About Shakuhachi & Taimu
The shakuhachi is an ancient bamboo flute originally used by esoteric Zen Buddhist monks and samurai as a breath awareness instrument.The legends, tales and songs of the shakuhachi go back to 6th century Japan. This thick, root-end bamboo flute was utilized primarily by a special group of Buddhist priests before the early Edo period when it became utilized by more temples and in court music. The primary “classical” repertoire consists of 36 pieces that were gathered from many temples across Japan in the late 18th century by Kurasawa Kinko over 3 years of travels. These pieces were performed by the komuso (wandering Priests of Nothingness) and are rooted in Zen philosophy, nature contemplation and chant: “Sokkan” (breath sight), “Shingetsu” (moon spirit), “Sanya” (three valleys), “Ukigumo” (floating clouds), “Tamuke” (hands folded in prayer), etc. The lordless samurai (ronin), when they were stripped of their weaponry, also used the head covering of komuso as a disguise and the thick, root-end bamboo flute as a weapon. This led to the creation of laws against the practice of shakuhachi for a while in Japan.
Due to the simple yet unique physical design of this flute, it is highly expressive, evocative, deep and reverent. As ethnomusicologist Fumio Koizumi concluded: “Because of the religious origin of its music, the sound of the bamboo flute leads the mind directly into spiritual thought. Thus a single tone of the shakuhachi can sometimes bring one to Nirvana.” And as shakuhachi grandmaster Yoshinobu Taniguchi points out, “Gratitude towards all is at the center of the shakuhachi soul. The entire purpose of the shakuhachi is to foster a thankful heart.”
Taimu shakuhachi are long, wide bore flutes with a deep, airy, expressive tone made by Ken LaCosse of Mujitsu Shakuhachi in San Francisco. As Ken says, “My concern when building these flutes is finding a ‘glowing’ tone quality. This glow is very different than the focused, pure tone of thinner bored shakuhachi. This flute design is characterized by a wide bore, which gives the flute its natural, raw, windy tone.” Thus, they share some qualities with the hocchiku of Watazumi and the kyotaku of Nishimura. I have composed 27 pieces for Taimu, although they can be played on any size shakuhachi, go here for details on these compositions and my Taimu instructional materials. These flutes are the cello/trombone/Barry White of the shakuhachi world, and the resonance you feel when playing them is incredible.
Contact me directly to discuss lessons or consultations, in person and webcam are both encouraged. Also, visit the new Zen Shakuhachi Flute Lessons page. Some strengths of my shakuhachi teaching are clarity, detail, depth, patience and adaptability. I bring 14 years of aware shakuhachi exploration and 32 years of woodwind performance expertise to the table: particularly for composers or musicians of other instruments, we will find common ground in translating Western musical concepts into the shakuhachi realm. My general shakuhachi approach falls under the umbrella of my “Renegade Nature Music,” which advocates a commitment to the experiential reclamation of breath awareness and communion with nature that likely characterized the essence of esoteric Zen shakuhachi practice in some temples of ancient Japan. It is a life-long process: join me in the fun! These are a few off-the-beaten-path interesting shakuhachi links: here and here. Also follow some of my primary Links.
Fingering & Notation Charts (PDF) for jinashi and Taimu shakuhachi.
Download a free copy of my shakuhachi fingering chart. This gives some of the common symbols used in kinko and honkyoku notation and a variety of fingerings that work well on jinashi shakuhachi and Taimu shakuhachi which are the flutes I play. Modify as needed as per your own flute and/or your teacher’s instructions.
Videos of Live Performances
Hymn to the She-Dragon of the Deep (part 1)
“Purgatory” an original Buddhist Blues composition live in Mississippi, September ’14
Bio for Shakuhachi & Taimu
I am a 17-year student of Zen and Taoism, a 14-year student of the shakuhachi and qi gong and a devotee of the Respirational Arts. The musical and spiritual challenges and rewards of the shakuhachi have expanded my sphere and deepened my commitment to spiritual awakening. Exploring and sharing the music, perspective and philosophy of Zen shakuhachi has become a priority and an influence on all other life endeavors. In November 2013, I earned a Shihan (master teacher) ranking from my shakuhachi teacher, Grandmaster Michael Chikuzen Gould, and was given the shakuhachi name 深禅 “Shinzen” (depth Zen or deep Zen).