I received a grant in the 90s for a vague project having something to do joining sounds I intended to record in Asia with photos I intended to take and stories I’d try to tell. It all fell apart, or, more precisely, never came together. However, as part of this I interviewed friends, guides, and faculty associated with the Naropa Institute’s study abroad programs in Bali and Nepal and during my own travels pre and post-program. (I was the program’s occasional “Director of Health and Well Being” from 1985-1997.) As part of my grant, I spoke to people about music, local deities, and black magic.
Wayne Vitale and his wife are well-known ethnomusicologists and gamelan players in Bali. They know the island as few others do. Keith Dowman is a scholar, writer, and dzogchen meditation teacher who lives in Nepal. Fred Eiseman wrote the quintessential book on Balinese customs “Bali: Sekala and Niskala.” John Butt was my Southeast Asian Studies teacher at Macalester college; my wife and I went to visit him after he had moved back to Chaing Mai to teach at Payap University. I recorded the dogs when I was walking home one night, north of Ubud, in Bali; they seemed to me to be barking in time with distant gamelan music. Pak Sumandhi was my drum teacher in Denpasar. I recorded the comments of guides I hired to take me around Pashipatinath and other sacred sites in Nepal, Burma, India and Tibet (“This is the sacrifice temple…”).