6 good reasons to learn shakuhachi
1. It’s a very special instrument: its sounds is unique and will open a new world for you. Playing it makes you feel special.
2. It’s a deep breathing training: breathing is relaxing and essential for your health. It will help you find a quiet moment in your day to breath.
3. It’s a challenging instrument:
- physically: to get a sound, to keep it, to get the proper pitch.
- mentally: to go on and don’t give up because it’s more difficult than what you thought. You can do it.
- energetically: it’s a mirror of your energy level, and it will help you to improve it.
- spiritually: you’ll have to let go of your self and accept what is given by the flute. Playing the old traditional music is a spiritual act.
4. It’s a very old tradition, which reaches people deeply.
5. It will improve your concentration in your daily life.
6. It will bring peace in your life. And you’ll be able to share this peace with the people around you by playing it for them.
In a few days the annual European Shakuhachi Summer School will begin gathering almost 60 shakuhachi aficionados (teachers and participants) together from all over Europe and with Maekawa Kogetsu as an representation of Myōan and Kinpū ryū. And it all happens in the small provincial town Vejle, Denmark – out in the fringes of Europe. Hurray for celebrating shakuhachi all over Europe! See you there! Kiku Day, Chair of the ESS.
I’m very honoured to be invited to this ESS Summer School where I will teach solo and group pieces from our Hijiri-kai school. The venue is a boarding school, which will enable us to blow and spend time together as a group. There will be a lot of different styles represented, traditional and modern music, solo and chamber music, pieces with koto, improvisation and original compositions. It is a great opportunity to listen to a lot of music and meet each other.
Although a big part of the traditional repertoire of shakuhachi consists in solo pieces (honkyoku), blowing together is very important in our school. Fukuda-sensei is tirelessly writing new pieces and arrangements for us when we gather in the Summer Schools organised in France by Daniel Lifermann for La Voie du Bambou. I’m very pleased to share some of his music and the spirit of it this summer in Denmark.
These pieces are meant to be performed by players of all levels, everyone playing according to his capacities. Generally, there isn’t a fixed rhythm except the rhythm of the breath (like in most of the honkyoku music), which allows some fuzziness, like a natural echo or reverberation. Playing together means listening to each other in order to tune in one multiple voice. It’s very good to confront your pitch control with the others’!
Here are the pieces: Continue reading ESS Summer School 2017
It’s not always easy to find the right instrument, like to find the right partner for life. Sometimes you have to travel far away.
I started music with the recorder lessons of the primary school and I loved it (while most of my friends didn’t). But at that time, my fascination went to the piano, because of my mother’s LP’s I liked so much to listen to. Piano at home was no option so I ended up learning transverse flute at the local music school. When I was around 15, my godmother showed me that there existed other flutes in the world with bringing me back a flute from Nepal. Couldn’t do much with it but I found it nice with its decorations. Some years later, when I heard a musician playing a kind of transverse flute in Senegal, I went to meet him and bought one of his flute. My collection had started. The sound of this flute still evokes the memory of the land where I was born.
Continue reading Flutes
It was very hot when I went to the dementia care house last Tuesday for my monthly visit to the elderly people there. They were sheltering in the shadow and the first group I visited was watching a documentary with pictures of mountains and snow. How refreshing! They weren’t that happy when A. turned off the television and even though I played some music from the north of Japan, it was challenging to pass on to them through my breath a feeling of cool air. Most of them did appreciate my musical interlude though, especially a tiny old woman, Mrs M., cuddling a big cuddle dog she always carries around. She loves music and spontaneously hums along with an evident pleasure. Two people were sleeping and two others were waiting to get the television back, but she was the one who was going to give me the biggest surprise of the day. Continue reading Summertime
In a previous post, Music recordings, I wrote about the benefits of recording yourself during your practice. Have you tried it so far? How is it working for you? For me, it has really become part of my daily practice. Not that I record myself every day (!) but it has become one of the tools I like to use to practice. Like I use a tuner to control the pitch, a metronome to control the tempo and rhythm, I record myself to check how I sound. Or just to do a run-through.
In addition to my previous post, I’d like to add here a few tips to go further.
Continue reading Recording yourself
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
Shakuhachi is often unpredictable in the beginning. Some days are better than others. In the same practice session, you have good moments and a few minutes later, you cannot make any sound anymore. It can be frustrating. Although there is no chance involved there, but a combination of subtle factors you will learn to master better and better with your practice. Concentrating on the mouth, lips, head position is necessary, but not sufficient. When you play shakuhachi, your entire body gets involved. The flute should become a part of your body. The sound you make comes from deep under in your belly, not only from your mouth and lips. It starts with your inhalation. So a good body posture is an important factor one shouldn’t underestimate, especially in the beginning. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you practice:
Continue reading Basic body posture