A walk in the Garden

Authoritative performance of honkyoku depends upon numerous musical factors: pitch, rhythm, dynamics, tone color, good form, idiomatic understanding. However, beginner students can render beautiful and moving honkyoku with a bare minimum of developed skills. Honkyoku demands a deep engagement from the player. If you play through a honkyoku piece with the intention to arrive somewhere or to ‘nail’ something, then you convey a sense of disinterest in the passing moment. The more focus and attentiveness you give each and every note and modulation, the more authority you invest in the music. When you couple this attentiveness with a developed skill set, you take the music into elevated performance.

Attentiveness to each note as though it’s the first, last and only note in existence is the basis of gorgeous and authoritative playing, even if technique is still building.


One can liken honkyoku playing to a walk in a beautiful Japanese garden. When you enter the garden, you immediately understand that this is a place of reverence, an artful assemblage of exquisite beauty. The mind is hushed, the senses sharpened and a respect for the moment arises. All around are forms and transitions (rocks, paths, plantings) that are mysteriously unified into ordered beauty, each one an irreducible element of the overall harmony. The garden yields the depth of its order only by repeated visits, slow and loving attention, and a developed receptivity to its nurturing qualities. 

Walking the garden with reverence will develop your appreciation, your sense of timing, your ability to take notice of things, your perception of minutiae, and ultimately your sense of belonging to and being fed by the garden.

The shakuhachi path
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