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.
March 2020 Update: Poligraf is currently hibernating, and probably not coming back to life, at least for the foreseeable future. Still, I have been writing new music steadily since the band was last active, a mix of songs and instrumentals influenced from progressive rock and which have been written for Poligraf, and also singer-songwriter tunes that are closer in their essence to folk-rock or even pop, pieces for solo classical guitar, and occasional electroid experimentations.
If you'd like to know more about my musical activities and support me in my efforts to bring more artistic beauty into the world, please visit my website (see the first icon below) where you can learn more about my various projects.
For me, your support represents an opportunity to go to the next level, reach a wider audience, and ultimately become a self-sustaining music producing unit that can function independently of a record label.
Thank you for reading thus far, and best wishes to you on your journey.