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#26 2009-05-06 12:13:35

chikuzen
Dai Shihan/Dokyoku
From: Cleveland Heights,OH 44118
Registered: 2005-10-24
Posts: 402
Website

Re: Circular breathing

radiognome wrote:

Do you teach your students to practice harmonics?

.
  No, I do not. But I do not tell them it's worthless nor dissuade them not to do that. Shakuhachi incorporates the use of harmonics in many ways, some subtle and some in your face. I can teach you how and what but not on the forum. It's much too complicated. I have my students practice these (the sounds useful in honkyoku) as they are necessary to play honkyoku. However, the type of harmonics practice your are talking about is playing isolated tones. A lot of those isolated tones are not used in traditional shakuhachi. Just like circular breathing, these are used in modern music. I haven't emphasized doing these exercises(to my students) because there are so many other things to focus on in honkyoku. I doubt if shakuhachi teachers balk at doing or emphasizing these because they are "difficult". You have to remember that you're talking about people who have played for 20~30 years or more and have already tackled many overwhelming obstacles in their studies.
     The exercises might be helpful as embouchure exercise. There are many other embouchure exercises one can do too. Geni will teach you those harmonic exercises you (and the other 3 shakuhachi teachers) speak of. You'll need to do those to play the jazz music. It's a very cut and dry (black and white) thing and should be easy to understand. Maybe "difficult" for you to do? I don't know. I'm not you. I imagine they would be challenging if you don't have the years of shakuhachi study and playing experience.  Again, "difficult" is a relative word. If you can't do something, it registers in the brain as "difficult". If you have a history with an instrument of practicing and playing, and you practice these  exercises and can do them, they will not be "difficult" anymore. 

  Good luck with Geni and jazz shakuhachi.


Michael Chikuzen Gould

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#27 2009-05-06 12:15:18

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

Re: Circular breathing

Several years ago on another forum Riley Lee not surprisingly expressed some interesting opinions about circular breathing and shakuhachi. Riley has known how to execute the technique for many years. His views can be summarized as follows:

1) Circular breathing is unsuitable for traditional Japanese music, especially traditional honkyoku.

2) The length and timing of each breath is central to playing honkyoku; this includes how and when to end the exhalation; how long to pause before beginning the inhalation; how much and how long to inhale; how to end the inhalation; and how long to pause before beginning the next exhalation. Playing honkyoku means being aware of all of these things.

3) Circular breathing in honkyoku is contrary to the fundamental essence of honkyoku. It's not necessary and it tends to discourage mindfulness of all the bits of the breath other than the exhalation.

4) To play honkyoku as Riley believes they are meant to be played implies an awareness of one's self, the present situation and the piece. Ideally, with this awareness one always and intuitively knows when, where, and how to breathe.

5) When shakuhachi circular breathing is done 'well', the inhalation and the transitions are inaudible. The irony with using 'good' circular breathing in honkyoku is that both player and audience are supposed to be listening to those very inhalations and transitions, how AND where they occur. We are supposed to be concentrating on those very things. In Rileys opinion, using circular breathing in honkyoku is hiding something that's meant to be public. It's like cheating on a self administered, open book exam. According to Riley, the honkyoku will never be your own if you do that.

Last edited by Rick Riekert (2009-05-06 12:20:21)


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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#28 2009-05-06 13:02:33

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

Re: Circular breathing

Rick Riekert wrote:

It's like cheating on a self administered, open book exam.

Ooooh, nice one!


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

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#29 2009-05-07 03:39:28

caffeind
Member
From: Tokyo
Registered: 2006-04-13
Posts: 148

Re: Circular breathing

It sounds to me like Watazumi uses circular breathing from time to time. You can hear little intakes during some chi chi ru runs. I have been told he was actually expelling air rather than taking it in, but I dont see the point of that when one can just not take in as much air.

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#30 2009-05-08 13:47:07

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

Re: Circular breathing

chikuzen wrote:

radiognome wrote:

Do you teach your students to practice harmonics?

...   A lot of those isolated tones are not used in traditional shakuhachi. Just like circular breathing, these are used in modern music. I haven't emphasized doing these exercises(to my students) because there are so many other things to focus on in honkyoku. I doubt if shakuhachi teachers balk at doing or emphasizing these because they are "difficult".

