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Lachlan Skipworth

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Sydney Conservatorium of Music The University of Sydney 2015


I declare that the research presented here is my own original work and has not been submitted to any other institution for the award of a degree.

Signed: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Date: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

0. Abstract. In learning honkyoku, the ancient solo repertoire for the Japanese bamboo shakuhachi, the student undertakes a lifelong search aspiring to make each piece an extension of their inner self. The concepts of honnin no kyoku and honnin no shirabe reflect this, translated as "one's own song" and "one's own search" respectively. This thesis, presented as a portfolio of compositions and a written exegesis, illustrates that these concepts run deep within my compositional practice after the first seeds were sown during my time learning shakuhachi honkyoku in Japan. The exegesis argues that my musical language, aesthetics and forms all arise from collisions between my internalised sense of honkyoku and my background in western art music. Detailed analyses of the compositions in the portfolio bear this out, showing that through deep exploration of my first-hand musical experience I have crafted a uniquely personal approach and musical style that extends upon, and in some instances transmits, the shakuhachi honkyoku tradition. The portfolio of compositions includes scores to ten works and recordings of public performances of each across two accompanying CDs.


TABLE OF CONTENTS: 1. INTRODUCTION. ................................................................................................................... 1 2. SHAKUHACHI AND THE HONKYOKU REPERTOIRE................................................ 2 2.1. SHAKUHACHI HISTORY AND THE KOMUSO. ........................................................................2 2.2. CONSTRUCTION AND DESIGN...................................................................................................3 2.3. MUSICAL FEATURES OF THE HONKYOKU REPERTOIRE. ..................................................4 2.4. CHIKUSHINKAI AND DOKYOKU. ................................................................................................6

3. AN OVERVIEW OF JAPANESE AESTHETICS WITH REFERENCE TO SHAKUHACHI HONKYOKU. ................................................................................................... 7 3.1. SHIBUSA.............................................................................................................................................8 3.2. WABI-SABI..........................................................................................................................................9 3.3. DUALITY. ........................................................................................................................................12

4. LEARNING HONKYOKU: TRANSMISSION OF AN ORAL TRADITION. ............. 13 4.1. OVERVIEW OF A TYPICAL LESSON. ......................................................................................13 4.2. ZEN: NON-LITERATE AND NON-RATIONAL DISCOURSE................................................14 4.3. LINEAR TRANSMISSION. ...........................................................................................................15 4.4. PERSONALISING THE HONKYOKU. .........................................................................................17

5. THE MERI TECHNIQUE: ANALYSIS OF MY COMPOSITIONAL LANGUAGE AS A RESPONSE TO THE PITCH, DYNAMIC AND TIMBRAL ASPECTS OF HONKYOKU. ............................................................................................................................... 19 5.1. THE MERI TECHNIQUE. ..............................................................................................................20 5.2. PITCH SET. ......................................................................................................................................22 5.3. MELODY..........................................................................................................................................26 5.4. HARMONY......................................................................................................................................30 5.5. DYNAMICS. ....................................................................................................................................32 5.6. TEXTURE. .......................................................................................................................................33 5.7. TIMBRE............................................................................................................................................36

6. MA AND RELATIVE SPACE: AN ANALYSIS OF TIME AND RHYTHM IN MY COMPOSITIONAL LANGUAGE AS A RESPONSE TO HONKYOKU. ........................ 42 6.1. MUSICAL SPACE: SOUND AND SILENCE..............................................................................43 6.2. FLOATING TIME: CREATING MUSICAL DIRECTION IN THE ABSENCE OF PULSE. .44 6.3. FLOATING TIME: THE USE OF TIME SIGNATURES............................................................46 6.4. HIDDEN PULSE: MASKING AND REVEALING. ....................................................................48 6.5. CONSTANT PULSE: EMERGING IMPERCEPTIBLY..............................................................50 6.6. CONSTANT PULSE AND THE KOMIBUKI TECHNIQUE. .....................................................52


7. MA AND SPONTANEITY: AN ANALYSIS OF THE STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS OF NEZASA AND DARK NEBULAE. .................................................................................... 54 7.1. STEPS AND ADDITIVE FORM....................................................................................................55 7.2. AESTHETICS. .................................................................................................................................62

8. KOAN: THE INSURMOUNTABLE PROBLEM AS A STARTING POINT FOR COMPOSITIONAL EXPLORATION. .................................................................................. 68 8.1. MA AND NON-DUALITY IN ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE. ................................................70 8.2. DIRECT USE OF HONKYOKU. ....................................................................................................74 8.3. MICROTONAL INFLECTIONS....................................................................................................82 8.4. EMBRACING STILLNESS AND RANDOMNESS. ...................................................................86

9. CONTEXTUALISATION OF THE WORKS IN THE PORTFOLIO. ........................ 91 9.1. JAPANESE COMPOSERS AND THEIR TRADITIONAL INSTRUMENTS. .........................91 9.2. JAPANESE COMPOSERS AND THE HONKYOKU. .................................................................93 9.3. AUSTRALIAN COMPOSERS AND TRADITIONAL JAPANESE MUSIC. ...........................94 9.4. WORKS FOR SHAKUHACHI BY NON-JAPANESE COMPOSERS. .....................................96 9.5. WORKS BY LEADING SHAKUHACHI PLAYERS..................................................................98 9.6. WORKS BY SHAKUHACHI PLAYER-COMPOSERS..............................................................98

10. CONCLUSION. .................................................................................................................. 101 APPENDIX 1: LISTS OF REPRESENTATIVE REPERTOIRE. ................................... 103 APPENDIX 2: A NOTE ON SHAKUHACHI NOTATION.............................................. 109 APPENDIX 3: STATEMENT ADDRESSING THE INCLUSION OF OLDER WORKS IN THE PORTFOLIO. ............................................................................................................ 110 BIBLIOGRAPHY ..................................................................................................................... 111



The preparation of this thesis and portfolio of compositions has taken considerable work and effort over the past five years. I am extremely grateful to the people mentioned here for their support and guidance throughout my candidature. Firstly, my teacher Anne Boyd has been a guiding figure for me since taking my first serious steps in composition upon moving to Sydney in 2008. She has shared her wisdom and experience with warmth and generosity, and has taught me to believe in my own ability and experience from the start. Furthermore, Anne has given me much insight into the music and ideas of her own teacher Peter Sculthorpe and as such I feel a sense of lineage in my music that can be traced back to Peter through her teachings. I also acknowledge my first composition teacher Roger Smalley, who sadly passed away this year. I extend my thanks to JÜrg Widmann for his guidance during my time in Freiburg Germany in 2010-11, and the work Dark Nebulae is dedicated to him in gratitude. Matthew Hindson has also responded to my requests for feedback with helpful advice and thought-provoking insight. James Ledger acted as an additional mentor in 2012 during a number of composer-development programs. More recently, Carl Vine has taken the time to offer advice in composing for the mediums of string quartet and piano trio. Finally, I must also thank Andrew Batt-Rawden, Bernie Heard, Charles Davidson and Roger Benedict for their ongoing support through their enthusiasm for and advocacy of my work. I am deeply indebted to the highly talented performers with whom I have had the privilege to work on my compositions. Ashley William Smith’s performance of my Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra was truly special, and thoroughly deserving of its victory in the 2015 APRA Art Music Awards for the Performance of the Year category. The West Australian Symphony Orchestra have been wonderfully open to my ideas of collaboration, and my thanks go to Evan Kennea and Claire Stokes for their organisational capacity in addition to all the players in the orchestra for their committed readings of my work. Louise Devenish was a helpful and enthusiastic


collaborator during the composition of the work Confluence, and her performance of the work with Leah Scholes was highly satisfying. Andrew Smith’s assistance in exploring the saxophone’s multiphonic possibilities has resulted in the mostperformed work of the portfolio to date, Dark Nebulae. Finally, the Enigma Quartet were keen to learn and explore my String Quartet, and have since added my older work Light Rain to their repertoire. My gratitude flows deeply to my principal shakuhachi teacher Kaoru Kakizakai for transmitting to me so much understanding of the honkyoku and practice of the chikushinkai school. Similarly, Riley Lee’s ongoing insight into playing and the depth of writing in his Ph. D. thesis continues to inspire my love of honkyoku. The chance to collaborate locally with Bronwyn Kirkpatrick, Lindsay Dugan and David Dixon has added a much-needed feeling of collegiality and enjoyment within the Australian shakuhachi scene. Finally, I cannot thank my family enough for their understanding and enthusiasm for my work. My parents have supported me unquestioningly through my entire life. My late brother Michael’s joyful spirit and love of music are still a guiding light to my artistic practice. My wife Akiko, whom I married during the candidature for this degree, is a daily inspiration in her talent and dedication. Without family, colleagues, friends and mentors mentioned here, the work presented would have been impossible.


1. Introduction. The music of the shakuhachi, a Japanese end-blown bamboo flute, spoke to me vividly and powerfully on first hearing it in 2003. I hurriedly put my early forays into composition aside and travelled, spellbound, to Japan to learn the instrument. After more than two and a half years study, I returned to Australia with a completely different understanding of music and formally began my compositional training. The subsequent development of my compositional technique absorbed both physical and aesthetic aspects of shakuhachi music into my musical language. In the works Aida and Light Rain from 2009, I was able to sensitively recreate elements of the traditional honkyoku1 music within a western art music context. The success of these pieces,2 signalled the endpoint of replication of the honkyoku style as a goal for composition and the beginning of a deeper search for relevance and legitimacy for this voice in my compositional language. The compositions presented in this portfolio are externalisations of the honkyoku language, developed through my studies in Japan. The collisions between my internalised sense of the honkyoku and the conventions of western art music created a series of problems that became starting points for creative explorations within my compositions. Analysing these works displays the strong physical link to shakuhachi playing and the development of a musical language that shares and amplifies the aesthetic values of honkyoku and the wider Japanese culture. The analyses also demonstrate the formal and philosophic approaches to music and the influence of the shakuhachi’s roots in Zen Buddhism. Most importantly, the compositions are shown to espouse my learning in a way that fully communicates the ideals of honkyoku to the new audiences in Australia and abroad. In doing so, I believe they exhibit a level of cultural understanding appropriate for the multicultural societies of the 21st century.


Honkyoku are traditional solo pieces for shakuhachi and are central to this exegesis. They are discussed more fully in the following chapter. 2 Light Rain has been played over 10 times during my candidature, in Europe, the USA, Japan and Australia, and Aida has received four performances from its original ensemble, The Song Company.


2. Shakuhachi and the honkyoku repertoire. The shakuhachi and its traditional honkyoku repertoire are instantly recognisable from other end-blown flutes around the world and their corresponding repertoire. This chapter will explore a number of key factors that contribute to this unique sound and musical language, including its history, physical construction, teaching style and a description of salient features of the honkyoku repertoire.

2.1. Shakuhachi history and the komuso.

The shakuhachi has been played in various contexts since it first appeared as a part of the court music ensemble, called gagaku. The early shakuhachi was modelled on a similar flute imported from China, and “it flourished during the Heian Period [7941185].”3 The music for which the shakuhachi is most well known outside Japan today however, and that which is most relevant here, is the repertoire of solo honkyoku. These pieces were composed anonymously by a group of wandering monks called komuso from the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhism who rose to prominence in the Edo period (1603-1868). They added a spiritual dimension to the act of playing shakuhachi through suizen, or “blowing meditation”4, a variation of the more common Zen practice of zazen or “seated meditation”. During the Edo period, shakuhachi was practiced only by the komuso monks, but in the following years their influence fell away and more people came to play the instrument. Today the instrument is taught in a variety of lineages in a predominantly secular context, though its roots in Zen are never far below the surface.


William P. Malm, Japanese Music and Musical Instruments (Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1959), 152. 4 Riley Lee, "Yearning for the Bell : A Study of Transmission in the Shakuhachi Honkyoku Tradition." (Ph.D. diss., University of Sydney, 1994), chpt. 3.


2.2. Construction and design. The shakuhachi is made from a single piece of bamboo, cut off below the ground to include the root-end of the plant. Since the time of the komuso, the shakuhachi has had five finger holes, four on the front and one on the back.5 The holes are quite large and do not use key mechanisms like modern western instruments, allowing an array of subtle techniques including percussive pops and partial closing or “half-holing�. These techniques are incorporated into highly stylised ornaments found in honkyoku. Ornaments are often used as articulation, largely replacing the tonguing technique favoured by many woodwind instruments.

Figure 1: (clockwise from top) The Shakuhachi, its mouthpiece, and root-end.

The mouthpiece design is a distinctive feature, consisting of a flat edge created by a single cut obliquely down from the end of the bamboo. It allows a far greater degree of freedom than other end-blown flutes, however it requires a corresponding precision in embouchure technique; it typically takes many years to master the instrument. A plethora of unconventional sounds have been incorporated into the honkyoku repertoire, for example a fast airstream and loosened embouchure produces, mura iki an exaggerated wind-like effect similar to the western technique of overblowing. The meri technique, the system of head movements producing pitch and timbre changes, will be discussed in more detail in chapter 5.


In recent times, a version of the shakuhachi with seven holes has become somewhat more common. Debate about its legitimacy continues, however it is outside the scope of this paper.


2.3. Musical Features of the Honkyoku Repertoire. In honkyoku, many key musical concepts are approached in a highly unique manner. This section describes the way time, pitch, colour and form are conceived within the tradition to give the reader a basic understanding necessary here.

2.3.1. Time and Rhythm.

The approach to musical time found in honkyoku echoes their origins in suizen, the “blowing meditation” of the komuso monks. Duration is not a fixed concept as the phrase-lengths are governed by the player’s ability to produce a steady exhalation, therefore relying somewhat on their general health and wellbeing. Amidst this approach, a sense of beat or regular rhythm is eschewed, giving the honkyoku a floating and timeless quality. A concept of relative space or time called ma is used to formulate an approach to a “tasteful” playing in a temporal sense. Ma is explained further in chapter 6.

2.3.2. Pitch.

The finger hole placement on the shakuhachi produces the notes of a D minor pentatonic scale. The melodic material of the honkyoku uses primarily the miyako bushi mode shown below in the two most common transpositions found in honkyoku.

Figure 2: Common Shakuhachi Modes.


In this example, the notes marked in grey denote those that require use of the meri technique to be produced. Meri notes are achieved by lowering the pitch of an “open” note by changing the head angle and partially covering a finger hole. This is a particularly exacting technique to master, with the difficulty lying in finding the exact pitch immediately. It is perhaps no surprise then, that the notes not requiring meri are the harmonically stable notes in the mode. By melodically approaching one of these stable tones via falling a semitone from the meri note above, both the melodic and timbral instability dissipates. This pattern of tension and release gives the honkyoku their characteristic yearning quality.

2.3.3. Timbre.

Another significant feature of the shakuhachi is the rich variety of timbres possible. Even within a single note, the difference in timbre between playing at the pianissimo and forte dynamics is considerable when compared to the uniformity of sound of western woodwind instruments. An almost pure tone can be made at the quieter dynamics, while louder playing brings out more overtones and often a breathy quality. In the honkyoku, the regular use of meri brings frequent timbral changes, as do the breathy sounds, finger pops, trills and portamento slides. These effects are deployed to evoke the musical equivalent of wind, waves and animal cries, reflecting the Japanese admiration of nature.

2.3.4. Form.

Form is not a fixed concept in the honkyoku pieces, however Malm asserts that there are “discernable formal principles at work in every composition”.6 Pieces have evolved through a process of oral transmission into distinct versions and sometimes entirely new pieces. The gradual introduction of notation slowed this process somewhat, however structural change continued as performers sought to personalise their own versions. Since the advent of recording technology we are better able to trace the history of particular pieces through comparison, as Lee demonstrates in his 6

Malm, 161.


comprehensive thesis on the topic.7 From my personal experience, the following two formal features are common, but by no means standard: Firstly, there seems to be a tendency towards an arch-like structure, with some of the longer pieces having explicitly marked sections which support this. (eg hon te, choshi, takane). Secondly, form is conceived in a linear sense, a journey from beginning to end, stemming perhaps from the origins as a form of meditation in suizen.

2.4. Chikushinkai and Dokyoku. I studied within the chikushinkai school of shakuhachi, one of many lineages currently being transmitted in Japan. My principal teacher is Kaoru Kakizakai, and much of my stay in Japan was spent living in his hometown of Chichibu, taking on average three lessons per week. I was also fortunate enough to have lessons with his teacher and founder of the chikushinkai lineage of playing, Katsuya Yokoyama. A third senior teacher from this school, Sydney-based Riley Lee, has also been influential on my learning through our regular contact and his significant academic writings on honkyoku. I refer to the teachings of these three mentors throughout this thesis to explain important points from my learning experience. The honkyoku of the chikushinkai lineage are often referred to as dokyoku,8 or “pieces of the way”, the title given them by Yokoyama’s enigmatic teacher Doso Watazumi. The pieces exhibit the tranquil and meditative qualities found in other styles of honkyoku, but include more gestures of a contrasting vivid and sometimes even violent nature. His ornamental figures show this swift and fierce mood, and the pieces often feature dynamic extremes of the instrument and build to a whirring climax in the upper register. Yokoyama described the flow and timing of the music using the analogy of a river, noting that the water is not travelling at the same speed the whole way; there are ponds where the water is calm and still, but there are also churning rapids, and these together are what makes the river beautiful. While the honkyoku of chikushinkai share many characteristics those from other schools, it is the rougher and more vivid aspect that distinguishes them as unique. 7

Lee, “Yearning for the Bell”, chpt. 6.4. I will continue to use the broad term honkyoku in this paper, however this can be taken to mean the dokyoku of chikushinkai. 8


3. An overview of Japanese aesthetics with reference to shakuhachi honkyoku. The traditional aesthetic values of Japan include concepts not found in the west, and are appreciated experientially through the most commonplace facets of everyday life. Juxtaposing elements are viewed together to produce a melancholic and poignant beauty intended to celebrate the transience and imperfections of life. An austere poverty pervades much traditional Japanese art, stemming from the roots of many art forms in Zen Buddhism. During the Edo period (1603-1867), the wider public embraced many Zen ideologies and practices originally confined to monasteries and the samurai warrior class.9 Artists incorporated the aesthetic values of Zen into the many art forms rapidly growing in popularity at the time including (amongst others) the tea ceremony, the haiku poetic form, noh drama, and shakuhachi honkyoku. To this day, the influence of Zen is never far below the surface of Japanese art. The concepts of Zen are notoriously difficult to understand or describe definitively, however a number of key concepts are broadly introduced in this chapter. Shibusa is an umbrella term used to describe the concept of beauty in Japanese art forms. Wabisabi shares a number of similar traits with shibusa, however encompasses these within a greater spiritual doctrine. Finally, the concept of duality (and non-duality) is important to Zen, drawing from its roots in the Taoist tradition of China. The following discussion of these aesthetics is done with reference to the honkyoku repertoire, and will provide the reader with a greater background from which to approach the subsequent analyses of the compositions in this thesis.


Brent McDonald, "Seishin Habitus: Spiritual Capital and Japanese Rowing," International Review for the Sociology of Sport 40, no. 2 (2005), 188.


