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#1 2010-09-02 20:16:23

Tairaku 太楽
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From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3222
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Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

Justin wrote:

Last month, August 2010, the great master Satō Reidō passed away in Nagasaki, Kyushu.

As some of you may know, I have been seeking out the holders of the oldest styles of the Koten Honkyoku, aiming for an understanding of the music as it existed in Edo period Japan. This search has taken me across Japan. One of the key figures in this respect, is the master Yamaue Getsuzan. He studied far and wide and meticulously studied various lineages as precisely as possible, and maintained their unique characters to the most minute details. This is extremely rare, as almost everyone of that period with enough skill and opportunity to learn widely tended to rearrange or restyle the pieces they learned into a specific sound for their school, giving the characteristic results of Jin Nyodo's school, Watazumi's school, Chikuho-ryu and so on. In this respect Yamaue's school was incomparably valuable. His study and research of lineage trees was also beyond compare and acts as the main source of information on the subject for scholars today.

Justin posted this in another thread and I think it opens an interesting topic of discussion.

Is what he describes above in reference to Jin Nyodo, Chikuho and Watazumido a "good" or "bad" thing? Likewise is the strict preservation model?

I have opinions but I'll keep them to myself until other people have had a chance to gnaw on it.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#2 2010-09-02 21:02:26

radi0gnome
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From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
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Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

Anyone saying it's a bad thing might want to think about the ethnomusicological problem of "folk process". Notating or even recording an oral tradition must not be taken lightly because it can interfere with how the songs evolve.

IMO, the songs have a mind of their own and will sometimes freeze so people will hear them for a while before moving on. It looks like Western music started from a bird's songs, as you can find in this article: http://www.medieval.org/emfaq/misc/gregorian.html . I'm wondering where the Japanese songs came from...


"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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#3 2010-09-02 21:05:28

Moran from Planet X
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From: Here to There
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Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

Imitation is an interesting word. I don't think "strict imitation" works very well in the transmission of tradition. The teacher (the transmitter) needs to provide context, background and, inevitably, his/her own ideas about why and how you play a piece or a phrase or a note in a particular way.

Just imitating the teacher's fingering, note, sound or technique is a small part of the story. It's only a portion of learning form. Therefore language and cultural barriers make some transmissions (such as shakuhachi) very difficult.

More later (of course). I think this will be an interesting thread.


"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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#4 2010-09-02 21:06:18

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

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

As a listener it is neither god or bad it is all about do you like how its sounds or not?

As a musical historian or fan of classical Japanese music does it copy the exact sounds as it should be under the tradition presented at that concert, CD etc?

It comes down to how the players are presenting themselves. If they present themselves as the true owner of a tradition then they should play what the tradition dictates or if the player does not claim anything and just plays and listeners like it then this is all legit.

As long as people present themselves for what they really are then I feel it is ok but sadly most of the time players tend to pimp their ass for more than what they are.


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

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#5 2010-09-02 22:31:24

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

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

Unless you are learning it from the person/persons who invented the piece/style, the argument is moot because you have NO way of determining how "authentic" it actually is.  Yes i can see how you might want to try to keep it as close to the original as possible.  But without any quantifiable and impartial way (ie Audio/Video recordings) of preserving it, there can be no way to be 100% sure that it's correct.  And if it isn't...then why are you trying to keep it original...if it isn't?

It's like telling a joke....some people tell a joke and it's funny, others tell the same joke and ruin it.  It's not the joke that changes...it's the performance of the joke that makes it memorable.  Same thing with ANY art...it's the performer that makes the piece important, not the piece itself.  And you can't copy that.

IMHO

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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#6 2010-09-02 23:24:41

radi0gnome
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From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
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Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

jaybeemusic wrote:

Same thing with ANY art...it's the performer that makes the piece important, not the piece itself.  And you can't copy that.

A lot of performers did well at copying John Coltrane's style. And if you approach a song with a particular style it'll bring out different nuances than if approached with another style.


