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Well, it might be a bit silly question but here it goes...
I have heard about "Tamuke" in many discussions here in the forum; I read it's a funeral piece, to play for those departed (or on the process), and I was extremely curious about it.
Yesterday, I finally got to hear it, a beautiful version played by Watazumi. It just left me speechless, it's so deep and moving...
Anyway, I would love to play this piece, as I think learning and playing it would be a great way to to "connect" with my departed ones more often and pay them my little memorial homage.
Now here comes the question. From what I know it's a piece that it's played on a long flute (+2.4), but I only have a 1.8 jiari Shakuhachi and I'm not planning on getting any other length for several years (with the time I have available for playing it's enough tricky getting to know one single flute!). So,
Does anybody have experience on playing this piece with a 1.8?
Is a 1.8 to high to play such a piece, say, in a funeral context?
Has anybody seen anybody playing it with such a length in such a context?
Am I being foolish for thinking that the spirit and feeling of the piece does not depend on the flute length with which it's played?
Thanks in advance for any comments
I'll take a stab at this.
I can't speak for the rest of the world, but playing shakuhachi at funerals here in Japan is not common. In fact, in my 21 years here, and the few funerals I've attended (none being my own, or so I think) I haven't seen shakuhachi played at all. Therefore, I would think that the knowledge of whether one piece is suitable for a funeral and what length of shakuhachi it should be played on is esoteric at best. That's not to say that there weren't intentions by the composer or someone later who seemed to think in those terms.
So one might ask: Does that mean that there was something transmitted only by a certain length of shakuhachi and not others which created the necessity for that length to be used in a certain piece at a funeral? I would hazard a guess and say that is a very subjective issue which lacks any empirical evidence to support the claim in any way. Would one be stepping on spiritual practice toes by changing sizes of instrument for a piece? From my experience and judging by the spiritual flexibility of the Japanese, I would suggest that it's probably okay to play Tamuke on a kazoo as long as you do it with reverance and conviction...or even a pvc pipe!
passionate playing to you.
I second everything Jeff mentioned. I learned Tamuke from my teacher on a modern Ichijo 1.8 back when that was the only flute I owned. Now I tend to play it on a longer flute. BUT, with that said, even at that time I truly felt close to the piece, enjoyed the challenge of playing it, and enjoyed the overall mood of the piece, eventhough it was on a 1.8 jiari. Remember, it's not the size of the tool, it's how you use it Sorry I couldn't help myself there
But seriously, there is a lot of info now about playing chokan or jinashi... which is definately providing a great service to many players, but sometimes I get the feeling that some players may be left in the dark or forced into a conflict of always having to compare their situations to others. If you feel a connection with the piece, and hopefully have a teacher near you to teach it to you, don't hesitate to play it on your beautiful 1.8.
Finally, playing in front of people is a completely different experience than playing alone in comfort and privacy. It really is a test of calming and controling your nerves, and unbelievable bad things/sounds can happen. Given the emotional level a funeral would be at, I think it would take a very experienced player to reamain calm and truly convey the meaning of the song. But that's just my opinion and I'm not a pro so take it for what it's worth.
Last edited by Josh (2008-01-24 09:23:39)
I have seen and heard Taniguchi play Tamuke for a performance (not a funeral) on a 1.8 and I can report that it sounded truly awesome. So don't think that a shorter flute limits your ability to make a powerful impact with this piece.
It doesn't matter what length shakuhachi one plays the song on although I'd leave the kazoo at home unless you want to hear "henna gaijin" expressions. It's the spirit, of course. Most shakuhachi players refer to Tamuke as a requiem and as was mentioned, most funerals don't have shakuhachi playing. You're more likely to find someone playing if the deceased played shakuhachi. I have heard it played at a few, Yokoyama Ranpo sensei's funeral & Taniguchi senseis' mother's 3rd year ceremony. For these people it was only natural. As for playing yourself at funerals, I find it a "Catch 22" thing. I played at my brother's funeral and it was way to personal and I refuse to do so for anyone close to me. I've been asked to do so for people who are not close to me and I felt I wasn't close enough to the person so I try to refuse. If it were one of my students I would take the rest of my students and do it in a group, which I find quite appropriate for sending someone off. One can always do the same in solo at your home and I'm sure it is just as welcome. Or, at least it will be for me when I take off. Taniguchi's thing was that his sister died when she was young so he always thought about her when he played Tamuke on stage. Tamuke was a big song in his teaching repertoire. When I arrived at his ryokan, after the quick greetings in the genkan he would escort you to the Butsudan and you would sit and play Tamuke before doing anything else. It was not unusual for him to play it for more than an hour. This was an avenue for reconnecting with someone who was important to him. Taniguchi sensei always expressed the idea that it was only when you lost someone who was part of you that you could understand the depth of this song. Another Catch 22. I was in no hurry to get to the bottom of this one, so to speak. However, there are things beyond our control.
No matter what piece you are considering, if you have only one instrument to choose from, you choices are limited to "play" or "don't play."
By all means, choose "play."
Leaving aside the memorial aspects, from a strictly musical point of view, "Tamuke" is closely related to minyo and shares melodic motifs with specific minyo pieces. So playing on 1.8 would be totally in keeping with that origin. A lot of people play it on 1.8, so go for it! I think you can play anything on a 1.8, it's the standard length.
