Marco Lienhard

Marco Lienhard and the Shakuhachi

Yokoyama Katsuya sensei was an great influence and inspiration for me.  My studies started within a Taiko group called Ondekoza. I discovered the Shakuhachi at a performance of Ondekoza at the Osaka Festival Hall in 1982. At the time the first student of Yokoyama Sensei, Furuya Teruo was performing with the group. At that point, I fell in love with the instrument and decided to concentrate on learning the instrument. A few weeks later, I got to meet Yokoyama sensei and little by little started my studies first with Furuya Teruo for several years and later on with Yokoyama sensei. In Japan, the student usually comes  to the lesson on the keikoubi set by the teacher for the month - it can be 3-4 times a month. I was at that time living with Ondekoza and it made it difficult for me to comeon thse speicfic days.

 Ondekoza by then had moved out of Sado, then Nagano to move all the way West to Nagasaki. The group worked as a community and part of the day was running and drumming- I would have a few hours through the day for me to study the shakuhachi- mostly when other people were resting or sleeping. 

The director of Ondekoza, Mr Den, was a person dedicated to educate the members of the group. Once he felt a member was seriously  into learning an instrument, he would set his mind to find money to further those studies. So in my case, I was so driven to learn the shakuhachi, that he would find the funds for me to go to Tokyo and study for a week. This would happen usually once a month- Nagasaki is one of the furthest place from Tokyo. It was very exciting for me though- the place in Nagasaki where we lived was called Unzen. It is set on top of a volcano high up, where the temperature is much cooler than the coast. We would get lots of snow in winter and the summer rainy season we were sitting in a cloud of mist for a month when it was not raining.anyways , these trips to Tokyo were more than welcomed, I would hitch-hike half of the way and take ferries up the Setonaikai. The trip would take me about 2 days but I had some money spared to then go see Kabuki and noh theater and movies.

Furuya sensei and then Yokoyama sensei would give me lessons mostly in the morning when they were in town. I would go once every other day- then through the whole day I would practice by the  Sumida gawa river in Higashi Asakusa. The river front in Japan is not used as an area of leisure like in Europe. It felt that rivers were treated more like huge gutters. It gave me some privacy to practice and as matter of fact my practice of the instrument was solely done outside.

Mr Den from the beginning had instructed me on practicing outside. A perfomer needed to project in a theater, as we rarely used micropones. The importance of letting the sound grow and and be fuller. Mr Den did not want me to play the shakuhachi in a yojohan size  room- 4tatami and a half which is not very big- but the standard room for a person in Japan. So from the start I would always go outside rain or shine or snow to practice. In the winter I would play for a little warm up my fingers than play again until I was too cold to sty outside. In the rain I would find a shelter to keep on practicing.

A lot of people influenced my playing and my vision of the shakuhachi.

 Mr Den would talk a lot about the history of Music in Japan. He would encourage me to go see art work to inspire myself- calligraphy as well as suiga masters.

This played a great role in my life........ more to follow soon

4/16

Shakuhachi as with other music has become an instrument of many interpretation. I believe through history, time will judge. So far the music that has reached us through centuries of word of mouth is a repertoire of music that is very similar. Each performer, I believe , has added his or her touch to the playing. 

The shakuhachi will prevail through centuries as the instrument it is. Modifications have been brought to the instrument at times, only few changes have remained. Some simplifications such as adding holes has made the instrument become something else. The basic form and its music will still remain the same. I don't think a seven hole instrument has much to do with the shakuhachi anymore. It become a new instrument that might develop on its own. Meris and kris don't have as much power  with a 7 hole instrument. Circular breathing has becomes pointless for the shakuhachi. The soul of the shakuhachi is in the breath and this sound of breathing between phrases- the dynamic built by each breath. The living and breathing soul telling story through the sounds. 

I noticed that world music instrument have such a limited understanding in the world that a lot of things are easily accepted by the general audiences. The cool factor is something that unfortunately has littered the world music genre. There is also little patience for things these days, instant gratification has to be part of the deal. We are sometimes less willing to spend a whole life just trying to better just one note. 

In search of the sound, one's sound is the message. One sound or one way. Such as religion, and sadly we are again witness to what misinterpretation of a truth or religion can cause - or should we say teaching can lead to... the radical opposite of one's goal of peaceful enlightenment.

 

Here is the picture of Yokoyama Katsuya

Under his picture are a few sayings that relate to buddhism and shakuhachi

 

 

Welcome to the Satori of Sound and the world of Yugen (delicate Beauty).

 

In the past , Shakuhachi Honkyoku music held a special place in music.

It was used as a replacement for Zazen (meditation while sitting); a meditation done by playing the Shakuhachi.

It consists of just blowing in the instrument, without competing with anybody or trying to do one’s best. By the movement of the fingers a tapestry of sounds is created.

