Much of the basic melodic and rhythmic material of Transcription has its origin in Chichang-pulgong, a Buddhist chant for the dead consisting of thirty syllables of Chinese characters that are sung with Korean pronunciation. It is believed that the highly melismatic style and extremely slow tempo of the chant (to sing once through the thirty syllables takes more than three minutes) originated in the movement of fish in water.
The Buddha of Compassion (Chichang) saw as his purpose the liberation from suffering of all sentient beings and vowed not to attain enlightenment until all others had themselves become Buddhas. It is through Chichang-pulgong that the assistance of the Buddha of Compassion is invoked.
The chant is sung by a single monk, or often in unison by a group of monks; this vocal line is accompanied by a temple block sounding a simple rhythmic punctuation. The temple block, resembling the shape of a skull, has two holes that are like the open eyes of a fish; this symbolizes spiritual awareness. In Transcription the temple block is retained, and a tom-tom, a middle-size gong (jing), and a marimba are added. These percussion instruments provide rhythmic punctuation and also, on occasion, a drone that results from the reiteration of one note or from the repetition of a melody made up of very few notes. The string quartet plays the melodic chant material and, at times, as with a group chanting in unison, the playing is only loosely synchronized. Also retained from the original chant is a certain non-developmental character that places the music outside of the traditional western European aesthetic.
Published by Lantro Music - Belgium