zen calligraphy

to love from a human standpoint

This is my friend Yang Haiying talking about love. She has a lot of beautiful things to say.
It is worth it to say that amidst all of the conflict surrounding Tibet and China that some people have been breeding racism against Chinese people. I think this is a huge mistake. We are all beautiful. I had one friend suggest to me that he thought that the Japanese heart was purer than the Chinese heart and that therefore that Japanese people were uncapable of human rights violations in China. He implied that there was something distinctly different about the Chinese people that was causing this to happen. To be bluntly honest, I was shocked to find one of my friends saying something so wrong and horrible and bigoted.

I want to make it clear that I feel that this is endlessly incorrect. This is racism.
I believe that we are all one. We are all capable of beauty and horror. If someone kills someone - they are also killing themselves they are killing me and they are killing you. If someone is killed by someone then we are all being killed.

Let me conclude by introducing my friend Yang Haiying. She is a calligrapher from China. She is a beautiful artist and wonderful person. She has influenced me in many ways and warmed my heart repeatedly. She shares herself selflessly with the world by using Youtube. Here is a one of my favourites of her videos:

zen calligraphy

Treatment - final performance

This is the first draft of the treatment for my final performance.  Enjoy!
NOTE: some of this information may not be 100% correct/up-to-date, please contact me with any questions or concerns.



Stage is set up to Noh theatre, only in the place of where the painting of the pine tree would be (between shite/flute posts) there is a large white screen.  The black curtain in the back is pulled closed as far as the white screen goes. 

The white screen will be projected onto from behind by a digital projector.
Various items will be brought on and off stage by attendants.

There will be a mirror in the front row of the audience that I will use to watch the video projection behind me. This will help me stay in synch with the video while I perform the final part of the piece.

Gardner Sensei
Arwen-san: She will be performing the altered utsumatsu form. She will be all dressed in white, reminiscent of a piece of calligraphy paper.  She will also, be acting, in character as a stage attendant. 
Kazu-kun: He will be all dressed in black. He will help perform the taiko part.  Like arwen he will also be like a stage attendant.  The black of his clothing, in part, represent the space between the beats of the drum.
(Arwen and Kazu in my mind are like the spirits of existance and duality.  They are also like muses in my mind facilitating the creation of the performance.)
Andrew Glassett: He is helping create the audio track and will be there to help facilitate the video projection.  He will also supply the projector. He will NOT be performing on stage.  (he will also not be handling, operating, or otherwise using any UofU equipment.)


This piece contains 4 basic parts:

This piece "KOKORO" is truly intended to be a theatre of the mind, and of the heart.  Thus as you read through this treatment, as we think about the piece's presentation, and as especially as we plan details such as lighting or introduction it is important not to forget that this whole piece takes place in a very internalized world of my mind. 

The intro:
The idea in my mind is that this post modern world we live in has an overload information. Our constantly overstimuated state fractures the mind and the soul.  This intro illustrates a departure, through meditation, from chaos and suffering into a more serene and beautiful state.  Through meditation the stage becomes a sanctuary where this state can be sheltered.  The utsumatsu form solidifies, ratifies, and further defines this space and it's purpose.  This modified utsumatsu also helps to give this space a dynamic quality as a place for art to happen.

Now that the space has been defined, and one has entered into a state of calmness and meditation the next stage of the performance illustrates examples of these meditative arts that I have been studying.  This is sort of an exposition of what I use this spiritual space for.  It is also kind of an ennunciation of the theme "taiko" -- later on the theme "calligraphy" which will be later varied upon and metamorphed together.

    A form/song MIYAKE that I have learned since starting "theatre of the mind" will be used. This is a duet performed on one drum. Kazu will perform it with me.  This piece has a lot of interesting "MA" in it.  Ma is the space between notes. 
    On one level the purpose of this part of the piece is simply to supply the audience with a working definition of what taiko is, and what it is to me, in my mind.  This is a simple statement.
    There is also this concept of my interaction with this one side of the duality represented by Kazu in his black costume.
    Incidentally, MIYAKE is a very masculine, and direct piece yet with a slightly idiosyncratic rythym.  The movements especially are very masculine.

    With a huge brush and paper, I will write the charachter before the audience eyes.  This is a simple statement of calligraphy in it's pure form and it's creation in my mind.
    In this part Arwen brings out the calligraphy supplies and gently watches over...  Therefore this represents a gentle antithesis to the concept of my interaction with kazu earlier.
    Arwen's feminine movements will also contrast with the masculinity of MIYAKE.

