Gamelan Stream – Environment in Bali

My first trip overseas to research music in 1984 included two months on the Indonesian island of Bali, and then another month in Java. At the time Bali was a cultural goldmine. From the very first day, I was surrounded by an array of amazing styles of traditional music. I heard gamelan classes at the nearby gamelan school during the day and gamelan performances at every night, punctuated by street processions, and impromptu performances even in the middle of the night. Throughout the island there were regular ketchak monkey chants, dance dramas, and local ceremonies. In fact at times there was so many performances of traditional music that it was hard to escape it.

bali log drumOn one very hot day, I decided to get away from the heat of Ubud and followed a small stream up into the trees a few kilometres from the town. I eventually came to a few small pools of water situated by a small temple. It was such a picturesque spot that I spent most of the day lounging by these pools. I was pleased to finally get away from the insistent sounds of the Ubud gamelans. Sporadically throughout the day I thought I heard a short melody of a popular gamelan piece being repeated over and over again in the distance. Thinking it strange that someone would be practicing gamelan so far from town, I decided to investigate. I walked all around the area trying to find where the sound was coming from, but music was elusive, it would fade in and out. If I thought I had traced it in one direction, then it would seem to come from another. Finally after about an hour of searching I found the source. It was not a gamelan; it was the stream! The water falling over small rocks sounded exactly like the short gamelan melody I had been hearing, and in combination with the rhythmic chorus of afternoon insects mimicked a full small ensemble!

Back in Ubud I started to listen to the local sounds in a new way. I found that the rhythms and melodies in the music often mirrored the sounds of the environment, especially the insects. This became even more obvious in Java, where I found different insect sounds and local traditional music again structurally reflected aspects of the environmental sounds. I thought this was fascinating. I also found that the sounds of Bali and Java are similar but different. An example is the small lizards found in almost every Indonesian house climbing the walls eating insects are called geckos in Bali, and named for the sound they make “ge-ko.” In Java they are called tokay, for their call “to-kay.”

Another new sound in Bali I encountered when I was talking with a friend. I heard a loud buzzing sound approaching. I turned and saw a very large fist-sized beetle slowly flying through the air. Its body was too large for it’s inefficient wings, so once it is airborne, it cannot turn quickly. If you are in its way, it will hit you. Fortunately it makes so much noise with its efforts to fly that anyone in its path is startled by its approaching roar, and has plenty of time to gauge its flight path and step out of the way. In fact the beetle flies so slowly that it is easy to observe it in detail, if you could stand the noise enough to get close to it!

Walking along the beach one day I came upon long bamboo poles holding up fishnets, each pole had a small section shaved to create a small rectangular hole with sharp edges that acted like reeds. When the wind blew the poles produced a flute-like timbre, beautiful but also somewhat eerie. Longer versions of these poles with red banners were placed around graveyards to keep away spirits. Yet when the wind blew through the poles sounding more like the voices of the spirits themselves.

This awakening to sound in Indonesia was exciting. I found that the environment, sound, music and culture there were quite different from anything else I had experienced before.

© R. Raine-Reusch 2014

Studying With Intangible Cultural Asset #23 Park Gui Hee 박귀희

In 1987 I had the great fortune to be a student with Park Gui Hee 박귀희, the first person to hold ​the position as Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 23 for kayageum sanjo and byeongchang. Kayageum is a long zither with twelve silk strings and movable bridges. Traditionally, the instrument is plucked with the fingers of the right hand while the sound is manipulated by pressing the strings to the left of the bridges with the left hand. Sanjo is a solo improvisational form, while byeongchang is a vocal form accompanied by kayageum.

As I explained in my previous blog on Korean shijo, Kim Duk Soo, the leader of Samul Nori introduced me to Park Gui Hee while I was in Korea between concerts on an Asian tour. I was already playing the Chinese zheng, the parent of the Asian long zithers, so Duk Soo thought this would be a good fit.

Park Gui HeeThe daily routine at Park Gui Hee’s studio was for the students to start practicing well before she arrived. Once there she would spend one on one time with selected students working on the details of the piece they were learning. This was the traditional method of aural/oral transmission, there was no written music used. The teacher played, the students copied and memorized. Learning a piece with this method takes time. Rather than just learning what note to play, every aspect of each note is learned all at once, including its timbre, timing, expression, dynamic, and inner motivation. The students have to listen with every aspect of their being to understand the depth and meaning of the music, and to fully commit to its expression. This was very challenging.

