Recently, my Italian colleague and friend Fiore Seichiku De Mattia sent me a few links about his current project “Floating Souls” (Anime Fluttuanti), a Music Research Laboratory in Psychiatric Community, Fondazione Emilia Bosis (Bergamo). When music can be a wonderful tool for non-verbal communication and to find ways to connect to people whenever words are barriers, the shakuhachi proves to be a very special music instrument to go even deeper in this connection.
I asked Fiore to write something about his project, here is his description: (aussi en français à la fin de ce post, pour mes lecteurs francophones):
“This laboratory is part of a research I have been conducting for several years with people with mental illness, using various expression tools such as drawing, photography and music.
Since, for me, they are a mystery, as well as I am for them, I seek a place where our mysterious natures can meet, using the process of creation.
Through musical mediation, I look for a space of possible communion between my “soul” (understood as the essence of human nature) and theirs.
The “souls” who, given the difficulties / impossibility of contact, linger in a continuous “fluctuation” between the desire to manifest themselves and the possibility of being forgotten.
The profound spirituality of the shakuhachi, the particular characteristics of the sound it produces, are similar to this fluctuating context. The sound is nearby, penetrating, then moves away and becomes almost imperceptible, in a continuous alternation between light and darkness.
The sound gestures (to beat, to drop, to take, etc.), combined with the melody of the flute, ritualise a musical context, where the possibility is created that our souls can meet in an eternal instant “.
Fiore De Mattia
When I first watched the videos he sent me, I was immediately impressed by the dialogue between him and the patient(s): in the first video, the patient follows the rhythm and fluctuation of the music. However in the last one (update 2019: the link to this video has been removed) Fiore is the one entering the musical space and ritual of the patient. He is no more a “leader”, and the duet becomes a musical meeting of two people who have found a common space to be together. I love how Fiore comes and goes, how Giuseppe is concentrated on his music and sticks to his musical world and rhythm.
In both videos, Fiore plays the same piece, Fukuda Teruhisa’s composition Gakuzaicho, which means “There is music“. What a pertinent choice and a splendid performance of it!
The second aspect that impresses me is the ritual, especially in the Quartet (update 2019: the link to this video has been removed). The way the instruments and sounds are chosen and put together defines the musical space and its rhythm, in which the flute can express its own music. The ritual finds its natural expression, as “a set of actions performed regularly” and binds the people playing music in something that makes sense to them to be accomplished together.
And the last (but not least) impressive aspect of Fiore’s project is the physical involvement of playing the shakuhachi, and the connection between the physical gestures of the flute and those of the percussions (Trio). The circular head movements of the shakuhachi player are mirrored in the circular movements of Cesare’s percussion (player 1), the accents in the flute music (the beautiful honkyoku Echigo Sanya) are accompanied by Giuseppe (player 2). Fiore’s supple body movements indicates who is next to play, and the switch between one player to the other occurs smoothly. Everyone knows his part and the shakuhachi makes the connection between them all. Fiore is physically very close to the patients, they share the same physical space. The length of his breath is defined by both percussions, shaping the silence. It is beautiful.
The Hijiri School we both belong to, although being a modern school, is deeply linked to the spirituality of the traditional shakuhachi. It means a lot to me to experience in daily life what the shakuhachi can bring to people with mental illness and/or dementia. I wish the very best of luck to Fiore to conduct his research and am looking forward to the next videos. You can find more information about Fiore on his website.
Présentation en français
Laboratoire de recherche musicale en communauté psychiatrique.
“Ce laboratoire s’inscrit dans le cadre d’une recherche que je mène depuis plusieurs années auprès de personnes atteintes de maladie mentale, au moyen de divers outils d’expression tels que le dessin, la photographie et la musique.
Puisque, pour moi, ils sont un mystère, comme je le suis pour eux, je cherche un lieu de rencontre entre nos natures mystérieuses, en utilisant le processus de création.
Par la médiation musicale, je cherche un espace de communion possible entre mon “âme” (dans le sens de “l’essence de la nature humaine”) et la leur.
Les “âmes” qui, étant donné les difficultés / l’impossibilité de contact, s’attardent dans un continu “fluctuant” entre le désir de se manifester et la possibilité d’être oubliées.
La spiritualité profonde du shakuhachi, les caractéristiques particulières du son qu’il produit, sont similaires à ce contexte fluctuant. Le son est proche, pénétrant, puis s’éloigne et devient presque imperceptible, dans une alternance continue entre lumière et ténèbres.
Les gestes sonores (frapper, lâcher, prendre, etc.), combinés à la mélodie de la flûte, ritualisent un contexte musical, créant une possibilité pour que nos âmes puissent se rencontrer dans un instant éternel. “
Fiore De Mattia