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Shakuhachi 尺八 & Other Avant-Garde Flutes
  • The shakuhachi is a Japanese end-blown flute.

    It was originally introduced from China into Japan in the 8th century and underwent a resurgence in the early Edo Period. The shakuhachi is traditionally made of bamboo, but versions now exist in ABS and hardwoods. It was used by the monks of the Fuke school of Zen Buddhism in the practice of suizen (吹禅?, blowing meditation).

    The instrument is tuned to the minor pentatonic scale.


    It is an instrument that I have been gradually developing an appreciation for.
    This is Watazumi who apparently had contact with John Cage


    Hukuda Teruhisa (Shakuhachi) and his wife, Kineya SHIHO (shamisen)

    I have not been able to locate the complete recording anywhere.

    Kokū Nishimura



    If anyone has interesting records please do post here. However I am open to listening to any avant garde flute music there is.

  • It's interesting calling the shakuhachi avant garde - like a lot of Japanese traditional instruments, the techniques and repertoire are very highly prescribed by tradition, with certain pieces and inflections having highly defined cultural significance. In fact this was taken to the extent that only a certain caste was allowed to play until modern times - almost the opposite of avant garde. I kind of know what you mean though - insofar as the sound is new to western ears.

    Records by Goro Yamaguchi are worth checking out. He's the "star" player in Shakuhachi. - his Crane's Nest is on the golden record they sent into space with Voyager.

    Clive Bell plays it in an improvising context, quite nicely, and not a dilettantish experimental guy picking up an "ethnic" instrument and making a noise - I gather he studied under a respected master and is reasonably accomplished as a traditional player. Worth checking out.

    Outside of Shakuhachi, I'm not a big flute fan, but Aldo Clementi wrote quite a bit of nice avant garde flute music - worth checking out.
    Lots of nice baroque recorder music about though - you might like that if you like rougher flute sounds.
    Nose flute music from Borneo is pretty special too.

    And of course there's also lots of shit synthesized shakuhachi in old new age music. That's probably back in fashion now.
  • _ch__ch_
    Posts: 1,899
    i've been debating getting a shakuhachi for a few months now...
    i think i prefer the sound of the hichiriki, but i wonder if its actually the sound of multiple wailing hichirikis that i prefer.

    been rinsing this a lot: https://www.discogs.com/Kōhachiro-Miyata-Japan-Shakuhachi-The-Japanese-Flute/release/5978144
  • The multiple-wailing hichiriki thing - yes.
    I spent best part of a day trying to approximate it on my modular controlled by a stylus & graphics pad to get the swooping & inflections. I got as close as I think was possible with my setup, but still some way from the nasal, uncanny valley endorphin attack of the real thing.

    I'd *love* to own a sho. It's probably the one remaining bit of gear lust I nurture. The sho clouds rising up in etenraku feel like the primal scene of all the music I love, and I don't think I've ever heard sho music I didn't like. Just the architecture and playing stance of the thing - and the way it locks to your breath, and needs to be rested and warmed after a few minutes play like it's a living thing. It's such a weirdly transformative instrument.

    I got a great record of sho and accordion stuff by Hosokawa a while back though, and that convinced me that the top register of an accordion was close enough, since shos are in equal temperament. Definitely more affordable. I picked up a cheap used accordion with treble reeds (cheap and treble register actually turned out to be a difficult combination) and stuck labels on the notes that correspond to the aitake. You can't play as dense harmonies as on the sho because you only have one hand rather than 2, but I really got into that for a while. Then this course I'm doing destroyed all music making!
  • Sadly the best book on togaku/gagaku - "Music of 1000 Autumns" - is way out of print and massively expensive. It's great - transcriptions of the aitake and te-utsuri and a load of other material - detailed descriptions of the instruments and playing techniques, practices. Really good.
    I lucked out, finding a PDF a while back and I think the link is on my long neglected tumblr, a page or so back, if anyone's interested.
    I can't check at work, so if it's not there, or if the link is dead by now, prod me and I'll dig it out.
    http://skjolbrot.tumblr.com

  • _ch__ch_
    Posts: 1,899
    its funny (re: yr modular/stylus attempts), the original 'selling' of old synths as *replacements* for acoustic instruments...
    i have an old analogue synth, which has voicings for piccolo, cello, viola, etc...
    just fascinating how this was perceived as their selling point (an orchestra at yr fingertips), rather than 'YOU CAN NOW CREATE THE SOUNDS OF ANOTHER COSMOS!' etc

    plus they're never ever close to approximating the sounds...

    gagaku always seems to me to be a 'perfect' music.
    (whatever precisely that means!)
  • Yeah, it is weird. And particularly it was never going to work with something as mobile and raspy as a hichiriki. Was a good starting point for other sounds though.

  • _ch__ch_
    Posts: 1,899
    meant to say that i'd never really considered the sho...
    but it is a great instrument
    i think the real lack of 'playing in a melodic/riffy band' of recent, has diminished my interest/thinking on harmony/counterpoint, etc
    which is a shame, because its something i used to really enjoy
  • It might just be because melodies and harmonies are elegant structures, computers like structures and I'm programming computers more than I'm doing anything else at the moment, but I feel like I'm heading back that way.

    (it might equally be that when I work with noises I get stuck and want to work with notes, and when I work with notes I get stuck and want to work with noises)
  • _ch__ch_
    Posts: 1,899
    i've barely played guitar in the last three years...
    (SADFACE EMOTICON)
  • expexp
    Posts: 2,638
    I haven't played drums since Leeds.

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