woensdag 29 december 2010

Two years of blogging and a happy new year!!

Hi there! Two years have already past swiftly! This blog excists now for 2 years and many things and experiences have come along! As I learn more, I find it more difficult to post about the flute. In the start there are so many different things to discover. Now the pace is more steady; for my playing and studying as the blogging.
Well hope to keep going and post now and then for at least 2 more years.
Thanks for reading up this far!

A bit early: happy new year!

zondag 28 november 2010

Changing the past

Changing the past of a flute to be precise. Not so long ago I have acquired a new old 1.8. My main flute is from a renowned maker Gyokusui and I am really fond of this instrument. As I understand they have made shakuhachi for three generations now starting with Gykosui Kono I. Now the 3rd generation is continuing the arts of the craft. His father and grandfather have died. Both can be seen on this picture.

They worked together on the flutes to make -for some- the best post WW-II flutes around. I haven't played that many flutes in general to say the same thing. But I know when I like a flute.
So a new old Gyokusui came along the way and I decided to give it a go. It is the flute picutered above. It played ok and evenly, but not with the magic feel I had with my main 1.8. It sounded a bit stuffy and some notes were to vague (like Ro). I've sended it for professional repairs, first at doubt if I should have let the past changed of this flute. What if it is me and I have to get to learn to play this flute correctly? Well I sended it and my observations were correct: the flute was as I described -so it wasn't my playing ....- The flute was even changed already before I had it. First it was bound for a serious crack. This was done very well so wasn't the culprit. The bore was changed in a way it wasn't made by Gyokusui. So I felt a lot better about restoring the flute to its more original state. I have to wait patiently for it to be restored. Restoring sound a lot better then repairing :) Lacquer had to cure and that takes time. But I have a feeling it is worth it.
Do I think flutes should be altered for the better? Not if they are original, rare and stand for a special era or historical maker. Those are little artifacts which I feel should be treated with respect. But many flutes do not fit into that category. If you own a flute you also can do to it whatever you like -even if it is rare- so it is al up to the owners of flutes to decide if a flute should be altered...or restored ha ha.

maandag 8 november 2010

Contemporary music II

I've posted about contemporary music for the shakuhachi before. I've been listening to more of it recently and specially the music created by Marty Regan. This music has both meloday and emotions woven into it. It isn't as abstract as some contemporary music. Maybe that's why I like fukuda rando as well: it is very melodic and is connecting the West with the East so to speak.

Many songs can be listened streaming on the site of Marty Regan The first piece I came in contact with was Mirage. This one I heared live. My newest favourite is Voyage, listed under 2008.

dinsdag 26 oktober 2010

Prague revisited (ESS 2010)

The poster of the summerschool
Recently another participant of the summerschool named Theo sended me very nice pictures of the event and some of Prague. I'll post some here. The ones I am in I've cut up some bit. I think he has a nack for making very nice photographs. Enjoy the views:

zondag 24 oktober 2010

Old Japan 3D 'Meiji'

In the late 19th and early 20th century, enigmatic photographer T. Enami (1859-1929) captured a number of 3D stereoviews depicting life in Meiji-period Japan.

View more of them on this website.

These pictures give a nice atmospheric view of Japan of old at the beginning of the time when modern shakuhachi started to appear. Though the old flutes of before 1859 (Edo flutes) have a specific sound of their own, and some are lyrical about the better ones of that period.

zondag 17 oktober 2010

Online Shakuhachi Community

A community of 4! ;)

Kiku Day asked me to be interviewed about my experiences with getting to learn about the shakuhachi and how I see the community.
Kiku is giving demonstrations about online shakuhachi comunnities at a conference at University of Toronto 11 - 14 November 2010.

The conference title is: DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media. http://diycitizenship.com
She interviews several people with these theme in mind and makes a digital presentation for others to see. She is also giving online Skype lessons at the spot, so if the schedule  fits I might be one of the testcases :)
I think as an entity the community can be hard to define, there is no one community. There are many aspects to it: meeting others at local events, at European events, even wordly events (not yet for me), the contact with a teacher, online contacts: facebook, skype, e-mail and of course the shakuhachi BBQ (the international forum). They are all part of the shakuhachi communicty for me. They add in the feeling being connected to a Western part of the shakuhachi playing 'world'. The Japanese community of shakuhachi players is much more farther away, although the tradition has that history breathing through its veines. As it is, the Western community of players and enthousiasts may be even more connected then the Japanese one, which is much more segregated and unfree. I feel that is a nice thing to have here: feel free what to play, what flutes to choose, which teacher to study with and do as you like.

