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Classical      Tadao Sawai   Hikaru Sawai  Michio Miyagi

Aka e / 朱へ / Towards Red

Hikaru Sawai 沢井比河流

“Aka” is a color of the painted inside of Shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute). While played it will flow down from the fingers of a player, fill the air and make the minds full. Then koto will automatically start to send a sound as if blending with the “Aka” ….

Form: koto, shakuhachi

Aka no Irodori / 赤の彩り

Hikaru Sawai 沢井比河流 / 2003

“Red – the Color of Blaze -this piece describes various shades of red in a blaze. Smoke comes first, then red flame changes to a blaze. Seeing many different red colors in the flames, and finally bursting into a blaze.” -Hikaru Sawai. Born as a son of a great couple of Koto maestros (Tadao and Kazue Sawai), Hikaru Sawai is a Koto player/composer, and he now leads the Sawai Koto Institute. He also plays guitar in a metal band.

Form: koto, 17-string koto, shamisen

Akikaze no Kyoku / 秋風の曲 / Autumn Wind

Mitsuzaki Kengyo 光崎検校 / 1800's

This piece consists of two sections; the first, purely instrumental, in the style of classical danmono, the second a sequence of songs with koto accompaniment, in the classical kumiuta style. The text was adapted from the “Song of Everlasting Sorrow” that recounts a famous love story in 9th century China. [RIK record notes]

Form: shamisen / shamisen, koto, shakuchahi

Akogare / あこがれ / Longing

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1972

Some of Tadao Sawai’s early works were characterised by melancholic themes. However his wish was also to weave more uplifting melodies into his works. This particular piece shows this, though it retains passages that still reflect the darker side of his character. As he says himself the title “Longing” refers to his objective to achieve a more positive outlook as a person.

Form: two kotos

Ame / 雨 / Rain

Hozan Yamamoto 山本邦山 / 1954

The song is described by the composer as depicting a rainy day in the monsoon season. The soft gentle wind flutters the paper parasol of a walker passing by, creating a harmonious elemental sound.

Form: koto, shakuhachi

Aoku / 紺碧く / Azure

Hideaki Kuribayashi 栗林秀明 / 1983

When a single image gushes forth, it is developed and rearranged until it becomes the ardently desired form. The fast pizzicato section is developed as the theme. The work is primarily a suet, but in one of the variations it divides into four parts to become a quartet. In any case, this piece is radical!! (commissioned by Tokyo University) [English Notes: Anne Prescott]

Form: four kotos

Asa no Uta / 朝のうた / Morning Praise

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1954

This piece was composed in the winter of 1954 and it is Tadao Sawai’s first composition. It was originally written as music for children to dance to and later on, it was performed with the narration of a story about a father and daughter in a snowy country. This music consists of five parts; Scenery, Dancing, Lullaby, Dreaming and Blizzard.

Form: koto, 17-string koto, shakuhachi

Autumn for koto solo Op.110

Thomas Svoboda / 1982-1983

Aki (Autumn); Moderato, Allegro moderato, Lento-AllegroAutumn for koto solo Op.110, a three-movement work commissioned by Yoko Ito Gates, expresses a blend of Japanese traditional style combined with the European melodic approach. Two contrasting chords of the major and relative minor, expressing awareness of the present and reflections of the past and the loneliness and peacefulness of nature’s fading energy in the fall, create the main flavor. [RIK record notes]

Form: koto

Chidori Genso / 千鳥幻想 / Song of the Plover

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1980

The piece, Chidori no Kyoku, was originally for voice and koto and is based on a classical Koto piece. The composer uses 13 & 17 string Kotos in a new arrangement to express a beautiful scene with the call of the plovers, flying to and fro.

Form: koto, 17-string koto

Chidori no Kyoku / 千鳥の曲 / Song of Plovers

Yoshizawa Kengyo 吉沢検校 / 1800's

Chidori no Kyoku is one of a set of compositions for voice and the koto entitled Kokin no Kumi, in which a new tuning (and mode) for the koto, called Kokin-choshi, was introduced. Two waka poems are sung in this piece: the first waka is from the Kokin Waka Shu, a tenth century anthology of court poetry compiled by imperial command. The second one, sung after the tegoto (instrumental interlude), is from the Kinyo Shu, a twelfth century anthology.

Shionoyama / At Shionoyoma
Sashide no iso ni / Frequenting the sand spit
Sumu chidori / Plovers call out:
Kimi ga miyo woba / “You, my lord,
Yachiyo tozo naku / may you live eight thousand years!”
Awajishima / At Awaji Island
Kayo chidori no / The call of the plovers,
Naku koe ni / flying to and fro.
Ikuyo nezamenu / How often they have awakened
Suma no sekimori / the guard at Suma Pass

Form: koto

Concerto for Koto and Orchestra / 箏とオーケストラのための協奏曲

Kako Takashi 加古隆 / 1984

Simplicity is the subject of this piece. I have tried to create a simplified structure rather than a complicated one with many voices and subdivisions. I wanted to express the sonic images in my mind as simply as possible, quite different from the conceptions of progression and retrogression, or the old and the new. I also hoped to create an expressive energy that often results from that simplicity. This piece consists of two parts that are performed continuously. The first part consists of a “breathing image,” while the second is an ostinato incantation. Concerto for koto and Orchestra, a type of international encounter between the koto and the symphonic orchestra, was premiered in 1985.

[Takashi Kako] Commission & Premiere: Kazue Sawai & New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra;

Form: koto, 17-string koto, orchestra

Datura / だちゅら

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1985

The first time I encountered the flower called ‘Datura’, it was on a late summer evening in Kagoshima, Japan. Its white flowers looked like a dappled pool of shimmering light in the humid summer dusk. In that moment I was transported to another world.

Form: two kotos, 17-string koto

Dokeshi / 道化師 / Clown

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1958

In this piece a gorgeous development of rhythm appears first, but in the middle flows a decadent and sad melody. It is there I catch a glimpse of myself unexpectedly, the place where a clown lives…

Form: koto, 17-string koto, shakuhachi

Dosei / 土声 / Voices of the Earth

Hikaru Sawai 沢井比河流 / 1991

The two voices in this piece offer strongly contrasting timbres which complement each other as earth and sky. There are two distinct movements, with the second being more intense and ominous. The opening free rhythm suggests a tentative dialogue between the two voices. The music then settles into an intensely energetic and dramatic argument. The percussive koto exudes earthy energy while the shakuhachi is more lyrical and flowing.
The piece features frequent mood changes: aggressive and dissonant at times, lyrical and poignant at others. A constant accumulation of motives drives the music forward.

