Urban Dharma Newsletter... May 18, 2004
This Issue: The Shakuhachi Zen Flute
1. The paradox of the Shakuhachi
2. The Meaninglessness of Zen in Shakuhachi
3. Shakuhachi in Perspective
4. The Bamboo Way (Chikudo)
...by Mary Lu Brandwein
5. Temple/Center/Website: The Melbourne Shakuhachi
6. Book/CD/Movie: eBook - New Life
From Ruins: Zen Celtic Sacred Songs and Meditations - Robert
silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible
is music. - Aldous Huxley (1894 - 1963)
whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, 'Is there
a meaning to music?' My answer would be, 'Yes.' And 'Can you
state in so many words what the meaning is?' My answer to that
would be, 'No.' - Aaron Copland (1900 - 1990)
The paradox of the Shakuhachi
shakuhachi, or Zen flute, is the traditional Japanese bamboo
flute. In the hands of a master, it produces the most extraordinary,
subtle, sensual music - prized as being almost perfect for relaxation
way you look at it, the shakuhachi or Zen flute is an extraordinary
instrument. From the moment of its conception it is extraordinary.
At daybreak in the dead of winter, a Japanese master craftsman
sets out into the frozen bamboo groves in search of the perfect
culm of bamboo. He might rummage through hundreds of acres before
settling on a single stalk of yellow-green bamboo - as tall
as a six storey building, yet with only one small section (typically
55 cm long) suitable for his instrument. Then, applying a combination
of experience, intuition and a little good luck, he begins to
craft his masterpiece ...
Zen flute is possibly the simplest non-percussive instrument
ever conceived. It has no keys or pads like a western flute,
no reed like a clarinet or saxophone, no strings like a guitar
or violin, no mechanisms inside like a piano or organ; it doesn't
even have a mouthpiece like the recorder. It simply has five
finger holes - fewer than the penny whistle or almost any other
wind instrument - and one end cut to form an angled blowing
edge. Despite this simple construction, the Zen flute (in the
hands of a master musician) can produce an inconceivably broad
range of musical sounds - from pure, flute-like notes, to tones
that are every bit as complex and expressive as the human voice.
[There are moments on The Masters of Calm when you will be unaware
of the segue from Zen flute to human voice.]
able to produce such complex and expressive music - as haunting
and as enchanting as you will ever hear - from an instrument
so basic, is the first paradox of the shakuhachi.
Zen flute came to Japan from China some time in the 8th century.
At that time, the shakuhachi was constructed from the middle
section of a bamboo culm. Around the 15th century in Japan,
the instrument was adopted by a sect of Zen Buddhist monks -
all of whom were samurai - as a tool of meditation. (They
knew that the playing of it relaxed both mind and body, aiding
their spiritual pursuits.)
was during this period that the Zen flute began to be constructed
from the spiked root section of the bamboo - as it is today
- so the instrument could double as a particularly ferocious
weapon. This probably explains the Zen flute's long association
with the martial arts.
second paradox of the shakuhachi is the way history's most revered
instrument of peace and tranquillity once doubled as a weapon
for samurai monks.
with other instruments, there are no child prodigies in the
shakuhachi tradition. Not one. This is understandable, since
the instrument is not only immensely difficult to excite, but
also takes many years of dedicated training to attain a standard
where you would perform.
Zen flute is not like a recorder: it has no mouthpiece as such,
and simply blowing in one end will not produce a sound. To play
a note, your lips and mouth must become part of the instrument
(how appropriate for an instrument known as the Zen flute!).
And it is this "oneness" of instrument and player
that permits so much flexibility in pitch, tone, colour, and
loudness of playing.
of the discipline of mastering the Zen flute is learning to
deal with the frustrations inherent in learning to play it.
