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Topic: understanding the use of an instrument

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  1. #1

    understanding the use of an instrument

    Please excuse any sloppiness in my writing or lack of detail.

    I find myself messing with the shakuhachi from the WI library probably more than other instruments. Then I ask myself:

    - what is the shakuhachi (i mean that in a deeper sense than a flute)?
    - what is it's purpose when related to feeling?
    - how does it work in the sense of feeling or emotion? such as, what does it represent?

    To my understanding the shakuhachi is an instrument for very deep meditation that is based around the breath of the player. Does that mean that one should not write some kind of melody? Supposedly it originated in China but is now considered to be a Japanese instrument. I think, though, may be wrong that the shakuhachi is used to understand the soul's meditation who is playing the shakuhachi, through the manipulation of the sound by the breath - and therefore the listener can understand what it is - precisely (if the listener is as attuned to sound as the player, etc.) - the player is feeling.

    Though, I still have no real and true understanding of the shakuhachi.

    To my understanding eastern music tuning originated from a Buddhist monk who achieved a state of feeling and understanding of sound - to such a high degree he could create flutes that sounded like bird calls. I find that to be very beautiful - perhaps a myth - though nonetheless beautiful, imo.

    I guess my point is that I find it fascinating that each instrument has such unbelievable meaning and stories behind them and what they represent - and am curious to learn more about what instrument should be used for what, etc.

    All The Best.

    As a side note, I think the orchestra is slightly different - it seems to be more of a basis or foundation. As, imo, twelve tone is, or any aligned (I guess one would say) tuning method?

  2. #2

    Re: understanding the use of an instrument

    It's a very interesting post, Preston - Thanks for it.

    Having a powerful tool like the Garritan World Library can certainly open so many doors for us. I'm sure I'm not alone, opening up World for the first time, and seeing instruments I'd never heard of before. The manual is a good starting point for background information on all of the instruments, and then Google of course brings up a lot more information. It's fun to find You Tube videos that demonstrate musicians playing various instruments in their original authentic contexts.

    This is probably a typically eclectic, modern attitude - but I don't expect to find specific "meaning" for any instrument. People all over the world have made all sorts of instruments for centuries, and they all fall into the same basic categories - wind instruments, percussion instruments, stringed instruments. While individual instruments have their specific origins, and original purposes, to me they're all variations of those basic instrumental groups, and can be appropriately blended together in a literally infinite number of ways.

    In other words - I'm of the "It's all good - use it all, and use it in new ways!" school of thought when it comes to the huge variety of instruments from all places and times.

    Randy

  3. #3

    Re: understanding the use of an instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser- View Post
    It's a very interesting post, Preston - Thanks for it.

    Having a powerful tool like the Garritan World Library can certainly open so many doors for us. I'm sure I'm not alone, opening up World for the first time, and seeing instruments I'd never heard of before. The manual is a good starting point for background information on all of the instruments, and then Google of course brings up a lot more information. It's fun to find You Tube videos that demonstrate musicians playing various instruments in their original authentic contexts.

    This is probably a typically eclectic, modern attitude - but I don't expect to find specific "meaning" for any instrument. People all over the world have made all sorts of instruments for centuries, and they all fall into the same basic categories - wind instruments, percussion instruments, stringed instruments. While individual instruments have their specific origins, and original purposes, to me they're all variations of those basic instrumental groups, and can be appropriately blended together in a literally infinite number of ways.

    In other words - I'm of the "It's all good - use it all, and use it in new ways!" school of thought when it comes to the huge variety of instruments from all places and times.

    Randy
    Thank you for your understanding to the original post Randy - though I do disagree, ;-). The reason being is because I believe greatly that each instrument (well, at least a lot of them - and particularly ancient/traditional eastern instruments) have a unique purpose or meaning. That is something I cannot help. I think that is the beauty of an instrument - the purpose or meaning of it and behind it - and that shows us how the instrument is meant to be used properly. Not that I even know how to use the shakuhachi to its fullest (which would be beyond any imaginative thought I have). In truth, I do not even really understand the slightest bit of the shakuhachi, except what I have written, though I hope to eventually learn. I imagine that when properly played there is no temperament - just the sound of the instrument and the feeling through the breath of the person playing it.

    All the best.

  4. #4

    Re: understanding the use of an instrument

    Hello again, Preston

    I think you disapprove of what I said more than disagree - I tried to explain something about how I feel, so you can't actually disagree, since I'm the expert on how I think. You disapprove, and that of course is fine.

    I believe the meaning in anything is what we bring to it, not in what something inherently has on its own. And with instruments, my primary interest is Sound, in all its variety. For me, it's too restricting and academic to only be concerned with what the original "meaning" of a given instrument was/is - a quality impossible to pin down anyway. I think trying to uncover the particular "meaning" of an instrument is just as impossible and ephemeral a task as trying to figure out the "meaning" of a flower.

    When I did a piece using Indian instruments, Tabla, Sitar etc, I enjoyed looking up information about the Raga form, and practiced emulating how masters of those instruments play their music. But that was background research for my piece - I wasn't interested in being only emulative. I humbly understood that it would be foolish for me to try and re-do what the Indian musicians have already developed for many hundreds of years. What I had learned about Raga became distilled, modified, even distorted, in the interests of creating something new with those sounds. Whatever aura of feeling that exists in that piece I wrote isn't the same feeling as in authentic Raga music, it's the result of how I synthesized and processed some old and very complex traditions into something that only I could write.

