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"A real expression of a living warm-blooded human being isn't found in the appearance of the calculating, mechanized, regulated and frail nervous type of person we often see today. Genuine human expression, the expression of the happiness and sadness, anger and joy found in one's heart, mind and soul are the true meanings expressed through music. The great challenge for contemporary shakuhachi players is to recover the true vitality that has been lost in mankind and express naturally through the shakuhachi the robust energy of a refined mind and soul."
Taken from: Koden and Koten Honkyoku, Chikuzen Shakuhachi Series Sheet Music. Tai Hei Shakuhachi. Willits, California. 2001.
More from Taniguchi-sensei:
The Core Spirit of Shakuhachi
by Yoshinobu Taniguchi
(Translated by Zachary Braverman)
The spiritual core of shakuhachi manifests itself in what I will call the yureru
oto, [Translator’s note: a dynamic fluctuation of the tone] which also mirrors
the essence of Zen. Nowadays, most sects of shakuhachi – Tozan, Kinko and current
Meian, among others – have forgotten this exquisite yureru oto, which exists in the
space between the notes and is what compromises the soulful sound of the shakuhachi.
One must not attempt to play the notes of a shakuhachi song “accurately” or “skillfully”.
Playing only the precise pitches prescribed by the notes on the score leads to boring,
soulless playing that neither expresses the spirit of the music nor the heart of the player.
Instead, the traditional lifeblood of the shakuhachi is to let each note vary subtly within its
permissible scope. This expresses the soul of wabi, sabi, and ma, and leads to the yureru oto.
[Translator’s note: wabi can be thought of as an austere, refined beauty, sabi as a solitariness
combined with age and tranquility, and ma as timing, or the delicate interval or emptiness which
exists between the sounds.] Playing only the average pitches will extinguish these elements,
and the soulful sound of the shakuhachi will be lost.
Expressing the sounds that exist between the notes is also the traditional lifeblood of the shakuhachi,
and is what helps give rise to the yureru oto’s exquisite reverberations.
It takes a long time and much effort to develop these qualities in one’s playing. During this time,
trial, error, and original experimentation are key to success. Five or ten years may pass yielding
little progress but much frustration and confusion. At the point your heart and soul become free,
however, satori, or “enlightenment”, is experienced, and you think “Ah! It was so simple all along!”
At this moment, that which was hidden becomes obvious, and that which was difficult becomes easy.
The player and the sound become one, resulting in a deep, profound sound that resonates in the
spinal column and touches one’s soul.
Every sound of the shakuhachi can be expressed in a multitude of ways depending on the brilliance
of the player’s soul. Thus, all life is study, and this study is dynamic and alive. Your experience of
the shakuhachi’s sound never stops evolving.
Finally, gratitude towards all is at the center of the shakuhachi soul. The entire purpose of the shakuhachi
is to foster a thankful heart.
Thanks to Michael and Ed for the great quotes!
Zak -- jinashi size queen
A present comtemplation I am having, I'd like to share it with you.
The Japanese have a long history of wood-cut illustration. The block of wood is coated with black ink and sharp chisels make cuts into the block. Each time a cut is made it is called "revealing the light" as this will now show as white on the print.
So I am contemplating how the wood block resembles 'silence' and how each breath and sound resembles each cut into the silence. Using this woodblock analogy seems to strengthen respect for the background of silence.
to go one step further ...
there is an old adage :
a flawed block produces imperfect copies, a perfect block produces flawless copies.
I don't have a quote but can introduce a concept as a compliment to the idea of the wood cut. The Chinese taoists has a concept summed up by the word P'u. It is the uncarved block. It recalls the perfection of natural form. The uncarved block produces no copies. It exists beyond the realms of perfection and imperfection.