Music and Spiritual Practice - An Overview of Poligraf
Music has been an essential part of my life since the end of the 80s.
The adventure began during the second of my four years of studying electrical engineering at Université Laval in Québec City. Through various friends and contacts I reconnected with progressive rock, a form of music to which I had already been exposed to in my youth thanks to my older brothers and sisters. Hearing the music of bands such as Yes, Rush, Genesis, and King Crimson felt like meeting old friends, and quickly I knew I just had to do as those musicians did, although my prior experience with music had been minimal at that time.
The feeling was so strong that not only did it led me to buy various instruments so I could learn how to play, but it was also the main force that made me decide to change direction after my first semester as a graduate student in computer vision and systems so I could build my life around music. And perhaps more importantly, when it became clear that I would compose music of my own, it spawned the question « what should the songs be about ? » which powered me into many years of exploring a multitude of domains of knowledge including science, philosophy, psychology, art, mysticism, and the occult.
Music for me is also spiritual practice. The inspiration and elevation it provides is undeniable, and the many insights I have had while practicing an instrument or rehearsing a part are too numerous to recount. Music picks me up when I let reason bring me down, restores my energy levels when I feel tired, sustains me through lengthy work sessions, and generally brings me to a state of inner peace and deep joy.
My objective as a musician is to communicate that energy in the hopes that listeners will experience that very same elevation and inspiration. It is also my intention to share my experiences and discoveries and thus hopefully help others reach understandings that can they can use on their own journey.
Buddhism has been an essential part of my life since the mid-90s.
The adventure began when I stumbled upon a feature in an encyclopedic dictionary that highlighted the Four Noble Truths. That finding immediately sparked my curiosity and a few days later I was buying a copy of The Dhammapada at a local bookstore. While slowly digesting the aphorisms in the weeks that followed, I found that its teachings were in continuity with a process of introspection that had begun during an introductory course on neural networks (i.e. systems designed to emulate some of the capabilities of the human brain, such as pattern recognition and associative memory), the study of which had triggered the question « what does this tell me about my own inner workings ? »
From then on I pursued my explorations and plunged into the Tibetan Book Of The Dead, which was quickly followed by various Mahayana sutras. I also bought a guide to learn how to meditate and started experimenting with the practice.
During the years that followed, I plowed through most of the major Mahayana sutras, progressively adjusted my lifestyle and behaviour to accord with the precepts, refined my meditation practice, memorized mantras, and became a vegetarian.
Poligraf has been an essential part of my life since its inception at the beginning of February 1998.
The adventure began after the collapse of a band that arguably never really existed as it only had a handful of rehearsals, but for which I had already written a lot of material. Left alone at the helm, I connected with a group of experienced musicians via a co-worker friend and after agreeing on a general aim and formula, we raised sail and headed to the terra incognita of progressive rock.
Over its eleven years of activity in various incarnations, Poligraf has yielded enough music for over five full-length albums, but never really had a chance to officially record any of them, although some of the material has been demoed and performed on stage on various occasions.
Most of the music documents my own spiritual path and presents some of the lessons that life has taught me on the way. Some pieces are directly inspired by Buddhist texts or teachings. For instance, « Between Worlds » is directly inspired by the Tibetan Book Of The Dead, and « The Idler » and « Creeper » have been inspired by aphorisms of The Dhammapada. « Void » illustrates the Buddhist concept of emptiness, and « SubjeKctiv » serves as a reminder of the subjectivity of experience and the coextensivity of worlds. « Entering the Stream » is a trilogy, counting a total of nine chapters, that depicts the trajectory of an individual fed up with the mundane who decides to retreat into an ashram for some heavy introspection before returning to the ordinary with a renewed perspective on life.
Throughout all these years, if the Mahayana has provided the vehicle, then Poligraf has certainly provided landscapes, path, and drive, while the buddhas have completed the picture with their timely, serendipitous, and often magical interventions.
I don't know why I feel so strongly about music, progressive rock, and Poligraf in particular, but I just know I do and I trust that feeling to the best of my ability. My connection to Poligraf runs so deep that whenever I let hardships or circumstances turn into reasons to believe that there's no viable future for the band, then I retreat into apathy. That is, until that unmistakable feeling breaks through the veil of confusion to drive me again. To the best of my present understanding, my own self-realization seems to be linked to that of the band, if not as the culmination of my spiritual practice, then at least as an essential stepping stone towards it.