Form: 17-string koto

...Early In the morning, Right Before Waking...

Sofia Gubaidulina / 1993

This piece is dedicated to a unique and amazing koto player named Kazue Sawai. The impression that I received on hearing her perform for the first time, the aural and the visual appreciation of her talent and technique, were reinforced and made even more profound when I stayed in her home for a week. Getting to know her personally through the koto was an enriching experience. The whole seven days that I spent with the koto and 17-string koto were truly unforgettable. My joy transcended anything that could be described in words. I touched the strings with awkward and shivering fingers, but the koto received my inexperienced touch with affection and sensitivity. I sensed the profoundness of these instrument and now have a very close bond with them, having spent days and nights together with the instrument and its sounds. One morning I awoke and thought I could hear them conversing I guessed they had been playing my music just before I awoke.

[Sofia Gubaidulina]

Form: four kotos, three 17-string kotos

Emu / 絵夢 / Picture Dreams

Hideaki Kuribayashi 栗林秀明 / 1976

Emu was inspired by the sound of the late autumn wind at the mountain temple, Katsuoji; the wind blowing through the fields and mountains at dusk. The composer is noted for his skillful use of rhythms not found in traditional Japanese music, while retaining the unique timbrel qualities of each instrument.

Form: koto, shakuhachi

Futatsu no Denenshi / 二つの田園詩 / Two Pastorals

Katsutoshi Nagasawa 長沢勝俊 / 1973

Consisting of two contrasting pieces, “Futasu no den-en-shi” seems to allude as much to the work to be done in the fields as to the calm contemplation at the end of the day. The first piece is in 4/4 time and is quite slow while the second is livelier and in 3/4-time.

Form: koto, 17-string koto, shakuhachi

Futatsu no Hensokyoku / 二つの変奏曲

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1971

Sakura Sakura and Koujo no Tsuki are two of Japan’s most famous folk songs. After a short introduction section, the piece starts with the first variation. Sakura Sakura has 5 different variations and although both songs are arranged independently of each other, depending on the performer’s preference, it’s possible to continue with the Koujo no Tsuki medley after Sakura Sakura. Koujo no Tsuki has 3 different variations, the second variation is used again in the Coda.

Form: koto

Futatsu no Gun no tameni / 二つの群の為に / Music for Two Armadas

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1976

This piece was composed for Tadao Sawai and Kazue Sawai’s joint recital series in Osaka and Fukuoka.
With the solo koto and solo bass koto as the center, the other kotos and bass kotos form 2 armada. This piece takes up the concept of contrast, and the intersecting and combination of sound. In the first and second movement, a conscious effort was made to avoid traditional playing techniques and musical structures. Instead the aim was to create a sense of modernism using the instrument itself as a subject matter. However, in the third movement, this is turned around as more traditional musical structures and playing techniques are used, in an experimental attempt to further develop the concept of Contemporary Traditional Music.

Form: solo koto, three kotos, solo 17-string koto, two 17-string kotos

Gaku / 楽

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1988

1. Perpetual Motion / 2. Variations / 3. Rondo
The character ‘GAKU’ here takes on the double meaning of “Music” and ”Pleasure” or “Fun”.
Pleasure in sound…… Pleasure in rhythm…… flowing… captivating….. dancing…. This work is overtaken with beauty of music, the gentleness of music and at the time it shakes with the passion of music.
“ Fresh and Green the delicate young leaves / One by one they sprout / with the brilliant resonance / They move forward spring “

Form: koto

Genka / 絃歌

Ichiro Higo 肥後一郎 / 1982

“Genka” means “playing the koto, and singing at the same time”, but this piece does not have a voice part.
Instead, the solo koto will play a short song-without-words quietly in the middle. The composer placed this part to the soloist as his “genka”. Begins with the repeat of irregular meter played by the ensemble, solo koto will appear led by 17-string koto’s soft sound. After the conversation of solo koto and the ensemble, then “genka” starts… Solo koto continues to play agitatedly while the ensemble sings “genka” also, then the first phrase will be played by solo and the ensemble follows till the end.

Form: solo koto, three kotos, 17-string kotos

Ginga / 銀河 / The Galaxy

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1984

Ginga (The Galaxy) is a piece for koto & shamisen. “Many people call the koto a Japanese harp, but I’m not very fond of that description. However, it is true that the koto produces a sound very similar to the harp because of its construction. I believe that the different musical directions and sounds that are produced by these instruments depend on the individuals who foster the instrument, and it is their daily lifestyle and experiences that affect those sounds. It is like comparing ballet, a dance reminiscent of lightness and flight, and Japanese dance which is more rooted to the earth. With those things in mind, I intentionally used the koto to create a harp like sound, and paired it with the shamisen, which carries a more folk like sound to draw contrast and bring those two opposing worlds into one piece.” -Tadao Sawai, Translated by Darin Miyashiro / Mika Miyashiro

Form: koto, shamisen

Godan-ginuta / 五段砧

Mitsuzaki Kengyo 光崎検校 / 1800's

This work originally composed for two kotos is considered the highest point of instrumental development in the sokyoku genre of the nineteenth century. The title means a composition consisting of five sections (godan) based on the rhyme pattern of kinuta. Kinuta originally means a wooden block used in former times to press and soften newly woven cloth. Kinuta as a musical piece, however, is an instrumental piece based on the rhythmic patter derived from the soft tapping sound of the fulling block. Sandwiched by two short songs (maeuta ‘introductory song’ and atouta ‘concluding song’), this highly instrumental piece virtually actually shows the tegoto-mono form. The tegoto is composed of two independent pieces, namely Sandan-jishi and Godan-kinuta.

