Developing a Buddhist Practice in Taiko Drumming - a Work in Progress, Submitted to Register for This Site

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  • Topic: Nichiren, Drum, Taiko
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  • Published : March 19, 2013
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Developing a Buddhist practice in taiko drumming
The Odaiko Daimoku work brings the life of a votary of the Lotus Sutra to Japanese taiko drumming. The piece is set in taiko’s most dramatic, strenuous, thunderous format: the Odaiko Solo. The theme is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, called Daimoku, which means ‘title’ [of the Lotus Sutra]. Perspective

Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, (my faith), is the theoretical perspective in which Odaiko Daimoku is set. This requires no more faith of the critic than any other theory. A grand theory offers an explanation of the universe; my faith practice does this, with a masterful combination of poetry, oratory and analysis. In selecting a theoretical position, we choose whatever best explains our knowledge of history, our current experience and our hopes for the future. In my faith, continuous interactions in the universe are divided into precisely 3,000 types, using 23 defining terms. It offers a practice for continuously observing, and benefiting from, these 3,000 types of interaction: chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Reading the literature reveals all this and much more; but reading the literature without chanting is like having a Haynes manual without a car or a toolkit. Practice

Odaiko Daimoku, (the work), is practice in Taiko. The ji-uchi, the base rhythm, of the work is ‘straight beats. The melody is the rhythm of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. The tempo is the typical speed of chanting at meetings, where new members or visitors might be, about?? bpm: it is the speed of transmission. Chanting with one’s regular fellow-Buddhists, the tempo is more like 120 bpm. The setup is Odaiko| humongous bass drum|

Nagado| massive tom tom with big nails all round|
Shime| barking snare-like drum|
Uchiwa| fan drum (roto tom meets ping pong bat)|
Katsugi/Okedo| rope-tensioned light tom tom worn on a strap| Chappa | hand cymbals|
Atarigane| small hand-gong|

The work explores a structured experience of chanting Daimoku, ultimately with improvisations on the Odaiko interpreting seven phases of chanting over seven to eleven minutes. Subordinate disciplines

Education
I began working in music in education in 1987 and have had a strong involvement since 2000, as a university lecturer in music. From here, I bring in terms like reflective practice and lifelong learning and I use a counting system, (below), which mainly developed in Higher Education teaching. Education is a sub-discipline of my Buddhism: the three founding presidents of my lay organisation, Soka Gakkai International (SGI), have all been professional educators and have published on the subject. Education is also an important aspect of my taiko. I run three workshops a week at Dartington Hall in Devon. I improve my taiko, in some way, each time I lead a group. The kata, the forms, the way-of-doing-things of academic quality, which I have learned through Higher Education, empower my design and delivery in taiko and my work with the Sun Lotus Taiko group. Music

I began working in music around 1970 and have been strongly involved since 1979. One might think that music is the ‘master’ discipline and taiko a sub- discipline. Not so: taiko includes musical technique, but also kata, shape or form, bodily technique. Thus music, here, is one part of a whole. Body work

Odaiko Daimoku brings its biggest challenges to my body. For short periods of time, I have practised Ju Jitsu, Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kalari, Capoeira and Yoga and, for longer periods, hard, physical work. But, for an Odaiko player, I am as soft as a mushroom****. This work is expected to give me a Buddhist ‘human revolution’ – a permanent life-change, in my case in my body, ADD WHAT YOU MEAN PHAT for which I have long tried but never before achieved. This is the high risk, high benefit part. Counting methods

One counting method has been outlined:******the three thousand realms, all distinctly describable. Any geek worthy of the name could enter the 23...
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