3.1. Shibusa. A direct definition of the shibusa aesthetic would need to include words such as austere, subdued, refined, rough and quiet, amongst others. The attainment of shibusa ideals lies in finding a tasteful balance between these sometimes contrasting traits. Young and Young10 undertake a more detailed exploration of the concept utilising seven key attributes: Simplicity, Implicitness, Modesty, Tranquillity, Naturalness, Roughness and Normalcy. This section uses these attributes as a starting point to describe the shibusa of the shakuhachi and the honkyoku repertoire. The honkyoku demonstrate simplicity through their single line melodies and modal tonal language. The construction of the instrument itself is kept very simple, with its single piece of bamboo and only five finger holes. Implicitness refers to an “intrinsic meaningfulness or depth” and an avoidance of “shallowness”. The miyako bushi mode of the honkyoku captures this depth of feeling by evoking a deep sense of mourning through its prevalent semitones. This reflects the popular (though mythical11) legend that the first honkyoku was played in mourning after the passing of Fuke, the monk after whom the komuso sect was named. The long sustained notes and periodic silences make honkyoku predominantly a tranquil music for the listener. The performer too aims to achieve a sense of tranquillity, affirming the honkyoku’s origin in the suizen practice of the komuso. The lengthening of the player’s breath serves to calm the mind and allow an inward focus during performance. If honkyoku can be said to exhibit modesty, it must be in how the predominantly calm mood and floating sense of time are adorned only with simple ornamentations, expressing so much through only subtle nuances of pitch and timbre. Additionally, the student of honkyoku must always be modest: one is not encouraged to offer personal opinions in the lesson or do anything other than seek to emulate one’s teacher’s performance.


David Young and Michiko Young, Spontaneity in Japanese Art and Culture (Gabriola, Canada: Coastal Tides Press, 2013). Kindle Edition. chpt. 3, loc. 693. 11 Gunner Linder, "Deconstructing Tradition in Japanese Music – a Study of Shakuhachi, Historical Authenticity and Transmission of Tradition." (Ph.D. diss., Stockholm University, 2012), 102.


Typically of the shibusa aesthetic, shakuhachi players prefer instruments with a natural appearance, preferring an uneven, non-symmetrical and imperfect finish. All shakuhachi are unique due to the natural variations between bamboo plants. Some players even seek out a naturally curved, discoloured or gnarled piece of bamboo, believing it to be more aesthetically appealing. The sound of honkyoku is similarly uneven due to the meri system producing an uneven pattern of dynamics and timbres across the range. The shakuhachi tone can be rough and unrefined, with unpitched air noise surrounding the pure core of the sound due to the mouthpiece design. A player can emphasise this further through the use of mura iki, a burst of windy or breathy tone produced by overblowing. The final attribute of normalcy is found in the use of pentatonic modes making the musical language relatively familiar to the ear. On a deeper level, the fundamental aspect of honkyoku is an inherently human act: to breathe. I believe this to be a factor in the rise in popularity of the shakuhachi outside Japan, especially amongst those with little or no previous musical experience.

3.2. Wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi shares a number of common principles with shibusa, however the difference is significant enough to warrant explanation here. Koren12 describes wabisabi a “a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete”, however “to fully explain the concept might, in fact, diminish it.”13 Importantly, wabi-sabi extends beyond shibusa in that it is more closely aligned with the teachings and philosophy of Zen.


Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers (Point Reyes, Calif.: Imperfect Pub., 2008), 7. 13 Ibid., 18.


3.2.1. Imperfection.

The wabi-sabi acceptance of imperfection is based on the premise that complete perfection is unattainable. Juniper writes: If an object is supposed to be unflawed then the eye is drawn to and inevitably offended by any imperfections. On the other hand, where something makes no attempt at perfection but yields to the universal laws, then the image sits more comfortably on the eye.14

Therefore the use of natural and rough materials is thought to stimulate the mind of the mind of the viewer to seek a deeper understanding of these “universal laws”, the underlying form and its creation. In Japanese pottery, the viewer looks beyond the cracks or discolouration in an attempt to perceive the feats of craftsmanship and design. Similarly, in honkyoku, the breath noise and the ornaments are auxiliary to the purity of the central tone and musical expression found beneath.

3.2.2. Incompleteness.

Incompleteness is another prominent trait of wabi-sabi. As the cracks in the pottery described above are intended to draw the viewer inward, the technique of leaving an artwork unfinished has a similar effect. According to Okakura,15 “true beauty could discovered only by one who mentally completed the incomplete”. The beauty of haiku poetry is in the evocation of a complete scene through only the briefest glimpse. Similarly, clouds obscure significant parts of many Japanese paintings and the viewer is left to imagine the scenes that lie hidden. The miyako bushi mode used in honkyoku creates a lingering sense of incompleteness due to the lack of a clear pitch centre. In the most common transposition outlined in chapter 2, the D and G are given equal stability, maintaining a harmonic ambiguity throughout. Yugen, a further concept relating to incompleteness, is a dark and mysterious quality of such depth as to suggest an unseen universal truth. This is because “the eternal 14

Andrew Juniper, Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence (Boston: Tuttle, 2003), 109. 15 Kakuzo Okakura, The Book of Tea (London: Penguin, 2010), 57.


cannot be captured in words or artistic media. It can only be suggested or implied by what is left unsaid.”16 Yugen is readily observable in the tradition of noh drama, in which the drama, dance and music are presented with “a veiled nature” and “an atmosphere of rich if mysterious beauty”.17

3.2.3. Impermanence.

Mujō, the Japanese aesthetic concept of impermanence, is an acknowledgement that all things are transient. In the honkyoku pieces, impermanence is an all-important factor in its system of oral transmission: Oral traditions have a special relationship to time because of their existence as sound. Oral traditions give time a further perspective in their tendency to merge the past with the present. They exist only in the present moment. The present moment therefore has a much greater importance.18

As soon as a performance of honkyoku ends, it no longer exists, and it is accepted that one performance will never be the same as another. Indeed, a degree of change over time is expected as each piece is passed from teacher to student. Therefore the pieces themselves embody this transience due to their being in a constant state of change. A further term relating to impermanence is aware, described as “the peculiar sentiment that occurs when one sees the relation between the uncertainty of human existence and the process of change in nature”.19 This process is pronounced in Japan due to the extremes of seasonal change, and stunningly brief blossoming of the sakura cherry blossoms is major event in the Japanese year.


Young and Young, chpt. 3. Donald Richie, A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics (Berkeley, Calif.: Stone Bridge Press, 2007), 56. 18 Lee, “Yearning for the Bell”, chpt. 5.2. 19 Young and Young, chpt. 3, loc. 771. 17


3.3. Duality.

The concept of duality found in Zen has its roots in the Taoist teachings of Lau-Tzu, and is often expressed through the concepts of yin and yang and its symbol: Figure 3: The yin-yang symbol.

The diagram represents the two opposing forces of black and white as intrinsically linked in a complementary rather than contradictory fashion. Both sides require the other for relevance, and the total concept is perhaps better described as “non-duality�. This topic becomes a topic of meditation for students of Zen through the study of koan, a set of challenging questions set by their teacher. The grasping of the interrelatedness of opposites requires in Zen meditational practices a particular training of the mind called mushin, or no-mind, which introduces the practitioner to a mental stage preceding the formation of meaning. 20

On an aesthetic level, conceiving opposing concepts as a single balanced unity allows, for example, the shibusa qualities of simplicity and roughness (and therefore complexity) to coexist within the same concept of beauty. In honkyoku, sound itself is contrasted with silence, and the balance between these is given utmost attention by shakuhachi players in order to create musical drama. Additionally, rough colours contrast with the fragile tones, and strong loud expression recedes to reveal soft and subtle nuances. The aesthetic values of shibusa and wabi-sabi described in this chapter are central to the honkyoku repertoire and all of the Zen-inspired art forms. They can also be perceived in the compositions presented in this thesis, and the explanations given here will be referenced in the subsequent chapters of analysis. 20

Michele Marra, "Japanese Aesthetics: The Construction of Meaning," Philosophy East and West 45, no. 3 (1995), 371.


4. Learning honkyoku: transmission of an oral tradition.

My experience learning shakuhachi honkyoku in Japan was a complete immersion within the culture from which the music and aesthetics described previously stems. An important characteristic of honkyoku learning is that it is primarily an oral tradition. The pieces were mainly transmitted by playing together and through direct oneon-one transmission, which invariably includes a measure of change. 21

This face-to-face instruction is essential to learning the honkyoku pieces, and it would in fact be inconceivable to learn shakuhachi any other way. This chapter gives an account of my shakuhachi lessons and highlights the links to Zen Buddhism through an emphasis on physical learning and non-rational discourse.

4.1. Overview of a typical lesson. During my time learning with Kakizakai in Japan, lessons would generally follow a similar sequence. We began with the warm-up exercise robuki, simply playing long tones on the note ro for several minutes. Advice would be given on ways to improve the general quality and volume of my sound, and techniques to practice this would be discussed. The remainder of the lesson focussed on a single piece, which I would first perform solo in its entirety. Kakizakai then criticised my performance, highlighting anything from general impressions to more specific corrections, often demonstrating himself how to play a particular note ornament or phrase. I was then invited to perform the piece once more together with Kakizakai, through which I could directly compare my own performance with his. Further discussion moved on to the aesthetic and philosophical elements of the piece, and as time permitted I was as asked to play solo or together again to further refine these improvements. After weeks or even months spent on one piece, and when Kakizakai saw fit, I was allowed to “graduate� onto a new piece.


Linder, 242.


When learning a new piece, Kakizakai would first demonstrate a phrase and then invite me to play the phrase together with him. I would then attempt the phrase on my own and be corrected where required before moving on to the next phrase. This process would continue until the end of the piece was reached, after which subsequent lessons would take the basic sequence as described above. After several months of learning however, I specifically asked to learn new pieces without reference to the notation. Given the vagaries of the notation system, I wanted to engage directly with Kakizakai’s performances of each phrase as much as possible. I sought to use the notation purely as an aid to memorising the structure of a piece, as one is not permitted to graduate to the next until the current piece is played from memory.22

4.2. Zen: Non-literate and non-rational discourse. The teaching of Zen shows a unique “refusal to commit itself to words”,23 preferring non-literate forms of expression or deliberate discussion of the non-rational. According to Hori,24 Zen places an emphasis on rote learning and memorization of concepts, training skills without the necessity for an underlying rationale. The Japanese phrase “karada de oboeru”25 displays this preference for rote learning over rationalisation; translated as “learning/remembering with the body”, McDonald states: “physical knowledge is seen as permanent”. In the shakuhachi lesson, the act of musical mimicry forces the student to imitate and subsequently ingrain the stylistic nuance of the teacher’s playing. In attempting to copy exactly these intricate details, the student directly engages with the music of honkyoku. When Zen teaching does use discourse, it is often intentionally of a non-rational nature. For example, students of Zen are faced with koan, a series of seemingly obtuse questions or situations requiring deep contemplation to perceive their inner meaning. If unable to “solve” the koan, the teacher adds further elements (but not necessarily clarifications) until the student finds the answer. I found a similar approach employed 22

A short discussion about the notation of honkyoku is given in Appendix 2. Ching-Yu Chang, "Japanese Spatial Conception, a Critical Analysis of Its Elements in the Culture and Traditions of Japan and in Its Post-War Era." (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1982), 118. 24 Victor G. Sogen Hori, "Teaching and Learning in the Rinzai Zen Monastery," Journal of Japanese Studies 20, no. 1 (1994), 5. 25 McDonald, 190. 23


by Kakizakai in my study of honkyoku. For example, in discussing the appropriate length for particular notes within the flexible timing of honkyoku, I was quickly told if my notes were too long or too short, however Kakizakai never attempted to tell me the “right” length. While at first frustrating, it makes sense that Kakizakai’s approach was geared towards a broader understanding of an elusive “tastefulness” required for honkyoku. In not attempting to give a literal explanation of this, I was required to search extensively in order develop my own understanding. I did eventually make considerable progress in this area, and the impact of the non-rational approach seems to have instilled an automatic response rather than a considered response.

4.3. Linear transmission. Both Zen and honkyoku are passed directly from teacher to student in a linear fashion. Students of Zen can trace their lineage back over 2500 years to its origins in China and India, and the concept of “dharma transmission ”26 places a heavy importance on the personal acknowledgement of one’s teacher. Similarly, shakuhachi and many Japanese art forms preserve their lineage through the hierarchical structure of the iemoto system. The iemoto is the head teacher of a school (literally “household head”), and is shown the utmost respect. The student is expected to show complete gratitude for the teacher, who is “actually attempting to transmit to the student a part of himself. A gift of such magnitude can never be repaid.” 27. After “receiving” a honkyoku from the teacher, the student aspires to make the piece intrinsically their own. This idea is contained in the concept of honnin no kyoku, which is translated as “the person in question’s piece”: The commonly held ideal of honkyoku as honnin no kyoku … is that each honkyoku must become totally, in every way perceived and unperceived, the piece of each individual performer. Until the piece is truly 'one's very own', it is impossible for one really to be able to play the piece. 28


James Myoun Ford, A Note on Dharma Transmission and the Institutions of Zen. Accessed 28/06/2015. 27 Lee, “Yearning for the Bell”, chpt. 5.4. 28 Ibid., chpt. 5.2.2.


Yokoyama uses a slightly different term, honnin no shirabe, where the word kyoku (song) is replaced with shirabe, which can translate as “inspection, investigation or preparation”. The task of playing honkyoku with hon ne (absolute sound), thereby making the pieces honnin no shirabe (a search for one's original self) requires a lifetime of practice. Honkyoku becomes one's life's work.29

Upon this point the practice of playing shakuhachi returns to one of the fundamental concerns of Zen, the emphasis on moral character. Playing shakuhachi is a search for spiritual enlightenment, or kenshō. This chapter has examined the nature of my honkyoku learning through a process of oral transmission drawing heavily upon the teachings of Zen. The focus on physical learning through imitation forced me to internalize the gestures and rhythms of the music outside the realms of rational understanding. Additionally, the Zen element of the honkyoku learning style trained me to look for answers beyond my current understanding of problems. In conclusion, I am the recipient of a musical tradition that I feel can only be truly expressed through music itself. Furthermore, in gratitude to my teachers’ kindness in teaching me, I must also accept a responsibility to personalise and transmit this tradition further. This notion forms the basis for the discussion in the final section of this chapter to follow.


Lee, “Yearning for the Bell”, chpt. 5.5.1.


4.4. Personalising the honkyoku. On returning from my initial two-and-a-half year stay in Japan, my perceived obligation to transmit what I had learned weighed heavily upon me for several reasons. I felt that while I had gained considerable skill on shakuhachi, I had not completed my training, a feat requiring considerably more time and dedication. Furthermore, I still felt an outsider to the tradition, as I am simply not Japanese. Finally, my playing of the instrument seemed to lose a degree of significance when removed from the geographic and cultural home of the tradition. Confronted with this impasse, I simply stopped playing altogether for some months. Re-adjusting to life at home in Australia was burden enough to be dealing with at the time. Whilst learning in Japan, I was not encouraged or in fact permitted to add any personal nuance to Kakizakai’s interpretation of a piece. Lee elaborates on this point in the following passage: In spite of knowing that I change pieces, students are discouraged from changing the way I have taught a phrase or technique, especially during the lesson. One cannot know how to change a honkyoku until the honkyoku is internalized. The honkyoku is automatically externalized during the lesson because of the relationship between teacher and student. That hierarchical relationship demands the recognition by the student of the authority or ownership of the honkyoku by the teacher, at least in the context of the lesson. To say that one cannot know how to change a honkyoku is the same as saying one cannot know how to play a honkyoku, because change is inevitable. … In summary, a major part of the transmission of honkyoku takes place during the lesson, but the transmission can never be completed there. The lesson is only where the seed of honkyoku is planted in the mind and being of the student. Whether or not it germinates, and if so how it grows after that depends upon the subsequent efforts of the performer to cast aside the role of student.30

While I certainly did not feel ready to “cast aside” my student role, leaving Japan had precisely this effect. The struggle to personalise my experience was in finding a significant and relevant voice with which to communicate it in Australia and abroad. Being cut off from the “source” of my learning (Kakizakai) meant I was able to contemplate more creative approaches to expressing honkyoku than would have been permitted had I stayed in Japan. Kilduff writes:


Lee, “Yearning for the Bell”, chpt. 5.4.


The possibilities of innovation and change in language as with other aspects of cultural capital are heightened, we argue, as exiles confront environments in which cultural legacies are different from those they have taken for granted. 31

I returned to shakuhachi some months after settling back into Australian life, and also reignited my composing activities by moving from Perth to Sydney so that I could follow both pursuits. My compositional work quickly gathered momentum and began to take a larger share of attention than my shakuhachi practice. Nevertheless, the internalised physicality and aesthetics of the honkyoku remained, filtering through as a powerful and unique force within my compositional voice. And herein lies the central argument of this thesis: My compositional practice on returning from Japan represents the meeting point of a responsibility to personalise the honkyoku pieces and the necessity to innovate and change in order for it to thrive in transmission to the new environment of western art music. Indeed the collisions between the two traditions have since become starting points for compositional explorations, even a raison d'ĂŞtre for my work, and are the focus of the following analyses of this exegesis. As will be shown, the essence of the honkyoku can still be glimpsed in the aftermath of these collisions.


Martin Kilduff and Kevin G. Corley, "The Diaspora Effect: The Influence of Exiles on Their Cultures of Origin." M@n@gement 2, no. 1 (1999), 2.


5. The meri technique: analysis of my compositional language as a response to the pitch, dynamic and timbral aspects of honkyoku. The following two chapters analyse the first four works presented in the portfolio of compositions that accompanies this exegesis: the Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, Shinjitsu, The Second Wave and Afterglow. These four works have been chosen as they display both the development and culmination of my musical language from the starting point of shakuhachi honkyoku. A driving force behind these works was my strong belief that two aspects in particular give honkyoku its unique qualities. The first of these is the meri technique of head movements imparting an uneven timbral and dynamic profile to the notes of the mode. The second is ma, the proportional and intuitive sense of space. Both of these concepts display the traits of shibusa and wabi-sabi, and my ability to maintain these aesthetics while extending the reach of the musical language is key to the overall thrust of the analyses. Therefore, meri and ma are taken as a lens through which to observe its development, and are addressed in this and the following chapter respectively. The first of these four compositions, the Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra was written in 2014 for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and soloist Ashley William Smith. The dialogue between the soloist and orchestra builds throughout the slow and dark opening section, before the clarinet explodes into a lively cadenza leading to an energetic finale. The orchestra includes brass, percussion, harp and strings, however the woodwinds have been omitted. This work is presented first as the most developed example of the musical language created since returning to Australia. The second work Shinjitsu was commissioned and premiered in 2011 by the Sydney Chamber Choir with saxophonist James Nightingale. The text is by Japanese calligrapher Mitsuo Aida, and translates roughly as “only truth touches the soul�. Shinjitsu shows a number of early explorations in pitch and colour that would inform the subsequent development of my language.


