Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Word A Day

A friend of mine taught me a new word.

The word is beek. It's a verb with two meanings: (1) to bask or warm in the sunshine or before a fireplace, stove, or bonfire; and (2) to season (wood) by exposure to heat.

Beek the bamboo

"The beeking step is quite important in ensuring the strength and resilience of the bamboo."

It almost might sound like the word "bake"--or people might think that's what you're saying.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Viewed from the inside

Many students came to study with this teacher. He was very strict yet deep in his heart. He didn’t hesitate to criticize his student during the lesson. One day, the teacher asked a student to play for him. Unsatisfied with his performance, the teacher asked a female student next to him and asked for her opinion. She said, “It was machine like.” This teacher didn’t like how the student played the piece with no heart. This student eventually became a good player, even though this teacher’s opinion about this student did not change.

Another time, there was a foreign student who came to study with this teacher. This teacher kept reminding this student that he was not doing right on many points. The teacher finally asked another student to translate his advice into English so that this student could understand better. After hearing his advice in English, the student became grumpy and stared at the translator. The translator told the teacher: “I don’t want to get involved in this. You better ask those female students to do it, as he is not going to listen to me.” Since then, the teacher stopped giving detailed advices to this student. Even so, this student was eventually granted a shihan license. "Why?" Some of his students asked. The teacher responded: “Because he insisted that he needs a teaching license to get a teaching position in his country.

Although this teacher didn’t like these students’ performances, they became good players. It indicates, however, that their spirits were different from what the teacher tried to cultivate in them.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Take ni awasete fuku

Depending on the character of the flute, the player needs to accommodate his or her playing style, even embouchure in order to play it. (Japanese expressed this pedagogical idea by saying take ni awasete fuku, or “blowing according to the character of each piece of bamboo”).

Shimura Satoshi uses the term “Iki no michi” (“route of breath air”). He claims that the ji-nashi shakuhachi, especially old ones made during the Edo period, shows a wide variety of differences. These flutes do not sound resonant unless the player accustoms himself to its character brought by its unique, innate bore shape. The player needs to change his blowing style in the way that the air passes through a uniquely shaped inner space of the bamboo. This process requires months of practice and acclimation. (In the interview posted earlier, he described that he had come across ji-nashi that didn’t sound well initially but later changed his impression).

Toya Denko (1984) goes so far as to say that the air carves bamboo:

The ji-nashi shakuhachi is different from one another in terms of inner bore space. The player needs to get used to its own blowing style. Otherwise, the pitch may be inaccurate and the sounding may not be rich. However, as he plays it for some time, he understands the tips of how to blow into it. Because it does not bear a filling material inside the bore, the bamboo fabric may naturally be shaped in time [by blowing air] in a way that it resonates well. This transformation is called “road takes shape” (michi ga tsuku).

How long does it take to shave the bore until the bamboo sounds good? Must be more than a couple of months. Not my experience.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

礫川餘光's interview with Tomimori Kyozan 5

Track 6

There is a variety of honkyoku pieces. Tsuru no sugomori in kinko is to be played for happy occasions. Following the san-san-kudo style of wedding ritual (shinto based), the piece repeats koro-koro 3 times and again 9 times. In time, the piece gradually changed like that, depending on who performed (altered) it. The myoan version of kyorei, too. The koro-koro phrase was omitted by Higuchi Taizan sensei because it is too difficult to play. Great masters can do it. But when playing in renakn (ensemble of more than 2 players) for kenkyoku (music offering), the koro-koro in ensemble doesn't go smoothly. The proverb says it takes 3 years to master the koro-koro technique. That's why Higuchi sensei deleted it. Just as he did, honkyoku became both sophisticated and spoiled due to players' additions. The style of ajikan that people play today is exactly the case.

Today, Ajikan is played quite differently from how Miyagawa Nyozan played. Although the form is the same, the level of spirit is different. Myozan's verve is no longer carried. The original of Ajikan, Sashi (that people play today), is rather closer to Ajikan in taste. Ajikan is an interesting tune. Sashi (that had been transmitted) in the Oshu area was brought to Fukuoka and became Shinhichi Sashi. This was brought to Kyoto by Miyagawa Nyozan. To this Higuchi Taizan in Kyoto added phrases from Koku as well as a melody taken from a shomyo song, Akigarasu (autumn crow), which became Taizan's Aji. It was Suenaga Sessan in Fukuoka who named Ajikan. Miyagawa Nyozan learned Oshu Sashi from Hasegawa Togaku who was the last abbot of Futaiken in Sendai, and Nyozan's Ajikan embraced his myoan style and the Oshu style of playing.

The reason why many people today play Ajikan in such a stagnant style is that many learned Ajikan from Tani Kyochiku who used 2.5 long shakuhachi. That's how it became a dull, dark song. Miyagawa Nyozan played it on 1.8.

Interviewer: There is a recording of Miyagawa Nyozan's Ajikan, even though the quality of the recording is not so great.

Kyozan: Yes, unfortunately, the recording does not carry the true sounding. To our ears, his playing actually sounded quite rough. But he had subtle expressions that nobody could imitate—the level of frantic playing. That is the true Ajikan that expresses the spirit of shingon's Ajikanpo (?). That is what is missing in today's performances. Only the form is imitated. People simply drag the song and extend the form.

Interviewer: There is also a recording of Nishimura Koku's Ajikan. He was a disciple of Tani Kyochiku.

Kyozan: Yes. Tani Kyochiku's Ajikan also carries some sort of taste and import when played with a longer flute. However, Miyagawa Nyozan said, "I wonder where he learned it from? If that is the Miyagawa Nyozan's Ajikan, it would be troublesome." I think it is fine if there is Tani Kyochiku's Ajikan. But he probably should have changed the name
of the piece.

