One reason I started this blog is to write about my visits to people with dementia, visits I started in April 2014. Playing shakuhachi for them is a strong and inspiring experience. From the very first day, I felt the urge to write about it, to talk about them. And I started to collect stories.
Although I mainly play for old people, I sometimes visit another building where the “young people” live. Quite a shock to realise that some of them are around my age. I only knew Alzheimer’s disease as the most common cause of dementia. With my visits to the Young people, I discovered Pick’s disease, a disease where symptoms begin in people between the ages of 40 and 60. Different age, different behaviour, different stories.
Here is a text I wrote in October 2014.
Continue reading Young people with dementia, 2014 →
Monthly visit at the dementia care home
From my audience in the department called “Iris”, two people passed away. One of them was Mrs Kisses. She was 90. I’m happy to have met her, to have had time to write a few lines about her, and to remember her thanks to the nickname I gave her, which instantly brings back memories, which her real name doesn’t. I won’t forget her kisses.
Sakura Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)
It was a grey rainy day so I decided to play the song Sakura Sakura, with all kind of variations and introductions, to bring some Spring feeling to the patients. That was much appreciated. It feels good to see that the seasons still mean something to the patients, even though most of them don’t go outside anymore.
Continue reading Iris, March 2017 →
The Requiem (2004) of Karl Jenkins is a very special piece to me. It is written for orchestra and choir (with a soprano solo part) and shakuhachi. In addition to the usual movements of a Requiem (Latin mass for the soul of the dead), Jenkins chose 5 Japanese haikus (poems) about the cycle of life and death. These poems are sung by the women of the choir, accompanied by the orchestra and a solo shakuhachi part. The music is written in Western notation, and can be played by a transverse flute instead, if there is no shakuhachi player. Of course, the effects and colours are then totally different. The Western notation allows the shakuhachi player to choose his/her own fingerings and lengths of flutes and go deeper in the music by making his/her own interpretation. This piece allows me to use my classical background as a flutist to perform Japanese shakuhachi in a classical music setting, uniting my two musical worlds.
I’ll be performing this piece on March 18 in Ede and on May 4 in Middelburg (The Netherlands). A nice opportunity for the audience to discover the shakuhachi “live”.
Continue reading Karl Jenkins – Requiem →
Last weekend, I gave two workshops about blowing together, which is an important part of our practice in the Hijiri-ryū.
Blowing together means learning to listen to yourself and to the others at the same time. It isn’t always easy to hear your own sound among all the other sounds, but you’ll notice that the sensation of your own vibration will increase, and a new “internal ear” will be activated. It’s a matter of letting go of yourself to join the breath and sound of the others, and find your own voice inside the group.
The shakuhachi is very challenging on this aspect because it is mainly played solo, or with strings instruments (koto / shamisen) which have a more stable intonation. The fluctuations of the shakuhachi and the stability of the strings complement one another. In a group of shakuhachi, the first difficulty when you play with others is the stability of your own sound, and then, your capacity of embouchure control and adaptation to the “common pitch”. The common point of all players is the breath. Blowing together, even if the lengths of breath are different, becomes a way of supporting each other. It asks concentration to find the right balance in the group, but gives so much energy back. And the best reward is the music you can share.
Continue reading Blowing together →