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The International Shakuhachi Society

New Spirits of Sangen

New Spirits of Sangen

Nishigata Akiko
Victor - VICG-8002

Track Title Kanji Length Shakuhachi Shamisen Koto
1   Kyorai 去来 08'24
Nishigata Akiko
The unique tension that characterizes traditional shamisen music is used to express various states of mind in this work of alternating tranquility and movement. "Kyorai" draws on the classical shamisen tradition in the use of the pentatonic honchoshi tuning (tuned to a perfect fourth and perfect fifth), and in the use of the small nagauta or Yamada style bachi (plectrum). Traditional playing techniques employed include tataki - bachi (swift downward stroke), sukui - bachi (upstroke), and hajiki (pizzicato).

But unlike other contemporary pieces which often tend to be no more than classical music arrangements, this work displays a creativeness not found in the older tradition. The rhythmic and melodic phrasing, for example, are totally independent of traditional shamisen music.

Nishigata has performed "Kyorai" at the beginning of each of her recitals, and has come to me for instruction on the finer expressive points each time. As this recording reveals, she is able to best express what the piece intends to convey. In this sense, it gives me great pleasure that Nishigata has recorded this work on CD.
(Seiho Kineya)
2   To the Victims of Cain カインの犠牲者達のために 12'52
Nishigata Akiko
Nishigata commissioned Yoriaki Matsudaira to compose the piece in 1980, this work comprises three sections which draw on the music of Okinawa, Vietnam and the Korean Peninsula, all of which have tradition of plucked instruments.

The title derives from the history of bloody civil wars that these regions share. Each section concludes with a refrain in the form of the question '''Who are you?" posed in the respective language on the region, followed by an explosive sound. Cain refuses to respond.

In the first section, fragments of the Okinawa scale it can be heard in staggered intervals from the left than the right speaker. Gradually as the lapse between the fragments grows, the sound shifts from the right to left speaker.

In the second section, the shamisen is played with a bow in imitation of the reed pipe of the mountainous regions of Vietnam. It is replaced by a regular bachi in the solo section.

The sound of quarrelling is sometimes interrupted by percussive - like feedback in the third section.

(Yoriaki Matsudaira)
3   La La-La-La La 05'18
Nishigata Akiko
Solo works for the shamisen are extremely rare in both the traditional and modern repertoires. That stems in part from the technical difficulties of performing very fast passages due to time required to move from kandokoro (a position on the finger board) to kandokoro, which are spread further apart than the violin.

And because the shamisen's musical line traditionally follows the vocal line, traditional melodic phrasing is not suited to the solo repertoires in Western music terms.

Given these difficulties, it is not easy to compose a solo work for the shamisen. I was finally able to produce this piece for Nishigata in 1980 after many frustrations and suspensions.

As I intentionally tried to overcome the major weakness of the shamisen, or the lack of speed, this could be considered a rash work. In another sense, however, it could be considered the first step toward a new playing style for the shamisen.

But given the high technical virtuosity it requires, Nishigata may be the only person capable of performing this work.

The piece comprises passages of tranquil undulating movement and sharp, scraping rhythms. The title is derived from the light-hearted sense of skipping along while humming "tra la la".

(Shigeaki Saegusa)
4   Nagare for Shamisen 流れ 10'02
Nishigata Akiko
This piece was composed for Nishigata in 1981 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. It was first performed at the Japanese music festival in Haarlem, the Netherlands on May 15 1982, and premiered in Japan at the International Music Festival in Kusatsu on August 5 of the same year.

The work was composed for shamisen, two small gongs (kane) and a bronze resting bell (kin). It employs a chromatic scale rather than the traditional pentatonic scale. Semi tones and other glissandos are also used.

The playing technique requires a high level of virtuosity, with the bachi, the fingertips and sheaf of grains used to pluck the strings, skin and body of the instruments.

The six sections follow the traditional jo ha kyu developmental style characterized by a slow start, gradual increase in tempo and movement, and a final return to a slow pace.

(Makoto Shinohara)
5   Meikyo 明鏡 12'50 Aoki Reibo II Nishigata Akiko
The Shakuhachi has long been associated with the Sankyoku trio ensemble, and is now considered best suited to accompany the koto (13 string zither).

Yet close inspection reveals that the timing and breathing techniques found in the shakuhachi honkyoku repertoire share striking similarities to shamisen music, including the nagauta genre.

These similarities formed the inspiration for this piece, composed in June 1975. The work begins with a slow-paced dialogue between the shamisen and shakuhachi. It then shifts to a passage of light movements; then returns to a dialogue of relatively long phrases. The work moves into a fast-tempoed section before closing with a slow section.

(Seiho Kineya)
6   Shin Sarashi 新晒 11'56
Nishigata Akiko Kaneyama Kono
The jiuta piece "Sarashi" performed today is based on Fukakusa Kengyo's, "Sarashi", considered the forerunner to the tegoto style, which incorporates a long instrumental interlude.

The piece is characterized by short instrumental interludes sandwiched between the stanzas which tie into the main melodic theme.

In olden days, people would bleach cloth in the Uji River of Kyoto. The melodic theme incorporates the rhythmic pounding of the cloth with the sound of the running river.

The ai no te section of "Shin•zarashi" draws on a sophisticated instrumental section in which both the koto and shamisen are given room to display improvisational techniques known as sharebiki. In this CD, however, the koto plays the traditional melody only, while the shamisen takes the improvisational line.

(Akiko Nishigata)

The International Shakuhachi Society - 2017