Watching Our Water Ways

Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
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Amusing Monday: Water music from a garden

September 6th, 2010 by cdunagan

I was thinking today that I wanted to find some kind of unusual water-related music, since I haven’t featured music in Amusing Monday for quite sometime.

As coincidence would have it, the program “Living on Earth” this week featured a recording of a Japanese instrument called suikinkutsu. The recording was made by anthropologist and ethnomusicologist Steven Feld.

Or review this week’s entire “Living on Earth” radio show.

I was fortunate to find a video on YouTube that not only describes how the sound is made but also shows how the instrument is created in a Japanese garden. It turns out that just about anyone can get this unusual sound with a ceramic jar placed in a water basin, but I can’t help but prefer the elaborate effort it takes to create the sound of water in a garden setting.

From the liner notes of Feld’s album “Suikinkutsu” comes this description of the instrument:

“Suikinkutsu literally “water-zither-cave,” is a unique instrument associated with washing for the Japanese tea ceremony. Water drips from a chozubachi stone basin into a partly-filled underground ceramic bowl. The dripping sound, resembling a kotozither, projects up through bamboo tubes into a garden, where water may symbolize spirit, purification, solace, and reflection.

“Dating to the mid 17th century Edo period, the name suikinkutsuis often
credited to the famous tea ceremony teacher Kobori Enshu. After a decline, the instrument re-emerged in the Meiji Era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with renewed recent popularity.”

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2 Responses to “Amusing Monday: Water music from a garden”

  1. Mary Anne Mascianica Says:

    Chris–This is fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing it.

  2. Monica Harle Says:

    What an amazing article and invention. Chris Dunagan’s Waterways blog is a real asset to the community in many ways.

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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist