Back to the tunes…
Back to the tunes…
Society for the Study of Classical Shakuhachi
We had our monthly meeting a few days ago. The day before my return to Shitennoji to play. So it was another good chance to practice in front of serious ears.
Today we were supposed to have a guest. A student of Oliver, a sempai to me of course. He is a college prof and a writer. You can read his blog/webpage here on Komuso, shakuhachi, Ok, so his student from China who is visiting in Japan was going to be there. Hopefully, she would bring her Chinese Koto and play.
I was coming for sure that day. I came from another part of town than usual, I wanted to attend a Buddhist meetup I had been pushing off for a long time. A spent a lot of lost time that morning searching for the location. However, all of that is another story. I arrived at the Shaku group meeting a little later than planned but not enough to have missed a lot. I needed to pick up food to bring and grab something to eat then.
I slipped in and joined in the song that was upcoming on the agenda. A short while later another elder sempai bows his way in. We continue and also repeat Cho Shi together once more.
The way is made around the table for everyone to play a solo piece. I did Tamuki as a test for the Komuso offering event at Shitennoji. ( FYI: that whole story is on the Komuso blog). It went over ok, no one gave up any corrections except do not move the flute around so much. ( I was trying to find the sweet spot). The correction I was given last time I got the ok nod from another sempai when I asked him it was, ok? So ok, past that. I am feeling better about the performance on Sunday.
The visitor is up. She says she will not play shakuhachi but will play her Koto for the group. Perfect! we all some questions about the Koto as she was tuning. We all looked it over from all angles.
When she played it was heavenly. We all loved it. It was suggested that since I was the musician that she and I do a song together. If there was the time I would have liked that, however, I was feeling a bit shy about that at the moment as was she, so neither of us stepped to make it happen. Thinking back now I should have tried. It was not like a big deal to sound bad. Hahahah. It would have been all in fun. Sometimes being humble and shy is a fun blocker. I still need to step out of my comfort zone more, yet another personal challenge to work on….Amitoufo
Life can get in the way of blogging. LIfe rules. Life goes on, blog or not. You can not blog without life. I am in the deep post stage of healing now from the operation. No side effects I can see. ( hehehe) . I am so glad it is over. My eyes sight is still recovering, I am told about a month for vision to stabilize. Even I am so much better off now, visually speaking.
…In the world of bows and arrows.
I will get back to Kyudo training now, I can see clearer. Visually and mentally. I think I should make some progress now. I do not expect a lot of change because of the vision thing, but because I am understanding more about alignment, holding it, without tension. The other “seeing”. I can go back to shooting now, the weather is warming up a little. Summer shinza will be here soon. I will pass this year! I have signed up for a Tai Kai at Osakajo park dojo. It is the end of the month. It has been a while since I have gone to a Tai Kai outside of Kishiwada. I have not felt confident. I am better now and improving. This will help strengthen dojo ties, focus, form and be fun…I hope 🙂
…In the world of Sounds and beats.
I have been working on a couple of musical projects. Oh, wait did I tell you the drummer with the Sieki band quite. Not a big deal, I did not think he was that good. Ok in a limited scope. The leader has found a new guy. I do not know if he is long-term or filling in for the spring Shows. I hope he is a good player.
Then there is my stuff. I have a Komuso Shakuhachi memorial coming up this weekend. This is the one had to play at in front of the masters last year. to have my sponsorship announced. Now I am back, I have been putting some extra time as possible. Trying to memorize the song. Having eye surgery and no job kept me time free to get some practice in. I decided this year to go with the long length Shakuhachi. At first the 2.0 now I am thinking the 2.5. The sound is much richer and fitting a shrine performance offering. Also, I seemed to have improved because now I can hit the higher notes. Sensei said to me today at my lesson. If you miss a note, let it go as part of the performance. In other words, It is done, let it go. Make the wind part of the note. In short, roll with it.
That’s something that every musician learns. Life is Zen, Music is Zen.
