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When I was living in Japan I also played the Blues in a great little place called Inaoiza. An old bluesman told me the story of this young man who was obsessed with the sound of another older player, who was the leader of the band. He tried imitating him in every way... pic style, guitar brand and model, etc.. He still couldn't get "that" sound. One day they were on tour and they stopped at a second hand instrument store. The old guy picked a random cheapo guitar and plugged it to a random cheapo amp... guess what... there was "the Sound"!!!. It was a deep lesson for the younger player... and I don't need to explain it to any of you.
You may have already heard it, but there is a similar story about Miles Davis. It seems that as he was growing up and learning the tumpet, he often tried to mimic older players. He became very interested in creating a sound that imitated the "wobbling" or variable sound that many trumpet players exhibited (I am unsure of the music jargon for this). Another older mentor asked him what he was doing, and he said he wanted to sound like those older players. The mentor told him that he should try to play the notes as "roundly" as possible without the wavering. I think he said something to the effect of "You will waver like that when you get older whether you want to or not." Interestingly, Davis became very famous for his clear, distinct, round notes. I don't have a source for the story. I think I heard it in an interview with Davis or one of his comtemporaries in a documentary.
Ahh Kiku... humbleness and inclusiveness... two beautiful words. I do find music to be a constantly humbling discipline and I do agree with you that bamboo is a more sexy teacher than plastic :-) I honor your Ro my sister!. And Alex you are so right when you describe the difficulty of mixing our spiritual with our professional life!. The best answer I have found for myself is to let go of expectations and judgment... and I think that's where the strong Zen aspect of the Shakuhachi comes in to help us... inevitably we'll sound best when we are empty of all that crap... and I find that the flute always lets me know.
And Perry... I treasure the flutes you made me (and that 3.0 is a heck of a workout!!!). Your work radiates good energy. That's the only School I want to be part of... Love.
Wishing you all a fabulous day and thank you for creating and sharing in this space. I hope to meet all of you some day soon and blow our humble Ro together.
I have enjoyed accessing and reading much of the info on the forum but have not contributed before. However, after reading Kiku’s interesting and absolutely legitimate question (from a woman who is a highly respected player and a real nice person) I was first interested then increasingly surprised and disappointed at some of the contributions, mainly because, unless I misunderstand, there seems to be a rather sarcastic dismissal by some contributors of Koku Nishimura and the Kyotaku flute.
I must confess an interest as I am a Kyotaku player and am lucky enough to have Tilo Burdach as my teacher.
It seems to me that whatever the personal opinion of a person is, one cannot dispute or argue with the fact that Kyotaku and Kyotaku music has every right to differentiate itself if it so chooses. There is a reasonably coherent pattern to the flutes, 7 nodes, specific hole placement in relation to the nodes (and in line holes), very little intervention to the bore, hole 3 is always slightly sharp to western music trained ears, a characteristic and specific style of playing, and, much more importantly, a repertoire of music (written in black and red ink) that is stable and known that is played by Kyotaku players on Kyotaku flutes. Yes, some of the pieces have the same name as other schools, (so?), but there are others that I have never heard of before, Soe-e, Yoten, Kyushu Reibo, Saji of the few I have learned. Even the known ones (Koku, Choshi, Ajikan) have, as they do in other schools, a quite different sound. How does this not echo and resonate with any other school out there. There is a lineage: Koku sensei spent 10 years as a komuso monk, was taught by Kyochikan Tani, also a komuso monk who was taught by, as far as I know, Miyagawa Nyozan. That sounds pretty authentic to me.
More importantly however is that if we were to return to 1950s Japan (and in order to truly understand decisions and the arena in which they are made one has to try, at least, to understand the milieu in which they are made) it was not his isolated/ego decision to name this kind of flute, it was a collective decision by a number of contemporaries who he approached. That sounds to me like someone who was quite prepared to present his discoveries/insights/proposals and style of playing to others who might shoot him down in flames – or, if they disagreed, might have turned around and simply said ‘it’s a shakuhachi, its a meian flute, what’s the big deal”; but they didn’t.