礫川餘光's interview with Tomimori Kyozan 4

Track 5

You are working on a difficult subject. When it comes to honkyoku, you cannot understand it unless you devote yourself to performing it. It cannot be approached through books. Besides, there is very little literature about it.

There are good female players, do you know that? For example, Iso Ikko (joshi) in Fukuoka. She already played the shakuhachi when she was in girls' school. The wife of deceased Myochin-san in Shikoku was also good. So here and there. People tend to think that the instrument is for men.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

礫川餘光's interview with Tomimori Kyozan 3

Track 4

The interviewer: Is there any kinko player who today transmits the old former of playing?

Tomimori: Ummmmm. When it comes to honkyoku... Masters like Araki Chio-san played both classics and sankyoku well. But usually it is not easy unless they are really great masters. Miura Kindo-san played honkyoku well in kinko-ryu. He was a brother of Miura Kinnosuke who was the jiinokami (servant?) of the meiji tenno emperor. I visited to comfort him after the Great Kanto Earthquake occurred (in 1923) and found him still making shakuhachi including larger bore size flutes. I asked him if kinko people also play such sizes of shakuhachi. He answered, "honkyoku needs to be played on bigger bore flutes." Now kinko shakuhachi are much narrower. I wonder if many people today hope to have Miura Kindo's shakuhachi, cause someone said "if you find Miura Kondo shakuhachi, let me know. I would buy it for 300000 yen." Shakuhachi became quite expensive. Today, kinko-ryu people themselves say that none of kinko-ryu masters play honkyoku well. That should be impossible, as the emphasis is now placed on sankyoku performance. I think that's fine - they play sankyoku. If kinko-ryu people play myoan shakuhachi, then sankyoku players won't be enough in number. Then, this (money) dries up! (laugh) That's why it is impossible. So kinko-ryu honkyoku is like daijo (mahayana), and kinko-ryu people should acknowledge and make good use of it. When it comes to theater music and other kinds of music, kinko-ryu playing is better. When it comes to music offering, myoan would be better. Each has pros and cons....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

礫川餘光's interview with Tomimori Kyozan 2

Track 3

So when the shakuhachi began to merge with the strings, the need to study scales emerged. Before the genroku (of the edo) period, people changed the lengths of shakuhachi to play in ensemble. However, after the genroku period, around the time of the first Kurosawa Kinko, 1.8 shakuhachi became the standard size. As a result, shakuhachi pieces needed to be transposed to different scales. Then, five scales of shakuhachi music emerged.

"Mukai Reibo" and "Koku Reibo" in kinko-ryu were transposed to the akebono scale. "Sanya Sugagaki" and "Kumoi Jishi" were transposed to the kumoi scale. These are very precious pieces, as they show traits of transposition and the five scales. The music score(s) of these pieces recorded around the time were also well written, much better than those of myoan shakuhachi. Half tones were also being used in kinko-ryu only after the meiji period. They were not used initially.

[Tomimori doesn't seem to explain well in the first part. He probably wants to point out that prior to the influence of strings, all the shakuhachi pieces were played in the same scale. Not sure about this]

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Orchestra Asia

Around 4:35... Not my cup of tea. Makes me wonder to what extent the differences of underlying values were filled.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Funagawa Toshio 2

More recordings of Funagawa Toshio

Funagawa was born in Shimane in 1931, began tozan shakuhachi at the age of 16 with Matsuda Suizan. In 1956, the year when he received a shihan rank, he moved to Tokyo and studied Furukawa Taro, a koto player. He was awarded the first prize at the Tokyo Shinbun hogaku competition (composition) , the Minister of Education prize, and the NHK prize.

B-2 Koto quartet (three movements: 1 Moderato, 2 Lento, and 3 Allegro)
Shakuhachi by Miyata Kohachiro, plus koto, viola, and cello

B-1 Shakuhachi trio (four movements; 1, 2, 3, and 4)
Shakuhachi: Aoki Reibo, Miyata kohachiro, Yokoyama Katsuya

A-1 Suite: Izumoji (1. Kiyomizudera no boshiki; 2. Matsuri; 3. Shinjiko no yubae)
Shakuhachi: Yokoyama Katsuya, plus, two koto(s), and 17-string koto

A-2 Shakuhachi Quintet (two movements: 1 and 2)
Shakuhachi: Miyata Kohachiro, Yokoyama Katsuya, Aoki Reibo, plus koto (Haga Mikiko), and 17-string koto (Miyashita Shin)

A-3 Buson’s poetry (four movements titled with Buson’s poems)
Koto: Nakata Sonoko, Narrator: Funagawa Toshio

A-1 Satoru: Ensemble Concert for Two Shakuhachi and Groups (gun)
1. Shiru; 2. Sameru; 3. Oboeru; 4. Satoru
Solo shakuhachi: Aoki Reibo and Yokoyama Katsuya
Group shakuhachi: (Part 1) Sakata Seizan, Soekawa Hiroshi, Kanei Akio, Inoue Yoshinori, (Part 2) Kono Masaaki, Nagase Kenji, Furuya Teruo, (Part 2-2) Mitsuhashi Kifu, Seki Ichiro

B-1 For koto and sangen

B-2 Shiki no tsuki (four movements: 1, 2, 3, and 4)

A-2 Symphonic poem: Ocean

B-3 Fuku kyosokyoku (multi concert) for koto and shakuhachi
Conductor: Fukuda Kazuo, Shakuhachi: Funagawa Toshio, Koto: Haga Mikiko, and the hogaku ensemble

1. Hachidan, 2. Midare
3. 足をはずされた客車のうた