Form: 2 kotos

Gosechi no Mai / 五節の舞 / Dance of the Heavenly Maidens

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1984

It is said that the Gosechi no Mai, a type of dance performed at the Toyoakri-no-sechie Festival. began with the dance of heavenly maidens who waved their sleeves five times. They were brought down to each by the sound of the koto of the Emperor Temmu (reigned 673-686), as he played it at his detached palace in Yoshino. I was fascinated by this fantastic scene, 2nd borrowed the name of the dance for the title of this composition. The content of this piece is not, however , a simple description of the legendary event, but rather my own mental image of the phantasmagorical part of the myth itself. The piece begins with an explosion of energy on the two jushichigen (17-string koto), from which the classically-phrased koto part is born quietly. The sound of this koto part entices those of the two jushichigen, developing gradually into an ardent dance. (commissioned by Ritsuko Koda) [translation: Wakana Hamada]

Form: koto, two 17-string kotos

Hachidan no Shirabe / 八段の調べ / Etude in Eight Steps

Yatsuhashi Kengyo 八橋検校 / 1700's

In danmono, each section has the same number of measures and uses the same basic melodic motives arranged in individual sequences. The overall structure is the classic jo-ha-kyu sequence: introduction, scattering and denouement. [RIK record notes]

Form: koto

Hana ni naru / 華になる

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1988

Although originally created by Michio Miyagi as a bass accompaniment for ensembles, the bass koto is quickly becoming a solo instrument. Of course, it also thanks to the efforts of various performers, composers, and makers, but the beauty of its profound strength and reverberation will even now continue to capture the hearts of many. And from here on onwards, I believe that the bass koto will be the flower of the Japanese music world.

Form: 17-string koto

Hanaikada / 花筏 / Flower Raft

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1968

The flower raft courses down the river, pausing at the water’s edge, then streaming down again rapidly to come to stand still in a quiet eddy. Translated by Dr. Bernice Hirai

Form: two kotos

Haru no Umi / 春の海 / The Sea of Spring

Michio Miyagi 宮城道雄 / 1929

Haru no Umi’ is one of Miyagi Michio’s best known works, frequently heard in Japan at New Year. Composed in December 1929 as a duet for koto and shakuhachi, it depicts impressions experienced on a springtime boat trip on the Inland Sea of Japan. Miyagi Michio(1894-1956) is considered to be the father of ‘shin nihon ongaku’ (new Japanese music).

Form: koto, shakuhachi

Hashi o watatte / 橋をわたって / While I Am Crossing the Bridge

Yuji Takahashi 高橋悠治 / 1984

While I was crossing the bridge was originally written for the Japanese 17 string bass koto and was first performed by Kazue Sawai. The piece consists of two sections: an introduction and an improvisation based on the Vietnamese folk song Qua Cau Gio Bay (My vest was swept away by the wind while I crossed the bridge). In the introduction, the unfolding of the melodic material occurs very slowly, as in traditional Indian music. As the piece continues and variations of the original melody are heard the music picks up speed and the nature of the instrument is explored. commissioned by Kazue Sawai [Yuji Takahashi] Qua Cau Gio Bay I gave him my vest When I came home, I told my parents My vest was swept away by the wind While I was crossing the bridge I gave him my ring When I came home, I told my parents My ring was dropped While I was crossing the bridge I gave him my hat when I came home, I told my parents My hat was swept away by the wind While I was crossing the bridge.

Form: 17-string koto

Hida ni yoseru Mittsu no Ballard / 飛騨に寄せる三つのバラード / Three Ballard for Hida

Katsutoshi Nagasawa 長沢勝俊 / 1977

Hida is an old town in Japan where ancient hand made goods can still be seen. There are three movements in this piece, 1. 歩荷(Bokka) refers to the local people who deliver goods across the mountains by carrying them on their back, with their strong footsteps represented in this movement. 2. 立円(Tachitsubura) is nowadays called a baby pen, though in olden times it was handmade of wood and it showed their parents’ love towards their children. 3. 杉玉(Sugidama) is a ball made of cedar leaves, which can be seen hanging in Sake stores.

Form: three kotos, 17-string koto, shakuhachi

Hotaru / 火垂る / Fire Flies

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1980

Sawai’s response to a moving short story about a young boy and his infant sister starving in an air-raid shelter after losing everything near the end of the last world war, fire flies were captured for light. After death of his sister, the boy created a funeral pyre. When the fire was just ashes, he was surrounded by many, many fire flies. The boy was to die in the year the war ended.

Form: 17-string koto

Hyakkafu / 百花譜 / Multitude of Flowers

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1983

Although this work is divided into four sections (spring, summer, autumn, and winter), it is played without pause. The spring portion begins with hundreds of flowers in wild disarray which is expressed by the changing meter in the koto and 17-string koto. As the colors are explored, the season changes to summer. Sawai explains, “The summer and winter sections of this work have a special meaning for me. We used to have a Taishan tree at our house with big heavy, white flowers. On hot and humid summer evenings, the listless scent of those flowers floated through the air, quite a contrast from the brazen weather. It is not that oppressive summer, but rather the summer of the gentle scent of the flowers that speaks to me.” To the Japanese, autumn is a season which has a special musical and pictorial connotations. The sounds of the insects and the brocade of red leaves, music and pictures, make our heart strings tremble. I was seeking this very Japanese autumnal beauty. And then winter – this winter is a particular past season which welled up within me. During that winter, the camellias were blooming. The whiteness and lightness of the feather-weight snow dressed the flowers in warmth and the snow fell in heaps on the deep green leaves and the red flower petals. Within that wall of whiteness, the glimpses of deep red which peeked through burned as if shouting out with the strength of life. -English Notes: Anne Prescott

Form: koto, 17-string koto

Illusion / イリュージョン

Hikaru Sawai 沢井比河流 / 2000

There are two manifestations of illusion, ‘Fantasy/Magic’ and ‘Visions’. Fantasy is created intentionally, whereas Visions are involuntary and believed to be reality. In both cases reality eventually returns.

Form: koto, 17-string koto

Ishi no Niwa / 石の庭 / Rock Garden

Hikaru Sawai 沢井比河流 / 1999

The title ‘OKOTO’ refers to the instrument itself and pays respect to it by adding the honorific ‘O’. The title is written in the English alphabet only, removing the formality of the traditional Chinese characters. Two rhythms in the first movement of the piece blend to form a melody. The second movement showcases the harmonic elements of the piece. In the third movement the two parts engage in a dialogue.

