KotoJazz 62: Song Stories- Wandering Kabuto Mushi

“Wandering Kabuto Mushi” is a tune about the wandering rhinoceros beetle, or Kabuto mushi. This Japanese beetle is a prized pet among children who raise them and care for them like pets in Japan.

One of my most joyful and memorable experiences of childhood was going out beetle and bug hunting with my Uncle Yasushi outside of Omiya. We climbed trees to observe and catch the Japanese Rhinoceros Beetle in the wild. I was 6 or 7 at the time. We would also hunt for and catch other exotic bugs such as stag beetles and “semmi” or cicadas. Different from the cicadas I’ve seen in he States, the Japanese semmi can be a gorgeous aqua green to blue color, or even orange to fiery red. There is an entire mini industry and bug pet raising culture in Japan, especially in the rural communities of Japan.

This song Wandering Kabuto Mushi is about the slow and steady nature of this prized Japanese pet, like the slow moving but wise tortoise.

Unfortunately, my vast collection of rhinoceros beetles and other exotic bugs which I had stored at my mother’s place in Boulder was swept away and destroyed by last year’s flood. Some family friends were forced out of their homes, and others lost their lives, so the loss of my skeleton insect relics were small compared to that. Still, I miss them, but this simple song carries on my memories of them.

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Koto Jazz 61: Song Stories – Searching for the Rising Sun

“Searching for the Rising Sun” is a memorial piece for my father who passed away at this time last year. As myself, dad spent his life seeking to share his understanding of Japan and East Asia with the west. He was an educator by trade. I’m a musician and sales person, but the end goal is the same.

The title of the tune is truly reflective of his aim — a search for the land of the Rising Sun, representing Japan.

Koto Jazz 60: Song Stories – Aki No Hou

“Aki No Hou”, which means toward the autumn season, is loosely derived by two traditional Japanese Koto pieces – “Midare” (off balance) and “Aki No Koto No Ha” (the sea in springtime). Some of the plucking styles used in “Midare” are used here.

While my tunes have similar patterns to the “Akin no Koto no Ha”, Aki no Hou takes on a life of its own. Ultimately my creation as the final product has little or no resemblance to these ancient Japanese original works. I wrote “Aki no Hou” in the fall of 2014, inspired by the changing seasons, the energetic dynamics of the autumn; the changing colors of trees and plants, the bustling of wildlife in preparation for winter, and the anticipation of settling into its moments of solitude.

Koto Jazz 59: Stones & Rock Gardens

The Way of Zen and Zen values of simplicity (kanso), naturalness (shizo), and refined elegance are similar values expressed in the Japanese garden, and defines Japanese rock gardens. Stones and rocks derive from the natural banks of rivers and creeks. They provide accents for distinctive garden areas, including walkways, waterfall bases, creek borders, ponds and lakes, and garden sections. Rocks and pebbles of rock gardens are raked into patterns of flowing streams, undulating waves, and accents around larger stone island or bonsai trees, and other features. Other patterns can be checkered or angled or alternating lines.

Large feature stones are grouped by themselves or they are grouped in threes with a taller boulder standing regally behind two shorter boulders, presenting balance. All three stones are generally vertical, with the taller stone in the center representing The Buddha (one who has become enlightened), and the two other stones on each side representing two Bodhisattvas (one who is “bound for enlightenment; the two stones are called sanson). They are placed next to water, a body of water or water feature, as images of water features, natural hills and/or mountain scenes.

Bodies of water are represented in the Japanese garden by a pond or lake. In the case of dry Zen rock gardens where sand and gravel represent the sea or ocean, the stones would be placed next to or in the sand/ pebble garden. The scene of ocean and sea occupying the majority of the garden space (“chisen”) originates from China, as does the garden aesthetic and spirituality of Zen Buddhism. Groups of rocks on one or more sides of the body of water in the garden may represent the seashore.

Koto Jazz 58: Song Stories- Raindrops Fall from Trees (Ki Kara Amei No Shizuku)

This “Raindrops Fall from Trees” song is special as it originated with a fun music exchange with my daughter as we traded turns playing my keyboard one rainy spring day. She came up with a basic melody which is the basis of this song. The song conjures up the likeness of gentle raindrops falling on leaves and tree branches, then coalescing to slide off leaves and land on the moist earth below. It is like the gentle hands of the sky extending its reach to the earth to give us peace in solitude.

While I added to it, the original melody remains, on of the relaxing meditative tunes. It is a beautiful spontaneous expression my daughter came up with and she just as quickly and easily named it. “Why its raindrops falling from trees of course.” Yes, of course.