Life (Sound) is impermanence. When poo happens ( bad notes), learn and move on. The moment like the sound has faded away…Amitoufo
Ok, yeah I am doing the long flute. Another point today in class, I was shown more than told the answer to a question I did not ask but had been thinking about. Did I have to play the way it was written? No, I play what I feel, that is the point of an offering. I was corrected on a way I played a line at the Shakuhachi Club when I was giving a demo of me playing for the temple. Sensei gave me an example of playing the song as an offering in the temple. Much more in keeping with my thought, although much much better! LoL! So my main key to mind is playing to enjoy it, the feeling is more important than the notes!
The other project also involves the Shaku, but in a completely different setting. I had not been to the Ozaki Jazz society session in a while. I wanted to make a point of going this month. I organized 4 songs, to play. with whoever wanted to join. I also arranged for a friend who plays Mandolin to attend and another woman friend who attends regularly was going to be there. She agreed to play piano for me. I like her playing. So she and the mandolin player knew in advance what I wanted music wise. So I felt pretty set. The rest of the players could be sorted out on their parts as they felt them.
When I arrived it was quite crowded, I was surprised. Many faces I did not know. I greeted all I knew when I came in and had a seat near my friend. The session was lively and interesting. It was my turn…
I thought I had things all worked out about the sound. The last time I played the Shaku with a band I could not hear it well. I brought along a small amp and a clip-on mic holder, this time. I thought I was set. I explained things to the drummer and keyboardist how I wanted the beat and tempo. Turns out they both speak English, the keyboardist I knew did. I counted off and we started. slowly fleeing the groove. I got organized and stepped-up up to the mic for a note check. BLahhhh. Weak ! Weak! sadly weak I signaled to the MC for another mic to switch with the one I brought. We did a quick swap to the house system, I could sort of hear. I had to make do and just roll with it. I could not get into the feeling I wanted because I could barely hear myself, I am flat or off, or what. I suffered to hear. I could hear a few notes and I could hear some shouts of approval from the crowd. so I played on trying to hear by feeling, by sense. We made the timing change in the song it was a tricky part. The drummer blew it but we got past it and went into the next groove. I kept my Shakuhachi playing low-key, like background strings. Once in a while, I throw in a few solo bars notes. We made the tempo switch again this time the drummer really blew it, I was able to reset the time and get it back up to beat. Listening back on the video, it is not too bad. Some parts were even good. The attendees seemed to love it!
I was only able to do the one Shakuhachi song, then another song on the Bass, two total, because of the size of the attendees. No matter I found out what I needed to know, it was an experiment. It went well, it is no longer a question if I can play well enough or if I can pull it off mixing the sounds. The next issue is being heard. I mentioned that also to Sensei today. He told me the correct position to place a Mic and the best angle. I was way off-putting it at the end, it needs to be next to the mouth like a metal flute. Duh!!! ok, Now I know so it was a successful mission. Next, I will take it to the Blues club for a run. If the sound issue is solved I should be good to go. If you want to hear the cut-instrumental cut of the song, you can click here. X
next return to the temple
Session by the Sea
I had a gig a week earlier at Chicago Rock. I was part of a trio that the Chicago Rock Master had assembled. We had no rehearsal and no song list before the show. We three had played together once before again with no rehearsal just did it off the cuff. The other time we had Jo-San the keyboard player, this time no. Still even though very very loud it went over well. I was told to turn up my bass. That is really different! I neede to turn it up so it could be heard in the sitting room. In Chicago Rock, one small room is where the band is, the stage of sorts. The other room is where the people sit and drink. I had to turn up so loud it sounded distorted coming out of the amp. I did some recording that night, but because the Bass was so loud and the smartphone mic was not able to handle it, it sounded crappy when I played back. Generally, we, the band sounded pretty good, but the distortion was BAD on the recording. Which is really too bad a couple of songs we actually sounded good on! I am not sure what will happen with this group if I will play again? Nothing was said and I left pretty soon after we finished. I did not even stick around to see if there was enough income money to pay us. I chatted with a woman singer, for a short time who spoke some English. Then I took off for home. It was a good night.