That is why much of its study is dedicated to "forging
the mind-body" - developing the intuitive, spiritual side
of the performer as much as the musicianship itself. Playing
the shakuhachi in this context is called suizen, or "blowing
Zen". To blow Zen, one requires great breath control; yet,
after years of training and practice, the shakuhachi player
strives not to try to control the breath at all. Instead the
breath is observed. The player "watches" the breath
with a concentration that consumes both the observer and that
which is being observed - the player "becomes" the
The Meaninglessness of Zen in Shakuhachi: Suizen and Honkyoku
- Shakuhachi Society of British Columbia
to the fundamental experience of Zen the aspect of shakuhachi
(Japanese vertical 5-holed bamboo flute) in relation to Zen
is meaninglessness, but the playing of Honkyoku occupies a unique
position in religious world music. Sui-zen (blowing zen, or
blowing meditation) is the practice of playing the shakuhachi
bamboo flute as a means of attaining self-realization. The monks
of old Japan who practiced suizen were called Komuso, or Monks
of Nothingness and Emptiness (Ko: emptiness, mu: nothingness,
so: monk or priest). These monks belonged to a Rinzai Zen Buddhist
sect called Fuke-shu, named after the legendary Tang Dynasty
Chinese monk who first used a bamboo flute as a meditation tool.
The pieces on which suizen are based are called Honkyoku, or
original pieces and were basically solo, with a few exceptions.
In playing honkyoku the state of mind was the most essential
element, rather than musical enjoyment, therefore it wasn't
music per se. Indeed, it was was prohibited for Komuso to play
with O-koto (horizontal harp) and Shamisen (three-stringed banjo-like
instrument) in those days. The monks blew shakuhachi for their
own enlightenment not for entertainment. However, since Zen
Buddhism puts no accent in devotion to a deity or god, their
music contains no sense of praise of faith. This is what is
so unique about suizen as opposed to other religious musics.
It was not a practice connected as closely to the life and death
struggle as tea ceremony, martial arts, or meditation was; which
may lessen its meaningfulness in relation to the Zen experience.
But it was close enough to spirituality to have an impact on
the religious landscape of Japan. Today, honkyoku has evolved
(some say devolved) into music which is both profound and beautiful
in its expression.
few people today actually understand or practice suizen in its
true form. But honkyoku has turned out to be one of the most
popular forms of music in the contemporary music scene today
(in and out of Japan). There are various reasons for this. Many
who have passed down the traditional honkyoku in modern times
were not professional Shakuhachi players insisting on keeping
the practice of suizen by playing only Honkyoku. Since these
were mostly intellectuals isolated from the central musical
scene in modern Japan where radical westernization took place,
they concentrated on nurturing the spiritual side of Honkyoku.
But it was only a matter of time until western musical ideas
affected honkyoku as well, which ironically was important to
its survival. New forms of Honkyoku began to appear which were
much more dynamic and lively but still based on the original
ideal of suizen. Hideo Sekino said, "When we conceive The
Art as the underlying spiritual representation of the ancient
legend of the Komuso, the modern creation of Honkyoku might
have been the very effort to revive the dying legend from the
overwhelming westernization in modern Japan."
the death of Hideyori Toyotomi in ca.1610 the Tokugawa family
came under control ushering Japan into the Edo period, an unprecedented
stretch of peace which lasted 250 years. This was the golden
age of the Shakuhachi and other Japanese arts which enjoyed
support from the government, forming the base of today's "traditional
Japan". During this time, the Shakuhachi underwent a transformation
from a 6-holed, thin piece of bamboo, to the 5-holed, root-ended
bamboo flute that is most common today. Many samurai at that
time who's masters were defeated by Tokugawa were forbidden
to carry swords and were left homeless. These were the "ronin"
(masterless samurai), many of whom joined the ranks of the Komuso
monks for spiritual focus as well as a chance to carry a weapon
again, namely, the club-like Shakuhachi. Earlier, this sect
of monks (formerly known as Komoso, straw mat monks) attracted
various riff-raff and beggars; but since the establishment of
the Fuke-shu with its strict code of discipline (and support
from the Tokugawa government), membership became exclusive to
only those with samurai ranking, and the use of Shakuhachi was
limited to only the Komuso. They travelled from place to place
on pilgrimages to the various Komuso temples throughout Japan,
playing their Shakuhachi for alms and meditation, concealed
from the outer world by a large basket-like hat (tengai) that
completely covered their faces. They were given special passes
by the government which allowed them free access across any
border in Japan and on boats across bodies of water. Consequently,
many Komuso were used by the government as spies.
