Rubin Museum of Art

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Silent Echoes

A sound installation by Bill Fontana

Listen Now! Play this trailer for a sneak preview of the installation.

Come to the Rubin Museum to contemplate and relax to the sound of four Kyoto temples bells when they are not being rung.

An immersive meditation experience in a sound theater, set with chairs and cushions. Stay for 30 minutes or for 3 hours.

"...when a bell rings it is only the sound of the bell listening to the sound of the bell. Or to put it another way it is the sound of yourself ringing. This is the moment of enlightenment."  (The Three Pillars of Zen by Phillip Kapleau)



This program has concluded. Please check the exhibition page, for upcoming events

Zen Tour Guide Bios

Michel Engu Dobbs is a Zen priest and Dharma heir of Peter Muryo Matthiessen Roshi. He is a co-teacher at the Ocean Zendo. He has connections with Roshi Bernie Glassman's Order of Disorder, and is a member of the White Plum Asanga. A husband and father of three children, Engu has been a baker and bakery manager for over twenty years. He began practicing Zen with the late Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi in 1992 and began study with Muryo Roshi in 1994.  He was ordained in 2001 and received Dharma transmission in 2005.

Seigan Ed Glassing attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, specializing in drawing. It was at Pratt that he became interested in Zen Buddhism and the intersection between art and spirituality. He entered a Buddhist Monastery in the Catskill Mountains and after several years was ordained a Rinzai Zen monk. He has been studying and practicing Zen for twenty five years in monasteries in both America and Japan. Seigan's interest grew into working with the dying and he has trained under the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care as a Buddhist Chaplain. He specializes in End of life issues and Palliative Care and has worked in the Visiting Nurse Service Hospice Residence and at Beth Israel Hospital. He is a Resident Chaplain at New York Columbia/Presbyterian Hospital and The Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital.


A note from the artist...

Vibrating within the ear are many voices but their origin has a source which may be called the sound of no sound. "- TAKUAN SILENT ECHOES explores the sounds of four famous Buddhist Temple bells in Kyoto when they are not ringing. Vibration sensors were attached to the bells and acoustic microphones were placed inside of their resonant cavities. They measured and recorded how these bells are in fact ringing all the time in response to the ambient sounds of the environment.

In the context and psychology of Buddhist culture the idea of a bell ringing all the time is a powerful metaphor. There is a famous meditation in which one strikes a bowl shaped bell and if one’s attention is unwavering one experiences that this bell does not stop ringing as long one is listening. In Silent Echoes, I have used modern measurement technology to reveal a hidden world of perpetual acoustic energy within an apparently dormant bell. The bell is always listening and is a physical mediation on the world around it.

These bells are portals to the acoustic energy around them and they have never been silent. This idea of music being a state of mind tuned into the music going on all time around us has been a strong interest in all of my work with live sound sculptures for the past 40 years. These temple bells are a physical analogy to the idea of music as continuous listening. John Cage many times said that “music is continuous and listening is intermittent”. In using the term sound sculpture to describe my work, I had defined sculpture as a way to make physical some state of the human condition; therefore a sound sculpture makes the act of listening in a musical way continuous and physical. In Silent Echoes besides the high-resolution sound recordings of the bells, a high definition video camera viewed these bells so that in this video installation the audience gazes at static, nearly life size projection of the bells while being immersed in its resonating echoes of the world around it.

Bill Fontana


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