The music I practice and understand as a student of the shakuhachi comes from many sources. At the core is honkyoku, the body of (mostly) solo shakuhachi pieces often associated with the komusō of Edo-period Japan. This repertoire, derived from Buddhist chant and nature sounds, was collected, codified, and expanded from the 18th century onward (though some of the music may have existed as far back as the 15th century, if not earlier), resulting in many schools and styles of playing. Through study with Michael Chikuzen Gould, I’ve learned koten honkyoku (“classical” pieces of unknown authorship), modern honkyoku (written in the early 20th century or later), children’s songs, folk songs (min’yō), and a variety of ensemble pieces, with special attention to compositions by Randō Fukuda. Much of this music was transmitted to him by his teachers, Katsuya Yokoyama and Yoshinobu Taniguchi, and the basic teachings run parallel to those of the KSK/Chikushinkai.

Filtered through Kinko, Meian (also known as Myōan), and western classical traditions, the style of this lineage, which emphasizes self expression, isn’t tied to a specific ryū but is sometimes called dōkyoku, a term used for a time by Yokoyama and linked to the flare of his teacher, Watazumi. Yokoyama dropped the term before the first European Shakuhachi Summer School, held in London in July 2006, but it is still used today to indicate either “Yokoyamafied” Watazumi-style playing or the pieces taught by Watazumi.

This particular lineage has roots in Zen Buddhism, where transformation is guided by the breath and performance, especially of honkyoku, can become a meditative practice that cultivates awareness of breath, body, and mind. Ultimately you take in air and let it go, much like a thought in zazen, or seated meditation.