Fusion -- Taiko Calligraphy


    Intro part A: From madness into calmness, from chaos into clarity.

    The first part of this is about 75% reliant on an audio track and only 25% foucsing on what is happening on stage.  This audio track is being composed in collaboration with a local musician who goes under the name "Nolens Volens" (this is Andrew Glassett)

    The stage is completely empty except the 4 posts and the screen.  Someone introduces the piece in English and Japanese.  The room fades to pitch black.
    Out of the darkness scattered voices and other sounds start to be heard.  (Picture if you had 10 radios all set to different stations and turned them on one by one.) The mood is chaotic and overstimulated.
    Suddenly the sound changes to that of static.  The screen suddenly lights up with the kind static snow you see on a TV screen when there is no signal.  In the middle of the screen, in schilouette I am standing holding a branch of bamboo grass.  (I am standing behind the screen casting a shadow into the projectors light.)
    Slowly I make my way walking Noh-style around and come out onto the stage.  I sit down just behind the bell spot in seiza.  I put down the branch and sit in meditation. The static sound gradually deepens and fades away.  As the static sound fades the screen fades to black and a soft, very faint bluish light glows in the room.
    If possible, it would be great to have a warmer colored light focused on the spot where I am sitting, but to have this also be very dim.
    As the sound of the static fades, In it's place you can hear the sound of wind blowing through the trees.  Through this you can eventually begin to hear the sound of one's own breathing and heartbeat fade in and back out again.

    Intro part B: Blessing of the stage. A new Utsumatsu.

This utsumatsu form is my re-imaganing of the form.  It is set to music and is performed at a faster, slightly dance like tempo.  This piece is set to the piece 'Ambergris March' 

I am sitting in the middle of the stage still in seiza.
The music begins.

As the music begins the lighting on the stage becomes brighter and clearer but still dreamlike.  This is probably the brightest the lighting should be for the entire performance.

at this point 2 figures, that I imagine to be spirits representing duality, enter along the bridgeway. (I remain in seiza) One is dressed in a snow white kimono (Arwen san) and is holding a black shide wand.  Kazu is dressed in all black hakama and is carry a white shide wand.

These 2 figures perform an altered version of utsumatsu with their shide wand instead of fan.  They end up by the shite and flute posts.

Then I get up and perform a version of utsumatsu with fan.  I have a fan that is black and white.

finally all three perform utsumatsu form one last time.  2 spirits exit.  I am left alone in center of the stage in seiza.
Lights fade to black.  Music finishes. The wind blows softly in the dark.


In the darkness a drum and stand is brought out onto the stage.
(This is the kind of stand where one drum is placed horizontally and each person plays one one side.)

the heartbeat can be heard again fading in through the sounds of the soft wind.  as the heart beats, the screen pulsates red in sync with the sounds.  This starts out dim, and gets brighter.
(the room is completely dark otherwise at this point)

The heartbeat gradually changes into the base beat of miyake (ko-don ko-don ko-don ko-don...  etc..)  We then start playing the drums very quietly in sync with the heart beat, the heart beat fades away and we perform MIYAKE.  I would love this piece to be performed as much as possible in schioluette against the back screen which would be lit up red from behind by the projector.
    This piece has 3 sections, it would be great if the first section could be done with just the screen's lighting, and then after that additional lighting could be added for the other 2 sections.
    At the end of the piece the lighting fades to total darkness.  The drum is removed in the darkness, kazu exits.


    The lights fade in with me sitting in the middle in zazen again.  The light is a little bit brighter than before.
    Arwen comes slowly onto the stage carrying a bundle or tray containing the calligraphy equipement and paper.  Everything here will be done very ceremonially and methodically.  A large roll of paper is carefully rolled out.
    I won't decide what to write on the paper until the moment of the actual performance.  I will write what ever comes to the surface at that moment.
    After I complete the piece, it will be left on the floor on the front/center of the stage for the rest of the performance.
    I will put everything away, and Arwen will remove the supplies.  I will return to zazen, and everything will fade to black and the sound of the wind blowing through the trees again.


    This part relies heavily on the rear projection screen, yet it is important that the foreground also be lit, at least a little bit.
    This time, when the lights come on again, there is 2 drums on the stage on 45 degree angle stands facing in.
    I perform the taiko/calligraphy pice as shown in that video I made around midterm.  The finished piece will be significantly longer and more developed than the video shows.
    I finish the piece and bow.  The piece is now over.

