My connection to the Yellow Bell Legend

When I first read of the legend from 3000 B.C.E China, I immediately recognized the connection to what I was already doing. At first several small coincidences were apparent: the fact that I was already playing the Dizi (Chinese bamboo flute), that I also used Indian Bells in many pieces as drones, my fascination with mathematics in relation to both rhythm and melody in music (and life), and the fact that in my own music I had abandoned western harmony to a great extent in favor of exploring melody and rhythm while using a drone or Primal Vibration all motivated me to look further into this legend from five thousand years ago.

As I read more about it I realized how beautifully my musical philosophy meshed with the ideas and concepts of this ancient legend. It symbolized many things I had not been able to integrate completely. It seems to illuminate and connect many things for me at once, but there are two fundamental connections I would like to explain more completely.

The first important reason I connected so completely with the Yellow Bell Legend was the aspect of recalculating the Yellow Bell - a bamboo flute. Of course I do play many different lengths of flutes for different keys and tonalities but beyond that I had started to look at my own musical direction as something that needed to be recalculated on a regular basis not only to avoid falling into formulaic pitfalls but to allow for the expression and exploration of new ideas which seem to present themselves to me regularly as I continue to explore music from around the world and my relation to it. So as each emperor sent his mathematician to the far western mountains (toward India - another minor coincidence since I have such a love for Indian music) to return with a new length of bamboo, I too from time to time return from musical journeys and bring something new to my music which is used to change the relationships of melody and rhythm.

To recalculate in order to more closely approximate perfection is an ideal I strive to attain in each piece. In addition improvisation plays a large role in my music - the word improvise contains the word improve and to improve something recalculations are usually a necessity. I have discovered many new pieces solely based on the combination of instruments or a new rhythmic concept. A particular orchestration will often seem to write the music on its own.

The second important connection I felt to the Yellow Bell Legend was my belief, (as the Chinese Emperors and mathematicians believed), that music has a profound effect on the cosmic and social order. Nada Yoga from India is a method to reach spiritual enlightenment through sound. Ultimately I am a musician because of my experience and belief in the profound effect that music can have on us as individuals and as a society. Most cultures around the world use music in some spiritual context of course, but to recalculate the standards for pitches, weights and measurements based on a new fundamental tone every few hundred years in order to more closely reach perfection in all aspects of society is indeed a unique and bold approach.

It takes a certain amount of blind faith to break out of comfortable patterns and seek new possibilities in able to grow, communicate more fully with your Self, and to generally experience what might be possible. I allow myself to play from my heart and know that if someone listens from their heart they will almost surely find something of value in my music. Connecting this way is a special opportunity we can all share. To leave behind the comfortable and acceptable and take that leap into the musical unknown can be very intimidating at first - but the rewards are so great I find it impossible having now taken this path not to continue. As the Chinese dynasties not only redefined the parameters of their social and spiritual order with each new Yellow Bell I experience my Self and my connection to the Universe unfolding with each new musical exploration.

Read more about how I work with the Yellow Bell Concept and the history and philosophy of Chinese Music in relation to the Yellow Bell Legend.