"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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#7 2010-09-03 00:47:56

Jim Thompson
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From: Santa Monica, California
Registered: 2007-11-28
Posts: 421

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

The beautiful thing is that we have this vast spectrum of music and approaches to playing that a person can chose from. Anybody can put themselves at whatever point or points they want to be at in the spectrum. I would hate to have to choose between playing "my own way" and studying strict tradition. I don't see them as opposing realities. I think the deeper you go into strict tradition the more tools, mastery and control you will bring to your own thing should you decide to do that. I love doing both.  To dedicate yourself totally to reproducing what has already been done to the degree that Justin describes seems awfully retentive to me but that's Yamaue's choice. Isn't that what Jin Nyodo did? I must say it strikes me as a little odd that someone could dedicate that much time and effort to play and never explore there own inner voice. Makes me suspicious that their brain is not connected to their ass.

Last edited by Jim Thompson (2010-09-03 00:49:26)


" Who do you trust , me or your own eyes?" - Groucho Marx

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#8 2010-09-03 01:14:13

Moran from Planet X
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Posts: 1524
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Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

radi0gnome wrote:

jaybeemusic wrote:

Same thing with ANY art...it's the performer that makes the piece important, not the piece itself.  And you can't copy that.

A lot of performers did well at copying John Coltrane's style. And if you approach a song with a particular style it'll bring out different nuances than if approached with another style.

But weren't musicians who wanted to play like Coltrane already trained musicians (and good ones at that)? That's a rhetorical question.

I don't know of any self-taught jazz saxophonists who read a bunch of books on the subject, played a bunch of records and maybe had semi-annual lessons with a teacher who mostly spoke a foreign language ... and then could learn how to copy Trane.

Most likely they had been in band or orchestra in grammar school, learned how to play their instrument well --if they were dedicated and lucky enough-- discovered jazz in their teens, hooked up with local jazz musicians, heard Trane, got inspired  ... etc. etc.

In essence: a lot of formal instrument training, access to learning, access to somewhat decent instruments, opportunity, luck and possibly, if you were really fortunate, some native talent.


"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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#9 2010-09-03 01:50:28

Daniel Ryudo
Shihan/Kinko Ryu
From: Kochi, Japan
Registered: 2006-02-12
Posts: 355

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

The style of Kinko ryu I'm currently learning as well as other branches of Kinko I'm familiar with initially emphasize learning by imitation in order to master the kihon (one's school's basic techniques for fingering the notes, phrase patterning, ornamentation etc.)  but then stress playing them in a way that is uniquely one's own -- one doesn't want to be simply an imitation of one's teacher.  As far as understanding the music as it existed in Edo Japan, quite a long period of time, relatively speaking, has passed since the days of Edo, and the world has changed in so many ways since those good old days of samurai and komuso spies that without recordings, as Jaybeemusic knowingly mentions above, it would be extremely unlikely that pieces could be preserved exactly as they were in the Edo Period.  That's not to say that one can't find pieces that are played closer to Edo Period music than other music pieces are and it's lucky for us that Yamaue Getsuzan has studied the lineages in such detail; and that he has preserved the characteristics of these various styles of music?  Right there we have the chances for some unconscious mixing of styles; maybe not, if they have all been written down but as Radiognome notes, what about the effect that notating could have on how the songs evolve?  Then again, master piper Seamus Ennis went all around the west of Ireland by bicycle equipped with only a pen, a bag of music sheets, and a tin whistle and wrote down tunes, which he was able to do on first hearing, and after five years had collected over 2000 pieces.  The human memory can be quite a marvelous thing. My memory on the other hand..   I wouldn't say what Justin referred to in regard to the passing on of the music by Jin Nyodo, Chikuho, or Watazumido is good or bad; it is what it is.  Whether one preserves the pieces more closely to the "originals" doesn't make the music better or worse I don't think but if all the pieces were exact imitations it would get a bit boring after a while and someone would have to start something new.  If people appreciate the music hopefully some of them will be interested in learning it and keeping it going.

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#10 2010-09-03 02:07:49

Mark Angevine
Member
Registered: 2009-06-09
Posts: 26

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

"...It's lucky for us that Yamaue Getsuzan has studied the lineages in such detail"
As a total beginner this is so far the most important thing. Just to hear what's happening on a recording without the few lesson's I've had would be
like the difference between a ski lift or climbing a mountain alone.If your head says preserving a tradition to the best of your ability is what you should do,
then{in my opinion} your head's connected directly to your heart.
Now I'm really scared.


