The ghostlike quality of the voice is a central element in the fourth and final installment of Suites by Encyclopédie de la parole. From their vast archive of audio recordings speakers return from the past, manifesting themselves through their very absence. With this even more true in times of the Coronavirus, marked by confinements and lockdowns, we have selected three voices from Suite n°4 for our online gestures. The calls of a shepherd in the Pyrenees, an announcement in New York’s American Museum of Natural History and a recital of the ancient Lotus Sutra will give you a little insight into what to expect when the piece will be presented at the 2021 edition of Wiener Festwochen.

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Francis has been working as a shepherd in the Pyrenees for twenty-five years. Our recording is from a 2005 feature report about Francis by Robin Hunzinger for Arte Radio (the entire broadcast is available under the title Les Bergers). The report makes no mention of the meaning or purpose of the calls we hear him make here: is he calling his flock? Is he communicating with other shepherds? Perhaps he just enjoys hearing the sound of his own voice echoing around the valley.

the museum will be closing in ten minutes

New York’s American Museum of Natural History is one of the world’s largest natural history museums. Located on Upper West Side, across the street from Central Park, it consists of 26 interconnected buildings housing a total of 45 permanent exhibition halls, in addition to a planetarium and a library. The Museum welcomes 5 million visitors a year. Our recording, posted on the freesound.org website in 2018 by a certain Kyles, features the official announcement made shortly before 6 pm to remind visitors that the Museum is about to close. It is spoken in five languages by five female voices: English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese.

Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō, Lotus Sutra

Nichiren Buddhism is a Japanese branch of Buddhism founded in the 13th century by the eponymous monk. It is part of Mahayana (‘Great Vehicle’) Buddhism, which also includes, among others, Chinese Chan Buddhism and Japanese Zen. For this particular branch, all spiritual practice is exercised for the benefit of other beings, who are inherently capable of attaining enlightenment in their present lifetime; the sutras are teachings that stem directly from Buddha and are therefore considered sacred. The texts are often adorned with gems and precious stones or engraved on gilded boards and are even the object of prostrations. The mere fact of uttering the title of a sutra is considered beneficial.

Nichiren chose the Lotus Sutra as the core doctrine of his teachings. They describe what several traditions refer to as ‘the seed of awakening’ or ‘tathagatagarba’, in other words the potential that is innate in all sentient beings to attain Buddhahood through virtuous acts and ‘skilful means’, swift and effective.

Gongyo (literally ‘assiduous practice’) constitutes the principal ritual in Nichiren Buddhism. It consists of chanting the title of the Lotus Sutra – Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō, often followed by the reading of part of Chapters 2 (‘Ways and Means’) and 16 (‘The Eternal Lifespan of Tathagata’). Gongyo is performed twice daily, upon rising and before retiring.

Our recording is a tutorial that teaches the pronunciation of gongyo, recited slowly. It has been viewed 1,823,202 times since being posted online on 7 February 2013.

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