    The only thing that concerns me when I hear music is if it's interesting. And music that combines sounds from many different eras and places into one new, unique piece, is very interesting to me. When I want to hear ethnic instruments authentically played, I know I can find recordings like that and enjoy those too.

    And so on!

    Randy

  5. #5
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  7. #7

    Re: understanding the use of an instrument

    “Spend ten years observing bamboos, become a bamboo yourself, then forget everything and paint.”
    - Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  8. #8

    Re: understanding the use of an instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser- View Post
    Hello again, Preston

    I think you disapprove of what I said more than disagree - I tried to explain something about how I feel, so you can't actually disagree, since I'm the expert on how I think. You disapprove, and that of course is fine.
    If anything I approve (seems a rather pompous thing to say) of what I think you are saying - that a, so to say, "flute is a flute" and "stringed instrument a stringed instrument", etc.?. Though, what I was disagree with is that - in truth - the truth of the instrument is the purpose of the instrument. Such as, the feelings the shakuhachi can produce, are the - truth - of the shakuhachi. One can play the shakuhachi for any kind, type, etc. of music - though they are not truly playing the shakuhachi, imo.

    I believe the meaning in anything is what we bring to it, not in what something inherently has on its own.
    This is what I am talking about. The real meaning does not lie in what we bring to the instrument but the instrument itself.
    For me, it's too restricting and academic to only be concerned with what the original "meaning" of a given instrument was/is - a quality impossible to pin down anyway.
    It should not be pinned down, though it should be implemented.
    I think trying to uncover the particular "meaning" of an instrument is just as impossible and ephemeral a task as trying to figure out the "meaning" of a flower.
    I agree, to a point - though, as mentioned above it should be more about implementation. Though I also believe that there are people who become so attuned with sound they can "pin" it down - rare but true.
    When I did a piece using Indian instruments, Tabla, Sitar etc, I enjoyed looking up information about the Raga form, and practiced emulating how masters of those instruments play their music. But that was background research for my piece - I wasn't interested in being only emulative. I humbly understood that it would be foolish for me to try and re-do what the Indian musicians have already developed for many hundreds of years. What I had learned about Raga became distilled, modified, even distorted, in the interests of creating something new with those sounds. Whatever aura of feeling that exists in that piece I wrote isn't the same feeling as in authentic Raga music, it's the result of how I synthesized and processed some old and very complex traditions into something that only I could write.
    I do not disapprove with that, .

    I believe that if one is musically attuned then they should use the instrument that suits what they are feeling. And not use instruments that do not capture what it is they are feeling - because they think it sounds neat, interesting, etc. Though that seems to me to be more of a complex subject which does not really relate to this.

  9. #9

    Re: understanding the use of an instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by reberclark View Post
    “Spend ten years observing bamboos, become a bamboo yourself, then forget everything and paint.”
    - Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery
    I feel a great depth in the quote you write of - though what I do not understand is if one becomes the bamboo (which is most beautiful to become) - why forget and paint? This confuses me.

    "then forget everything and paint" - differs from the rest of the quote in a most irrational way. As if the author is just saying "screw it" - that is becoming bamboo. Which seems incredibly irrational, naive, insane, etc.

    Would you mind explaining your understanding of the quote. Perhaps it relates to the brutality of archery? Perhaps there is not Zen in archery because it is a weapon of death?

    Wait, I think I understand - spend years studying the art of bamboo (nature, etc.) even to become the bamboo, etc. - only to end up killing with the wood of the bamboo - the very thing that was understood - and the very thing that was purest.

  10. #10

    Re: understanding the use of an instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by PrestonC View Post
    I feel a great depth in the quote you write of - though what I do not understand is if one becomes the bamboo (which is most beautiful to become) - why forget and paint? This confuses me.

    "then forget everything and paint" - differs from the rest of the quote in a most irrational way. As if the author is just saying "screw it" - that is becoming bamboo. Which seems incredibly irrational, naive, insane, etc.
    Quote Originally Posted by PrestonC View Post


    Would you mind explaining your understanding of the quote. Perhaps it relates to the brutality of archery? Perhaps there is not Zen in archery because it is a weapon of death?


    Wait, I think I understand - spend years studying the art of bamboo (nature, etc.) even to become the bamboo, etc. - only to end up killing with the wood of the bamboo - the very
    thing that was understood - and the very thing that was purest.


    Hi Preston. Herrigel states elsewhere in the book:

    “The sword master is as unself-conscious as the beginner. The nonchalance [‘laessigkeit’ - ‘naiveté?’ ‘laxity?’] which he gave up at the beginning of his instruction he wins back again at the end as an indestructible characteristic.”
    - Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery


    "Sword Master" is, in my opinion, any master, even one of bamboo. One has a naturalness as a beginner that is many times lost and obscured by study and practice. I believe that this statement means, in relation to the bamboo statement, that one should study hard, so hard in fact that one becomes the subject. Then, to regain the naturalness of the original uncomplicated beginner, one should forget facts, figures, analysis etc and go with what your (newly trained and forever altered) cells tell you.


    I believe this is the unquantified difference between true masters of an art and of those who try to do it all by mind and thought alone. There is a final step by which the true master wields his art with effortless force. It is the hardest step. Many educational institutions are full of those who know all the facts and history yet miss the radiance. The best teachers have this radiance - you've probably met some.


    Hope that wasn't too confusing! Plus, I am no expert!


    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

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