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Tube of delight!

#26 2009-02-09 23:08:26

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

purehappiness wrote:

Isn't to be blowing zen to have no rules.

The association of "freedom" and "no rules" is quite interesting, and may be particularly Western. From what I gather, Zen training is extremely strict, full of discipline and rules. Honkyoku is certainly also based on rules. In general it seems that the traditional spiritual systems in Asia, including of course Buddhism, rely heavily on rules in order to train the mind. Quite often when we don't like rules it is simply the ego whining. The rules in Buddhism are sometimes employed to directly work against that, butting right up against the ego. In that case, running away from the rules, trying to be "free" from them is often the ego wanting IT'S freedom, which, is not freedom at all but just the security of the delusion it wants to maintain. In that case it is the rules which are there to help you break through the real chains, which are the chains of the ego, to the real freedom which is not lessened by any rules.

In terms of expression, it may be worthy to note that, for example, most, if not all humour relies on rules. Jokes are funny because of their relation to the rule-structure they are embedded in. Indeed, you can even make jokes in music, by placing certain notes in a "funny" position within the musical rule-structure. Then even for usual music, improvisation itself is full of rules. The only improvisation not relying on rules of music is "free improvisation", which is not bound by pitch-interval systems or rhythm systems. But aside from that, improvisation makes sense because of its relationship to the structure, the rule-system of the music. One of the most advanced systems of improvisation is in Indian music, again guided by many many rules.

Japanese music can be particularly rigid, in a way. It is full of rules, and some people complain that there is therefore no space for freedom of expression. I think the challenge is, to submit to the discipline, to master the rules, and to express through that.

Justin
http://senryushakuhachi.com/

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#27 2009-02-09 23:14:11

geni
Performer & Teacher
From: Boston MA
Registered: 2005-12-21
Posts: 829
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Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

amen!

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#28 2009-02-10 02:18:14

Tairaku 太楽
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From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3206
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Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

If you're improvising on a song that has words and a particular melody it's good to really know the melody and words and understand the meaning of the words. Then keep it in mind during your improvisation.

Regarding free improv, there are not many people who are good at it who are not also good at some kind of organized music.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#29 2009-02-10 03:08:55

Karmajampa
Member
From: Aotearoa (NZ)
Registered: 2006-02-12
Posts: 574
Website

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

An interesting exercise I have found indicates a lot of my 'habitual' playing patterns, both physical and intellectual is to reverse my hands , i.e. My 'natural' posture is left hand down, so I invert to right hand down.
This is interesting to explore while playing a known piece or while exploring improvisation.
Quite revealing.

Kel.


Kia Kaha !

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#30 2009-02-10 03:38:31

Kiku Day
Shakuhachi player, teacher and ethnomusicologist
From: London, UK & Nørre Snede, DK
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 917
Website

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

Freedom and no rules in music are certainly not Western concepts despite we tend to think so if we don't really look deep into Western music.
In fact most Western music are just as rigid in rules as any Japanese music, Zen or anything.

Improvisation in Western music probably happened much more in folk music. In classical music organ music was the last resort of improvisation. The composer focus changed the role of the performer as an active agent in the music creation. As Norman Lebrecht write: Who killed classical music? (He is a British commentator on music and was co-editor of the Evening Standard. His writings on music is very interesting). The role of folk music has changed and the popular music today in the West do not have much improvisation either.
However, there are improvisation all around the globe. Look at Indian ragas, Iranian dasgar, Mbira music from Zimbabwe etc etc etc. But all - like anything else have rules or I rather call t some standards or frame that people are being creative within.

The avant garde free improvisation is not totally free either. A person like Eddie Prevost is a fantastic improviser - but that is also because he knows the rules of Western music so well. He was originally a good jazz drummer - and jazz can be extremely rigid - despite its aspect of improvisation. He played with Cornelius Cardew who was a composer - thus educated in the classical music system and together with a few others such as Keith Rowe they created AMM - an inspiring concept of musical creativity. However, Cardew got tired of the rigidity of avant garde improvisation too himself and created The Scratch Orchestra and called his music for 'people's liberation music'.
The problem with free improvisation - and Tairaku has mentioned several times that it is rare to find good free improvisers - is that people join in without a firm musical background. Everyone can create sound but without music knowledge only very few would be able to really add something to the music.
This is especially valid in societies in Europe, Japan, US etc where musicians are specialists. I experienced music creation several places in the world (for example on Fiji Islands or Zimbabwe) where everyone joined in in music making just as if they joined in in a conversation. A few particularly gifted musicians led the seance but... it was very touching to experience that everyone can do musicking in such 'natural' manner.

