Volume II - KOREI

1. Kyorei (11'40")
2. Takiochi (11'32")
3.Murasakino-no-kyoku (4'20")
4. Sankara-sugagaki (4'05")
5. Shirabe-sagariha (6'31")
6. Tamuke (5'41")
7. Oshu-sashi (8'22")
8. Renbo-nagashi (10'48")


1. Kyorei

This piece is the oldest and closest in spirit to suizen (blowing Zen). Very straightforward in character, it is nevertheless a special piece and most respected of the honkyoku repertoire. The monk, Chohaku, had been fascinated by the sound of the wooden bell and sought to interpret that spirit of the bell to the shakuhachi. He subsequently taught this piece to Hotto, a fellow Zen monk, who founded Kokoku temple.

2. Takiochi

One is often overwhelmed by the presence of water in Japan. The Izu Peninsula is renown for not only its incomparable beauty, but also for its many onsen (hot springs) and waterfalls. One such waterfall, the Asahi falls located behind the temple of Ryujenji, was the inspiration for Takiochi. The structure of the piece reflects the spirit of water as a small quiet spring, a raging torrent, and finally the calm of a river as it empties into an estuary. Since shakuhachi master Kurosawa Kinko studied this piece, its composition is dated from the Edo era in the seventeenth century.

3. Murasakino-no-kyoku

This piece takes its name from a district in northern Kyoto, in which the temple of Daitokuji is located. One of Japan's most celebrated Zen priests, Ikkyu, was sent to Daitokuji as a child for his education. Ikkyu was alleged to be the illegitimate son of an emperor, and his mother is said to have been of an anti-Imperial family. Ikkyu's heritage most certainly contributed to his having a discreet upbringing. Nevertheless, we know from Ikkyu's writings that he played the shakuhachi, and indeed, nearly always carried one in his sash. Hence, the strong association of Ikkyu to Murasakino (which incidentally is also the birthplace of the Tozan school of shakuhachi), and this piece is unmistakable in its attempt to convey Ikkyu's spirit of zen. Traditionally, the composition of Murasakino-no-kyoku is attributed it Ikkyu, but this has yet to be substantiated. Ikkyu is also renowned for his poetry and calligraphy; a sample of which illustrates this cd cover.

4. Sankara-sugagaki

Also known as Sankara-sugagaki, this piece is thought to have originated from the older Meian Shinpo school of shakuhachi. However, to this day the history of this piece remains a mystery. Because of the constant rhythm, some have supposed that Sankara-sugagaki has been adapted from Koto music (This theory is reinforced by the fact that this piece is often performed in ensemble). Therefore, the performance and informal ornamentation of this piece is subject to strictly my own interpretation.

5. Shirabe-sagariha

The Tsugaru Peninsula of northern Honshu island is a unique cultural stronghold of Japan. Apart from a distinctive local dialect, the Tsugaru Peninsula has also produced unusual styles of shamisen and shakuhachi playing known as nezasaha Kinpu-ryu. Two techniques used in Shirabe - sagariha include the rhythmic blowing technique known as komibuki and a technique for using the chin to produce a low tone known as chigiri. It is said that this Tsugaru style of musicianship was influenced by the severity of the northern winters. Legend has it that when one played the shakuhachi in the winter icicles would form at the end of the flute. Shirabe-sagariha is further distinguished in the honkyoku repertoire in that it is associated with the Tsugaru samurai rather than Zen. The Tsugaru samurai were very independent and the Tsugaru daimyo even went so far as to proclaim the nezasaha kinpu-ryu as a strictly local school. This piece is actually a combination of two short pieces, the first of which was composed by a man called Ban; otherwise, the exact origins of Shirabe-sagariha are uncertain.

6. Tamuke

Although the composer is unknown, Tamuke comes from the city of Suzuka in Mie Prefecture. More specifically, we can say this piece originates from the temple of Fusaiji, which has preserved such honkyoku as Kakusuirei and Sakigake-no-kyoku. By using a melodic system of whole steps built around a minor scale, Tamuke creates a sublime and melancholic sentiment. It has a modern feeling and is ever reminiscent of Japanese Enka music.

7. Oshu-sashi

Also known as Jimbo-sanya, this piece was composed by Jimbo Masanosuke, the last monk of the temple of Echigomeianji, Hottajisen. Originally from Niigata Prefecture, Oshu-sashi is typical of the northern style of Koten honkyoku. It is at once loud and brash, but a moment later soft and subtle. The melody is similar to Futaiken, or the nezasaha school of shakuhachi. The uniqueness of this piece is characterized by the appearance of new melodies throughout the composition, the juxtaposition of low and high notes, difficult fingering techniques, as well as a sustained tension which is felt until the end of the piece.

8. Renbo-nagashi

The title of this piece has evolved from the terms "reibo" or "reiho", all three of which have essentially the same meaning, differing only in nuance, and religious connotation. Three sections make up the musical structure of Renbo-nagashi. The first part establishes itself very quickly and melodically, and gradually becomes more subdued as the first section ends. The second section uses low notes in obtuse melodic patterns and rhythm which are unrelated to part one. Finally, the piece concludes with a melodic theme similar to that of the first section.


Afterword to Korei

This recording was made in November, 1984 at a lodge in the Atami countryside. The recording session took place late at night and all selections were recorded in single takes; there is no editing or over-dubbing. During the five hours of playing that went into the making of this record, I felt I had become one with the bamboo, and felt that this state of oneness with the instrument is authentically reflected in this recording. My hope is to sincerely present the spirit of Koten honkyoku in each volume of my shakuhachi recordings.

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