 

Chikuzen Ichinyo         Bamboo Meditation reveals the Oneness of all               things

Suizen Godo                     Blowing Meditation leads to the Enlightment               Path

Ichion Jobutsu               Buddhahood in one single note

 

Questions and answers (Religious Q&A session)

 

Yamabushi:( Mountain Priest):

Fuke Monk where are you headed to?

 

Ikkyu( Renowned and revered 14th Century Zen Master):

Where the wind takes me.

 

Yamabushi:

And when there is no wind?

 

Ikkyu:

I will blow my own .

 

************

The Fuke Zen Master was a man from Tang. Buddhism has been passed on for thirty eight centuries, it had become the most important knowledge of the century. He would live in Chinshu and accepting his madness, he would go  have fun at the market ringing his bell.

He would always say to people:

“Myotorai, Myotoda, Antorai, Antoda,Shiho Hachimen Raisen Puda Kokurai Rengada”....

Which could be translated as:

If it comes in an Obvious way, Strike Obviously.

If it comes in a Surreptious way, Strike Surreptiously.

If it comes from All Quarters, Swing like the Wind.

If it comes from Above, Swing Overhead.

****

 

When the wind blows, they move

When the wind does not blow they do not move, the drifting clouds.

They depend so much on the wind, how it soothes the spirit.

****

A Shakuhachi

Is so like a man,

How many nights has it been my companion in old age.

****

 

There are many mysteries in the history of the Shakuhachi and Japanese music. Not much is known of the composers nor the periods in which the songs were written.

 

The Shakuhachi is mentioned in the Shijitsugan (c.1084 AD), a famous Chinese history book recording the history of old China between 403 BC and 959 AD. The book states that the Shakuhachi existed under the first Emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC). More than a thousand years ago, a six - holed Gagaku Shakuhachi was brought to Japan from the Land of Tang ( old China). It is believed that it arrivd in Japan at the same time as Buddhism; however , this fact is difficult to prove. The instrument eventually became known as the Japanese five-holed Buddhist Shakuhachi.

 

The Shakuhachi melodies from the Fuke sect are now called Shakuhachi Honkyoku. These are the original and traditional melodies which form the basis for today ‘s Shakuhachi repertoire.

 

Presently, the three major sects of Zen Buddhism  are the Rinzai Sect, the Soto Sect and the Oubaku Sect. It appears that the Rinzai Sect was founded by a Zen master of the Fuke Sect, though this master’s identity  remains a mystery. The origin of the Fuke Buddhist sect is difficult to trace . Historically,  it was one of the major sects of Zen Buddhism, but it was somehow terminated in 1871.

 

After the civil war of the Kamakura period (13th Century), part of the defeated samurai were left without a Lord. The number of these Ronin (masterless samurai) started to overcrowd the various states.  A part of the these  Ronin became monks of the Fuke sect . These monks, also known as Komuso, learned and passed on the Shakuhachi Honkyoku by word of mouth as they wandered about the country. 

Most of the 150 solo Honkyoku melodies which exist to this day have been taught and passed on through the centuries by word of mouth.

Differentiated from traditional Honkyoku, Gaikyoku (melodies from the outside) are ensemble melodies , played with the Koto and  the Shamisen  (Jiuta and Soukyoku).

 

The kanji (Japanese characters) that make up the Japanese word  Honkyoku literally translate as “melody of one’s true nature”. It can also be interpreted as , “a tune of self-inquiry”. One may argue that the Honkyoku has basically the same value as the Buddhist Sutra.

 

In an era when social rank was of the utmost importance, the once-privileged samurai had to strip himself of his rank, part from his loved ones and his sword and entrust himself to the Shakuhachi as he wandered from place to place. What could have gone through the minds of these Komuso? What did they believe in? The best way to know this today is by studying the Shakuhachi Honkyoku they left as their legacy.

 One must think that the sound coming from the Honkyoku and the bamboo “tube” from which the Shakuhachi is made, is the sound  of Issaiku (absolute emptiness).

Throughout the centuries, the Japanese people defined standards of Beauty particular to different time periods.  The first of these is Mono no Aware ( The Pathos of things) , a concept that dates back to the Heian period. Later Zeami( the famous Noh actor and playwright) defined the concept of Yugen (an elegant , profound simplicity or delicate beauty).  The  concepts  of  Wabi  

(beauty to be found in simplicity) and Sabi (elegant, quiet simplicity) were defined by the poet Basho and the tea ceremony master Rykyu. More recently, the common people of the Edo period defined the concept of Sui (the quintessence of things).

The Honkyoku music standard of beauty is the sum of all the above and beyond. The sound embodies the Buddhist Philosophy of Issaiku  (Absolute emptiness).

 

The Shakuhachi Honkyoku was too embrued with philosophical and religious meaning  to be called music. The playing of the Shakuhachi was a type of Buddhist training which required the utmost energy of the performer to reach the different levels of learning.

