Thus Have I Heard: Sound and Buddhism in Japan

Thornhaugh St Bloomsbury London

Saturday, March 2 2019 from 02:00 pm to 06:00 pm

Performances and conversations with Akinobu Tatsumi/TA2MI, Neil Cantwell and Nick Luscombe (Japan Sound Portrait) and Dr Lucia Dolce (SOAS).

About this Event

The foundational status of the phrase ‘Thus Have I Heard’ within the transmission of Buddhist teachings suggests a primary importance for sound within this religious tradition. This is certainly the case within the different Buddhist schools of Japan, where the use of sound is fundamental to their culture and rituals. This event will explore a multitude of both modern and traditional ways in which sound can provide a vehicle for experiencing and understanding wide-ranging facets of Buddhist teachings.

The programme will include three presentations examining a range of personal engagements with sound in a Buddhist context. Elsewhere, attendees will be able to experience a series of Japanese soundscapes in Virtual Reality and step inside a sound installation of the Kongokai / Diamond World mandala. A final round table discussion will provide an opportunity to ask questions to our guest speakers and delve into issues raised by the talks, performances and experiences.

The event is free to attend and all are welcome. You will need a ticket so please register here.

Akinobu Tatsumi is a remarkable musician who goes by the artist name of TA2MI, and also happens to be a Jodo Shinshuu Buddhist temple priest. He is as comfortable switching between ritual chanting and beatboxing as he is traversing electronic musical genres in his prodigious creations as a producer. Tatsumi will explore the importance of sound and music for him in his role as a priest, both in a traditional ritual context, as well as in using different forms of music to attract different generations to visit his temple.

Neil Cantwell is Co-Director of the film KanZeOn, and, together with Nick Luscombe from BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction, they have created the project Japan Sound Portrait in order to explore what representation of the country emerges through focusing on sound. Building on Neil’s time as a Research Fellow at Kyoto’s Shuchiin University, their presentation will accompany a sound installation based on the Diamond World Mandala that is central to Shingon Buddhist teachings, as well as a sound-based Virtual Reality experience of Japanese locations. Analysing these experiments in how sound is able to transform our perception of the visual and the spatial will lead into discussion of related issues that are prominent within another project of Nick’s called Musicity, which commissions pieces of music in response to pieces of architecture, which can then only be listened to at the location which inspired their creation.

Dr Lucia Dolce is Numata Reader in Japanese Buddhism in the School of History, Religions and Philosophies at SOAS, and Chair of the SOAS Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions. She will chair a round table discussion with the event’s participants.

One further participant is to be confirmed, after which the schedule will be finalised and made available here.


This event is supported by a generous grant from the Khyentse Foundation.