Researcher's Profile / Bio / CV
Born in late January 1950 in Hellerup, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Mixed Icelandic/Danish descent.
Documented Icelandic pedigree traceable through preserved church registers to 9th century viking inhabited Iceland:
Left: Icelandic church registry, p. 1 - 9th century:
Norwegian Kvöldulfúr, no date - Skallagrimmur á Borg, year 878.
Right: Registry, p. 9: Early 20th century, father: Olafur Asbjørn.
Torsten Olafsson grew up on the island of Amager in Southern Copenhagen.
Studied music (and dancing) from very early childhood and on:
Singing, piano, recorder, bugle, drums, electric bass, acoustic guitar, vibraphone, Indian tabla, percussion - then Japanese shakuhachi,
a little Japanese koto, acoustic bass guitar and – more recently: Arabic darbuka drum.
First "professional" appearance as a pop/rock drummer on October 3rd, 1965, on the island of Amager, Copenhagen.
1965-68: Specialized language (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, English, German, French & Latin) & classical music theory studies in high school.
1968, January 1st: Formed the symphonic rock band ACHE, who composed and recorded the world’s first genuine rock ballet, "De Homine Urbano" in 1969,
released on LP in 1970 (Philips) & re-released at least 7 times since then, internationally.
Second ACHE album, ‘Green Man’, 1971, also reissued at least 7 times, worldwide.
The latest twin album re-releases happened in Japan, in March 2020.
1968: Began university studies in Chinese Art and Culture, incl. modern and classical Chinese.
B.A. degree in 1974 - Danish equivalent academic degree: Exam. art.
1974: Began university studies in Japanese Language and Culture (Japanology).
1977-78: Studies in Japan: Kyōto University foreign special research student, and the Myōan Temple: Taizan-ha Shakuhachi practice, with Ozawa Seizan sensei, Yamashina, Kyōto.
Torsten Olafsson's Myōan Temple admission certificate, 1977
1981: B.A. degree in Japanese/Japanology - Danish equivalent academic degree: Exam. art.
1983: Participates as photo editor during the build-up of the "Japan I Brede" exhibition,
organized by the National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen.
1983: Release of the LP & MC ‘Standing Waves – Zen Shakuhachi Meditations’ (Olafssongs OLP 001/OMC 001).
Geoff Duckworth wrote in his review in "Take no Michi", published by The International Shakuhachi Society (selections):
" - - - Listening to the music one is immediately struck by its starkness in terms of tonal variation, decoration, vibrato etc.,
that one hears in the music of players from the Kinko, or Tozan schools.
If you have developed your shakuhachi listening with the music of Yamaguchi, Reibo, Yamamoto, or Yokoyama, for instance, the music here may be a shock." - - -
" - - - You may, or may not like the music on this record. But I think this would miss the point,
that this record adds to the richness of both one's personal store, and the whole body of shakuhachi music. - - - "
Link to a scanning of the complete review, PDF
1983-1984: Gives a number of public lectures about Japanese history and music in Denmark.
1984-1985: Intensive M.A. degree studies and research at the University of Copenhagen, Eastasian Institute.
1986: Special research in the Tōkyō area.
Leisure time shakuhachi studies with the late Yokoyama Katsuya in Chiba.
1987: M.A. thesis in Japanology submitted to the University of Copenhagen:
"Early 17th Century Ascetic Shakuhachi Ideology.
The Kaidō honsoku. A Komosō’s Fuke Shakuhachi Credo, dated 1628."
(Published internationally by Monty H. Levenson/Tai Hei Shakuhachi, Willits, CA, in 2003.)
1991-1999: First Print Manager, then Serious Music Manager, with Warner/Chappell Music Denmark A/S.
1997: On invitation by then International Shakuhachi Society president, the honorable, late Dan E. Mayers, Esq., Torsten writes an introductory essay to the
‘Kaidō honsoku’ thesis.
2001: ‘Standing Waves’ is re-released on CD by Fønix Musik, Denmark (Fønix Musik CD FM 1183).
2003: The ‘Kaidō honsoku’ thesis together with the introductory essay is printed and published internationally by Monty H. Levenson/Tai Hei Shakuhachi,
Willits, California, USA.
2003: Website about Fuke/Zen Shakuhachi research is launched, first hosted c/o www.torstenolafsson.dk.
