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What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone?
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Jeff Cairns
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PostPosted: 2011-08-09, 23:41    Post subject: What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone? Reply with quote

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I just wanted to point out that the terms Dean posted from the zenflute site aren't specific to shakuhachi or music necessarily. There is nothing magic in the words. They are commonly used adjectives in Japanese that can be applied to anything and as such, I don't there is any reason to know these terms unless one is bent on studying the Japanese language.
Tobi, these terms don't apply to anything measurable. In other words, one person's concept of Utusukushisa (which means overall beauty, but not necessarily related to tone) is not another's. As such, we are no closer to understanding what tonal depth is and without taking a specific pole of a very large sample group, we will never know and quite possibly don't need to. In the end, my personal definition of tonal depth only defines the instrument as it relates to me and I it. If you know me, then perhaps you can share in the understanding of that definition, though it may not be your own. Arrow
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JF Lagrost
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PostPosted: 2011-08-10, 13:28    Post subject: What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone? Reply with quote

As teachers, we often need to find "non-technical" terms in the common vocabulary to describe and get from the students the sound characteristics we want. It is more efficient, to get from a student a sound color, to talk about depth than about waveform. So yes, these terms are from common Japanese vocabulary, this is why I use some of them not only for the shakuhachi, but also for the transverse flute.
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Jeff Cairns
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PostPosted: 2011-08-10, 14:37    Post subject: What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone? Reply with quote

That's very interesting JF. Do you mean that you use Japanese words to describe sound quality on the transverse flute, or that you use your native tongue with similar expressions? I completely agree with you that commonly held concepts are useful when dealing with a student. I also do it all the time. The point that I wanted to make was that those expressions, because they were presented in a manner that carries a lot of weight to the unknowing (in a glossary of terms relative to the shakuhachi and on the internet), may give some people the idea that these are expressions that are commonly used by shakuhachi players here to describe specific things. They aren't. They are common concepts that when used in a certain context can have a certain meaning. But the meanings are completely subjective and have real meaning when the nature of the speaker is understood; as in a student-teacher relationship which is what I tried to point out previously.
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JF Lagrost
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PostPosted: 2011-08-10, 16:00    Post subject: What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone? Reply with quote

I was surprised to discover this list because it contains terms that I used for a long time (in French) to describe the sound. It is amusing to see them together here. The list is not exhaustive of course. When teaching a course, and you want to get some things from a student, we sometimes use ten different words to describe it before finding the one that works with this specific student. This is also a great source of frustration for me when I teach in English: I miss terribly vocabulary! Beyond the meaning of a word you might find in a dictionary, its sound, its resonance and how it is received by the student will start, depending on the history of this student, things in his subconscious. As with children, the form and the emotional intention of words are more important than their strict meaning. That's why I like this list : it provides vocabulary.
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Rick Riekert
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PostPosted: 2011-08-10, 16:30    Post subject: What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone? Reply with quote

JF Lagrost wrote:
As teachers, we often need to find "non-technical" terms in the common vocabulary to describe and get from the students the sound characteristics we want. It is more efficient, to get from a student a sound color, to talk about depth than about waveform.


JF, doesn’t a student only know to what sound “depth” or any other term is intended to refer by the teacher playing the desired sound? If my teacher told me to play with depth of tone, or heaven forfend, fukami, I wouldn’t have a clue what she wanted and would ask her to show me. And once the quality of sound was demonstrated would it make any difference what term the teacher used to elicit it from a student as long as it was agreed that the term refers to that sound?
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Jim Thompson
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PostPosted: 2011-08-10, 17:38    Post subject: What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone? Reply with quote

We have music and poetry because words don't cover it all. Don't strain yourself trying to to a job with the wrong tool.
My favorite was " kindness of tone".
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Jim Thompson
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PostPosted: 2011-08-10, 18:02    Post subject: What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone? Reply with quote

HORST XENMEISTER wrote:
Toby wrote:
. I wonder if we could even all agree on what "depth" of tone feels or sounds like


"Depth" is "deep" in Eglish. "Deep" is "dip" in Italienische. Beatnick talk gut musik is "deep shit". Thus "deep shit" is "dipshit".

End of history.


Horst, I know it doesn't make sense, but I can't let go of this nagging sensation that somehow "sheep dip" plays a role in all of this.
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Rick Riekert
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PostPosted: 2011-08-10, 18:04    Post subject: What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone? Reply with quote

Jim Thompson wrote:
We have music and poetry because words don't cover it all.


I suppose if Cage can invent 4’ 33” poets can write wordless poems.
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JF Lagrost
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PostPosted: 2011-08-10, 22:20    Post subject: What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone? Reply with quote

Rick Riekert wrote:
JF, doesn’t a student only know to what sound “depth” or any other term is intended to refer by the teacher playing the desired sound? If my teacher told me to play with depth of tone, or heaven forfend, fukami, I wouldn’t have a clue what she wanted and would ask her to show me. And once the quality of sound was demonstrated would it make any difference what term the teacher used to elicit it from a student as long as it was agreed that the term refers to that sound?