Ok last on the music train. My friend the Percussionist, contacted me the other day. The day before the Snafkin session asking me to come by a show he was doing nearby my home. Usually, when I am invited it is to play something. however, nothing was said about me playing, So I was not sure. I was thinking maybe he just wants some body support at the show. However, I thought hmm ok, maybe I should bring my Shakuhachi just in case I am asked to do a ( one) song.
Meanwhile, everyone is getting settled. The main Sensei is there today. Shimura Sensei, I had heard about him before that he was going to start coming again. I meet him once at Myoanji. He is the official leader of the group. I found out later he is a Professor @ Osaka University of Arts he teaches the only class in traditional Japanese music or something like that. I also found out he is a Komuso and a noted performer. This guy is the real deal!! What good fortune to be in his group. He sent me a picture later.
I have gotten an idea to put some questions to the group about Shakuhachi and Komuso. That could be an interesting post. There is a mix in the group, I believe of Philosophy types. One day we had a short talk on Spirit vs Technique in playing over some food and sake!
I had brought along my extra flutes today. The 2.0 and the 2.5 made by Oota Sensei, but also the “bell” the plastic bamboo hybrid for the guys to look at. There was only mild interest as I expected. Only a couple blew the Bell. Shimura Sensei took the most interest, he took pictures, looked inside, etc etc. when he played it he said musugashi, meaning difficult, or perhaps something else as well. He has a doctorate in Shakuhachi Research and quite a personal collection I hear. So naturally, he would take an interest in the new kid on the block. I did not “pick up” that he was overly impressed though. This is a long flute Ryu, so the 1.8 is not the choice tool. Kishi Sensei was looking at it more from a good for a student level, whereas Shimura Sensei was thinking from a performer level. I am guessing this only. Seems logical, life is perspective.
Back to the story… I was surprised to see the 1.7’s or whatever had been on the table when I arrived. Oliver was picking up one for a new student of his from China.
About now we start misc stuff and again someone plays something. Then I hear Fuu-San play something your style. Ehhhhh! Again I am surprised. hmmmmm, Ok, I have been thinking about doing a Jazzy “Summertime” on the 2.0 it is my performance flute. Even though, Kishi Sensei thinks it is junk and will give me bad habits if I play it. I like it. It is in tune for playing modern music, it looks funky cool. so I gave it a shot. It went well. I was pleased. My next performance of the song I will use that flute and not the short one. Also, people end up with more than one instrument, when playing for a while. I saw one famous woman on FB that had her collection up. Maybe more than 20! She said different sounds, different feeling, emotion when playing Honkyuko. She is a pro, as a musician and teacher, I understand what she was saying. I have been using restraint with my gathering of instruments. Many Bass players and guitarist have many several and are not even collectors. Anyway Yeah, I use restraint and not having money to throw around also helps maintain the will power and discipline. I digress…
After another song that, pretty much was a wrap for the practice session. Out came the food and drinks and we relaxed and hung out for a while before heading off into the night to go home. We walked not quite so steady after the drinks, well maybe it was mostly me. Because I have not been drinking and I kept getting my glass filled. Three of us took the fast train back to south Osaka and for a change, I did not have to go the furthest.
It was the last day. The plans had changed some during the evening. We opted to pay for an extended stay at the hotel. Instead of 1:00 pm check out, we went for 4:00pm. The typhoon had fizzled out so the planes were flying. That was not going to be an issue. Our flight was at 9:00pm. we had most of the day to hang out.I had arranged with my driver to pick me up at 12:30, to take me around town. My wife wanted to do something or another then just hang out poolside in the Jacuzzi.
We next went to a local Buddhist temple. It was old but not like the Stone ones at the paid sections. This small shrine/temple complex also had a new temple being built on the grounds and it was an active temple, with monks there. Nothing spectacular but still interesting.
Next stop was a local made in Cambodia marketplace. We pulled into the parking lot. I thought the place was closed as there were no cars or anything in the lot, not even people. That is other than a few musicians lounging on a raised platform. My driver tells me after I say something about no people, it is lunchtime. Ohh. I said.