2005: Introductory essay about the ‘Kaidō honsoku’ thesis is published by the ISS, in Annals vol. 2.
The editor, the late president of the International Shakuhachi Society, Mr. Dan E. Mayers, Esq., commented in his introduction to the article:
"Torsten Olafsson taught himself, unaided, to read ancient Japanese in order to complete the following thesis: an astonishing scholarly feat.
The conclusions of the thesis are not widely accepted by Japanese scholars but are interesting and challenging,
throwing new light on an area in which Japanese scholarship has tended to become all too formal.
Those wishing further scholarly enlightenment should consult the original thesis, of which this is a very brief and incomplete summary.
Only through study of the original thesis can a full appreciation be obtained of the scholarship involved.
2008: The late Prof. Tsukitani Tsuneko concluded in her article in the book “The Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music”:
"The body of shakuhachi researchers in Japan is relatively small; names that recur in the bibliography include Kamisangō, Tsukitani/Tukitani,
Seyama and Simura/Shimura.
It is regrettable that the most conspicuous work is being produced not in Japan but by scholars abroad. (See the works by Fritsch, Gutzwiller, Keister, Lee, Olafsson.)"
2009: Becomes a board member and graphics editor of Dansk-Japansk Selskab.
2009: Danish language shakuhachi website established: www.shakuhachi.dk.
2011: English language shakuhachi website is assigned its own separate URL under the name www.zen-shakuhachi.dk.
The "Zen Shakuhachi Reality Research Web Pages.
An Introduction & Critical Guide to the Study of Early Ascetic Shakuhachi Historical Chronology,
Terminology & Etymology of Concepts, Ideology, Iconology & Practices in Particular.
Significant structural expansions and numerous updates are made till this day.
2011, January: Special PowerPoint-supported shakuhachi lecture at the art museum Ordrupgaard in Charlottenlund north of Copenhagen.
2017, June 16th: The Museum at the Royal Castle Amalienborg in central Copenhagen opened the exhibition "Japan i Kongehuset".
Torsten O. performed Myōan Taizan-ha Shakuhachi honkyoku interchanging with the speeches during the opening reception.
The prominent guests of honour in the audience were the exhibition's two protectors:
His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan and His Royal Highness Prince Frederik of Denmark.
2017, late July: Torsten O. presented a comprehensive poster exhibition at the European Shakuhachi Society's Summer School in Vejle with c. 80 color posters about shakuhachi history and ascetic ideology:
2017, December: Torsten O. accompanied two Japanese silent movies at Cinemateket in Copenhagen and lectured about the shakuhachi in between the two performances.
2018, June: Torsten O. played the shakuhachi and told about the ascetic Taizan-ha tradition on the outdoor arena of Lillerød Kirke in Allerød a little north of Copenhagen.
2019, February: Torsten O. presented a new, updated version of his PowerPoint-, video-, and audio supported lecture/mini concert:
"The Flute with no Holes – Zen & the Sound of Bamboo".
Venue: Elsinore Library/Helsingør Bibliotek at Kulturværftet - the famous former Elsinore shipyard - overlooking the harbour and Kronborg Castle.
2019, March: Torsten revisited Kyōto to reunite with the Tamura Family who hosted him while he was studying there in 1977-1978.
Torsten Olafsson has contributed as a versatile studio musician to more than 40 Danish music albums;
as a professional graphic artist created more than 65 music album cover designs; transcribed, music engraved, typeset and layouted well over
1.300 mostly Danish pop, rock, jazz, folk & instrumental guitar music pieces and,
since a. 1980, in his capacity as music editor and publishing company music editor
and print manager, produced hundreds sheet music and music book titles, small and comprehensive.
Torsten is currently – beside his various shakuhachi activities - working closely with his younger brother, internationally renowned acoustic & electric guitarist
Finn Olafsson, Olafssongs Music Publishers, Denmark, as a concert & studio recording musician, music editor, graphics designer, photographer,
webmaster - as well as occasionally appearing as a lecturer on Japanese shakuhachi history, music & ideology.
In February, 2000, Torsten Olafsson more or less "settled down" in Helsingør/Elsinore, north of Copenhagen: The city of Shakespeare and Prince Hamlet's castle Kronborg:
Hamlet's Castle Kronborg in Elsinore, Denmark. Photo: Torsten Olafsson