Sunday, March 7, 2010
Dr. Koji Matsunobu; Shakuhachi Ph.D
Dissertation title: Artful encounters with nature: Ecological and spiritual dimensions of music learning
Abstract: this ethnographic dissertation offers an in-depth analysis of how contemporary music practitioners/educators interpret, appropriate, and practice the tradition of spiritual music both inside and outside Japan, focusing on how they reframe and embody what I identify as indigenous cultural values in today’s educational settings. I specifically examine the nature of the traditional practice that approaches the shakuhachi (a type of bamboo flute) in a holistic, organic manner: Practitioners of this tradition personally harvest the bamboo and fashion their instruments directly out of nature, taking great care to preserve and appreciate the nature inherent to each piece of bamboo. Their instruments are much less processed and closely resemble the natural state of each piece of bamboo. This type of organic activities through music—hardly introduced and practiced in the educational realm—are observed both inside and outside of Japan. The practice of shakuhachi related more directly to Capra’s vision of environmental ethics. Capra (1996) argues that the basic principles of teaching and learning should be congruent with the characteristics of ecosystems such as interdependence, sustainability, ecological cycles, energy flows, partnerships, flexibility, diversity, and co-evolution. The practice of shakuhachi making, for instance, is interdependent on the natural resources available in each place and cannot occur without a sustainable relationship with the land. Diversity of musical practice is brought about through the various shapes and sounds yielded by different bamboo pieces. The natural materials make it possible for practitioners to embody the flow of the earth energy (ki) through sound. Co-evolution is observed when practitioners yield to the distinctive characteristics of their individual pieces of bamboo as they are, assimilating themselves to them, instead of altering them in favor of functionality. They get used to each bamboo segment in time while developing a sense of attachment, devotion, and responsibility. The findings of this dissertation suggested that music learning is place-based and instrument making serves as a process of localizing and personalizing music learning. In order to articulate this integrative, interactive nature of music practice, this dissertation submitted an emerging notion of “self-integration” as a form of actualizing the body-mind, human-nature integration.