I’m uploading a series of informal videos (with some tips) that may help one play honkyoku by heart. For me, playing by heart has brought me deeper into the sound than I ever achieved over my decades of playing by the notation. I can’t say how true that may be for others. Try these out and see. Please see John Singer’s Youtube playlist KINKO RYU HONKYOKU SERIES for a more masterful performance of these honkyoku. For the notation, see Blowing Zen Honkyoku.
Note: I’ve finished learning the dozen playing-by-heart honkyoku pieces I laid out in the book. This has taken about a year to do. Frankly, I initially thought it would take me ‘forever’ to learn these. The most surprising thing I’ve found to date is how each piece I learn makes learning the next piece easier. I also find learning a new piece instills in me a deeper sense of honkyoku overall.
Therefore, should I continue taking on new pieces now that I’ve finished these? I do enjoy the challenge, yet I also enjoy boring down deeper into what I have. Besides, at some point ‘less is more’.
Certainly, I wouldn’t consider taking on new pieces until I know these current pieces utterly by heart, i.e., when their ‘melody’ is rooted in my consciousness. And that will take at least some years, or more likely, perhaps never. And does it even matter? Clearly, this is turning out to be quite an adventure. After decades of rote playing, I’m a bit overwhelmed now by insight into this practice. Well, you can’t say I haven’t paid my dues. 🙂
Finally, if any of these playing-by-heart videos turn out to be helpful let me know and I’ll continue uploading them. Also, don’t hesitate to let me know what in particular might be more helpful. I am somewhat bewildered by how much playing-by-heart was abandoned once Kurosawa Kinko (an 18th-century komusō ) collected and transcribed honkyoku into the notation we use today. Surely, that helped turn a deeper spiritual practice into “a mile wide and an inch deep” secular practice. Thus, I wish to do all I can to help those interested return to the old way. What might actually accomplish that is the real mystery. So, as I say, all this is an experiment.
I begin each week with Kyorei. It’s simplicity helps keep my grounded in the other Kinko honkyoku for the rest of the week. Though it is about 10 minutes long, it has only a few distinct phrases to remember, which makes it easy to commit to memory I feel.
♦ Ashi no Shirabe
♦ Ban Shiki Cho
♦ Tips on Hifumi
♦ Tips on Kotobuki
♦ Hifumi with Kotobuki
♦ Koto Ji no Kyoku & Ashi no Shirabe (with tips)
♦ Koto Ji no Kyoku
♦ Akebono Cho (& brain use)
♦ Ashi no Shirbe (column by column)
♦ Shimotsuke Kyorei
♦ Ashinoshirbe (with each column’s notation)
♦ Koto Ji no Kyoku (column by column with notation)
♦ Kotobuki no Shirabe (column by column with notation)
♦ Ban Shiki Cho (column by column with notation)
I always found Ban Shiki Cho and Koto Ji no Kyoku to be especially weird to play. Only after I learned to play them by heart, did they feel ‘right’ and a deep pleasure to play. This experience exemplifies the utter necessity to learn to play honkyoku by heart… particularly for me! Your mileage may vary.