Vlastislav Matoušek: Sometimes, just listening is enough...
Once upon a time, I found myself in the Branik Theater at a concert of traditional Japanese music. That kind of things happened to me often. As a graduated composer, beginning ethnomusicologist and a veteran musician in various underground, alternative and experimental bands, I was very interested in the music of different cultures. I even knew Japanese traditional music both from recordings and musicological literature. I wasn't surprised when, on the stage where I was used to see plays by Jara Cimrman or used to perform the scenic music in Jaroslav Rona's "Small Brat" myself, stepped an inconspicuous Japanese gentleman, clothed in traditional kimono from the Edo period, holding a sturdy piece of bamboo in his hands. Yes. Without a doubt, that was the famous shakuhachi, the flute I listened to with a special interest in recordings of Sankyoku ensemble music, for instance, and which also, as one of the most interesting features, was included in every decent synthesizer. A bit surprised, I realized that no one was probably going to accompany him...
Then the first long tones filled the room's space and I, shocked, listened in fascination. He played alone. Different beads of long tones and phrases of strange sounds unwound onto a string of shining energy from somewhere from the deep infinity of the Cosmos. The world changed and my horizons collapsed, I drifted upward a little, infinitely slowly, like in zero gravity...
When he finished, I awoke. Back in our world of delusions. At that
very moment, I knew that my life would never be the same. That was
what I had been looking for my whole life; till then I was unable to
recognize what it was. It was that! Just like in the remark of John
Cage: Before studying Zen, men are men and mountains are
mountains. While studying Zen, things become confused. After studying
Zen, men are men and mountains are mountains. After telling this, Dr.
Suzuki was asked, "What is the difference between before and after?"
He said, "No difference, only the feet are a little bit off the
(John Cage: Silence, Wesleyan University Press, 8th printing, USA 1986, pg. 88)
Many things can be changed... Sometimes, just listening is enough... Just listening to shakuhachi flute...