International Shakuhachi Society Logo

The International Shakuhachi Society

Shakuhachi - The Art of Yokoyama Katsuya

Shakuhachi - The Art of Yokoyama Katsuya

"Shakuhachi honkyoku, solo and duets. Also include Pentagonia, a piece by Ichiro Seki for six shakuhachi."

Yokoyama Katsuya
King Record Co., Ltd - KICC 5201
1995/01/31

Track Title Kanji Length Shakuhachi Shamisen Koto
1 Yamagoe (aka Reiho) 鈴法 04'55 Yokoyama Katsuya

This is an example of koten honkyoku that was handed down by many komuso in the Kyusyu region. Because of sketchy historical records, it is impossible to be sure if this piece originated in a komuso temple in Hakata (a city in northern Kyusyu) by the name of Itchoken, but one can clearly hear the vestiges of the komuso who used Ittyoken as a base for their wanderings in and around the Kyusyu area.

In the old Kyusyu region, there was a tune called "Sashi", which was a type 'nagash', a piece that would be played as a komuso collected alms. (There are various ways to read each of the two Chinese characters that from the word "Sashi,"). Also, there are many musical variations of "Sashi," long and short and among the longer ones, there are types which include a particular phrase called "yamagoe no te". This piece, known as "Yamagoe," is clearly one of these. Incidentally, a well-known piece called "Ajikan" is also derived from "Sashi" but does not contain this particular phrase, "Yamagoe no te" is the very short modulating passage of G, F, D-flat, C which is played against the basic progression of A-flat, G, E-flat, D. The opening melody is a characteristic one which resembles "Ajikan," and lively shakuhachi phrasing can be heard throughout the piece. Listen carefully to identify the above phrase.
2 Shika no Tône (Kinko Ryû) 鹿の遠音 09'40 Yokoyama Katsuya

Originally this piece was known as "Yobikaesi shika no tone." Yobikaeshi means 'call and response' and, as the original name indicates, this is the one and only piece among koten honkyoku which is played by two performers. The piece is nearly 200 years old and has remained in the Kinko style of the honkyoku repertoire, established by Kurosawa Kinko I (1710-71).

This performance may not be exactly the same as when it was composed, but in the Kinko style honkyoku were strictly defined from comparatively early stages and notated, and therefore, the basic melody of "Shika no tone" has hardly changed. This is a rather exceptional phenomenon in the world of koten honkyoku, in which flexibility and freedom are main ruling factors.

As shown in the original title ("distant call of deer"), this piece describes the cry of a deer echoing deep in the mountains in autumn. In ancient literature, it was sometimes said, "the stag and hind are calling each other." but in fact the hind does not cry, so it should perhaps be interpreted as the echo of the stag's cry. There are many repetitions in the original version and so as to catch the true charm of the call and response, shortened versions are usually performed.
3 San'an 産安 07'22 Yokoyama Katsuya

Although this piece is generally called "San'an," the title is a direct pronunciation of the two Chinese characters for the word "San'ya." ("San'an" means 'Safe Childbirth.' The two original Chinese characters given to "San'ya" mean 'Three Valleys'.) this piece is one of the various tunes included in various "San'ya" repertoire, which originated in Oshu, now known as the North East region, and was spread throughout the country by komuso.

In koten honkyoku, there was a custom called "one temple, one melody." Each komuso temple had its own melodic movement and as a result there are many different tunes sharing the same title, "Reibo" and "San'ya" are the typical examples. The former is distinguished by tune titles crowned by place or temple names: "Kyusyu reibo", "Kyo reibo", "Izu reibo", "Futaiken reibo" etc., and these are so distinct that they could be called totally different tunes. The latter does not have such clear regional differences and each "San'ya", say, "Echigo san'ya," "Futaiken san'ya," "Jinbo san'ya" and "San' ya" (the Chinese characters mean Mountain and Valley), share the same structure. Beginning softly with 'shirabe', the tune gradually becomes more elated and reaches a climax known as 'takane'. Then the atmosphere suddenly changes in a part called 'hachigaeshi', and it finally returns to how it began. This structural format was particular to the Oshu area and all "San'ya" share this format as well as the rolling, melismatic melodies.

