“Kyorei”

September 27, 2009

“Don’t listen with your ears, listen with your mind.  Don’t listen with your mind, but listen with your spirit.  Listening stops with the ears, the mind stops with recognition, but spirit is empty and waits on all things”—Confucius, qtd. in Zhuangzi: Basic Writings (trans Burton Watson).

Kyorei

Long ago, it seems the flute-playing monk Chokaku had been fascinated by the sound of a wooden bell and attempted, in this piece, to put the sound of the bell to music.  “Kyorei,” meaning the “empty bell,” is one of three classic honkyoku pieces in the shakuhachi repertoire, played here on a 2.4 flute.  Bell recorded at Kurama Temple, Kyoto.


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Meditation #8

September 20, 2009

“Was that cannon fire, or is it my heart pounding?”—Ingrid Bergman to Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca (1942).

A shakuhachi improvisation.  Meditation #8

Meditation #7

September 13, 2009

“There is a Japanese visual art in which the artist is forced to be spontaneous.  He must paint on a thin stretched parchment with a special brush and black water paint in such a way that an unnatural or interrupted stroke will destroy the line or break through the parchment.  Erasures or changes are impossible.  […]  The resulting pictures lack the complex composition and textures of ordinary painting, but it is said that those who see will find something captured that escapes explanation.  This conviction that direct deed is the most meaningful reflection, I believe, has prompted the evolution of the extremely severe and unique disciplines of the jazz or improvising musician”—Bill Evans, liner notes to Kind of Blue by Miles Davis (1959).

A shakuhachi improvisation.  Meditation #7

“Koku”

September 6, 2009

“Think of the best things in the world […] they’re all obsolete”—Ed Dorn, Live: Lectures, Interviews, and Outtakes.

Koku

“Koku” is one of the three classic “original pieces” (honkyoku) in the solo shakuhachi repertoire (along with “Kyorei” and “Mukaiji”).  According to legend, the zen monk Kyochiku heard this melody in a dream.  The title, “Koku,” translates as the “empty sky” but refers to the original Buddha nature common to all sentient beings.

The sozu, or shishiodoshi, heard in the background was recorded at Shinsen-do, Higashiyama, Kyoto (as seen in the podcast photograph).  Originally constructed in order to frighten away deer, birds, boar, bear, and chimera from the garden, the sozu is now obsolete.