The reason I play kyotaku music is because I heard, a few years ago, examples of many players at a summer school held in London. It was the first time that I had heard other players live. I already played a standard shakuhachi to medium/early advanced ability. The style of some players was not to my taste, others I did like; but what really moved me was listening to Tilo’s self effacing and beautiful (to me at least) playing; which, of course, he played on a flute that is called a Kyotaku. I believe at least two other attendees at that school also became his students. Many people who play bamboo flute know exactly what I am referring to: the moment when you hear/meet your future teacher for the first time; there is no doubt, there is only action. Now my own Koytaku flute is revealing itself to me through hard work and practice (no different to any of you out there), however I can only say that for me at least, the existence of Kyotaku and Koku sensei is no man made myth or ego trip, but a very real and important part of my life. For me, that is all that needs to be said in defence, as if there were any need to defend, a type of flute, a style of playing, a lineage and a man.
unless I misunderstand, there seems to be a rather sarcastic dismissal by some contributors of Koku Nishimura and the Kyotaku flute.
Thank you for your thoughtful and passionate reflections.
I see nothing in this thread as sarcastic, only reasonable debate and observation.
Besides, what matters is that at the end of the day, it's ALL shakuhachi.
I was first interested then increasingly surprised and disappointed at some of the contributions, mainly because, unless I misunderstand, there seems to be a rather sarcastic dismissal by some contributors of Koku Nishimura and the Kyotaku flute..
I read through the thread to see what you were talking about and I do think you misunderstand and have reacted over sensitively. I guess it's some of my comments that set you off, so let me make this clear. I love Nishimura Koku's music. I also enjoyed Tilo's performance in London. It's great that Tilo and others are perpetuating Nishimura Sensei's music and philosophy. I think the red/black notation is a brilliant idea, I wish everybody used it. I also have a copy of the recent book of Koku's paintings, drawings, sculptures and flutes published by his son. Agar sent it to me. It shows the depth of Nishimura's artistry. He is a fascinating character, great musician and interesting thinker.
Regarding his decision to name the flutes "Kyotaku" yes you are correct that the cultural context of the early 50's would be significant. Long flutes are very rare in Japan even now, as are jinashi. His long jinashi flutes would have been considered well out of the ordinary. And when he says he "utilized very old traditional bamboo flute making techniques" that shows that he considered himself to be reviving the old style of shakuhachi. However the traits ascribed to kyotaku such as 7 nodes, sharp chi, single coat of lacquer, etc. are not unique to kyotaku, many jinashi shakuhachi feature these characteristics including flutes from before Nishimura's birth. If there is really something unique about kyotaku in a physical sense that needs to be described in more detail.
I've played 3 of Nishimura's kyotaku (owned one), several of Tilo's and I own one of Agar's 2.4 at the moment and another 2.6 by Kyorei Sogawa, also Tani-Ha. Agar's is the most unusual, very thin, extremely small holes and only has 3 nodes (which is different than the 7 node standard mentioned earlier). Of Nishimura's flutes 2 were standard jinashi Myoan flutes. The third was strange. The chin rest was cut at an extreme diagonal which made it very difficult to play meri notes. I don't know what was going on with that. Tilo's flutes were nice long jinashi. So is the Kyorei 2.6, a particularly sweet sounding jinashi. But all of these flutes definitely fit into the category of good long jinashi flutes and are not radically different from those of other makers to the extent that they would be an entirely new category of shakuhachi. For example you could play any Myoan music on them, not only the music of Nishimura Koku.
My impression is that Nishimura Koku was a guy who went his own way. But he understood that he was coming out of a particular musical tradition (Myoan) and flutemaking style (long jinashi). He called them "kyotaku" because he wanted to, which is as good a reason as any. It's great that he gave a boost to the playing of long flutes and must be seen as a trendsetter in that regard. There were several other people working that angle around the same time including notably Watazumido, Kikusui Kofu and Jin Nyodo. I have an Edo period 2.7 and another Myoan 3.2 from the 40's which prove that it was an idea that was around for a long time. However it has only gained currency recently.
But don't misunderstand. None of this is sarcastic or derogative about Nishimura Koku. I think he's a great man and an important figure. I also think his style is one that should be pursued into the future because of its beauty and simplicity. Very natural.
I don't think there is any bad emotions towards Nishimura Koku and his kyotaku flutes at all. I think most shakuhachi players understand the contributions he have done to the shakuhachi world.
I will begin commenting on your post, and hopefully by the end I will reach some kind of conclusion... let's see.
