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The International Shakuhachi Society



Taniguchi Yoshinobu
Tai Hei Shakuhachi - CSS-1

Track Title Kanji Length Shakuhachi Shamisen Koto
1   Hon Shirabe 本調 04'31 Taniguchi Yoshinobu

"Honshirabe" literally means "basic melody". The technical and mental approaches to this piece represent the basic building blocks of shakuhachi honkyoku. It is said that some monks played this song their entire lives as part of a Buddhist training aimed at squeezing everything possible out of it and themselves. Of course, this does not mean that they were continually playing, but, more significantly, that they were "living" shakuhachi as a spiritual discipline.

In beginning to practice a shakuhachi honkyoku, the student should ask, "What is necessary to play this piece?" If the answers do not spring off the page, then one hasn't done enough training. For Honshirabe, practice should focus on the extremes. That is to say, similar to language training where one benefits greatly from total immersion or repeated study of tapes, one needs to expand the envelope of shakuhachi practice considerably. Play the Tsu no Dai Meri notes below the Ro pitch. Play the long tapered tones until the last bit of life has been put into each note and a point is reached where the sound blends into nothing. One should practice mura iki not only for Otsu no Ro, but so that Otsu no Ro, Kan no Ro and Ha no Go can be distinctly heard with a myriad of other sounds incorporated into "one sound". Practice Tsu no Meri mura iki as well. Practice the initial Tsu/Re progression by blowing off the finger covering the #2 hole. There is no atari on this sound. This is an exercise designed to force ones complete self both inner and outer - to be put into the shakuhachi and force that finger upwards on the attack. Play the song with as wide a dynamic range as possible as well as quietly as possible.
Experience both extremes.

Remember that "hon" also refers to "honnin no kyoku" which means "one's own song". It would be strange to always imitate someone else's voice when speaking. The same goes for shakuhachi. In playing this piece, take an active mental approach and create your own song and distinctive voice. On the other hand, while diligent practice of basic techniques in a strict regimen can be very demanding, a commitment to such practice places one on the road to freedom.
2   Shika no Tône (Kinko Ryû) 鹿の遠音 09'19 Taniguchi Yoshinobu

Several images have been used to capture the meaning of this duet for shakuhachi, the main one being a romance of two deer searching and secretly calling to each other from faraway places. Whatever the image evoked, a desire to communicate and hope of making contact are two basic themes which color this composition. Technically very demanding in the Watazumi-style of playing, the real key to mastering this honkyoku is to get beyond the rational mind and to play instinctively.

Shika no Tone is a piece favored by many shakuhachi players, especially those of intermediate and early advanced levels. One reason for its popularity is that most players spend so much time in solo practice that a chance to play along with others is eagerly welcomed. Another reason for Shika no Tone's wide appeal is that it opens itself up willingly to individualized styles of playing. Students looking for "breathing room" from the strict definition of most honkyoku pieces find a warm invitation to the open space here and the welcome challenge of the playing with a partner.

Whether playing in the dynamic style of Watazumi Do, the elegant style of Yamaguchi Goro or the robust style of Aoki Reibo, one should be steeped in the basic forms and techniques and show self-discipline before developing a personal expression of this song. It has been said that Tsuru no Sugomori, amongst all honkyoku, allows the player to take the most liberties with its interpretation. Shika no Tone runs neck-and-neck with The Nesting of the Cranes in this regard. Certain honkyoku pieces like these lend themselves to personal expression and, thus, clearly visible variations are naturally welcomed. The classical size 1.8' shakuhachi is generally used to perform this song, however, the 2.1' size is also quite effective.
3   Hi Fu Mi Hachigaeshi no Shirabe (Kinko Ryu) 一二三鉢返の調 10'44 Taniguchi Yoshinobu

This piece was transmitted through the Fudaiji Temple in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture. Fudaiji was a branch of the famous Ichigetsuji Temple where Kurosawa Kinko, founder of the Kinko sect of shakuhachi, resided.

This honkyoku is actually made up of two songs, Hi Fu Mi no Kyoku and Hachigaeshi no Kyoku. "Hi Fu Mi" simply means "1, 2, 3" and stands for the musical scale, so can be translated as "do, re, mi". "Hachigaeshi" is the act of a monk showing gratitudeexpressed here by blowing shakuhachi - after receiving alms (hodokoshi). "Kyoku" simply means "song".

Hi Fu Mi Hachigaeshi is a basic warm up piece used for learning the beginning techniques of honkyoku and also for netori or "tuning up" to check one's pitch. It is thought that if one learns to play this song, all the other Kinko ryu honkyoku are possible as Hi Fu Mi Hachigaeshi includes most of the basic techniques.
4   Ajikan (Itchoken) 阿字観 06'45 Taniguchi Yoshinobu

"A" in this title is pronounced "Ah" and is the first sound of the Japanese alphabet. In the Mikkyo ("secret teachings") of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, "Ah" represents the "basic essence" of all things. "Kan" means to "see" this essence with one's Heart/Mind (kokoro). These teachings were expounded by Kukai, the famous founder of the Shingon sect at Toji Temple in Kyoto. The beginning of all things is in the heart and mind and these find their manifestations in the physical world. One must concentrate on this to understand how any idea one holds can change the shape of the seen and unseen world.
5   Yamagoe (aka Reiho) 鈴法 03'52 Taniguchi Yoshinobu