All this to say that it is important to know the musical system within which one wishes to improvise very well - whether it being 'avant garde non-idiomatic free improvisation' or any other improvisation. Practicing the tradition in a respectful but non-rigid manner (your attitude when playing) is a great way of learning to improvise. Wanting to skip the 'hard work' and go directly to improvisation is in most cases not a good idea. So, to go back to Seth's original question. Keep on practicing the shakuhachi repertoire and you will notice that more and more the means to make for example honkyoku more powerful in reaching the audience will be an integral part of your musicking. Hopefully you have a teacher who will instruct you. It is hard to say put more volume in the middle of this shape phrase and a little later on this shape phrase. Too many rules to remember. But when the repertoire has become a part of you - you have embodied the rules or the structure of the music, and then you will know how to do improvisation more efficient as well.

Good luck! The process is wonderful!

Last edited by Kiku Day (2009-02-10 04:00:29)


I am a hole in a flute
that the Christ's breath moves through
listen to this music
Hafiz

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#31 2009-02-10 05:31:58

Karmajampa
Member
From: Aotearoa (NZ)
Registered: 2006-02-12
Posts: 574
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Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

Many Session musicians brought in to back recordings are not given a score to play but wil improvise with the existing tracks. Myles Davis chose musicians he wanted to play with not only because of their ability to play but also their ability to listen.

In 1970 I listened to Van Morrisson's "Astral Weeks" and it felt to me that the backing musicians were improvising, the 'feel' was that of Improvisation, and at that time I knew next to nothing about musical styles. Later, about two years ago I read on the Net that Van went into his recording booth and put down his vocal and guitar, did not even dialog with the other musicians, simply said, "do what you like", and they did.

Another term for 'improvise' is 'Ad-Lib', and when I think of ad-libbing, it is always in some context. So that thought may help, what is the context I am working with ?

Kel.


Kia Kaha !

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#32 2009-02-10 10:51:55

geni
Performer & Teacher
From: Boston MA
Registered: 2005-12-21
Posts: 829
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Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

One pracical thing to do is this.
Find Improvs that you like. Learn them (as much as you can) Try to analise them.If you don`t know music noatation use a graphic score.Writte the shape of the improvisation (Up & Down).
Use colors also... There is no right or wrong with it, just  an exercise.

Geni

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#33 2009-02-10 12:10:45

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
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Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

Kiku Day wrote:

The problem with free improvisation - and Tairaku has mentioned several times that it is rare to find good free improvisers - is that people join in without a firm musical background. Everyone can create sound but without music knowledge only very few would be able to really add something to the music.

That was a very good post Kiku, and I'd be hard pressed to argue with most of it. However, though I agree with the above quote, I've noticed that the problem with non-musicians joining in is not their lack of skills but that they tend to either get too shy or too goofy. Some teachers/composers who work with these kind of groups do very well with getting them to produce good music. I've experienced this a few times. The most accessible, because he travels and teaches workshops in how to do it, is David Darling. He advertises music workshops for people ranging from those who have no musical experience to those who are very skilled. The music is very improvisational. Of course, all the participants in the workshops paid to be there and aside from that he's a great teacher so it's understandable that the least-skilled participants will listen, learn and be able to join in and create some pretty decent music.

He also encourages the participants to form similar musical groups in their communities using the knowledge they gained from the workshops. That's where everything falls apart. Non-musicians inevitably join because that's the premise of the groups and without the guidance of a good, confident teacher to convey the important information and work with those that aren't getting it the groups usually don't succeed in doing anything musically interesting. The pertinent information is really very simple and sparse, like to listen and play things with intention (not haphazardly), and there's also some other ground rules like to keep an ensemble at any given point in time down to around 4 or 5 people because otherwise it just gets too difficult. However, finding someone with the leadership abilities to convey that information isn't easy. Some people will just seem to not understand that something can be musically interesting without having structure behind it and will express that in some way, usually either by being shy and not really participating, or thinking it's ridiculous and start clowning around, and occasionally being vocal about it and verbally griping.