It seems to me that whatever the personal opinion of a person is, one cannot dispute or argue with the fact that Kyotaku and Kyotaku music has every right to differentiate itself if it so chooses.
Everybody can differentiate themselves if they wish to do so. That is not a problem.
The reason for why I started this thread was that many, many had asked on this forum and on other occasions what the difference between jinashi shakuhachi, kyotaku and hotchiku is. And as you write:
There is a reasonably coherent pattern to the flutes, 7 nodes, specific hole placement in relation to the nodes (and in line holes), very little intervention to the bore, hole 3 is always slightly sharp to western music trained ears, a characteristic and specific style of playing,
All of these characteristics are no different than from, let's say, what would be called jinashi shakuhachi. 7 nodes are aimed at in most shakuhachi. Some do not have it, even some masterpiece shakuhachi, but that is still the norm - also for jinuri shakuhachi. I have never seen off-set holes on older shakuhachi (have you, Brian or any other collector). In line holes is surely the norm, but recently with the long-shakuhachi-boom, people want off-set because it is easier to hold and requires less pure physical training in order to get used to the hole distances. The sharp chi is characteristic of all older flutes and some makers who still tune with the old tuning or shakuhachi making techniques. Quite a few of Agar's flutes I tried when I went to his home in Nagano did not have the sharp chi.
If you look at Hans' post earlier in this post, he says kyotaku has more done to the bore than jinashi... I would here just say that it is not possible to say whether kyotaku or jinashi have more or less done to the bore as they all vary - even within their own categories.
and, much more importantly, a repertoire of music (written in black and red ink) that is stable and known that is played by Kyotaku players on Kyotaku flutes.Yes, some of the pieces have the same name as other schools, (so?), but there are others that I have never heard of before, Soe-e, Yoten, Kyushu Reibo, Saji of the few I have learned.
How does this not echo and resonate with any other school out there. There is a lineage: Koku sensei spent 10 years as a komuso monk, was taught by Kyochikan Tani, also a komuso monk who was taught by, as far as I know, Miyagawa Nyozan. That sounds pretty authentic to me.
There is no daubt that Nishimura has created a lineage, and I don't think no-one questioned that in this thread. I think I wrote earlier in this thread about the distinct style in the music Nishimura has created and someone else did a s well (accroding to my memory).
Nishimura's lieneage is new in the shauhachi world, but such is the character of this 'world' and hurray for that. Creative, independent people create music other people want to learn. Look at the 'old new' schools such as Tozan, Ueda and Chikuho... Or the newer schools like Zensabo, the one created by Okuda (the school I belong to) or Yokoyama Katsuya's school. These two latter examples are just a few decades old. All these schools have their own distinct sound adn even techniques. But they all have their roots deep into the Fuke tradition of the Edo period (one could perhaps discuss whether Tozan is an exception). And this is one element out of many that makes the shakuhachi world SO wonderful. You can't say 'it is like this!'. There is aways a school or somebody or a style that does it differently. So, Nishimura's school is just one of these exciting new schools that has come up in the 20th century! Thank God for these creative people!
Just for information, some Myoan lineages use read and black ink as well in their score.
3 of the 4 pieces you mention (I don't know Yoten) are not particular to Nishimura's school. They are, in fact, very popular pieces. But that doesn't matter AT ALL because as you also wrote:
Even the known ones (Koku, Choshi, Ajikan) have, as they do in other schools, a quite different sound.
which is the norm in the shakuhachi world. Which is exactly the excitement I speak about often also on this forum. I know to play, for example, Koku in the Zensabo version. And I LOVE to hear other versions. I find shakuhachi music so rich because of the varieties even when playing the same piece. You can learn so much about the music, enjoy the non-static music of this instrument. So yes, even the pieces we share sound distinct to each school!
Regarding the naming of kyotaku it has been mentioned here before that the milieu of the time of Nishimura was very jinuri-centric. No wonder he and Watazumi named their instruments to differentiate between the 'normal' jinuri shakuhachi and themselves. But... that doesn't solve the difficult answer to the question: IS there a difference between jinashi shakuhachi, kyotaku and hotchiku?
Organologically, I would say there is not enough distinct difference to make hotchiku and kyotaku two new categories of instrument. However, there is a psychological difference - if I shouldn't say spiritual difference for the individual playing as well. And as we have seen many times on this forum that strong emotional investment is put into these words (kyotaku/hotchiku).
And this is very important to recognise!
Why I started this thread was not to dismiss the importance of self definition of kyotaku and hotchiku players. But for people, who are new to these terms and who find it difficult to really understand the difference, I found it important to start a discussion about this. I certainly provoked a discussion with my questions and that was what I wished to do And with contributions like yours, KyoKala, I think we are getting to a closer understanding. Also for me it is much clearer now than when I began this thread. It looks like the amazingly creative and independent spirits that broke out of the Myoan tradition and created their own lineages in the 20th century (Watazumi and Nishimura) felt a need not only to created their own musical lineage but also to differentiate their instruments to be different to the 'normal' jinuri shakuhachi. But why didn't they just call them jinashi shakuhachi? Perhaps because they also wanted to differentiate themselves from the Myoan tradition from which they had broken out and sounded so differently from. They also both happened to play long shakuhachi that is not usually played on in the Myoan tradition. I am guessing, of course. One could perhaps say that there is a spiritual difference between the instruments....? And of course they have physical tendencies as the ones you mentioned above. What would you say, KyoKala? I am not talking about whether jinashi, kyotaku or hotchiku being more spiritual than the other. Rather there is a spiritual difference for the player whether he plays kyotaku or jinashi or hotchiku even though their is not enough difference to define them distinctly organologically. Who cares anyway what academics say? I used the word spiritual rather than psychological here because I feel it better fits what I am trying to say.
You made me VERY happy when you write that you began playing kyotaku after the London Summer School 06. Wonderful! To create a platform where people can get in contact with the myriad different ways of approaching a shakuhachi is one of my biggest aims and why I had a libido in creating the European Summer Schools and the European Shakuhachi Society (ESS). The more different styles people get in contact with, the more people can choose what suits them the best. And now with the cheap flights and internet lessons people can really make a use of the people they get in contact with. Thank you for sharing that with us! You made my day!
Kiku Day wrote:
(Watazumi and Nishimura) felt a need not only to created their own musical lineage but also to differentiate their instruments to be different to the 'normal' jinuri shakuhachi. But why didn't they just call them jinashi shakuhachi?
I can suggest that one reason may be because jinashi is a negative term. It basically means "not normal shakuhachi". One reason for creating a new different name may be to have a positive name. "Kyotaku" does not say "not" something. It is a something. Kyotaku is therefore a positive name. (I.e. they are normal kyotaku, normal for their world). That gives you a higher ground.
Also an interesting point is that if it is insisted that Kyotaku is a different instrument than shakuhachi, then perhaps it would be logical to conclude that Nishimura had no lineage, since he was taught by a shakuhachi player. Or perhaps you'd have to say that his instrument is new but his repertoire is from another instrument, the shakuhachi? Anyway, for me this is not an issue because they are to me shakuhachi. For me, it means shakuhachi played by Tani-ha.
I was very happy to meet some of Nishimura's family and students - they are really lovely people and I love their playing and also very much their approach and attitude towards shakuhachi. I feel they do embody for me the best aspects of Komuso spirituality. A true gem.
Incidentally, when I visited one of Nishimura's students who is also a kyotaku maker, I had only a short 1.8 with me, a jinashi, which I had made. He loved what I played and said even though it was short (1.8) he knew we were both doing the same thing. I felt the same of him as well. Generally he doesn't like shakuhachi, but perhaps he did not consider my instrument (or what I was doing?) as shakuhachi (or, rather, as "other"). Since my shakuhachi conformed to kyotaku parameters, except the length, this is understandable. After that, I think it is what you do with it that will give the the feeling that you are doing the same thing, or not.
I am certainly very glad at the thought of Nishimura Koku. He was a really great artist, and although I never met him, I have the strong feeling that he was a really wonderful person. May his influence continue!
As for Watazumi - I had heard that he wanted to distance himself from the shakuhachi world. It was that world which he was perhaps against. I believe this may be the reason why he changed the name of his instruments from shakuhachi to hochiku, and his repertoire from honkyoku to dokyoku, and even claimed to have had no teachers. It seems like a way to set himself apart, to distance himself from that world.