The Second Wave was written in 2011 for the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival in Massachusetts, USA. Interestingly, it is perhaps the most “European� of the works in its exploration of extended techniques. Almost unknowingly however, my use of them draws heavily on my experience playing such techniques in honkyoku. Afterglow was written in 2012 as part of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s CYBEC program and was subsequently premiered in their Metropolis series. It is my first work for an orchestral ensemble, in this case a 25-piece chamber orchestra including piano and harp. To contextualise the following discussion, the reader is invited now to follow the scores for these works while listening to the recordings on the accompanying CD. 5.1. The meri technique. The meri technique is the system of head movements that allows the shakuhachi player to bend pitches by changing the angle of their head to partially close the open hole directly below the blowing edge. A similar effect is possible on the western flute by rolling the instrument in and out, but is far more pronounced on the shakuhachi due to the size of the mouthpiece hole and the vertical (rather than transverse) playing position. The pitch of a note can be bent up a semitone or down more than a tone using meri, and this is often used in combination with half closing the finger holes to ensure the desired pitch is produced. Importantly, the arrangement of the 5 finger holes on the shakuhachi produces only the D minor pentatonic scale if meri is not used. By adjusting the head angle, all 12 chromatic notes can be achieved as well as various pitch slides and glissandi. Figure 4: Common Shakuhachi Modes.32


This image appears earlier as Figure 2, and is replicated here for ease of reference.


Shown here are the three common modes playable in the lowest register of the shakuhachi. The first is the D minor pentatonic scale produced if meri is not used. The second and third examples include meri notes (shown in grey) to create the miyako bushi mode commonly found in honkyoku. Using meri alters more than simply the pitch of the notes; it significantly changes the timbre and the dynamic profile depending on the head angle. The meri notes (with the head angled forward and down) have a softer, more veiled tone colour than the kari notes (non-meri), which are brighter and stronger in character. Lee33 casts this in the context of a yin-yang duality between the “bright, masculine” kari notes and the “soft, inward, earthy, and feminine” meri notes. The inclusion of the meri notes as shown in the modes above actually reinforces their natural harmonic behaviour. The softer colour and dynamics of the meri notes align with the harmonically unstable notes, while the brighter and stronger character of the non-meri notes reinforces the stable pitches. For example, in the middle example with a central note G,34 the pitch resolution from an Ab to G, or Eb to D, is augmented by the corresponding difference in dynamic and colour. The uneven nature of the shakuhachi mode is a necessity of the meri technique, but the imperfections are harnessed to produce an intriguing link between colour, dynamics and pitch. The correct and tasteful use of the meri technique was a major point of discussion during my lessons, and hence became the basis for a number of explorations throughout the portfolio. The analysis to follow shows the extent to which my experience of the meri technique has informed aspects of my compositional language.


Lee, “Yearning for the Bell”, chpt. 5.5.1. While the Japanese modes are not governed by the rules of western harmony, I have nominated the “central” pitches due to the existence of perfect 5ths both above and below; the D and C around the central G in the first mode, and G and A around the central D in the second (with extensions of the range where appropriate). 34


5.2. Pitch set.

The pitches used in honkyoku are primarily taken from the Japanese miyako-bushi and insen modes, with the prominent semitone intervals giving them their idiosyncratic sound. Both modes have an inherent sadness in line with the “implicitness” element of shibusa. These modes form the roots of my harmonic language, however from the outset I have endeavoured to avoid a literal use of them for several reasons: the unavoidable cultural connotations of the modes; my dissatisfaction with the harmonic language they produce (honkyoku are by nature purely melodic); and that I felt them less effective when used without the timbral interest added by meri. My response to these issues is outlined in a number of examples here. In the choral work Shinjitsu, I used both modes, combining them and adding further chromatic pitches to the total pitch set.

Figure 5: Modes used in Shinjitsu.

The work begins with a section using the miyako bushi mode around a central pitch of C. Following a brief interlude at bar 34, the pitch set changes to the insen mode with a central pitch of F. These modes combine in bar 59 with the integration of the extra notes Ab, A§, and later E§. Adding these pitches allowed me freedom to explore a broader palette of both melodic and harmonic movement.


In The Second Wave I took a completely different approach, experimenting with avoiding the insen and miyako bushi modes entirely. I instead employed a symmetrical hexatonic scale produced by alternating minor seconds and minor 3rds.

Figure 6: Hexatonic Scale.

Shown here in its initial key, the scale appears in further transpositions in subsequent sections of the piece. Like the Japanese modes, semitones are prevalent, however the symmetrical nature of the scale allows movement in a wave-like manner free from the cultural connotations of fast stepwise movement on the Japanese modes. This can be seen at figure D in which the harp, piano and electric guitar all play glissandi over this hexatonic scale to create an eerie mood without recalling the sound of, for example, the Japanese koto, a 13 stringed zither-like instrument. This discovery was offset somewhat by my dissatisfaction with the ability of the hexatonic scale to evoke a sufficient emotive response to the music, therefore failing in regards to the shibusa trait of implicitness. This is because the scale does not have a harmonic pull towards a pitch centre due to its symmetrical nature. Interestingly, the shibusa trait of naturalness does not favour symmetry, which is rarely found in Japanese art. Indeed, during this piece I instinctively departed from the hexatonic scale at moments where the music required additional emotional clarity, for example the vocal melody in the final bars of the first section, starting at bar 82:

Figure 7: The Second Wave, b. 82.


The notes D§ and F# are outside the original scale but with their inclusion (and the forgoing of the E§), the music briefly recalls the more evocative C harmonic minor scale with a raised fourth degree (known also as the double harmonic minor scale). Discovering that I could subtly depart momentarily from the prevailing mode without causing an obvious disruption to the flow of the music was significant. The shared prominence of semitones in both scales facilitates this, and I was to refine this technique in further works. In Afterglow and the Concerto, I reversed the relationship so that the “affective” modes formed the core harmonic language over which departures to symmetrical modes allowed greater freedom of movement. The following example shows the various modes combined to create a single overarching pitch set in the Concerto.

Figure 8: Modes used in the Concerto.


By looking at the notes in common, we see that F# and C# are common to all, with both B and E being of almost equal prevalence. These notes therefore are the most stable pitches, of which F# is the strongest in this work. Taking these four pitches as a starting point, one can easily create one of the two Japanese modes, the insen by adding G, and the miyako bushi by adding G and substituting E for D. The octatonic mode is very close to the insen mode, especially between C# and G if the D# is added. This mode does not contain the B however, lifting it away from the original pitch centre and allowing an exploration of floating figures due to its symmetrical nature. The hexatonic mode shares this floating character, though recalls more the miyako bushi mode or the traditional harmonic minor scale. The complete pitch set used in the piece is given last, and resembles an Aeolian mode with an additional raised third and seventh. In regards to the concepts of shibusa and wabi-sabi, this pitch set satisfies the aesthetic qualities while acting over a broader pitch set than the honkyoku. The attributes of simplicity, implicitness, tranquillity and normalcy are maintained by the use of core pitch centres and the minor key connotations of the internal Japanese modes. The trait of incompleteness is achieved by using the symmetrical scales to occasionally negate this pull towards the pitch centres. The ongoing balance between these two creates its own dualistic tension maintaining the harmonic interest throughout the piece.


5.3. Melody.

The melodic language of honkyoku relies heavily on stepwise movement, alternating between the naturally occurring seconds and thirds in the Japanese modes. Within this, more prominence seems to be given to the structural tones as if reinforcing the pitch centres of the work. The main issue encountered in using stepwise melody was the possible “exotic� connotations of particular groups of notes. One such combination is a falling major second followed by a falling major third, shown here as the D - C - Ab contour after the miyako bushi mode. I felt it imperative to avoid such surface characteristics of the traditional music in order to draw the listener toward my deeper understanding of the honkyoku.

Figure 9: Stepwise movement on the miyako bushi mode.

In the opening of Shinjitsu, I have used stepwise movement on the miyako bushi and insen modes around pitch centres of C and F respectively, but have carefully avoided the use of recognisable figures such as the one shown above. It is not until further chromatic pitches are introduced that the melodic material in the voices becomes more elaborate as in the following example.


Figure 10: Shinjitsu, b. 126.

The winding stepwise melodies that emerge use the additional pitches to create a sense of chromatic tension alien to the Japanese modes. Furthermore, this example displays another melodic trait of the portfolio: linear melodic trajectory. The melodic shape above traces an ascending octave in stepwise motion. If used excessively or in too obvious a fashion, this technique can soon lead to unwanted predictability of the melodic line. In the example above, this is avoided through the overlapping of the two soprano lines adding interest around the basic trajectory. In The Second Wave, the contour is skewed by regularly having the melody change direction and double back on itself, adding unpredictability to the line.

Figure 11: The Second Wave, b. 62.

This trait reflects the preference towards the imperfect and natural in Japanese aesthetics and the belief that the avoidance of regular and predictable patterns maintains the interest of the listener.


In Afterglow, large rising melodic leaps (especially intervals of a sixth or more), interrupt the surrounding use of stepwise motion. A particular motivic significance is given to the interval of a rising major seventh, as seen in the following melodic fragments from the piece:

Figure 12: Melodic Excerpts from Afterglow.

The major sevenths are used to heighten the yearning quality of the music as the proximity to the octave interval suggests a resolution that is never quite achieved. This invites the listeners to “complete� the octave on their own, displaying the trait of incompleteness. Where Afterglow juxtaposes melodies with wide leaps against those based on stepwise motion, the melodic language of the Concerto combines them within single melodies.

Figure 13: Concerto, b. 21.


This melody moves in predominantly small intervals, often doubling back on itself around an F# drone heard in the violins and vibraphone. The inclusion of the lower G produces wide leaps that differentiate the clarinet line from the background drone. Placing these leaps irregularly within the stepwise movement enhances the asymmetrical character and the shibusa naturalness of the melody. A final trait that can be found consistently throughout the portfolio is the use of melodies with a rising pitch trajectory. These are used in the traditional manner of building and maintaining tension. Most of the examples given so far in this chapter exhibit this to some degree, as do all the melodies in the opening minutes of the Concerto.

Figure 14: Concerto, b. 52.

Despite many changes of direction, the melody above shows an overall rising trajectory towards the D# in the first bar of the second line, building a sense of musical tension and expectation that is echoed in the orchestral accompaniment. This tension is used to prepare the listener for some of the most poignant and expressive phrases of the piece that follow, using the rising major seventh motive. The melodic techniques described in this section have many aesthetic ramifications in regards to the shibusa concept. Simplicity and normalcy can be seen in the basic stepwise movement, however naturalness is added in the use of non-linear contours. The use of wide leaps is a form of incompleteness in that it invites the listener to “resolve� melodies themselves. A final observation on the melodic language is the frequent leaps would make it somewhat difficult to sing, which I believe gives them a


degree of inscrutability and mystery in line with the concept of yugen. This is in effect a de-emphasis on melody through which I allow more space for the latent emotional impact of the harmonic material to remain after performance.

5.4. Harmony.

Shakuhachi honkyoku are by their solo nature a purely melodic music, and while the harmonic implications of the Japanese modes suggest particular pitch centres, honkyoku have no harmony as such. Therefore I built my compositional harmonic language as an extension of these melodic implications without any strong models from within the tradition. It was decided very early that a traditional triadic approach to harmony was unsuitable as it reinforced certain musical and cultural clichĂŠs I aimed to avoid. The harmonic language I developed favours the use of two kinds of harmony based on the pitch sets outlined earlier in this chapter: cluster chords somewhat reminiscent of the sho, a mouth organ used in gagaku, the traditional Japanese court music; and chords voiced in fourths (quartal harmony) or wider. Below are some examples from the Concerto:

Figure 15: Harmonic examples from the Concerto.

Both cluster chords above are derived from the octatonic scale, the first using all intervals between D# and Bb, while the second uses the whole octave span but omits D# and A§. In both instances, the root is separated from the cluster to add stability to the chord. A selection of quartal chords are also seen in the above example, the first being two intervals of the perfect fourth, the second being an augmented 4th above a perfect fourth, and the third an augmented fourth above two perfect fourths.


The harmonic material often traces a rising trajectory similar to the melodic trait described earlier in this chapter. The following two examples show this, and are taken from the finale of the Concerto:

Figure 16: Examples of rising-trajectory harmony from the Concerto.

The upper example occurs in a dovetailed figure passed between the violas and second violins. The first two clusters are purely chromatic and the span is a minor third, after which octatonic clusters emerge and the span widens to a major sixth by the final diminished chord. The second example uses generally wider spans and the chords suggest a closer approximation to tonal harmony, allowing a greater affective climax for the work. The harmonic language described here is linked to the physical use of breath in the honkyoku pieces. The tension and release between chords reflects the cycling between the inhalation and exhalation of the shakuhachi player, and in fact all human beings. The cluster chords naturally bring tension to the music, representing the exhalation and the growing need to inhale once more. The widely voiced chords represent this inhalation, bringing relief from the accumulating cluster chord tension. Interestingly, the “inhalation� chords still have a significant level of tension despite performing the release function. This sustains the overall unresolved feeling throughout the piece as the harmonic movement floats between the two types of chord. In an aesthetic sense, this recalls the wabi-sabi trait of incompleteness as neither of the two harmonic styles is ever in complete dominance over the other. Such a dualistic relationship occurs even at the climax of the Concerto, when the music resolves to a chord built on B and alternates between both the major and minor thirds to maintain a sense of 31

imperfection to the harmonic language. The harmonic material then fades to leave a high cluster chord in the strings and interlocking patterns in the tuned percussion and harp. The clarinet continues to use the same scale, however by the end of the piece the B has lost its sense of feeling like a pitch centre, ending the work with an air of incompleteness.

5.5. Dynamics.

In playing honkyoku, the meri technique produces an uneven level of dynamics between different pitches of the mode generally left unmarked in the scores. During my learning, I soon found that the meri and non-meri notes often require a different air speed to sound correctly and immediately when changing between them. The physicality of this playing technique is therefore internalised from my many hours of practice invested, and I believe this is the strongest precursor to explaining my relatively consistent approach to dynamics across the portfolio. This physical sense of meri has intuitively guided my use of dynamics, and as such there are a number of discernible factors that are shared between the honkyoku and my works. The most important of these is the utilisation of both extremes of the dynamic range within a short space of time. Loud sforzandi are followed immediately by barely audible pianissimo and interspersed with dramatic use of crescendo and decrescendo, as can be seen in the following example:

Figure 17: Concerto, b. 181.


A second commonly used technique seen here is the sudden drop in dynamics after a sforzando marking. The effect is of the melodic line momentarily disappearing, drawing the listener inward in anticipation of the next note. This technique is frequently used in the wide rising melodic intervals to make the upper note appear to emerge from a different source due to the different timbre created by a change in tessitura. Aesthetically speaking, the melodic gaps caused by the sudden use of softer dynamics reflect the wabi-sabi trait of incompleteness.

5.6. Texture.

Within the honkyoku repertoire, models from which to inform my compositional texture are rare due to very few ensemble pieces existing. The only honkyoku I studied that retains the features relevant to this thesis is the shakuhachi duet Shika no Tone (Distant Cry of Deer).35 The piece uses an overlapping question-and-answer style representing two deer calling to each other across the forest. In a lesson with Yokoyama, he likened the relationship between parts to a pair of samurai fighters circling closer and closer before their swords meet in battle. On a musical level, the most interesting point for me was in the overlapping of the two voices, particularly when one voice entered gradually on a pitch a semitone above the sustained held note of the other player. The effect is quite striking, as the second sound seems to grow from the first, albeit adding a dissonant beating due to the proximity of the semitones. I have employed this technique numerous times across the portfolio, and the following example is taken from the melodic material at the climax of Afterglow.


I also studied Kumoi-jishi, which uses a strong sense of beat not relevant to this paper, and a number of modern duets by Rando Fukuda which differ considerably from the honkyoku style. I am yet to study Azumi-jishi, a work in the same category as Kumoi-jishi.


Figure 18: Afterglow, b. 78.

The clarinet’s Bb enters imperceptibly during the trumpet’s Cb, and the opposing dynamic shapes give an effect almost like a smooth glissando between notes a semitone apart. A similar technique is applied to chordal material seen in the overlapping chords in the section from figure D. In Shinjitsu, the technique is used multiple times in succession in the melody discussed earlier in figure 10, wound between the two soprano parts. The result of using the technique in this way is almost like a long glissando as the clashes of small intervals gives more tension to the rising trajectory of the total melodic line. The culmination of the development here was an embracing of heterophony, and this technique became an important link between my use of melody and harmony as described earlier in this chapter. For example, the heterophonic setting of a stepwise melody around a structural pitch soon leads to a culmination of lines into cluster harmony. The linear trajectory of the melody acts to expand and raise the range of the clusters and therefore increase harmonic tension in parallel with the rising contour. The example from the Concerto given here displays this:

Figure 19: Concerto, b. 21.


The F# is the first note to enter, and is gradually joined by the notes G, E to suggest the insen mode. The subsequent entries of D# and A give the music an octatonic slant, and the entry of the Bb marks the upper limit of this cluster. The aesthetic effect of the heterophony is to add a roughness and natural complexity to the surface of the melodic material. The gradual addition of parts makes an almost imperceptible transition from the solo texture to the whirring of activity found at the end of this excerpt. The yin-yang duality between these two extremes of texture is a prominent feature that can be seen throughout all the works of the portfolio.


5.7. Timbre.

The meri system imparts a highly unique set of colours to the honkyoku pieces and links these to the parameters of pitch and dynamics. The dualistic contrast between the meri and non-meri notes is highly evident across the different notes of each phrase. A similar duality also exists in the timbre of each single note, as the pure pitch is heard within a breathy noise element becoming more evident at louder dynamics. A further array of colours is produced in honkyoku by the ornamental finger pops and grace notes exaggerated by the large open finger holes. Kakizakai spent much lesson time on the concept of timbre, suggesting that this element is a major factor contributing to the beauty and popularity of the shakuhachi. Yokoyama went further, reminding me that one’s sound is the final medium through which all musical expression is presented, and a less than perfect tone becomes a constant detriment to one’s musical ideas. Therefore it comes as no surprise that timbre has been a continual consideration throughout my search for a compositional response to my shakuhachi experience. Applying the principles of the shakuhachispecific meri system to a broader context was essential because western instruments are designed to make a far more homogenous sound than shakuhachi.36 Each of the four works discussed in this chapter were instrumental in my developing an approach to the use of timbre. Shinjitsu capitalises on the colouristic capacity of the human voice and its ability to approximate elements of meri without being bound by it. The work uses all the component sounds of the Japanese text, including the unpitched sounds of consonants, to produce a wide variety of colours. Initially, windlike sounds are set against the pure tone of humming, and gradually the open-mouthed vowel sounds are introduced. This was an attempt to synthesise the overall tone of the shakuhachi by surrounding pure tones with the breath sounds of the singers and saxophonist. Further evoking the meri system, a pitch/colour relationship is employed in the opening section, a section of which is shown here: 36

None of the compositions in this portfolio use the shakuhachi, however this was not intentional and seems to have been governed more by the increase in opportunities to compose for larger ensembles than a conscious avoidance of shakuhachi.


Figure 20: Shinjitsu, b. 15.