Still, as Geni pointed out to me when I mentioned I wasn't practicing the harmonics even though I was aware of the exercises and value of them, there's a general tendency for students to not practice something they can't get easily, particularly if it's not something they're going to directly encounter in a piece of music.

chikuzen wrote:

You have to remember that you're talking about people who have played for 20~30 years or more and have already tackled many overwhelming obstacles in their studies.

True, I have no doubt a skilled player like yourself would have any problem cruising through the various harmonic exercises even if you don't incorporate into your daily practice. Which brings me back to circular breathing. There are only a couple reasons I can see for it not being taught as an exercise, since we've basically ruled out that it's too difficult. One would be that the teacher's teacher didn't use it and there's a general lack of awareness of it being a valuable exercise. Another would be that the teacher doesn't view it as being a valuable exercise. If that's the case, it's coming from a rather ignorant point of view if the teacher hasn't made any headway into learning it and experiencing first hand what it's potential as an exercise is. In the silver flute world, both with harmonics and circular breathing, there are a number of teachers who  don't use those techniques as an exercise simply because they were taught with only what Jennifer Cluff in this PDF: www.jennifercluff.com/skillfluteresource.doc calls "classic" methods.Then there are the "innovative methods". Circular breathing isn't even listed in that document, which doesn't help my argument that circular breathing is a good exercise to learn, but since Robert Dick, who is referenced in the document, recommends learning circular breathing (do a google search on "Robert Dick Breathing" to verify this) I feel confident that circular breathing could be listed under the "innovative methods" along with harmonics.             

Are the "innovative methods" better? I don't know, the teacher I got the farthest with (I'm talking about silver flute here) only taught the classic methods, he said "you get good at playing flute by playing flute", but I did eventually end up in a performance situation where I was encouraged to learn circular breathing so it would have been nice if I already had that under my belt.   

chikuzen wrote:

The exercises might be helpful as embouchure exercise. There are many other embouchure exercises one can do too. Geni will teach you those harmonic exercises you (and the other 3 shakuhachi teachers) speak of.

Just to clarify, one of the teachers was Brian Ritchie, the other is James Schlefer, I never took a lesson from him, but since he has harmonic exercises in his book I think he probably teaches them, and the third is Geni (who put in a nice twist on how to learn them).

Last edited by radi0gnome (2009-05-08 14:11:48)


"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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#31 2009-05-08 15:23:01

nyokai
shihan
From: Portland, ME
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 613
Website

Re: Circular breathing

Many traditionally-oriented teachers, myself included, rarely teach exercises separately from the music itself. The philosophy behind this is that you're always playing music, never practicing in order to be able to play music at some future time. If a piece I liked called for circular breathing, I would learn it better and would teach it as part of work on that piece. So far, I have found no good shakuhachi music that requires circular breathing, and since I like the breath rhythm that forms the foundation of the traditional music I am unlikely to write a piece that requires it. In the context of the Western musical tradition, the corporeal use of breath rhythm actually seems more innovative than the ongoing stream of notes allowed by circular breathing.

Circular breathing is not peripheral to Robert Dick's repertoire, on the other hand; it is a common technique in much of what he plays, as are dozens of other so-called extended techniques. He does not impose these techniques on a traditional repertoire, they are actually called for in much of the virtuosic post-1950's art music for solo flute. They are the vocabulary. I love much of this music almost as much as shakuhachi music, by the way.

I DO break my own loose rule by playing overtones, though -- I find it a good embouchure warm-up before gigs. But remember, all shakuhachi playing past the first octave really IS overtone playing, some of these overtones more difficult than others, and you can get a lot of the same embouchure practice by playing way into the third octave, which is actually called for in the traditional repertoire (Zangetsu's third octave re, Mujushin's third octave chi meri's, etc. etc.).

No approach is right or wrong. I fall in the "no scales or exercises" camp, perhaps because I grew up having to play scales on piano. But I can see the merits of the "be prepared" way too.