This can be seen as new, or old. Every different teacher is different anyway. A lineage is something which is constantly changing. Every generation it is different. If the student is not as good as the teacher, it generally looses something to the next step in the lineage. If the student is better than the teacher, it may gain something. If the student is unique, it may change (some might judge for the better, some for the worse, but anyway change). Some steps in the lineage might create a new name, or even make a new name for their teaching school. But this I think does not make it new. New in a way perhaps - how much depends on how different from the teacher I suppose. And, old. Old as the name may be new, but the lineage of transmission goes back, through all those generations.
Not a huge amount to contribute - but just a bit of respect for one who was a good man. After first getting into this thread - I wondered if you had make it over to the house Jeff, and further reading revealed you had. When I first met and heard Nishimura-san, I too was instanly attracted to his playing and his Kyotaku. Nishimura-san was indeed a talented artist. From that first visit I instantly started to harvest larger stalks in hopes of making this style. Finally after a year I had to start on one from the previous years harvest. btw - one thing I did have a curiosity about from my experience - someone qupted "that kyotaku have more work done on the bore than most ji-nashi flutes, are more refined, so that the sound is a bit smoother than on most ji-nashi flutes."
I brought my first one over be checked - basically my first real 'ji-nashi'. You could still clearly see the fushi left intentionally to be... say a bit raw. After a quick look down the bore I was told it was "too beautiful". Had to confess - I did put two coats of urushi...
Anyway his kyotaku still amaze me and some seemed to defy all logic in hole placement and design. Actually - I think everything about him amazed me and he definitely made a huge impression on me. I still prize an old brown cracked piece of take he gave me to practice crafting on when I am ready.
As a kyotaku player, I often wondered what it was for me that makes the difference.
I play the Kyotaku mainly from a spiritual point of view. The first years I tried to play my ji-ari shakuhachi as well , but noticed that I could not combine the two, as they ask for a total different embouchure.
As in ji-ari, for me it was too technical, and I noted that I was aiming for a goal again, instead of letting go of goals. I was working instead of relaxing. In Kyotaku blowing , FOR ME ! , was much more relaxing , and I was able to let go of goals, and I notice it has this way the same effect on me as doing long time Zen-sessions. I just blow and blow the same pieces over and over again.
What I also noticed over time, is that it is not only the flute, but also the style of the pieces and the way they are played that gives me the meditational feeling and effect.
I notice when I just start playing some tunes by improvisation or so, they do not have the same meditational effect, though I play them on kyotaku too. So Nishimura had a very good sense of writing and playing the meditational way.
That is for sure.
So, as to go short, I think what makes for me kyotaku playing so great is the combination of the School, the Compositions AND The Flute .
If the flute needs this different name ? Who cares. It is named this way and I respect that, though I would like to try other big ji-nashi's as well and see if they feel really so different to me.
And most important : this is how it feel to ME and AT THIS MOMENT.
It is good to hear how a kyotaku player feel about it as I do think it is a very personal matter.
I hope to hear more about it when Tilo Burdach, the German kyotaku player, comes to the next European Shakuhachi Summer School in Leiden, Holland! You will be there too, right?
Yes I will be there too, at Summerschool
Tilo Burdach is my teacher as well, and I do a bit of promotional work for Kyotaku in the Dutch speaking countries, as it is not so much known here, that meditation and music can be done together.
Still not many players here, but things are developing.
My goal is just to let people know that there exists such a kind of playing and music, and then everybody can decide what is good for him.
At least there is info available in Dutch now on my website.
This topic makes me glad I purchased a 2.0 earth model form perry. I feel more in touch with nature already,
Popeye loves nature!
Where would one find the dimensions for a kyotaku flute? Are they any different from a regular jinashi besides size that is?
Where would one find the dimensions for a kyotaku flute? Are they any different from a regular jinashi besides size that is?
"Kyotaku" meant jinashi made by Nishimura Koku. Some say "and his followers" and others say it just refers to the ones he made.
I had one of his and it was a fairly normal 2.1. I currently have 2.4 made by one of his students which is incredibly thin. One of the thinnest flutes with smallest holes I've ever seen particularly for a long flute. And a 2.6 made by a follower which is of "normal" long jinashi proportions, i.e. wider than a jiari flute but thinner than Taimu for example. Both of those flutes have very sweet sounds.
Very interesting. This is something I will have to explore further on in my shakuhachi journey.