The pitch centre C is assigned the humming “n” syllable, while the unstable pitches of Db and Bb are differentiated by the contrasting vowel sounds, a factor reinforced by the dynamic markings. The use of unpitched sounds can also be seen in the “sh” syllable using the square note heads, further emulating the roughness of the shakuhachi timbre. These techniques are confined to the first half of the Shinjitsu however, and I sensed there was room in subsequent works for a more integrated exploration of them across an entire piece. My response is The Second Wave, which sets the contrasting tone and noise elements in an even starker juxtaposition with the goal that they start separately and gradually combine throughout the piece. The work begins with many extended techniques layered sparsely, including woodwind breath sounds, percussive vocal sounds, woodwind finger-slaps, hand-dampened piano, and bass drum played with the fingers. When the vocalist first sings normale at figure A, an opposing chordal texture and melodic figure are heard for the first time. Gradually, pitched elements are introduced into the noise texture and vice-versa. Across both flowing and rhythmic textures alike, these two contrasting elements of noise and purity seek a harmony that is eventually reached in the coda, an otherworldly postlude setting the purity of the voice and harp against wind sounds and an unsettling slow scraping of the piano strings. Afterglow sees me move away from the direct use of noise elements, brought on by the opportunity to work more with more traditional orchestration techniques in writing for a 25-piece ensemble of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. I carefully manipulated the timbral elements through time without changing their overall 37

character. This is linked to the changing timbre of the shakuhachi sound as the dynamic levels change, and can be seen in the following example. A combination of differing dynamic contours and subtle timbre trills give the woodwind texture a dull but lustrous glow.

Figure 21: Afterglow, b. 34.

The overlapping of dynamic contours means that different timbres continually emerge despite the harmony remaining static throughout. A similar effect is produced in the strings through the use of grace notes and natural harmonics in combination with the overlapping dynamics. In Afterglow, I continued to consider the elements of pitch and noise; however unlike Shinjitsu and The Second Wave, I used a more conventional style of orchestration to highlight them. An example of this is seen in the early stages of Afterglow, where various string techniques are used to highlight the noise elements against a pure tone. As seen below, the inner string parts present a core sonority of interlocking rhythms on the pitches Eb and F. The Bartok pizzicato effect around this adds the noise element to the sound, while the sustained notes enhance the purity of the inner moving parts. On the surface, this recalls the qualities of the shakuhachi tone in that a pure timbre with a changing noise element is interspersed with sudden ornamental flashes of colour.


Figure 22: Afterglow, b.10.

A second technique developed in Afterglow to build upon the meri system can also be seen in the above example. Here, timbres changes with harmony rather than particular pitches as with shakuhachi meri notes. The sudden change to sul ponticello in the strings in the bar of figure A coincides with a major harmonic change from a cluster chord to an widely-spaced chord. Although not shown in the excerpt above, this effect is enhanced by the entry of the bassoon, muted trumpet and suspended cymbal. In honkyoku the use of meri reinforces the pitch relationships of the music, and my use of colour is used in a similar fashion to draw attention to important structural harmonic change. The Concerto represents the culmination of my exploration of this dualistic relationship between pitch and noise, and sets the two as poles along a continuum rather than as mutually exclusive opposites. Close attention is paid to the amount of noise present at a particular point, and the subtle manipulation of this factor becomes an area of creative exploration. Within the clarinet solo line, the pure sound is inflected by extended techniques developed in partnership with soloist Ashley


William Smith. Timbre trills,37 vocalisation and multiphonic effects all add different elements of noise to the sound, and the orchestra echoes and amplifies these effects to drive the dialogue between soloist and ensemble forward. The following example shows how the orchestra reacts to the soloist’s forceful flutter-tongue effect by using a ricochet bowing technique in a scattered counterpoint in the solo strings:

Figure 23: Concerto, b. 66.

Alternatively, the clarinet can blend almost seamlessly with the orchestral strings and brass, a technique used for the opening clarinet note as it emerges imperceptibly from the tutti chord preceding it. The frequent exploitation of timbral similarities such as the two described here creates a bind between the soloist and orchestra, and the ebb and flow between the two is a source of ongoing interest throughout the work. In aesthetic terms, my use of timbre as described in this section shows a continuation of the aesthetic principles of shibusa and wabi-sabi. In particular, the elements of normalcy, roughness, imperfection and impermanence can be perceived in the Concerto. Normalcy is seen in the softer colours displayed by the regular use of divisi strings and the compositional choice to forgo the use of woodwind instruments in the 37

I decided to notate only the vocalisation and multiphonic effects, allowing the performer a degree of freedom to determine the extent to which they would use the timbre trills. This technique is indeed quite instrument-specific, so notating exact fingerings would have caused problems for performances on other instruments.


orchestra, thereby limiting the palette to strings, percussion and brass. The softer colours are set against an added element of roughness or imperfection provided by string techniques including extreme sul ponticello, tremolo and jete. Impermanence is present in the constantly changing timbres and the use of aleatoric sections given to the players to create a sound that will constantly vary in and between performances. The use of pitch, colour and dynamics in the Concerto represents the culmination of my attempts to develop an approach based on my shakuhachi experience, in particular the meri technique. The necessity to find new ways of achieving the similar aesthetic goals has developed a broad set of techniques used throughout my musical language.


6. Ma and relative space: an analysis of time and rhythm in my compositional language as a response to honkyoku. In Japanese art forms, one encounters a unique concept of space as a relative concept using the term ma, literally “interval”. The size and placement of objects or events is judged by the perceived intensity of the space between them. This comparison between neighbouring elements is done in an intuitive manner eschewing measurements in absolute values. In traditional Japanese music, ma “describes neither space nor time, but the tension in the silence and in the space surrounding sounds and objects.”38 Noted Japanese composer Tōru Takemitsu claims that this balance is “a relationship beyond any objective measurement.”39 Reflecting this, time in honkyoku is not measured in beats or seconds, and is accepted as a changeable factor in performance due to variations in the condition of the performer’s breath. The player responds to the respiratory rhythm of their body to make their relative judgements of ma, seeking to leave an intuitively “right” amount of silence between each phrase and the notes and ornaments it encompasses. Simply put, good ma in honkyoku occurs when there is a stylistically informed balance between the gestures within phrases and the silences between them. The following passage from Lee is relevant here: Playing honkyoku is an exercise in being aware of the total situation, in a way that neither notation nor a verbal nor a visual description can reproduce. It is a non-literate way of thinking. Honkyoku can only be experienced. The manner in which the first breath is taken before playing the initial phrase of a piece determines and is determined by how the final phrase of the piece is played, so interconnected are all of the breaths and phrases. Each phrase, note, timing, and minute articulation in honkyoku is affected by what precedes and follows it, by the physical, emotional and mental state of the performer, the physical state of the shakuhachi instrument, the surroundings in which the performance is taking place, the audience if any, etc.40

The aesthetic captured through the concept of ma is mujō, the trait of impermanence. The preference for proportional relations over absolute measurement shows the 38

Luciana Galliano, Yogaku : A History of Japanese Music in the 20th Century (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1995), 14. 39 Tōru Takemitsu, Confronting Silence : Selected Writings (Berkeley, Calif.: Fallen Leaf Press, 1995), 51. 40 Lee, “Yearning for the Bell”, chpt. 5.2.


philosophical acceptance of changeability through time. This chapter explores the ways in which my compositional language, in particular the use of time and rhythm, draw from my physical and conceptual understanding of ma experienced through my shakuhachi study.

6.1. Musical space: sound and silence.

According to leading Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa, “to make a strong sound we need a very strong silence.”41 This idea relates aptly to honkyoku as each phrase is punctuated by silence while the player inhales, making the repertoire an apt for the appreciation of ma. I was conscious however, that the regular silences are brought about by the necessity to breathe rather than as a particular aesthetic choice. Could the concept of “space” be expressed in terms other than silence? In other forms of Japanese music, for example the traditional repertoire of the koto and shamisen, the ongoing resonance of the plucked strings lingers on in the spaces between notes. In gagaku, silence is far less prevalent as the shō42 provides a continuous chordal backdrop for long spans of time over which the woodwind and percussive gestures are set. The rich sonority of the shō is somewhat muted in character, and its full beauty becomes apparent only in the spaces between the melodic phrases of the louder and more prominent instruments. In my compositional language, I employ space in a way closer to this foreground/background relationship of gagaku, however my approach draws on the sound/silence duality of honkyoku. This can be seen often throughout the Concerto, as the moments between each clarinet phrase feature static harmonies left floating and given a quiet lustre through subtle colouristic agitations. These moments function like the silences of honkyoku, allowing the music itself to breathe as the player does. My works are not devoid of silence however, and Hosokawa’s assertion (quoted above) that a strong sound needs preparation with an equally strong silence was of 41

Carme Miró, "Interview with Toshio Hosokawa." Accessed 3/7/2015. 42 The shō is a traditional mouth organ that uses both the inhalation and exhalation of the player, thereby allowing a continual sound.


particular interest. I found that the inverse is also true, that the power of a moment of silence depends on the strength of the gesture that precedes it. The silence at figure G of The Second Wave is prepared by the rhythmic force leading up to it, as shown here:

Figure 24: The Second Wave, b. 142.

The bass drum is joined in rhythmic unison by the harp, piano and electric guitar using percussive extended techniques. Having gathered much rhythmic momentum, the abrupt halt creates a charged silence in which the listener is left to anticipate the next sound. This anticipation is sustained as the silence is broken only sporadically at first, with a series of short gestures on the rim of the bass drum (only the first of which appears above). Use of silence in this manner can be found in numerous pieces in the portfolio.

6.2. Floating time: creating musical direction in the absence of pulse. Dynamics play a major part in giving a sense of musical direction to the honkyoku by bringing shape to the phrases devoid of pulse and with a changeable length. Deployed tastefully, dynamic contours work to avoid stasis and therefore embody mujō, the wabi-sabi concept of impermanence. In lessons, one learns ma through imitation and critical feedback from one’s teacher. This process occurs over a number of years, as a single “correct” expression of ma is not a fixed constant. Over time, one learns that dynamics have a direct bearing on the perceived ma by helping to highlight the proportions of a phrase. This explanation of the opening phrase from Hon Shirabe, one of the first honkyoku learned by shakuhachi students, will help clarify this:


Figure 25: Hon Shirabe, opening phrase.

This, my own transcription of the phrase, gives relative values for the note-lengths and shows the dynamics as I was asked to play them by Kakizakai. In relation to the performer’s ma judgements, the ornament and the dynamic shape have a complementary effect. Placed at the loudest point of the phrase, the ornament draws our attention more closely to the dynamic shape of the phrase. In turn, the dynamic shape prepares the listener for the ornament, highlighting the proportions of events within the phrase. I used my physical understanding of this concept to inform the very detailed use of dynamics and timing across the portfolio. As can be seen from the example below, a single phrase can contain the full range of dynamics from very soft pianissimo to forte and beyond.

Figure 26: Concerto, b. 72.

The peaks of the dynamic swells occur midway through a note or phrase, but not necessarily on a downbeat. New pitches often emerge after a very soft dynamic, as if entering from afar. In the example of Hon Shirabe seen above, the ornament fell at the dynamic peak of the phrase. In this example the final crescendo plays this role, preparing the listener for the percussion figure that enters on the F# at figure H. The significance of using a traditional time signature and rhythmic notation to achieve this effect is the topic of the next section.


6.3. Floating time: the use of time signatures.

Transplanting ma and a freedom of temporal proportions into the western art music context is immediately problematic because performers are not trained to conceive rhythm in this intuitive manner. To explore ma in my music, I needed to coax a response from these performers that exhibits the ma of honkyoku, but does not require them having learned it. There are two key elements to my compositional response to this problem: the relative lengths of notes and silences, and the degree of freedom the performer has to change them. This section outlines the way in which I have addressed both these concepts within the traditional system of time signatures. My decision to use time signatures displays the desire to maintain my own personal sense of ma in my compositions. This stems from dissatisfaction with performer’s interpretations of previous scores in which I had used free or proportional rhythmic notation. Therefore my approach now has been to sketch melodies initially with rhythmic freedom, sing or play them a number of times to decide the best ma, and then notate this final version to appear in the score. The process resembles my own practice of playing honkyoku in which choosing the best durations for a set melody is a major part of leaning a piece. A section of an initial sketch is shown below:

Figure 27: Concerto, preliminary sketches.

My experience playing honkyoku also taught me that my pre-planned durations still require a degree adjustment as dictated by my breath condition in any given performance. Likewise, I felt it important to leave scope for the performers of my 46

music to make similar minor judgements as the performance required, therefore adding their own personal interpretation to my overarching ma proportions. I encourage these small-scale freedoms by frequently changing the rhythmic subdivisions and rarely placing notes squarely on downbeats. The following two examples show the final realisation of the handwritten sketches above: the opening of the handwritten sketch is shown in the final bars of the first example below, while the end can be seen in the beginning of the second realisation.

Figure 28: Concerto, b. 90.

The player can easily make tasteful temporal nuance with these rhythms as the freedom to play “around� the beat is combined with a certain fluidity of tempo owing to the lack of audible pulse and the relatively slow tempo. By notating my rhythms in this manner, I have instilled in the music my own sense of proportional ma and allowed the performer freedoms with which to interpret this according to the needs of a particular performance. In this way, the floating sense of time found in honkyoku is maintained, displaying the shibusa trait of tranquillity.


6.4. Hidden pulse: masking and revealing.

In playing honkyoku, ma and the floating sense of time never equate to complete stasis; a sense of movement and direction are integral to maintaining interest in the music. I developed a number of techniques to sustain the floating feeling despite the music being “rationalised� within traditional notation. This section describes the techniques used to both hide and reveal the underlying pulse, allowing me to control the flow of the music as required. Firstly, by using rapid ornamental gestures in very small rhythmic dominations within an overall slow tempo (in the case below, quaver = 44), the beat itself is not discernible; the pace of the movement is so far removed from the beat that it is not heard as a subdivision of it.

Figure 29: Concerto, rehearsal-mark O.

Furthermore, when distributed in differing subdivisions of the beat, they exhibit an indiscernible complexity akin to the naturalness of the shibui aesthetics. A similar blurring is also applied to longer melodic phrases, which are often overlayed heterophonically over a longer time-span as seen in the following excerpt:


Figure 30: Concerto, b. 37.

Overlaying the lines in this way not only negates the pulse, it ensures that each maintains its own independent sense of ma across the ties and changing subdivisions. The overall effect of this blurred heterophony is to create a shimmering surface texture recalling the wabi-sabi trait of imperfection. Occasionally, I disrupt the flow of the music to refocus the attention of the listener by allowing a momentarily glimpse of the underlying pulse. I modelled this technique on an examination of the short ornamental gestures in honkyoku, and their implicit rhythmic elements. This can be seen in the example given earlier of Hon Shirabe.

Figure 31: Hon Shirabe, opening phrase.

Apart from the ornamental figure at the forte dynamic, all the note lengths are flexible. The ornament itself is notated rhythmically as I perceived and played it,43 and its two Gs are emphasised with the breath to enhance the effect of the grace notes. Such a clear marking of two points in time strongly suggests a pulse for a brief moment, giving an unexpected jolt out of the floating time surrounding it. I used a 43

This does not mean my interpretation is necessarily the same as my teacher’s; only that it was “acceptable� to him when I performed it. The exact nature of this ornament would never be externalised in lessons, and on the few times I asked about such specific details I was discouraged from thinking about it in this way.


similar effect in the Concerto, seen in the following extract of the first violins at figure I.

Figure 32: Concerto, rehearsal-mark I.

The momentary synchronisation of the quintuplet semiquavers focuses the listener’s attention due to the sudden emergence of a perceptible pulse. This prepares them for the abrupt change in colour and harmony upon reaching the forte shown above, at which the new timbres of harp, tamtam and Bartok pizzicato enter (not shown), making it all the more powerful. Allowing glimpses of the underlying pulse can be equated to the wabi-sabi element of incompleteness.

6.5. Constant pulse: emerging imperceptibly.

Driven by the desire to broaden the set of techniques I applied to rhythm, I sought ways that the opposites of pulse and floating time could blend more seamlessly in addition to the brief glimpses outlined above. This would allow longer periods over which to explore the possibilities of pulse in the greater scheme of my language. Indeed, the prevalence of floating time found in honkyoku is not reflected in the parallel sankyoku44 repertoire or other traditional music styles of Japan. The music of 44

Sankyoku is a separate tradition of repertoire featuring the shakuhachi in combination with a koto and shamisen, the players of which are also required to sing. While this repertoire is historically significant to the shakuhachi itself, I studied relatively few pieces in depth.


the koto and shamisen show their own stylised approaches to rhythm and pulse in line with the wabi-sabi and shibusa aesthetics. I first explored how a pulse could emerge gradually from the floating rhythmic sound world, rather than suddenly appearing to disrupt it as described previously. I found that a smooth transition between the two could be achieved by subtly setting up the rhythmic pulse of a particular gesture before it arrives and likewise lengthening the time before it dissipates. In Shinjitsu, the key element is the alternation of the syllable “n” with the various vowel sounds, producing a pulse from small but discernible timbral difference. In bars 54 and 55 in the example below, the bass, alto and soprano parts begin to align underneath the melodic material in the tenor. All four parts land together on the syllable “da” in the 3rd bar below, after which they use different subdivisions to arrive at the cadential downbeat at bar 57, the loudest and widest spanned chord to this point in the work.

Figure 33: Shinjitsu, b. 54.

Several consecutive gestures share the rhythmic technique outlined here, and the pulse becomes integral to the shaping of musical tension and eventually preparing the climax at bar 140. A contrasting transition from non-pulsed to pulsed movement can be seen in The Second Wave in the section leading to bar 142, described earlier in this section in regards to the preparation of musical silence. In this case, the highly pulsed material is overlaid in an offset manner and the complexity of the resulting rhythm


does not seem to exhibit this pulse at all. This effect is aided by the use of complex timbres from the percussive extended techniques on the harp, electric guitar and piano. The transition to transition to rhythmic unison between the four parts occurs smoothly because by maintaining the complex timbres the merging of rhythm goes initially unnoticed.

6.6. Constant pulse and the komibuki technique.

A small number of honkyoku from the Nezasa lineage utilise a regular pulse however, exhibited through a blowing technique called komibuki. Achieved by using rapid diaphragm contractions to create sudden bursts of air, komibuki is thought to depict the strong winds of northern Japan passing through a bamboo grove,45 thus implying the shibusa trait of naturalness. It is also intended to focus the players mind inward to heighten the meditative aspect of the music. Pieces calling for komibuki exhibit ma in the same manner as those without; note lengths (and therefore the number of pulsations) are changeable according to the player’s breath condition and sense of proportion. When using this idea as a starting point for pulse in my music, I sketched melodies and applied my own ma judgements in the same manner as when using music without a pulse. In this case, the rhythms are notated in a way that reinforces instead of blurs the pulse. The following figure drives the music of the Concerto in the section from bar 225-246:

Figure 34: Concerto, b. 225.


Kaoru Kakizakai, liner notes to Shakuhachi Honkyoku Vol. 2 (Tokyo: FreeKick, 2009).