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#32 2009-05-08 15:47:10

Musgo da Pedra
Member
From: South of Brazil
Registered: 2007-12-02
Posts: 332
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Re: Circular breathing

nyokai wrote:

Many traditionally-oriented teachers, myself included, rarely teach exercises separately from the music itself. The philosophy behind this is that you're always playing music, never practicing in order to be able to play music at some future time.

Great!


Omnia mea mecum porto

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#33 2009-05-08 16:10:05

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

Re: Circular breathing

nyokai wrote:

Circular breathing is not peripheral to Robert Dick's repertoire, on the other hand; it is a common technique in much of what he plays, as are dozens of other so-called extended techniques. He does not impose these techniques on a traditional repertoire, ...

Not entirely true, here's a quote direct from Robert Dick:

"Why should a 21st century flutist playing on a Boehm flute learn to circular breathe? Circular breathing ought to be at the top of every young flutist's "must" list for at least three reasons:

...

2) To play older music better. Circular breathing solves some big musical problems that were caused by the development of the modern flute. Boehm flutes have a much larger embouchure hole and toneholes than did the traverso and conical 19th century flutes. This makes the more powerful sound that Boehm wanted, a sound that uses much more air to create..."


I found that here: http://www.larrykrantz.com/rdick2.htm It's about a third of the way down, using Edit and Find in your browser would be the easiest way to get to it.

Anybody following this thread might like this, pay particular attention to what he says at the end:

http://www.artistshousemusic.org/videos … nd+players

Last edited by radi0gnome (2009-05-08 16:17:30)


"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 2009-05-08 16:23:20

nyokai
shihan
From: Portland, ME
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 613
Website

Re: Circular breathing

radi0gnome wrote:

2) To play older music better. Circular breathing solves some big musical problems that were caused by the development of the modern flute. Boehm flutes have a much larger embouchure hole and toneholes than did the traverso and conical 19th century flutes. This makes the more powerful sound that Boehm wanted, a sound that uses much more air to create..."[/i][/b]

I found that here: http://www.larrykrantz.com/rdick2.htm It's about a third of the way down, using Edit and Find in your browser would be the easiest way to get to it.

Good point -- I was unaware of this, and I have never heard Robert Dick play anything but modern stuff. Personally I would like it better if people playing older music played the older flutes, which I think sound better, for all their faults -- then they wouldn't need to circular breathe. I may make some enemies saying this, but I've never been a big fan of the sound of the modern concert (Boehm) flute.

Last edited by nyokai (2009-05-08 16:27:11)

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#35 2009-05-08 19:46:18

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

Re: Circular breathing

nyokai wrote:

I may make some enemies saying this, but I've never been a big fan of the sound of the modern concert (Boehm) flute.

What? Even the jinashi ones?


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

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#36 2009-05-08 20:59:57

No-sword
Member
From: Kanagawa
Registered: 2008-07-09
Posts: 115
Website

Re: Circular breathing

Nyokai, does this mean that you consider robuki more "music" than "exercise"? Do you place it in some third category entirely? Or do you advise students not to bother with it? (Serious question, not an attempt at a gotcha.)

My first teacher, by the way, was in the third camp. He specifically told me that he had never bothered practicing long tones -- just tunes. He was a strict, 100% min'yo player (actually a doubling singer), and his approach to playing, practice and teaching was an illuminating contrast to the honkyoku-centric approach that dominates the shakuhachi world outside Japan.

Last edited by No-sword (2009-05-08 21:08:16)


Matt / no-sword.jp

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#37 2009-05-08 22:35:06

nyokai
shihan
From: Portland, ME
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 613
Website

Re: Circular breathing

No-sword wrote:

Nyokai, does this mean that you consider robuki more "music" than "exercise"? Do you place it in some third category entirely? Or do you advise students not to bother with it? (Serious question, not an attempt at a gotcha.)

I do recommend that students do ro buki. I do not consider it merely a technical exercise. I consider it something intrinsically valuable in itself, equivalent in that way to a piece of music. But I realize this is a gray area and I may not be totally consistent. There are certainly occasions when I've recommended particular exercises (mainly for intonation) -- it's just not common.