influence of Zen on the spiritual and aesthetic landscape of
Japan was profound. Zen which simply means "meditation"
(from the Sanskrit 'dhyana') appealed to the intellectual, ruling
class, therefore was supported and permeated just about every
art form at the time. From Zen came the ideas of spiritual selflessness
and concentration of the mind. In the Samurai tradition of Bushido
(Warrior Way) one dedicated his entire life to the protection
and well-being of his master and was trained in such a way as
to merge totally with one's weapon (e.g. the sword) as well
as the environment and the opponent so as to have victory over
him. When many of the samurai's swords were confiscated by the
Tokugawa Shogunate, the Ronin found it very easy to fit into
the Komuso way since the concentration needed to learn Shakuhachi
was similar to their sword training, and, the shape of the Edo
period Shakuhachi resembled a hand held weapon, and no doubt
was used as one as well! In the daily life of the Komuso monks,
the day included morning zazen (sitting zen), suizen, begging,
and martial arts training. In the rural Aomori district of northern
Tohoku, Japan, one of the most famous schools was the Kimpu
School (Nezasa-ha) which developed a unique technique of breathing
called "komi-buki" or "concentrated or packed
breath", where an intentional steady, pulse-rhythm is created
while blowing the Shakuhachi by contracting and relaxing the
diaphragm. It is said that it came about when after the Komuso
Monks finished a hard training in their martial arts, which
included jiujutsu (soft technique) and kenpo (sword play) they
would play their shakuhachi immediately afterwards, and the
pulsing sound would be from their shallow breath and fast beating
hearts. A lesser known fact was shakuhachi's connection with
the Shogun's Ninja (surveillance/assassin) force, a subject
which deserves more research. One famous Ninja named Sugawara
Yoshiteru who became a komuso first in Kyoto and then in Edo
often dedicated his performances to the Tokugawa Daimyo. Due
to his skills as a Ninja, Sugawara became something of a small
daimyo himself. He was permitted to build his own temple in
Niigata, which became Echigomeianji. He composed the piece Echigomeian-hachigaeshi.
the most significant 20th century honkyoku persona was Watazumi-do
So who combined a martial arts-like physical regimen complete
with detailed breath excercises with Shakuhachi practice. His
disciple, Yokoyama Katsuya is one of the most important professional
shakuhachi players focussing on transmission of Honkyoku today.
the Meiji Reformation, the Fuke-shu of Komuso was abolished
and many secret characteristics of this group were lost. Because
of this historical loss we'll never know entirely the reality
of the Komuso. However, their instrument, the Shakuhachi has
survived the westernization policy of the Meiji government.
It's use as a religious instrument (hoki) is now a musical one
(gakki) utilizing western musical scale as well as Japanese,
and played in ensembles, a practice which was previously prohibited.
in our post-modern age, shakuhachi music is appearing to those
hemmed in by their material world. There is a renewed interest
in a wholistic approach to playing shakuhachi where mind, body,
and spirit are developed along with musical ability. People
like Riley Lee in Australia give breath and honkyoku workshops
all around the world and seek to integrate the whole person
with one's environment and playing, just as the Komuso of old
did. Many contemporary musicians are looking back at and discovering
the beauty and enormous expression of traditional instruments,
and the traditional style of playing Shakuhachi. Shakuhachi
music uses many notes which do not fall within the standard
western musical temperment. It makes active use of "non-musical"
sounds or noise such as blowing, windy sounds, simulated animal
sounds, as well as no sound, or the slience between the notes
(ma), which is a very important element in performance and symbolizes
emptiness, selfnessness, the basis of the life motto of the
Komuso "Coming from nowhere, going to nowhere like the
wind". It also expresses that all things are related in
this intricate web of change we call life.
