Adrian Freedman’s musical path has been inspired and shaped by musical traditions from around the world. Here he describes his experiences with Zen shakuhachi music in Japan and healing rituals in the Amazon rainforests of Brazil.

Alongside the musical journey of my life there has been a spiritual quest, and alongside the many professional concerts and recordings there has always been an interest in the world of music for meditation, music for devotional practice, music for sacred rituals and ceremonies, and music for healing.

When I was coming of age in the 1970s I was eager to play every kind of music that I could find – from brass bands to big band jazz, from Celtic folk music to Baroque chamber music and avant-garde orchestral music. I was also drawn to the mysterious sounds of faraway places. The term ‘world music’ had not yet been invented, and recordings from around the world were mostly hidden away in music libraries.

When I first came across the sounds of traditional Japanese music I felt an instant attraction. Even though the sounds came from such a distant culture they felt somehow familiar. Later I would come to spend seven years living in Japan, in Kyoto, the ancient capital, where I became absorbed in studies of the shakuhachi – the Zen bamboo flute. I was fortunate to have a great teacher – shakuhachi master Yokoyama Katsuya.

Playing the shakuhachi is very much a solitary activity. Long hours of sitting quietly cross-legged on a cushion, playing the same long notes over and again, going deeper with each breath … into the sound, and through the sound to what lies beyond the sound … into the Ma – the great silence from which all sounds rise and fall.

When I was living in Japan immersed in this contemplative shakuhachi practice, and also engaged in musical collaborations with many other musicians, I met one day some Brazilian singers that came from a spiritual community deep within the Amazon Rainforest. They invited me to take part in sacred ceremonies they were hosting in Kyoto, and this encounter opened up a new musical dimension for me – the simple and sacred music of healing forest rituals.

The music of the ancient shakuhachi and the music of Brazilian sacred rituals are both rooted in tradition, while being open to new possibilities. Traditions like these flow freely like a river, allowing innovation and renewal to arise, as new music flows naturally from the old forms.

After many years absorbed in the music of Japanese culture I left Japan to go live in Brazil, where I entered onto a personal path of healing and spiritual practice, taking part in forest rituals where music and song plays a central role.  The time I spent in Brazil also brought deeper insights into my understandings of the Zen music of Japan, and of the meditative, healing and devotional aspects of music in general.

The music of the ancient shakuhachi and the music of Brazilian sacred rituals are both rooted in tradition, while being open to new possibilities. Traditions like these flow freely like a river, allowing innovation and renewal to arise, as new music flows naturally from the old forms.

The message of my music has evolved as my own learning and my own healing journey has evolved. In a general sense you could say it’s a message for our times. What seems to be needed is an opening of the heart, an awareness of the subtle vibrations of the heart, and of the simple wisdom that lies deep within. From this place comes a sound that heals, that brings peace and tranquility, that purifies and uplifts… a transcendental acoustic music of the heart.

The term ‘transcendental acoustic sound’ was first coined by Sam Welbourne in a review he wrote for the Two Rivers album. I feel that it perfectly describes a new genre of music that is born of a marriage between world music, meditation music, sacred music, and the refined subtleties of Zen sound and silence.

Current projects include several new albums:

As I Breathe

A new album of meditative music for solo shakuhachi and other instruments. Featuring Japanese musicians Esoh and Ema (yangqin and erhu) as well as Neil Davey (bouzouki), Heather Golding (voice) and Rebecca Jackson (cello).

Night Journey

A collaboration with cellist Matthew Barley.

Spacious, sonorous tones, melodies and harmonies, improvised in a lyrical flow.

This album will be released in Spring 2018

Lotus Rising

A collection of 40 new medicine songs and mantras.

Featuring Michael Stanton, Ayla Schaeffer, Carolinne de Assis and others.

This album is a work in progress.

Waters of the Heart

A new album of original music on a meditative theme of water.

Intended for 5 Rhythms and other forms of Movement Meditation.

This album is a work in progress.