The significance of Kyu Myoan schools for the student
These pieces are some of the most musically complex and classically melodic out of all of the schools that I teach. They have unique note combinations that are not found in any other school that I teach and the Kichiku Ryu pieces are played with a set rhythm using the unique Mo timing system. The Kichiku school effectively takes the place of Sankyoku by providing a solid classical musical background for my students. The pieces are no less beautiful and difficult than Sankyoku and they’re much better suited to solo playing. However, when a student is interested in Sankyoku I teach some of those pieces as well. The Shinpo Ryu variations contain some very unique ornamentations and there’s the option to choose which ornaments to use in some cases.
History of Myoan-ji (temple) in Kyoto
Kyu means “old” and refers to the first Myoan-ji. During the Edo period Myoan-ji served as the main shakuhachi temple in Kyoto and for the whole Kansai region. However, Myoan-ji was destroyed during the Meiji Restoration’s persecution of all things Buddhist. The second and current Myoan-ji was established in the Meiji period by Higuchi Taizan for his school which plays different pieces of music than that of the first Myoan-ji.
Kyu Myoan-ji was largely independent from the Fuke sect’s headquarters in the capital (Ichigetsu-ji and Reiho-ji). This was reflected in the music which had a largely different notation system. According to one document the first Ryu or “school” founded at Myoan-ji was called the Kichiku Ryu.
Ozaki Shinryu (Shinryo is the older pronunciation) (1820-1888) taught the honkyoku of Myoan-ji and his student Katsura Shozan (1856-1942) became head of the school when Shinryo’s chosen successor died at an early age. Shozan renamed the school Shinpo, presumably from Kichiku Ryu, and added many more honkyoku pieces to the repertoire, among other changes. Shozan attracted many students and was known as the “last Komuso“. (More history of Myoan-ji can be read on the Myoan blog page by Dean Seicho Del Bene.)
Translating Ozaki Shinryu’s scores
I learned from and translated Ozaki Shinryu’s Kichiku Ryu scores which his student Katsura Shozan adapted to form his Shinpo Ryu pieces. Ozaki Shinryu and Katsura Shozan both used “Fu, Ho, U, We, Ya” (フホウ) as apposed to the more common “Ro, Tsu, Re, Chi, Ri/Ha/Hi (ロツレ) systems. Ozaki Shinryu’s notation is exact and detailed, even redundant in information. My translations are literal, a note for note swap. I also retained the unique Mo (モ) timing system. I use a vertical line to the left hand side to indicate Kan which I adopted from the old Seien Ryu scores. This allows one to see the overall octave structure of a piece at one glance which me and my students have found to be useful.
Mo (モ) in this case is short for Motase or “time”. The Mo timing system is unique and integral to trying to understand these pieces. No Mo under a note means it’s played for just one beat, a note with Mo is two beats, and a Mo can also have dashes underneath it with each dash adding two more beats. Like Sankyoku a piece can start slowly, gain momentum, and slow down again, both from the beginning and end of a piece and also within a piece around Dan or “sections”.
Tehodoki Reiho in my notation
Tehodoki means “to lead by the hand” while Reiho is another way of pronouncing Reibo. In Chinese the meaning of the Kanji for Rei is “bell” and bo is “admiration/yearning”. Reibo can be taken to mean a “yearning for the bell”. The bell, in this case, was that of the fictional Chinese “Zen” monk Fuke Zenji. However, the bell can symbolize the words of a teacher, their essence, or even their enlightenment. In other words, Reibo can mean “the desire of the spiritual seeker for enlightenment” which is often embodied and symbolized by the teacher in such traditions. A literal bell can also be compared to the shakuhachi in that both are empty and the root-end has a bell shape. The piece below is the first of the Kyu Myoan repertoires and has relatively short breaths so a slow even pace throughout suits it well. I’m playing it strictly to the notation which is a direct translation of Ozaki Shinryu’s notation.