Floating Clouds CD

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Bosatsu, Ukigumo, and Tamuke / Floating Clouds

by: Michael Chikuzen Gould

This CD consists of 9 Honkyoku songs recorded by Michael Gould in 1997. Honkyoku are the songs which were created by Mendicant Zen monks. These monks wandered the countryside playing the Shakuhachi during their pilgrimages and wishing to be delivered from earthly desires. Unsurprisingly, the titles of Honkyoku are usually associated with nature, i.e. trees, clouds, mountains, valleys, wind, etc.

The three title songs, Bosatsu, Ukigumo, and Tamuke are a tonal trilogy used to view the metaphysical landscape of life on Earth, then the freedom from worldly greed and desire, and, finally, the compassion born of such freedom.

Michael Chikuzen Gould lived in Japan from 1980 to 1997 and studied shakuhachi under renowned masters Taniguchi Yoshinobu and Yokoyama Katsuya. Gould earned a “Shihan” (Master of Shakuhachi) in 1987 and was given the name “Chikuzen.” In 1994, he became one of only a handful of non-Japanese to hold the title of “Dai Shihan” (Grand Master of Shakuhachi). After returning to the U.S., Chikuzen taught Zen Buddhism and Shakuhachi at the University of Michigan, Oberlin College, and Wittenberg University.

One of the most prolific performers outside of Japan, Chikuzen has presented over 500 solo concerts and has also played with traditional Japanese music ensembles, Taiko drumming groups, Chinese harp and pipe organ. He appeared in the world premiere of the opera “Madame Butterfly” using Japanese instruments, performed Karl Jenkins’ “Requiem” with the Metropolitan Detroit Chorale, and provided the music for the prestigious Dance Company of Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan in a presentation of the works of Mary Cassatte. Chikuzen is also a shakuhachi instructor at the annual Shakuhachi Camp of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado.

The capacity of the Shakuhachi is huge, not only as a musical instrument due to its variety of colors and special sounds, but, more so as a link or bridge between the essential nature (soul) of human beings and the essential nature (spirit) of the cosmos. The ability of the Shakuhachi to reach into people and touch something deep inside, to stir up something in a place that is not often used, is evidenced by the large number of people attracted to it that express such an experience. At the same time, it has always evoked images of nature the music reminding individuals of a beautiful place they visited, maybe waterfalls, mountains, or the seaside. Many titles of the songs (honkyoku) created by the Zen monks bear natural titles: Three mountains, Three Valleys, Floating Clouds, A Mountain Waterfall, Crane Calls, The Distant Cry of the Deer, and so forth.