for two shakuhachi players (2012)
1 Jiari-Shakuhachi (lacquered) [1.8 shaku length] plus 2 crotales [pitches D and E; sounding an octave higher than written] with brass mallet, or small Japanese temple bowl [indeterminate high pitch; ca. 5cms in diameter and 2.5cms deep] with bead striker; 1 Jinashi-Shakuhachi (un-lacquered), or soft-toned wooden or unlacquered bamboo shakuhachi [1.8 shaku length] plus 2 crotales [pitches D and E; sounding an octave higher than written] with brass mallet, or small Japanese temple bowl [indeterminate high pitch; ca. 5cms in diameter and 2.5cms deep] with bead striker; duration: 10′ 00″; publisher: Australian Music Centre
score available from
Spirit-Presence was inspired by the earthy un-lacquered sounds of the Jinashi-Shakuhachi (Zensabo School) and Jim Franklin’s Jiari-Shakuhachi (Kokusai Shakuhachi Kenshukan), especially the heart of his sound—rich reverberation echoes and bell hints from the Hearing Stillness recording made in the Abbey Church in Neresheim, Germany. The reverential honkyoku stillness and reverberation with Christian bell overtones inspired my own evocation of ecstatic glossolalia (speaking in tongues) of the Christian tradition with the spacious bellbird sounds reverberant in the lower Blue Mountains bush, near where I live in Sydney. My work opens with the earthy roughness of long held-note un-lacquered sounds graduating air-noise sounds to half-pitches with slowly evolving vibrato against bellbird-like punctuations of high ringing metal resonances (either crotales or Japanese temple bowl) and glossolalia attack hints. As the work progresses, movement sections emerge of explosive attack breath and whirling arpeggios with wild yuri and vibrato pitch-fluctuations as well as gurgling as if the lower Blue Mountains birdsong had erupted into a reverberant cacophony alongside chant-like bursts of phonemes from glossolalia. Returning un-lacquered long-note stillness provides breath respite after the ecstatic sound but this is still cut by birdsong-like exuberance of lacquered shakuhachi arpeggio bursts. An intense ecstatic centre forms a culmination of the vocalize hints of glossolalia and manic birdsong inspired life through repeated-note chant and agitated-sounds of un-lacquered shakuhachi versus sustained high register arpeggios of smooth-lacquered sound perforated with tamane gurgles on both instruments. The earthy roughness of long evolving sounds merging between half-pitch and air sounds with tamane returning amidst metal resonances and chant phonemes to still the piece to earth again.
Jim Franklin commissioned Spirit-Presence for performance at the European Shakuhachi Festival.