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#38 2009-05-10 10:38:45

Riley Lee
Moderator
From: Manly NSW Australia
Registered: 2005-10-08
Posts: 78
Website

Re: Circular breathing

Ji whiz, what a sober, calm discussion this is! :-)

Having just read something I wrote in the past about circular breathing, quoted by Rick in an earlier post, my first thought was, "I sound so like a pontificating twat!" Contrary to Buddhist thought, maybe some things never do change...

As Chkuzen said, I think we're all in agreement here. Technique and techniques are neutral.

Used in one context, a technique could be great, yet totally inappropriate, non-musical and unhelpful in another. Contrary to my earlier writing, quoted by Rick, I do think it possible to be as aware of all of the facets or stages of one's breath with circular breathing as with the more typical 'honkyoku' breath. The problem, which has also been mentioned in this discussion, is in the timing - 'ma' (間)

Many people think that 'ma' is the silence. This is only half of the meaning. 'Ma' does not refer only to the silence.

'Ma' means 'space' or 'timing', in other words, both spatial space and temporal space. But space doesn't equate with 'empty'. Yes, the largely blank bit in a painting of a circle of black ink made by a single stroke (the famous 'enzo') is, or has 'ma'. But the circle is also 'ma', or rather the space occupied by the ink is the circle's 'ma'. The thickness of the circle has 'ma'. Both the tiny splatters of ink where the stroke trails off, and the space between each splatter has 'ma'.

The timing of the silence between sound in honkyoku is the 'ma' of that silence, but the timing of the note is the 'ma' of the note. Everything temporal and spatial has 'ma'. Even the quickest little 'blurp' embellishment has 'ma'. The space between you and me has 'ma' and the space that I occupy while sitting in front of my computer has 'ma'. Every keyboard stroke I make and the pauses between each strroke has its own unique 'ma', as does the life of the sun.

In Japanese, the word for mistake is machigai (間違い), which literally means the 'ma' [is] different. To be 'on time' or 'suitable for the purpose', is ma ni au (間に合う) or the 'ma' fits. There are heaps more examples in Japanese of the importance of getting the 'ma' right in one's activities.

Circular breathing, in my opinion, requires inhalations that are too fast for all but a fraction of the phrases in all the pieces of the entire honkyoku repertoire. The 'ma' is all wrong.

A more extreme example of not so good 'ma', though maybe not for the same reasons, would be using typical honkyoku 'ma' while playing American football (with cricket on the other hand... :-)

BTW, like circular breathing, tonguing is not used traditionally in playing honkyoku. Nothing is wrong about tonguing and like circular breathing and everything else, with practice it's not hard to learn. Unlike circular breathing, I play a number of pieces in which I use tonguing, including some semi-traditional ones like Haru no Umi (Spring Sea). But like circular breathing, tonguing doesn't work musically with honkyoku.

As with Nyokai and Chikuzen, as a rule I don't have a particular set of exercises that I give to students who are studying honkyoku. For one thing, the honkyoku repertoire is so repetitive that the pieces become the exercises.

With the shakuhachi, when talking about circular breathing and multiphonics/overtones/harmonics, in particular and technique in general, we have to remind ourselves constantly that there is shakuhachi the musical instrument and shakuhachi the meditative/spiritual tool.

If talking just about music, then doing exercises are very beneficial, necessary even. But if one approaches honkyoku practice as Nyokai and Chikuzen do, as an end as much as a means, then maybe they aren't so important. The practice, like a 'doctor's practice', is the practising (doing) of the activity. It's even the where of the doing. Of course, there is 'doing' in exercises, but it's not the same 'doing' as doing honkyoku.

Doing honkyoku can be both doing music and doing meditation, and either way exercises are fine, not necessary perhaps, boring for sure, but okay.

One could argue that there might even be a place for circular breathing in honkyoku playing as meditation. Contrary to my earlier quote, one can / must be just as focused and aware of one's breath with circular breathing as with typical honkyoku breathing.

But musically, I don't think it works and so it is not a part of my honkyoku 'practice'. Unlike the Satoh example, it doesn't add anything musically and takes away so much, including the challenge, excitement, anticipation, suspense and possibility of failure we have all learned to enjoy in trying to finish that really long and difficult phrase in one single exhalation.