Sometimes called Yamagoe Reibo, this song is used to set one's standards for training. It was not originally intended as a performance piece. The spiritual practitioner must find the extremes of everything in order to realize a part of oneself that has not as yet been used. In other words, one must push to the threshold of dying during one's training in order to glimpse the self limiting ideas of life/death.
6   Esashi Oiwake 江差追分 07'03 Taniguchi Yoshinobu

This is a popular folk tune from Hokkaido, the big island in northern Japan. Originally, it was entitled Yoshitsune Renbo after Minamoto Yoshitsune, a popular folk hero, who had been put to death by his brother Minamoto Yoritomo, a general in the Kamakura Government (1192). In playing this piece, one should feel the cadence from the beating of the horses hooves as they chase the murderer.
7   Kumoi Jishi 雲井獅子 02'41 Taniguchi Yoshinobu

This is an Edo Period (1603-1867) piece that originated at Itchoken, a famous temple in Hakata City on the southern island of Kyushu. The song has another name, Neagari Jishi, and was popular in Kyushu because of it's beautiful melody.

The meaning of this piece comes from the fact that songs with "shishi "("lion") in the title are generally played quickly and "kumo" of "kumoi" is the character for "cloud(s)". This honkyoku is, hence, played almost completely in the upper (kan) register and with a fast tempo. Kumoijishi is often it is used as an omedetai kyoku or a song played at joyous celebrations. It is more upbeat and auspicious than many of the sadder sounding honkyoku.
8   Tamuke 手向 03'56 Taniguchi Yoshinobu

"Tamuke" literally means "hands folded together in prayer" and is a eulogy or requiem for the departed souls of loved ones. It is a melody that brings indescribable sorrow and stillness deep into the heart. Tamuke originated in the Fusai Temple in Ise, Wakayama Prefecture, a branch of the Kyoto Meian Temple. Let's look at the image of a person sitting in prayer, facing. . . what? Facing the unknown. Someone special and dearly loved has crossed over to the other side. You are communicating with them, however, your mind faces "nothing". You expect them to walk through the door any minute, but they do not. They have vanished from the face of the earth. The rational mind cannot deal with this very well. We sit in an attitude of respect for both the deceased and in the face of the unknown. When one goes through this "tearing away" that occurs when someone who is a part of your life dies, a wide range of emotions are experienced: pain, anger, fear, sadness, bewilderment, hope, expectation, helplessness, grief, and so on. Tamuke gives us a vehicle to express these deep feelings and a way to communicate with our loved ones.

In Japan, most homes have a Buddhist altar where one can sit and connect with those who have passed on from this world. Often there is a photograph of the deceased in front of the altar as well as some food or drink they enjoyed. One sits at the altar, burning incense and communicating in some form, usually by chanting a sutra, by talking or even in the silence of memories. This is wonderful because, in Japan, there is a place to make such contact in a most natural way.

A shakuhachi player can sit in this space before the altar playing Tamuke until the person in his or her heart appears. Time is not part of this world; one should naturally lose oneself in this process and several hours will pass in an instant. Play shakuhachi to express the emotions you experience at the gates of death. Play while remembering the things you experienced with this person, recalling their existence as if you are sharing old stories with them. Play until tears of sadness stream down your cheeks, then tears of happiness, as you feel their presence sitting next to you and the relief that they still have an existence, albeit in a different world.

The feeling of Tamuke is whatever you bring to it. Not just a sad effigy, but something very real as you play from your life experience. Do what is natural. Play happily if you feel like doing so; this is a private matter. Tamuke gives an opportunity to play from the core of your life. This skill cannot be taught, but only learned through "doing".
9   Ichijo 一定 09'17 Taniguchi Yoshinobu

This song was composed by Kineya Seiho after the death of a dear friend who, in one moment went from living a happy life to vanishing from this world. The song is a response to questioning how life can hold such a sudden change from happiness to sadness and an expression of experiencing that radical transformation. The key to playing this piece well is being able to make this sudden transition from one mode to another quickly.
10   Sagari Ha (Nezasa Ha) 下り葉 (根笹) 03'03 Taniguchi Yoshinobu

The Japanese characters used to depict this title are "sagaru" . ("fallen" or "falling") and "ha" ("leaves"). The song is easily recognizable because of the sasabuki blowing technique used frequently by the Nezasa sect of shakuhachi. Sasa are the leaves of the small bamboo bushes or thickets. The technique aims to imitate the sound of the leaves rustling against one another as the wind blows through the thicket. Sagariha was played along with another song, Sagari no Kyoku, during the parade procession of the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto. "Sagaru" is also the word used during the Edo Period (1603-1867) to indicate movement away from the capital (Tokyo) and also used to indicate the direction away from a shrine. Since shrines were often built on hilltops, one would be going downhill (sagaru) when exiting the shrine. The words "sagaru" ("down" or "south") and "agaru" ("up" or "north") are peculiar to Kyoto vocabulary and suggests the origin of this song.
11   Kazoe Uta 数え唄 10'20 Taniguchi Yoshinobu

Song of the Wind is a modern composition written by the great koto master and composer Sawai Tadao (1939-1997). A duet for shakuhachi and koto 03-string Japanese zither) reveals a dialogue between wind and the Heart/Mind (kokoro) of the performers. This piece is unique in that there are two solo parts for each instrument halfway through the song which allows for greater individual freedom of expression then found in most duets for shakuhachi and koto.

While this sankyoku (ensemble) piece differs from most of the solo honkyoku compositions represented here, the shakuhachi part uses some of the more advanced and difficult techniques found in many Koten Honkyoku. Taniguchi Yoshinobu is joined in this recording by Fukuhara Sawako on koto.

The International Shakuhachi Society - 2018