This summer, Fukuda Teruhisa and his wife Kineya Shiho came to France for a full week of summer school organised by Daniel Seisoku Lifermann and La Voie du Bambou. And following up this week, they came to Rotterdam (The Netherlands), where I teach! I couldn’t be more happy.
I have been following Fukuda Teruhisa’s teaching for more than 12 years now, during 6 intensive weeks in the summer (2006, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2018), various weekends and masterclasses in between in Paris, and a full week of individual lessons in Tokyo in 2017, and it seems to be no end of what I can learn from him. Each summerschool, when we start with Honte Choshi or Tamuke again, I keep on learning new things, it is amazing. Like it is amazing that he is keeping on making new versions of the scores he already gave us, along with new music he arranged or composed, guiding us deeper and deeper in the details and giving us at the same time more and more knowledge, capacity and freedom to make our own choices. He is a true perfectionist and a highly inspiring teacher and performer.
2006 – Montbrun-les-bains
I can still remember my first summerschool with him in 2006. I was a beginner, I could play the basic notes, some meri notes and a few folk songs, and that was about it. I had never heard of atari, oshi, furi, shakuri, nayashi, otoshi, and I got totally lost with these new terms and technics, while messing around with the notation, mixing up tsu, ri and u. Luckily, I wasn’t playing very hard, and most of the time, I wasn’t even sure I produced a sound (sounds familiar?). But what I remember most of this first time is how much I was helped by more advanced players, how patient Fukuda sensei was with me during the individual lessons, looking carefully how I was making sounds, how I was holding my flute and giving me accurate indications. It is when I discovered the spirit of the shakuhachi and my bamboo family of La Voie du Bambou. Our school is based on sharing, on blowing together, on helping each other and on no-competition. For me, it is a space of freedom and peace. We all try to do our best and to improve ourselves, for the sake of the music.
Blowing all together
It can sound weird that we all learn together, beginners, intermediates, advanced, teachers, it is something inconcevable in the world of classical music. Of course, we also get lessons in smaller groups or individually, about pieces adapted to our level.
I have been through the entire process, from beginner to master, and I experienced it a little differently at each stage, according to my own capacities. I remember feeling overwhelmed as a beginner, but also feeling immersed in the flow of sounds and supported by the energy of the group. It has not always been easy to deal with not hearing myself properly. There was a time I could even become a bit frustrated because of it and I was much more looking forward to the individual lessons. With my classical background, I was not used to this way of learning and I had difficulties to pick up the information I needed. But I have understood that this is part of the process and this teaches you to let go of your self to become part of the group. I could notice this year how much I have grown now beyond this stage. Learning to play shakuhachi is not only an intellectual learning process but also a physical and unconscious one, which imprints itself for a long time.
When we are all together, it is now for me (as a teacher) the perfect moment to review the basics. As I said, when I was a beginner, I was so overwhelmed by all the information I got, plus trying to follow the notation, that I missed quite some of the explanations. So now, listening to the basic explanations and the questions of the beginners is a nice moment to grab a few more details or tips. I also use this moment to mentally check how I would teach myself, how I would explain a particular phrase or difficulty to my students.
When I blow, I don’t try to play harder than the rest of the group (especially this summer, when we were close to 20 people to blow together!), I rather concentrate on the physical sensations of playing and on internally listening to the music and to my inner sound.
The large group sessions are also dedicated to the practice of shakuhachi duets and chamber music with shamisen.
The individual/small group practice has become the moment to study more difficult pieces and to take as many notes as possible in order to be able to study the piece later at home. As a beginner, it was the place to review more quietly the pieces studied with the large group. In the beginning, I used to record all the sessions, but afterwards, I never found the time to listen back, so now, I just record some of the run-through, explanations about specific techniques, and I trust my memory, notes and knowledge to find the details back.
Beyond all the technical explanations and details, the way I learn most from Fukuda sensei is looking and listening carefully to him when he plays. Studying him. I usually take some notes, write down which fingering he’s been using (even though he most of time indicates them during the lesson), if there is something new, surprising or unclear in the notation. But first of all, I admire how he becomes one with his flute. When I practice, I often listen to him or try to visualise him, his entire body posture, his flexibility and strength, his precision in his head movements and how his energy is flowing. All this remains the most inspiring for me.
Patience & Generosity
Fukuda sensei is always very patient in his teaching and does his best to be clear. This year, we learned a lot about his “Hazushi buki” method. It is just brilliant.
His explanations are translated by Japanese and Japanese speaking participants this year and some other years before, which is always very helpful.
Next to his patience, his other greatest quality is his generosity. He brought us so many scores this year! He has been preparing this summer school (and then the masterclass in Holland) for more than a year, writing new versions, new arrangements, and new compositions. He did such a big work for us, I can’t express how grateful I am to have received so much from him.
What is very inspiring for me in his teaching is that he keeps on exploring: new sounds, new technics, new versions. It goes perfectly well with the contemporary music he plays most of the time and his work with composers and as a composer himself. But also in honkyoku music, he is reviewing, polishing, “updating” versions, keeping them alive.
He made us practice different dynamics on long tones, from just air to muraiki, and encouraged us to explore as much tone qualities as possible in order to broaden our range of dynamics. He told us about his own explorations and inspiration. For example, for his own sound, he explained that, if he is sometimes “singing” when playing, it comes from the fact that he is always singing the music in his head, and sometimes his voice hums along. This makes me think of the recordings of the famous Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, who was often humming while playing. Fukuda sensei is also often going beyond the concept of a “beautiful sound” and willing to add more materials in his sound – like air, harmonics, humming – which make his sound so special and unique.
In his last CD “Musical Offering”, he expresses his gratitude “to all those who have been and will be part of my life”, and this summer, he gave to each of us a copy of the music notations. When I play these honkyoku now, I feel myself so much gratitude for what life has been giving me and for the shakuhachi that allows me to share this gratitude with the world.
Thank you Sensei.
La Voie du Bambou 2018, my bamboo family.
Photo Wim Scheenen.