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The International Shakuhachi Society

Japan - Splendour of the Shakuhachi

Japan - Splendour of the Shakuhachi

"Kinko and Koten honkyoku."

Ishikawa Toshimitsu
Playasound - PS 65130

Track Title Kanji Length Shakuhachi Shamisen Koto
1   Shika no Tône (Kinko Ryû) 鹿の遠音 10'56 Ishikawa Toshimitsu

This work is the most famous in the Kinko school honkyoku repertoire. Honkyoku are generally solo shakuhachi works, but this work is atypical in that it is for two shakuhachi.

Shika no Tone depicts two deer crying out to each other deep in the mountains. The form of the piece is introduction, development, and restatement, and includes techniques called merikomi, suriage, uchi, and nayashi, techniques achieved by movement of the fingers, neck, and chin. It also makes use of techniques called muraiki and kaza, special effects which are achieved through breath control.

This shakuhachi work is unique in the world of music.
2   Azuma no Kyoku (Kinko Ryu) 吾妻の曲 04'25 Yonemura Reisho

This is said to be one of the playful works in the shakuhachi honkyoku repertoire. Rather than being used in religious training as most honkyoku pieces originally were, it is a playful piece. Long ago the wandering komuso shakuhachi players performed this light, playful piece which could be enjoyed by the masses. The word azuma in the title means the people of eastern Japan, and it expresses the longing for the east by the people of western Japan. Another explanation is that the melody is taken from the kagura (a type of religious music) work called Azuma Koto, but it is not clear as to which explanation is valid.

The structure of the piece is divided into three parts: melody in the low register, melody in the high register, and a short ending.
3   Yamagoe (aka Reiho) 鈴法 04'25 Okada Michiaki

This work comes from Kyushi, the southernmost main island of Japan. The melodic line is filled with angular movement. While the range is a not particularly wide octave and a fifty, the fresh contrasts attributable to the great jumps in the melody, tone colors, and volume leave a bold impression.
4   Ôshû Sashi 奥州薩字 07'16 Yonemura Reisho

Each of the famous Komuso had his own individualistic way of playing this piece. It is an improvisational piece which is said to have been played when the Komuso were doing takuhatsu (religious mendicancy). Particularly when this piece was used by the Komuso on their pilgrimages it was called "sashi" in the common parlance. This work originated in Kyushu prefecture, where it was played by the famous Jinbo Masanosuke and was called Jinbo Sanka. It is said that this piece was transmitted orally under the name Ohshu Sashi.

The form of the work is in four parts: "shirabe" (investigation), "honte" (main part), "takane" (high pitch), "hachigaeshi" (playing a piece in return for food). This is a typical form for classical honkyoku, and in this short piece one can see clearly the distinctive qualities of the shakuhachi.
5   Koden Sugomori 古伝巣籠 05'17 Ishikawa Toshimitsu

One of the most famous works in the shakuhachi honkyoku repertoire is called "Tsuru no Sugomori" and in different regions there are pieces of the same name but different tunes. This work uses many different techniques with names such as karakara, korokoro, torira, or tamane to depict the love between a mother crane and her chicks. This koden Sugomori is said to be the original version of these pieces of the same name.

The form of the piece is highly regular, and because it is very clearly divided into five sections (godan) it is also sometimes called Godan Sugomori.
6   Kumoi Jishi 雲井獅子 06'16 Ishikawa Toshimitsu

This is a bright work in the same category of playful pieces as Azuma no Kyoku. The version heard on this recording features two shakuhachi of the same length playing a "honte" (main part) and "kaede" (secondary part). The honte can also be played as an independent solo piece which features the high range of the instrument. Compared to Azuma no Kyoku this work is louder and more dynamic. The form of Kumoi Jishi is in three parts: low range section-middle range section-ending.
7   Sagari Ha (Nezasa Ha) 下り葉 (根笹) 04'23 Ishikawa Toshimitsu

This work comes from the Nezasaha School of the Tsugaru (the northern area of Honshu island) region of Japan. The unique characteristic of this piece is a technique called komifuki. This breath technique gives the feeling of the wind blowing through the leaves of bamboo grass. Most classical honkyoku pieces begin in the low range, gradually move to the high range, and then climax in the high range.

However Sagariha begins with an abrupt strong high pitch which is followed by a sweet, lyrical melody reminiscent of a lullaby.
8   Daha 打波 04'17 Okada Michiaki

The origin of this piece is unclear, but it is usually interpreted as meaning da-to strike, and ha-to tear or break. According to this interpretation the objective of this piece is that all of the desires or worries of the common people will be overcome, and nothingness and all-ness will be transcended to reach a natural state of resignation.

The five part form of this piece is A-B-A1-B-C. The techniques used in this work which make it diverse are an intricate smoothness in the sound and delicate movement.
9   Kokû (Dokyoku) 虚空 10'06 Okada Michiaki

The three oldest pieces in the Fuke set repertoire are Kyorei, Mukaiji, and Koku. These works are collectively referred to as the Koden Sankyoku. There are many legends as to the origin of these works, but the truth as to their history is not known. However they are respected as the oldest works and transmitted in all branches of shakuhachi playing.

The work is in three part form: calm-movement-calm. Even though it is a very long piece it is very well organized. In each part various techniques are developed.

The International Shakuhachi Society - 2018