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For those who speak Japlish, here's the instrument for you!
May 4, 2009 3:22 AM   Subscribe

You all know what a flute looks like; no need to link to any images. And most of you probably know what a Japanese shakuhachi looks like, although in case your memory needs a jog, it's this one. But what you probably haven't seen before is the hybrid of the two - the Shakulute. And it's no joke; it's catching on; plenty of people are now playing it. Curious about the sound? There are a number of mp3s for listening here.
posted by woodblock100 (27 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'll be damned. I was fully prepared to be underwhelmed, but it actually works. It'd be wise for people to keep in mind, of course, that so much of the 'shakuhachi-ness' that we hear in the audio samples is due to the expert technique of the player, who is, of course, a trained shakuhachi player. The breath, you know, it's all about the breath, and the phrasing, and that ain't something that's just gonna come from slapping one of these babies on your flute. But, it really is quite an amazing innovation, and I'm really surprised at the sound. I think it works best on the alto flute, but the C flute samples sound good, too.

Tell you, though, they ain't cheap.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:00 AM on May 4, 2009


What his web site doesn't say is that it all resulted from this question.
posted by aetg at 4:01 AM on May 4, 2009


I was speaking to an Irish chap a while back and he told me how frustratingly bastard-assed hard it was to buy a tin whistle in Australia.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:07 AM on May 4, 2009


I was fully prepared to be underwhelmed

That was my initial reaction too, Flapjax, when I first saw the page. "Cheeze, give me a break!" But it sounds very good indeed - adds a good broadness of tone to an instrument that all too frequently is thin and pipey. And it only has to sound 'Japanese' if that's the spin the player wants to put on it.
posted by woodblock100 at 4:10 AM on May 4, 2009


I would totally buy one of those if it didn't cost so much.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 4:31 AM on May 4, 2009


Sounds like that's what made those cool noises at the beginning of Jurassic Park.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:57 AM on May 4, 2009


In the first half of the 20th century, Ōkura Kishichirō had a similar idea, ultimately culminating in the release of his Okuraulo (オークラウロ: Ōkura + Aulos), Boehm-style flute with a shakuhachi-style mouthpiece, in the mid-30s. It was available in five different sizes from basso to piccolo, and was promoted via the media and live concerts (all backed by Ōkura's swimming pools full of gold coins), but eventually faded away.

Presumably this was because there just weren't enough people interested in a hybrid like that. Flute players didn't want to mess with this primitive utaguchi nonsense when they could play a proper flute and commune more closely with the Western classical tradition. And Shakuhachi players didn't want to mess with keys and engineering when simplicity was part of the point of their instrument. (Even cutting a couple of extra holes in the bamboo to make E flat and B flat easier neuters much of the traditional solo shakuhachi repertoire; the Okurauro is truly beyond the pale.)

The history of Japanese music from Taisho through early Showa is all about attempts to introduce ideas from the West. Some were successful (Miyagi Michio's new approach to composition and his 17-stringed koto), and some were not (Miyagi's 80-stringed "piano koto", and the gōgen bass shamisen invented by Kineya Sakichi IV and Kikuoka Matsujirō)

P.S. You can hear an Okuraulo being played here. Search for オークラウロ. Please do not crash this site because I love it like a son.
posted by No-sword at 4:58 AM on May 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


... Oh, right, so my point is that it's interesting now that the tables have turned and Western-style musicians are adopting Japanese ideas and engineering. And not just for superficial reasons, either... a lot of the testimonials on that page praise the shakalute in very specific technique-related terms (makes the low C fuller or whatever).
posted by No-sword at 5:04 AM on May 4, 2009


Have, um, y'all looked properly at the images you get at that first link, if you - like me - have Google's 'safe search' set by default to off? Just thinking a 'possibly NSFW' warning might be helpful here for some...

*no, the fact that I have safe search off by default doesn't mean that I use Google Image search to look for mucky images... in fact, I don't quite know why it's 'off'. But it is. And as a consequence, your link produces decidely NSFW images here...
posted by Hartham's Hugging Robots at 5:34 AM on May 4, 2009


decidedly NSFW images ...

