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Kōhachiro Miyata - Japan: Shakuhachi - The Japanese Flute (1991)

This album features serenely beautiful, centuries-old compositions performed solo by shakuhachi master Kohachiro Miyata of the Ensemble Nipponia and recorded live during the group’s first North American tour in 1976. In the years since its original release on vinyl, Western audiences have become increasingly knowledgeable about the sounds of both traditional and contemporary Japanese culture. That familiarity makes the performances preserved on this disc perhaps even more compelling to the informed audiences of today.

The shakuhachi is the most important wind instrument of Japan, where it has been used for well over a millennium. There are few, if any, other instruments in the world that associate so complex a playing technique with such simplicity of construction. Despite the presence of only five holes (and no keys), the instrument has a complete chromatic scale of more than two octaves. Larger shakuhachi have a warm and full tone similar to the flute, recorder, or clarinet families of Western instruments. Many of the solo pieces are conceived as aids for meditation, both for listener and player. A number of compositions also draw on distinctive ancient melodies in a way that preserves their unique regional character without undue emphasis on folkloric aspects. (nonesuch)

This CD is re-release of an LP issued in 1991 by Nonesuch. It is probably one of the most known and most sold shakuhachi records in the West. When one looks around for Japanese music, it may be the one found the most often. Kôhachiro Miyata is considered one of the leading shakuhachi players in Japan, along such musicians as Katsuya Yokoyama, Goro Yamaguchi, or Aoki Reibo, for example, as well as being an active composer of works for traditional Japanese instruments. On this CD, he presents us with five of the most known pieces of the Japanese honkyoku repertoire (honkyoku referring to solo pieces for shakuhachi). The one thing that strikes the most about Miyata's playing is the purity and quality of his sound. There are many different styles of playing the shakuhachi, some breathy, some more technical, some with particular playing techniques, generally according to the style of a particular school of playing. Miyata's style is natural, looking for a quality and purity of sound in each and every note. A must! (amg)

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