"Open mouth, already a mistake"

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#11 2010-09-03 04:46:14

Moran from Planet X
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From: Here to There
Registered: 2005-10-11
Posts: 1524
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Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

"Open mouth, already a mistake"

The second half of this teaching is "Closed mouth, I hit you upside your head".

Like the meri note that you can never play low enough to please your teacher, during his lifetime or yours, you can't win.

(Love your avatar. Is the boy eating a plate of raw meat?)


"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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#12 2010-09-03 05:09:44

Justin
Shihan/Maker
From: Japan
Registered: 2006-08-12
Posts: 540
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Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

Tairaku 太楽 wrote:

Justin wrote:

Last month, August 2010, the great master Satō Reidō passed away in Nagasaki, Kyushu.

As some of you may know, I have been seeking out the holders of the oldest styles of the Koten Honkyoku, aiming for an understanding of the music as it existed in Edo period Japan. This search has taken me across Japan. One of the key figures in this respect, is the master Yamaue Getsuzan. He studied far and wide and meticulously studied various lineages as precisely as possible, and maintained their unique characters to the most minute details. This is extremely rare, as almost everyone of that period with enough skill and opportunity to learn widely tended to rearrange or restyle the pieces they learned into a specific sound for their school, giving the characteristic results of Jin Nyodo's school, Watazumi's school, Chikuho-ryu and so on. In this respect Yamaue's school was incomparably valuable. His study and research of lineage trees was also beyond compare and acts as the main source of information on the subject for scholars today.

Justin posted this in another thread and I think it opens an interesting topic of discussion.

Is what he describes above in reference to Jin Nyodo, Chikuho and Watazumido a "good" or "bad" thing? Likewise is the strict preservation model?

Hi Brian,
I'm glad you noticed that I wasn't saying either way is better than the other. I was careful to write that Yamaue's meticulous preservation of the old styles was of incomparable value in respect to my search for the oldest styles of Koten Honkyoku. Of course I also have deep appreciation for the other newer styles I study such as Watazumi and Jin Nyodo. And indeed the study of the process of change of the pieces, I find fascinating. In all of these cultural processes there are the people who preserve, and the people who rearrange, each to varying degrees. For the study of music on its own an understanding of this historical process is not necessary. I myself though have always had great curiosity about the history of this repertoire I play (honkyoku) and so I find the journey through history a fascinating one.

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#13 2010-09-03 06:26:17

Tono
Member
Registered: 2007-09-28
Posts: 43

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

I love to hear it all, old formality, and new flexibility, so the ethereal nature still fast consigned to oblivion.  Can CD Baby and emusic save Shimpo-ryu, Mr. Justin?  Is it the wheel or the shovel...

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#14 2010-09-03 07:20:07

Mark Angevine
Member
Registered: 2009-06-09
Posts: 26

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

Thank you Justin and Brian. nice discussion.
As usual Chris I'm 2 cents short, maybe because my shakuhachi is green.BTW that meat on my plate is my own special grind(75%troll 25%meatpuppett) I hope to cure both shakuhachi and meat here at the BBQ. Thanks for relighting the fire.

Last edited by Mark Angevine (2010-09-03 08:21:49)


"Open mouth, already a mistake"

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#15 2010-09-03 08:23:13

Musgo da Pedra
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From: South of Brazil
Registered: 2007-12-02
Posts: 332
Website

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

Imitation is the nature of the way to learn a language, but not the core of it. One can put it's own personality on sayings once has learned how to talk and the organization/function of words. But the derivate words and ideas said by one cannot run much away from the mother language or no one will understand it or even say from where it came from.

Have space to put yourself in a song is great because we are not a recording and reproducing machine, but there is a spirit in the piece that should be preserved. Otherwise the song can have his spirit missed.


Omnia mea mecum porto

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#16 2010-09-03 21:29:38

madoherty
Moderator
Registered: 2008-03-15
Posts: 366

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

I agree with Jim. One can not trully represent a tradition without embodying it.

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#17 2010-09-03 22:46:18

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

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

I always like whut Jeeyum says, too... smile


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

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#18 2010-09-04 04:21:56

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

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

Musgo da Pedra wrote:

Imitation is the nature of the way to learn a language, but not the core of it. One can put it's own personality on sayings once has learned how to talk and the organization/function of words. But the derivate words and ideas said by one cannot run much away from the mother language or no one will understand it or even say from where it came from.

