Koto Uta

Title Koto Uta
Year 1999
Composer Toshio Hosokawa
Instrument/s voice, koto
Commission Commissioned by the Takefu International Music Festival/dedicated to Hiroshi Tanaka
Duration 9′
Text From Manyoshu
First Performance (date, performers, venue) May 1999, Sumi Tani, Makiko Goto, Hannover
Contact for Sheets Schott Music Co., Ltd.
Contact Info Schott Music

For several years now I have had an intense interest in the koto music of the seventeenth century, the end of the Edo era. The so-called koto-kumiuta (song suite with koto accompaniment), in which the performer both sings the vocal part and plays the instrumental accompaniment, stand out in particular for their great grace and dignity. The Koto-uta (songs with koto accompaniment) by koto musicians like Yatsuhashi kengyo, Kitajima kengyo, and Yamada kengyo are performed in such a way that the vocal and instrumental parts are shifted in relation to each other both tonally and rhythmically, and this gives them a musical character of great subtlety and delicateness.

In composing my Koto-uta I also listened carefully to the subtle “landscapes” of the tones produced by the voice and koto. The voice and koto are for the most part performed unisono, though whether tonal and rhythmic shifts between the two parts.

The text I used for this song is, like Banka, taken from the poetry anthology “Manyoshu”, and specifically from section titled Somonka, a group of love poems exchanged between men and women of the nobility. The author is Sanu no Chigami no Otome, who dedicated this love poem to her lover.

Ajimano ni
yadoreru kimi ga
toki no mukae wo
itsu toka matamu

In Ajimano
my lover is staying.
Will he return?
How long must I
wait until then!

Toshio Hosokawa (Translation: Steven Lindberg)