Last edited by Riley Lee (2009-05-10 10:51:46)

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#39 2009-05-10 18:18:20

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3226
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Re: Circular breathing

Out of curiosity I played "Choshi" yesterday using circular breathing. It sounded pretty dumb. roll


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#40 2009-05-10 21:55:39

Lodro
Member
From: Australia
Registered: 2009-04-02
Posts: 105

Re: Circular breathing

Riley Lee wrote:

'Ma' means 'space' or 'timing', in other words, both spatial space and temporal space. But space doesn't equate with 'empty'. Yes, the largely blank bit in a painting of a circle of black ink made by a single stroke (the famous 'enzo') is, or has 'ma'. But the circle is also 'ma', or rather the space occupied by the ink is the circle's 'ma'. The thickness of the circle has 'ma'. Both the tiny splatters of ink where the stroke trails off, and the space between each splatter has 'ma'.

Again (to me anyway) this sort of harkens back to the chinese 'wu chi' concept that I spoke of earlier in this thread, but I'm beginning to see that maybe there are a few differences. This MA thingy 'seems' to contain the concept of 'interconnectedness' and also movement from inaction to action as well as simply an intrinsic part of the form, but I'm not too clear on whether or not MA from the Japanese point of view is also perceived as 'potential' and a necessary aspect of the movement from yin --> yang --> yin-->..... as the chinese would see it.

And what is this koku thing that Chikuzen alluded to? and how does it fit in with all of this? (I couldn't find a definition on the web, except something to do with currency.) wink


Each part of the body should be connected to every other part.

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#41 2009-05-10 23:45:50

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

Re: Circular breathing

Lodro wrote:

And what is this koku thing that Chikuzen alluded to? and how does it fit in with all of this? (I couldn't find a definition on the web, except something to do with currency.) wink

I think the 'Koku' Chikuzen refers to there is a honkyoku piece; one of the three supposedly ur-honkyoku (Kyorei, Mukaiji and Koku).


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

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#42 2009-05-11 01:55:14

Lodro
Member
From: Australia
Registered: 2009-04-02
Posts: 105

Re: Circular breathing

edosan wrote:

I think the 'Koku' Chikuzen refers to there is a honkyoku piece; one of the three supposedly ur-honkyoku (Kyorei, Mukaiji and Koku).

....and there was me thinking it was some ancient mystical technique


Each part of the body should be connected to every other part.

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#43 2009-05-11 07:31:09

Glenn Swann
Member
From: Central New Jersey
Registered: 2008-03-01
Posts: 151
Website

Re: Circular breathing

虚空 kokuu,is  the piece, but as a concept means "emptiness", "void",  empty sky" no-thing- thus as an idea similar to wuchi.


I followed rivers, I followed orders,I followed prophets, I followed leaders
I followed rivers, I followed highways,I followed conscience,
I followed dreamers... And I'm back here,
and I'm back here... At the edge of the sky       (New Model Army)

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#44 2009-05-11 17:01:21

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

Re: Circular breathing

The best use I ever saw of circular breathing was done by a top flight concert clarinetist in a contemporary piece. It was part of an ensemble passage and was done in such a way that no one would even notice. not even his fellow musicians. The only reason I noticed was because I was studying with him and we analyzed it in detail. But other than that nobody even noticed and that was fine with him. it was a means to an end. But when someone is doing it in a way that says "check me out- I'm circular breathing" it can be  musically meaningless and ultimately boring.


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

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#45 2009-05-11 17:18:53

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3226
Website

Re: Circular breathing

Jim Thompson wrote:

The best use I ever saw of circular breathing was done by a top flight concert clarinetist in a contemporary piece. It was part of an ensemble passage and was done in such a way that no one would even notice. not even his fellow musicians. The only reason I noticed was because I was studying with him and we analyzed it in detail. But other than that nobody even noticed and that was fine with him. it was a means to an end. But when someone is doing it in a way that says "check me out- I'm circular breathing" it can be  musically meaningless and ultimately boring.

Of course there's no point in playing didge without using the technique, it's worthless.

I saw Roscoe Mitchell circular breathing for about 30 minutes straight and that was pretty boring. Perhaps not a coincidence that Kenny G. wanted to hold the Guinness record for it, pure showbiz.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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