This dovetailed triplet figure proceeds at a fast tempo, with melodic material and chordal textures swirling around it. As can be seen from observing the full score, the phrases are of varying lengths and do not adhere to any beat hierarchy that may be associated with the 4/4 time in which it is encompassed. After bar 247, a similar use of constant pulse unbound by the time signature can be seen in the quaver movement in the cellos: Figure 35: Concerto, b 247.

Within the generally falling motion, the use of irregularly occurring upward leaps prevents the music from sounding as if it were cast in 4/4 time. By negating the traditional beat hierarchy in this fashion, I was able to employ pulse while still exhibiting ma proportions similar to those found in the honkyoku using the komibuki technique. Other examples of a similar approach to pulse are found in the work Nezasa, and the String Quartet. Nezasa features a much slower pulse treated in a similarly free manner, however time signatures are manipulated almost every bar to match the accents of the music. The use of the 6/8 pulse in the String Quartet was a precursor to the dovetailed violin motives from the Concerto shown earlier in figure 34. Both these works are discussed in more detail in later chapters where they have greater relevance to the portfolio as a whole. This chapter outlined how the Japanese concept of ma has been employed in my compositions. The use of silence, floating time, pulse, and the techniques deployed to achieve ma-like proportions within traditional notation has been examined. Finally, explanation has been given of the way the use of time has echoed the shibusa qualities of tranquillity and naturalness, and the wabi-sabi aspects of incompleteness and impermanence. 53

7. Ma and spontaneity: an analysis of the structural elements of Nezasa and Dark Nebulae. The Japanese concept of form is unique in that “space is experienced progressively in steps from one to the next”.46 This chapter explores the use of ma and proportional judgements and how they are used in a stepwise manner resembling an additive approach to total form. An analysis of the work Nezasa is used to demonstrate this, while the correlation to the aesthetic qualities of shibusa and wabi-sabi is examined with reference to Dark Nebulae. The honkyoku pieces are designed to be experienced through performance, as their background in the suizen meditation practice would suggest. As such, it is rarely successful to analyse their formal scheme in a western sense; the works are better viewed in terms of their original goal, kenshō, or spiritual awakening. In playing a honkyoku, one is ushered along a journey intended to achieve the required meditative state. Likewise, Chang writes of the Japanese tea ceremony: The progressive, heightened experience of the tea ceremony actually leads one deep into a secluded place, the interior of the tea house and the interior of the inner person. 47

Both honkyoku and the tea ceremony lead the participant through a sequential process of steps along a journey. These are the individual phrases in honkyoku and the rooms and antechambers of the teahouse. Along this journey, the tea ceremony calls on a perfection of etiquette through ones actions and behaviour, while the challenge of playing honkyoku is in the tasteful use of time to play with satisfying ma. Musical composition however, is more akin to architecture or garden design in that it involves creating the journey rather than simply travelling it. Ma is still a predominant formal factor however, as Japanese architecture places emphasis upon “relationships, building to building and room to room, not on positions of buildings and rooms”.48 The result is an additive process in which the complexity and interest lies in the relationships between unique neighbouring elements: Japanese gardens in general are created by arranging various rocks and trees so as to articulate their individual characteristics.49 46

Chang, 203. Ibid., 8. 48 Ibid., 215. 49 Yuriko Saito, "The Japanese Aesthetics of Imperfection and Insufficiency." The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 55, no. 4 (1997), 379. 47


Therefore a building or garden takes its shape and form only during its construction; the final dimensions are not pre-planned. Rather, the artistic practice lies in “listening to and submitting [oneself] to the voice and dictate of the material�.50 While observations of the total form can be revealing, the true formal principles are better glimpsed through an understanding of the journey of creation. The following discussion of the work Nezasa allows an augmented understanding of the total form by outlining the process of composition.

7.1. Steps and additive form. Nezasa is scored for an octet consisting of oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello and double bass. Many of the qualities of the musical language described in the previous chapters can be found in the piece, including the prevalent use of the miyako bushi and insen modes, the gradual rising of trajectory and widening of range, and the use of a pulsed figure reminiscent of the komibuki blowing technique. The melodic material is predominantly found in the clarinet and oboe, surrounded by the gently pulsating aura of sound in the remaining instruments. Due to the simplicity of its construction, Nezasa shows the clearest progression from these internal musical elements towards a total form. The analysis taken here will utilise a series of visual representations of the piece in order to show how the additive stepwise process underpins the dimensions of the whole. The first diagram, shown on the following page, deals purely with melodic shape and phrase length, with time on the horizontal axis and pitch on the vertical. Moving from top to bottom, the horizontal black lines represent the melodic contour of the phrases in Nezasa as played by the clarinet, oboe or bassoon.51 The dimensions of these lines are given to scale, however no reference to exact time or pitch values is given. This encourages the reader to make comparisons between each line rather than to any absolute measurement. 50

Saito, 383. A number of factors have been omitted to maximise the functionality of this diagram. The silences or overlap between phrases is not shown; save for the use of the second grey line towards the end of the piece where the two voices merge. The tessitura of each phrase is not given, however this will be discussed subsequently. Finally, some grace notes are given a wider horizontal space so they are easily visible. 51


Figure 36: Melodic phrase shapes of Nezasa.


The top line of this diagram is the first phrase of the piece, the gesture from which the entire piece grows. The second phrase resembles the first, but prolongs the first lower note and falls back to this pitch at the end. The third is an inversion of this shape with the note lengths further adjusted. Comparing the shape of each phrase in this manner was a vital part of the compositional process, and the reader is now encouraged to continue this process on their own without further commentary. Particular interest should be paid to the introduction of larger leaps (especially upwards), the everchanging complexity of movement, and a continual comparison back to the original phrase. On completing this process, the reader will have gained an “experience” of the total form. The stepwise development of this additive process has given rise to a complex but unmeasurable system of relationships that permeates throughout the whole. While patterns are discernible within each phrase, they come and go freely. Despite this, each phrase seems to “belong” to the whole due to a certain consistency between all elements, yet the whole as seen here is equally inscrutable in terms of its formal structure. In that sense, the total form exhibits all the characteristics of its constituent parts. This system of seemingly random but highly cohesive design mirrors the structures found in nature, held in such high regard by Japanese artists. The following diagram is of a similar nature to the previous one, with the focus here on the pitch material used in each phrase. This makes it possible to observe the additive process in the growth of chords and the expansion of the range of the piece. Pitch is once again on the vertical axis, and time stays on the horizontal axis, however time is not to scale here, with each horizontal line representing a single phrase regardless of its length. The reader is once again encouraged to proceed from left to right through the diagram while making their own comparisons of the vertical harmonic make-up of each phrase.


Figure 37: Pitch range chart of Nezasa.

The expansion process is immediately obvious in the opening section of the diagram, where each new phrase sees the addition of a single pitch. After the chord grows to include eight pitches, the material is reduced to a single (higher) pitch momentarily to provide a moment of ma space. This pattern of growth and space occurs a number of times throughout the piece, creating a sense of expectation and a larger scale “rhythm� of form. The process culminates in the chord with the widest range followed by the longest ma space of the piece, and the piece ends with a final chord above which soft string harmonics (shown in the lighter shaded lines) hover. Using this visual representation, we can see both the intuitive relationships between each vertical line permeating throughout the whole and the total form resulting from these relationships. The shape above suggests the presence of internal relationships without making them explicit, leaving the viewer to judge for themselves in a typical expression of wabi-sabi incompleteness. In the following version of the diagram I have included markings to show the total form as per my description above. It must be stressed however, that these are of my own divination, and the original shape lends itself to numerous readings.


Figure 38: Annotated pitch range chart of Nezasa.

With the addition of my markings (in grey) we can see more explicitly the expansion process in the triangle figures. At the same time however, we can also see many exceptions to this rule, showing that an imperfection pervades. Nevertheless, this only reinforces the complexities of discussing form from a total viewpoint rather than as a process of the additive journey by which it was created. The final diagram here is the visual representation of the audio waveform of the piece, and shows the dynamic level (vertical axis) of the piece through time (horizontal axis). Figure 39: Waveform of Nezasa.

This waveform makes apparent the episodic nature of the piece, showing the silences between each phrase at the opening of the work and continued undulation from loud to soft as the phrases overlap. In the shapes of the individual phrases, a general expanding and contracting dynamic shape can be seen, with variations on this also


visible (for example the accented beginning to the first phrase). From a total perspective, it is significant to note that the dynamic contour maintains a relatively stable path until the expansion seen before the climax of the piece. This differs from the multiple expansions that happened on a melodic level. All three visualisations presented here have displayed how the additive process creates a total structure with a certain cohesive irregularity that eludes formal definition. The final understanding of the formal structure of Nezasa must be given through the analysis as a journey towards kenshĹ?, or spiritual awakening, one of the Zen concepts underlying Japanese arts. Participants in the tea ceremony move from the waiting room through a journey of “purificationâ€? consisting of hand-washing, art-viewing and polite conversation towards the centre of the teahouse where tea is taken. By following the steps in earnest, it is thought that one is led to appreciate the full beauty found in the simple act of drinking tea. The form of Nezasa could be taken in the same light, with the expanding process preparing the listener to appreciate the simplicity of the prolonged F in the clarinet after the climax of the piece. This single long note becomes the most unadorned phrase of the entire work, having no melodic shape and harmonic content. The listener is now able to appreciate the warmth and rich upper harmonics of the clarinet timbre uncluttered by the constant pulsing that has pervaded the rest of the work. The importance of the journey and the preparation for this moment is paramount, and the suddenness of its appearance creates a sense of anticipation in the listener. Indeed, a single note held for 30 seconds is unlikely to maintain interest without adequate preparation. Finally, the pulsation returns in the upper strings through eerie natural harmonics to give an echo, a fragrance of the path travelled. The journey itself is never direct, and the final resting place is only ever hinted at along the way. This technique is found in Japanese architecture, for example the long winding path leading to the famous shrine in Ise, Japan. For the most part, the shrine itself is not visible as one traverses the path, however occasional partial views are possible along the way. Only on arriving at the shrine complex itself can one admire the whole form and appreciate the beauty in its simple and traditional design. Similarly, the prolonged F in the clarinet is not shown clearly until it appears 60

suddenly after the climax. Hints at prolonged stillness are given occasionally, for example the first oboe entry two bars before A, the Cb at bar 47 and the high Bb at bar 55. In these three examples, the pulse is only ever absent for a short time in comparison to the 30 second extended clarinet note. These hints at the final destination are a further expression of the trait of impermanence.


7.2. Aesthetics.

The aesthetic qualities of wabi-sabi and shibusa have their own repercussions on the concept of form in Japanese art. Each has had its own individual impact, and to understand this we must examine the fundamental differences they hold. Wabi-sabi is more a total philosophy closely aligned with Zen teachings in that it “embodies the melancholic appeal of the impermanence of all things”.52 Shibusa on the other hand deals purely with beauty and a set of ideals in which it “compresses the power of tranquillity, understatement and total integrity of craft”.53 We can see this division even more clearly if we observe how each concept treats spontaneity. Young and Young54 outline this difference through their ideas of “spontaneity of action” and “spontaneity of effect”.

7.2.1. Spontaneity of Effect. “Spontaneity of effect” is a result of the shibusa ideals of beauty, in particular the traits of naturalness and roughness. In some ways, these ideals could seem at odds with the level of planning and preparation that goes into much Japanese art, however leaving certain elements to chance is a common practice. A potter, for example, carefully refines the form of their piece and will then subtly bump it before kilning to disrupt the symmetry. Materials including straw and salt are then thrown into the kiln during the firing process, causing irregular natural patterns on the glaze. Similarly, shakuhachi makers put much care and refinement into getting the internal dimensions of each instrument just right, however they leave the outside to appear as natural and rustic as possible. The previous section of this chapter outlines the lengthy process of stepwise comparison that led to the overall formal structure of Nezasa. Similar to the potter disrupting the symmetry of their piece, I have included my own deliberate and timely “bump” to the music at the climax. This is shown below: 52

Juniper, back cover. Chang, 15. 54 Young and Young, chpt. 4. 53


Figure 40: Nezasa, b. 75.

The abrupt “breaking” of the sound is completely unexpected to the first-time listener, and thus appears a spontaneous effect. The sforzando gesture is completely unprepared as it comes after six beats of diminuendo and falls off the beat. The following col legno battuto technique in the double bass gives a stark contrast in colour that only appears at this point in the piece. The surprise of this gesture has a second purpose other than to disrupt the symmetry; it also masks the entry of the single pure clarinet note that becomes the sole focus of contemplation for the following 20 seconds. The effect of spontaneity produced here is not however, a spontaneous action. Rather, it is a planned decision on my behalf to disrupt the balance of the phrase, while accepting the changeability of the double bass player’s interpretation of the given rhythm. A more extreme form of this can be seen in the Concerto discussed previously. After shaping the form of the work in a way not dissimilar (but significantly more complex) than used in Nezasa, the cadenza of the work calls for the soloist to embellish the written version as they choose. The recording of Ashley Smith’s cadenza provides a vibrant and colourful foil to the more


subdued opening of the work. The “spontaneity of effect” as shown in these examples proves to be a consciously planned decision on behalf of the artist to give the appearance of spontaneity to the audience.

7.2.2. Spontaneity of Action. “Spontaneity of action” is a goal in many of the Zen arts, despite this seemingly being in conflict with the prevalent use of rote learning. Using repetition however, develops a mastery in which a set of rules is known so deeply that one can transcend them because the “correct” practice is deeply ingrained. In honkyoku, the memorization of a piece and the internalisation of the stylistic performance practice are geared towards creating spontaneous and uninhibited performances. Zen monks seek spontaneity in their painting as a form of ego-transcendence through “non-intention”. According to Young and Young however, the artistic capabilities of the monks is varied, and the correlation between “enlightened” art and “beautiful” art is limited at best. 55 Nevertheless, the importance lies in a belief that a particular state of mind in which one can act spontaneously is the most conducive to making art. The composition of the second work presented in this chapter, the saxophone quartet Dark Nebulae, shows the most spontaneous act of creation of all the works in the portfolio. Achieving spontaneity in the composition process required a complete internalisation of the “rules” of the chosen musical material. The work focuses on the multiphonic capabilities of the saxophone, whereby using an unconventional fingering, a thick and complex chord of several simultaneous pitches is created. The rich timbres these afford came with a corresponding set of problems: multiphonics are both difficult for the performer to produce consistently and finite in number, leaving a relatively small set of materials with which to work. The first stage of the composition was an intense recording session spent with my friend and colleague Andrew Smith collecting samples of multiphonics. During this process, Smith indicated to me the relative stability and ease of production of each for my consideration. I then set to work compiling the material into labelled audio files of 55

Young and Young, chpt. 4.


over 100 sampled multiphonics. Using two pieces of software, Pure Data for sample playback and Ardour for sequencing, I was able to begin comparing and contrasting the material and selecting which would be used in the piece. This stage of the process was extremely useful in suggesting new possibilities and potential paths, but became increasingly frustrating in that many compositional “wrong turns” were taken. After two months immersed in the sound of multiphonics, I was frustratingly unable to settle on a final approach to the work in either a large- or small-scale sense. In retrospect, this stage (including all the “mistakes”) was a process of internalisation of all the sounds I had selected. The software had allowed me to hear the sounds and select the most useful, but did not allow me to shape them further. I began to feel increasingly limited by this, however I was disinclined to invest further time into programming for what I planned to be an acoustic piece. In a moment of serendipity, it dawned upon me that after two months of listening, I had actually internalised the sound of each multiphonic and knew instinctively how they blended in combination. After this realisation, I moved away from using the computer and was able to compose the piece in a single 48-hour sitting. I combined the internalised logic of the multiphonics with my intuitive physical memories from honkyoku and the piece seemingly flowed from my pen on to the manuscript in its final form. The result is a work that shows far less formal coherence than Nezasa. This is due to the spontaneous act of creation and an acceptance of the result, rather than the delicately paced steps towards the single moment of “enlightenment” as in Nezasa. Working in this far more uninhibited manner resembles the “non-intention” of the monks painting “Zen art”. The following spectrogram of Dark Nebulae is given here as a method of viewing complete form of the work and how this reflects the spontaneous method of its composition. The time and pitch axes are once again to scale, but exact information is limited to several bar numbers to encourage a reading focused on patterns rather than empirical measurements.


Figure 41: Dark Nebulae spectrogram.

The inclusion of the upper partials (even of the non-multiphonic notes) in this spectrogram creates quite an abstract visual representation; nevertheless a number of formal divisions can be observed. From the beginning until bar 16, an additive process can be observed in the gradual introduction of new pitches, and the same can be seen between bars 16 and 30. The section from bar 30 until bar 67 however, shows far less formal coherence visually. Musically, new multiphonics and harmonies come and go freely until a prominent melody begins to float on its own path above. Following this, a thick mass of multiphonics (seen in the darkest section above) disrupts the preceding calm, after which the work returns to the opening mood with one final melodic figure to end. Unlike Nezasa the use of additive techniques is not used as a “preparation” towards a musical climax. Neither the gradual emergence of melodic material or the churning mass of multiphonics at bar 67 are “logical” extrapolations from the initial material. Rather, material is used for its musical qualities at a particular time without the necessity that it “fit” into a complete formal scheme. Therefore, while Dark Nebulae displays certain similarities in its formal techniques and musical language to Nezasa, the overall form displays far more variation due to the spontaneity of its construction. This acceptance of spontaneity of action aligns the piece with the broader wabi-sabi


aesthetic, and allowed me to overcome the compositional barriers I encountered during its composition. This chapter has examined the effect of ma and the aesthetic values of shibusa and wabi-sabi on the formal structure of my compositions. The use of intuitive spatial judgements through an additive process was shown to produce a formal structure designed for stepwise and sequential experience. Spontaneity added a natural and unexpected element to the form, either through deliberate planned action to create “spontaneity of effect” or through embracing an uninhibited “spontaneity of action” and its subsequent blurring of planned formal principles.


8. Koan: the insurmountable problem as a starting point for compositional exploration.

Through learning shakuhachi, I encountered a teaching style based on the philosophy of Zen Buddhism quite unlike any previous learning I had undertaken. One immediately apparent difference was that I was discouraged from seeking rational answers to my questions and problems. This tendency echoes the koan study of Zen monks, in which students deeply contemplate a seemingly cryptic question posed by the teacher. Ming-Pen gives this general statement on the koan: It cannot be understood by logic; it cannot be transmitted in words; it cannot be explained in writing; it cannot be measured by reason. 56

The example “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” has become well known in the western world, even if the answer itself is not. Monks tasked with solving a koan repeat the problem to themself over and over again until it penetrates their subconscious mind. According to Hori, the solution to a koan involves the realisation of the fundamental non-duality of the question,57 and at this moment the student experiences kenshō, or spiritual awakening. There is of course far more to this process than the simplified account given here, however the search for a subconscious and non-rational solution can be seen as pertinent. I found a correlation between the koan and the following question often put to me in lessons by Kakizakai: Can you satisfy (your) God with just one sound?

