the Himalayas to experience something transcendent.

"There fell upon my ear the holiest sound I have ever heard," says Smith, who was raised in China by missionaries and wrote the classic textbook, The World's Religions.

Smith was so moved by the sound that he decided to record it, eventually bringing it back to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There, he played it for a colleague, an ethnomusicologist, who was similarly flabbergasted.

"Why, the man just paced the floor in excitement," recalls Smith. "And at one point, he clapped his palm to his forehead, and he said, 'My God, I am hearing nine overtones!' "

To read the rest of the transcript or to listen to the story, and to hear some excerpts of Tibetan chant, go here.

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