ENDING - If possible I want to have a brief Q&A session with the audience after the piece is over.
Also, just for fun, if there is time I want to close the Q&A session with one more short traditional taiko piece performed with KAZU.
then it is really over.
zen calligraphy

UPDATE - what is going on now?

Just as word of explaination as to why this has not been updated lately.
No, I have not been slacking off, I have just switched modes;
the first half of the semester was spent on research and training.  And while the research and training is still continuing, the focus has now changed over to creation and rehearsal of my final performance.
More updates to come about this.
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zen calligraphy

1 year of taiko!!! YAY!! :) Thank you all my dear friends!!!

Hi there! I just wanted to post how so very very happy I am that today is my 1 year anniversary of playing taiko!
I am so very grateful for what a wonderful experience I have had with Taiko so far!
I have made so many great and dear friends and had so much fun!
Thank you so much my dear friends of Kenshin Taiko and my many teachers!

When I first decided I wanted to learn Taiko I thought that no one would ever even let me learn from them. I was so excited when I got to start to learn! I couldn't believe they were willing to teach me!!
I am a terrible slow learner, especially at first, but I worked hard and I have had so much fun! And I couldn't believe the incredible connection to sound that it was beginning to provide me.

My hero, Evelyn Glennie.
Who inspired me find my way to learning Taiko! Thank you!!

It was my ever-favourite percussionist, and #1 hero Evelyn Glennie who inspired me to finally learn. A year ago I was freshly dumped, depressed, but deep down I felt that this was the chance in my life to become re-aquainted with myself and do thing the things and open the doors I have always been afraid of failing at. I was watching the film "touch the sound" with Evelyn Glennie, and she visits a Taiko group in Fuji.
Here is the trailer from the movie, you can see a brief clip of her playing with them:

When I saw the whole video of Evelyn playing with them, I thought to my self something similar to what I thought when I first saw Taiko performed in ogden. This thought was: "Wow, this is amazing... this is joy, and this is truly being alive!" But I also caught myself thinking, "But I can never ever be able to do this, not even a little bit." But this time, I caught myself thinking this and knew that I must do this! And now I am! I had always wanted to be a percussionist, and now I am 1 year old as one. Thank you for your inspiration Evelyn! You inspired me to continue to be an artist even though I am partly colourblind, and now I am a designer known for my grace and innovation with colour. I am learning and growing little by little of the magical world of percussion. Thank you so much!

So now I am one year old? How do I reflect on the last year? What have I achieved in this year? I will be brief.
I have gone from knowing absolutely nothing a year ago?
Now I have learned many piece of music, like:
Hiryu San dan gaeshi, bon taiko, warm-up excersizes, Hachijo-jima, Hanamichi, tenkoro, renshuu, oyuchi, TOzaiBAshi, the untitled train one, and MIYAKE!
I have been able to perform about a dozen times at places as diverse as a muslim festival, a fashion show, and The Japanese fall festival.
I have had the chance to experiment and play with my own compositions, I have even had the chance to teach my friends!
And I have made some dear friends in the process.

So now that I begin to look into the future, I will think of a few goals and I look forward to everything it has in store for me.

As for celebrating the event? What did I do? I made myself a delicious soup of miso and radish tonight and allowed myself to forget my busy schedule to write my feelings in the journal. Yesterday I was fortunate to be able to practice with my friends, and that was the most celebration I could possibly have. To learn something new, to be with my friends, to play the drum! And I wouldn't have had it any other way.
Thank you all who have helped me to this point, and thank you all who continue to touch my life and teach me and guide me!
zen calligraphy

What have I been doing at taiko lately?

The answer is: Miyake Taiko!

This is a piece that I wanted to learn for a long time, but I got so wrapped up in our piece "Bridges" and the performance we did at the fashion show, that I forgot all about it. But now I am learning it, and I love it! I am stretching my legs out a little bit every day to try to achieve a lower stance that the piece requires.