Form: two kotos

Isu / 椅子 / Chair

Hideaki Kuribayashi 栗林秀明 / 1992

This work takes a look at inorganic material-that which can live by itself-in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city. 1st movement-The heat shimmer on the periphery of that which makes up a person’s heat. 2nd movement-The noise and rhythm which are given off by people who are indifferent to their surroundings. The image of an inorganic MacIntosh chair appeared during the composition of this work, hence the title. (commissioned by the Sawai Koto School) [English Notes: Anne Prescott]

Form: four kotos, two 17-string kotos

Jogen no Kyoku / 上弦の曲

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1979

This piece was written while pondering about the ancient people who might have prayed to the mysterious moon and it would give you a feel for typical traditional sound of Japan. Starts with the free talking of koto and shakuhachi, then shift to duet. The combination of the sound will lift gradually and reach a climax at the part of ostinato at the end, then end with the refrain of the beginning talking.

Form: koto, shakuhachi

Jokei Sansho / 情景三章 / Three Scenes

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1969

The composer reveals the sentiments in his heart in the three segments: Uneri (wind blowing to and fro), Yasuragi (peacefulness) and Dokoku (Grief, lament) [Sawai Koto Kai Hawai]

Form: koto

Josho no Kanata / 上昇の彼方 / Beyond the Rise

Hikaru Sawai 沢井比河流 / 2003

People seem to climb an endless stairway one step at a time. These stairs can appear in time, space and spirit and they can extend into different directions. Beyond the Rise portrays the climb in three movements, as we slowly ascend the stairs and look skywards.

Form: 2 kotos, 17-string koto

K no tame no To I Kin / Kの為の斗為巾 / To I Kin for K (Kanako)

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1991

The title To-i-kin refer to the highest 3 notes in the koto, they are often used and played in many koto pieces. Tadao Sawai composed this piece and dedicated it to his daughter Kanako. From the beginning, it sounds like a conversation between an adult and a child due to the contrast between a very deep sound of the bass koto and the high pitch of the koto.

Form: koto, 17-string koto

Kazagoromo / 風衣 / Layers of Wind

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1985

This works by Tadao Sawai was commissioned by photographer Hiroshi Tanaka in 1985. The final collection of his “Wind” series was entitled, “Kazagoromo: the Dawn of Koto Music”. This collection of photographs is a representation of 73 koto works, covering the history and development of koto music. [Falconer Translation Inc.]

Form: koto, 17-string koto

Kaze no Uta / 風の歌 / The Song of the Wind

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1970

Practically all traditional Japanese art and music are influenced by and in tune reflect nature as experienced by the Japanese people. This piece expresses the poetic nature of the wind through the sounds of the koto and the shakuhachi. Nature is not merely pretty or refined, but can also be rough, unpolished even violent. Consequently, rough and unpolished sounds also feature in this piece.

Form: koto, shakuhachi

Kaze Watari / 風・わたり / Cross winds

Hideaki Kuribayashi 栗林秀明 / 1990

There are several type of sound effects for koto which are used in classical works, but for this work the composer created completely new sound effects. The introduction begins with these sound effects and then it diminuendos to tone clusters which then lead into the melody. This melody paints the caprices of the wind as it changes color and is extinguished, and the undulations of the blowing wind are pursued in the following melodies. This work is a quartet in to movements without pause. (commissioned by Sawai Koto School Seminar) [English Notes: Anne Prescott]

Form: four kotos

Keyaki / 欅 / Zelkova Tree

Hideaki Kuribayashi 栗林秀明 / 1992

This work reflects the essence of the four seasons as experienced when one lingers in the peaceful tree-lined streets. It is astir with the undulating sounds of the supple tree branches fluttering in the breeze. Drops are filled with unhurried, gentle vibration. commissioned by Genyo Kobayashi -English Notes: Anne Prescott

Form: koto, 17-string koto

Kinuta / 砧

Michio Miyagi 宮城道雄 / 1928

“Kinuta” refers to a wooden block used for fulling cloth by rhythmic beating. When Miyagi Michio was living in Korea he was fascinated by the rhythm and sounds of the kinuta, which are reflected in this composition, with the second koto creating and sustaining the rhythm that supports the melody played by the first koto, giving rise to an ongoing dialogue between the two instruments throughout the piece.

Form: two kotos

Kinuta Sansho / 砧三章

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1962

The first and third movements of this piece combine the traditional “kinuta-ji” motif with interweaving rhythms by the three koto parts. Kinuta refers to the fulling blocks used to beat cloth in an ancient fabric making processes. Through time, the term became synonymous with the constant regular beating sound made by the kinuta and similar rhythms in musical works, especially for koto and shamisen. The more dramatic second movement depicts late fall, with the chirping of insects and a chill in the air.

Form: two kotos, 17-string koto

Kitoka / 祈祷歌 / Air of Prayer for 17-string bass koto solo

Teizo Matsumura 松村禎三 (1929 - 2007) / 1984

“Air of Prayer” commissioned by Kazue Sawai was composed in between march and October of 1984. As “Fantasy” was produced by the collaboration of Matsumura and Tadao Sawai, “I and Kazue Sawai had heated discussion for several months on the numerous sounds we had been trying to fix. I could write this piece because I was so impressed and fascinated by her native musical talent and her strong passions to play every one of notes,” Matsumura says. There sits a virgin and many singers around her to give occult prayer. They are surrounded by a large group of people. The vital song of prayer gushed out from the ground becomes uplift and they all dance madly in ecstasy. Then they all become tired and prostrate down on the ground. The music is so full of primitive and direct energy that those scenes can be imagined. Matsumura succeeded in composing “such an energetic piece which Asian in concept and directly linked to the root of life” using one of Japanese instruments which have never been related to that kind world. [Kurodo Mori (translation: T.N.)]

Form: 17- string koto

Koto Futae / 箏双重

Minoru Miki 三木稔 / 1973

The first movement shows a peaceful scene in which two kotos sing in the beauty of the medieval style, while they become backgrounds by turns. The second movement has the same medieval style, evoking the atmosphere of a Western European church. The third movement changes to a fast and dynamic music, with many alterations. It is intended that the feeling of the entire piece to be simple and clear.

Form: two kotos

Koto no tame no Shoukyousoukyoku Fantasia / 箏の為の小協奏曲 ファンタジア / Fantasia

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1970

It is an indoor concerto with solo koto and koto group, each part uses quite traditional, classical motifs and techniques. This piece can be roughly divided into three. The first part is the part of the allegret sparkling the Soloist Koto sound, the second part is the rent developed in 3/4 beat, the third part is the development of the first motif and the solo performance of the Cadenza , Followed by the coda to glitter the overlap until the end of the music.

