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#1 2008-08-09 19:51:03

Ted
Member
Registered: 2008-08-09
Posts: 14

Honkyoku and Enlightenment

I am a beginner shakuhachi student, but I have been a Buddhist practitioner for over 20 years.
I know Honkyoku is a musical transcription of Japanese Buddhist chanting. Although my tradition is Tibetan, chanting is usually mantra recitation. Mantra are syllables whose origins and practice are from pre-Buddhist India. It is believed that the sounds of Mantra have the power to unblock chakra and calm mental disturbances that keep the mind from enlightenment. Am I correct in believing that Japanese Buddhist monks believed playing shakuhachi transcribed mantra would have the same power as reciting the mantra itself? Would it be possible to create shakuhachi transcriptions of the mantra recitation of Tibetan or Chinese Buddhist mantra recitation?

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#2 2008-08-09 19:53:19

Tairaku 太楽
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From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3204
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Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Hi Ted, answer is "YES".

We have a search function here. If you search such terms as "shomyo", "chant", "chanting" and "party all the time" you will find many discussions relating to this.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#3 2008-08-09 20:42:03

edosan
Edomologist
From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Especially under 'party all the time'  smile


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#4 2008-08-10 00:46:06

Justin
Shihan/Maker
From: Japan
Registered: 2006-08-12
Posts: 540
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Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Hi Ted

Ted wrote:

I am a beginner shakuhachi student, but I have been a Buddhist practitioner for over 20 years.
I know Honkyoku is a musical transcription of Japanese Buddhist chanting.

Who told you that? So far as I understand, honkyoku is not transcription of Buddhist chanting. They are melodic compositions, composed on and for shakuhachi specifically. Some pieces have influences from melodies of other genres, such as local folk songs. They were composed by wandering Buddhists (monks/semi-monks) called komuso during the Edo period.

There is some (not concrete) evidence to suggest that an earlier Chinese instrument which we call "Gagaku shakuhachi" was at times used in conjunction with Buddhist chanting, possibly as an aid to teaching the melody of chants. Gagaku shakuhachi is possibly an ancestor of what we now call shakuhachi although there is somewhat of a gap between the two instruments. Nevertheless, of course honkyoku and shakuhachi are firmly rooted in Buddhism.
(As for all this history, there may be folks here on the forum who know much better than me so please chip in to add/correct information.)

Ted wrote:

Although my tradition is Tibetan, chanting is usually mantra recitation. Mantra are syllables whose origins and practice are from pre-Buddhist India. It is believed that the sounds of Mantra have the power to unblock chakra and calm mental disturbances that keep the mind from enlightenment. Am I correct in believing that Japanese Buddhist monks believed playing shakuhachi transcribed mantra would have the same power as reciting the mantra itself?

I have never heard of any such monks. More below:

Ted wrote:

Would it be possible to create shakuhachi transcriptions of the mantra recitation of Tibetan or Chinese Buddhist mantra recitation?

I believe not. You could transcribe the MELODY, not the mantra. But the melody is not so significant. Mantra recitation in personal practice often requires no melody, or any melody the person chooses. When the melody is fixed (some practices) it usually changes from lineage to lineage. However the power/energy is regarded to be the same since the mantra is the same. According to tradition, it is the syllables which are believed to have the power, as you have described. There are many syllables in Sanskrit. It is not possible to play these syllables on a shakuhachi. Mantras may be even more than 100 syllables long, but to give a simple example to illustrate the point, try to play "om mani padme hung" on your shakuhachi and see if a stranger can repeat the mantra from hearing your shakuhachi.

This is all my opinion, but I think the key point in the end is anyway to ask your master. Anything your master says should be the thing to do.

Best wishes

Justin
http://senryushakuhachi.com/

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#5 2008-08-10 04:34:15

Zakarius
Member
From: Taichung, TAIWAN
Registered: 2006-04-12
Posts: 361

Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

edosan wrote:

Especially under 'party all the time'  smile

I realize that many are interested in playing Western songs on the shakuhachi, but I can't believe someone would want to play a piece by Eddie Murphy!

