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In Singing Emptiness, two men, five centuries apart, make contact with each other through poetry, music and performance: Kumar Gandharva, the great twentieth-century Hindustani classical vocalist, sings the songs of Kabir, the great fifteenth-entury poet. Kabir composed poetry that evoked a space called nirguṇ or shunya—something without qualities or boundaries, empty—which challenged listeners to know it and to know themselves; and Gandharva sought the voice that could actually sing emptiness.
Singing Emptiness includes a substantial introductory essay, bilingual texts of 30 songs, and contributions by two renowned Indian writers, U. R. Ananthamurthy and Ashok Vajpeyi.
‘Hess helps translate the ineffable into English, a language perhaps resistant to such a barefaced encounter with the cosmic. Notes address points that help the reader—from gender implications of imagery to mythological references. The text is both simple and complex. It points to the entwinement of the subtle (perfectible) body and the everyday reality of being in the world. The divine is both infinitely far away and here, everywhere present at the same time. . . . This book makes material that might be difficult for Western readers accessible and gives an example from the Indian tradition of how art and gnosis link.’—Kathy Foley, Asian Theatre Journal