Form: solo koto, three kotos, 17-string koto

Koto Uta, Basho Goku / 箏歌、芭蕉五句 / Koto Uta Basho’s Haiku

Joji Yuasa 湯浅譲二 / 1978

I composed this for koto and 17-string koto commissioned for the 17-string koto recital of Ms. Teiko Kikuchi. Here I wished to inherit a Japanese tradition involved in an instrument koto, and make it develop based on modernity. I wanted to revive “So uta (a koto song)” which is thoroughly forgot by modern koto music. That is the reason I have chosen haiku by Basho, whom I love and respect. The composition consists of following five haiku, Passages in parentheses are added as a kind of expression signs.
 1, Friends are they? Separated by clouds, wild geese part for life (for something far away) 2, At dawn, whitebait, white they are slightly (chilly and clearly) 3, Narcissuses, reflect together white shojis* (with a crystal calmness) 4, Stillness, soak into rocks chirping of cicadas (stillness thoroughly filling heaven and earth) 5, Rough sea! On Sado lies the Milky way (Vastness of the dark universe) [Joji Yuasa] (translation: Wakana Hamada) *Japanese paper-sliding doors

Form: koto, 17-string koto, voice

Kuroda-bushi niyoru Gensokyoku / Kuroda-bushi Fantasy / 黒田節による幻想曲

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1957

Composed while still a student at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, this piece based on the folk melody “Kuroda-bushi”, captures the splendor of the “new Japanese Music’ movement. Michio Miyagi’s “Etenraku Hensoukyoku”, one of Tadao Sawai’s favorite pieces, served as a motive to compose a smaller-form that could still exhibit the enjoyable aspects of that large ensemble piece. [Sawai Koto Hawaii]

Form: solo koto, two kotos, 17-string koto, shakuhachi

Kurokami / 黒髪 / Black Hair

Ichijuro Koideo 湖出市十郎 / 1784

Kurokami (Black Hair) belongs to the genre of hauta or short song. It first appeared in the Kabuki theater in 1784, but now is also popular as jiuta (song with shamisen accompaniment). The poem describes the feeling of a woman longing for her lost lover. The black hair at the beginning contrasts with the white snow (white hair) at the end, so the poem can also be taken as a metaphor of aging life. [Robin Hartshorne record notes]

Letter from a Stranger's Childhood

William Robinson / 1987

This piece was written by an English composer, Robin Williamson. It features the bass koto as a solo instrument, and chords are used frequently through the piece. It is a unique piece, as no picks are used while playing, thus producing a soft and beautiful tone.

Form : 17-string koto

Liquid Paths

Takeo Kudo / 2007

Perhaps because music has a lot to do with experiencing motion, I have frequently thought about how the flow of liquid has a way of completely surrendering itself to the forces which govern its motion. Even when it disperses or breaks off in different directions, it never questions (contradicts) its natural flow. In composition, however, the composer has complete control over (musical) motion and direction – and often the natural flow of gestures is obscured by logic and contrived relationships thought to be necessary for purposes of coherence. Liquid Paths is mainly about motion – at times leisurely, at others rapid or forceful; at times predictable, at others seemingly erratic, etc. – always capable of change but with a broad sense of direction.
Premier performance: August, 2008; Tiara Hohto Hall; Tokyo; Kuwako Hiroko, 21-string koto. [Takeo Kudo]

Form : 21-string koto


Christian Wolf / 1989

Malvina was written in 1989 for Kazue Sawai and her extraordinary koto playing. I knew almost nothing about the koto but had seen Kazue Sawai perform and drew much of encouragement for writing the piece from that. The music is also made as a tribute to Malvina Reynolds (1900-1978), one of our national treasure, a singer and songwriter of great energy and directness who tirelessly championed oppressed people and especially loved and knew all about children. She lived in California, which I think of as on the way to Japan. The music is made out of material drawn from the Malvina Reynolds song On the Rim of the World, and also from the song Harriet Tubman by Walter Robinson. The music is continuous but in six sections, the first and last made up of running figuration, the second is transcription of a Snare Drum Peace March of mine, the third and fifth use sustained sounds somewhat in the manner of chorale preludes. There are a number of tuning changes “composed” into the piece, and the performer is given a certain range of freedom of how she may play.

[Christian Wolf]

Form : koto

Manjushaka / 曼珠沙華 / Red Spider Lily

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1986

Manjushaka is generally known as the name of the cluster amarylilis . However it is originally a Buddhist term meaning imaginary flowers blooming in the heaven. The Manjushaka that blooms on earth are as beautiful as the one in the heaven. They gregariously burst into blossom and turn the fields red. When you pick them up the deep red of the delicate petal is as passionate as one’s heart.

Form : koto

Matsuri no Taiko / 祭りの太鼓 / Festival Drums

Michio Miyagi 宮城道雄 / 1947

The composer, Michio Miyagi, started the New Music Tradition in the 1920’s. This tradition came about with the Meiji Restoration which opened the passageway for an encounter between Japanese and Western music. It was the koto that became the favored instrument for experimentation. The first recital of his own works was not accepted amongst Japanese musicians but was considered a sensation in the circle of Western music. This gave Miyagi the assurance to continue exploring Western elements.

Form : koto

Meguri Meguru / めぐりめぐる

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1991

In recent years, the bass koto’s possibility as a solo instrument has been gaining recognition and attention. However, duet pieces for two bass kotos are still very rare. This is because not only it is hard to make the sounds of two bass kotos harmonize and produce a beautiful resonance, by having two bass kotos, the unnecessary noise produced from the picks hitting the strings will also be doubled. Being able to cleanly resolve these two aspects is the main challenge in composing for two bass kotos.
When I composed this piece, I kept these facts in mind but I feel that they were not fully resolved. In the end, this piece was finished based on my own comprehension of this instrument.
The first movement of this piece uses a simple 4 bar chord progression that is repeated a series of 24 times.