Zak -- jinashi size queen


塵も積もれば山となる -- "Chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru." -- Piled-up specks of dust become a mountain.

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#6 2008-08-10 05:25:46

marek
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From: Czech Republic
Registered: 2007-03-02
Posts: 185
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Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Justin wrote:

Who told you that? So far as I understand, honkyoku is not transcription of Buddhist chanting. They are melodic compositions, composed on and for shakuhachi specifically.

I would opose the claim that honkyoku are melodic (well maybe in your school they are...) for few reasons. Their pace is so slow that a person who is not experienced shakuhachi listener can not make out a melodic line. The composition of a honkyoku piece, I think, is has its centre of mass a level higher - in its structure; repetition of entire themes and sentences is here, I think, far more important than a comprehensible melody.
Next reason could be suidan - one breath, one phrase. A honkyoku piece is not timebound it is "breathbound" so the pace is rather organic. To me, this also somewhat opposes the melodic discourse fo honkyoku.

My two cents.

Cheers,

Marek

Last edited by marek (2008-08-10 05:26:40)


"what are you gawping at!?"
                                          Uchiyama Roshi
 
" www.komuso.cz !"

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#7 2008-08-10 05:33:54

Tairaku 太楽
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From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3204
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Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Marek,

That's a good observation. Generally it's true. But there are some honkyoku with melodies and rhythm, particularly the Myoan Shinpo Ryu honkyoku.

Regards,

BR


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#8 2008-08-10 07:09:02

marek
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From: Czech Republic
Registered: 2007-03-02
Posts: 185
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Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Tairaku,
I am all ears to hear examples, please, name a few of the Myoan Shinpo repertoire.
Thank you,

Marek


"what are you gawping at!?"
                                          Uchiyama Roshi
 
" www.komuso.cz !"

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#9 2008-08-10 07:39:56

Tairaku 太楽
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From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3204
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Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

marek wrote:

Tairaku,
I am all ears to hear examples, please, name a few of the Myoan Shinpo repertoire.
Thank you,

Marek

I only know a few of them. 

"Darani" which you would probably know if you're studying Jin Nyodo stuff has a steady pulse and a melody.

"Murasaki Reibo" there are several different variants on this which are all melodic and can be played with (almost) rhythm.

"Sankara Sugagaki" has a very recognizable structure and steady pulse. So steady that I recorded it on "Ryoanji" with a rhythm section and it sounded good.

If you look at www.komuso.com under "Schools" they are all listed, but most do not have recorded examples. The ones that are accessible is usually due to being adopted by other ryu. There is no extant "Myoan Shinpo Ryu". The recordings komuso.com lists are all either from the Jin Nyodo line, Chikuho Ryu or Watazumido.

They are supposed to have used Fu-Ho-U notation similar I suppose to Chikuho Ryu. Thus many notations will be several generations down the line. John Singer said this repertoire is older than the current Myoan Taizan Ha repertoire. Sakai Shodo said there was a connection between Shinpo and Tozan because Tozan studied this music.

Someone told me Myoan Shinpo Ryu favored short flutes. In fact Watazumi's recording of "Murasaki" sounds like 1.3 or so. However Sakai's version of this piece had none of the frantic quality of Watazumido. Quite the contrary. He also played a version of it on hitoyogiri which he said "might" represent what it sounded like in the early days. That was fun.

All my information is sketchy this is an elusive Ryu. Sakai Shodo said the music is very difficult to play (despite sounding simple) and that it's dying out because not many people play it any more. He also said there were 64 (I think?) pieces, anyway an extraordinary amount. That's almost as many as the official repertoire of Kinko and Myoan Taizan Ha combined. Nezasaha only has 10 pieces and a few auxiliary pieces by comparison. Sakai demonstrated that the music is played with a regal air "as if you are performing in front of the emperor".

