Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Born in Texas in 1951 of a Chinese father and a Caucasian mother, Riley Lee lived in Japan for over eight years and began his shakuhachi lessons there in 1971. In 1980 he became the first non-Japanese to attain the rank of a "dai shihan" (grand master) in the shakuhachi tradition. This CD is the fifth in a series of seven traditional Zen shakuhachi recordings released on the Tall Poppies label. The instrument, made from bamboo, is itself very simple. With only five finger holes, it has less of them than almost any common wind instrument, including the penny whistle. Yet despite this simple construction, the shakuhachi can produce an unbelievable range of sounds in the hands of a master. The pieces on this recording are classical 'honkyoku,' the "original pieces" of the Zen Buddhist "Priests of Nothingness." The works function primarily as spiritual practice, an activity that transcends the concept of right and wrong. In other words, when performed as meditation, there are no mistakes. Therefore, recordings of 'honkyoku' such as those in these recordings, which use the initial take and are not edited, are most in keeping with the spirit of the tradition.