Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Shofu Bunko

I finally visited Shimura Zenpo’s jinashi shakuhachi museum this summer. We talked on a wide range of topics related to the shakuhachi. I had a precious opportunity to play some of his collection flutes, such as those made by Fujita Masaharu and Kobayashi Shomei. Fujita’s 3.6 was a giant and hard to hold with the finger holes in a straight line. But once I got used to it I could get some sounds. My impression of this flute was similar to that of Nishimura Koku’s kyotaku. I am not making any generalization out of this particular flute. Fujita made hundreds of jinashi, and they probably bore distinctive characteristics. I wished I could try those made by others such as Kono Gyokusui I and II.

While we were blowing into each other’s jinashi, I was constantly listening to how he played, especially how he controlled the tone quality. I often noticed that his tone color changed after adding an atari. I pointed it out to him. He simply responded that it was probably due to the flute’s capacity.

To note some memorable moments:

1. He used table gongs, small and big, to explain layers of the intricate tone coming from a jinashi flute. The sound of each gong was deep and reverberant with many overtones. These overtones sometimes merged in singular harmony, other times created layers of resonant vibration. This complex tone color is not easily attainable through jinuri shakuhachi as the latter tends to produce more focused tones.

2. He believes that the body for jinashi playing is different from that for jinuri playing. I asked him if he still plays a jinuri. “Yes,” said him, but he does that only to demonstrate the differences. Indeed, he picked up a jinuri and played it for me (only a few notes). His expression “keep pushing the air” is apt to explain the jinuri playing. “Save the air” for the jinashi, as “it vibrates with little air.” This made sense a lot to me.

3. Some flutes are suited for playing koku, and others are for mukaiji. Koku (Takiochi, Ajikan, etc.) begins with “tsu-re” and repeats the phrase “tsu-re” many times. Mukaiji repeats “ha-I” (“ri-hi” “ha-ro”). Jinashi flutes tend to bear characteristics that can be judged on these criteria.

4. He distinguished the art of "finger" and the art of "breath" to highlight what he thinks of as the jinashi playing.

5. He often plays takiochi (takiotoshi) using his 3.3 made by Kobayashi Shomei (see here for example). He claims that it is in the myotan taizan-ha style. But his playing of this particular piece on shorter flutes is much faster than how it is “normally” played by taizan-ha players (examples are included in his recordings of kokan shakuhachi). For this reason, some believe that Shimura’s taizan-ha playing is not authentic but influenced by the chikuho style. Well, Shimura was clear: He learned it from Sakaguchi Tesshin who was a student of Miyagawa Nyozan and Takahashi Kuzan. Sakaguchi’s playing of myoan pieces sounds similar to Miyagawa’s. It is faster, vibrant, making a significant contrast to the slower version of the piece performed by players of Tanikita Muchiku’s lineage. However, a question still remains. Shimura’s “tsu” for “tsu-re” is much deeper, which doesn’t sound like an influence from Sakaguchi. It sounds like the Jin Nyodo style. I wanted to ask about this point. But It was already time to say good-bye.

I was grateful that Dr. Shimura spared many hours for me when he was extremely busy with some deadlines for publication.

(Taken at Shofu Bunko)

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