The problem is not that the non-musicians have no musical background, but that they preconceived notions about what is musical and lack appreciation for the musical sounds they can create. In a paid workshop setting, the problem participants will listen to the teacher/conductor and do what he or she says. They might not think the music their ensemble created was anything of interest, but they'll play along and accept the accolades of the teacher afterwards. Get them in a non-paying situation with a teacher/organizer that lacks the impressive credentials and you've got people who won't pay attention or follow any instructions and mess everything up.

I guess my point is that it's not the structured musical background that's needed for non-musicians to play good music, but simply some kind of affirmation that they can play good music. What I believe happens in non-structured music ensembles is that musicians use their years of training as the affirmation that they really can play, so when put in a situation where they have to throw all that training out the window they still do OK. So it may look like you need trained musicians to play that stuff, but what you really need is simply people who listen and play with intent. That takes some training, but not all that much, you could get it in a few days.

Edit - I just found a video of what David Darling gets people to do in his workshops. This video is with highly skilled musicians, but what he gets from the non-musicians is impressive too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlekWKfdfjg

Last edited by radi0gnome (2009-02-10 13:32:35)


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#34 2009-02-10 12:53:48

jaybeemusic
Member
From: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
Registered: 2006-06-22
Posts: 144

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

I've taught "improvisation" to hundreds of students and i always say the same thing....

Every time we talk, we improvise.  No 2 conversations are exactly the same.  To the untrained ear, it's just a bunch of random sounds made by the tongue, teeth, lips and vocal chords with no intrinsic meaning.  If you don't speak german, then it's just jibberish. 

but....  just because i memorized the english dictionary, doesn't mean that i can string together a bunch of random words...


dog table driving sky snow guitar slowly brown


that sentence made no sense whatsoever....even though every word was english, the syntax was wrong.   There was no "reason" to put those words together in that specific way.

Every piece of literature in the english language from Shakespear to a Spider-Man comic book uses the same 26 letters.  But after you get past the letters then you have words and then thoughts etc.....   It goes waaaaaaay deeper than just letters.

When it comes to "improvising" in a musical sense, if you don't have an incredibly firm grasp of the "syntax" of the instrument, then it's just gonna be a bunch of musical nonsense.


When we're speaking, we don't THINK about the rules of grammar with every syllable we speak, it just happens.  But that's because we already understand the rules well enough to be able to just let the free expression of our ideas flow together.   

Without that firm base,  it would be impossible. 

Jacques


It's better to keep your mouth closed and let people "think" that you're stupid, than to open it, and remove all doubt.

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#35 2009-02-10 13:28:54

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

Tairaku wrote:

Regarding free improv, there are not many people who are good at it who are not also good at some kind of organized music.

But isn't that because the typical approach is to teach an instrument is to teach it via structured music? I doubt many of these people picked up the instruments in the first place with intentions of playing free jazz. It's kind of like saying Marcus Miller's classical clarinet playing is what made him such a great funk bassist. It's probably how he learned to read music, but he very well could have started with bass in elementary school instead of clarinet.   

I have a hunch that if someone liked free jazz, bought an instrument, and found a teacher who would be willing to just teach them how to play all the notes well without teaching them music, that they could be a very good free-jazz player. There are obstacles in that approach, like how do you keep from getting bored while you're learning without producing any structured music because it still will take years to master the instrument, so it may be kind of impractical, but I'm still doubting the necessity of the "classical training/free-jazz" pairing.   


Here's one of my favorite free-jazz ensembles, I think it's incredibly hip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_Q8-G45gw0

Last edited by radi0gnome (2009-02-10 13:29:17)


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#36 2009-02-10 14:40:28

Kiku Day
Shakuhachi player, teacher and ethnomusicologist
From: London, UK & Nørre Snede, DK
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 917
Website

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

radi0gnome wrote:

The problem is not that the non-musicians have no musical background, but that they preconceived notions about what is musical and lack appreciation for the musical sounds they can create. In a paid workshop setting, the problem participants will listen to the teacher/conductor and do what he or she says. They might not think the music their ensemble created was anything of interest, but they'll play along and accept the accolades of the teacher afterwards. Get them in a non-paying situation with a teacher/organizer that lacks the impressive credentials and you've got people who won't pay attention or follow any instructions and mess everything up.