This phrase reflects the striving of shakuhachi players to make the loudest, richest and most beautifully shaped tone. Another popular phrase “ichi on jobutsu” compares this search to kenshō, implying that one can achieve “buddhahood in a single sound”. Each lesson began with this focus through robuki, the simple yet surprisingly difficult practice of playing the note ro over and over for several minutes with the teacher. I


John Daido Loori, Sitting with Koans: Essential Writings on Zen Koan Introspection (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2006), 13. 57 Hori, 31.


was in awe of the volume and control of Kakizakai, and came to the realisation that I had much work to do. Aside from technical advice, He always stressed to me that the key to improvement lay beyond the realms of my current concept of how to produce sound. I equate this to the non-rational and subconscious focus of the koan. Meri presented a similar challenge, as I was asked to play the meri notes louder and more heavily than the surrounding non-meri notes. This request is in direct opposition to the physics of the instrument itself as the meri notes are by nature somewhat quieter. Kakizakai acknowledged this, but insisted I search for a way to succeed in his request. Despite being confronted by such seemingly contradictory requests, my meri and robuki techniques improved markedly during my stay in Japan. Perhaps more importantly, I had been armed with courage and even a thirst to confront problems that were, on the surface, inscrutable. I used this approach when facing a number of significant philosophical problems in the composition of the works in this thesis, and this chapter examines my musical response through analyses of my works Confluence, String Quartet No. 1, Piano Trio and The Night Sky Fall.


8.1. Ma and non-duality in ensemble performance. In the work Confluence for two percussionists, I wanted to explore the concept of ma in an ensemble rather than solo context. Chapter 6 outlined ma, noting that the shakuhachi performer makes comparative judgements about the length of each gesture and the timing of each phrase while playing. My desire to explore a concept of “group ma” stemmed from the realisation that in my previous works, ma was “controlled” by a single performer, be it the conductor, soloist, or simply the player who had the melody at that time. In composing Confluence, my aim was to allow both performers an equal part in shaping the temporal flow of the piece. The piece employs the use of time in accordance with the principles outlined in chapter 6, ensuring the rhythms are notated to avoid creating a clear beat by frequently using ties and changing subdivisions of the beat. The intended freedom of time is reinforced by the aesthetic choice of not using time signatures despite the changing length of bars. This is made possible due to the fact that the amount of time in each bar is evident by the notes it contains, and both players play from the score and can therefore see each other’s parts. Confluence seeks to achieve “group ma” through exploring the concept of togetherness in sound and in action. The division of each gesture between the two players is of most importance to the conceptual premise of the piece. The following excerpts from the piece will help illustrate this.

Figure 42: Confluence, b. 82.


The first example above, bar two of the piece, shows how togetherness of sound is explored. The chord occurring on the beat is made up of four notes (two being grace notes), with two being played by each vibraphone. The second part of the gesture partially “mirrors” the chord by adding two pitches taken from the opposing part. The effect of this is a slight thickening of the sound through volume and interference beating arising from slight discrepancies in the unison pitches. Featured throughout the piece, these subtle complexities are extended further by the optional addition of humming, tuned gongs, and preparation of the bars with aluminium foil. The second example above (from bar 48) demonstrates how I negated the traditional roles of “leader” and “follower”, instead sharing the responsibility to shape the phrase equally between the two players. This is done by assigning notes alternately across changing subdivisions of the crotchet beat, meaning each player has an equal role in shaping the phrase. In addition to having the freedom to inflect the tempo as they feel, each player must react directly to the interpretation of the other player and make adjustments to this as necessary. A further and perhaps more extreme example is seen here:

Figure 43: Confluence, b. 50.

After the initial triplet figure played together, the technique of distributing notes alternately returns in the feathered beams used to indicate a large change in speed over a very short time. These present further challenges to the players because they do not specify the exact amount of tempo change, and reacting to the other player becomes more difficult at this faster speed. The players must therefore agree in advance on a total rhythmic shape to enact this spontaneously during performance. If successful, then my idea of “group ma” has been achieved, and I believe the recorded


performance submitted here vindicates this. On watching the rehearsal process, it was encouraging to hear the performers discuss these issues in a way I felt resembled how a shakuhachi player decides their own ma proportions. “Group ma� also appears in the second movement of the Piano Trio. The role of each player is continually changing, and being aware of the total sound was important to playing the music effectively. To facilitate this, the violin and cello players are able to see the piano part in their performance parts. Once again, the material is spread between the instruments, and pitches often occur in more than one part. The tempo of the following example is slow (crotchet = ca. 48), and changing subdivisions of the beat are employed to encourage the use of rubato:

Figure 44: Piano Trio, b. 186.

In performance, the downbeat of figure J would be led by the violinist, after which the piano would take the lead due to the greater prominence of its grace-note inflected gesture. The cello then assumes the foreground through its leap from Cb to A§, echoed subsequently in the violin from F to Eb. Here the piano performs a secondary role of sustaining pitches from the string motives. Essentially, each performer momentarily controls the overall tempo within the 6 beats of music described here, but must also react appropriately to the rubato of the other two players.


This movement of the Piano Trio, like Confluence, displays the results of my attempts to give each player a degree of control over the fluid sense of time. The push and pull of rubato within gestures and the musical dialogue produced become an essential factor in performance of the music. In effect, the construction and notation of the music coaxes a response from the players that echoes the way a shakuhachi player deals with space, or ma, only here they must react also to the voices of their colleagues.


8.2. Direct use of honkyoku. The second major question of this chapter is of an ethical nature and concerns the direct use of honkyoku in my works. In the 21st century, the use of musical material from cultures other than one’s own can raise a number of ethical problems. My compositional language, therefore, was initially built from a strict avoidance of direct quotation of the honkyoku. Furthermore, my love and respect for the pieces is so deep that recreating them on western instruments with performers untrained in the tradition seemed impossible and of the greatest disrespect. Despite this, such a looming impossibility seemed to suggest the existence of an answer I wasn’t seeing. My journey from grappling with this subject to finding a solution is discussed here with reference to the String Quartet No. 1 and the first movement of the Piano Trio. Five years passed between returning from Japan and my setting of the traditional work Yamagoe in the String Quartet. I considered many points along this road, and made a number of significant clarifications of my standpoint. Most importantly, my approach to shakuhachi has always been musical, and I never saw learning honkyoku as different to my learning Mozart and Brahms as a clarinet player. I believed the intangible central essence to be one and the same, despite the vastly different philosophies, aesthetics and technical understanding that were of course constantly apparent during my study. The differing approaches of East and West are simply the result of the contrasting cultures and tastes of their practitioners through time. In either tradition, the process of memorising and performing music is essentially an internalised physical action to create a particular sound shape. A second important point for me was the realisation that no “pure” form exists in either tradition. While the staff notation of western music may provide a detailed account of the music, it is not in itself the music. Nor is a recorded performance a final product, as it is new and varied interpretations that renew and revitalise the tradition. Likewise, an externalisation of a honkyoku through performance is not in itself a honkyoku; the goal is to internalise and personalise each piece. And while my internalised version of Yamagoe likely resembles my teacher Kakizakai’s (as his does his teacher Yokoyama’s), they are not the same. From this standpoint my use of the


piece transcends the issue of appropriation: The String Quartet is a singular and personal externalisation of Yamagoe in the same way that each performance is its own unique rendering, only in this case it has been removed from the shakuhachi instrument and taken to the string quartet medium. Moving beyond this philosophical stance still required skilful handling to be relevant. In particular, a subtle approach that does not subjugate the honkyoku to western forms was the critical concern. My basic approach was to create balance through a thorough mirroring of the shakuhachi version of Yamagoe in a total sense. I sought to evoke the physicality and “ideal” sound of the piece, and explored the link between the solo nature of the original and the string quartet. While many honkyoku feature long notes and a calm mood, Yamagoe is one of the few to emphasise strong gestures and rapid movements. The title Yamagoe is usually translated as “crossing the mountain” and the piece is intended as a supreme test of the player’s willpower, requiring that all one’s strength be put into the performance. 58 When playing, I imagined facing into an icy blizzard high up on a Japanese mountaintop. This intense physicality is an essential part of the piece, and therefore needed to be replicated in my version for string quartet. The forceful breathing often called for in the shakuhachi version required translation somehow into the medium of bowed string instruments. Fortunately, string instruments are capable of similarly expansive gestures to convey strong and heavy accents. The main area of difference lay in the use of long and sustained tones: while as a shakuhachi player I could be totally absorbed in the robuki long note practice, I felt string players do not derive the same satisfaction from playing long notes. The instruments themselves only speak fully when given the freedom to move across a greater range of notes. This search for possibilities of movement led me back to my original interpretation that, despite the music having no “beat” as such, I still feel a strong sense of forward motion when I play the piece. Therefore I settled on using a constant pulse in a fast 6/8 time signature for its ability to convey a sense of relentless forward motion. I then imagined the physical experience of performing the piece and “rationalised" the 58

Kakizakai, liner notes to Shakuhachi Honkyoku Vol. 2.


rhythms to fit staff notation. Great care was taken to maintain the ma proportions of my understanding of the piece without subverting this to the surrounding 6/8 time signature. The image below is a portion of my hand-sketched process, showing the Japanese note symbols above the final rhythmic material.

Figure 45: String Quartet, initial sketches using Yamagoe.

It can be seen from this extract that material is placed in varying subdivisions of the beat and falls freely on and around it. Once the rhythms were decided in this manner, I began to distribute the melody to the four players of the string quartet in a way that best suited the character of the music at any given point. For example, the extreme and sudden dynamic changes of the original are achieved through the tutti gestures occurring throughout the piece and individual instrumental techniques, such as the double stops seen in the excerpt below:

Figure 46: String Quartet, b. 66.

By distributing the inner quaver pulse of the meter throughout the ensemble, the music maintains a driving intensity that is more suitable to string instruments than the long held notes of the original example. This can be seen in the following example:


Figure 47: String Quartet, b 7.

Another feature seen in this example is the introduction of linear wave-like figures in the two violin parts. These scalic figures are my addition, intended to exaggerate the relentless forward momentum of the piece and the physical sense of this I feel when I play the piece. Mirroring the sound world of the honkyoku in the string quartet medium posed a number of significant questions. Typically, honkyoku include a wide range of tone colours made possible by the construction and blowing technique of the shakuhachi. From a western perspective, a number of these would be viewed as “extended techniques”, but that is not the case: Flutter-tonguing, breathy tone qualities, percussive finger pops and pitch slides are all fundamental techniques required to play the music. To reflect this, I chose to use string techniques that are an established part of the tradition rather than using more modern techniques (for example over-pressure bowing or bowing on the bridge or tailpiece) and attempt to exactly recreate the sounds in Yamagoe. After all, my goal was to mirror the total aesthetic of the piece in the string quartet format as opposed to attempting to emulate exactly the sonic properties of the music. I recreated the softer effect of the meri sections of the piece by using harmonics (natural and artificial) and a higher tessitura to contrast with the stronger gestures. Harsher sounds were produced using sul ponticello bowing, and direct percussiveness was produced using Bartok pizzicato. At moments where I thought the colour palette represented by these techniques was insufficient, I opted to “thicken” the sound using 77

extra harmonic dissonance. This can be seen above in rising “wave� figure, a whole tone scale, occurring in parallel major seconds from the Ab. Another example of this is given here:

Figure 48: String Quartet, b. 25.

The main note from the original piece was the A§ occurring in the viola part, however in the original the end of the note is played with a forceful burst of mura iki breath noise. By adding the notes F#, G and Ab directly below this in the two violin parts, a clash of adjacent pitches produces a harsh dissonance mirroring the timbral incisiveness of the original phrase. Such use of dissonant pitches beyond the insen mode of the original work can be found throughout the piece. To reflect the solo nature of Yamagoe, the four parts combine to create a single texture that conveys the overall gestures of the original. A combination of pulse, heterophony, wave-like shapes, varied timbres and dissonance adds a layer of complexity made possible only by the transition to the string quartet medium. For example, the original melody is often separated between the parts and emerges only when all four parts are heard together. This can be seen in the example above in which original melody, D-Bb-A is spread across the first violin, then the cello (in artificial harmonics to simulate meri) and then the viola. From bar 28 the cello returns one octave lower to give the phrase the full power intended. At other times, the melodic material is simply passed between members, as can be seen here:


Figure 49: String Quartet, b. 206.

The original melody here is being played by the first violin and is shadowed heterophonically by the second violin to continue the driving pulse. After the strong downbeat at bar 209, the viola and cello “answer” this by responding with the opening notes of the next phrase. Sharing the material as described here ensures each part is integral in realising the full potential and spirit of Yamagoe. The first movement of the Piano Trio is a setting of a different honkyoku called Daha, which is usually translated as “pounding wave”.59 The piece also features strong and forceful expression as found in Yamagoe, but has more moments of calm serenity. This setting uses many similar techniques to those found in the string quartet, but they are done in an even more strident manner to communicate the power of ocean waves against rocks.


The second and third movements are my original responses to this piece, but do not use material from Daha.


Figure 50: Piano Trio, b. 1.

Immediately apparent in the above example is the setting of the melody in stark major sevenths, intended to evoke the piercing thrust I imagine while playing the piece. The role of the piano can also be glimpsed here, providing unison chords to reinforce the accents from the melodic line, and creating the wave-like extrapolations seen in the String Quartet, albeit across a far wider range. One major difference from the string quartet is that the pulse is heavily syncopated as can be seen above. This creates an even more disjointed and unpredictable feeling of time, and requires the utmost of concentration and ensemble technique from the players. A sudden change of texture occurs at figure B to reflect the shift in mood found in the two inner sections of Daha. This represents the sea in a calm and quiet mood, though I have established a floating yet somewhat unsettled sound world to suggest an ongoing awareness of the potential menace of the sea. To achieve this, the melody is set in parallel elevenths (one octave plus a perfect fourth) in the violin and cello with the piano subtly enhancing this open sound with chords of stacked perfect fifths above. Behind this melody, the pulse is reduced to the murmur of an internal piano line meandering through the texture to maintain the sense of movement.


Figure 51: Piano Trio, b. 46.

Finally, the music at figure F represents an ocean churning and foreboding, evoked in the original piece through a heavy sliding motion between meri notes. Here the dissonance of the minor ninth setting of this melody occurs against the open D strings of both the violin and cello, and is thickened further by the shadowing of pitch in the piano. While the techniques of orchestration and pitch are used in a freer manner here than the string quartet, the continual link back to my internalised experience of learning and playing the piece means that it is nevertheless an externalisation of my physical memory of Daha. My expression of the piece in staff notation does not give it more relevance or weight; it is simply one version of the piece. In this version however, musicians not trained in the honkyoku tradition are able to experience and perform this vibrant and exciting music that has led me on this long journey of discovery.


8.3. Microtonal inflections.

Recreating the microtonal elements of honkyoku in my compositions proved a significant challenge. Yokoyama argued strongly that the honkyoku mode is not tuned the same as the tempered diatonic scale, claiming that the semitones above the structural notes of the scale were up to 25 cents lower than the equivalent tempered note. While proving his claim is not the focus of this thesis, close listening to Yokoyama’s recordings reveal this to be true to a certain degree. After striving to achieve these narrower semitones whilst playing honkyoku, the question of if and how to explore microtonal elements in my compositions was a natural progression. A number of approaches trailed in the portfolio are discussed in this section. Western orchestral instruments and performers have difficulty adapting to microtonal tunings because they are not designed and trained to play this way. If I want to consistently lower particular pitches to reflect Yokoyama’s ideal honkyoku tuning, a further problem arises of how the players “agree” on this new pitch. Despite these limitations, I attempted exactly this in Nezasa by using the “flat” natural harmonics of the string instruments as a fixed standard. I concentrated on the 5th harmonic (sounding two octaves and a major third above the fundamental), which is approximately 14 cents flat when compared to the tempered scale. This is easily reproducible on string instruments and can be seen in bar 27 of Nezasa where the double bass plays a natural harmonic by touching an F# on the open D string.

Figure 52: Nezasa b. 27.


The resulting F# (written Gb) acts as a stable note to which the other instruments can tune. A portion of rehearsal time was dedicated to this to allow, for example, wind players to find alternate fingerings to produce the desired pitch. The same effect is used a perfect fourth higher on the G string to produce a lowered Bยง (Cb) above a Bb, once again a narrower minor second. Through the rehearsal and performance of this piece I made several helpful discoveries. In this particular harmonic context, the use of microtonal notes had to be very carefully prepared, being most successful when they emerged almost seamlessly from a cluster chord containing the pitch a semitone lower than the microtonal note. The players found it somewhat uncomfortable to pitch these notes initially, but grew accustomed to the tunings with time. After figure B of Nezasa however, the use of natural harmonics to provide a fixed standard for these pitches was no longer possible, as they would not be heard through the increased ensemble dynamic. Without this reference point, I felt the players gravitated back towards their usual sense of intonation as harmonically richer chords emerged. In this case my preference for a satisfying musical climax took precedence over strictly maintaining the flattened semitones. The only work to maintain a particular microtonal aspect for the entire work is The Night Sky Fall, discussed in the following section of this chapter. Elsewhere, the microtonal aspect of natural harmonics is employed for particular parts but not the whole work, including Afterglow (in the strings after D) and the Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (opening chord in celli and basses). Another use of microtones is found in the Concerto in the bisecting of harmonic semitones with a quarter-tone placed between. Given the use of cluster chords and the frequent use of semitones in my pitch material, there is much opportunity for this. The harmonic function of the resulting chord remains largely unaltered, but the character becomes distinctly unsettled. This can be seen in the first entry of the first and second violins.


Figure 53: Concerto, pitches of opening string chord.

A similar technique occurs in the strings between figures D and E, where players are asked to slide freely between a semitone interval. This produces a similar effect to the example above, but in a more aleatoric manner:

Figure 54: Concerto, b. 52, second violins.

Dark Nebulae is another work to feature microtonality, found implicitly in the complex saxophone multiphonics throughout. Unlike the previous examples, the pitch deviations from the tempered scale are not derived from a particular system of tuning, they simply arise from the unorthodox fingering used to produce them. Furthermore, their pitch cannot be altered significantly unless by changing instrument and/or mouthpiece. While the unique timbres are the main feature of the piece, the microtonal aspect provides an unexpected rhythmic element. Within the sense of floating time, interference beating emerges within and between simultaneous multiphonics to create a complex rhythmic layer to the piece. In rehearsal with the Nexas Quartet, the players began to react to this by altering their use of vibrato on non-multiphonic notes to complement these rhythms, which I found to be a pleasing development to my original idea. The decision to explore microtonality in my works has led to a number of interesting and unexpected features of my language. While I was unable to sustain the consistent lowering of a single pitch throughout Nezasa, the attempts to do so paved way for the


use of microtonality in Afterglow and the Concerto that are quite removed from my experience of honkyoku. One more work featuring significant microtonal elements, The Night Sky Fall, is based on the harmonic series itself, and is the basis for the discussion of the next and final section of this chapter.


