Friday, March 30, 2007

Sanya (Mountain Valley)

Please forgive me for this poor excuse for Sanya. Pitch problems, not finishing phrases smoothly, etc... :( but i'll put it up, warts and all - and it will really serve to give me incentive to do better.

Ralf, a friend who also plays shakuhachi, made some recordings at the Aus. Shakuhachi Festival back in October 2004 as part of some research he was doing. He sent me this. Its a recording of me playing a piece called Honte Choshi (the Chikuho school's version of Hon Shirabe).

It blows my mind listening to that, and comparing it to what I play like now. Im pretty hard on myself when assessing my performance - so its pretty cool to have a recording like that as a yardstick for progress.

Another interesting coincidence - today was the first time I heard that recording, and its been about 2 years since ive played any Chikuho-ryu pieces, but I noticed that in the last few days, a few interesting changes had crept into my Hon Shirabe. On listening to Honte Choshi - those things are present in it! Spooky! ;) Listening to Honte Choshi has also revealed where certain distinct features that are present in my Hon Shirabe originate from - it seems they were part of Honte Choshi, and some bit of me remebered them and felt they worked well enough to keep.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hon Shirabe

Another Hon Shirabe. its something i always play at least once every time i practice, so if im not happy with whatever else ive recorded, this will usually be the fallback.

It's a great piece, often described as both the beginning and the end. the first honkyoku usually taught to a student, and simple in structure - no ornaments or flourishes - but also nowhere to hide. no flashy fingerings to hide poor pitch control behind. the name is often translated as "original piece" or "original search", but also "basis for enlightenement" or simply "beginning".

Kakizakai's says here: "This is a demanding piece because if our inner energies are not gathered, the image will be limited, as if to see only the tip of an iceberg." and he's right. if you havent been practicing, or your condition isnt good, then it will show up in this piece, clear as day.

Its also a great reference piece, for judging progress, and differences in your condition from day to day. Also for comparing different instruments.

Sometimes i try out different things - like the barebones version from last time - or sometimes different things just come out on their own. but for each player, i think it settles into a form that suits them, maybe changing a bit as they change and improve.

also today, i recorded a version of Sanya, Mountain Valley - but i wasn't really over the moon about it, so i'll try it again tomorrow and see if its any better. :)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rising to the surface

Its been a long, long three months since I returned from Japan, and Ive been guilty of lack of contact with friends and family, neglecting my flute practice, sleeping too much, and other such crimes against life. But, its time to get on with things.

There is a shakuhachi festival in Bisei in Japan in August this year. Its run by Yokoyama and his school, and may represent the best chance I'll have of meeting and learning from him. JetStar have cheap flights from syd->osaka now too. So a few weeks holiday to go is do-able. This will also help give me something to focus my practice towards. Bronwyn has a baby now, and is not teaching for at least another month, so I dont have weekly lessons to kick me along. the last two weeks have seen me get back into the flute, though a bit erratically, but the sound is good, and it feels great.

In an effort to provide an incentive to practice daily again, im going to try an experiment. I've been recording pieces as part of my practice, and ive put a few up on my website. I am going to try and put up a new recording every few days. Of course, because you guys might be listening, I will want each one to be better than the last - which ought to result in a similar effect on my amount of practice as upcoming lessons have.

i still need to get some webspace sorted to put these files, but for now, ill hang them off the webpage and link to them from here. So, have a listen if you like and if you have any comments, let me know.

here's the first recording: Hon Shirabe, bare bones version, as usual, recorded in the bunker at Middle Head.