On my first day as a junior student I was introduced to Park Gui Hee, and then explained who I was and what I wanted to achieve. After some discussion I was introduced to a senior student who was to teach me the fundamentals. I was shown the basic right hand picking techniques, which were not that different from what I knew on the zheng. Next came the most idiosyncratic right hand technique for the kayageum. The index finger plucks a note and then the same string is flicked with the nail of the middle finger and index finger in rapid succession. This is accomplished by tucking the index finger behind the thumb as if to flick a piece of dust, and then the middle tucked behind the index in the same manner. Performed properly this technique creates a roll or type of tremolo that can vary in speed and dynamic.

My instructor demonstrated this technique to me and then went through it slowly so I understood it. It was very challenging, as I had never used my fingers in that way before. I fumbled terribly. After a while of my struggle to get a handle on this technique, my instructor stopped me and said, “This is an essential technique for the kayageum and it takes well over a year to learn. Without it, we cannot teach you more. So I will teach you a basic piece for the rest of today, but your lessons are finished. You are welcome to return to listen at any time.” That was on a Friday.

I decided that I didn’t want my lessons to end, so I spent every waking moment of the weekend practicing this essential right hand technique. That meant I ate with my left hand while practicing the technique, a somewhat messy affair at first that got better. I practiced while reading; I practiced while taking buses, grocery shopping, and even visiting friends, pretended I had some kind of nervous tick. Gradually, I began to conquer the technique and by Sunday night could perform it on the kayageum. Monday morning I arrived back at the studio and sat down in front of my student teacher. She looked at me questioningly and I put a kayageum in my lap and demonstrated my newly mastered technique. Her jaw dropped and she screamed! All the other students came rushing over and saw my doing the technique and were as equally shocked, “That’s not possible!” they remarked. “How did you do that? It took me two years to learn that.” I explained that I was a professional musician and practiced non-stop.

Hearing of this Park Gui Hee reconvened my lessons, and I was then taken through the left hand techniques. Korean music utilizes a wide variety of vibrato, many of which are not mere ornamentation but fundamental notes in constant motion. Korean folk music uses a modal structure called tori, which designates the five main tones of the scale. Often one or two of these is always played with a moderate or very deep vibrato. Then another note in the mode will be a falling note that descends from the original pitch, and is always played as such. These moving pitches all have an emotional characteristic that is must be expressed properly and is often the subject of work with the teacher.

I met with Park Gui Hee once a week to demonstrate my progress and she would correct some things and then give my student teacher detailed instructions in what to do for my next lessons. The learning curve was very high and the schedule grueling. I remember Park Gui Hee working with one student for a number of hours on just two lyrics of a piece, both of which were “sarang,” meaning love. The first rose slightly expressing the joy of love, while the second descended with a complex convoluted vibrato, voicing the pain of lost love. The student could easily reproduce the first lyric, but the second the teacher was very fussy about, with the student copying the teacher’s example repeatedly for hours on end. This student worked only on these two sung words for months, which was the level of commitment to detail demanded in the studio.

Park Gui Hee lived close to the studio in an old Korean courtyard Manor. She lived in a large multi-storied house in the middle of the square courtyard surrounded by a wall on all four sides, with a large gate on the southeast corner. The inside of the walls were lined with small sleeping rooms on three sides, and the kitchen and bathing rooms on the south end. Except for the house, the rest of the compound was turned into a yogwan, a Korean traditional style B&B. I lived in one of the rooms. The rooms lining the wall varied in size, but the majority of rooms were only large enough for two people to sleep on the multi-layered varnished paper floor. Each had sliding paper doors with a small entrance way. There were no chairs only cushions on the floor, the bedding was laid out at night and rolled up in the morning. The rooms were breezy, which was a good thing as they were heated with coal fired hot water heaters in the floor, and many people died each year from coal gas seeping into the rooms. Although the grounds were totally surrounded by city buildings the walls blocked a large amount of city sounds, and so the yogwan was a very peaceful place to stay.