8.4. Embracing stillness and randomness. The Night Sky Fall is a self-imposed challenge to uphold two significant aesthetic principles of the honkyoku when placed in a seemingly contradictory musical environment. The first of these deals with complete stillness, which is in contradiction with the wabi-sabi principle of impermanence assuming that all things are in a constant state of flux. In honkyoku for example, stillness is only ever found in fleeting moments between phrases. I aimed to trial a complete harmonic stasis through limiting the piece to the pitches of the harmonic series, thereby negating conventional forms of musical tension. The second concept explored is the paradox between the seemingly random patterns of nature so admired in Japanese art forms and the meticulous planning they exhibit. I imposed upon myself a random element at a structural level, and sought to compose “around� this predetermined form. The results of both these experiments are discussed throughout this section.

8.4.1. Harmonic Stasis. The pitches used in The Night Sky Fall all derive from the harmonic series on a fundamental of F, however the A§ is avoided. By leaving out this major third above the fundamental pitch, the scale is becomes somewhat tilted towards C minor. The scale is given here:

Figure 55: Harmonic Series on F.

To maintain the microtonal variations as found in the harmonic series, the instruments had to make certain accommodations. The piano cannot play outside equal temperament (unless significant retuning work is done), and is therefore limited to the


notes F, G, and C. The clarinet uses several alternate fingerings to alter pitches by the appropriate amount. The cello requires a far more significant adjustment, a scordatura in which three of the four strings are retuned. The C-string remains at C, while the other three are lowered in pitch to give a tuning of (in ascending order from the unchanged C-string) C, F, C and then F. The tunings of the harmonic series are achieved automatically through natural harmonics on the F strings. The clarinet is the main voice, due to both its volume and ease of playing the altered notes, and plays to the extremes of its range and expressive capabilities. The cello adds a parallel voice to the clarinet lines using its natural harmonics. These create an “aura” effect due to their lesser dynamic and the softer tone colour of the harmonics, both of which are pronounced due to the strings being looser in the scordatura. The example below shows the clarinet and cello moving in parallel against the background material in the piano.

Figure 56: The Night Sky Fall, b. 33.

The first use of the eleventh harmonic in the piece, the B quarter-flat in the clarinet part above, is a significant moment as it is the first major deviation from the tempered scale. In order to retain the shibusa sense of “normalcy”, I wanted to ensure the note “belonged” to the sound world when it entered. To achieve this required significant fortification of the fundamental pitch through the two-note F and C chord found in both the piano and cello. With this support, the quarter-tone displacement was heard in the context of the harmonic series and therefore did not seem out of place. The


thirteenth harmonic, a Db sounding a quarter-tone sharper than it would in equal temperament, required a similar grounding by reinforcing the fundamental underneath its first appearance at bar 52. In the following example however, this Db is used in the opposite manner: to create tension.

Figure 57: The Night Sky Fall, b. 63 - 66. Melodic reduction.

This example shows the approach to, sustaining and resolution of the sharpened Db pitch. It is reached by stepwise motion on the harmonic series, and required careful harmonisation in the second voice to appear natural. The sustaining of this pitch over the clarinet figure creates a prolonged and unusual sonority that is the most uncomfortable moment of the piece. The subsequent movement up to the seventh partial, the flattened Eb, acts as a resolution in this harmonic scheme, even if a minor seventh would not have that effect in tempered tuning. In retrospect, my original plan to negate harmonic movement through the use of the harmonic series was unsuccessful. The attempts to do this however, led to a new concept of melodic and harmonic movement outside my previous concept of these points.

8.4.2. Randomness. The second technique I explored in this piece was incorporating an element of randomness from the outset of its composition. I wanted this to occur at a basic structural level rather than including it superficially in the final stages as described earlier as “spontaneity of effect”. My concept for the form of the work was to create an evolving texture that moves from a sparse opening, thickens towards the “golden section” point of the work, and then dissipates towards the end. I began by creating a 88

table of numerical data that traced this basic shape, and applied a random deviation to these to create several “variations” on this initial shape. I chose the most appealing of these and used the numerical data to determine the number of notes in a series of piano figures that continue throughout the work. The figures themselves are falling arpeggios using the notes C, F and G only. I devised their rhythms to produce a pointillistic and floating effect while adhering to the pre-determined number of notes. Each four-bar figure overlaps the next by two bars, so there are constantly two in motion at any point:

Figure 58: The Night Sky Fall, b. 23, with falling arpeggios marked in grey.

This randomised textural process operates simultaneously to a gradual change in tessitura across the whole work, from the highest to lowest range of the piano. By predetermining the musical material in this way, I had created a fixed background for the entire piece. Locking in the structure of the piece at such an early stage could be seen as contradictory to the wabi-sabi concept of impermanence, however my subsequent steps show this not to be the case. Like the Japanese gardener, my compositional work involved “listening” to the material at hand, and developing a response to it. The musical material I placed above this background is an attempt to celebrate the imperfections of the structure by making my decisions in relation to its inherent structural ma. In the opening 30 bars of the piece the clarinet and cello do this by simply prolonging certain notes from the piano background. They then begin to introduce melodic figures that coincide with particular points of interest from this background, and these eventually grow into flowing melodies that float over it freely and return only occasionally for synchronised gestures.


This piece has shown that a willingness and doggedness to face seemingly impossible musical problems has become a tool for discovering new musical territory in which to compose. The limitation of pitch material to the harmonic series created a necessity to expand my view of melodic and harmonic writing. The acceptance of randomness into the structural level of my work allowed me to explore large-scale form in a new manner. In both instances, I have gained skills and insight that I would not have discovered if following my usual compositional technique. From the material presented here, it is clear that my approach to musical problem solving embraces the non-rational koan-like approach I learned through shakuhachi. The effects of my honkyoku learning can therefore be seen to be a significant force underlying my total compositional approach.


9. Contextualisation of the works in the portfolio. The portfolio of works presented here is unique in its goal to transmit my honkyoku learning to players and audiences not steeped in its tradition. My compositional language re-synthesises the physical, sonic and aesthetic aspects of honkyoku into a new and personal musical context, facilitating the flow of my own shakuhachi learning into a separate set of performer and instrumental combinations. The inevitability of change throughout this process has become a major factor in developing the highly personal approach displayed across the portfolio. My work sits amongst the many intersections between western art music and the traditional music of Japan, and this chapter places my own compositions within the field. In addition to the key works discussed in this chapter, a more detailed (but by no means comprehensive) repertoire list pertaining to each sub-section can be found in appendix 1.

9.1. Japanese composers and their traditional instruments. The 1960s saw growing interest amongst Japanese avant-garde composers in their native traditional instruments. Composers worked in a variety of styles to create new works in collaboration with performers. Makoto Moroi’s Chikurai Gosho (1964) is a five-movement work for solo shakuhachi composed in collaboration with the player Chikuho Sakai I. Sakai introduced Moroi to the timbral possibilities of the instrument and assisted in preparing a score in traditional notation to complement the version in staff notation. Yoshino Irino’s Duo Concertante for Shakuhachi and Koto (1968) places the shakuhachi and koto into a musical language displaying Irino’s command of the European twelve-tone technique. Tōru Takemitsu’s November Steps (1967), a double concerto for shakuhachi and biwa, was given its premiere in Carnegie Hall by soloists Katsuya Yokoyama and Kinshi Tsuruta.60 Interestingly, Takemitsu found it impossible to reconcile the two musical worlds, instead choosing to “emphasise disparities between their two aesthetics”. 61 The western instruments are notated in 60

The subsequent 1967 recording by Seiji Ozawa and the Toronto Symphony did much to introduce the shakuhachi and biwa to the western world. 61 Lewis Cornwell, “Tôru Takemitsu’s November Steps,” Journal of New Music Research 31, no. 3 (2002), 211.


traditional staff notation, however the shakuhachi and biwa parts are presented in graphic notation, allowing the shakuhachi and biwa performers to shape their material according to their sense of ma. The parallel gendai-hōgaku school of composition, translated as “modern traditional music”, sought to rejuvenate the world of traditional instrument performance by producing new repertoire with stylistic traits of western music.62 An additional push to modernise the instruments themselves was not universally accepted,63 but facilitated the assembly of the whole spectrum of instruments into a single “orchestra”. Pro Musica Nipponia was formed in 1964 and became an iconic example the gendai-hōgaku school. Katsutoshi Nagasawa’s Suite for Children (1964) and Minoru Miki’s Paraphrase after Ancient Japanese Music (1966) are exemplar works from this period. Miki went on to become the leading composer of this style, and his chamber works such as Aki no Kyoku (1981) for shakuhachi and 20-string koto are regularly performed to this day. The legacy of the gendai-hōgaku school continues, with new ensembles such as “Aura-J” complementing the ongoing work of Pro Musica Nipponia in commissioning and performing new compositions for Japanese instruments. Works for traditional instruments from both avant-garde and gendai-hōgaku composers have provided various ideological standpoints from which I have drawn my own conclusions. Although no compositions for Japanese instruments have been included in the accompanying portfolio, my works are never intended to bring avantgarde techniques and philosophies to the honkyoku tradition. And while my work shows a certain stylistic fusion of west and east, my use of western techniques is generally geared towards realizing concepts and techniques from honkyoku in a new idiom rather than to modernize what I learned through shakuhachi study. My works are a celebration of the honkyoku tradition itself, therefore stand apart from the avantgarde and gendai-hōgaku schools.


Martin Regan, "Concerto for Shakuhachi and 21-String Koto : A Composition, Analysis, and Discussion of Issues Encountered in Cross-Cultural Approaches to Music Composition." (Ph.D. diss., University of Hawai'i, 2006), 13. 63 Katsuya Yokoyama, the founder of my school, was outspoken in his dislike of the 7-hole shakuhachi.


9.2. Japanese composers and the honkyoku. Just as I am drawn to its intricate and delicate sound world, honkyoku captured the imagination of an earlier generation of Japanese composers, who brought elements of the tradition to their own works. The saxophonist Ryo Noda’s solo works Improvisation I (1972) and Mai (1975) incorporate honkyoku techniques such as multiphonics and subtle inflections of pitch and timbre and are very popular amongst saxophonists today. Noda shared his experience with many composers including Joji Yuasa, whose work Not I, but the Wind (1976) incorporates alternate fingerings to simulate meri, breathing techniques akin to komibuki, and a prevalent use of silence. Similarly, the recorder player Toshiya Suzuki inspired a series of honkyoku-like pieces for the recorder including Ryohei Hirose’s Meditation (1975) and Maki Ishii’s Black Intention (1976). Somei Satoh’s duets for shakuhachi and koto Kougetsu (1990) and Sanyou (1991) are also notable because they display a sparsity of material that echoes the fundamental aesthetics of honkyoku in addition to its idiosyncratic stylistic nuances. The techniques of honkyoku have also been adapted for use in larger ensembles, such as the breath sounds and percussive gestures of Toshio Hosokawa’s orchestral Ferne-Landschaft series, or the pull of portamento slides in Tokuhide Niimi’s Piano Concerto 2: Eye of the Creator (1993). I believe the honkyoku repertoire to be an ideal example of extended techniques integrated seamlessly into a complete musical language. The works mentioned above suggested to me numerous playing techniques allowing western instruments to create sounds reminiscent of the honkyoku. However I was wary of using these simply as an exploration of timbre for its own sake. Seeking instead to find a complementary place for them within my own language, I drew on my experience playing shakuhachi to shape the extended techniques found in The Second Wave, Dark Nebulae, and the Concerto.


9.3. Australian composers and traditional Japanese music.

Japanese traditional music has had an influence on many non-Japanese composers, and this can be readily identified in a school of Australian composition in which my works are grounded. Led by Peter Sculthorpe and Richard Meale, composers “found stimulus in non-Western cultural traditions as an alternative to European practice”.64 Sculthorpe stressed Australia’s geographic proximity to Asia in his pursuit of an Australian musical identity, and openly rejected the practices of European modernism. Meale did not follow this path, rather seeking to align his practice with Boulez’, with whom he shared “an apparent mutual recognition of Debussy as the initiator of an appropriate modernist response to Oriental music”.65 Despite disparate approaches, the influence of Japan can be heard in a number of their major works. Sculthorpe admired gagaku greatly, and thought that it “has many of the aural qualities which [he] proposed to be necessary attributes of an Australian music”.66 His orchestral work Mangrove (1979) uses a melody from the traditional Japanese court titled Ise no Umi, which “Sculthorpe reproduces… nearly in full”.67 A heterophonic treatment of this melody together with an avoidance of strong attacks creates a floating quality similar to that found in gagaku. In this case, Sculthorpe “has freely altered the melody in accordance with his own established rules of melodic and harmonic symmetrical patterns”.68 Meale’s Images: Nagauta (1966) references ideas from both gagaku and nagauta69 styles, resulting in a work that “without being quotational, has many Japanese qualities”.70 While there are stylistic references to the sound world of gagaku, the influence of Japanese art is seen more strongly on a structural level: for example, the piece is divided into sections that are titled according to the structure of a noh play. David Lumsdaine’s orchestral work Hagoromo (1975) 64

Hugh De Ferranti, “Gagaku and the Works of Richard Meale and Peter Sculthorpe : A Study of the Significance of Non-Western Resources within the Western Compositional Tradition.” (B. Mus. (Hons.), University of Sydney, 1983), 1. 65 De Ferranti, “Gagaku and the Works of Richard Meale and Peter Sculthorpe”, 167. 66 Ibid., 157. 67 Anne Boyd, "Landscape, Spirit and Music: An Australian Story," Arts: The Journal of the Sydney University Arts Association 24 (2012): 62. 68 De Ferranti, “Gagaku and the Works of Richard Meale and Peter Sculthorpe”, 111. 69 Nagauta is the music accompanying traditional kabuki theatre. 70 De Ferranti, “Gagaku and the Works of Richard Meale and Peter Sculthorpe”, 151.


takes its inspiration from the traditional Japanese noh play of the same name. Instead of using dramatic or musical references, he seeks to emulate the movement of the costumes of the actors, in particular “the dance of the feathered robe, its suchness, its now.”71 Musically, Lumsdaine employs mathematical concepts including matrices and the Fibonacci series to generate his material, “shaping, forming, and distributing it in ways which are not unlike improvisation”.72 Therefore the flute solo at the opening of the piece, while recalling the sound of a shakuhachi to a certain degree, is the result of his pre-compositional process combined with his stated interest in birdcalls rather than a direct reference to honkyoku. Sculthorpe’s enthusiasm for Japanese music greatly influenced his students Ross Edwards and Anne Boyd, for whom “non-western philosophy, aesthetics and sound forms appear to have a compositional significance equal to, if not greater than those of the Western tradition”.73 Edwards’ orchestral work Mountain Village in a Clearing Mist (1973), a landmark work in his oeuvre, departs from European modernist techniques in favour of a sparse and ritualistic style and the idea of music as “sacred space”.74 Edwards himself states that “the phraseology of some of [his] more quiescent works… recalls the traditional shakuhachi repertoire of meditational pieces”.75 In Tyalgum Mantras (1999), Edwards employed a style of notation in which players were able to play independently of each other, allowing a temporal separation within the ensemble. Anne Boyd’s work references various aspects of Japanese traditional music, including gagaku, shakuhachi honkyoku, and no drama. Her aesthetic draws on Buddhist concepts such as yugen (described here in chapter 3.2.2) and she counts the Japanese noblewoman Lady Sarashina as an artistic muse.76 As it Leaves the Bell (1973), Anklung (1974), and As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams (1975) demonstrate the culmination of these strands in their meditative quality and


David Lumsdaine, Hagoromo : For Large Orchestra (York: University of York Music Press, 1977), Program notes. 72 Michael Hooper, The Music of David Lumsdaine : Kelly Ground to Cambewarra (Farnham, VT: Ashgate, 2012), 134. 73 De Ferranti, “Gagaku and the Works of Richard Meale and Peter Sculthorpe”, 5. 74 While Edwards also developed his faster and dance-like “Maninya” style, it is the slower works that have significance to this thesis. 75 Ross Edwards, Raft Song at Sunrise for Solo Shakuhachi. (Grosvenor Place, N.S.W: Reproduced and distributed by the Australian Music Centre), Program notes. 76 Boyd, "Landscape, Spirit and Music: An Australian Story", 63.


harmonic movement devoid of definite punctuations as usually found in western music. I consider this school of composition to be my musical heritage and the influence of Boyd’s teaching can be heard clearly in my earlier works Aida (2009) and Light Rain (2009). My language has developed since these two works, but the lineage can still be glimpsed in the portfolio of compositions presented here. This is most obvious in Confluence and the second movement of the Piano Trio, from which glimpses of the piano writing in Boyd’s Angklung (1974), Edwards’ Etymalong (1984), and Sculthorpe’s Night Pieces (1971) can be heard.

9.4. Works for shakuhachi by non-Japanese composers.

The arrival in Sydney of shakuhachi grand master Riley Lee in 1986 greatly changed the musical landscape of Australian composition. Edwards, Boyd and a younger generation of composers worked directly with Lee to create a body of new compositions for the shakuhachi. Boyd found that her earlier works for flute and piano such as Goldfish through Summer Rain (1978) could be easily adapted for shakuhachi and harp under Lee’s tasteful interpretation. She went on to compose for shakuhachi in Meditations on a Chinese Character (1996), and later Feather on a Breath of God (2002) and the double concerto for shakuhachi and harp Angry Earth (2006). Edwards composed three important works for Lee. Raft Song at Sunrise (1996) uses precisely notated rhythms within a free-flowing temporal space allowed by a lack of barlines and frequent fermatas to end each phrase. I found the experience of playing the piece not dissimilar to performing honkyoku,77 even though the harmonic material draws on Edwards’ mixolydian-infused language rather than a Japanese mode. Edwards’ use of ensemble freedom found earlier in Tyalgum Mantras returned in the ensemble work Dawn Mantras (1999) and was fully realised in the shakuhachi concerto The Heart of Night (2004). Here the soloist is given the freedom


The experience of learning the piece differed however, as I read the piece from the notation rather than learning the piece directly from Riley Lee.


to cycle at their own pace through a set of composed phrases in an improvisatory fashion, resulting in a meditative and slowly shifting work. North American composers also looked to Asia for musical inspiration, particularly those on the west coast. Henry Cowell grew up in San Francisco and travelled extensively in Asia and the Middle East to collect field recordings of traditional music. The Japanese influence can be seen in his two Koto Concertos, and he is credited with writing one of the earliest works for shakuhachi by a western composer, The Universal Flute (1946). The New York-based Ralph Samuelson is one of the most influential shakuhachi teacher/performers in the USA, having studied shakuhachi extensively in Japan with Goro Yamaguchi. Of the many new compositions with which Samuelson has been involved, Richard Teitelbaum’s Blends (1977) is an important early work combining shakuhachi with electronic sounds. Samuelson also contributed to the shakuhachi discourse through his academic work published in a number of leading journals. Also in New York, David Loeb composes prolifically for the full spectrum of Japanese instruments and is professor at the Mannes College of Music. Loeb uses proportional notation to allow a freedom of timing in his works, however he also presents pieces in traditional notation having invested significant time into learning the various shakuhachi notation systems. Japanese player Yoshikazu Iwamoto travelled extensively as a shakuhachi soloist, and promoted the unique possibilities of the shakuhachi to the many composers he met. A particularly fruitful collaboration came about with the British composer Frank Denyer, who displayed an awareness of the honkyoku tradition coupled with the desire to create his own personal language. In the 50-minute Untitled (1997), the performer must divide the octave into “seven equal parts, and each of those seven parts has up to four microtonal inflections”78. In my view there are both successful and unsuccessful works borne out of collaborations such as those mentioned here. In many cases however, I am drawn to conclude that it is the interpretation of the shakuhachi player that imbues each work with any fundamental link to the original honkyoku tradition as transmitted orally. 78

Dan Warburton, "Interview with Frank Denyer." Accessed 30/04/2016,


Therefore I will continue my discussion by examining works composed by shakuhachi players themselves.

