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Instrument and repertoire

The shakuhachi is a five-holed bamboo flute, with a historical connection to a sub-sect of Zen Buddhism called Fukeshū. The traditional pieces for shakuhachi are called honkyoku - 'fundamental pieces'. 

My first experience of hearing shakuhachi honkyoku was profound, and it absolutely broke my musical world apart. The music I was familiar with up until that point was like a wall made of bricks. Each brick had even dimensions, nice straight lines of rhythm and melody, which fit together neatly to create a solid wall.


Honkyoku, on the other hand, seemed to use rough-hewn stones that did not fit together well at all. However, creating a neat wall was not the objective. Instead, gaps were intentionally allowed to exist between the stones. Through those gaps, I caught a glimpse of the void, and was awed.

I often recognise that same quality in many Japanese practices and objects nowadays. It's in the fit and utility of natural things, such as light and shadow, sound and silence.

Lindsay Dugan



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