Park Gui Hee gave private lessons in her house so every evening the courtyard was filled with the sounds of kayageum byeongchang. I spent from six to eight hours a day taking lessons and practicing in the studio, then came back to my small room to practice a few more hours, while listening to the lessons coming through the walls every evening. This constant exposure felt like a total immersion in the genre, cementing the music deep into my soul. Listening constantly to soaring voices sitting on the razor’s edge between a cry of pain and a cry of joy, performed with such commitment and passion, was an education unlike any I had ever experienced before. It was like being in a constant state of ecstasy, so much so that I often had to improvise quietly along with the lessons next door to give voice to my own ecstatic expression.

I felt like I was in two worlds. I would walk out the gate into the modern chaos of Seoul. This was the time a student unrest, so there was often a lot of tear gas in the air, and I learned to avoid approaching student riots by ducking into a subway station and taking the train back behind the riot, to find shopkeepers opening their shops and sweeping bricks and stones away from their doors. I would return to my yogwan and enter old Korea again, sit on the floor of my room listening to the lesson next door while eating an evening meal of rice, vegetable and kimchi, and a few hours of practice before sleep.

My time in Korea was too short, as I would have needed years to live and study all that I wanted to on the kayageum, and life didn’t take me in that direction. However, what I did learn was profound. Korean music is a balance of opposites and extremes: heaven and earth, male and female, joy and pain, tradition and innovation, silence and sound, Confucianism and shamanism, composition and improvisation, order and chaos. Park Gui Hee’s lessons pushed me deeper into my musical soul, freeing me to create with all of my being at every moment. As I continued to study Korean music I have found a deeper balance within myself, allowing me to express my wildest passions while maintaining a calm still centre.

Korean traditional music is in my opinion one of the world’s richest musical treasures, and essential study for anyone forging new directions in creative music and self-expression. I highly recommend it. It can change your life.

© R. Raine-Reusch 2014

Waikiki, Ichigenkin and Yamada-sensei

In 1992, I studied ichigenkin with Chie Yamada, who had achieved a master status in a number of Japanese traditional music styles, and was not only an adept musician, but a masterful teacher. I had first taken some lessons with her a few years earlier, but this was the first time I could spend an extended period in Hawaii just to study ichigenkin. On my arrival her husband was not supportive of my lessons, as Yamada-sensei (sensei means professor/instructor in Japanese) was in therapy for cancer and some days the medicine made her quite ill. However, Yamada-sensei insisted I come every day to study, and her husband acquiesced.

Yamada-sensei playing ichigenkinThe ichigenkin is a rare one-string Japanese zither that some believe may have come from the Chinese seven-string qin. Both instruments were played by philosopher-musicians who would sit in front of their instruments without striking a string, believing that if a musician and an instrument are in the same room, then music is also present, no action is necessary to produce the music. “The music can be heard,” they would say, “if you know how to listen.” Before beginning my lessons, Yamada-sensei described this philosophy to me and added, “Sometimes I just look at an instrument and I hear it play, the music is instantly born inside me.”

This strong sense of philosophy is inherent in the ichigenkin, and Yamada-sensei would often explain: “The ichigenkin must be part of your body. It has only one string and no place for the sound to resonate; it cannot produce a strong sound by itself. The sound must resonate from your body.”

“You can not hide the sound with other notes,” she would say, “the ichigenkin has a pure sound. It can only be played as part of you, and the music should come as naturally as any movement.”

Studying daily with Yamada-sensei was challenging and rewarding. I worked hard to understand and apply the philosophy of the ichigenkin while I developed my finger and picking techniques and memorized each piece. It was only through listening and feeling her play and trying to copy it as well as I could that I made any progress. This was not music that you could learn from reading notes off a piece of paper; this was music you had to experience. She often remarked, “You can either read music or play it. You can’t do both at the same time.”

One day after I played a piece, Yamada-sensei sat quietly for a minute and then nodded saying “With the ichigenkin, every note must come from deep inside you. You must play from your center, deep in your body, because this is where the real sound is. But when you play you must also bring the sound out of your body into the air. Today I can feel the music come from you, this is the sign of a good player.” She then would regularly tell me if my focus on my centre (hara) was too high, too low, too forward or too back. She knew the instant it was not correct.