In the folk tales, it was said that a woman would deliver her baby safely if she heard this tune after eating gruel made from rice that was given to a komuso and had been poured through his shakuhachi. The tune itself has a beautiful and affectionate melody. Some say that the original tune was from Futaiken temple's "San'ya" but the melodic construction rather resembles "Jinbo San'ya."
4 Daisan Fudo 第3風動 12'16 Yokoyama Katsuya

Kineya Seiho, who composed this piece, was born in 1914 and is representative of composers in the Japanese traditional music circles of this time. He started his musical career as a nagauta shamisen player, but since World War II, composition has been the main focus of his work. He has published many masterpieces, some combining various Japanese traditional musical styles in an unconventional way, while others interweave techniques of various styles or master players as constructive elements in the composition. This piece, "Fudo No. 3", is for shakuhachi trio, composed in 1970. Three shakuhachi of different lengths are combined. The construction is that each shakuhachi sings a basically metric structure, and the three voices interweave, but some of the elegance of classical music is added too, as heard in the non-metric part and in the agogic changes which appear in the middle of the piece. The piece requires the players to have the ability to precisely reproduce pitches and lengths of notes prescribed by the composer.
5 Sekishun 惜春 09'22 Yokoyama Katsuya

A duet for koto and shakuhachi composed by Yokoyama in 1981. The most well-known piece written for this combination is Miyagi Michio's composition "Haru no umi" ('Spring Sea') (1929). "Haru no umi" was originally written for flute, not shakuhachi. However, as the number of shakuhachi players who can play determined notes precisely and expressively has grown, the tune has become an important one for shakuhachi players as well. Yokoyama, being wall aware of the tune's existence, set the tuning of the koto to match "Haru no umi" and succeeded in creating a subtle ensemble of the two instruments proper to chamber music.
6 Kai 06'24 Yokoyama Katsuya

A Yokoyama composition that was written around 1982. The combination of electronic organ and shakuhachi may seem strange but if we recall that the ancestor of the electronic organ, i.e. pipe organ was an instrument in which air in a pipes is set in vibration, the combination, is not so strange. The tune seems to have large improvisational elements and, according to the composer, can be performed in many different ways. Therefore, this track could be called the document of a performance. If one imagines this as a piece of visual art, the organ, with its orchestral tremolo notes, would be seen as the ground, while the shakuhachi paints the figure.
7 Pentagonia II 16'15 Yokoyama Katsuya

The composer, Seki Ichiro is an active shakuhachi player as well as a composer. In 1994, commissioned by International Shakuhachi Training Center which Yokoyama supervises, he composed a piece which was premiered by 200 (!) shakuhachi players. The title indicates the five (i.e. penta) soloists, each with a differently pitched shakuhachi, who produce a huge, symphonic sound together with a big group of shakuhachi players. After the premiere, the composer re-wrote the original piece for six soloists. The performance on the CD follows the latter arrangements.

The composer respects the work of Igor Stravinsky greatly, and this piece is dedicated to him. Some characteristics of early Stravinsky (i.e. the grouping of notes in terms of dynamic stresses) are adopted in this piece as well as certain combinations of lines which were characteristic of Stravinsky in his middle years. Also, it contains an interesting movement made by the repetition of sound shapes which it may suggest to the listener the charm of pieces for wind instruments composed by the 'groupe de six' (Poulenc for example) in modern France.

The very existence of a number of players who can reproduce music accurately may have influenced the birth of this precisely written piece.
8 Tamuke 手向 04'29 Yokoyama Katsuya

In Japanese language, 'tamuke' means to make offerings to Gods Buddha or the dead, or simply the offered things themselves. This piece was played by komuso, literally as 'tamuke' to the dead. Even nowadays, it is sometimes played in this way.

In koten honkyoku there are other types of religious repertoire played in specific ceremonies, "Shokomon", "Zangemon", "Kuyo no kyoku", "Eko" etc., as well as "Tamuke." though it is rather a short piece, it is well organized as a tune, and a formidable masterpiece. The melody, carrying sorrow in its stillness contains love and grief to the dead and pull delicately at the listener's heart.

The International Shakuhachi Society - 2018