Hmmm ... certainly nothing like that showed up when I tested the link, but I do have Safe Search on.

Maybe the Mods can add [&sa=1] to the Google link? (I think that's what turns on 'safe' mode)
posted by woodblock100 at 5:50 AM on May 4, 2009


Yeah, Safe Search is off over here and there are a few NSFW images in that Google Image search. Good thing I'm "working from home" these days.
posted by emelenjr at 6:34 AM on May 4, 2009


Reminds me of the time I put my french horn mouthpiece into the neck of my flute - only pretty, and not at all reminiscent of ducks farting. If I had a ridiculous amount of money to throw around, I would buy one and play a new game called Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon with my dog.
posted by greekphilosophy at 6:41 AM on May 4, 2009


Hey, No-sword, nice little goldmine of links in your comment above, especially that last one with all the mp3s from old 78s. Brilliant! And that pic of a bass shamisen! Wow! Never seen one of those til now! Amazing.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:47 AM on May 4, 2009


Why would it be a joke?
posted by Bovine Love at 6:52 AM on May 4, 2009


Why would it be a joke?

Huh? Did someone say it would be a joke? I don't understand your comment.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:00 AM on May 4, 2009


What a gorgeous sound they make. I bought a shakuhachi a few years back but have never been able to make anything more than 1 or 2 notes sound good. Now I want to dig it up and start trying again. Thanks for posting this!
posted by jquinby at 7:06 AM on May 4, 2009


OP: And it's no joke; it's catching on; plenty of people are now playing it.
posted by Bovine Love at 7:20 AM on May 4, 2009


Oh, I see... missed that. Well, I think the "it's no joke" is just a figure of speech, indicating "hey, this thing is really pretty good", and I can see why woodblock would use it, because things like this can often be, well, not so good.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:24 AM on May 4, 2009


most of you probably know what a Japanese shakuhachi looks like

Uh, I'm a musician, a lover and collector of unusual instruments to boot, and I'm not sure I've ever even heard of a shakuhachumajigathing before. This is not to flaunt my ignorance, au contraire, I'm glad I learned something new. But it just seems like such a strange assumption to make. I'm not that much a Japanophile or into "world music", so "most" seems like wishful thinking to me. That, or some jaded kind of smugness:

"Why yes, I am familiar with the oeuvre of Berthold Schinkenbrenner, thank you very much. But I prefer his earlier work."

I'm sure you didn't mean it that way though. And now I know what a shakuhachi looks like! So all is well.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:30 AM on May 4, 2009


I'm not sure I've ever even heard of a shakuhachumajigathing before.

No, no, goodnews, the shakuhachumajigathing is from Pakistan, dude, and is only played on alternate Thursdays by itinerant musicians (almost always blind, or at least somewhat nearsighted) who use its obnoxiously shrill, piercing sound to advertise headache medicine. Get it straight, man.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:40 AM on May 4, 2009


Great. Now all I can think of is, "Shakuhachumajigathing! Apply directly to the forehead! Shakuhachumajigathing! Apply directly to the forehead!"
posted by Madamina at 8:25 AM on May 4, 2009


Ah, for all I knew, there was some big subculture of joke hybrid instruments I was missing out on. I hate missing a subculture; they are addictive.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:39 AM on May 4, 2009


ome big subculture of joke hybrid instruments ...

Well, now that you mention it ...
posted by woodblock100 at 8:46 AM on May 4, 2009


In one of the photos of the google-shakuhachi link, a guy is playing with a basket in his head.
Anyone?
posted by allelopath at 9:11 AM on May 4, 2009


allelopath: More.
posted by jquinby at 9:55 AM on May 4, 2009


In one of the photos of the google-shakuhachi link, a guy is playing with a basket in his head.
Anyone?


Fukaamigasa, common for traveling monks to wear.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:35 PM on May 4, 2009


If you haven't heard of the shakuhachi you might be interested in learning about Toru Takemitsu. Here is a sample of one of his compositions for biwa and shakuhachi: Eclipse.
posted by winna at 11:24 PM on May 4, 2009


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