In the last days of my lessons Yamada-sensei would often look at me and scowl, “You are so relaxed on the instrument that it resonates inside you. You play like you are Japanese, yet you are not. You must have Japanese blood.” Then she would shake her head and in a sad voice ask “Why aren’t you Japanese…you should be Japanese?!”

On the day of my last lesson her husband thanked me for studying with her and being very patient with the occasional repetition of lessons (the medicine made her forgetful). He said that I had given her a lot of energy and made her days meaningful. He said that I was her best student and gave me the contacts for the Ichigenkin school in Tokyo, asking me to be in touch with them.

I was Chie Yamada’s last ichigenkin student. She died of stomach cancer a few months later. Her husband gave me the instrument that she taught me on. yamada1

She was the best teacher that I had ever had. She could see things that were inside of me and guide me to use them, sensing things about me that no other teacher ever had. I could sense hundreds of years of knowledge being passed to me; lessons that she had learned from her teacher before her, and likewise for centuries. When she taught, every note sang, as she would place it deep inside of me. I was taught to play each note as if it contained the whole piece of music. The piece should be as complete playing only one note as it was playing all of the notes. She taught me to feel the rightness of every note, to give each note time to exist and resonate in my body. She somehow had a deep understanding of the music that I always had felt inside of me, but never knew how to release. She nurtured my internal music, gave it life, and brought the deepest parts of me alive with it.

While I studied with Yamada-sensei, I stayed in a dorm room with 6 people, so to practice I would go and sit on a bench at Waikiki beach for hours every night. This was actually quite dangerous because the beach was where drug dealers, pimps and other underworld folks did business at night. They each had their spot, and any intruders were not welcome. However they fully accepted me. I had a spot I could practice, and many times a bunch of very scary looking people would come and listen. They asked me questions about the music, and myself, and we developed quite a personal relationship. They were totally fascinated with the ichigenkin and its philosophy, sometimes sat for hours just staring at the dark ocean and listening to me play. The only time somebody started to be aggressive to me, a number of big guys came up and told him that I was their friend and anyone wanting to mess with me had to mess with them first.

© R. Raine-Reusch 2014

Park Kiok 박기옥 Shijo in Korea, Kim Duk Soo of Samul Nori

In 1986, I became good friends with Kim Duk Soo 김덕수 the leader of the famous Korean percussion group Samul Nori. The group spent quite a bit of time in Vancouver at Expo 86, at which I was very active as a composer, performer and producer.

In 1987, I was invited to perform in Korea and the Philippines, but had almost two months of down time between the performances. I asked Kim Duk Soo if he could set up some lessons in traditional Korean music for me. He arranged lessons on kayageum with the Intangible Cultural Asset Park Gui Hee 박귀희, which I will talk of in another post. Duk Soo also arranged for me to study with the shijo, ancient sung poetry, teacher Park Kiok 박기옥 that had a studio in the same building as Samul Nori in Seoul.

Duksoo
Kim Duk Soo at Chan Centre, Vancouver

Kim Duk Soo thought that through shijo I would learn the foundation for Korean music, notably the moving tones, or pitches in constant motion. In western terms this is like a highly expressive vibrato that changes in depth of tonal variance, speed, and intensity. Rather than ornamentation this is an essential and defining element of Korean music. Some pitches in a mode are always performed in motion and are never static.

My teacher was in his seventies and spoke no English whatsoever, and I knew only tourist Korean. Everyday we would sit on mats on the floor facing each other for the lesson. This is not so unusual in Korea while studying music, except that he was always impeccably dressed in a three-piece suit! For the first few weeks, our lessons went very well, although this was the first time that I had taken any kind of formal voice lessons. After a while I noticed that my teacher was disturbed by something. He kept repeating the meaning of the piece to me and even brought in someone to translate the piece so I understood it fully. Still somehow I was missing something in the lessons and he was struggling with how to tell me. I tried to become as diligent a student as possible thinking I was missing an important detail.