 

 

Characteristics of the Honkyoku:

 

1) The majority of the Honkyoku are solos ( about 150 ).

2) The majority of the Honkyoku are in the Insempo  mode (D, E flat, G, A flat, C, or D, E flat,  G,  A, B flat). It is important to note that the instrument  itself is tuned on the Yosempo mode ( D, F, G, A, C)  which is similar to the tuning of the  Oiwake-Bushi  melodies.

3) Free rhythm. One of the greatest characteristics is that there are no beats. One needs to feel the Ma ( timing, pause) of the phrase. The concept of Ikita Ma  (lived interval ) was mastered in sword fights, when facing death or life. Absolute timing (Zettai No Ma ) would make the difference in the samurai ‘s survival. Knowing this might give you a better insight of the feeling of timing ( Ma).

4)The Meri sound Which is done in two steps. You can produce other notes than D/F/G/A and C by shortening the distance or the angle between the mouthpiece and the lips .

To do a Meri  of a sound that is already Meri is called a two step Meri .

For example: If you Meri a Tsu ( F sound), you get a Tsu Meri (E flat) . If you Meri once more, you will get a D sound, which is the same pitch as if you played a regular Ro. Even if it is a very difficult sound to produce , it is sometimes used to deepen the feeling of the song.

 

If you close all the holes of the instrument, you get the sound of the “tube” or the lowest sound of the instrument ( this depends on the length). For example, for  a 1.8 Shakuhachi this would be a D sound. With the same fingering and doing a Meri you can get down to a C sound. This technique is making good use of the Zen concept of producing  something out of nothing.

The word Meri  can be understood as to sink , go down. The opposite is Kari. Because of the structure of the instrument,  you can get a greater pitch difference with the Meri technique. It is possible to lower each full tone by approximately 3 half tones.

The Kari is limited to making the sound half a tone higher.

 

To summarize the above, the Shakuhachi Honkyoku music is a state of mind. It expresses the performer’ s capability and deepest thoughts. The Honkyoku is not some tradition falling in ruin; it is alive.

For the modern Japanese, the traditional music has a very remote existence.  There is however a great interest in the world  for Japanese culture, fostered by the climate and nature of Japan. Let’s hope that  the Japanese will point this beauty out to the world.

 

I  recommend to the people who have purchased this collection to listen to as many renditions of the songs as possible. You should then be able to grasp the heart of the Honkyoku, something that cannot be  expressed in writing.  I hope that through a serious and devoted study of what  our predecessors polished and refined, we will be able to further this great culture that has been passed on to us.

 

 

Welcome to the Satori of Sound and the world of Yugen (delicate Beauty).

 

In the past , Shakuhachi Honkyoku music held a special place in music.

It was used as a replacement for Zazen (meditation while sitting); a meditation done by playing the Shakuhachi.

It consists of just blowing in the instrument, without competing with anybody or trying to do one’s best. By the movement of the fingers a tapestry of sounds is created.

I have written this book with the assumption that it will be used by self taught students. It will teach you the basics from how to get a sound, to how to play the Honkyoku repertoire.

All the songs used in this book were written especially for this manual. I have also used some children songs.

 

Chikuzen Ichinyo         Bamboo Meditation reveals the Oneness of all               things

Suizen Godo                     Blowing Meditation leads to the Enlightment               Path

Ichion Jobutsu               Buddhahood in one single note

 

The classical Shakuhachi Honkyoku ( Komusou Shakuhachi) was created by a Fuke sect Zen master from the Chinese Tang Dynasty.

In One of the oldest songs KYOREI, the bamboo is imitating the sound of the bell of the Zen Master.

 

 

****

p.6

Questions and answers (Religious Q&A session)

 

Yamabushi:( Mountain Priest):

Fuke Monk where are you headed to?

 

Ikkyu( Renowned and revered 14th Century Zen Master):

Where the wind takes me.

 

Yamabushi:

And when there is no wind?

 

Ikkyu:

 

I will blow my own .

************

The Fuke Zen Master was a man from Tang. Buddhism has been passed on for thirty eight centuries, it had become the most important knowledge of the century. He would live in Chinshu and accepting his madness, he would go  have fun at the market ringing his bell.

He would always say to people:

“Myotorai, Myotoda, Antorai, Antoda,Shiho Hachimen Raisen Puda Kokurai Rengada”....

Which could be translated as:

If it comes in an Obvious way, Strike Obviously.

If it comes in a Surreptious way, Strike Surreptiously.

If it comes from All Quarters, Swing like the Wind.

If it comes from Above, Swing Overhead.

****

 

When the wind blows, they move

When the wind does not blow they do not move, the drifting clouds.

They depend so much on the wind, how it soothes the spirit.

****

A Shakuhachi

Is so like a man,

How many nights has it been my companion in old age.

****