Listening to Chanting


Buddhism has been a big part of my life. Learning about the chanting practice and relating it to my daily actions gave me the opportunity to change my point of view, seeing things from a different perspective and dealing with issues with a different mentality. This, made me grow as a human being as well as a creative thinker, having the opportunity to relate the principles of Buddhism with what I’ve been working on during my three years of Interaction Design Arts.

Since this practice is such a big source of inspiration, I decided to dedicate this thesis to the analysis of chanting and how we perceive it, from a spiritual as well as a musical point of view. Taking the example of artists and scholars such as John Cage and Jean-Luc Nancy, in this thesis I am going to explain what happens in our mind and body during the meditation process and how it affects ourselves and the environment around us.

How can chanting bring us into experiencing a deep engagement with the world and our inner selves, through our “listening body”? This thesis is going to answer this question, hopefully giving some inspiration and inciting the reader to pay more attention to the sonic and spiritual worlds, and making him or her more aware of the environment, with all its elements that surround us.

(Abstract from Listening to Chanting - A Deeper Engagement With The World).

As a visual representation of my thesis, I want to convey a ritualistic experience. The reader should be able to understand the meaning of the chanting practice, not just by reading my thesis, but also being able to experience it through a physical object. Inspired mainly by the Buddhist tradition of Tibetan monks, I am going to create Tibetan prayer flags, on which the thesis is going to be printed.

Tibetan prayer flags are known for being carriers of the Buddha’s teachings, which, with the wind blowing, are then spread all around the universe. They are divided in two different types: dar-ding and darchen. While the darchen flags are hanged vertically on a pole, the dar-ding flags are put on a string horizontally, in their correct colour order, and this is the type I chose to use. They have different shapes and colours, following a precise meaning: from left to right the colours are blue, white, red, green, and yellow, respectively representing the sky, air, fire, water, and earth (G Adventures, 2017).

Made of cotton, the flags are going to show all the chapters of my thesis, written using a specific font, recalling the handwriting style that we can see in the Buddhist prayer flags. Since the prayer flags are left hanging until their colours fade, representing the passing of time, before printing the thesis on it, with natural dyes I’ve coloured the fabric following the original colours scheme that stands for the five elements: this colours put together represent the balance of the environment we come into contact with the chanting practice. Using natural dyes like turmeric, beetroot, red cabbage and spinach, I already gave the flag a whitened look, representing the time I’ve spent experimenting and writing the thesis.

While walking around the hanging flags, the audience is going to be followed through by the sound of the wind and silence, being invited to experience the deep listening practice.

(Design Rationale from Listening to Chanting - A Deeper Engagement With the World).
For any enquiries about the thesis you can contact me at my email address.

Virginia Malavasi



Interaction Designer based in London, specialised in production and operations for events and exhibitions, with an immense enthusiasm for Arts and Spatial design. Thanks to my studies and my work experience, my practice varies in different ways, from physical interactive installations to creating digital content.