Normally when I study with a teacher I imitate them exactly to the point of copying the way they sit move breath, and every detail of their playing technique. This I did with renewed diligence, trying to find what I was missing, I mimicked my teacher almost exactly. Yet, he became increasingly frustrated and on numerous occasions he would crawl around on the floor in his business suit miming the story in an effort to try to get me to realize something about it. Soon after we were at an impasse, both quite frustrated at what I did not understand.

The time was approaching that I had to leave Korea, and even though I had not understood this vital part of his teaching, he asked me to come and perform at a gathering of the shijo teachers at his house. I arrived on the appointed day a bit late, as there was a meal involved, and as I was a vegetarian, I didn’t want to embarrass my teacher by not being able to eat anything. My teacher lived up five flights of stairs, and although I was quite winded from climbing them, as soon as I arrived my teacher asked me to sit down and sing for everyone right away. There were about eighty teachers there from all around Korea and including the Intangible Cultural Asset. They split up into two circles, one for the junior teachers and one for the senior teachers, which I was told to join.

Shijo teach on left
Shijo teacher Park Kiok on left

We started by me singing the piece I had learned and although I was winded and didn’t sing it very well, they were all very supportive of my effort. My teacher then said something to them that I didn’t understand, which sparked some discussion and then it seemed a decision was reached. One by one they each sang a piece. This took hours, as some of the pieces were long, but the time went quickly as I was totally fascinated by the range and depth of expression in the music. This was the first time I had ever heard anyone other than my teacher sing, and there were as many different styles and approaches to the music as there were singers. Many times I heard the song I sang repeated, but each time it sounded so different that at times it was almost unrecognizable. The last two people to sing were sitting beside me in the circle. The first was the Intangible Cultural Asset, whom I was told was 101 years old at the time, or so they thought. His voice was so quiet we had to strain to hear. He sang the same song that I had, but it was remarkably different, with a much deeper range of expression and moving tone than all the others. The person next to me again sang another variation of the song I had learned.

I realized that I was going to have to sing it again, and that this was the final master lesson. I was to interpret the song, not to mimic my teacher’s version but to express it in my way, to put the emotion within the song that the story expressed. I took some time to process all the all the techniques I had just heard and let my subconscious choose the appropriate technique for the emotion of the song. I let go of worrying solely about technique. I sang the song again, this time using the depth of my emotion to freely choose from the techniques that I had just heard.

Everyone roared their approval as I finished the piece, some leaping to their feet. However, for me the only person that mattered was my teacher, I looked at him kind of timidly, wondering what his reaction to my reckless version of the piece would be. He looked at me directly, his face totally expressionless, then he nodded once emitting a very sharp loud grunt of approval, turned and started talking to his peers. That was all I got from him in praise, but I knew I had finally understood that important point, I had to feel the music and sing it from my soul, and not just imitate. I felt glad that I finally understood while also honouring him by doing a good job in front of his peers.

Shijo taught me that playing the notes perfectly every time is not where music lies. Music is found in one’s soul. Techniques are a means to craft sound, and the more acquired, the more shapes the music can have. However, the perfect performance is not how well the technique is used, but how freely the deep inner voices of the musician can choose and utilize techniques to gain total freedom.

© R. Raine-Reusch 2014

Gagaku and Sho in Japan

Visiting Kyushu, the southern island of Japan in 1989, I was hoping to find a place to study Gagaku, Japanese court music. I was interested in playing the sho, a bamboo mouth organ used in this genre. Fortunately, I discovered that a new Gagaku-do (a place to perform or practice Gagaku) had just been built at the Shogyoji temple in Kasugayama just south of Fukuoka. This was a spectacular new hall that had a permanent stage for Gagaku and Bugaku (the accompanying dance). They were also setting up a school to teach Gagaku and were very excited to accept me as a student.

I began my studies with a very patient young teacher who taught in the traditional, slow but methodical way. After a month of playing only one chord, I was honoured to be invited to take part in a special weekend workshop being led by Ono Tada Aki, the National Treasure for sho. Attending the workshop, I was surprised to find Ono-sensei (sensei is an honourific term for teacher) taking an interest in my playing. I guess he sensed my familiarity with mouth organs as I had already played the Thai mouth organ (khaen) for over ten years. After he found out that I could only stay and study for a short period of time, Ono-sensei focused a lot of the lessons towards me and I was shown all the traditional finger and breathing techniques and my teachers were instructed that I should leave Japan with all there was to know about the sho. Ono-sensei went on to personally show me how to maintain and repair the reeds, something few sho players do themselves these days.

