These are videos recordings of the beginning folk, sankyoku, and honkyoku pieces in the both books, Blowing Zen: One Breath One Mind and Blowing Zen: Expanded Edition: One Breath One Mind.
The First Nine Folk Tunes
- I remember the advantage of sitting across from my teacher, Goro Yamaguchi, watching him and playing along. I feel the lack of video examples has made my “Blowing Zen” book less effective then it could be. These videos are my first draft attempt to correct that. I would appreciate any feedback you can offer. For example, are they too fast or too slow? Would you like me to point out anything in particular? I haven’t played anything but honkyoku for years so I’m a little rusty at normal music, not that I was ever that competent at it. I try to play these tunes simple and straightforward without embellishment, and breathe through the nose at the ‘proper’ time. I succeed some of the time, but I suppose my honkyoku experience makes falling in line difficult for me. I need to practice that more.
|Hi No Maru No Hata||Track 6|
|Haru No Ko Gawa||Track 7|
|Yu Yake Ko Yake||Track 9|
|Kazoe Uta||Track 13|
|Ko Ju No Tsuki||Track 14|
|Haru Ga Kita||Track 16|
|Hotaru No Hikari||Track 17|
- My knees and eyes are not that of the young whippersnapper I used to be. I can’t sit on my heels anymore, so I just sit upright. Years of yoga enables me to sit this way comfortably without back stress. The important thing is to sit upright; it helps I find. People have various workarounds, sitting on a pillow for example. Whatever allow you to be upright without undo back stress would be the way to go.
- I’m going to play only the final track for tune, not the short teaching tracks because the final track incorporates those issues. I’ll have a much more complete coverage of the material in “Blowing Zen” when we finish the Crash Course.
- You’ll notice that I might bob up and down a little, rather than sway left to right as instructed in the book. This is to prevent prevent confusion, as you’d be seeing the opposite, i.e. my left would appear to be your right. Still, I will do it with swaying also, I’ll just have to read the notation upside down, and you’ll have to forgive me for any errors I make.
- I know that I “should” get glasses, but personally I’d rather stumble around naturally. Alas, that means I’ll misread the notation at times. “Was that one beat or two?”, “Was that chu meri (flat symbol) or kan (high octave symbol)?”. Nonetheless, these informal and unpolished videos may still be helpful… I hope.
- My eyesight being what it is, I’m usually unable to get through a piece without an error — often a blurry symbol or beat dot. Moreover, I don’t know these tunes well enough to play them by ear, nor at tempo. In view of this, when something sounds off don’t assume it’s your mistake; perhaps its mine, or perhaps it is artistic license… yes, that’s it! Just make it all part of the adventure.
|Kuro Kami||Track 19|
|Sode Koro||Track 20|
|Sho Dan||Track 21|
|Tsuru No Koe||Track 22|
|Kon Go Seki (part A & B)||Track 23 – A & B|
|Kon Go Seki (part C & D)||Track 23 – C & D|
|Roku Dan (part A, B & C)
|Roku Dan (part D, and onward to the end )
|Chi Dori (first half)||Track 26|
|Chi Dori (last half)||Track 26|
- Hi Fu Mi is the first honkyoku to tackle. Doing parts A and C first may make it a little less intimidating… if that’s a problem. Once you can get through the complete Hi Fu Mi, you can begin working on the other honkyoku. My hope is that offering video of the honkyoku piece “Line by Line” will help make your learning path smoother. Finally, the caveats mentioned above also apply, but by this time become more or less irrelevant. After all, we’re just blowing Zen.
|Hi Fu Mi (part A & C)||Track 24 – A & C|
|Hi Fu Mi (part A, B & C)||Track 24 – A, B & C|
|Hi Fu Mi Hachigaeshi||Page B24|
|Common Honkyoku Phrases (#31 to #58)||Page B25|
|Ban Shiki Cho||Page B26|
|Ashi No Sirabe
|Ashi No Sirabe (at the beach some years ago)
|Takiochi No Kyoku
- There is a huge difference between honkyoku and normal music. However, that difference is perhaps more social, so to speak, than anything else. Fundamentally, all action benefits from paying attention, so in that way both of these forms of music share the same requirement. Normal music carries with it significant social context. It also has a more precise beat—rhythm. In fact, rhythm really turns sound into music. That is only loosely the case with honkyoku. It’s rhythm is more like the rhythm of the ocean surf. There is a rhythm; its just not precise. Just don’t let it drag I guess.
- I’m not a musician… far from it.
I can’t remember tunes, especially those I don’t sing. I can and do sing and play mountain music (the source of ‘bluegrass’) by ear, and know that playing by ear is absolutely the way to play music if you can.Fortunately, in honkyoku, the moment-to-moment execution of a phrase is the most essential thing in my view, so I don’t really miss not being able to remember the honkyoku ‘tune’. If I could, I’m sure I’d ‘like it’ more. Although, ‘liking it’ is not exactly the point in Zen.
UPDATE 2019: Wonders of wonder. I actually applied myself to leaning some of the shorter honkyoku (under 15 min), and discovered it much easier than I’d found previously. Did I just think I couldn’t and so couldn’t, until I dropped that preconception? However, I do have a particular approach that I’ll cover in my upcoming book that seemed to make it much more doable. I discovered that playing at least some short honkyoku by ear vastly improved my sense of honkyoku. I’m still not a musician, at least in the normal sense of the word, but as I enjoy playing shakuhachi so much, I reckon I’m a type of musician. 🙂
- I’m not a musician… far from it.
I intend to offer short line-by-line videos on many of the honkyoku in the book (“Blowing Zen”). These will appear on the home page on the sidebar as Blowing Zen – Line by line Sessions. Just follow the particular line (column actually) in the book if you want to observe and play along. The idea is to offer the honkyoku in bite-size chucks. In addition, I may include more than one column—we’ll see.There is scant demand for this now, so it’s ‘wait and see’.
- I used to have real trouble keeping time, especially with honkyoku—the timing would drag. Using a metronome for a few years, set usually between 30 – 35 beats, helped with that. And I occasionally use it even now. Although playing mountain music over the years has also contributed to my improvement. Playing both kinds of music helps each other overall.
- Not having musical talent, I was especially attracted to honkyoku as a means of playing something music-like. It only requires that essential and innate attribute we all share — attention! Nevertheless, it has taken me decades to know what I’m really doing in honkyoku, or at least to begin knowing. I guess what that means is that honkyoku at its deepest level is music, and as I develop a deeper sense of music, my ‘knowing’ rises to a more conscious surface. In the end, you don’t know what you don’t know. That makes life the adventure it is.