My name is Matt Glenn. I am a student of music technlogy and sound engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Outside of class (and sometimes during) I do a ton of thinking about music and audio engineering. This blog is a my attempt at organizing my mental maelstrom.

Matt Glenn

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Flutes, Drums, and Composing...Oh My

Back in Diver land I have been doing much research on the culture behind the Shakuhachi, a traditional Japanese bamboo flute who's use dates back to 13th century zen monks, or komuso, who used the flute during prayers and meditation and to seek alms on the street. Music for this flute was organized into honkyoku, individual pieces that varied in tone, tempo and length. Here is an example, entitled Akita sugagaki:

In the 18th century, a komuso named Kinko Kurosawa was commissioned by the shogunate to travel throughout the lands of Japan to document the enormous variety of honkyoku that existed by that time. Incredibly, many of these honkyoku are taught and performed without the aid of scripted music. I have been in contact with Shakuhachi master Michael Chikuzen Gould (not to be confused with UM percussion professor Michael Gould, although the two have collaborated). We are hoping to work out a mechanical license agreement so that I can use his gorgeous recordings in the sound design for The Diver.

The Diver, by the way, is heavily influenced by traditional Japanese Noh theatre which, while an incredibly beautiful art, can appear very jarring to western audiences due to its slow pace and the unique vocal style employed:

I am hoping to adopt the instrumentation of Noh for some of my designs, including a shoulder-played drum called a Kotsuzumi, a hip-drum called a Otsuzumi, and the unmistakeable high-pitched Nohkan flute.

It will be fun and very hard to bring a new twist to the usual use of these instruments; on the other hand, it seems that most Japanese musicians and actors have trained for their entire lives to become masters, so I probably won't have a choice :).

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