With my two teachers, senior on left
With my two teachers, senior on left

After Ono-sensei’s departure, I was given a new teacher, the top sho player in the school. This was quite an honour for a new student, however he had just been in a severe car accident. He would leave the hospital specifically to give me a lesson, and then return directly to the hospital. It was difficult for me to see my teacher sitting across from me in great pain, and I pleaded with him to postpone my lesson until he felt better, but he just thanked me for my concern and continued the lessons. I tried to do everything as quickly as possible, and play as best as I could, so we could finish the lessons early, but no matter how much I did, he kept teaching until the full time was up. He continued to leave the hospital to teach for the next few weeks, and never once would give in to my pleas to postpone or at least shorten the lessons. During this time I worked harder than I ever had before. I wanted every minute of his pain to be worthwhile. I progressed quickly, but still felt that I had barely scratched the surface of understanding Gagaku.

All too quickly my departure time grew near. I was due to leave on January 4th, and was invited to attend the first New Years Festival to be held at this Gagaku-do as a kind of going away party. The New Years Festival is a very big event in Japan and is the time of year when Gagaku musicians are in the greatest demand. This was an especially important event as it was also the inaugural New Year’s concert for this new hall. However, many of the Gagaku performers were doing concerts around the island of Kyushu, and would not be at that evenings performance. I was therefore asked to come early to the celebrations so I could say goodbye to everyone before they went off to their performances. Upon arriving a number of my teachers carefully inspected the new sho that I bought, and asked many questions about my future plans for using the instrument, and when I would return to Japan. One by one they said there goodbyes, and I was finally left alone with my teacher. He turned to me and asked if I planned to stay for the evening celebrations. When I said yes, he said that I didn’t have much time, and I must hurry to change.

Raine-Reusch playing Japanese shoI was taken upstairs to find a set of traditional performance clothes waiting for me. The Gagaku-do had searched all over Japan for clothes that would be big enough to fit me, and hadn’t wanted to invite me to perform in case they couldn’t find them. I was dressed by teacher and a friend, and then taken downstairs and seated on stage between my teacher and my initial junior teacher. I was told to warm up my instrument over the appropriately provided coal heater. This process, which takes from twenty minutes to half an hour, ensures the longevity of both the reeds and the instrument. Meanwhile my teacher put a book of scores in front of me and turned to a piece that I was unfamiliar with. I looked at him and whispered “Sensei, I don’t know this piece”. “Don’t worry” he said “You know all these fingerings and the rhythm is four beats and we repeat each section twice. You enter here and exit here”. This was important information needed to play the piece, as is not written in the score. I practiced the fingering of the piece while I finished warming my instrument, and felt fairly confident by the beginning of the performance. I played the piece fairly well not making any noticeable errors, and at the end sat back to listen to rest of the performance which thankfully didn’t include my instrument. Just before the last piece, my teacher leaned over, turned to another page in the scorebook and tapped the page. I looked at my teacher in horror. The performance was still going on. I couldn’t ask him about the details of the piece!

Listening carefully as the music started I watched my teacher diligently out of the corner of my eye. Fortunately he didn’t start playing right away, which gave me time to try to hear some of the details of the piece. Then after a few minutes he slowly raised his sho to play and I started to do the same, but quickly noticed that the player on my other side of me hadn’t raised his instrument at all, so I pulled my instrument back. This was the first time that I had heard a piece where one sho started before the others. I went back to heating my sho, and now watched the other player out of the corner of my eye as I continued to listen to the details of the piece. Before long he pulled his instrument back, which I copied thinking he was going to start, but he only scratched his arm and then went back to heating his instrument. I was now fully aware of how the piece went and after the player beside me pulled his instrument back three or four times, to scratch or adjust his robe, me copying him every time, we finally raised our instruments and joined the piece. I was feeling fairly comfortable as I played except that I didn’t know how or where to end. In my limited experience, pieces usually ended somewhere on the second repeat of the last row in the notation. Thus it was a shock to find that just before I started to play a chord still in the first repeat, everyone else had stopped! I quickly pulled the sho away from my lips a millisecond before my breath started to vibrate the reeds. I slowly lowered it almost in unison with the other players hoping that no-one had noticed.

