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Meri.

 
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felix martens
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PostPosted: 2013-06-26, 17:14    Post subject: Meri. Reply with quote

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Meri is difficult at the best of times when you are just beginning but it is confusing when I see a writer saying that tipping your head is a no-no. He says that Komuso monks did not have much scope for movement in their head covers and so it's not a technique they used. Other people illustrate lowering of the chin in their fingering charts, and I've seen marks on the notation of some tunes to remind you to bring your chin up before playing on, after a meri note.
Is there no fixed rule? If you achieve a meri note then it doesn't matter how? Help!!!
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Lorka
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PostPosted: 2013-06-26, 17:52    Post subject: Meri. Reply with quote

Hi Felix,

Don't worry, this is something that will come with time. I'm sure you will get lots of advice from other members, but I will throw in my two cents. I never really thought about economy of movement as a function of wearing a big honkin' basket (tengai) on your head, but that makes perfect sense. Recently, I have been trying to do meri notes without moving my head, and just directing the air stream either to the meri corner, or kari corner. I find it makes you more mindful of what the air stream is up to, rather than bouncing your head around like a yo-yo on crack.

That thing about being reminded to put the chin up after having played a meri and then going to a "regular" note is actually pretty good advice, particularly if you are coming from a dai-meri note. If you kari up a bit, then your pitch would be closer to standard. I'm not sure if that is written into the notation, but it is a good idea to do in general, otherwise your pitches may be a bit flat (something I have been guilty of more times than I can count).

Anyway, if you are trying to get a meri note, I don't think it much matters how you do it. Whatever works for you is fine I think. Honestly though, if you want to learn this most tricky of instruments, you should really consider taking lessons. Once you do, you will quickly realize how much you suck... I mean, how much wonderful room you have to grow and develop. The good news is, you will be exposed to expertise, and can be assured that they are there to help you improve. There are plenty of teachers out there. These sort of issues that you mentioned you could try and figure out for yourself, but often at the risk of internalizing bad habits.

Also, a teacher will help you to figure out all the stuff that is NOT on the notation. Other times there will be things in the notation and your teacher will say, yes, ignore that, and do it this way. Are you confused yet? Good. It means you are on the right track. I have a theory that notation was made deliberately obscure just so students would not be able to figure it out on their own without a teacher's expert guidance. Ok, that's a bit cynical, but you get the idea. There is a ton of stuff that is not even on the notation, and a teacher will help you figure it all out. So, in this sense, figuring out notated instructions for meri is the least of your worries.

So, best advice is get a teacher, they will steer you in the right direction. My own teacher (michael gould) is very helpful and patient. Oh yeah, you need patience. Did I mention patience. You will need it in large doses.
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Kiku Day
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PostPosted: 2013-06-27, 06:47    Post subject: Meri. Reply with quote

There have been researchers exploring how meri techniques might have been played during the Edo period. Obviously - as it is an oral tradition - there are not much writings, documents about this subject.

The earliest komusō monks recorded on film clearly use meri technique.
I have been surprised myself how fine it is to do meri technique with tengai on. It follows your movements and it is absolutely no problem. So the tengai itself is not enough to speculate whether komusō monks used meri or not.

Felix, the shakuhachi world is very complex and people have many different opinions on everything. So you will also in the future see contradicting statements. This is just the beginning.

I would, as a teacher, recommend you to use meri technique in the beginning. It is far easier to produce the desired pitch in the beginning changing the angle of your head. When you have mastered the meri technique - that is when you can decide to leave it behind. I have a student who - after speaking with Dan Shiku - clearly believes the komusō did not use meri technique. Now he plays all the pieces with his own way of blowing meri. It is excellent and he has really done a fantastic job exploring this angle to the shakuhachi. So it is possible!

Another aspect is that some modern players play with a huge difference in the angles of blowing in meri and kari positions. There are many reasons for this, and one of the reasons is also that the modern shakuhachi are built to produce a very big kari sound. So playing meri often can require a huge change. The older shakuhachi require in general not as big a change to play meri. In any case the more advanced you get the less head movements you need to play meri - as Lorka also pointed out. But to not do it at all is quite radical - but as my student - very possible.

I find that the meri notes are the heart of shakuhachi music and honkyoku. And I find that the scope of meri notes gets narrower if you decide not to change the head angle at all. So I would never leave behind the meri technique. In fact I love meri notes way too much! But that is my personal thing with meri notes. The ying of shakuhachi music!


Last edited by Kiku Day on 2013-06-27, 19:17; edited 1 time in total
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felix martens
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PostPosted: 2013-06-27, 10:12    Post subject: Meri. Reply with quote

Thanks Lorka and Kiku for taking the time to give me such a full reply. I agree Kiku, there is something special in the quality of meri notes. They seem to call up something from deep inside.
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Rick Riekert
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PostPosted: 2013-06-27, 14:59    Post subject: Meri. Reply with quote

Patterson Clark, a staff writer at the Washington Post, tells this story. After a year of intensive shakuhachi practice Patterson flew to Kyoto and took a lesson with Kurahashi Yodo II. At one point during the lesson Patterson came to a difficult meri note and thought he nailed it. “No”, Kurahashi stopped him. “Too loud. It must be very soft”. Patterson tried again at half the volume. He emitted a tiny nasal sound. “No. Softer. Make a very, very small sound”, said Kurahashi. Patterson attempted the note again, this time with the very slightest stream of breath. The sound was all but inaudible to Patterson. "Yes," said Kurahashi, smiling. "I like this sound."
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Mastery does not lay in the mastery of technique, but in penetrating the heart of the music. However, he who has not mastered the technique will not penetrate the heart of the music.
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felix martens
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PostPosted: 2013-06-28, 17:32    Post subject: Meri. Reply with quote

Hi to Lorka! When I reread the replies I realised that i had missed a point you made...... What do you mean by "the meri corner and the kari corner"?
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Brian Tairaku Ritchie
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PostPosted: 2013-06-28, 21:06    Post subject: Meri. Reply with quote

Kiku Day wrote:
- after speaking with Dan Shiku - clearly believes the komusō did not use meri technique. Now he plays all the pieces with his own way of blowing meri. It is excellent and he has really done a fantastic job exploring this angle to the shakuhachi. So it is possible!



