A Porta Inferi

Devotional music from the Japanese Zen and Gaelic Christian Traditions

We offer this ancient music as it emerges from improvising into melody. It provides a fragile gateway into another world, a world that renews and reunites us, reminding us of our source. Sometimes we are dissolved into its fire. Our intentions are simply following the Christian tradition of sung prayer with voice and harp and the martial Zen tradition of mu shin (open (empty) heartedness). The power and anonymity of the Zen tradition with the chaste focused compassion of Plain Chant.

The occidental tradition longs to make beauty replete – our ears are accustomed to something homogenous, rich with the harmoniousness of homophony. The classical Japanese tradition sought its beauty elsewhere – placing miyabi (refinement) above all else and acknowledging the centrality of yugen to this refinement – that beauty attains its highest truth only once it is slightly broken, dented by its encounter with the world. The style is spare, a temple to absence. The quest is not homogeneity, but heterogeneity – two instruments approaching the melody as if from different directions; the harp dropping its clear tones like a nib into the broad brush strokes of sound from the shakuhachi.

We have taken music that is already liminal and attenuated those qualities that touch within us that which is timeless. Sometimes our music-making risks “kenosis,” or the emptying out necessary to being fulfilled within silence, and approaches “Kairos”, the unconditioned moment. Our practice for this concert has been one of devotion. Listening and allowing a radical vulnerability as we open to that which exists within, between and beyond us to be expressed by the music.

The result is to be on the threshold, rooted in two ancient spiritual traditions informed by contemplative practices and the contemporary power of improvisation: listening and responding with strict adherence to melody as inner being, rather than melody as outward form. Music which repeatedly dissolves and re-emerges taking the listener deeper into the wider field of consciousness from which all arises, a journeying in to receptivity and resting in the eternal.


Sunday 3rd August 2008, 7pm: The Forge, Holne, Newton Abbot, Devon UK

Events 2007 – 2010