Poligraf's first album is entitled « Samsara. » Traditionally, the term refers to the Buddhist concept of the cycle of birth and death in which all beings in the universe take part and which can be escaped only through enlightenment. Personally, I agree with the view that it is rather that very same process of enlightenment, in which ups and downs are in fact the appearance of constant motion towards spiritual growth.
In accordance with that perspective, the album presents a collection of pieces that depict the journey of an individual who faces a series of challenges through which they will experience various transcendences, on their way to increasingly better versions of themselves.
If you'd like to know more about the band and support us in our efforts to bring our beauty into the world, please visit our website (see the first icon below) where you can learn more about our many projects and the sponsorship opprtunities that we offer.
For Poligraf, your support represents an opportunity to go to the next level, reach a wider audience, and ultimately become a self-sustaining prog rock producing unit that can function independently of a record label.
Thank you for reading thus far, and best wishes to you on your journey.
« Mother Of Pearl» was the last song written in the location where the music for the « The Abode Of The Blessed » EP was composed. Yet, arguably, considering the clear stylistic and thematic distinctions…
Only Women Aloud - women’s project choir The School of Hard Knocks is excited to launch the 2015 Melbourne International Singers Festival season of Only Women Aloud, starting Sunday 3rd May.Only Women Aloud is an un-auditioned women's project choir, which will be led by the brilliant Dr Kathleen McGuire. Kathleen has selected an exciting new selection of songs for this project. Only Women Aloud will be performing at the festival as an individual choir, and will also be joining with the…See More
Hudson Chorale, Westchester’s largest chorus, will conclude its 5th season on Saturday, May 9, 2015 at the Irvington Middle/High School Auditorium at 7:30 pm with the second of a three-part series – American Voices - featuring American composers who found their inspiration in American writers, with accompaniment by a full orchestra. The composers range from Randall Thompson, considered by many to be the best of the 20th century, to still-living artists who are capturing positive critical…See More
School of Hard Knocks & Melbourne International Singers Festival present: TEACHER’S PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT DAYDr Kirby Shaw, Presenter Thursday June 4, 2015 9:30 am – 3:30pm,Deakin Edge, Federation SquareBOOK NOW: www.trybooking.com/HOPBOnly $99.00 includes all sessions plus morning and afternoon teaWork with the most popular arranger in the world!Kirby Shaw from the United States is a world-renowned expert in choral music education. In this…See More
The Ingenium Academy International Summer School for Music is looking for talented 14-18 year old singers to join our prestigious summer music program.• Spend three weeks in the beautiful, historic town of Winchester, England• Share your passion for music with other young musicians from across the globe• Benefit from expert tuition – with faculty from the Royal Academy of Music, the City of London Sinfonia, the World Youth Choir, the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and multi-grammy award…See More
This summer we are returning to the beautiful Winchester College (Winchester, UK) for 3 weeks of inspiring music making with talented young musicians from all over the world!The Ingenium team have been busy organising the 2015 programme, and are delighted to have brought together the most exciting workshops, conductors and masterclasses yet.Our star-studded…See More
Choir Man in Africa – world premiere documentary screeningThursday 16th April, 7.30pm CINEMA NOVA Level 1, 380 Lygon Street | Carlton Known by many as the 'Choir Man' for his multi award winning documentary 'Choir of Hard Knocks'. Jonathon Welch AM has worked with the homeless, asylum seekers and has run choirs in prisons. But now his belief that music can change and save lives is put to the ultimate test in the slums of Uganda. All tickets $30 Book online at:…See More
Following up on their sold-out performance last season, Thea Kano and the singers of the New York City Master Chorale return to the Duplex with "One More for the Road". The Duplex Theatre61 Christopher Street Wednesday, May 20thShows at 7pm and 9pm Tickets are $25 with discounts for students and seniorsPlease note that there is a 2 drink minimumTickets available at www.nycmasterchorale.org/boxSee More
Here's a preview of an new book about Joseph Flummerfelt
In Conversations with Joseph Flummerfelt: Thoughts on Conducting, Music, and Musicians, Donald Nally presents a window into the mind and heart of one of America's most celebrated and distinguished choral…