More detail please. Do you mean he does not use shading OR lowering the head?

Some of the older Edo flutes indicate that shading would not have been used. The holes are too small. Some Myoan players only lower the head and do not use shading. Sometimes they also have meri pitches much higher than most of us would consider normal.

Shinku Dan's flutes have a wide range of tuning and the utaguchi angle is radically steep. Certainly he is not playing them in a conventional way. It would be interesting to find out how he came to his conclusion that old timers did not meri.

I wouldn't want to give up meri technique because that could make the music very boring. Like Quena music.

Those are all technical and historical speculation issues. Back to the original question-don't do stuff because of what you read somewhere. It's all tied to the music you actually want to play and are studying. There is a very wide range of meri philosophy but it's irrelevant across styles. If you want to play Tozan music you wouldn't apply techniques that may or may not have been used in the early Edo period, for example.
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Lorka
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PostPosted: 2013-07-02, 19:53    Post subject: Meri. Reply with quote

Hi Felix,

Usually after playing awhile you will pick one side of the utaguchi you lean into for meri and the other that you lean slightly in the other direction for kari notes. For me, and I imagine most everyone else, the standard notes are played with the air blown roughly in the middle of the utaguchi. For me, when I want to play more meri, I direct the air stream to my left to drop the pitch down. If I want to play kari, the air stream is slightly up and to my right. This way, if you are doing some crazy coil where the pitch goes up and down, rather than bop your head around like crazy, you move the air stream from left to right (or the reverse) across the utaguchi.

The kari corner is also helpful if you are coming from a really deep meri note and want to land on another note but make it the right pitch.

I'm not sure that helps, but a lesson with anyone here on the forum that gives lessons would help make it all very clear and self evident. Don't worry too much about that just yet though. Focus on making a decent sound and go from there.
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felix martens
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PostPosted: 2013-07-03, 10:44    Post subject: Meri. Reply with quote

Hi Lorka, now you mention it, when I've seen some of the top players on YouTube they're doing just that. Thanks for explaining.
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Kiku Day
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PostPosted: 2013-07-03, 13:19    Post subject: Meri. Reply with quote

Brian Tairaku Ritchie wrote:


More detail please. Do you mean he does not use shading OR lowering the head?


As far as I know he doesn't use either.... but I am not so sure about the partial covered holes...
I spoke with him a couple of times on the phone but never arrived at his home (I was wiped out by the heat in Japan as usual when I am there in summer). What I know is he said to me he believes the komusō did not lower the head and by looking at hitoyogiri, he argued that they could not have used partial covered holes much either. I know for modern shakuhachi players this sounds crazy. But don't chop off my head or his.. I believe he does use partial covered holes... I just never got to his home to really look at what he was doing. So sorry for only part of the information.

The thing is that this hitoyogiri thing. It is so embedded now in history writing of shakuhachi that the shakuhachi went from gagaku shakuhachi --> hitoyogiri --> miyogiri --> komusō shakuhachi. Now, I am not a historian and nor is shakuhachi history my speciality.. but I doubt this very much. I think miyogiri and hitoyogiri must be more or less contemporary and a somewhat simultaneous development from the gagaku shakuhachi. And I am convinced this would then have developed different techniques simultaneously - more or less at least. But this is certainly not a scientifically approved theory!

Brian Tairaku Ritchie wrote:

Some of the older Edo flutes indicate that shading would not have been used. The holes are too small. Some Myoan players only lower the head and do not use shading. Sometimes they also have meri pitches much higher than most of us would consider normal.


Absolutely! The old kinko flutes are very narrow bore with very small holes for example. But also non-kinko shakuhachi from the Edo period can have extremely small holes. I do believe the hitoyogiri had a big impact... also when you see the literature from the 17th, 18th century where hitoyogiri are mentioned quite a lot. It is also because it became a fun little pass time occupation for the nobel class apparently. I would like to make a research project on all the small Myōan branches around Japan to see how they play... although oral traditions are hard to trace back...

Brian Tairaku Ritchie wrote:
Shinku Dan's flutes have a wide range of tuning and the utaguchi angle is radically steep. Certainly he is not playing them in a conventional way. It would be interesting to find out how he came to his conclusion that old timers did not meri.


My student changed the shape of his lips and really achieved something close to meri. I was impressed. I have to ask him what exactly he does to write that down. But if you try to do meri only using lips you can intuitively feel what he was doing. Smile

Brian Tairaku Ritchie wrote:
Those are all technical and historical speculation issues. Back to the original question-don't do stuff because of what you read somewhere. It's all tied to the music you actually want to play and are studying. There is a very wide range of meri philosophy but it's irrelevant across styles. If you want to play Tozan music you wouldn't apply techniques that may or may not have been used in the early Edo period, for example.


That is very true! An I am learning Tozan at the moment and tremendously enjoying the difference in technique. They do things that would in Zensabō terms be pretty awful and I do things that I am told is absolutely not considered nice in Tozan... so awful... Isn't that diversity wonderful? Okay Okay Okay
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PostPosted: Today at 11:00    Post subject: Meri.

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