Illustration of Komuso monk at Scottsdale's Musical Instrument Museum

Shakuhachi (notched flute)
Tokushima, Japan, 2009
Madaké bamboo
Monty H. Levenson, maker
In the key of A.
Musical Instrument Museum, #2009/176.1.1

"The musical art known as shakuhachi is inseparable from the samurai of early modern Japan.

"As elite warriors, artists, and intellectuals, samurai embodied Japan's spirituality and culture. Yet during the seventeenth century, under the rule of military governors known as the shogunate, samurai gradually lost their military function and found themselves without purpose.

"Unable to fight, many former samurai became wandering komuso monks. Members of the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhism, komoso were 'priests of emptiness and nothingness.'

While playing shakuhachi, komuso wore large, woven baskets called tengai over their heads to symbolize their detachment from the material world. In the hands of komuso monks, the shakuhachi became an iconic part of Japanese culture and remains an admired instrument for achieving both musical mastery and spirital enlightenment." (From the info card)

An example of its music can be heard via this You Tube video. A full album of shakuhachi music is also available.

There's all kinds of musical discoveries at the Musical Instrument Museum!

©Joan Ann Lansberry, 2015
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