We don’t really like to think about death. Although death is part of life, it is quite taboo in our society and a difficult topic to address. Like it would bring bad luck.
Two and half weeks ago, I gave a shakuhachi presentation in a zen center in Rotterdam (The Netherlands). I gave explanations about the history of the instrument, played a couple of honkyoku, and guided the participants to make their first sounds on the shakuhachi. We also had a very nice talk about the relationships between shakuhachi and zen meditation. It was a very rich experience for all of us. At a moment, while I was playing, one participant became very emotional. Afterwards, the organiser of the workshop, who is one of my students, told me that when I was playing, he was thinking that shakuhachi would be very appropriate to be played during funerals. “Actually” I answered, “I played a week ago during the funeral of my cousin. I am quite used to play at family funerals. Before, I used to play the flute, but now, playing the shakuhachi adds a spiritual dimension I really appreciate and need myself.”
I also told him about the time I was asked to play for a nature funeral of a total stranger.
During my demonstration at the zen center, the piece the participant became emotional with was Azuma Jishi (Azuma no kyoku). Was supposed to be. I did start playing it, but in the middle of it, as I was playing by heart, I mixed it up with Kumoi Jishi, which was the piece I played for my cousin’s funeral, and couldn’t come back to Azuma Jishi anymore, so I ended up playing Kumoi Jishi.
My student’s comment about thinking of a funeral while I was playing and the participant’s reaction during this piece make me think that there was still a lot of my sadness from the death of my cousin in my shakuhachi play on this day. Continue reading Playing shakuhachi at funerals
It has been some time since my last visit to the old people with dementia, which was on the 17th of October. I didn’t think it would take me so long to write a post about this particular day. In the morning, I had just posted my previous post about Practicing Kokū and was planning to write this one quite rapidly afterwards. But life had other plans. Continue reading Beyond Borders
In the coming months, I’ll be performing in 5 different projects, which shows the diversity of possibilities of playing shakuhachi:
The Requiem of Karl Jenkins, May 4 in Middelburg (NL), Japanese tales, May 12 in Rotterdam and July 2 in Den Helder (NL), Les Petites Peurs, mixed media installation, May 20 in Rotterdam (NL), Les Cordes en Ballade, classical music festival, July 11 in Bourg-St-Andéol (FR) and The European Shakuhachi Society Summer School, July 27-30 in Vejle (DK).
Continue reading Agenda May-July 2017
The Requiem (2004) of Karl Jenkins is a very special piece to me. It is written for orchestra and choir (with a soprano solo part) and shakuhachi. In addition to the usual movements of a Requiem (Latin mass for the soul of the dead), Jenkins chose 5 Japanese haikus (poems) about the cycle of life and death. These poems are sung by the women of the choir, accompanied by the orchestra and a solo shakuhachi part. The music is written in Western notation, and can be played by a transverse flute instead, if there is no shakuhachi player. Of course, the effects and colours are then totally different. The Western notation allows the shakuhachi player to choose his/her own fingerings and lengths of flutes and go deeper in the music by making his/her own interpretation. This piece allows me to use my classical background as a flutist to perform Japanese shakuhachi in a classical music setting, uniting my two musical worlds.
I’ll be performing this piece on March 18 in Ede and on May 4 in Middelburg (The Netherlands). A nice opportunity for the audience to discover the shakuhachi “live”.
Continue reading Karl Jenkins – Requiem
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