Tangled Lights for Koto and String Orchestra


Title Tangled Lights for Koto and String Orchestra 弦楽合奏と箏のための乱光
Year 2007
Composer Takashi Koto
Instrument/s koto, string orchestra
Commission Written for: Kalistos Chamber Orchestra
First Performance (date, performers, venue) March 23, 2007, Ryuko Mizutani and Kalistos Chamber Orchestra, Edward Pickman Hall, Longy Music School of Bard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Contact for Sheets the composer
Contact Info https://www.facebook.com/takashi.koto.10/

Tangled Lights for Koto and Strings (弦と箏のための乱光): The late composer Toru Takemitsu once told me in a letter that he did not like to use so-called “Japanesque” qualities as selling points in his music. Because he became internationally famous for his “November Steps” for biwa (Japanese lute), shakuhachi (bamboo flute) and orchestra, this was a bit of a surprise to me. This dilemma between Japanese and Western styles is an eternal issue for us Westernized composers, and Takemitsu was no exception.

It is not easy to mix oil (Europe) and water (Japan). At some point I even tried to avoid Japanese elements completely. As I have continued, however, directing concert series for shakuhachi and koto in Boston and composing works for the two instruments, I feel reconciled with the bipolar divide between the West and East that has begun to melt away inside me.

The idea for “Tangled Lights for Koto and Strings” was based on my old work “The Tangled Lights” for shakuhachi and koto, but the two pieces came out very differently, sharing only similar openings. The koto has movable bridges and can be tuned in a variety of ways–from modem “atonal” to traditional pentatonic. I have chosen the latter, a little altered from the traditional tuning, in order to forge something new from tradition. The concerto is in a single movement with three parts. In the middle part, the strings function like percussion. I hope they sound like Buddhist woodblocks or shishi odoshi, a water fountain used in Japanese gardens to scare off animals. [Koto]