Our string of encounters with Japanese culture had another sequel when Glenn Swann played his shakuhachi flutes during the first Lunchtime Recital in April. Our music director Ben Berman accompanied him on the piano for two pieces, but for three other pieces the meditative sound of the bamboo flutes filled our sanctuary alone.
And what a sound it was! Even the young students from the Livingston school were spellbound by the music. During Questions & Answers, one little girl compared Mr. Swann’s mastery of the instrument with her own experience on the violin: “How long does it take to learn the basic fingering?” she wanted to know.
During the same conversation, I asked two boys to show us New Jersey and Japan on a map, so that we could all appreciate the geographic distance. Glenn then showed us a sample of the Japanese sheet music for his flutes. He explained that there are approximately 30 characters replacing traditional western notes. He also said that these characters are different for all the traditional Japanese instruments. Thus, a flute player will not automatically be able to read the music of any of the Japanese string instruments or even the Japanese horn.