Honkyoku, for solo shakuhachi
the companion recording to Blowing Zen: Finding an Authentic Life, published by H J Kramer
In China during the Tang Dynasty, there lived a highly educated, eccentric Zen monk named Fuke. Fuke was prone to wandering about the streets ringing a bell, preaching the Dharma and chanting sutras. A young flute maker named Zhang Bo followed Fuke around the streets listening to his Zen doctrine. Zhang Bo longed to be Fuke's disciple but Fuke would not accede.
Rejected by Fuke, Zhang Bo decided to craft a flute from a thick piece of bamboo and tuned it to imitate the sounds of Fuke's bell. He called the instrument his hollow bell.
The shakuhachi is an instrument that dates far back into time and is usually associated with Japanese ritual and meditation. It is an instrument of extraordinary color and emotional range. In the modern era it has traveled from its monastic and folkloric identity to appear in every context, from symphonic work to free jazz. This record revisits the root material through the playing of the English musician, Ray Brooks, and it is the musical companion to the story told in his book, Blowing Zen (published by H J Kramer).
Ray Brooks left the West in the era of the shifting cultural sands of the seventies, traveled the world, and found himself in Japan. There he came across the shakuhachi and with it the discipline of zen buddhism. Decades later his story is circulating among the western face of zen practice, as one of our stories, with all the ironies and coincidences of the core interest in 'mindfulness' that is across Europe and North America.
The material on this record is referred to as 'original music' (honkyoku), and consists of repertoire that sits at the foot of history. Yet Ray's playing is not like a Western person attempting to sound Japanese. His playing is honest and transparent, without borders. It is a music that evokes the moment through celtic ritual, memory through zen melody.
Available here: iTunes
New Albion Records, Inc.