Shakuhachi in Perspective - Shakuhachi Society of British
you become a student of Shakuhachi, you also become a member
of an international community. This community extends throughout
the world. It consists of hundreds of your fellow students.
Because we have chosen to study this special instrument called
Shakuhachi, we have much in common with other members of this
community. As a group, these commonalities set us apart from
other players of other musical instruments. These differences
will become increasingly apparent to you in the areas of attitude,
purpose, and method. In spite of our commonality, there are
within the Shakuhachi community, great differences of opinion,
attitude and interpretation. It is important that we recognize
these differences and make every attempt to understand them
and to learn from them. It is also important to keep a sense
of perspective. We are talking about differences between people,
all of whom are doing their best to play shakuhachi. This means
the greatest differences should be accepted with the tolerance
and good faith reserved for family and close friends. For the
beginner, the questions arising from the differences with other
shakuhachi schools is difficult to answer. In order to better
understand this problem, we must begin by looking at Shakuhachi
from the outside.
our society, Shakuhachi is an obscure, mysterious flute from
the East that is occasionally heard on martial arts movies and
atmospheric background music for the TV shows like X-files and
and movies of Kurosawa. But the fact that this flute was used
in this manner, chosen over any other flute or instrument shows
the mood-creating power of the shakuhachi. No other instrument
can achieve the deep, mysterious sound like the Shakuhachi.
Mahatma Ghandi, upon hearing the mystic sound of the shakuhachi
called it "The Voice of the Dead". The legendary jazz
saxophonist, John Coltrane travelled to Japan once to procure
and learn Shakuhachi to deepen the spiritual quality of his
music. The famous minimalist composer and Zen Buddhist, John
Cage, also travelled to Japan to study Shakuhachi under the
legendary Shakuhachi master, Watazumi-doso, who inspired his
infamous "silent" piece, 4 minutes and 33 seconds,
Cage's purest statement of no-self. Its inherent exotic nature
is definitely one of the more seductive qualities of the Shakuhachi,
but lack of education limits is popularity. Statments such as
"Shakuhachi utilizes no rhythm or timing in playing the
music", tend to add to the mystery and confusion surrounding
the Art. Ask around, many people have probably heard the sound
the Shakuhachi but few have ever heard the name and have any
real knowledge about it.
see Shakuhachi as small and cohesive, but insiders see it as
large and diverse. This dichotomy is a fundamental cause of
confusion and questioning for new Shakuhachi students.
major barrier to understanding comes when students try to reconcile
the two aspects of Shakuhachi into one comprehensive view. This
process does not yield successful results in this instance because
both viewpoints are different and both are true. One is not
more correct than the other, and neither can be subverted. Understanding
can only come when the student's awareness grows large enough
to encompass and accept all aspects of Shakuhachi. This is a
learning process. It is difficult, takes a great deal of time,
and requires enormous effort on our part. Remember, if Shakuhachi
were easy to learn, easy to do, and easy to understand, it would
by its own nature be of limited value. It is precisely because
of its deceptive complexity and the resulting difficulty in
learning even the most fundamental precepts that we find it
to be of such profound importance.
learning process inevitably begins with the students trying
to fit themselves into the Shakuhachi world and fit Shakuhachi
into the rest of the world. This produces some very important
questions for which we shall attempt to provide at least partial
answers. These questions we often verbalize in many different
ways. However, most of them are variations on the same three
basic questions. The first is: "Is there more than one
kind of Shakuhachi?" The answer to this question is "No".
