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<<  -- 2 --  Malcolm Tattersall    YEARNING FOR THE BELL


Riley Lee, born in America but long resident in Australia, accepted the challenges years ago and met them so well that he became the first non-Japanese grand master of the instrument. He has played and recorded a wide range of transcriptions, but the core of his repertoire is the Zen meditation music, the honkyoku.

The honkyoku are classical pieces in that they are sophisticated fixed compositions, but because they are aurally transmitted the lineage (the teacher's heritage) is far more important than it is would be with written transmission. Yearning for the Bell is Lee's definitive series of recordings of the Chikuho lineage of honkyoku. These two discs, Phoenix Crying and Searching, bring it to completion. The whole set was, extraordinarily, recorded in just two days but has, understandably, been released gradually in the eight years since then.

Yearning for the Bell, Vol 7, Searching. © 2004 Tall Poppies Records

It is very easy to love the sound of the music, but less easy to approach its narrative content. One approach is via the pieces called 'Choshi' ('Searching'). They are warm-up pieces, composed as a way for the player to reconnect with his instrument and the centred tranquility required for the major pieces [listen -- vol 7 track 3, 0:00-1:43]. We might understand them in terms of Bach organ preludes or Hotteterre's preludes for flute.

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Copyright © 24 March 2005 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia


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