Form : two 17-string koto

Midare / みだれ / Disorder

Yatsuhashi Kengyo 八橋検校 / 1700's

The title is an abbreviation of Midare rinzetsu. Rinzetsu, as a term of gagaku, refers to exceptional and extraordiry performance practices. Although this piece belongs to the category of danmono (purely instrumental pieces divided in sections) like Rokudan and Hatidan, the size and structures of its sections are not regular. Although there are different opinions, Yatuhasi kengyo (1614-1685) is generally considered to the composer of this work. -Notes by Kikkawa Eisi, translated by Miri Park

Form: koto

Midnight Rain

Elizabeth Falconer / 1989

Growing up in lush rainy Oregon, I feel a very close affinity with the sound of rain. The expressive sound of the koto has long been used for portraying nature including various types of water sounds and movements. In keeping with this tradition, I employed light shifting rhythmical patterns and percussive techniques in this piece to evoke the sound of raindrops as they fell on the roof late one night.

Form: two kotos

Mittsu no Paraphrase / 三つのパラフレーズ / Three Paraphrases

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1973

The first paraphrase is the suite songs, taking the motif from classical accompanying tunes of the songs. The second one is the tune composed of five parts, the arrangement based on ancient sound and rhythm. Lastly the third one shows various kinds of “pick” techniques of koto.

Form : two kotos

Mizu no Hentai / 水の変態 / Metamorphosis of Water

Michio Miyagi 宮城道雄 / 1908

During the summer when he was aged 13, Michio moved to Incheon in Korea. He supported his family by teaching koto in daytime and Shakuhachi in the evening. At 14 he composed his first work “Mizu no Hentai”. With this composition, Michio became recognized by Hirobumi Itoh who promised to bring Michio to Tokyo and support him. Soon after, however, Itoh was assassinated so that the promise to Michio could never be carried out.
Miyagi’s first extant composition, written shortly before his fifteenth birthday in 1909, is “Mizu no Hentai” (Transformations of Water). Miyagi was inspired to write this piece after hearing his brother recite a school textbook poem by the same name which described seven states of water; mist, clouds, rain, snow, hail, dew, and frost. The form of “Mizu no Hentai”, with its alternating vocal and instrumental sections, is unlike any used in koto music until that time. While no new playing techniques are found, they are used at exceptional tempo and in unprecedented patterns, and the left hand is used extensively to play multiple pitches simultaneously. In his writings, Miyagi said that he wanted to write a new style of koto music because “Most of the –compositional- forms used in koto music were created long ago, and besides it is monotonous. I wanted to create music where two or three notes were played at a time, more complicated things like in Western music.”
“Mizu no Hentai” was first performed at a concert in Seoul about two months after it was composed. Miyagi himself added a kaede, or part for a second player, around 1917. While the original solo version of “Mizu no Hentai” is a technical masterpiece, it becomes even more so when played with the kaede as a duet. When listening to the two parts performed together it is virtually impossible to tell which player is playing which line. Both the solo and duet versions of “Mizu no Hentai” are widely performed today and the work has become a standard of the koto repertoire.

Form: two kotos

Niji no Hikari / 虹の光 / Light of the Rainbow

Marty Regan / 2003

The 17-string koto and shamisen rarely play the main melody within an ensemble setting, so I found it challenging to compose a duet for these two instruments. In this composition, I endeavored to bring out the rich, expressive capabilities of each instrument to its utmost potential. In the beginning of autumn on the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian islands, one can see beautiful rainbows emerging after a light drizzle. The melodies used in this composition came to me after looking up at one of these beautiful rainbows spreading itself over the blue sky of Hawaiʻi.

[Marty Regan]

Form: koto, 17-string koto

“Okeanos Breeze” for clarinet, oboe, viola, sho and koto

Dai Fujikura/ 2001

This piece is particularly special to me, because it was the first time I had ever written for Japanese traditional instruments. You may think that, because I look Japanese, I must have been playing these instruments since I was born. But the truth is, I had never seen and hardly ever even heard them until I went to a concert at the Darmstadt summer school when I was 20 years old. Since that summer I have been fascinated with writing for these instruments.A few years later I was delighted when Ensemble Okeanos asked me to write for them.The instrumentation of this piece wasn’t up to me, I was just asked to write for these particular instruments.Not only that, but the leader of the ensemble told me that she wanted to use some antique cymbals that she had bought from Hong Kong, and also the Ocean Drum. She demonstrated them to me (over the phone!) and I started writing.I remember that the piece came very smoothly and I had great fun studying the instruments. Both the sho and the koto suited me very well and inhabited my imagination very naturally. For instance, I usually hate vibrato, and the sho does not use vibrato. I also enjoy the sound of harsh attacks and they are very easy to achieve on the koto. Okeanos Breeze was commissioned to celebrate Japan 2001 and was performed in parallel with the Textural Space textile exhibition. I was asked to complete the piece at such short notice that I did not dwell much on all that clichéd ‘crossing-the-border’, ‘east-meets-west’ rubbish that I see in a lot of publicity material for performances using Japanese instruments.I was born in Japan but I spent my crucial teenage years in the UK and feel myself to be an equal mix of both cultures.

[Dai Fujikura]

Form: clarinet, oboe, viola, sho, koto

Oto kirara / 音きらら

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1991

This piece is based on the composer’s childhood memories of a kaleidoscope and his fascination with the brilliant colours and endless patterns they produce. The piece also conveys the relaxing sensation produced by the faint tinkling of glass fragments playing off one another.

Form: two kotos, 17-string koto

Raden / 螺鈿 / Mother-of-pearl-inlay

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1960

Raden’ is the name given to the traditional Chinese method of decorating wooden items by covering them in black lacquer and mother of pearl inlay. The music represents the contrast and variations of light and colour as it reflects off the mother of pearl.

Form: two kotos, 17-string koto

Rain Patterns

Takeo Kudo / 2009

Rain is perhaps nature’s most perfect musical instrument. If we could slow it down, we would notice a wealth of articulations, timbres, rhythms, and textures – all creating an impressive array of musical gestures. Premier performance: March 6, 2010; Orvis Auditorium; Honolulu, HI; kuwako Hiroko, 21-string koto. [Takeo Kudo]

Form: 21-string koto

Rokudan no Shirabe / 六段の調べ / Music of Six Steps

Composer unknown / 1700's

Rokudan-no-shirabe is a representative style of koto music composed by Yatsuhashi Kengyo (Kengyo is an honorary title given to blind koto masters) who died in 1685. Yatsuhashi was an epic figure in the history of the koto, and his compositions have been widely handed down. This piece is an “absolute” music consisting of six sections of 52 beats. Though this piece was originally composed for the koto, it later became fashionable to play it on the shamisen (three-stringed guitar-like instrument). The popularity of Rokudan was such that succeeding composers often adapted the melody.

