When Michael Firman isn’t playing the Shakuhachi for others, or for himself, he’s probably teaching one of his students how to play the Japanese flute. A master of the Shakuhachi, Firman is in rare air as there are fewer than 50 teachers in the United States, and even less in the Midwest.
“There might be four or five, maybe, and Midwest is a big place,” said Firman.
He, and another teacher in Chicago, are the only two in Illinois, which makes him highly sought after for those looking to learn how to play the Shakuhachi.
“I’m the only game in town,” Firman said jokingly.
His laid back personality, coupled with friendly motivation, was the perfect mixture Dean Raffaelli was looking for. “I needed someone to push me along really because I was sort of stuck playing a certain group of songs,” said Raffaelli.
Practices typically range from 45 minutes to an hour, and after that Firman switches rooms, and into a whole new world.
Firman’s Other Musical Passion Electronic Music
“[It’s] well away from a simple tube with five holes in it. It has nothing in it that you blow on. This is the opposite end of my interests,” said Firman.
The electronic music isn’t the only thing different. In the Shakuhachi room, walls are filled with Japanese drawings and anime stuffed animals hang out on the couch. But in the electronic room there are several skulls placed near a computer and posters of rock bands up on the wall.
“I’m a child of the 60’s what can I say. A lot of the posters [in the room] are by a couple of my favorite artists of the time,” said Firman.
Where Can You Find Firman’s Music?
Firman doesn’t perform his electronic music anymore, but does have over 400 songs on his SoundCloud. Using multiple music equipment, Firman records one beat, and plays another on top of it, creating an interesting tune.
Shakuhachi & Electronic Music
Though different in sound, there are similarities between the Japanese flute and electronic music.
“There’s a whole technical aspect of both the Shakuhaci and this stuff,” said Firman. “When I’m programming up voices on these modular synthesizers it’s very much like me learning a piece of music with the Shakuhachi.”
The common denominator is Firman’s love for music. “It’s been a big part of my life. I did other things for years, but music is always there. As far as what I do, other than fixing the house up and cooking meals, and that kind of thing is music,” said Firman.
So whether it’s the Shakuhachi or electronic music, Firman always makes sure to end on a high note.
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