dinsdag 12 oktober 2010

Since the summerschool I have been reading this nice book written by Christopher Blasdel. He was as well at the event and teaching and performing there. A good change to get some material like cd's, and books! He signed it for me, so that is a nice little extra. The book is about his experiences on learning to play the flute and walking the path in Japan and other regions of the world becomming a professional player\ teacher\ performer. I find the personal experiences most interesting to read about. I feel there is a resemblance to discoveries of the flute among players perhaps. Maybe a universal thing? Well my discoveries are minor compared to the road Blasdel has travelled (also litterally). But I enjoyed reading it. The book gives a very nice atmosphere of the time it took place. It is as if you were there 'seeing' it through another pair of eyes\ eares. Well maybe this is an aspect of all books in general, but in this Blasdel has succeeded very well. It is about his experiences but this is not an ego book; you read more about the 'experiencing ego' of the author then about the personal opinion of the author. This makes it easier to get the astmosphere of the time perhaps...A tad more idiosyncratic experiences or emotions like frustrations perhaps would have been nice.

vrijdag 8 oktober 2010

Fundamental practice

When words can't describe,
sound can.
The wind blowing gently, 
feeling fresh at the lips.
The sound,
slowly buzzing full of warmth,
strong of tone,
devoid of song.
Most fundamental practice.
The basis that is. The power of:
Ro Buki

maandag 4 oktober 2010

SOLD: Kitahara Seikado 1.8 Jiari

For sale I have this wonderfull flute I originally bought from Perry Yung. It is in excellent condition and plays anything you throw at it. This flute is suitable for lessons. Enough said myself, the original text Perry wrote can tell it alot better:

This is a refurbished authentic TOZAN style 1.8 length shakuhachi made around the 1960s by the renown SEIKADO Company in Kyoto. Seikado is made by three generations the Kitahara family. Very few makers can boast of this kind of prestige in the traditional arts. This one represents one of the highest quality Seikdo offers with three Hanko stamps, one of SEIKADO and two from the top master maker - KOUSAN. It probably originally sold for around $2,000 -3,000. The bamboo is top notch in all aspects. The root ball is absolutely gorgeous. It plays with confidence, great balance from note to note and with a consistent tone color - all attributes of fine shakuhachi instrument as understood by experienced players. When this flute first came to me, it had two cracks, one on the top and one on the bottom section, a chipped utaguchi inlay, loose nakastuki joint and loose rings. Since then everything has been repaired and restored with my Low-Impact approach to maintain it's structural integrity. The cracks were bound by topical black cord and sealed with urushi lacquer. The utaguchi was filled, the joint ring glued and made snug. This is now a great playing shakuhachi and fully functional for serious study of classical shakuhachi music or modern applications. It has the feel of the first wave of very modern flutes crafted with an extreme taper in the bore and a small opening at the bottom end. These flutes have a more back pressure so that the stronger players can blow harder for a bigger sound. They may feel "stuffy" for the beginner. These are made for stronger players who know how to
produce the desired amount of overtone. The sound of this vintage instrument is bright, focused, expansive and complex. An experienced player can play anything on it - Sankyoku, Gaikyoku, Minyo, Honkyoku or anything else. You can see by the finger marks that the previous owner played this flute for long hours on end. this instrument has been thoroughly refurbished and checked for functionality. It has my Tensei Stamp of approval and should not present any problems under normal care of the instrument. 

take a listen to

and an improvisation

Price: 990 usd

New Design(s)

original of old blog header
Lately I have been experimenting with new looks form my blog. It isn't easy to make it as I want not knowing html. Well what you see now is what I have made of it, hope you like it. If not also let me know, then I can improve it a bit. And before you know it, it might change again.

donderdag 23 september 2010

In Search For The (Great) Sound

Last week I had a sort of small breakthrough, I played the shakuhachi and after playing a longer time, a very nice sound came from my flute! Wow was I the one making it? It was strong, full sounding and very pleasant.  I had this sound before some short times, but now I could reproduce it more at will. Well it isn't easily produced...last day it was gone it seems. More 'Ro buki' will probably do it.
The shakuhachi is sometimes hard to grasp and teaches patience very well. So it does with a new flute I recently acquired. It didn't want to play at first, then sound came, but not very nice...is it me, is it the flute? Do I want to go to quick??? Then it shortly sounded nice...and then is was gone again.
Grmbl! patience, patience my friend...

donderdag 16 september 2010

Electronics and Shakuhachi

I consider myself more of a Shakuhachi 'purist', whatever that may be. I mean I like the sound pure unchanged. In Prague there were several presentations of shakuhachi and electronics. Music enhanced by other sounds, reprocessed sounds of the flute itself and the like. Maybe this dimension can add someting when you are very familiar with the unchanged side of the flute I am not sure. I feel the flute and the music has much to offer in itself. Especially when accompanied with other instruments the flute can come to life.
I attended the lecture of Zenpo Shimura on Cyber shakuhachi. He has been developing a sort of suit and flute that detects movement of various bodyparts. Those on their end change te sound and can do different things.
Sounds complex? It probably is: see here the schematics for if you want to DIY.