Form: koto

Ryukyu-minyo ni yoru Kumikyoku / 琉球民謡による組曲 / Suite on Folk Songs of Ryukyu

Yutaka Makino 牧野由多可 / 1966

Due to the structure of the koto and its 13 movable bridges, the instrument may tuned to any type of scale. This work employs the exotically warm Ryukyu mode, which is from the far southern island of Japan and is similar to the scales of Southeast Asia. Based on two folk songs from the Ryukyus, this suite is in three movements, played in continuous fashion. The first movement opens with a long koto cadenzas for both the shakuhachi and koto,,and incorporates the melody “Tobaruma.” The piece moves into a rapid syncopated dance-like section in the third movement and climaxes with return to the “Asadoya-yunta’ tune.

Form: two kotos, 17-string koto, Shakuhachi

Sanka / 讃歌 / Song of Praise

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1978

Sanka begins with a lyrical section, which mimics the singing of a song of praise, followed by a highly intricate passage in which both the left and right hands play independent melodies. An expressive slow section in a free tempo provides contrast, and the work ends with a return to a faster tempo. A multitude of playing techniques, from tone bending to glissandos to tapping on the strings are used in unique ways to explore the world of sound. Sanka may emerge in response to the beauty of nature, love of humanity, and depth of art. When the experience of the sublime within oneself overflows, dreams and poems are produced.

Form: koto

Sasameyuki o Omoi... / 細雪を想い... / Evanescent Yearning...

Marty Regan / 2008

When I compose a piece for Japanese instruments in a place that is distant from Japan, I attempt to recall the environment, weather, sounds, smells, and tastes of this country. I worked on Evanescent Yearning… (2008) just before Japan’s most magical time, when buds blossom and die on the cherry trees in just three or four days. When cherry blossoms fall, blown by the gentle spring breeze, they look like snowflakes. In Japanese culture, the blossoming and falling of the cherry blossoms represents the impermanence of life. The energy of spring, coupled with the delicateness of these blossoms, is the source of inspiration for this piece. 

[Marty Regan]

Form: shamisen, koto

Sekijun / 石筍 / Stalagmite

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1972

The bass koto takes the lead in opening this work for a three-part koto ensemble. In the composer’s words “the piece is not necessarily attempting to depict the actual sekijun, or stalagmites one envisions rising from the floor of a dark cave.” Instead the it is hoped that the music evokes something of the expanse of history that one feels in such places and our enchantment with the tremendous beauty of nature.

Form: solo koto, two kotos, solo 17-string koto, 17-string koto

Shikyoku Ichiban / 詩曲1番 / Poem Ⅰ for shakuhachi and koto

Teizo Matsumura 松村禎三 (1929 - 2007) / 1980

“Fantasy” was commissioned by Tadao Sawai in 1980 and premiered by him in the same year. Let me quote what Matsumura says about this work. “It was fairly difficult for me to realize the continuity of a piece, since koto, among plucked stringed instruments, has relatively bright high sounds. While koto has enchanting and beautiful reverberations and expressions, its notes are never self sufficient as notes of biwa or shakuhaci are. Notes of koto inevitably need the next ones, but once the chain of notes becomes excited and moves busily, there is a danger that its original charms tend to be lost and music turns to be a noisy talkativeness which goes round and round and gets nowhere. Of course the players are responsible to avoid the situation and composition is even more responsible to avoid it.” Tuning of strings is almost the same as “Poem Ⅰ.” This work can be written only by those who experienced the world of classic, and the greatness of Matsumura lies in his success in establishing his own new ground beyond the classic while applying the traditional tuning of strings. [Kurodo Mori (translation: T.N.)]

Form: koto

Sōga / 装画

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1977

“Sōga” consists of two movements as well as several adlib sections to make it more demanding for the performers. Sawai says he wrote this piece for a couple (a koto player and a shakuhachi player) who had recently married. The title refers to his wish that the piece could become the cover of the history that they were about to create together.

Form: two kotos, 17-string koto, two shakuhachis

Tadayou Shima / 漂う島 / Drifting Island for 17-gen, Perc / 十七絃と打楽器のための

Maki Ishii 石井眞木 (1936 - 2003) / 1979

In this work, simple 4 “tetratone” of 17-string koto ranged 3 octaves (4 octaves in case of including flageolet tones) is the important motif. In addition to it there are vast sounds of tam-tam and others as well as jumps of marimba (it often springs from the motif of tetratone to the dodecaphonic tone-form). Harmonizing, confronting and crossing, this jump of tune and “simplicity & complication” in sounds form a new sound space by the ‘master feat’ of Kazue Sawai and Sumire Yoshihara. This work was premiered on October 22, 1979 at “Kazue Sawai’s 17-string koto Recital” at Aoyama Tour Hall performed by Kazue Sawai and Sumire Yoshihara, to both of whom this was dedicated.

[Maki Ishi]

Form: 17-string koto, percussion

Taka / 鷹 / Hawk

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1972

This song captures the power and beauty of a bird of prey flying on the distant horizon. It embodies its graceful elegance and effortless majesty of the sky.

Form: 2 kotos

Tori no yoni / 鳥のように / Flying Like a Bird

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1985

Tadao Sawai explained that the music in this piece was about dreaming of flying. How would it feel to fly? Not like humans do, in noisy airplanes, but completely free, like birds do…

Form: koto

Tsuchi-ningyo / つち人形 / Clay Doll

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1972

This piece describes the composer’s recollection of traditional clay dolls which are made in his hometown in the Aichi prefecture. This composition was inspired by the vivid colours of the dolls.

Form: two kotos


Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1992

This is an ensemble piece for Koto and Shamisen, each instrument has a relatively long solo in the middle section.
TSURUKAME is one of the well-known Japanese traditional terms. Literally Tsuru refers to crane and Kame is turtle. These two are treated as symbol of good fortune in Japan. The composer named this piece TSURUKAME without any direct reference. However, it is fascinating how this simple term can fully express felicitation.

