Friday, January 30, 2009

The Economics of It All

I've been involved in collecting shakuhachi for some time here in Japan. It's generally had many rewards. For example, I've been able to pass some of my collection on to eager learners who otherwise don't have access to well-made instruments and reasonable prices. I've also had the great advantage of being able to play many instruments of varying quality and age. I decided to do this as a means to an end. That end is to build a recording studio and chronicle the many traditional musicians that live in these parts of Japan and who would otherwise live and die without being heard from or of. As a musician and specifically a shakuhachi player and teacher, I considered this to be a pity. I quickly realized that my unique situation would in effect kill four birds with one stone. Get the studio built and outfitted, record these living treasures and add an aspect of recognition to their lives and those of their families outside of their work-a-day lives, supply qulaity instruments to folks who didn't have reliable access to them, thus giving some happiness to them and finally, having the chance to play and increase my own collection through the avenues that I travel in order to get the shakuhachis in the first place. However, this, like many pursuits these days is taking a back seat to the world economic crisis. Movement of instruments has slowed down somewhat and that means that everything connected must also slow down. That's okay. I can wait. And in the mean time, I play.


  1. Hi, nice entry!
    Do you have collected many shakuhachi yourself?
    Playing and hearing different players/ shakuhachi is indeed nice. It always make me excited to see other shakuhachi's in real world, even more so than say another sax (which I previously played).


  2. Hey Bas, Yes I collect shakuhachi. I have about 30 shakuhachi right now. They're in all different conditions, but most are playable. I also played the sax, but never collected them. I think they just wouldn't have the variation and uniqueness that every shakuhachi has.

  3. I think sax won't has the variation and uniqueness, though shakuhachi has, too. I also heard violins don't have same sound. Because shakuhachi and violin are made by human's hand, they could have personality, I think.

  4. I didn't know about shakuhachi before reading your blog... It's an interesting handmade's traditional Japanese instrument. How long does it takes about to begginers playing well?

  5. Lily, you are quite right. In fact there are many instruments that are like that. All Japanese traditional instruments are like that. Only mass-produced instruments tend to have the same sound.
    Reinaldo, of course there are many things that will influence a learner's progress on an instrument, but generally it takes anywhere from 6 to 20 years. That being said, I have heard some players who have played for less than 6 years who play very well, and some who have played for 30 years who don't play well at all. I think a lot also has to do with the player's intention.