Seems like this repertoire could use a boost. I wonder if all these songs are being transmitted or if some of them might be lost at this point. It would be nice to have notation and recordings for all of them just so there is some kind of reference if anybody wants to play them in the future. I suppose all honkyoku need preservation but some of them are being beaten to death while others (like these) are falling into obscurity. Most of this seems to be driven by commercial and political forces rather than musical ones.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#10 2008-08-10 08:30:47

Ted
Member
Registered: 2008-08-09
Posts: 14

Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

I have a CD called Japanese Masterpieces for the Shakuhachi that has a song Sekiheki no Fu that begins with a monk chanting and then a shakuhachi player comes in, not playing the exact same melody, but the chant sounds exactly like a Honkyoku melody, I don't think there is any mistake that some of these pieces are clearly based on mantra chants.
As for wether these chants or mantra have melody, they may be slow and it may not repeat, they may be difficult to discern and wander into god knows what direction, but I don't understand why this would imply they are not melodic. They are complete musical phrases, however odd, and very modern ones at that, given they were composed so long ago. Unique for their time, they are products of great genius , in my humble opinion.

In my original post I was trying to get my head around the concept of enlightenment through shakuhachi playing. I just don't understand what the Fuke Shu of Fuke Zenji had in mind with their belief that playing this instrument in particular was a path to elightenment. Of course doing anything mindfully can be a path, but I don't think that is what they had in mind. Thank you for your help.

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#11 2008-08-10 09:16:50

Kerry
Member
From: Nashville, TN
Registered: 2005-10-10
Posts: 183

Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Ted wrote:

a song Sekiheki no Fu

I hear what your saying but in Sekiheki no Fu a poem is being sung. Check out the translation on www.komuso.com It's a great 10th century Chinese poem.....


The temple bell stops, but the sound keeps coming out of the flowers. -Basho

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#12 2008-08-10 10:13:15

Justin
Shihan/Maker
From: Japan
Registered: 2006-08-12
Posts: 540
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Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Kerry wrote:

Ted wrote:

a song Sekiheki no Fu

I hear what your saying but in Sekiheki no Fu a poem is being sung. Check out the translation on www.komuso.com It's a great 10th century Chinese poem.....

I'm interested to know how you knew it was a monk singing too?

In Japan many things are taken as the path to enlightenment. Even making tea. But that unfortunately does not mean that all English people are on an effective path to enlightenment because they drink tea every day. Indeed, even if they switched to the bitter green tea of tea ceremony, that wouldn't make them enlightened.

The most important thing is the teacher. Even just mindfulness is not enough. Then under the perfect teacher, it doesn't really matter that much what you do. The path, in the external sense (such as tea, or shakuhachi, or fishing or whatever) is only a vehicle for the teachings. The teachings really are the transmission from the master to the disciple.

Justin
http://senryushakuhachi.com/

Last edited by Justin (2008-08-10 10:13:57)

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#13 2008-08-10 10:49:44

fouw
Member
From: Europe
Registered: 2007-01-16
Posts: 323

Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Yes Ted mate, you had better check even minor facts before posting! wink
The correctional officer is on standby to set you straight! yikes

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#14 2008-08-10 11:06:54

Justin
Shihan/Maker
From: Japan
Registered: 2006-08-12
Posts: 540
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Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

fouw wrote:

Yes Ted mate, you had better check even minor facts before posting! wink
The correctional officer is on standby to set you straight! yikes

Is that directed at me or Kerry? I apologize if I sounded picky about the monk thing. I was curious if it might have said in the lp notes somewhere about being sung by a monk. I had always thought it was the shakuhachi player, a guy from Kyoto I thought, singing as well as playing. If it's who I think it was, he was meant to be quite a character.

Justin
http://senryushakuhachi.com/

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#15 2008-08-10 11:16:48

fouw
Member
From: Europe
Registered: 2007-01-16
Posts: 323

Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Hello Justin,

An apology isn't really called for, but yes that sounded a bit like hairsplitting or nitpicking or some such thing.
I just thought I'd throw in some smileys. smile

All the best!
Kees

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#16 2008-08-10 11:22:24

Justin
Shihan/Maker
From: Japan
Registered: 2006-08-12
Posts: 540
Website

Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Hi Kees
Right now I am fine tuning a jinashi 2.3. I have been at it for the last 12 hours. It is incredibly fine work and requires precise discrimination in tone and pitch. I think my mind is going into discriminative overdrive. Sorry to all forum victims! smile
Kurahashi-sensei once told me that shakuhachi makers are really strange people. Maybe they stay on their own too much and become weirded out by their shakuhachi-obsessed world!

