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Could someone explain a bit further about Meian honkyoku? I was profoundly struck by Ronnie Nyogetsu Selden's recording of "Echigo Sanya". I have read the komuso.com page on the piece. On a meta-note to liking that piece so much, I'm a bit worried that I like it because it's so emotional and melodic--is this a bad thing to focus upon...or a silly worry to dismiss?
Flip a coin...
Why shouldn't you worry about, and desire to play something that is melodic and emotional. The Greek tragedies often used powerful, critical emotional moments to achieve a purgation and catharsis from emotional states. Music, even if made for a spiritual purpose, should not shy away from such things. Besides, isn't the best way to be free of emotions to attack them full on, and pass through them, i.e. not to deny them but to surrender to them, and in so doing, become free of their tyranny? Just a thought. I find Kyorei to be profound due to its emotional punch (and deceptive simplicity). I for one thing melody and emotion can be a valuable element.
Axolotol, I too am curious about learning more about Mein information, and would like something a little more explanatory than the info to be had on the komuso.com site.
I think you need to think about your own objective for playing. "Why do you play?" is the question you should keep asking yourself. People play for different reasons. Most songs are made to play in a certain way, with a specific feeling and yet still a few are not so specific. Would you chant the Heart Sutra for it's capacity to express oneself with great emotion? Probably not, since the number of sounds is kept to a minimum, which limits the melodic range and thus the capacity of emotive singing. It may, however, register as a deep feeling inside yourself. Like a lone tone, it's deep to the core and can touch you there but the effect mentally is usually meditative and calming.
To know your objectives will help you answer a lot of questions. For example,in flute buying, "why would I buy this flute?" "I could play this song and that song with it," could be the answer. Or, turn it around and say, "I want to play this song and so I'll start looking for a flute that allows me to play the song".
Or "why do I play shakuhachi?" It keeps me out of trouble? Or, it connects to myself and to the world in a way something else doesn't? It helps me to pick up women (or men). Whatever!
1.Each song has a capacity to be played in a specific manner.
2.Each flute has a capacity to play specific songs.
3.Each player has a personality (especially shakuhachi players and especially forum shakuhachi players).
My point is:
The shakuhachi has to be SATISFIED.
The song has to be SATISFIED.
You have to be SATISFIED.
If you know what it is that satisfies, then you'll be able to answer questions as to:
1.Why this shakuhachi?
2. Why this song?
3.Why shakuhachi at all?
I think the answers to #1 & #2 are easiest to understand objectively. #3 is very personal and therefore, I make it a rule to not imagine that I know why someone else plays shakuhachi. It may be fair and best to ask, and if the answer is too personal, then respect that too. Why don't you ask Ronnie about the way he played the song? I don't think someone else can answer it as well.
A great question by axolotl and response by Chikuzen. I also find this piece particularly moving and hope to someday learn the piece. Ronnie, if you're out there...
Why don't you ask Ronnie about the way he played the song? I don't think someone else can answer it as well.
Ronnie, I would love to know more about your experience with learning and playing that song, definitely! (and I am glad that you are feeling better.)
Chikuzen, I have definitely been thinking about why I'm learning the shakuhachi and what I want out of it. It's a constantly evolving standpoint. The Meian "Echigo Sanya" gave me pause because I have been enjoying the honkyoku that have less relation to Western rhythm and melody, which was refreshing, meditative, and interesting to me, and I did have a moment of feeling bad about loving Ronnie's recording so much, merely because I could hang my hat, so to speak, more readily, hearing a more definitive melody than other honkyoku.
However, I think the best solution is to embrace both the accessible and the less-accessible--both will teach me a lot. I imagine that as other pieces and the honkyoku forms become more familiar to me, I'll understand what the players are doing more. You know, kinda like when you are first exposed to abstract art (or abstract jazz) and go "what the hell is that!"...and then later you see forms and structures. While some mystery is removed, the knowledge gains is enriching. (Also kinda like science, which I love in a very spiritual way, and sometimes debate about with my more spiritual friends--knowledge doesn't kill beauty.) I.e., maybe the pieces are ALL accessible to an experienced player, ultimately.
I have figured out a general sketch of my goals, which are to get through Carl Abbott and John Kaizan Neptune's books with the instruction and help of Jim Thompson, and to practice every day if possible. Also, to whip out the shakuhachi and play for friends, even if it's terrible, because I love performing. At any point along the way, to record sounds I'm making, no doubt non-traditional, since I am a film scorer at heart (and within a few moons, by trade, I hope). I intend to keep finding SoCal folks who play; I actually just met another shakuhachi player/film composer last night by the name of Cody, who has been playing for 10 years, and he wants to jam, so I'm going to do that too.
After all that I plan to learn more honkyoku, figure out some of Riley Lee's recordings and other folks (especially "El Sueño", and play it proudly on a David Brown wood shakuhachi), and somewhere in there I'll go visit Perry's workshop, buy huge flutes, go live in Japan and study, and climb tall mountains and play shakuhachi at the top of them, wind stealing all the notes or no. Matterhorn Peak in Yosemite comes to mind, which I made an attempt for once in the name of Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac, and had to turn back thanks to super duper cold conditions. Next time!
But first I have to get Exercise 8 in John's book and Kazoe Uta to sound decent!
Whew, that was more long-winded than I expected, and not exactly on topic. Anyhow, I do think that among my various goals envisioned for shakuhachi, playing this Meian honkyoku is definitely one of them.
... Matterhorn Peak in Yosemite comes to mind, which I made an attempt for once in the name of Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac ...
Rock on, Eric!
Excellant. Inspiring. Your analogy to understanding abstract art works well. Most none of us know what we want to do when we start shakuhachi. Hopefully hit the upper octave notes and make a good sound someday? So, the goals do change as you acquire experience and perspective. It's hard to evaluate in the beginning so you naturally go with your gut intuition; it' s easy to take something for granted so don't and it's not necessary to invent the crooked wheel, so go to a good teacher if you can (if only for a while) to develope good habits.