This is my first post of 2020, so I am way too late to wish you a Happy New Year, even the lunar one! But I do wish you health and happiness for every day in your life.
I did want to write a “Happy New Year & Good Resolutions” post, but it didn’t work. The main reason for it, I think, is that I was in “winter mode”. Not only the actual season for the Northern Hemisphere where I live, but actually this part of a cycle when you gather and restore your energy, preparing for the rest of the year, when you are not in “production mode” but in “silent mode”. It is definitely a necessary period for creativity and growth. Even if you have the feeling that you are not making any progress and you are not getting anywhere, you actually do. Why?
I played the Western flute for 40 years, and in 2016, I completely stopped and even sold my instruments (except the G-flute). My flute story was a complicated one, which ended up in peace thanks to the shakuhachi. My flute was the path that lead me to the shakuhachi and I am very grateful for it.
One of the reasons I totally stopped playing the Western flute is the shakuhachi tone quest. At a point, I was blocked in my tone development by the fact of playing the flute. It is a personal choice, some people can play them both. I guess it also depends on what type of sound you are looking for. I am personally not looking for a sound that looks like the Western flute, I am even not looking for a “nice” sound at all. I will definitively never play classical music on shakuhachi! I am looking for all the possibilities of sounds of the instrument and what I can do with each tone, without aesthetic criteria and judgements. I am looking for freedom.
Another reason is that I had to let go of some habits and reflexes I had with the flute in order to build up another approach of the breath, the sound and the music for playing shakuhachi properly. At a moment, it became too confusing. I like to be fully engaged when I do something. No compromise with the shakuhachi!
But I still love the flute, this old companion, and I enjoy listening to it even more now that I don’t play it anymore (all the competitive and comparison thoughts I had in my head back from my time at the Conservatoire for exams, auditions, etc., are gone!!). So I am very glad when, two years ago, my friend the flutist Catherine Balmer and I started to discuss the possibility of playing together as a flute & shakuhachi duo.
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 more than a year I haven’t been to the department of Young People with Dementia (Bosweg) because of a big reorganisation followed by financial cuts. I don’t get paid for these visits but one of the consequences of this reorganisation is that each department must now organise its own activities and I’m attached to another department. So I wasn’t sent there anymore. Luckily, I recently happened to meet someone I already knew from this department and I found my way in again. I was really looking forward to it and to see the patients again. My appointment was today and it turned out to be one of the heaviest visit I made. Continue reading Bosweg October 2017→
Going to Japan was an old dream. Since I met Fukuda Teruhisa Sensei in 2006, I was looking forward to the day I could fly again to Tokyo and study with him there. Life took its time to make this trip possible. Preparing it was already great. Doing it was overwhelming.
I’m back since a few days, after 3 weeks of travel and experiences. I didn’t have time to write and post when I was there. I always need time to reflect on my experiences.
What attracts me most in the shakuhachi, what touches me most beyond its fabulous sound, is the spirituality and the nature. Maybe they are both the same for me. Being in nature is meditating. I sometimes go to the the forest nearby where I live with a head full of thoughts, and I come back with a head full of birds’ songs.
Playing a traditional music which isn’t from your own country is like speaking a foreign language. Going to Japan was going to the source of this language and trying to discover and feel what inspired the people who created this music. Quite a program. In two parts. Tokyo, for the shakuhachi lessons, the culture, the modern life. Hokkaido for the nature. There were both as inspiring.