Have space to put yourself in a song is great because we are not a recording and reproducing machine, but there is a spirit in the piece that should be preserved. Otherwise the song can have his spirit missed.

Musgo, that's well said. I have really noticed when some people learn music, for example honkyoku, from just listening to CDs. There are even some such people in Japan who become teachers! But they end up not really being considered part of the tradition. Again I don't know if that's good or bad. But like you say, "one cannot run much away from the mother language or no one will understand it or even say from where it came from." I have often considered these things. I have always liked to play my own way, and was always encouraged to do so by my teachers, especially Furuya Teruo and Yokoyama Katsuya. And yet, there are some players I heard who play in their own way but in such a non-traditional way. I mean, using so much from other traditions (such as modern Western music for example, or even Western classical!) I considered to myself that freedom of expression would be nice, but that it could be nice to be able to widen ones possibilities of expression, if that were wanted, from an "authentic" deep understanding and experience of genuine techniques and nuances native to this repertoire. So that, as you put it, it is all in the "mother language". Perhaps it would be like acquiring skill in poetry by reading many books, absorbing a large vocabulary and varied and skills of expression. This in contrast to learning words from many languages and sticking them all together, to make a poem which may feel rather out of place! Or mixing polite language with casual language for example, which may sound nice to someone who doesn't understand the language but to someone who does they may immediately think "this guy has picked up a few things but has got it all jumbled up"! And would sound, to their trained ears, "wrong".

It's very difficult to say right and wrong about music. But things do have meanings within their contexts. So that's why I like your analogy of a "mother language".

Apart from all this, I think there is in fact already a great potential for freedom of expression even when sticking very carefully and "properly" to the pieces as taught traditionally. That is, freedom perhaps not in the phrasing, but in the other allowable ways within the contexts of the respective schools. That is, that even those with the "conservative" approach, as for example Yamaue Getsuzan, and indeed most students of any school in Japan, there is still this perhaps typically Japanese type of freedom, not one which acts as a platform for ego, but one which allows us to sink deeply into the music, art of whatever activity it is, at once expressing both nothing of ourselves, and yet everything of our being in that moment.

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#19 2010-09-04 08:18:12

Rick Riekert
Member
Registered: 2008-03-13
Posts: 100

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

Musgo da Pedra wrote:

one cannot run much away from the mother language or no one will understand it or even say from where it came from.

But it is almost proverbially true in the arts that what seems alien and unintelligible to contempories is sometimes, within a generation or two, admired, absorbed into the mainstream tradition and its place in that tradition clearly understood.

Justin wrote:

Or mixing polite language with casual language for example, which may sound nice to someone who doesn't understand the language but to someone who does they may immediately think "this guy has picked up a few things but has got it all jumbled up"! And would sound, to their trained ears, "wrong".

Yes, he may be confused or he may be T.S. Eliot whose "Wasteland" was condemned by learned critics as so much fantastic Mumbo -Jumbo. And we know what many early listeners with trained ears thought of Stravinsky and the atonalists.

It seems to me that what we have today is what we have probably always had and ought to have. A wide range of people, staunch conservatives to radical innovators, involved in  activities they enjoy or even love. I believe we need them all just as they need each other.


Mastery does not lay in the mastery of technique, but in penetrating the heart of the music. However, he who has not mastered the technique will not penetrate the heart of the music.
~ Hisamatsu Fy

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#20 2010-09-04 09:09:54

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

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

And thus endeth the usual "is it good, or is it bad" thread, with the usual (but very gracefully put) "ah...it's ALL good".

And life goes on...once again.


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

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#21 2010-09-04 11:24:22

Rick Riekert
Member
Registered: 2008-03-13
Posts: 100

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

edosan wrote:

And thus endeth the usual "is it good, or is it bad" thread, with the usual (but very gracefully put) "ah...it's ALL good".

Whoa, that's not my meaning. To say we need the various types and temperaments is not to say that whatever they create is good. For every Eliot or Stravinsky there are innumerable mediocrities and hacks who inevitably fall by the wayside and are heard from no more. But it's very difficult to know who may produce what and sometimes even to understand what it is they have given us. So the more the potentially merrier. That's all.