See and hear below a short recorded section of a real song done by Shimura. After hearing this I maybe have to come back to not liking the electronics much....
As a bonus you can see Kiku, who translated the lecture for us listeners.

vrijdag 10 september 2010

Sound bite and pictures

See below for added pictures and sound bite of jinahsi flute by Mujitsu.

dinsdag 7 september 2010

Sold: Mujitsu 2.5 Ab Jinashi

For sale I have my 2.5 Ab\ G# jinashi nobekan shakuhachi made by Ken LaCosse (Mujitsu). It is completely unadorned piece of Chinese Madake: so no lacquer in the bore or ji. The sound is mellow and breathy, the tuning very good.
Pictures and a song soon will be posted.
Price: 250 usd, sending 25 usd worldwide.

Here the sound of this flute:

maandag 6 september 2010

European Shakuhachi School 2010 Praha

The European Shakuhachi Festival this year was awesome! The grand old city centre was an excellent spot to host an event like this. Literaly you could find concert sold at every corner of the street. There were even girls selling the 'shakuhachi'-concerts on the street which were held at the venue HAMU.  The selling theme was: music you haven't heared. For certain parts for me this was very true. The concerts were held in this old dungeon-like room (where also the group picture was taken): 
The acoustics were great, the music even greater! I have heared a lot of new musicians, new honkyoku, modern music for shakuhachi and contemporary music as well with other instrument like strings. Lovely! I posted a little about the latter in a previous entry.
This festival was the second bigger festival I attended, first was in Leiden in Holland. Both were quite different in ways but what is most special is the people who are present there. They all like of have some connection to the flute and are interested in the richness of its past: the essence of sound, stillness, the cultural background, Japan and zen to name a few; many more could be derived probably. It inspires me a great deal to be present and to be part of this energy.
To show some more:

Ro buki every morning:
Lectures to be had:
about cyber-shakuhachi this was...Maybe I'll write a bit about that later.

Workshops to be followed (and numerous they were, hardly time to eat...)
This one was held by Kees Kort about Indian Raga and the shakuhachi. 

But also about relaxing and having fun:
 Well relaxing? Not by my look of it...must have been the dark beer ;)
All in all a very succesfull and worthwile happening...Now I should start saving for 2012...

zondag 5 september 2010

More free scores

On the site of Kurahashi I found many free scores, free to use. When checking the site lately I see there are even a bit more of them! How nice.
The scores can be seen on Kurahashi's page. Have fun with them.
Respect for 'tha man' who promotes the flute and the songs so boldly and humble.

donderdag 2 september 2010

Contemporary music

When joining the European Shakuhachi festival in Prague there was one concert dedicated to contemporary music. Intuitively I am not specifically fond of it, but I have to confess I am not highly aware of that field. I play shakuhachi mainly for the tradiotional pieces, aka honkyoku. But it came as a good surprise I really liked the concert! Maybe even most of them all (three were held). My grand favourite of that evening was the piece 'Mirage' composed by Elizabeth Brown for shakuhachi and string quartet. I also heared it was first performed at the International festival in Australia. Well I loved it! I was able to experience something when hearing it. Some contemporary song are so abstract that for me it hardly qualifies as music, more as art. But not for this song. See also: E. Brown's site.  The song can be listened by streaming audio at this location: Mirage Song for shakuhachi and string. It is pretty on the pc as well, but nothing like the real deal though.