Raine-Reusch Gagaku KyushuShortly after, the whole program came to an end. My teacher looked at me smiled, and nodded. He said nothing. It was not my place to ask him why he hadn’t explained both pieces at the beginning, all that mattered was that I had played well, I had not made any obvious mistakes and I had not embarrassed the school or my teacher on this most prestigious event. Their honour was intact. Me? I was bathed in sweat, my shoulders were screaming in pain and I was an emotional wreck for days. But I did it.

It was a huge honour to be asked to perform at their inaugural New Years performance, as well as an immense amount of trust in me. Since that time I have performed often with the sho, mainly in my performances with creative improv artists such as Barry Guy, Robert Dick, Torsten Müller, Henry Kaiser, and Pauline Oliveros. I have performed Cage’s One9 for solo sho as well. I find it interesting that the trust shown to me in Japan is not extended in Canada when local presenters would prefer to fly a (Japanese) sho player in from Holland twice over hiring me to perform New Music. Yes, I know, I don’t look the part, I am not an “authentic” player, and sho is not my main instrument as I have been only playing it professionally for over 25 years… At least they decided, after discussion, to present one of my compositions for sho.

© R. Raine-Reusch 2014

Reaching In

When still quite young, I started to pay attention to what was different in my world from what most people acceptedRaine-Reusch very young as normal. I was surprised to find things everywhere, including in my own home. Regularly my mother would jump up from her chair and say, “company is coming, have to put the tea on” and then proceed to make tea, set the table, and put out sweets for a number of people. The moment she was finished putting the hot water in the teapot, there would be a knock on the door and the exact number of people that she made tea for would walk in the door. This would all take place without a phone call or any prearrangement, and our visitors would always say that they were just driving by and decided to stop in. I found that this kind of knowing to be quite common, although very few people questioned it or even paid it much thought. This made me pay more attention to what I was feeling and I started to focus on increasingly subtle sensations and become aware of what I had being sensing since birth.

One summer my family went to a lake where I spent the day scrambling amongst very large adult-sized rocks on the lakeshore. Somehow one shifted as I was moving between and my fingertip was crushed between two very large boulders. The skin was not broken but many interior blood vessels were broken. By the next day the finger has swollen to the size of a plum and had turned a deep blue colour, so we went to the doctor. The doctor said he had to relieve the pressure by drilling through my fingernail, but instead of giving me an anesthetic, he hypnotized me. I felt nothing as I watched him drill, and the fingered drained. The finger was fine, but I had discovered something fun and amazing. Copying his techniques, I started to explore self-hypnosis to poke pins through my skin and put my hands in flames without feeling anything, much to the horror and amusement of all my friends. I progressed to hypnotizing all my friends and poking needles through their skin, great fun for pre-adolescent boys. I understood from this experience that the mind was capable of much more than most people accepted.

My mother often told the story of not being able to take medications for my birth due to allergies, and that her Raine-Reusch at 8-9 yearsdoctor taught her a from of self-hypnosis instead. Most of her stories were a mixture of reality and fantasy, so her “facts” were never to be believed as relayed. However, in my preteen years she would often go into trance-like sleeps, how much control of these she had was hard to determine. The most memorable was when I was about 9 or 10, when at a dinner party she lay down and went to sleep to cure a headache. Wanting to go home early I tried to wake her, but she was totally unresponsive to my calls, prods or pinches. About an hour later she awoke without any awareness of my attempts to rouse her. I asked her to teach me her technique of deep sleep hypnosis, which I took to quickly from my previous experiences with hypnosis and this became the foundation for many of my deep meditations.