When the musicians saw us they sat up and started playing. I looked at them for a small bit. My mind flashed back to my earlier thoughts a few days ago. I had seen no street musicians other than a trio of the same instrumentation at a marketplace the other day. I had thought briefly them about asking to play with them. As were ever I went I had my Shakuhachi. However, I did not follow through on my brief thought at that time. Again I had the thought now should I go up to them???
I was taken over to the entry doors of the main store by my driver and entered. I walked around looking at stuff. I felt uncomfortable. The people here have a habit of following you around the store and jumping on selling anything you touch or look at for more than a moment. It is irksome. In the states that is done more so to make sure people of my color are not going to steal something. I have never had that in Japan. Here it is for a different reason but it still was irksome. I walked through, and I found nothing of real interest to buy at least. In my price range in mind.
I went back outside. My driver was waiting. The musicians sat up and started playing. I listened for a bit. Then walked over and gave a donation. These were not just street musicians they were disabled in some way or another. I bowed and made a motion asking if I could join after pulling out my shakuhachi. They smiled and nodded yes. I tried to play along, but could not quite find the notes. Other than one or two I could not get the tone pattern. The tuning was different. They finished that song. One of the players of a violin type instrument played a note for me to hear and sample. Hmm Ok, I could get that and another. Hmmmm I thought maybe it could work. I asked to take a picture with them. They made a spot for me to sit with them on the platform. I gave my driver the camera and sat. This time I lead the music and they followed. It was better, not perfect, it was rough but ok, different and interesting. I think if we did another take on something it would have been a lot better, but I did not want to stay too long, my time was limited for the day. A few other local people from the next stand came over to see what was going on as we played for a bit, then stopped. They asked a few questions about me of my driver and the shakuhachi. Also, I had on my old kung fu pants. I did not change from my morning Tai Chi set. loose and very comfortable. They had some Chinese symbols on the legs. That was noticed and commented on. My Driver translated. I explained about my background being a Cha’n priest and a Komuso in Japan doing sort of what they do. I showed them a picture of me as a Komuso and gave the one guy who spoke a little English, my card. This little session was the other high point of the trip for me. I bowed and we took off just as a couple of Tuk-tuks pulled up with other tourists.
We made our way through the town and along the river. Interesting views all around. Interesting, but not always pretty. The next stop was at the Imperial gardens and another Temple. This was a mix of Hindu and Buddhist. Cambodia is a very Buddhist country however at one time it was Hindu. There was a big conflict at one time in the past between the two. It was resolved that they could get along. The Angkor Wat building design is a sort of reflection of that past. It foundation design was Hindu in nature. Later the Buddhist influence became more dominant at Angkor Wat. This temple we visited today was mixed, but more in practice than just design. Hindu dominated here though it was a more modern building it leaned more to the Hindu side of Spirituality. A combined worship place. Sort of like how the Buddhist and Shinto con-exit in Japan. Just that here it was the same temple. I walked around a bit here and ended up getting overrun with ladies wanting to sell me scarfs. When I spoke with one, then others seeing that came over. I was surrounded. I politely got away. I told one I would think about it and come back. She got on the cell phone. I walked away. I few minutes later she comes over to where I am, with another price. I speak with her, then others see and again swamp, me. I am ready to buy one, then the others overwhelmed me. I start to get pissed and strongly say NO! One of the women “got it” from my tone and laughed and backed off, as did a couple of others. One keep at it! I made a purchase from the first woman. The other woman is still at it. I ask, are you married? She looks weird and says yes. I say, “you must drive your husband nuts being so pushy”. She goes back into her selling mode. I walk away she follows still talking, I ignore her, and she walks off, to another person.
I go back to my ride and say I had enough for the day. Off we go back to the hotel. I have not yet paid this guy for the two days he drove me around. I ask the price. It comes out to about $28.00. I give him 30.00 it was worth it. If you go to Cambodia, I will give you the hookup for him if you want.
The rest of the day is spent after packing, poolside until dinner. Afterward, we are taken to the airport and it we are off back to Japan.
