April 25 – May 23
Back today to the dementia care home where I’ve been playing for elderly people since 2014. Between today and my last visit on April 25, I gave three very different performances: the Requiem of Jenkins in the concert hall in Middelburg with orchestra, choir and soloist ; the musical show “Fureidesu” with the storyteller Gerard Jellema in Rotterdam, and the opening of the exhibition “Les Petites Peurs” by S.P.A.M. van Griensven also in Rotterdam. Different places, different audiences, different ways of listening, different ways of playing. And here I am today, back in Nijmegen for my monthly visit to the elderly people cuddling their Teddy bears, playing with toys and desperately roaming in the corridors trying to find their way home.
What a difference.
What am I going to play today?
Continue reading Inspiration
Good resolutions… 5 months later…
How are you doing with the good resolutions you decided to take in January? Did you manage to implement them in your life, are you still trying to do so of did you give up and postpone them for next year? My good resolutions were inspired by 12 zen rules. I can apply some of them regularly in my shakuhachi practice (see post) but for others, I’m still trying to find ways to apply them in my daily life too. Since I’m back from Japan, I’m particularly working on “#4 – Do less“, with the help of “#11 – Think about what is necessary“. Shakuhachi speaking, they are also very interesting. Continue reading Do less
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
Ups and downs
That’s life, isn’t it?
My last weeks were quite hilly, in matter of ups and downs, and so was my shakuhachi practice as well.
Last Thursday, I was very excited because I did a big step forward. At least, it’s how it felt at the moment. Since last summer, I’m trying to broaden my range of tone colours and increase the resonance of my sound. I started this practice in the hills of the Plateau de Langres in France (which is not flat by the way), listening to the echo, and then everywhere, over and over again. And last Thursday, I found the right tone quality to make the radiator resonating. That was great (I had the feeling it was a matter of more harmonics in the sound, but I’m not quite sure). On Friday however, although the radiator was singing again on each Tsu I played (while still heating the room properly), I felt I was in a down day. My energy was low, my sound was not as good as the day before… you have those days… I asked myself what could have changed: I actually spent more physical energy before starting my shakuhachi practice on Friday than on Thursday. Could be an explanation.
Continue reading Ups and downs
In the dementia care home where I regularly play shakuhachi,”De Brug”, The Bridge, is the first department of the closed area. The people I see there walking around have still a foot in the outside life and the other foot… well, it looks like they don’t exactly know where they are. They are still looking for their husband or wife, wanting to go back home to prepare dinner, worrying about their mother to visit or their children to pick up at school. One woman asks us today where the busstop is to go to the city center. When she realises she doesn’t have money to pay her ticket, she doesn’t know what to do anymore. She eventually goes back to her bedroom. They don’t always remember where their bedroom is. They don’t feel home.
Continue reading De Brug, February 14, 2017
I’m starting a volunteer job in a dementia care home, playing shakuhachi for the people in their bedrooms (individual visits) and during a massage activity (small group). I’ve never done that before and don’t know what to expect. I’m told that the goal is to connect to the patients, in one way or another, to reach them through the music. All kind of emotions can occur. “Don’t insist if they don’t want it or if it’s not the right moment, and don’t take it personal if they react negatively.” That was my formation for this job. Let’s do it!
Continue reading Shakuhachi and dementia: how it started
She lies in her bed, in the living-room, close to the window with view on the garden. I’m playing for her, from a distance, very softly, I don’t even see her under the blankets. I don’t know if she can hear me. In a couple of weeks, she will be dead.
I met the family in a sunny afternoon of October, after I received a unusual and touching email. “My wife is dying, she asks for live shakuhachi music to be played at her funeral, is this something we can ask you?” Continue reading A nature funeral
I’m coming again, first time after the Christmas holidays. It’s a sunny and very cold day outside. Inside it’s very warm as ever. You don’t really feel the seasons here, it’s always very warm.
Going to the closed world of people stuck in their minds. Front door with security, first door with code, corridors, second door with code, corridors, turn right, turn left, here I am.
The first person we visit is Mrs Kisses. I give her this nickname because when she’s enjoying something, she grabs your hand to kiss it. Last time I was in her bedroom, it was her birthday, I think she turned 90 but I’m not sure anymore. I remember I hesitated to play a birthday song but I finally didn’t. She looks at us, not really reacting. And then she sees the flute, her eyes light up, and she points her finger to it with a big smile. And she starts to kiss A.’s hands.
When I started to play for people with dementia almost 3 years ago, I was told they won’t recognise me even if I was coming every day. From the beginning, I could notice that, although they most likely didn’t remember me, some of them did recognise the shakuhachi. Each time this happens, it gives me a warm feeling. Continue reading Waterlelie, January 2017
My first day in Japan, my first day in Tokyo… I didn’t know where to go so I decided to go to a park. Seeking nature in such a big city instead of running to see temples, modern buildings, palaces, shops, museums… that’s me…
At that time, I knew very little about the shakuhachi. I had one, I had taken a few lessons but I wasn’t getting much further than playing the basic notes and a few simple melodies. I had taken my shakuhachi in my suitcase -“to play in the metro” said ironically to me a musician of our orchestra- to see if I would get more inspired to play it in Japan. It’s not that I missed inspiration or desire to play it, no at the time I missed time to think and make a decision. Actually I took this time just before going to Japan, but was not conscious yet that shakuhachi was part of the choices I would have to make in my life. Continue reading Komuso monks in Tokyo, April 2005