Archive for January 12, 2014

Music for Zen Meditation

Posted in Jazz, Music with tags , , , on January 12, 2014 by telescoper

Given my current location I thought I’d try this one out readers of this blog. I bought the album Music for Zen Meditation about 20 years ago; it was recorded in 1964 and features jazz clarinettist Tony Scott with two Japanese musicians, Shinichi Yuize (who plays the koto, a 13-stringed Japanese harp) and Hōzan Yamamoto (shakuhachi, a kind of bamboo flute). I think the music, and especially Scott’s lovely tone on the clarinet, creates a wonderful sense of peace, and it’s fascinating to hear the blending of styles. However, I played some of the music for my Japanese friend Chiaki some time ago and he said it sounded like something you would hear in an elevator. Ouch!

This album is often said to have been the first ever recording in the musical genre that came to be known as New Age, most of which I can’t stand. That reminds me of one of my favourite Gary Larson cartoons:


Music for Zen Meditation is certainly a far cry from bebop, but I’ll leave it to you to make your own mind up about it. See what you think. This track is the first one on the album and is entitled Is All Not One?

The Flowers of January

Posted in Art, Biographical, History with tags , , , , on January 12, 2014 by telescoper

Today’s tourist itinerary  took me first to the Tokugawa Art Museum, which contains family treasures from the Owari Tokugawa family, one of the families from which the Shogun was chosen during the Edo period (which lasted from 1603 until 1867 and is sometimes called the Tokugawa period). The collection is magnificent, comprising arms and armour of the elite Samurai warriors as well as art, garments, furniture, and household objects of the period, all made to a standard befitting a Japanese noble family. The highlight for me was the wonderful display of maps and books illustrated with exquisite ink drawings. What struck me most is how stable was the general form of artistic expression in the period covered by the museum, in contrast with what you would find in a European collection over a similar timescale. Japan was very much a closed country during the Edo period  and consequently did not experience foreign influences on its culture in the same way as Britain did in the 17th-19th centuries.

The Tokugawa Art Museum is adjacent to the Tokugawaen, a formal Japanese garden originally built in 1695. January is probably not the best time to visit this place – the numerous cherry trees must look beautiful when covered in blossom – but I was quite surprised to see a significant number of flowering plants even at this time of year.

I’m no botanical expert but these look like Camellias to me:



These are Peonies:

Some of the trees are still wrapped in their winter bamboo coats for protection from the frost:

The lake contains an impressive collection of multi-coloured carp


The Tokugawaen is worth a visit even in the off-season, but I really must find an excuse to come back in April or May when the cherry blossom will be out and, according to the literature handed out to visitors, thousands of Peonies will be in bloom all around the lake. That must look amazing!

Anyway, after that I travelled across town to visit the famous Atsuta Shrine, a holy place for the Shinto religion:


Light was fading and I was already feeling a bit tired, but I did the necessary ritual ablutions, and had a quick look around. Visitors are allowed to make a wish after throwing a coin in the appropriate place, then bowing and clapping twice. I wished for a beer, and lo and behold on the way home I found a bar in which my wish was granted!