dinsdag 29 september 2009

Wavering motivation

I find my inspiration and motivation to learn about the flute playing somewhat wavering. It is not that I dislike it, absolutely not, but maybe I can call it 'shaku fatique...'. The thing what matters to me most is playing the instrument and that I do, to listen to the music I like as well, so it lies not therein. Maybe I feel a bit tired of shaku-talking and shaku-reading. The same questions come along on the forum, and it is all talk about the shakuhachi and I feel my motivation to participate in it is lowered. I feel this is part of learning and playing or life in general...it is not always shining bright. But sometimes this pattern is difficult to accept. But even when feeling uninspired I can play and practise. The abillity to do so stays fortunately and I am sure more inspiration will come in some time. Maybe I have the autumn shaku-blues.

vrijdag 18 september 2009

Why do you play?

Why do I, or you play, that is a question I was thinking about lately. In the first place the question 'why' is perhaps too difficult to answer or wrongly formulated in the first place. I was tough by social psychologist that our brain is pretty bad in making choices beyond the difficulty of choosing a toothpaste. People make choices of course, but they seem to originate from reason, while in fact they are produced by a concept called implicite self. That part of your brain takes all you knoe, feel into account and after some time an answer or choice pops out. The question 'why' is in that sense too difficult to answer. In other words: I don't know why I play.  Of course you can think of something or tell something about it, but that would be just a narrative of your mind, not the truth. The social psychologist, mentioned above, who is examening these things also told me that asking a question in that way, like: why do you love person X, makes your mind to work to come up with a narrative, but destroys in that process what really counts: the unrational thing that makes you love person X or makes you play the shakuhachi.
So I'd better not ask this question then. Better would be to ask: what do you feel when you play the shakuhachi (or seeing, talking to person X). That information is much more available in the human mind. Well what do I feel or experience? Even that is hard to descrive, but is kinda special. It is: excitement, gratification, irritation, calmness, relaxation, devotion, frustration......aaaargh! These are all things or feelings you can imagine...Why then do I play? Well: I don't know! Overall it makes me feel good.
It is a thing I want to do and that's just it.

woensdag 2 september 2009

Mushin: 2002 interview with Shakuhachi grandmaster Yokoyama

An inspiring article I found on the international forum, which essentialy is about the process of learning itself and some part the ego-lessness or mindlesness or as it is called Mushin. I'll post it here to read, enjoy:

[What follows is from an article in the Hogaku Journal, February, 2002, by Yokoyama Katsuya, one of the great shakuhachi players of the 20th century. Yokoyoma-sensei is now in his mid-70's and is debilitated by a series of strokes, so he can no longer play, but as you can see below he still has much of value to say. He is still active in his shakuhachi school, although he must undergo dialysis several times a week.]
"In their youth, most performers have no money, no confidence, and no fame. Many times they feel insecure about their future. Even current masters got over such periods, and according to those artists, their 26th year was a turning point. Here's how Katsuya Yokoyama overcame the challenges he faced at age 26.
"I began to play the shakuhachi after hearing a record by Watazumi-sensei (sensei means "master" or "teacher" in Japanese). I was a junior high school student and was amazed by his playing, and wanted to play the instrument, not just listen to it. My father and grandfather both played kinko shakuhachi, so I was hearing shakuhachi all day. I always respected my father's playing, but Watazumi-sensei's sound struck me to the core of my being.
"If this tradition was dying out, as my father had told me, I wanted to continue it even if only for a generation, whether I could make a living at it or not. After graduating from high school and working at a company for 6 years, I came to Tokyo. It was a very difficult time for me. For the first time I realized how hard it must have been for my father to make a living playing the shakuhachi in a rural area. When I told my father that I wanted to be a shakuhachi player, he told me that he didn't want me to suffer from two types of hardships: financial and artistic.
"In Tokyo, I studied under two masters, Watazumi-sensei and Fukuda Rando-sensei.
Fukuda sensei taught me while playing the piano, not the shakuhachi. Watazumi-sensei told me 'Teaching students makes me play poorly,' even though his lesson fee was extremely high compared to other teachers! I couldn't understand the notation used in my lessons, and I cried in despair several times. Still I had to keep playing, and I used up all the money I'd saved working for those six years on my tuition.
"My practice at that time focused on acquiring good pitch. I used a tuning fork since that was all I had. I wanted to be able to improvise, so I used to play to whatever was on the radio. By doing so, I learned which size shakuhachi I should use for each song. I wasn't good at korokoro (finger tremolo) so I practiced it all the time until my fingers cramped. In order to practice tamane (flutter tongueing) I played Rokudan & Chidori using only tamane. I practiced holding my breath so that I could do so for up to 3 minutes and 20 to 30 seconds. The point is that you must become your own strict master. You cannot improve unless the bridge is burning behind you. You need to come up with your own methods and strive hard to improve.
"I am confident to say that nobody worked harder than I did to become a better player.
Some people complain that their memory isn't good, but this is because they are not trying hard enough. Or some say 'Since I'm starting in middle age, I cannot become better than someone who started in junior high school;' but this too can be overcome. As soon as you have negative thoughts you'll cease improving. Keep your mind focused on spirituality and on all creation. Keep doing what you believe is important and good. That is precious.
"Being able to study your sound from 360 degrees, from all directions, in three dimensions, is crucial. For instance, only a few people can immediately answer what 'Rokudan' is expressing, but it must be trying to tell us something. A good performance is one where the means of making the music good are beyond what the listeners can imagine. If you like someone's playing, you will study it, which eventually will bring you to a certain state of mind. If you are then satisfied with yourself, you won't improve. You should make progress by observing yourself from 360 degrees. If you play with doubt, the audience will feel the doubt or confusion 10-20 times stronger than you do. It doesn't matter if you play badly as
long as you play with all your heart. I once had such an experience. A long time ago I went camping by a lake near Mt. Fuji. I began to hear a not-so-good rendition of 'Chidori.' But I was very touched by it. Irrespective of the performance being good or bad, I think the player played with no-mindedness (mushin). I don't use the word no-mindedness easily, because I wasn't able to attain no-mindedness myself. I was desperate to attain nomindedness, so this man's playing was incredible to me. I still remember it vividly.
"I truly wanted my sound to be non-individualistic. I found out when I was 25 or 26 that the root of the honkyoku is to be non-individualistic: that is how you get a rich sound. The important thing is how much accumulation of knowledge and experience you have within yourself. This is also important when improvising: how well you can adjust to everchanging circumstances."

~ Translated by Saori and Peter Hill(April, 2002) [Additional notes by eB]

For an PDF look here.