I guess my point is that it's not the structured musical background that's needed for non-musicians to play good music, but simply some kind of affirmation that they can play good music. What I believe happens in non-structured music ensembles is that musicians use their years of training as the affirmation that they really can play, so when put in a situation where they have to throw all that training out the window they still do OK. So it may look like you need trained musicians to play that stuff, but what you really need is simply people who listen and play with intent. That takes some training, but not all that much, you could get it in a few days.

I agree with all this, Radi0gnome. Perhaps I should have explained what I meant with the 'non-trained' or 'firm musical background'. It is not virtuosic music skills that is needed - absolutely not. But rather the skills of having tried to be a member of an ensemble where everyone is equal - knowing  you are a part of a whole. The music does not get better by you alone shine - the music gets better by listening and responding. We are too trained to believe that music is for the few talented people. No, music is for everybody! smile
The arguments above may perhaps also be a part of the reason why Cardew created the concept of 'people's liberation music'.
They don't need that on Fiji Islands - yet.

Last edited by Kiku Day (2009-02-10 14:43:18)


I am a hole in a flute
that the Christ's breath moves through
listen to this music
Hafiz

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#37 2009-02-10 15:11:41

Yungflutes
Flutemaker/Performer
From: New York City
Registered: 2005-10-08
Posts: 1040
Website

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

geni wrote:

can you guys post some of your improvisations with Shakuhachi? So, we can hear what is about.

Hi Geni, One of my favorite Shakuhachi improvisers came into the workshop today for a repair.
take a look:

http://www.yungflutes.com/log/

Back to the shop, Perry


"A hot dog is not an animal." - Jet Yung

My Blog/Website on the art of shakuhachi...and parenting.
How to make an Urban Shakuhachi (PVC)

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#38 2009-02-10 16:05:24

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3206
Website

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

Says video not available. How long did Steve serenade you? He used to come over to my place and blow for 4 or 5 hours.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#39 2009-02-10 21:38:50

Yungflutes
Flutemaker/Performer
From: New York City
Registered: 2005-10-08
Posts: 1040
Website

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

Works on Firefox and Safari. Anyone else having problems?
You can try viewing on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGMEVrvh5QU

Steve was over for just an hour and a half. We would've hung out more but I had to pick up Jet from day care. He pretty much played the whole time. I wasn't complaining. Free cool jazz shakuhachi!

He also brought over some bamboo that he picked in Japan to discuss making a few flutes together.


"A hot dog is not an animal." - Jet Yung

My Blog/Website on the art of shakuhachi...and parenting.
How to make an Urban Shakuhachi (PVC)

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#40 2009-02-11 00:30:04

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3206
Website

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

When I looked on your blog it didn't work but the direct link works. Yep that's Steve. Good sounds. He got that flute from me.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#41 2009-02-11 01:40:10

Kiku Day
Shakuhachi player, teacher and ethnomusicologist
From: London, UK & Nørre Snede, DK
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 917
Website

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

Yeah, Steve is a lot of FUN ! ! !
He will be teaching at the European shakuhachi event in Leiden, Holland this summer!
Come on over! smile


I am a hole in a flute
that the Christ's breath moves through
listen to this music
Hafiz

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#42 2009-02-11 03:36:09

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3206
Website

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

Kiku Day wrote:

Yeah, Steve is a lot of FUN ! ! !
He will be teaching at the European shakuhachi event in Leiden, Holland this summer!
Come on over! smile

Steve is a good example of a dude who plays great free improvisation but also knows how to play organized music. I was watching Nyoraku's young daughter and Steve came over and wanted to play the piano. I thought "great he's going to scare this girl with post-Cecil Taylor dissonance" but then he ripped out some fantastic Fats Waller stuff.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#43 2009-06-04 17:18:16

Taldaran
Member
From: Everett, Washington-USA
Registered: 2009-01-13
Posts: 228

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

radi0gnome wrote:

purehappiness wrote:

Isn't to be blowing zen to have no rules. To blow what is right for you. Even if a note is not hit correctly it still should be considered ok?