It was a good and educational trip. My wife really enjoyed the hotel and wants to return. She felt comfortable. Most people spoke English so she could cope. For me once to Cambodia was enough. I would rather go to Taiwan. Even though the hotel was not all that where we stayed, and did not really get to spend any time outside the city, other than the Ch’an monastery. Modern cities are the same, and Taiwan is not poor, but I would rather go back there. I am sure they have some scenic places. The food there was better for me, there is a nightclub I can jam a bit at, there is Kyudo there, there is my Cha’n Shifu, I have local friends. If I could find a Kung Fu Shifu it would be wonderful. Maybe maybe maybe, if the Kyudo seminar turns out to be real thing I can go back. That is a big maybe, almost doubtful due to finances.
Our reality starts with a dream…so we’ll see how the Universe wants me to roll with this…Amitoufo
My driver, the same guy, as before, took me to where to buy a Day Pass. They have gone up to $37.00 for a one day pass. Every place you go where there is something to see, on the grounds. You are asked to see your pass. I understand the tour is the livelihood.
Then we took off to the first spot on the tour, he had planned already for me. He said he was not an official tour guide, but he knew the history and studied the details of what was what. He would not be one of those who just drops people off. So I could get the background from him in English. He gave me a good deal of info. Before each stop Interesting stuff, and then set me off on a route to walk and said where he would meet me. I took the trails he suggested. There were others out there as well, sometimes not too bad as far as crowds. Some tours had only one or two people in the group. I was actually glad to be alone and meander as I may. The guides were always talking.
The next day was our last. We had plans to check out at 2:00pm. Then just hang out. I made arrangements with the driver again to pick me up at that time. The plan was he would pick us up and take us around to some local stuff, local free stuff, then back to the hotel to hang out until time to take the Tuk-tuk to the airport, that night to head back to Japan.
There was some concern if we were going to have to spend another day in Cambodia as a Typhoon was approaching this area. It would have been a hassle to make the contacts in Japan to advise them of travel issues, but otherwise, both of us were ok with it. He had to wait to find out… Like you do, in order to read part 3…
Have flute, will travel: Siem Reap pt-1
In the broad Cha’n sense, every day is a blessing, Gohan Shifu says every day is good. Narrowing it down though to a smaller scope here I am referring to a blessing pilgrimage of sorts I took. Hmmm thinking on it more, it would be better called a purifying pilgrimage. I went just before going to Myoanji, the last trip.
While practicing some songs on different flutes to determine some sound differences. I got carried away on playing with my “A” shakuhachi. 2.0 , that Oota-san from the Shakuhachi society gifted me. I had not thought of it in my Takuhatsu practice, but it could be used. This thought came when I could play some high notes on it but not the 2.5. Also about taking it to Moriji next time and use in an offering at the temple.
I also wanted at some point to go to the nearby bamboo grove and get some bamboo for a new project, several in fact. One of which was a simple as stakes for the tomatoes and anything else. Instead of buying tomatoe racks. This grove was on or next to my favorite local Buddhist temple. I have gone there before and sat and played. Most times it is very very quiet. The thought was born to take the 2.0 to the local temple and give it my own purification ritual.
So now with the need for bamboo and the thought of taking my 2.0 flute and do a purifying ceremony. The next day was chosen, the weather was excellent. A lovely autumn day I mounted my bike and peddled off to the temple. I gave inner thanks for the beauty, peace, and blessing of riding my bike to the local temple in Japan to play my flute and do some Tai Chi. Also, grab a few photos. I am still a stutter bug. I do not get off on taking photos of myself but I am a handy model whilst out and about.
It is a fairly easy trip to the temple, other than the last bit, where it is easier to walk the bike up the hill or leave the bike at the bottom and take the steps. There is some kind of tradition to the steps. I think it is 100 steps. If you use the stone steps one gets a blessing or merit or something, a wish filled…? Usually, I take the steps just because, I can. However not today I walked the road outside and around the temple grounds to another entrance. I wanted my bike there. and I had to go to the bamboo grove just across the road, the lot, something. Anyway, nearby and still needing to climb the hill. From that side of the temple, one must also go to the highest point around for quite a ways. One has a great view of the countryside.
From the other side of the grounds, one can see to the bay. That is the side of the grounds where the 100 steps are and the old main gate with the two stone guards. Next to that is the cemetery.
