“The reason you keep on coming back to see me is very simple; every time you have seen me your body has learned certain things, even against your desire. And finally your body now needs to come back to me to learn more. Let’s say that your body knows that it is going to die, even though you never think about it. So I’ve been telling your body that I too am going to die and before I do I would like to show our body certain things, things which you cannot give to your body yourself… So let’s say then that your body returns to me because I am its friend.”
Carlos Castaneda

Journey to Ixtlan

Playing Bamboo Leaves


During my first Shakuhachi lesson my teacher moved two fingers through the air in a way that described a shape of a bamboo leaf. He suggested I try to play tones accordingly – starting from silent, growing fuller and stronger and then fading out slowly and gently, almost if the sound never comes to an end. This metaphor touched me deeply and has been at the core of my practice ever since. For me it seems like a never-ending exploration of refinement and subtlety and it has kept me deeply involved with playing.

Here is a short recording I made of practicing just one tone with this idea in mind: playing bamboo leaf shaped tones

When I viewed this recording in a sound editor I could actually see the tone shapes and how they change. Though it can be very challenging to reach a consistent shape and tone the practice is always rewarding. I experience great pleasure every time I experience a soft and effortless fading of a tone, every time I complete a tone just as my breath comes to an end, every time I discover a new potential for refinement (I realized fading in is a very different challenge than fading out). This simple image of a bamboo leaf created a vast space for me to explore.

Finally, here is a recording I made of playing the first 5 breath of Take Shirabe where I try to incorporate this idea of bamboo-leaf shaped tones: 5 breaths of Take Shirabe

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