Shakuhachi in its fullest sense is the product of the audio-spiritio
lives of Japanese Zen monks and the musicians who inherited
the tradition from them. It represents the culmination of Spirit
and Nature unifying in bamboo, breath, and man. It is not static
but dynamic, changing and organic. Shakuhachi is the legacy
of the Japanese soul and is as singular and unique as a fingerprint.
second question is: "Is there more than one way to practice
Shakuhachi?" The answer to this question is "Yes!".
There are many kinds of Shakuhachi music one can practice ranging
from honkyoku (original Zen solo pieces) to sankyoku (ensemble
music), to minyou (folk music), to classical, jazz, and blues.
third basic question naturally follows: "So, which way
should I study? or "Which is the best style?" The
true answer to either of these questions can only be found within
yourself. Beyond its physical manifestations, Shakuhachi is
essentially an intensely personal experience. Therefore, the
style that is best for you is quite simply the one that feels
best to you, the one that provides you with the most personal
find your way, I suggest the following three steps:
Train hard, concentrate on the basics. Condition your mind and
body. Absorb everything you can from your sensei.
As your skill and confidence levels increase, attend seminars,
try other teachers, and play with as many people as you can.
Above all, keep an open mind!
When you find that special teacher (and this may happen more
than once in your career) follow your heart. Do what you feel
to be right. Train for yourself first! To do less is to be dishonest
with yourself and others.
the last few years there has been an unprecedented rise in the
interest of the shakuhachi around the world. A great deal of
research, much discussion has thus far resulted. Much is yet
to be learned from this process, but two things are certainly
true: Shakuhachi is a living, growing Ga-hoki (Musical/Spiritual
Instrument) for today's world and the physical aspects of Shakuhachi,
as beautiful and seductive as they can be, are only the outward
manifestations of what is importantly a real and direct way
to improve the quality of our lives.
The Bamboo Way (Chikudo) ...by
Mary Lu Brandwein
is a Door....¿To Where?
Asia there are many disciplines that can be studied as a "Way,"
such as Kado (Flower Way), Chado (Tea Way), Shodo (Calligraphy
Way), Kyudo (Archery Way), Bushido (Warrior Way), Chikudo (Bamboo
Way). These all sound very esoteric, but in reality a "Way"
is NOTHING SPECIAL and is not limited to specific Asian
learning paths can be added to the list and actually anything
can be studied as a "Way." A new foreign language,
a new baby, a musical instrument (without previous experience),
sewing, gourmet cooking, dancing, law practice, a new career,
school, can all be studied as a "Way." Anything really
can be a "Way." Actually what makes the difference
is the attitude we bring to our study. In this article I will
discuss my study of sound as a "Way," in particular
studying the Japanese Bamboo Flute (the Shakuhachi) for the
last 14 years.
let's see what exactly a "Way" is. A "Way"
is the disciplined, long-term study of anything that
challenges our childhood-developed self-concept of who we are.
If we choose something to study that we have interest in
but know nothing about and even think we have no talent for,
there are real possibilities for learning from it.
we approach our new study there are basically two attitudes
with which we can broach it:
A Goal-Oriented Attitude or
A "Mirror" Attitude.
Goal-Oriented Attitude is about getting to a pre-established
goal and struggling towards it. However, in always looking towards
the goal and trying to get there as soon as possible we constantly
dissipate our energy by the longing for and the looking towards
the goal. We are consumed with our struggling for a certain
outcome. Our energy is not all present with what we are doing
because one eye is always on the goal in the future. This attitude
is a no-nonsense, let's get the job done attitude. We plow right
through to our goal.