Mastery does not lay in the mastery of technique, but in penetrating the heart of the music. However, he who has not mastered the technique will not penetrate the heart of the music.
~ Hisamatsu Fy

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#22 2010-09-04 12:50:00

Musgo da Pedra
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From: South of Brazil
Registered: 2007-12-02
Posts: 332
Website

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

Rick Riekert wrote:

Musgo da Pedra wrote:

one cannot run much away from the mother language or no one will understand it or even say from where it came from.

But it is almost proverbially true in the arts that what seems alien and unintelligible to contempories is sometimes, within a generation or two, admired, absorbed into the mainstream tradition and its place in that tradition clearly understood.

Indeed, it's true when masters give to art a new path along the time, as did Beethoven in the end of his life. But then he was making his own way, not thinking about keep ties with tradition or the past (although he should has a lot of knowledge on the past music).

Keeping the exemple thinking on western classical, let's say one's like to play Bach using cristal cups with water along samba drums and shamisen. If with time people start to like these kinds of diferent combination, the main sound can be missed (well, now we already have many cd's on that, what makes it hard to happen).

New things are one thing, hold the old songs as time pass are other and trying changes over one existing thing (even if its not so rigid in its structure) is another...

All these things makes uses of past things, more or less, and yes, they can became part of the evolution line of the tradition through the time.

Say that one thing is good or no depends on how much you are open or how much you are a prisoner of pre-concepts of mind.


Omnia mea mecum porto

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#23 2010-09-04 14:56:14

indigo
Member
From: Brooklyn, New York
Registered: 2005-10-19
Posts: 52

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

I just had a discussion about JTM with a Japanese contemporary dance choreographer who works in the cafe across the street here in Brooklyn.  He said that he had little contact with traditional performing arts growing up in rural Amori prefecture and if I knew of any events to let him know because he would like to increase his exposure.  When he goes home his plans include  attending Noh and Kabuki for the first time.  In college he had book exposure to butoh dance etc.  The pattern of this discussion has repeated itself several times for me with other Japanese friends of mine and one begins to feel embarased trying to discuss the details of the Shakuhachi tradition etc.  "Oh ya, I have seen pictures of men with baskets on their heads and flutes, begging.  Maybe in comic books."  It seems for them and for me a dream of some other place and time even though I play Kyorei etc.

I, however distant from the wonderful Shakuhachi tradition, am extremely fortunate and part of a very small and privileged community. Precision for me is undefinable, yet concrete  when sitting in front of my dear teacher.   I almost jumped for joy when one teacher pointed out that my re was too sharp when we played Hachidan.  The meri kari dynamic seems to imply that precision is a never ending internal debate when playing.  In our digital age, precision aka measurement is something quite different from 100 years ago let alone Edo Japan.  By today's educated cultural standards capable of reducing any phenomena into ever more minute interdependent parts we might assume wrongly that our description is the same as understanding or embodying  an action or phenomena.  My blowing seems to rely on repetition and the subconscious results.   How precise is that?

Regarding tradition in Japan, I am almost finished reading William T. Vollman's  "Kissing the Mask" a kind of travel journal of musings and interviews of W.T.V. with Noh actors and Geisha etc. in Japan.  He gives a fantastic description of an extremely refined 60 year old  Geisha performing a dance to Kurokami played on shamisen.  His descriptions of Noh performance are wonderful also.

Best to everyone.

Last edited by indigo (2010-09-04 15:56:32)

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#24 2010-09-04 15:14:46

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

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

Rick Riekert wrote:

For every Eliot or Stravinsky there are innumerable mediocrities and hacks who inevitably fall by the wayside and are heard from no more. But it's very difficult to know who may produce what and sometimes even to understand what it is they have given us. So the more the potentially merrier. That's all.

So, then, it's STILL all good, then isn't it? After all is said, and done, and written, and played, and judged. Discussions like this are a merry-go-round of infinite befuddlement.

Last edited by edosan (2010-09-04 15:18:09)


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

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#25 2010-09-05 09:23:35

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3222
Website

Re: Adapting music to one's own playing style vs. strict imitation

indigo wrote:

My blowing seems to rely on repetition and the subconscious results.   How precise is that?

That's called "learning".


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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