World Shakuhachi Discussion / Go to Live Shakuhachi Chat
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Art School Analogy:
I’ve known a number of artists who were naturally gifted, self-taught, and did amazing work, who went to art school and received formal training with the following results:
Some were locked into the box of formal training and came out manufacturing technically “correct” art, which forced whatever unique vision they had into a formal expression more or less identical to more-or-less manufactured commercial art. They lost their unique voice in the training process.
Some came out on the other side of formal training with a steroid-enhanced skill set that provided a fully-loaded technical toolbox for their individual self expression – they became turbo-charged and fully loaded to build a vehicle for ANY vision they might have.
Some were mediocre going in, and technically proficient coming out, and able to produce the garden-variety work you see on trendy nightclub walls, etc.
Then there are others who stayed outside the formal system and did work superior to all of the above, on their own without help.
The same applies to music. I know people who were talented who wound up going to places like Berkley School of Music in the 80s and 90s and came out sounding like 99% of everyone else who went to Berkely in the 80s and 90s playing canned jazz-fusion for elevators or afternoon TV talk shows.
The best guitar player I ever knew barely left his apartment, musically speaking. The guy played obsessively, was self taught, incredibly creative, and completely outside. The only commercial gigs he ever got was through friends who roped him into playing with crappy local bands at country western bars etc. so no one had any real clue what the guy was capable of unless they knew him enough to hang out with him. In the privacy of his own home he shredded on par with Sonny Sharrock or James Blood Ulmer. He could play ANYTHING he heard and probably anything that came into his head, and strange shit came into his head. He just absolutely did not give a shit about playing with or for anyone else, or recording, or making money, etc. he just cared about playing guitar. Last I heard he was working in an auto-electric repair shop in a small town in Missouri still struggling with his drug problem.
From knowing him and a few others akin, I’m convinced the best music in the world goes unheard and is played by people who pick up an instrument and obsess.
Formal training works for some people and against others, then others about the same, then I’m sure others go through the motions at a plateau that may not move anyone else one way or another but fills a space in their life.
As long as the tradition is not in danger of extinction there is no reason for insiders to fear or loathe outsiders.
As long as the tradition lacks the will or means to suppress outsiders there is no reason for outsiders to fear or loathe insiders.
….yep, that’s my load of babbling bullshit for the day!
And a fine load it was, too
I am not sure what the controversy is over the thread and whether it should have ended minutes after it started. I don't see an argument here but rather a conversation. "Methinks the lady doth protest too much."
I am not so versed in the different schools of Shakuhachi. I am not even that versed in music in general. I am just glad that, now as I approach 40, after enjoying and appreciating music for so long, I've had the guts to actually try to learn to play some. It has been immensely rewarding for me. I continue to look forward to a time when I can make an offering of it to others.
Being a rank beginner, I can certainly appreciate what Jdanza has to say. It is encouraging to hear someone with such experience echo things that I have thought and felt, especially as I continue to sucker folks into listening to me. Not so much shakuhachi players, but I am friends with several Irish musicians who lack patience for a genre that is less rhythmic than their own Irish dance music. I try not to get too upset over it, but that mentality, in which shakuhachi music is somehow for space cadets and potheads really rubs me the wrong way. However, as those who have listened to my recordings can vouche for, I need to work on my timing, and those guys personify the further extreme of what I need to work on.
I think that Justin really points out something quite profound, when he advises that alot can be gleaned from suspending our doubts for a while in order to learn what a tradition or teacher can offer. My Spiritual Friend (not my shakuhachi teacher, who is also top of the line as far as teachers go) has told me on several occasions, "It is good to look with both eyes when you are in search of a teacher. After you find one, it is good to close an eye." I don't think he made that up or anything, but it is good advice. There is a great deal that can dissuade us from learning. We all have faults and prejudices. I don't think we should let the faults and prejudices of others get in the way of taking advantage of what they have to offer, and that is not to say that we should complacently inherit their foibles along with their pearls. Generally, we have enough of our own to fill our quota for at least this lifetime.
I very much appreciate the tone and context of this discussion. It is very illuminating, as well as encouraging.