If I go over the edge you guys will have to come and rescue me.
smile

Justin
http://senryushakuhachi.com/

Last edited by Justin (2008-08-10 11:29:44)

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#17 2008-08-10 11:37:26

Priapus Le Zen M☮nk
Historical Zen Mod
From: St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
Registered: 2006-04-25
Posts: 612
Website

Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Justin wrote:

Hi Kees
Right now I am fine tuning a jinashi 2.3. I have been at it for the last 12 hours. It is incredibly fine work and requires precise discrimination in tone and pitch. I think my mind is going into discriminative overdrive. Sorry to all forum victims! smile
Kurahashi-sensei once told me that shakuhachi makers are really strange people. Maybe they stay on their own too much and become weirded out by their shakuhachi-obsessed world!

If I go over the edge you guys will have to come and rescue me.
smile

Justin
http://senryushakuhachi.com/

Dont worry if this gets too freaky I will bring out the stick.

Now as Tairaku pointed out doing a search on the Zen forum here would bring lots of material about Shomyo (Buddhist Chanting) and its relation to Shakuhachi. I have seen a lot of joking around etc on this thread but no real discussion about the thge question that was asked bu the creator of the thread.

So everybody please do the search read it all and I think we could go on to a much more interesting chat than what I have sen so far.


Sebastien 義真 Cyr
春風館道場 Shunpukan Dojo
St-Jerome, Quebec, Canada
http://www.myspace.com/shunpukandojo

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#18 2008-08-10 11:41:18

fouw
Member
From: Europe
Registered: 2007-01-16
Posts: 323

Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Hello Justin,

same here! I know what you are talking about. I used to make acoustic guitars and some archtop mandolins.
Not quite the same as (jinashi) shakuhachi, a mistake can mote easily be corrected... but still....try fitting the dovetail neckjoint on an F-style mandolin.... It sometimes got to the point where having to eat or taker a shower became an annoyance. I didn't play shakuhachi then.

Best,
Kees

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#19 2008-08-10 12:03:00

Justin
Shihan/Maker
From: Japan
Registered: 2006-08-12
Posts: 540
Website

Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

fouw wrote:

Hello Justin,

It sometimes got to the point where having to eat or taker a shower became an annoyance.

Hey Kees
Wow, I didn't know you were an instrument maker too! Cool. Yes, I know exactly! I am often making for so many hours that I start to feel weak or start to have a pain in my stomach. Then I know it's really time to put some food in it!

Getting better though, slowly. Started teaching some kids and they give me great energy, teach me to chill out! Still, Gishin you're welcome to come over! Not sure about the stick, but my place has great acoustics for shomyo. Come to teach me!

By the way Gishin, would you like to say anything about the scales used in shomyo and honkyoku? Are there some styles of shomyo which use the same scales or melodic patterns as honkyoku?

Justin
http://senryushakuhachi.com/

Last edited by Justin (2008-08-10 12:04:11)

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#20 2008-08-10 15:47:42

Ted
Member
Registered: 2008-08-09
Posts: 14

Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Thanks for pointing out that bit about the recording not being of a monk. Always dangerous to assume too much.
Awesome previous thread on Shomyo. I learned alot.
Is it possible that the melody which accompanies religious chanting may have been composed by highly spirtually accomplished teachers, and that these melodies may have religious power of their own?
To me(this is subjective) the shakuhachi has vocal tonal qualites that may capture some essence of mantra.

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#21 2008-08-10 23:31:38

Justin
Shihan/Maker
From: Japan
Registered: 2006-08-12
Posts: 540
Website

Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Hi Ted
I think it is possible that if a melody is composed by a realised being, that it can have some blessing effect. I have been considering actually about this, about what effect/balance of effect is due to which part of the equation
1)composer
2)performer
3)instrument

I always feel that the mind has the main effect. Here we have the mind of the composer connecting to us though his composition. That could be positive or negative, just like with paintings, sculpture, movies or whatever. Then the performer of course has a large (larger?) effect on what energy is conveyed in the sound. And, then there is the instrument. Some seem unable to transmit certain energies compared to others. That was a surprise to me, and a worthy subject for research.