Here is a taiko group in new zeland performing the same piece so you can see what I am talking about for reference:
It is noteworthy to mention that their version is slightly different than the one I am learning. I actually like a few aspects of their Miyake better than ours, and also a few aspects of ours better than theirs, so it is fun for me to compare them. But even with the differences, this song truly expresses the same energy that I am now striving to master here! :) So here you go.

zen calligraphy

Short version of Calligraphy/Taiko video

I decided to make a short version of the calligraphy/taiko video that I posted earlier, so that people can see the result of my experiment with out having to watch the whole video where I discuss process over and over again. Here it is:

Also, here is the link to the full version where I give more examples and discuss my process if you haven't seen it yet:

Full video of Taiko/Calligraphy experiment
zen calligraphy

Report of recent activities

I haven't done this in a long time so let's see if I can remember everything,
I will do it by category:
Starting from Jan 27- Feb 20

太鼓 TAIKO -
Jan 27 - 30 min
Mon, Jan 28 - 5:30-9:30 (approx.)
Fri, Feb 1 - 5:30-9:30 (approx.)
Mon, Feb 10 - 5:30-9:30 (approx.)
Fri, Feb 15 - 6:00 PM - 12:00 midnight!!
Mon, Feb 18 - 5:30 - 9:00

Saturday , Feb 9th for the annual lunch of the retired Japanese Americans of Salt Lake City.  Had to introduce myself in Japanese.

(I feel I am not meditating often enough so far, I plan to work on this.)
Saturday Jan 26, Feb 2, 9, 16 (meditation class at red lotus)
I have also meditated on my own, but only a few times, and not very effectively.  I plan to work on this, I feel that the focus I have to gain from this will help me much.

居合道 IAIDO -  Saturday Jan 26, Feb 2, 16
Working hard.  Not very good but learning.  Missed the 9th for the Taiko performance.

書道 Shodou (calligraphy)
Feb 3rd and 17th
on the 3rd was the Sumi-e lesson with Ja, on the 17th back to calligraphy.

茶道 SADOU (tea ceremony)
Practiced with Arisa-chan on Sunday the 17th.  I was really tired.

先生と打ち合わせ There was also my meeting with Gardner 先生 on the 15th, but I will address that properly in a separate post, but for now it will suffice to say that I felt it was very positive.

その他 Also, Arwen has been coming to learn Japanese and we tricked her into trying out Taiko once.  Also Kazu (who can be seen in my taiko/calligraphy video) has been coming to Taiko and is very, very good.  He also has been giving me a good chance to try my hand at teaching, which I really enjoy.

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    wendy carlos
zen calligraphy

Calligraphy as performance art.

This is something that I am surprised I haven't posted yet, I had thought I posted it right off the bat.   These are some more "traditional" ways in which calligraphy is used as performance art.
The first video is a performance by NAKAJIMA HIROYUKI performing at the Avignon festival:
Listen carefully to his breath.  yorukamome made a good point that all these things I am studying, including, come from breath.  I plan to play closer attention to this.  Heaven knows, if there is anything that Bryan was trying to teach us about with the yoga class it was BREATHING, right..?)

Also, I want to make light of one of the comments a friend of mine (who will remain un-named) made when seeing this video (I paraphrase):

"he isn't any good..  look he is just dragging his brush around, and the ink is splashing everywhere..  and it doesn't even look like the kanji..."

At the risk of sounding blunt, I think that this attitude is totally missing the point of his performance (sorry my friend), these may look like total abstractions, but these characters are renderings of actual characters. (not that I think there is really anything with working in total abstraction either)  As for the drips and splashes, it is true that these are not always desired in calligraphy, but they are also not entirely undesirable either.  I believe Nakajima speaks well in his video when he is quoted:

 "The running of ink spreads on paper, then leaves a mysterious pattern after it dries, it is beyond the reach of human hands."

Please look at this video especially carefully and listen to what he says, I believe he is a true virtuoso of expressive calligraphy perfornance.

Another more traditional example of this kind of performance is the work of Master Chong, a very skilled Chinese calligrapher:

There are so many different calligraphers presenting themselves on youtube and they all have so many different and beautiful ways in which they express themselves, that I can't help but believe even more deeply that this truly is an art that, when mastered, can truly reveal the nature of your heart.  (Of course, the calligraphers posted on youtube represents only a tiny fraction of the calligraphers in the world) My calligraphy teacher tells me the tale of a man in public office who was assaniated for his ideas, but she tells me that when she saw his characters she knew he had a pure heart.  This is why I want to work so hard to learn Kaisho (standard script) -- I believe that the better I can master it the better I will be able to remove the barriers between the brush and my heart.

In class today one of my teachers, Bryan Kubarycz discussed Abstract Expressionism, and I couldn't help but think of the incredible expressivity that these calligraphers have been able to achieve, on the other hand I need to be careful not to look at calligraphy through a set of western eyes, but allow it to simply be it's self.

On that note here is some more examples of performances of some very expressive calligraphers:

Ayumi Kato

Peter Ziboce

Peter Ziboce

Sound Calligraphy

Water Calligraphy performances in parks in China.