RILEY KELLY LEE
This thesis looks at past and present processes of transmission within the tradition of the shakuhachi honkyoku (尺八本曲, shakuhachi ‘original pieces’). The shakuhachi, an end-blown bamboo flute, has existed in Japan since the eighth century. Since at least the fifteenth century, it has been used as a tool for spirituality, and has been particularly associated with Zen Buddhism. The honkyoku were composed, performed and transmitted within that spiritual context, especially during the Edo period (1600-1868) by mendicant priests called komusô (虚無僧, ‘priests of nothingness’). An understanding of the nature of the honkyoku was expressed in such concepts as honnin no kyoku (本人の曲, one’s own piece), zettai no ma (絶対の間, absolute timing), tettei on (徹底音) and ichi on jôbutsu (一音成仏, one sound becoming Buddhahood).
A piece-specific genealogy chart for the honkyoku “Reibo” (鈴慕) of the Ôshû lineage (奥州系) is presented, which relies upon written and anecdotal material to trace two main lines of transmission. These lines transmit honkyoku which have become known as “Futaiken reibo” (布袋軒鈴慕, ‘Reibo’ of the Futai temple) and “Shôganken reibo” (松巌軒鈴慕, ‘Reibo’ of the Shôgan temple). A comparative analysis of transcriptions of ten performances of these “Reibo” pieces by six shakuhachi players representing these two lines of transmission shows a high degree of variability and a number of patterns of similarities and differences. These patterns demonstrate the oral nature of the transmission, and allude to the process-oriented ‘essence’ of the honkyoku tradition.