Meditation #29

May 23, 2010

“Whose flute is that in the painted tower
blowing and pausing in harmony with the wind
its sound stops the clouds traveling across the sky
its notes reach my curtain with the winter moon
inspired like the tunes of Huan Yi
reminiscent of Ma Jung’s old ode
but where is the person when the song is done
and the notes continue to float in the air”
—Chao Ku (815-856), Poems of the Masters: China’s Classic Anthology of T’ang and Sung Dynasty Verse, translated by Red Pine.
A shakuhachi improvisation.    Meditation #29


April 18, 2010

“…Reshaping narrow law and art
Whose symbols are the millions slain,
From bitter searching of the heart
We rise to play a greater part.”
— F. R. Scott (1899-1985), “Villanelle for Our Time.”


Long associated with the defunct Futaiken Temple in Sendai (the site is now a parking lot), “Sanya” (“Three Valleys”) is the quintessential honkyoku piece.

Meditation #25

April 4, 2010

“You don’t have to live in a cave or sit by a precipice to treat wealth and power like passing clouds.  You can sip wine and hum poetry without being addicted to streams and mountains”—Hong Zicheng, Vegetable Roots Discourse (Caigentan), trans Robert Aitken.
A shakuhachi improvisation.  Meditation #25
*A note on the photographs: With two exceptions, all podcast photographs thus far were by Paul Scrivener of Vancouver, Canada.  (The photograph for “Light from the Shadows” is an archival photograph which was featured in the film by Robert Kowalcyzk.  The photograph for “Murasaki Reiho” was by a former student of mine, David Gardiner Garcia.)  Paul Scrivener’s photographs of Kyoto are available on the CD-ROM Kyoto Gardens, a project which we worked on together in the mid-90s and of which I retain fond memories.  From this podcast, “Meditation #25,” accompanying photographs are by Stewart Wachs, a long-time friend and colleague here in Japan.  Please refer to the links below for further information on Light from the Shadows, Kyoto Gardens, and Stewart Wachs: Photography.

“Hifumi Hachi Kaeshi”

March 14, 2010

“Poetry is where you find it, not where it says it’s at”—Ed Dorn.

Hifumi Hachi Kaeshi

“One-Two-Three, Return the Bowl”—a literal translation of the title, “Hifumi Hachi Kaeshi”—is a traditional piece played by mendicant komuso monks while on pilgrimage.
N.B. I will be in California for the next two weeks.  I will resume podcasts on April 4, 2010.  Thanks to everyone for your support and encouragement.


February 21, 2010

“We see him [Arthur Rimbaud] victimized by the illusion that freedom can be obtained by external means”—Henry Miller, The Time of the Assassins.


Horai is a sacred mountain in Chinese and Japanese lore.  Traditionally, the region represents a timeless heaven on earth, as well as a kind of fountain of youth, a place where no one grows old, where all diseases are cured, and the rice bowl is always full—in contrast to Prince Siddhartha’s initial discoveries after venturing outside the palace walls.  The music is a standard piece in the komuso repertoire.

Meditation #22

February 14, 2010

“Leaves fall and return to the roots.  When they appear again, they are silent”—Hui-Neng, the sixth Zen partiarch after Bodhidharma, qtd. in The Essential Teachings fo Zen Master Hakuin, trans. Norman Waddell.
A shakuhachi improvisation.  Meditation #22

Meditation #21

February 7, 2010

“…What I came to say was,
teach the children about the cycles.
The life cycles.  All the other cycles.
That’s what it’s all about, and it’s all forgot.”
—Gary Snyder, “For/From Lew.”

Meditation #21

Meditations #19 and #20

January 24, 2010

“The sound of the water says what I think”—Chuang Tzu.

Shakuhachi improvisations.  Meditations #19 and #20

“Sanya Sugagaki”

January 10, 2010

“To achieve personal peace in active joy in this century [twentieth] perhaps more than any other has meant dropping out of the current power structure.  Since the Second World War for many men this has meant finding a viable alternative to the dragging decay of Christian capitalist democracy and the delusions of extreme leftist reform associated with the Depression and the Thirties.  In the Forties and Fifties this alternative consisted in forms of ideological refusal to held captive by the history of the West”—Eric Mottram, Introduction to The Scripture of the Golden Eternity by Jack Kerouac (1970).

Sanya Sugagaki

“Sue no Chigiri”

January 3, 2010

“That’s what we all are.  Amateurs.  We don’t live long enough to be anything else”—Charlie Chaplin.

Sue no Chigiri

Recorded in Osaka, Japan, June 14, 2008, featuring Nakano Mikiko (shamisen and vocals) and Kurahashi Ayako (koto).  Introduction by Kurahashi Yodo II.