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.
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I sometimes get questions about the style I play and the school I belong to. As I don’t speak Japanese, I searched for a translation of the term “Hijiri” and here is what I found (Encyclopedia Britannica):
Hijiri, (聖, Japanese: “holy man”), in Japanese religion, a man of great personal magnetism and spiritual power, as distinct from a leader of an institutionalized religion. Historically, hijiri has been used to refer to sages of various traditions, such as the shaman, Shintō mountain ascetic, Taoist magician, or Buddhist reciter. Most characteristically hijiri describes the wandering priest who operates outside the orthodox Buddhist tradition to meet the religious needs of the common people.
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I grew up in a catholic family and although I’m no believer myself, Christmas has always been for me an important symbol of peace and reconciliation. As a child, my favourite Christmas songs were those of The Poppys, a group of French children singing about love, world peace, and against war. I hadn’t listened to these songs for years, but they still move me while listening to them again so many years later, because there’re performed with all the faith and sincerity of children’ hearts, the very same feelings I had in my own child’s heart.
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A duet-version of the honkyoku “Azuma no kyoku”. Playing with myself is actually a very efficient way of practicing. Hope you enjoy.