"Mirror" Attitude is about studying our chosen discipline
with awareness, using the experience of the new learning as
a mirror to see ourselves in the process of learning as we meet
with difficulty, the longing for the goal, discouragement, fatigue,
disappointment, doubt, fear, frustration, anxiety, and resistance
to seeing and hearing. We will also surely meet criticism, success,
and failure. We will be awakened to the need for discipline,
for perseverance and for constantly nurturing the sound. This
new undertaking offers us a chance to see ourselves in a very
different, fresh, new situation and the awareness and self-knowledge
gained here can be clearer because the experience is so different
from our ordinary life. Then this new self-knowledge, if we
are willing, can be applied to the other areas of our life which,
because we are used to them, have become blind spots.
the "Way" our ideas of our own identity are
challenged, e.g. I am not a musician; I can't play music.
ideas of how we learn are challenged, e.g. I am a fast
learner; by this time I "should" have already mastered
ideas about what we already know are also challenged,
e.g. I already know how to hear, breathe; I already know myself.
of our cherished ideas and opinions are challenged in this new
situation. These ideas are born from our core belief, that is
a basic decision made as a small child about how life is and
how we are...many of our problems with life and ourselves come
from these decisions. In challenging these dearly held beliefs,
unbelievable fear and terror is aroused.
bring the "Mirror Attitude" to all this. There is
an inner awareness developing more and more. All of our ideas
produce emotions and challenging these beliefs also produces
emotions and they are reflected in our tight muscles and those
muscles affect the sound; they affect our performance. These
inner hidden ideas, our core belief are ideas of who
we really believe in truth that we are. They are our favorite
poison thoughts, believed to be the deepest truth about ourselves.
These ideas are easy to discover if we develop an attitude of
watching the mind and the exact muscles that the ideas pinch.
They are our constant companions, but most of the time they
come and go like lightening just beyond our consciousness.
more we know ourselves, the more deeply our sound will communicate
to others as we play. One who knows how to listen, hearing only
one note that I play, will know exactly my level of self-awareness
and compassion. This one note will communicate where am I playing
from: the mind, the heart, the solar plexus, the gut, the whole
body. Is the sound coming only from the flute as an instrument
playing music or is my body/mind/heart also sounding through
the flute, the flute as my body? Am I playing from the origin
of my being, which is the origin of your being too? How can
one come to this?
realizing I don't know; I am not aware. I don't really hear
or know how to breathe or know myself...being willing to start
to look and feel.
Japanese bamboo flute offers numerous opportunities to encounter
ourselves as we try to learn: just the first difficulty of making
any sound, trying to develop the characteristic harmonics in
the sound, savoring the imperfection of all sound, developing
dexterity and correct pitch (which is like walking on quicksand),
learning the scales, acquiring the ability to bend the sound
low enough and high enough and to quarter and half hole certain
notes. Then there are the special sounds: "muraiki"
(air sound), "soraiki" (empty sound), "kubi futi"
(shaking), "koro koro" (a kind of fluttering sound),
"kara kara" (a kind of trill), alternate fingerings
for special effect, ability to maneuver with speed, to say nothing
of learning to read the music.
sound develops over time and it is a lifelong endeavor with
the sound always changing, always becoming what it will be.
Each person's sound is different and very personal.
Shakuhachi can play all kinds of music, but perhaps it is easier
to notice and be aware and practice in this way with the "Honkyoku"
(meditation music). The word "Honkyoku" means the
original tuning or the original music for this instrument, but
it can also mean music or sound from the origin of being. This
music is not really performance music as such; rather it is
"sacred" music meant to be played in a meditation
hall for people meditating (zazen) and by one who is meditating
(zazen). Its rhythm is many times fairly free, lyric melody
is not present, no harmony is present. The lone bamboo sound
emphasizes sound color, total sound, volume and movement within
each sound and from one pitch to another. "Honkyoku"
is meant to entice the ears, the body and the mind to pay attention,
to be present to the sound, but also to all that is. It is impossible
to guess how the phrase will end or when or what will come next.
The whole body can become an awake ear, a receiving organ, if
we slowly choose to open our body to hearing. There can be no
longer an inside and an outside. There is no end to sound, surrounding
and compenetrating sound...only totally alive hearing, no ideas
of "I like this; I don't like this." When there is
thinking there is no real hearing.
to listen to music, learning to play music is a process of learning
to hear and to savor the sound and the feeling of sound, even
our "imperfect" sound. Without this the sound can
not change or improve.
let's try this as a listening exercise:
The eyes draw the attention more easily; they are greedy, so,
close them or put them out of focus.
