I recently went to a shakuhachi ‘blow’ – a group playing event. I’d not played my shakuhachi – and trust me, I’m not very good – for almost a year, and so it was a little intimidating, especially as the only other attendees were accomplished players, including the first non-Japanese grandmaster, Riley Lee. We weren’t playing this piece, but playing with others reminded me how good it feels to share a musical experience with people, even if you’re not on the same level.
This video features the legendary Katsuya Yokayama playing ‘Tsuru no Sugomori’ or ‘Nesting of Cranes’, a sort of sound-portrait. Another performance of this piece (played by Goro Yamaguchi) was included on the golden disc that went into the universe on the Voyager probe. (You can hear that version here, should you wish to.)
I include this video today because it’s been a day of stress, and though I find it difficult (sometimes) to maintain focus through a shakuhachi piece, I really like this one. It’s a pretty popular piece, or at least there’s a lot of different takes on it.
The different versions show how much scope there is for interpretation, and give me the hope that someday I’d be able to play a version, however flawed, of it. Or, let’s face it, of any honkyoku.