Friday, August 19, 2011
illustration friday (influence)
One of my favorite musical instruments in the whole wide world is the shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute). My earliest memory of this soulful instrument is connected to an LP record (remember those?) that my father used to play for me when I had trouble falling asleep at night. The record was a selection of music composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, and performed on the koto and shakuhachi. By the time I grew up and had developed a full appreciation for it, the record had disappeared from my father's collection. I've never been able to find another one just like it.
Many years later, I was homeschooling my son and trying to decide what to do about music lessons. Like me, he was more interested in listening to music than playing it. I asked him if there was any instrument he had the least bit of interest in learning to play. After giving it some thought, he replied, "shakuhachi, because it sounds like the wind." So he and I both began to take lessons from a Zen priest who gave shakuhachi lessons in his spare time.
It was a fascinating experience that, for several reasons, lasted only one year. I hope to resume lessons one of these days. I dream of improving my skill enough to play Christian hymns on the shakuhachi, something that shocked my old teacher when I mentioned it to him, and may even be one of the reasons why our lessons didn't last. oops ;p
Today's etegami depicts a komuso, one of the wandering Zen Buddhist monks who used shakuhachi as a means of meditation. The accompanying words are a quote from a longer poem by Ikkyu, an eccentric 15th century Zen priest, poet, and shakuhachi player, and who-- to this day-- has a huge influence on popular Japanese culture.