9.5. Works by leading shakuhachi players. Dozan Fujiwara, a rising star of the Japanese shakuhachi world, claims that “rather than thinking of myself as a composer, I think of composing as part of my work as a performer”.79 This statement could perhaps apply to many shakuhachi players, as compositions by performers form some of the core repertoire for the instrument. One can assume the anonymously-composed honkyoku pieces were created by the shakuhachi-playing komuso monks. In the modern era, shakuhachi players used their own compositions as a way to carve out a unique identity for themselves and their school of playing. Indeed, I played numerous pieces by the founder of my school Katsuya Yokoyama his own teacher Rando Fukuda. Other leading players including Hozan Yamamoto, Kohachiro Miyata, Akikazu Nakamura and Masayuki Koga have all composed extensively to expand their own repertoire.

9.6. Works by shakuhachi player-composers. The threads discussed so far in this chapter intersect in the small number of artists who can be identified as both a shakuhachi player and a composer. I will discuss six players who have both performed and had their works presented at recent World Shakuhachi Festival events in Kyoto (2012), Sydney (2008), and New York (2004). Japan’s Ichiro Seki is an experienced shakuhachi player from Yokoyama’s Chikushinkai lineage, and has equally pursued composition studies with Shuko Mizuno and Yoriaki Matsudaira. The USA is represented by three player-composers: Martin Regan, a prolific composer for combinations of Japanese and western instruments in the gendai hōgaku style; Elisabeth Brown, a graduate of The Julliard School in flute performance and an experienced theremin player; and James Schlefer, who holds qualifications from two shakuhachi lineages and performs his own compositions for shakuhachi in combination with both western and Japanese 79

Junko Hanamitsu, "Dozan Fujiwara, Exploring the Potential of the Shakuhachi in the Pioneering Spirit of a Great Master." Accessed 02/07/2016,


instruments. Two Australians apart from myself also are included: Jim Franklin (now based in Germany), who combines his background in European classical and electronic music with an active schedule performing and teaching shakuhachi; and Anne Norman, a graduate of Tokyo College of Fine Arts who has carved out a niche as a shakuhachi performer, poet and author.80 My work stands apart from the players mentioned here, primarily due to my unique goal of creating a parallel musical language to express the nuances of honkyoku. To do so, I see the removal of the shakuhachi (and other Japanese instruments) as essential, whereas other player-composers compose extensively for their own instrument. Additionally, I actively remove myself from the performance of my works, contrasting with the others81 whom it could be argued are the driving force in the proliferation of their own works. I see my shakuhachi practice as an ongoing process to shape my ideal understanding of the tradition rather than a vehicle to bring my compositions to life. Furthermore, fusion between honkyoku and my other musical interests is a by-product of my practice as opposed to a goal. For example, Seki incorporates aspects of Stravinsky82 in his compositions as can be seen in the rhythmic vibrancy of his Pentagonia II (1994) for six shakuhachi. His Contrasts (1997) for shakuhachi and harpsichord displays a similar rhythmic liveliness in combination with angular pentatonic melodic lines treated polytonally. Regan aims to “juxtapose different musical cultures in ways that emphasize their similarities and potential correspondences”. 83 In Voyage (2008) for shakuhachi and string quartet, he uses a harmonic language that references Japanese modes within a more traditional western harmonic idiom. Schlefer’s Quintet (2006) for shakuhachi and string quartet and his Duo No. 1 (2004) for shakuhachi and koto use rhythmic ostinatos to provide regular forward propulsion not found in honkyoku. Franklin often performs both shakuhachi and theremin simultaneously in the same work, while Norman’s Whispered Shadows 80

For more information on the players discussed in this section, their websites are also listed alongside their representative works in Appendix 1. 81 with the exception of Regan, whose works are popular with traditional instrumentalists in Japan. 82 Katsuya Yokoyama, liner notes to Shakuhachi, the Art of Yokoyama Katsuya. World Music Library, Vol. 101 (Tokyo: King Record Co., 1995), 13. 83 Regan, 59.


(2014) requires the performer to transition back and forth between playing and singing her original lyrics in two languages. I found a closer resemblance to my practice in Brown’s Mirage (2008), in which the string players are asked to echo particular shakuhachi techniques such as an exaggerated wide vibrato and even statements of melodic material similar to the traditional work Shika no Tone. In contrast to the other players, my works also display a considered departure from a reliance on the performer having learned the oral tradition of honkyoku. By precisely notating my rhythmic material I am able to imbue my works with the ma of my teachers, which I regard to be unique. Many scores by other composers are notated in proportional notation, such as Regan’s Forest Whispers (2008) for shakuhachi and cello seen here, which uses horizontal lines to represent unmeasured durations, and dotted vertical lines to indicate synchronisation between the parts. Figure 59: Martin Regan’s Forest Whispers, b. 19.

Regan’s use of proportional notation stems from his desire to allow the players space to exercise their own ma in performance. My problem with this technique is that it allows freedom but does not guarantee that ma is employed as intended: shakuhachi players from different schools would come to wildly differing interpretations, and cellists are unlikely to be familiar with the timing conventions of honkyoku. My approach gives temporal freedom in a more defined manner by encouraging a fluidity of pulse, while still allowing my general proportions to remain intact. This approach satisfies my desire to instil in my works the ma I learned from Kakizakai and Yokoyama.


10. Conclusion. Finally, I wish to highlight the anthropological significance of my journey from a student of shakuhachi honkyoku to becoming a composer in the western art music tradition. The issue of cultural appropriation sits central to this and hangs on the power relationship 84 between the two cultures in question. My compositions present a strong argument against the ongoing “westernising” of Japanese instruments and the honkyoku. By enacting this in my “home” territory of western art music, I pose a further argument for the aesthetics of shibusa and wabi-sabi as alternatives to our western sense of beauty. Interestingly, the Latin root-word “appropriare” (to make one’s own)85 ties neatly to the aforementioned concept of honnin no shirabe (one’s own search), and my journey should therefore be viewed in relation to Schneider’s definition of appropriation as “changing one’s own cultural practice as a result of interplay with the other’s artefact”86 and “as a practice and experience of learning”.87 This thesis is a unique documentation of a specific cultural exchange on a local level through the window of my artistic practice.

The spirit of honkyoku becomes the fundamental voice of my compositions. My physical embodiment of honkyoku informs the sense of time, space and gesture within my compositions, and the aesthetic values of shibusa and wabi-sabi are always present. Furthermore, the philosophical teachings of the tradition and its roots in Zen Buddhism have shaped a working method geared towards a creative search for nondualistic understandings of musical concepts. The compositions of this portfolio may be viewed as expressions of the honkyoku. Two pieces, the String Quartet and the Piano Trio, go beyond this, translating the traditional pieces Yamagoe and Daha in a way that reflects their spirit and energy in the new medium. Through a careful and considered process of transformation, I have developed a personal compositional style 84

Bruce H. Ziff and Pratima V. Rao, ed. Borrowed Power: Essays on Cultural Appropriation. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1997). 85 86 Arnd Schneider, "On 'Appropriation'‚ a Critical Reappraisal of the Concept and Its Application in Global Art Practices," Social Anthropology 11, no. 2 (2003), 222. 87 Ibid., 223


through which to offer my understanding of the honkyoku to the western art music tradition. By performing my works, musicians themselves interact with the honkyoku language, and therefore become recipients of the tradition. Audiences likewise are exposed to the language and may develop their own aesthetic responses to the music. In this regard, I believe my compositions express my learning and love of the shakuhachi honkyoku and fulfill my yearning to transmit them to a new generation.


Appendix 1: Lists of representative repertoire.

9.1a. Works including shakuahchi by Japanese avant-garde composers. Hosokawa, Toshio (b. 1955) Voyage X - Nozarashi (2009); shakuhachi and chamber orchestra Ichiyanagi, Toshi (b. 1933) Music For Living Process (1973); for flute, shakuhachi, harp, percussion. and 2 dancers Irino, Yoshirō (1921-1980) Duo Concertante for Shakuhachi and koto (1968); shakuhachi and koto duet Ishii, Maki (1936-2003) Sō-gū (1993); shakuhachi and piano (or 20-stringed koto) Kondoh, Harue (b. 1957) Piece for Shakuhachi Solo (1993); solo shakuhachi Moroi, Makoto (1930-2013) Chikurai Gosho (1964); solo shakuhachi Niimi, Tokuhide (b. 1947) Fuin II (1988); shakuhachi trio Nishimura, Akira (b. 1953) Ko (2000); solo shakuhachi Takemitsu, Tōru (1930-1996) Eclipse (1966); shakuhachi and biwa November Steps (1967); shakuhachi, biwa and orchestra Autumn (1973); shakuhachi, biwa and orchestra

9.1b. Works including shakuhachi from the gendai hōgaku school. Higo, Ichiro (b. 1940) Kangen Hisho (1977) Kineya, Seiho (b. 1914) Fudo 3 (1970); shakuhachi trio Meikyo (1975); shakuhachi and shamisen Fudo 4 (1981); shakuhachi trio


Kiyose, Yasuji (1900-1981) Trio (1964); shakuhachi trio Matsumura, TeizĹ? (1929-2007) Shikyoku No. 1 (1969); shakuhachi and koto Shikyoku No. 2 (1972); shakuhachi and koto Miki, Minoru (1930-2011) Sonnet (1962); 3 shakuhachi Paraphrase after Ancient Japanese Music (1966), Japanese instruments Kokyo (1970); shakuhachi solo Aki no Kyoku (1981); shakuhachi and 20-string koto Requiem (1981); solo 20-stringed koto and Japanese instruments Nagasawa, Katsutoshi (1923-2008) Suite for Children (1964); Japanese instruments Hoshun (1971); shakuhachi and koto Satoh, Somei (b. 1947) Kaze no Kyoku (1979); shakuhachi solo Kougetsu (1990); shakuhachi and koto Sanyou (1991); shakuhachi and koto Sawai, Tadao (1937-1997) Jogen no Kyoku (1979); shakuhachi and koto Hana (1976); shakuhachi and koto

9.2. Honkyoku-influenced works for western instruments by Japanese composers. Hirose, Ryohei (1930-2008) Meditation (1975); solo recorder Hosokawa, Toshio (b. 1955) Ferne-Landschaft I (1987); for orchestra Ferne-Landschaft II (1996); for orchestra Ferne-Landschaft III (1997); for orchestra Landscape V (1993); for shĹ? and string quartet Ishii, Maki (1936-2003) Black Intention (1976), solo recorder Translucent Vision (1982); orchestra Matsushita, Isao (b. 1951) Threads of Time 2 (1987); solo piano and orchestra Grand Atoll (1992); saxophone quartet and orchestra


Niimi, Tokuhide (b. 1947) Eye of the Creator - Piano Concerto No. 2 (1993); solo piano and orchestra Fu-Sui (1994); for strings percussion and celesta Solar Wind (1999); for orchestra Nishimura, Akira (b. 1953) Birds Heterophony (1993); for orchestra Noda, Ryo (b. 1948) Improvisation 1 (1972); solo alto saxophone Mai (1975); solo alto saxophone Satoh, Somei (b. 1947) Birds in Warped Time II (1980); violin and piano Glimmering Darkness (1995); clarinet and strings Yuasa, Joji (b. 1929) Not I, but the wind (1976); solo alto saxophone

9.3. Australian works influenced by Japanese music and culture. Boyd, Anne (b. 1946) As it Leaves the Bell (1973); Piano, two harps and percussion (4 players) Anklung (1974); solo piano As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams (1975); chamber choir Goldfish through Summer Rain (1978); flute and piano Conyngham, Barry (b. 1944) Ice Carving (1970); solo amplified violin and orchestral groups Edwards, Ross (b. 1943) Tower of Remoteness (1978); clarinet and piano Mountain Village in a Clearing Mist (1973); orchestra Etymalong (1984); solo piano Tyalgum Mantras (1999); mixed ensemble Lumsdaine, David (b.1931) Hagoromo (1975); orchestra Meale, Richard (1932-2009) Images (Nagauta) (1966); orchestra Nocturnes (1967); solo celeste, vibraphone and harp with orchestra Clouds now and then (1969); orchestra Soon it will die (1969); orchestra


Sculthorpe, Peter (1929-2014) Mangrove (1979); orchestra Night Pieces (1971); solo piano Love Thoughts of a Lady (1977); orchestra

9.4a. Works for shakuhachi by Australian composers. Boyd, Anne (b. 1946) Angry Earth (2006); solo shakuhachi, 2 harps and orchestra Feather on a Breath of God (2002); shakuhachi and harp Meditations on a Chinese Character (1996); Flute, counter tenor, shakuhachi, cello, harp, 2 pianos and percussion Crossman, Bruce (b. 1961) Spirit-presence (2012); shakuhachi duet Emergence from Autumn Darkness to Spring (2015); shakuhachi duet Edwards, Ross (b. 1943) Raft Song at Sunrise (1996); solo shakuhachi Dawn Mantras (1999); Child soprano soloist, children's choir, TB choir, didjeridu, shakuhachi, saxophone and percussion (2 players). The Heart of Night (2004); solo shakuhachi and orchestra Greenbaum, Stuart (b. 1966) Life in a Day (2008); shakuhachi and harp Katz-Chernin, Elena (b. 1957) Fleeting Moment (2008); shakuhachi and string quartet Lumsdaine, David (b.1931) Curlew in the mist (1993); solo shakuhachi

9.4b. Works for shakuhachi by international composers. Bryars, Gavin (b. 1943) Toru’s Mist (2001) Cowell, Henry (1897-1965) The Universal Flute (1946); solo shakuhachi Denyer, Frank (b. 1943) On, On, It Must Be So (1977); shakuhachi, bass drum and castanets Wheat (1977); shakuhachi and percussion Untitled (1997); solo shakuhachi


Loeb, David (b. 1939) Night Dances (1984); shakuhachi, flute, koto and guitar Echoes of Waves (1992); shakuhachi and cello Yuukuu (1981); five shakuhachi Teitelbaum, Richard (b. 1939) Blends (1977) shakuhachi, synthesizer and percussion Womack, Donald (b. 1966) after (2005); shakuhachi, koto and orchestra

9.5. Works by leading shakuhachi soloists. Fukuda, Rando (1906-1976) Kikyo Genso Kyoku (ca. 1920); solo shakuhachi Tabibito no Uta (ca. 1920); solo shakuhachi Tone no Funa Uta (ca. 1920); shakuhachi duet Lee, Riley (b. 1951) Adrift on the Sea of Tranquility (1996); solo shakuhachi Miyata, KĹ?hachiro (b. 1938) Forest of the Flycatchers (1979); shakuhachi and koto Time of the North Wind (1983); shakuhachi and koto Yokoyama, Katsuya (1934-2010) Makiri (1975); solo shakuhachi Sekishun (1981); shakuhachi and koto Shun Sui (1983); shakuhachi duet Yamamoto, HĹ?zan (1937-2014) Ichikotsu (1966); shakuhachi and koto


9.6. Works by shakuhachi player-composers. Brown, Elisabeth (b. 1953)

Migration (1990); shakuhachi, violin, viola, and cello Mirage (2008); shakuhachi and string quartet Franklin, Jim (b.1959)

Three Portals : variations for 5 shakuhachi soloists and ensemble (1999); 5 shakuhachi soloisits and 2 shakuhachi ensemble groups. Mahabodh (Sufen/Stages of Buddha) (2012); shakuhachi and theremin Norman, Anne

We Lose Things (2000); shakuhachi, double bass and power pole bells Ask Not ~ Fear Not (2005); shakuhachi, clarinet and power pole bells Whispered Shadows (2014); shakuhachi and voice (one performer) Regan, Martin (b.1972)

Forest Whispers (2008); shakuhachi and cello Voyage (2008); shakuhachi and string quartet Song-Poem of the Eastern Clouds (2001); shakuhachi and 21-string koto flamefox (2007); shakuhachi quartet Schlefer, James (b. 1956)

Quintet (2006); shakuhachi and string quartet Duo No. 1 (2004); shakuhachi and koto Seki, IchirĹ? (b.1949)

Pentagonia II (1994); for six shakuhachi Contrasts (1997); for shakuhachi and harpsichord Bamboo Metamorphosis (2002); marimba, taiko, 4 shakuhachi soloists, shakuhachi ensemble.


Appendix 2: A Note on Shakuhachi Notation. The shakuhachi-playing komuso monks did not notate their honkyoku, and it was not until after the abolition of their Fuke sect that the current ro tsu re system was devised.88 Ro, tsu, and re are the names given to the first three notes on the instrument, and each school has subsequently developed a highly individualised system based on this original concept. The notation reads vertically from top to bottom, as seen in this excerpt of the chikushinkai school notation for the piece Shingetsu:

Figure 60: An excerpt of the Shingetsu notation, phrase 13 (left) also notated horizontally and in staff notation.

Despite its widespread use, the notation does not greatly challenge the oral nature of honkyoku transmission for a number of reasons. Firstly, the tablature layout lacks the accuracy to convey many stylistic nuances of the music. Therefore, without the teacher’s accompanying performance examples and explanations, one perceives very little of the tradition. Secondly, memorisation of pieces is standard practice for public performance or in order for the teacher to allow one to “graduate” on to the next piece to be studied. By de-emphasising the value of notation in this way, the teacher remains the primary source from which a shakuhachi player learns their craft.


Lee, “Yearning for the Bell”, chpt. 3.6.


Appendix 3: Statement addressing the inclusion of older works in the portfolio. The reader will notice that the works in the accompanying portfolio cover a period spanning backwards from the most recent Piano Trio (2015) until Dark Nebulae (2010). While my formal candidature for this degree began in 2012, the earlier works are included because they allow a clearer view of my compositional development as discussed in the exegesis. The portfolio now represents a distinct period in my work, continuing directly from the earlier landmark pieces Light Rain (2009) and Aida (2009) that were presented in an earlier thesis “Moments of Ma : Aspects of Shakuhachi Honkyoku and Their Integration into a Compositional Approach”. The exaggerated use of extended techniques used in The Second Wave (2011) led to their more balanced use in later works such as Afterglow and the Concerto. Shinjitsu (2011) provides an early snapshot of my harmonic language and its departure from the modes found in the honkyoku. I made revisions to Dark Nebulae (2010) across my candidature which not only rationalised my concept of form as explained in chapter 7, but also display an embodiment of mujō, or impermanence. Finally, The Night Sky Fall (2011) is an early example of my decision to take compositional risks and challenge the internalised language of honkyoku, an important step towards creating my own personal response to the tradition. The inclusion of these four works in the portfolio gives the reader greater insight to the development of my unique musical voice and has facilitated my documentation of this process throughout the exegesis.



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