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Kokû (Nezasa Ha)

虚空 (根笹)

This is a piece of genre Koten from the Chikuho Ryû and Nezasa Ha / Kimpu Ryû Schools .

History (Riley Kelly Lee):

Nesasa Koku / 'Empty Sky' of the Bamboo Grass Sect, like all pieces of the Bamboo Grass sect, is noted for the use of a blowing technique called komibuki (crowded breath). This pulsating breath technique is considered an effective method of increasing one's concentration, and focusing one's energy. Empty Sky is the usual translation of Koku. It fails, however, to convey the meaning of the original Chinese characters, which refer to that which is neither 'empty' nor the opposite of 'full'. In other words, it pertains to the realm of the 'absolute', which by definition, cannot be known by the rational mind of the 'relative'.

Kokû (Nezasa Ha) appears on the following albums

AlbumShakuhachiKotoShamisen

Empty Sky - Yearning for the Bell Volume 3 Riley Kelly Lee

    Nesasa Koku / 'Empty Sky' of the Bamboo Grass Sect, like all pieces of the Bamboo Grass sect, is noted for the use of a blowing technique called komibuki (crowded breath). This pulsating breath technique is considered an effective method of increasing one's concentration, and focusing one's energy. Empty Sky is the usual translation of Koku. It fails, however, to convey the meaning of the original Chinese characters, which refer to that which is neither 'empty' nor the opposite of 'full'. In other words, it pertains to the realm of the 'absolute', which by definition, cannot be known by the rational mind of the 'relative'.


Flare Up James Nyoraku 如楽 Schlefer

    Shirabe ("prelude") is an introductory piece of music heard before a longer work and I intended to create a state of "oneness" between the performer, the bamboo, and the universe. This version was improvised at the recording session. Koku ("Bell Ringing in the Empty Sky") is one of the three oldest traditional pieces for shakuhachi. It echoes the legend of the Zen monk Fuke Zenji, who was said to have walked about ringing a small bell. The monk predicts the day of his death, and the villagers who opened his coffin only to find it empty, clearly heard the sound of his bell ascending into the sky. This version is from the Nezasa-ha or Kinpu School of shakuhachi playing, a style noted for the use of komibuki (crowded breath), a pulsating breath technique similar to the folk singing style of the Tsugaru region.

Jin Nyodo No Shakuhachi 02 Jin Nyodo

    Nezasa-ha: SHIRABE - KOKU

    2-shaku 3-sun
    14 min. 13 sec.

    1. About the title:

    This piece is recorded with the piece Shirabe attached as a prelude (zenso) in accordance with Nezasa-ha tradition. Please consult the sections "Commonly Used Titles" and Nezasa-ha: Shirabe regarding Shirabe, and the sections "Commonly Used Titles" and "The Three Traditional Pieces" regarding Koku.

    2. Structure of the piece:

    It is divided broadly into two sections: a zendan ("before" dan) and kodan ("after" dan). It is one of the longest pieces in Nezasa-ha, and as it is so long one would naturally expect it to have the general Nezasa-ha structure of [(Shirabe - Honte) - (Takane) (Hachigaeshi) - (Musubi)]. However the piece gives a somewhat exceptional impression since it has the binary structure of [Honte (Zendan) - Takane (Kodan)].

    Moreover, the whole piece has a rather back-and-forth, swaying tone (especially in the zendan), and there is very little of the jo-ha-kyu development generally found in the honkyoku of Tohoku lineage which includes Nezasa-ha.

    3. Special features of the piece:

    In terms of melody, two particular melodic patterns occur repeatedly. One is the pattern utilizing "koro-koro"; the other consists of lowering the jaw from the position of o-kari to o-meri linking the two in a curving melody. This melodic pattern is unique to this piece, even in Nezasa-ha. It is repeated four times in RO in the Honte, three times in KG and two times in RO in the Takane giving a strong individuality to this piece.

    The sentiment in the piece is one of mystery and meditation. In Nezasa-ha it is the last piece learned in the "oku-no-kyoku".


Shakuhachi Zen John Singer

Sui Zen - Blowing Meditation on the Shakuhachi - 05 Ronnie Nyogetsu Reishin Seldin

    The Neza-Sa-Ha version of Koku, Nezasa No Koku, is recorded with the piece Shirabe as a prelude, in NezaSa-Ha tradition.

    Koku, - one of the Koten, the original three pieces has been discussed in depth earlier. This version, played here on a 2.4 instrument, is the last piece learned in the upper level of Neza-Sa-Ha pieces. It is the longest, and perhaps the most meditative of this repertoire. Compared with other versions of Koku, it has a different quality in the sounds evoking the ringing bell.

    Listen for special features repeated in this Koku. First, sense the rhythmic, swaying tone. Also notice the koro-koro, a warbling produced by alternately opening and closing the bottom two holes. This alternates four pitches: ri, ro-meri (or hi go, chu-meri), ro, and tsumeri. Also listen for the characteristic komibuki endings to notes, a lowering of the lowest tone of the flute, ro, which is produced by closing all of the holes, to an even lower tone, ro-meri; produced by an additional lowering of the head and changing of the mouth position.

    This piece is supposed to be played in 117 breaths, and is said to represent Akasagarbha, who, because his joy and wisdom are boundless, was considered to be the Bodhisattva of space.

Tamuke Taniguchi Yoshinobu

    Koku is one of the Koten Sankyoku or "Three Ancient Pieces" along with Mukaiji and Kyorei. The characters in the title refer to "nothingness" and "emptiness". "Ko" is the same character used in the word "komuso" or the "Priests of Nothingness". "Nothing" or "No-Thing" is a translation of the Buddhist concept of mu. Mu is used to refer to the "spiritual self". In Koku, one is awakened by "sound" coming out of "nothing" or out of the cosmos. This Nezasa Ha Sect version of Koku is characterized by the persistent use of the komibuki blowing technique.

World of Zen Music, The - Shakuhachi Music from Tsugaru, Nezasa-ha Kinpu-ryu Nakamura Akikazu

    The shakuhachi in its current form is thought to have been introduced into Japan from China by the monk Kakushin in 1254. Koku is attributed in legend to Kakushin's pupil Kichiku. One day, when Kichiku was sleeping at the Kokuzodo temple on the peak of Mount Asama in Ise, he heard in his dream an exquisite melody which reverberated through the
    clear sky over the seas. Together with Reibo and Mukaiji, Koku is one of the three pieces known collectively as "sankyorei" which are considered to be the central items and also the oldest in the honkyoku repertory. It is a solemn and dignified piece which the performer is expected to play in 117 breaths. The music is considered to represent the Buddhist principle of emptiness which embraces all phenomena. It also represents Akasagarbha, the bodhisattva of space, so called because his joy and wisdom are as vast as space itself.


The International Shakuhachi Society - 2017