Sound is an integral part of traditional Buddhist ceremony in Japanese temples. Time in the temple is structured around a procession of ceremonies: rising, meditating, giving alms, eating, etc., and each ceremony is accompanied by the sonorities of men chanting sutras in unison, called shomyo.

Shomyo is therefore a common part of the temple soundscape, and most people pay little attention to it, thinking it is just the intoning of sacred texts by groups of chanting monks. That it is, of course, but to a careful listener it can reveal deeper levels.

Shomyo is much more than just a men's chorus. A variety of cymbals, wooden drums and clappers punctuate rhythms which contract and expand throughout the phrases, adding interesting tonal colors, percussive reference and structure. The mostly unison singing of the chorus is enlivened as individuals add minute changes in pitch and rhythm.