Later in my early teens, my mother had a psychotic break caused by a  of her alcoholism, menopause and the daily violent family arguments. Her condition worsened slowly over a few years until she would run around the house every evening screaming for hours, not able to recognize either my father or myself. Getting her to settle down and into bed was difficult. Somehow in the process I developed an interesting ability to get her to sleep. I would sit beside her head and “look” inside her brain. It was like looking down a long tunnel into a bright fog swirling around a vortex. I would see anger, rage, hurt, a lot of fragmentation, and the occasional bit of sanity swirling around. Through a strange combination of feeling/seeing/sensing I would reach in with my senses and grab her sane self and slowly pull it to the surface. Often it would slip away and I would have to go find it again. When I would eventually succeed in bringing it to the surface she would immediately become rational and totally cognizant of her surroundings again. Without my pulling her sanity to the surface, she would continue to rant for hours into the night. Although in the daylight hours she was somewhat connected, I had to pull my mother to reality every couple of nights for about two years before she was able to maintain a connection to reality for herself.

Being able to reach into brains became quite useful while growing up as a teenager in the sixties with people experimenting with drugs. I would be at parties where someone would start to have a “bad trip”, usually a frightening experience from taking too much LSD or similar drugs. I would again reach into their brains and contact their “sane self,” pull it to the surface and explain to them what was happening, and then assist them to maintain a connection to reality. Often I would then create an anchor to reality that I would attach to their psyche. After awhile I realized I could just anchor to reality those that I perceived were close to having a “bad trip” without their knowledge, while staying within proximity to maintain it. That way I would minimize anyone having a rough time while not attracting attention to what I was doing, in case anyone thought it strange.

© R. Raine-Reusch 2014

Multiple Worlds

My parents didn’t realize I had an eye problem when i was young, and assumed I was mentally slow. I would sit six inches from the TV set to watch cartoons, and I would be yelled at to move far back, yet a short while later I would be back nose to the screen, but that was not a clue for them. I recall being in a car when I was quite young and upon hearing a plane asked where it was. My parents pointed out the window and said, “Right there!” I couldn’t see it. “Where” I asked, and they again pointed to a spot in the sky I saw nothing i colouringn and said, “right there.” I asked again and again with them becoming exasperated to the point of yelling “right there!” I never saw it, although I heard it clearly. Not till I was 6 years of age did I get an eye exam at the suggestion of my schoolteacher. The exam showed that my eyes were very poor and I was prescribed very thick and heavy glasses that magnified my eyes. I was amazed when I put them on for the first time that my mother had freckles.

With glasses I began to see like other people did. I could feel myself being drawn into the visual world, becoming engaged in it and feeling part of daily events. The moment I took my glasses off, however, I was back in the world I had experienced from birth. Without glasses the world was removed from what most people relate to as “daily life.” It felt as if I was sitting back watching from a distance, with a much wider more inclusive perspective. I could see misty shapes fly through the air of various sizes and density. I was initially amazed that no one else could see them, but once I put my glasses on they were much harder to see. I would often remove my glasses to watch these misty shapes move around and through the large dense shapes I knew to be people. I later learned that the glow and colours around people were called auras, but I saw many more things move through the air. These were remarkably different from the emotions that I could discern move through people. It took me many years to learn to understand what these things were and as most people never saw them, never to talk about them. Whenever I did talk about that I saw it would make people feel either frightened or uncomfortable, while many just would dismiss me as being weird or delusional. I knew though that I was walking in two worlds: the daily visual world with my glasses, and another world of shapes and energies without my glasses.

Walking in two worlds made me a somewhat awkward child. I could see what most people saw, but reacted to things that they were not aware of. I could sense that many people came to the same conclusion as my parents that there was something mentally “off” with me. I didn’t fit in. I probably would have been an extremely alienated child except for the fact that the moment I was put in front of people to talk about anything, I was totally at home. Even at 7 or 8 years old, I would transform into a bold, precocious storyteller sitting on the teacher’s desk, launching into fantastic tales. I would “read” my audience, watch their inner selves react to my words and tailor my talk to their reactions. I learned that if I mentally projected my stories into the room, they were far more effective. Students and teachers would be all spellbound by whatever I was talking about, and I would always take much longer than other students, entrancing my audience before the teachers would gather their wits and bring my talk to a close. This was all automatic for me, being well trained in my dysfunctional family to choose the words that would garner safer emotions in my listeners.

I did not consciously realize how different the world I was living in was and the power of what I was doing to live in it. I was just a child trying to find a place in the social world of school.

© R. Raine-Reusch 2014