I normally don't do this, but the production values on this video are just too high: Lady Gaga's "Telephone," arranged for shakuhachi and koto. The shakuhachi player here is Ishikura Kōzan 石倉光山 (thus, "Team Kozan"); you can find more videos here (including a nice version of "Little Wing").

Totally unrelated: A Person Paper on Purity in Language, by "William Satire (alias Douglas R. Hofstader)." Linked recently on MetaFilter; I'd never seen it before, but I like it.

Popularity factor: 6

L.N. Hammer:

That flutist has a couple good moves in him.



I first watched that video on the same day as reading your previous post about the complex and wonderful traditional vocabulary of the shakuhachi (temple bells in snow!), as well as reading Fredric Jameson's essay "Postmodernism and Consumer Society" that puts forth that postmodernism is the longing for signifiers that are no longer understood and the creation of pastiche works to simulate the aesthetic experience of the past. As a result I actually did not like the video too much despite its high production values.


To be honest, I like the videos of him playing in a bar more than the "Telephone" video, but I don't think it's necessary to despair just yet. I doubt the musicians see this as a pastiche in the Jamesonian sense--they're not nostalgic for anything; for them, this tradition is still alive. (Even if they've moved away from it as performers, no-one gets to be that good at shakuhachi or koto without becoming completely comfortable dressing up in traditional Japanese clothing and playing the repertoire straight.) Without putting words in anyone's mouth regarding this particular piece, usually people who produce this sort of material position it as a sort of outreach, like, "Hey, you can still have fun and play contemporary music even if you're a shakuhachi/koto player." They want people who see it to be inspired to take up the instruments; they certainly DON'T want to send the message that this is a dead musical language and the very idea of combining it with contemporary compositions is hilarious.

I also think it's relevant that Kozan is a Tozan-ryu player. The Tozan-ryu was founded about a century ago by a traditionally trained player (Nakao Tozan I) whose goals in doing so specifically included modernizing shakuhachi music to make it more relatable and easier to participate in. Tradition is certainly important to the Tozan-ryu, but the _definition_ of tradition is different from other schools, which generally look to a founder and (sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly) a stylistic ideal in the premodern age.

The dancers, though, I just don't know. They do seem pretty much exactly like pastiche in the Jamesonian sense.

Anyway, great comment, thanks!


Slight correction - 石倉 not 石川. Otherwise, nice!


Stephen -- thanks! Silently fixed.


You're absolutely right. I hope no one takes my comment as an insult towards the artist who converted Lady Gaga to shakuhachi and played it flawlessly. In fact I see that his other videos include various formats of traditional songs, all played with the familiarity of an expert. The guy has definitely shown his mettle.

I was thinking on the side of the video's 500,000 viewers. The accomplishment of knowing a traditional art intimately feels a lot better to me than the cheap thrills of YouTube. I once went to a 幸福の科学 church in Kyoto and was treated to Camptown Races on the koto. If that behavior is duplicated throughout the rest of Kyoto I will be deeply depressed.

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