Putting your attention on the surface of the skin, breathe in
through every pore on the body surface, slowly feeling the whole
surface. Letting the sound in through each pore, feeling the
vibrations of sound on the whole surface of the body and then
within the body. Listening with the whole body causes a momentary
forgetting of your name and how much money you owe. Only this,
Hearing only; feeling the sound enter the ear; feeling the sensations
of the sound on the surface of the skin and its effect on the
Letting the sound be a house and surround you and be inside
When a thought comes, notice it, look at its content, feel its
effect on the body and then return to the hearing and the physical
sensation of the sound.
Let your energy be carried by the sound; ride it; surrender
to the sound.
Sound is a door, a "formless field," a background
that allows for the seeing and experiencing in the foreground
of the emotion-thoughts and the body and also allows for the
experiencing of a deeper truer Self.
The mind will rebel in fear; watch it; feel what it does to
the body and therefore to the sound.
can be experienced for a fraction of a second or longer. Typically
we would flip in and out of this experience depending on the
hold that our thoughts have over us.)
In playing, feel the sound arise from the whole body as the
energy concentrates, feel the strength of the abdomen, the diaphragm
expand and contract, and the lungs empty and fill, the throat
open, the resonance of the sinuses and feel the taste of the
sound in the mouth. Taste the sound in the mouth; savor it in
the mouth the way you savor an expensive wine; feel its vibrations
on the fingers. The Honkyoku on the shakuhachi or slower pieces
on a wind instrument are particularly helpful here because a
note is not just struck, but followed through and sustained
and many things can happen or not happen within its texture
and space and all the while there is hearing, experiencing,
you play and do this as much as possible? When there is emotional
upset, can you play anyway? How does anger alter the sound?
What is the difference between an angry Ab and a sad Ab or an
aggressive Ab and an empty Ab? How does the body differ when
it makes each one of them? If I play when I am sick, what can
I learn about my sickness from my sound? How does the feeling
of making the sound differ?
I play when I am disappointed or tired, where can I feel in
the body the disappointment or the fatigue? Can I reside in
the physical sensation of these emotions with the help of my
flute sound? Can I be more comfortable with their discomfort
in my body? Can I slowly be more comfortable with the whole
range of the emotions and feelings of being human? Can I just
live it and let it be and put it all into my sound and still
savor it all? Savor the humanness? Slowly over time, just a
little more today? now? Can I?
what does the shakuhachi sound do to my body, to my mind? Does
it change anything? Does it heal? Slowly over time what happens?
sound, the playing is a way to be alive, to experience our thoughts,
our emotions, our false selves and our true Self ....slowly
awakening....slowly accepting....slowly experiencing more and
more within the context of an ever wider total sound.... world
is a door......
situate this piece within the Zen Koan: I want to live forever;
I must die.
is the quiet experiencing and appreciation of the moonlight,
all of nature, all of life...aliveness. Yet again, the sadness
that all things must end; all life dies. Here is our chance
to experience our own sadness and appreciation and feel nature
and our own death a little. What are your thoughts when you
hear/play this piece? What effect do they have on the body?
What feelings arise? How does your body produce these feelings?
What muscles are affected and what do the nerves do and what
does your energy do? Can you stay with only hearing/playing
at times? Does fear sneak into the hearing that you, as you
know yourself, could be lost forever...or perhaps that you are
not really who you think you are? Where do you feel the fear?
Can you just feel that fear quietly for a little, resting in
in this way is really death to the self you know yourself to
be; can you do it just a little...and then a little more and
more? Can you come to a new hearing, a new playing?
is a door....
