Seizan Matsuda plays the shakuhachi (bamboo flute) and composed two of the four pieces on this Japanese disc. Whether this music really has anything to do with Zen or not you can decide yourself from listening and/or reading the liner notes. In any case, the music is a mixed bag. The first piece is called "Good to Be Alive" and is from a 1955 documentary of the same name about the horrors of the atomic bombings and the joy of surviving them. It features the koto jushichigen (bass zither) and shakuhachi in a meditative yet engrossing work that is quite accessible. The second piece, "Kuu" (loosely translated as "Empty Sky"), is Zen-influenced. It is full of shrill flute notes, arrhythmic drumming, and baboon-like low chanting. It sounds like a parody of a 1960s musical. Track three, "Mu" ("Nothingness"), is equally pretentious but much slower. The last piece, like the first, was not composed by Seizan. It is entitled "Shumisen Haruka" after the metaphorical mountain of the afterlife in Buddhist teachings. It features a five-piece ensemble, including two bamboo marimbas. It offers up a repetitive rhythmic pattern reminiscent of the South American minimalist group Uakti, topped with improvised-sounding flute phrases and melodies. More listenable than Seizan's own work, although less interesting than "Good to Be Alive."
It's hard to know whom to recommend this disc to. It would be OK for anyone who likes Japanese classical but better for those who enjoy the avant-garde. Not for casual explorers.