As far as keeping our minds empty, perhaps several of us should review the Lankavatara Sutra, in which the Buddha describes the Dhyana/Chan/Zen of the ignorant as "still sitting with vacant minds. ... [practiced by those] who cling to the notion of ego, [but] seek to attain emancipation through mere cessation of thought." The Buddha himself taught through conversational dialouge. It would have been a shame if those conversations were ended moments after they began. I know where you are coming from, but a better choice of words would be beneficial, in my humble opinion.
Very well put, Low.
Last edited by edosan (2010-01-19 13:51:07)
Really important and excellent point, Jeff. Whatever our biases are, if and when we choose a teacher, I find it best to absorb what they have to offer with a completely open heart and mind. We can sort out later what we keep or cast away, but while we are with a teacher the only way to fully experience and internalize what we are given is with devotion, love and respect.
As a teacher I find many cases of naturally gifted youngsters who have an attitude of: I just want to be myself and studying with you will ruin the purity of what I do and am. In the meantime, you can clearly see that with a lot of talent but absolutely faulty technique and limited resources, they are not going far... There is no danger in modelling your teacher if you are creative and aware. Once you internalize the teachings they are there for you to integrate into your own style, and your palette of tools has been expanded. A lot of people also choose to be keepers of certain style, and that's also very good...
In my time in Japan I studied with teachers such as John Neptune and Tanaka Sensei, who, as many great players today such as Riley Lee, Hozan Yamamoto, etc., are both Keepers and Explorers.
My comments before lacked the expression of gratitude I feel towards all my teachers... so thanks for the reminder Jeff.
As far as mental floss goes... I try to floss my mind every day... be careful not to grow too much bacteria in that brain of yours... it's so easy to get truth decay.
Last edited by jdanza (2010-01-19 14:10:47)
Just spit balling between the porn. LOL
No really, that was Justin's point, not mine. I just thought it may have been lost to a few in his loquaciousness. And, I don't think your posts lacked anything Jdanza. You obviously didn't spring from Zeus' head with a shakuhachi in your hand. It is evident in your posts that you have traveled far and wide to learn the instruments you play. I have a hard time making it to see my teacher in person even when he travels all the way to my state. I am pretty spoiled in that respect. I did not mean to point out a flaw but was just trying to relate in my own way. It seemed to me that an attitude was arising that there was a "pro" and a "con" argument. I just don't see it that way.
Given what you here opine, no one (being an illusion) should say anything....ever.
Kind of a bad rut to get into, innit?
Get thee to a monastery, oh, holier than thou.
Sorry all -I didn't mean to hit nerves of peachiness or enlightened wisdom, quite the contrary. I was attempting levity. I think that all this mental flossing is awesome of excellent for discussion and discourse. In this digital monastery these arguments of a point of view are a daily bread. I personally am nourished and educated by these threads of conviction and belief and experience. I intended or attempted to point out that it is a personal choice to hold fast to what we are trained, or influenced by as THE only truth. Yes education/indoctrination can take someone with innate talent and turn them into a drone. It can as well turn them into an innovator and revolutionary. I believe that challenging what we are taught and exploring it for its applicability and truth -to US as individuals is the real creative process. Making it my own, personalized and unique -is what shakuhachi is all about to me. Teach your school of thought, teach your method, and teach what you want me to be -but in the end I will play the way I play. And by making it my own -I have advanced the art.
Unless you are a mindless drone who's free will and creativity have been stifled -and that’s your own fault.
Ok -now I must go back to the monastery to chase more illusions.
Last edited by Openheart (2010-01-20 13:48:02)
... As far as mental floss goes... I try to floss my mind every day... be careful not to grow too much bacteria in that brain of yours... it's so easy to get truth decay.
Thanks for that - as I read my initial post -I think I deserved it! My words seem to be very prescriptive as I read them now- I was very vaguely and cryptically trying to say what Low... said. Take what opportunity offers -and make it a part of you. Years ago I read a little plaque outside a marketing firm in NY - Art changes everything, and everything changes art. I think that’s applicable here.