Riley Lee

TaikOz Future Directions, 14/6/2014

Disclaimer: I learned taiko with members of TaikOz for a number of years.

It’s taken a while to write this. I’ve felt conflicted, as I am a TaikOz tragic and want them to succeed and grow – but I’m also a gig-goer with limited time and limited cash. And I like to spend my time (and money) accordingly, and to feel some kind of reward – not always in the form of back-slapping woo-consuming-arts! kind of way, either – for the investment of both.

Unfortunately, the Future Directions gig was one of the poorest shows I’ve seen from the ensemble. There’s been member injuries to contend with – artistic director Ian Cleworth was not on stage – but I feel Kaoru Watanabe‘s guest artistic direction didn’t provide enough cohesion to the performance to pull it off. (more…)

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Shakuhachi concert, 28/5/2014

Simon Barker performs.

Simon Barker performs.

I spent part of last night at a performance of shakuhachi and percussion works at Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music. The players ranged from student to shakuhachi master (and grandmaster) level, and while the event did have some slightly off-target moments, it was good to see how a casual approach to programming and execution – and at a free concert! – can yield rewards. (more…)

A brief shakuhachi break

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.