dinsdag 31 augustus 2010

Back on tracks

After pondering about some time about playing the shak and learning I've reached a decision: I don't want to go on the old way. I want to put more time in it! I guess it came all down to just choosing to get on with it. I had stopped my lessons for a while to see if I would go on without them, I did but missed the lesson and guidance as well. I had few lessons when I first started to play, then I was very entousiastic about it. Looking back I feel it has to do with a clear goal at that time: getting able to play the flute. Knowing it was hard was something that drived me. Currently I can 'play' the notes (which is a whole lot different then playing the flute) I hit a sort of plateau where progress was not so visible. I think I need to set a different goal this time. I was some time without. I hope to be able to specify this goal though, but I am in no hurry. Maybe a goal isn't very zen-like, but I don't care, the flute isn't all about that. I like to have some goal if it helps me to be kept inspired. I decided to start up the lessons, maybe even have a go at jinashi lessons sometime. I think the comming of the anual European School, which has passed when writing this I need to make a choice. And I did. The ESS (European Schakuhachi School) helped tremendously in energizing this choice. I only hope to keep this feeling sometime. I'll post some pics and thing I've learned at the ESS somedays later. Let's roll!

woensdag 4 augustus 2010

summer slowness


After some shakuhachi rest in the sense of playing less on a daily basis and also taking a break from lessons I try to get it up to my old inspirational level. Most of the times the break of it feels ok, but sometimes I feel bad about it. Interests in things waver naturally through time, but in starting to play this flute I din't expect this to happen to this...well it did. I still consider it 'my instrument' though. It just is a thing that need to be kept alive I guess.
Next event that comes up my path is the European Shakuhachi summerschool in Prague! I am already enthousiastic about it! To meet others and play together is perhaps the best thing to keep the spirit of playing and wanting to practice alive.

donderdag 29 april 2010

To sell or not to sell...?!

To sell or not to sell; that is my question. I have gathered some small collection of flutes. Some I play more then others, soms I enjoy playing more then the rest. Some are nominated for selling\ trading. But this time when I am the point to actually put it on the market again I begin to have doubts, I make a recording and listen and think: hey that has some special character to it. Maybe I should keep it. The afforiomented flute this time is the one pictured above: a Taisho era 1.9 Jinashi, two piece flute. It bears one hanko, probably of the owner, not a makers one. It has a white horn inlay and the sound is smooth and round. Not at all agressive. It is my 3rd Jinashi flute next to a Chinese madake version and a Kyotaku. If you want to take a listen, I recorded a personal version of Tsuki. Haven't  learned this one officially, so it is my interpretation.
Maybe when in doubt about parting with a flute...keep on to it a little longer (or make me an offer I can't refuse, ha ha).

dinsdag 27 april 2010

Skype and modern ways of teaching\ learning


The modern day can have many a benefit! So it is with Skype. It is a free program that can be used to call people around the world or chit-chat with them on your computer. Even with video. That the application is free also helps of course. I've used it mostly with shakuhachi lessons online I have with Michael Chikuzen Gould. This blog entry is not about reviewing the lessons itself (they are great and great value). This is about the possibility to talk to someone else on the other side of the world! How wonderfull is that! So I am gratefull this technique is available. But still I am not very happy with it...
Is has its merits, but also some other aspects I like less: you cannot play at the same time, it is harder to interact on a spontaneous basis: the reaction is a bit slower due to the connection, and talking is less intuitive and more like: person A talks, then B talks etcetera. The biggest drawback is for me the missing direct contact with a person live in the room. When attending workshops at the ESS summerschool of 2009, that was present and a great vibe of being around a master-player is very special. I know this drawback is not the fault of the program skype. I only wished a 'Dai Shihan' (Grand master) or Shihan lived nearby. Given the rarity of them Skype might indeed be the next best thing...

zondag 25 april 2010

DIY humidor Shakuhachi case

I've been working on a shakuhachi storage cabinet and now it is almost finished. I have been keeping my flutes in bags until now to keep them moist. Blowing in the bag to keep the moist level's up. The climate here is a moderate sea climate, and ranges from 35% moist to 55%. Winters are more dry. Those numbers are a bit too low. I've found myself a nice display cabint of Philips electronic gizmos and turned it into a humidor.
The first photograph is how I got it, painted black and rusty at parts. It was originally blue with Philips logo's on the plastic windows.
Unfortunately the cabinet was a bit too short to hold my 2.55 Mujitsu and Kyotaku 2.55 flutes. I have altered the cabinet like this:
cutting open the top part and folding it in, to make the room larger. On this picture you can see both the 2.55 flutes I have. The moisturizer I put on top to make room below. It is called 'oasis' here and is intended for flowers and plants.
The final result can be seen in the last shot. I painted it with a rust-paint, added a carpet on the floor. An voila a nice humidor! I used to smoke cigars, but lurking on the flutes is a tad bit healthier. The last thing I want to do is close the small gap between the door and the frame. The moist levels are better now, and even more nice: I can easily pick one flute and play!