So I guess technically I enter from the back side of the temple. No matter. I had some concern about where I had parked my bike but, unwarranted concern. I enter the grounds and felt the spiritual presence of the area and again gratitude for being there. I went to the main temple urn, and found insense burning. I took out my flute and passed it through the smoke and bowed. Then played a single Ro note. I did this also at the main temple steps.
Once done there I went to the front side of the temple to where the great bell is located. There I played more. Maybe Cho Shi and/or Tamuki. I do not recall. Afterward, I did some Taiji, to bring my physical vibe up speed. Balance out, it a good thought. Sort of like doing walking meditation after doing sitting.
I left this spot after a while and went to another of my favorites. It is next to a pagoda just behind a sand and rock garden. I can climb up on the rock and hang out. There I settled in an do some playing. A group of people came onto the grounds, they were heading for the great bell and one of the other smaller pagodas. I kept playing at one time I would have stopped, or tried to play softer, now I am Komuso and I play for others. On Buddhist temple grounds and people coming to pay respects or homage to their departed loved one, it felt appropriate…Amitoufo
This maybe a boring post if you are not into Shakuhachi…
Today there was a Shkuhachi concert at Myoanji temple. in Kyoto. Myoanji is the home temple of the Komuso SuiZen sect. It is now also my home temple. It is hard to believe it has been a year since I was there, listening to the same concert. It is some kind of event, but I do not know what.
I did realize it had been a year until I saw the leaves starting to color today. I am aware of that because I want to go to Muroji soon. I am trying to work out when is the best time. Next week is sort of early I am thinking. I want colors still on the trees mostly, and not too cold. So I am on tree watch for the color changes, today I noticed it starting in Kyoto. So the tree in the temple yard today gave me notice and I recalled it was like this last time I was there.
Not only did I go because I am now a member, but mostly because my Shakuhachi group had players there. I wanted to support them and get some shots for the group’s FB page. Last time I got there after it started. This time I was almost right on time. It had just started when I arrived. They started with chanting the Heart Sutra. Then played “Cho Shi”. I was sort of surprised to hear them chanting, but it was a good lead into Cho Shi.
After that and a few brief words, the players started. Almost all of my group was playing in the morning, including the group leader who I had never met. Only one of the group was scheduled for the afternoon. He was number 45, I would miss him. I had no plans to hang there all day.
I was surprised how chilly it was in the hall. Cold in fact. I was glad I dressed as I did and wished I had a something else, like a heavier coat or another sweater.
One thing that came to my attention was the different colors and patterns of the Buddhist neck wear…the Rakusu (O-kuwara (大掛絡) for Komuso). I do not know if it is just a Komuso thing or what. In the states I always thought, Plain solid blue was for Novices or the like. Black was for Priest, Brown was for teachers. I found out later Purple is for “Masters”. Here I heard any Buddhist wears them. The colors, hmmm unknown about that I will have to research, seems like it does not matter. Here at least I noticed with the Komuso they have other colors and patterns. I am wearing my black one, that my Abbot gave me. Which gives it some personal significance. Other Komuso wear more colorful ones. It does not matter really, it is just a “thing”. Sort of egoish to desire something more than my functional black. I do get twang of fashion desire when I see the other Komuso “feathers”. I saw a cool purple one with a nice pattern. Yeah, I love purple and it was a dark purple. Nice, I had a moment of lust. It passed 🙂
It was good to listen to other players. Hear their phrasing on songs that I knew. Listening to the quality of their notes and the sound of their flute. My ear has changed. It rolled along smoothly. At one point there was a fairly large number of people in attendance listening. I was surprised.
After my group had played. I got to met the head guy, said my good-byes and took off. I was invited to stay for lunch but, I chose to hit the road. I did stop at a local “Indian” restaurant before catching the train home. Last time I was there the guys asked me if I was from India, this time another guy asked if I was from Brazil.
The wrap, it was a good day, listening, learning, the visuals. It was on the chilly side but bearable. I am pleased I went. It was a good day trip…Amitoufo