When you start practicing honkyoku (traditional zen pieces), you will discover soon enough that none of them are easy. But some of them are short. These are called “Chōshi” or “Chō”. These short pieces are meant to warm up and tune in with yourself, the room and the audience if there is any. I like to call them “Meditation preludes“.
In the tradition of the Meian school of shakuhachi, the performer first warms up the bamboo and settles the mind for spiritual practice through the playing of a short introductory prelude piece. Expressing the essential spirit of Koten honkyoku, Chōshi (literally, small melody) serves to establish the pitch and to center the musician. This piece is characterised by a pure focus on breath.
(The International Shakuhachi Society www.komuso.com)
Here is a short selection of my favorite ones.
Continue reading SHAKUHACHI REPERTOIRE SPOTLIGHT #2 – CHOSHI 調子
Last Friday, I had the great opportunity to participate to a Kyotaku workshop for beginners, organised by the Dutch Kyotaku player Hans van Loon, who had invited his master Tilopa Burdach.
It was for me the chance to meet the Dutch-Belgium group of Kyotaku players, and of course, Tilo himself!
The Kyotaku is a large bore jinashi shakuhachi “old style” which tradition was revived by Nishimura Koku (1915-2002), who was Tilo’s master. The minimum length starts at 2.2 and goes up to about 3.2. I was very curious to try it and hear it played live. Continue reading Kyotaku
This term is used by Fukuda Teruhisa to invite us to play some honkyoku with flutes of different lengths (1.8, 2.4, 2.7) using transposed parts in order to play each piece in unison. He calls it “harmonisation of the breaths”. He wrote special versions of Honte Choshi and Yamato Choshi for this practice, with the idea of mixing the specific colours of each flute to enrich the global result.
I borrowed this term to give it as name for special sessions I have been organising from time to time with my students to play shakuhachi together. These are meetings where we meditate and play together. They are no lessons or rehearsals, even though we sometimes play from notation (Fukiawase or standard versions of honkyoku). It is a moment to blow together and inspire each other, to be in the “here and now”, listen, feel and experiment. It is different each time. Everyone can give a suggestion and feel free to participate actively or silently. Because silence is also part of music. Continue reading Fukiawase
Last summer, I bought a very nice Jinashi shakuhachi 2.2 made by the Spanish maker Jose Seizan Vargas because I was looking for a special flute to practice Koten Honkyoku. I was very curious to try to play on a Jinashi flute, explore its sounds and the difference with a Jiari shakuhachi. As I am not myself a shakuhachi maker, here is a link about what a Jinashi shakuhachi is, besides Jose’s website (even if you don’t speak Spanish, have a look at the pictures, it already explains a lot).
Even though I haven’t managed yet to give much time to this practice, I am very happy about the results. When I just want to blow, I grab this flute, and it feels just perfectly what I need at the moment. Pure happiness.
Continue reading My Jinashi project