Everytime I ask a question in this forum I feel blessed by its very existence!
See, the forum started almost at the same time I began learning Shakuhachi and I am sure I wouldn't have made it this far without it! So thank you, thank you, thank you!
And thank you all for your comments and thoughts. Now I can start my own personal "Tamuke-journey" free of doubts, wonderings and other distractions.
I would like to add that I am not thinking on playing the piece in a funeral, but I thought it could be appropiate in the context of it (maybe, and many years from now, a distant flute sounding while people gather or leave or something of that sort).
Anyway, the reason I want to learn this piece now it is to have a specific and regular moment when I can connect with those people who left and I want to still have "around" somehow.
Thank you all again for everything. It's amazing how many wonderful people are around this place!
Salud y mucha felicidad para todos
I'd leave the kazoo at home unless you want to hear "henna gaijin" expressions..
Absolutely! The point being that the heart is most important...however, if the deceased were a kazooist...
As Jeff pointed out, playing shakuhachi at funerals may not be very common in Japan these days but I have seen it played and have played for several funerals myself. The first funeral I experienced shakuhachi at was for my shakuhachi sensei's father's funeral ceremony about 15 or 16 years ago; several of us played Sanya Sugagaki during the Buddhist ceremony held at my sensei's house. My sensei knows of Tamuke but has never played it himself as it is not in his particular group's repertoire of pieces. I've also heard from my teacher that Zangetsu is an appropriate piece to perform at a funeral. As far as Tamuke goes, it's interesting that you brought up the matter of playing it on a 1.8 as I happened to play the piece for two funerals last year on a 1.8; I think that most people would probably agree that the length of the flute is purely arbitrary; if the music comes from the heart that's what is important. One performance I did last year was for a friend who drowned while attempting to surf in typhoon conditions last October and whose best friend, who was arranging the funeral, requested a shakuhachi piece to be played at the funeral service, which was a rather syncretic affair as it was a Christian service with a Buddhist meal for a guy who had grown up attending synagogue. My friend who died had also played shakuhachi for several years about a decade ago (in addition to being even more proficient on accordian and didgeridoo; he had even led a prize winning chindonya group for several years in his spare time) so we felt that a shakuhachi piece would be appropriate. After the funeral service itself had ended a Japanese djembe drummer and I did a long improvization together (on a longer flute) -- we had sometimes jammed with Roman on didgeridoo -- while people walked up and put flowers in the casket before leaving the funeral hall; it was quite a moving ceremony and the reason the improvization went on for a while is that there were about 300 people who walked up to the front of the funeral hall to pay their respects. The other occasion at which I played Tamuke last year was for my own father's funeral, which took place just a little over a month ago; my sister relayed the message to me that he had specifically requested a 'short' shakuhachi piece; it turned out that he had planned out the order of his own funeral service; I didn't know about his request until after he had passed on. The service took place in a church in Atlanta, Ga. with great acoustics; I played from memory but glitched the end of the piece...just kind of forgot what came next and tried to end it in a fitting manner. Even so, I felt it was the most meaningful performance of that piece that I've ever given and people commented on how they felt it was an appropriate meditation. Of course no one is going to say anything negative in those circumstances even if the piece is mangled badly but even the minister, who I had met just a few days before, asked me where he could find recordings of the shakuhachi; I think it was genuinely appreciated. My favorite uncle also passed away last year; he was a musician and a choral director who enjoyed listening to shakuhachi and I'd play at his house when I was there for a visit every three or four years; in an odd coincidence, my old 1.8 (I only own two) happened to split from the back of the utaguchi down to the middle joint when I was up on a hilltop playing Banshiki last spring; there was sudden gust of wind and the flute cracked and became totally unplayable; I found out later that he'd died from the effects of a stroke that same day. Of course flutes crack sometimes but the fact that it happened on that particular day had a special meaning for me. I don't want to have to attend or play the flute for any funerals this year but "death has no mercy" as a Mr. Garcia once used to sing...
Thanks for sharing your experiences with Tamuke. It's great to hear people actually play with a 1.8! Well, I'm actually sorry to hear you got to play it becasue of such events, I hope this year you just get to play it for your own enjoyment or to pay a small tribute to someone already gone.
As for the craking flute, if you ask me, that's no coincidence, but that's just my opinion!
As for Tamuke, I hadn't anticipated the mix of emotions that it creates inside me! On one side I'm happy to have decided to learn a new piece and I feel joy when I listen to Watazumi skillfully blowing through the piece, on the other I have all the feelings and meanings that surround the piece, and the impact that these have in me; it's a curious mix of emotions, to say the least
Anyway, now I have the notation, the playing instructions (thanks Alcvin for such a valuable contribution for the Shakuhachi students!), the motivation and the encouragement!. Now it's a matter of blowing!
a nasty secret... sometimes I've played Tamuke three times in a day on three *different* lengths of jinashi. omg. can't believe i just shared that.
i don't know much about this stuff, but if a flute or piece feels "right" to whoever is playing, there's bound to be some righteous feeling transferred to whoever is listening.
i can't imagine the length of the flute interfering too much in the process unless either the player or listener is hung up on a prescribed idea of "right".
Last edited by dstone (2008-02-03 18:32:25)