I had thought the same thing, but it's apparently not what the zen monks were doing with shakuhachi. At this point I am a bit more open-minded and thinking that maybe the mindless "improvisational" playing I like to do is very far from using the shakuhachi for zen meditation, at least traditionally. It kind of fits my Western understanding of what zen meditation must be like, but I have to think that there may have been a reason for the monks being so "song" oriented.

I had read somewhere that honkyoku were used as technical pieces for the purpose of separating the true Zen monks with years of practice from shogunate spies.

Last edited by Taldaran (2009-06-04 17:20:04)


Christopher

“Whoever can see through all fear will always be safe.” Tao Te Ching

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#44 2009-06-07 07:05:13

Jason Castner
Member
From: binghamton, ny
Registered: 2007-12-19
Posts: 80

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

Both friends hung out for days on end.  They ate the same foods, dressed in similiar cloths, and did most things together.  One day they went to the amusement park together.  They rode many rides.  On the last ride, one of them puked while the other had the time of his life. 

I didnt think there were rules for personal improvisations, however if your playing with other people at the same time there could be rules to help regulate what and when people play and what notes they play and how they play them so that it sounds like they want it to sound collectively. 

I mostly play shakuhachi alone.  So I think the only rule for playing alone should be sincerity.  Perhaps if a person thinks they sound silly or bad would be because they arent being sincere enough in their playing.  It seems like when I am at my most sincere moments my playing rivals the gods themselves.  Now thats a cool feeling


north south east and rest of my life...I'm single but the Tao is my wife?

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#45 2009-06-07 07:18:47

Jason Castner
Member
From: binghamton, ny
Registered: 2007-12-19
Posts: 80

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

I think alot of good improves came from people who were on drugs or drinking


north south east and rest of my life...I'm single but the Tao is my wife?

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#46 2009-06-07 07:31:17

Christopher B.
Member
From: Berlin, Germany
Registered: 2009-03-17
Posts: 235
Website

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

Hi Guys,

nice to hear you talking about improvisation. I am not so good at Shakuhachi to improvise but I have a track on my Myspace-Site where I improvise with Xiao it is called "Micha Want Soul" just a simple reverb is added. I play Xiao since Dezember last year, I hope you will enjoy it!


In reality it is Ha,Ro,Ha,Ro... ~Sensei~
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
How do you know that life is a dream? Cause there is a way to wake up!
http://naturalbreath.wordpress.com/

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#47 2009-06-07 16:26:19

STUPID HIPPY
Member
Registered: 2009-04-04
Posts: 20

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

Jason Castner aka Komuso wrote:

I think alot of good improves came from people who were on drugs or drinking

Oh man.....finally someone who speaks the truth! Man, you can make good improves after or before hitting the bong, man, but you can't blow shakuhachi and suck bong at the same time. I know cuz I tried. It was a bummer man! I got bongwater all over my paisley shirt. Jerry Garcia did many good improves while on drugs but he's dead now and shit and he played guitar not shakuhachi.

Last edited by STUPID HIPPY (2009-06-07 16:28:12)


Zen and Bamboo are one. Or is it two? Far out.

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#48 2009-06-07 22:16:01

Jeff Cairns
teacher, performer,promoter of shakuhachi
From: Kumamoto, Japan
Registered: 2005-10-10
Posts: 517
Website

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

Sweet Ji!  It looks like Horst's territory is being challenged.  I'm not sure the forum can handle this.


shakuhachi flute
I step out into the wind
with holes in my bones

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#49 2009-06-07 22:54:11

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

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

Nah, that dweeb doesn't hold a candle to Horst. Ain't fit to shovel out Horst's outhouse.


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

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#50 2009-06-07 23:10:22

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3206
Website

Re: Improvisation and Shakuhachi

edosan wrote:

Nah, that dweeb doesn't hold a candle to Horst. Ain't fit to shovel out Horst's outhouse.

Jason or HIPPY? roll


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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