Welcome to the Melbourne Shakuhachi Centre ...David
to The Melbourne Shakuhachi Centre
in the idyllic setting of the Montsalvat Artist's Community,
the Melbourne Shakuhachi Centre has provided musicians with
the finest quality professional flutes, instruction and valuable
information for the past twenty years.
maker David S. Brown, has consistently crafted flutes of rare
and unique beauty suited both to the traditional and contemporary
Shak enthusist. Winner of the coveted WOSTEP International prize
for Horology (watch and clock-making) and 5th Dan practinioner
of Aikido; David's talent fuses the exactness of watchmaking
and the intuition of 34 years of Aikido experience. David's
flutes have received acclaim from Shakuhachi masters and players
worldwide including; Tadashi Tadjima, Yokoyama Katsuya and Riley
Lee. Riley has used David's flutes consistently for recordings
and concerts and been a constant supporter of the centre. In
fact, every shak performer Australia-wide has used David's flutes.
Shakuhachi is the simplest of musical instruments, but in the
hands of a master musician however, the flute is capable of
an imeasurable variety of dynamics and timbre. The long diminishing
notes, coupled with unusual techniques and almost inaudible
grace notes, produce beautiful, haunting melodies. Phrases are
played to the full ability of one's breath. The sound has a
distinct Zen flavour, depicting with skillful simplicity the
beauty of nature.
very striking feature of shakuhachi playing is the wonderful
use of movement and physical gesture in performance. This is
because fine pitch and timbrel control is achieved through the
repositioning of the blowing edge to a consistent embochure.
Moving the flute in space also provides the musician with visual
and tactile cues to monitor these finer parameters of sound
control. Sideways movements of the head, tilting of the flute
and head are all common techniques seen in shakuhachi playing.
These movements are interpreted from the score as fingering
patterns written to sound another pitch; tilt and headmovements
are then used to compensate the pitch resulting in specifc timbrel
and dynamic effects.
the Western flute, the shakuhachi appears basic and economical.
In reality, first impressions can be very deceiving. Shakuhachi
are masterfully constructed from carefully selected pieces of
bamboo. These pieces have seven nodes in careful proportion
to hole placement and the overall length of the flute. As the
nodes converge towards the root-end of the flute the colour
of the bamboo darkens, the diameter of the bore narrows as the
thickness of the bamboo base increases. A gentle curvature adds
a pleasing aspect of movement to this form. Five large open
holes allow for cross, half, quarter fingerings for accurate
microtonal control of pitch. In fact several Ryu (schools) of
shakuhachi have categorised up to 60 divisions of the octave
so tuning control now becomes a life's journey, not a constraint.
New Life From Ruins: Zen Celtic Sacred Songs and Meditations
- Robert A. Jonas
CD fuses Celtic Christian songs from Ireland and Scotland with
the shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute. Featured Celtic vocalists
Jacynth Hamill and Heather Innes weave their voices with the
sound of Robert A. Jonas's Zen flute. Jacynth, Heather and Robert
met in October, 2000 at a Buddhist-Christian conference hosted
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Fr. Lawrence Freeman (Benedictine).
Sensing a resonance between the haunting melodies of the shakuhachi
and their ancient Celtic musical tradition, they performed before
700 people in Belfast City Hall.
the following two years Heather and Jacynth joined Robert for
several concerts in the Boston area, including three days in
the studio to record "New Life from Ruins". On this
CD, Heather and Jacynth reach down into the musical archives
of their countries to bring alive the rich spiritual resources
of the Celtic devotional tradition. Rooted in that ancient heart-centered
place, they offer several pieces of their own composition.
Empty Bell - Robert A. Jonas
Empty Bell is a sanctuary for the study and practice of Christian
meditation and prayer. Our purpose is to learn about the history
and practice of the Christian contemplative way as rooted in
the Gospels, and to explore its common ground with other ancient
Wisdom teachings. We give special attention to the Christian-Buddhist
dialogue, to artistic expression of spiritual insight, and to
the relationship between spirituality and stewardship of our
bio-diverse natural world.
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