Imitation (I would say impregnation) is of course very important in learning music, as in learning a foreign language. But I think, for students at an advanced level, who must find their own musical personality, one must somehow be less directive, less "impose" our own aesthetic. Then the words become very important, they can guide students toward their own way, without "copying" the sound of their teacher.
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Jeff Cairns
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PostPosted: 2011-08-11, 04:09    Post subject: What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone? Reply with quote

Rick's comment reminds me of an anecdote that I hope you don't mind me sharing here.
Many years ago when my sensei's father, Tsurugi Kyomudo, was still actively making and teaching shakuhachi, I was at sensei's home for dinner which involved sitting on the floor around a low table packed with a variety of unknown and untasted dishes. Throughout the meal, first copious amounts of beer were consumed, followed by shochu (white lightening). Discussion ensued in the very broken Japanese that I could muster over concepts of sound intention which led to the idea of wabi sabi (a term that exists on the glossary list, which I took to mean 'the perceived beauty in degradation'). Kyomudo sensei, amused largely because Japanese students don't talk about this stuff, decided that the only way for me to get a glimpse of what wabi sabi truly was, was to play it. He stood up ceremoniously, wavered a little and commenced to play. I have no idea what he actually played, but he was deep inside the music. His sound always amazed me; pure and sweet with a deep conservation of extraneous movement. I was mesmerized. He stopped...looked down at me....and told me to do it. That was like a sharp smack to the forehead. The vacancy that existed in my mind as to what he just did was cavernous. I was absolutely no nearer to understanding the concept of wabi sabi than I was before he played. This made it clear to me that even though I thought I was quite ready to understand wabi sabi, I didn't have the necessary preparation which involved a great deal of cultural experience to be able to identify it even when it was shoved in front of my face. I stood up and attempted to sound like I thought he sounded. Feeling quite sure that I managed to achieve at least an inkling of what he presented. Upon finishing, he softly said: no...that's not it. A little the wiser but humbled, we laughed together and continued eating and drinking.
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J. Danza
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PostPosted: 2011-08-11, 06:58    Post subject: What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone? Reply with quote

Love that story Jeff!... It made me think of when I am teaching drumming and the student is actually playing all the correct strokes in time, and yet the "feel" is totally wrong! It is so hard to explain that some students get frustrated to the point of anger... I'll try the beer and shochu method next time that happens Okay... at least we can have a laugh about it.
There is a big gap between imitating and understanding.
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Toby
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PostPosted: 2011-08-11, 08:02    Post subject: What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone? Reply with quote

This is the point I was trying to make in my clumsy way. The concept of a sound being associated with something beyond its physical attributes must involve the way it is formed by the player. Michelangelo's "Pietà" has a much different effect on a viewer than an uncarved hunk of Carrara marble, though physically they are the same stuff. While to some extent the material itself adds to the overall impact, the main determinant of our emotional response, and the imagery it evokes, is the form that the material takes, and that form is willfully created by the artist.

Last edited by Toby on 2011-08-11, 14:14; edited 1 time in total
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JF Lagrost
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PostPosted: 2011-08-11, 13:26    Post subject: What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone? Reply with quote

Thanks for sharing this anecdote Jeff, I love it !
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Kiku Day
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PostPosted: 2011-08-11, 18:15    Post subject: What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone? Reply with quote

Thanks for this, Jeff and others.
Nice thread!
It is very interesting to have a discussion and focus on the "depth" of shakuhachi tone or timbre.
What I certainly have noticed that players are aiming to achieve just as many different types of timbre as there are players. The perception of timbre varies greatly and that in itself make shakuhachi interesting - like so many other aspects of this wonderful instrument!
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Jon Palombi
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PostPosted: 2011-08-11, 19:39    Post subject: What is "depth" in shakuhachi tone? Reply with quote

Thanks Guys,

I think I am understanding just a little bit more about depth in relation to the shakuhachi. Or is it that I am just catching up the realization that I really know nothing yet? I do recognize it when I hear it and it sounds quite specific to the artist creating it. I assume the instrument has something to do with the degree of it's quality? While depth is like any other human concept... that being, an idea about the living sound, not the actual sound quality we hear. It is arguably subject to as many individual interpretations as there are individuals aware of it's existence, as we discover it within our own musical expression.

I personally love the list that Dean posted and so, printed it off for further reflection. Thanks Dean! I agree with Tairaku, we can use specific terms to communicate these subtle states of tonal depth, however bound to semantics and personal interpretation they may be. It's the common ground between our collective experiences, which gives meaning to any of this discussion, eh?

Like Jeff's Sensei demonstrated about wabi sabi, we must find it within ourselves, before we can express it through the flute. Imitation is not the genuine state. Or like Pepe said about "the feel being being totally wrong". Teachers can't do it for us... since we must become the living embodiment of the sound, before we can express it correctly by blowing through a shakuhachi. I am beginning to think that x moran began this thread as a Zen koan of sorts? Since any definition of the "depth of tone" is as linked to subjectivity as anything else in this infinite universe. How do we possibly define it.... other than through our own direct experience?

I think Kiku sums it up sweetly by suggesting we each have our own unique tonal depth, timbre and independent intonation, which we must each discover for ourselves and express to others. This must be found symbiotically through study, gradual leaning/integration, practice, practice and even more practice. Idea

Sachmo seemed to understand and express something similar in essence to wabi sabi. Certainly his depth of tone and rich timbre were as unique as his radiant smile!

Louis Armstrong wrote:
What we play is life... you blows who you is.

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Music is the very breath of life.


Last edited by Jon Palombi on 2011-08-11, 20:05; edited 1 time in total
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