What is Zen Music?

This is often very misunderstood. In Japan, Zen Music is a form of music known as Koten Honkyoku - the largest and oldest collection of solo shakuhachi music that was written centuries ago by unidentified Komuso monks. It is not soothing, new agey music. Zen Honkyoku music is a cultural music form and are specific, individually named and written pieces of music. It is played with demanding technical requirements from both the player and the flute. Not all shakuhachi flutes are suitable or capable of playing Zen Honkyoku music. It is complex in timbre and pitch and uses many shaded fingerings that do not work on lesser shakuhachi-like flutes. Honkyoku can sound atonal to Western ears because of the micro-tonal pitch bends and old Japanese musical intervals. The term Zen music is often mistakenly interchanged with “SUIZEN”, which means “blowing zen” in Japanese. Suizen is a non-technical way of playing the shakuhachi for Zen meditation. Suizen is is about meditating, not playing music. It does not require any musical playing techniques. Suizen is an individual’s approach to meditating with focus on breath control and can be practiced on any kind of flute. The simplest of bamboo flutes will work for “blowing Zen” but only a fine shakuhachi instrument will work for Koten Honkyoku. The modern shakuhachi is a well-tuned instrument great for playing with a Western orchestra or jazz band but some may feel it is not well suited for the original Koten Honkyoku music. To me, it boils down to a personal preference developed over many years of exposure to master players and experience.

Zen saying for Perry.