Form: koto, shamisen

Umi e / 海へ / To the Sea

Hideaki Kuribayashi 栗林秀明 / 1991

This is a short piece which was composed for a recital by Kenny Endo, a traditional Japanese drummer, in which the composer participated. [English Notes: Anne Prescott]

Form: 17-string koto

Uminari / 海鳴り / Ocean Sounds

Yukiko Ishii 石井由希子 / 1999

This upcoming woman composer has created here an unusual combination of textures with the Tsugaru Shamisen and koto. These two plucked instruments are rarely heard together and are surprisingly contrasting in range and texture. The piece is a product of Ishii’s imagination of timbres depicting the energy in the swirling sea.
The first section is led by the rhythmic melody of the shamisen over the constant deep drive of the bass koto; the middle section is led by the gentle melody of the bass, while the shamisen sails above. The final section merges the two contrasting texture into one powerful voice, producing an energy reminiscent of a strong current.

Form: shamisen, 17-string koto

Uta / 詩 / Poem

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1983

“Several months before writing this piece, I read Ishimuro Michiko’s autobiographical novel, Memories of the Camellia Sea. I’m not a well-read person, however my wife likes books, and around the bed and in the toilet, books are piled up, so that when I can’t sleep or am bored in the toilet, I pick up a book in my vicinity and gradually read them. The book I mentioned before, Memories of the Camellia Sea also came into my hands this way, but I continued reading it. The beauty of the composition made it impossible to put down. Sometimes I even took it away on trips. This beauty from the beginning of the first chapter tempts the reader’s spirit with its tenderness. The tempted spirit then begins to float comfortably in the book’s moving descriptions. Also at the end of the book is a commentary by ‘oka Shin which is brilliant.”
“In the novel there is a paragraph that one could say was just like a verse of a prose poem. It came to life with its realistic description. It had in short the essence of the ‘poem’. I read the Japanese word for ‘poem’ as ‘uta’ and borrowed this character for my piece.” – Tadao Sawai

Form: solo koto, three kotos, two 17-string kotos

VOICE OF THE PHOENIX, Concerto for Koto and Orchestra

Neil Mackay (1924-2016) / 2004

Voice of the Phoenix is a series of conjoined variations cast in concerto form, the orchestra providing accompaniment to and dialogue with the koto. The first movement moves from slow to fast, customary in Japanese music. The slow second movement and fast third movement (with cadenza) are played without pause. The work is based on Midare (“disorder and confusion”), which displays many techniques used in koto playing. It is attributed to Yatsuhashi Kengyo (1614-1685) and was transcribed into Western notation by ethnomusicologist Ricardo D. Trimillos of the University of Hawaii.

[Neil Mckay]

Form: koto, orchestra


Neil Mackay (1924-2016) / 1970

Three-movement work commissioned by Ricardo Trimillos who performed
the work in Hawai’i, on the mainland United States, and in countries around the world – the Philippines, Japan, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Austria. Performed by Keiko Nosaka in Carnegie Hall, New York as part of a world tour 6/24/81. Recorded by Keiko Nosaka for Camerata Records (Tokyo) CMT-1048

[Neil Mckay]

Form: koto

Yachiyojishi Henkyoku / 八千代獅子編曲

Michio Miyagi (Kengyo Fujinaga arr.) 宮城道雄編曲 (藤永検校)

This piece from the classical repertoire was originally composed for the shakuhachi, and later arranged for the koto, shakuhachi, shamisen, and other instruments. The melodies of Yachio Jishi are so well-known in Japan that they often occur in Kabuki theatre as well as popular genres to evoke certain desired emotions. [The East-West Center Arts program notes]

Form: kokyu, two kotos, shamisen, fue, tsuzumi, 17-string koto, shakuhachi

Yomigaeru Itsutsu no uta / 甦る五つの歌 / Five Songs of Youth Revised

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1979

Five Songs of Youth revised_x000D_Compose by Sawai Tadao in 1979, this suite is based on five short poems written by the composer’s son Hikaru at the age of thirteen. Upon reading the verse, which relate something of the overpowering emotions and uncertainty of youth, it was as if Sawai were reliving a part of his own youth. [translation: Curtis J. Patterson]

Form: koto

Yuki / ゆき

Minezaki Koto 峰崎勾当 / 1800's

Composed by Minezaki Koto (Koto is another honorific title for musicians), who was active around 1800 in Osaka. Its song text describes sorrow of a woman on a cold evening. The instrumental interlude depicts the sound of temple bell on a snowy evening. Its melody has been quoted not only in the original genre but also in other genres including kabuki and bunraku, mainly for depicting snow. [Pan-Asian Music Festival program notes]

Yuki Monogatari / 雪ものがたり / Story of Snowy Country

Tadao Sawai 沢井忠夫 / 1954

This piece was composed in the winter of 1954 and it is Tadao Sawai’s first composition. It was originally written as music for children to dance to and later on, it was performed with the narration of a story about a father and daughter in a snowy country. This music consists of five parts; Scenery, Dancing, Lullaby, Dreaming and Blizzard.

Form: koto, 17-string koto, shakuhachi

Yukige Shizuku / ゆき解しずく / The Sound of Melting Snow

Shingo Edo 江戸信吾 / 2000

This piece was composed for a koto duet and depicts the scene of the thaw season – a resonant sound of snow melting in the crisp cool air. The harmony of the two kotos expresses the arrival of spring. I hope my rendition of the piece conveys the sense of spring’s beginning and the joy of new life.

Form: two kotos

Zangetsu / 残月 / Fading Moon

Minezaki Koto 峰崎勾当 / Written in the Kansei period (1789-1801)

Written in the Kansei period (1789-1801). Originally composed for the Buddhist memorial service of one of Minezaki’s student* named Matsuya. The piece consists of a short prelude, first song, tegoto in five dan, chirashi and second song. Originally written with shamisen accompaniment only, Minezaki later added the koto part himself. [RIK record notes] *Minezaki’s student, she was the daughter of a wealthy merchant, the name whose shop, Matsuya, is echoed in the song. the tegotomono style (a repertoire of pieces for displaying instrumental techniques) from the Ikuta Ryu school is considered to be one of the greatest achievements in the tegotomono form, is often performed at memorial concerts.

Form: shamisen / shamisen, koto, shakuchahi