Red Moon Rising: An Evening of Sublime Music for Shakuhachi and Voice
Christopher Yohmei Blasdel is an established senior shakuhachi performer and researcher and one of the few shakuhachi specialists known and highly regarded throughout Japan, the Americas, Europe, Australia and Asia. He resided in Japan for 45 years and presently lives in Honolulu, Hawai’i.
On Thursday, October 21st, the Department of Performance Studies welcomed a long-time collaborator back to Aggieland. Christopher Blasdel, along with his wife of thirty years, Mika Kimura, returned to present a concert to A&M students and the community this autumn after having been kept from visiting in 2020 due to COVID-19. Although vaccinations and mask-wearing allowed them to visit College Station this year, alterations to the venue still had to be made in the interest of public safety and health. Performance Study's Theater Facility Coordinator and Building Procter Jeff Watson set out to create a space to welcome these renowned artists. He draped the LAAH courtyard canopies with string lights, lit trees with LEDs, and built a decorated platform for the performers. All of this was done in our beautiful, fresh-air courtyard, as per COVID guidelines. Performance Technology and Studio Manager John Moeller set up a state-of-the-art audio equipment at the location. Regardless of the necessary move from the Black Box Theater to the courtyard, students and faculty members experienced the beautiful performance as if it were an event in pre-COVID times.
After an evening of sublime music, I had the pleasure of asking Mr. Blasdel himself a couple of questions. As we continued to talk I found out that his interests in religion, music, and self-awareness were all expressed through the shakuhachi flute, the historical roots of which can be traced back to Zen Buddhism. “Why is the shakuhachi important,” I asked, to which he replied, “I was in a place and in a time where I was introduced to it and it fit exactly what I wanted to do. It doesn’t have to be shakuhachi. What’s important is getting to know who you are and what you’re supposed to do and how to help people, how to make something out of your life. It could be anything, but the important thing is to find your tool, your agency, to do something with your life, whatever it is, as a way to grow as a person.”
As audience members, we experiences a moving repertoire of music. We heard Blasdel perform solo pieces and were left mesmerized as Kimura graced us with her vocal performance and performed haunting duo pieces. To end the evening, Blasdel performed an original piece composed by Department Head, Dr. Martin Regan. This haunting piece, Red Moon Rising, was inspired by an experience Dr. Regan had while in Costa Rica. He and his friends watched as the “moon appeared from below the horizon, rising up diagonally across the ocean. It was a very subtle shade of red, glowing very intensely.” Dr. Regan explained that Red Moon Rising is the third movement of his four-movement-long work entitled Music for Solitude. In the end, what made the night of shakuhachi different from an ordinary concert was simple. As Dr. Regan eloquently stated, “This music is the kind of music that demands that you listen to it, pay attention to it, and concentrate your attention by focusing on subtle details and nuances. It comes from a deep culture that many people aren’t familiar with it. By becoming familiar with genres of music from other cultures, I think it expands our artistic horizons and presents us models for other ways to be creative and engage in music-making.”