I did some search on the forum for shomyo but not much. Would you like to share with us here on this thread the points which you found interesting, and fitting to this thread? It would be nice to hear.

Best wishes

Justin
http://senryushakuhachi.com/

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#22 2008-08-11 11:30:45

lowonthetotem
Member
From: Cape Coral, FL
Registered: 2008-04-05
Posts: 529
Website

Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

I don't have much to say about enlightenment.  I have been blowing buki and honkyoku each morning now for a few weeks.  I find it to be quite different than Zazen.  As far as mantras go, I beleve that Indian mantras develop their ability to open chakras from the vibrations they probuce in different areas of the body.  The more far eastern mantras seem to be more like rosaries, repeating the names of the Buddha or Bodhisattvas for a beneficial rebirth, usually in the Western Paradise.  It would seem that honkyoku produces vibrations in the bamboo, not the body of the player.  I think that they are different in this regard.  The honkyoku that I have been studying, Kyorei, is said to be the oldest of the honkyoku and to have been a simulation of the sound of Fuke's bell, which he rang about the market place, calling those around him to enlightenment.  Hence the name, "Empty/False Bell."  Many historical sources seem to posit that this is largely a manufactured history of the song, although the similarity of the piece to a bell sound is quite evident.

Although, other honkyoku may have melodies, this one seems to be a breath exercise.  The flute and "music" are there to "give instruction," if you will, on how the breath exercise is to take place.  At least that is the impression that I get and have read similar statements.  However, I do think that the long exhaustive breaths used to play this piece can very well regulate the body's energies, to put it into more Tibetan terms.  I think that Chakras are not so prevalent in Chinese and Japanese culture, and a model of Chinese Acupuncture revolving around Chi/Qi is more prevalent.  Although some of the Chakras correspond with the Triple burner, Chinese Acupuncture has many hundreds of key energy points (many along the ear, foot, and hand) that do not seem to have similar correspondents in the Indian/Tibetan model.  I am not saying that they are mutually exclusive, but they are not identical either.  I think that grouping honkyoku in with Tibetan chanting and Chakra based medicine may not really be allowing for the culturally diverse models of the human body that exist.  Certainly, many honkyoku have correspondence with Japanese chanting, but grouping Japanese chanting in with Tibetan chanting may similarly not allow for different views of these practices in different cultures.  Just my take.


"Turn like a wheel inside a wheel."

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#23 2008-08-11 12:19:38

Moran from Planet X
Member
From: Here to There
Registered: 2005-10-11
Posts: 1521
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Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Ted wrote:

... highly spirtually accomplished teachers ...

Example: our very own Horst Xenmeister, Avatar of Cast-Bore Zen.


"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I am all out of bubblegum." Rowdy Piper, They Live!

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#24 2008-08-11 13:12:46

lowonthetotem
Member
From: Cape Coral, FL
Registered: 2008-04-05
Posts: 529
Website

Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Example: our very own Horst Xenmeister, Avatar of Cast-Bore Zen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvzVwLFf984


"Turn like a wheel inside a wheel."

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#25 2008-08-11 13:13:46

Ted
Member
Registered: 2008-08-09
Posts: 14

Re: Honkyoku and Enlightenment

Their are definately primary gates that need to be unblocked in Taoist practice. Moving energy in the "Cosmic Orbit" meditation requires these gates be unobstructed for smooth movement. But, yes, I agree the chakra system used in India, the Chinese model and Tibetan model are different but the similarities are even more striking. Chi Kung uses vocal and instrumental sounds to open blockages. I got a Sonogram at the hospital and although I did not feel the sound waves, they made a very clear picture of my insides. When playing a shakuhachi the resonance is strongest inside of the instrument but a long flute played in a low tone can penatrate your body very strongly, I am sure when you play your subtle energies are being effected by the score.

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