|sa Sound Arts vol.3
XEBEC SoundCulture Membership Magazine
Events, talks, interviews held at Xebec
In this section, we will be presenting things that we haven't been able to introduce before, including things that will be appearing for the first time in print.
A Talk with TAKAHASHI Yuji (composer)|
Moderator: TAKADA Kazuko (shamisen)
|"The Tone-Color of Music" (Part 2) This article was transcribed from a talk given in 1992 with TAKADA Kazuko, TAKAHASHI Yuji's shamisen teacher, as moderator. (Part 2 in a series of three articles.)|
Takahashi(T) : Anyway, when you think about Japanese music, you have to remember that there is also Southeast Asian music, Korean music, and Chinese music. And in looking at these various traditions, you begin to see a common structure. We're lucky enough to have a shamisen and a person to play it here. So we can try all kinds of different things, or at least that's supposed to be our point of departure. (laughs) Take the musical scale. As KOIZUMI Fumio in Tetrachord Theory and SHIBATA Minao in Nuclear Tones and Schematic Frameworks, say the Japanese scale is a collection of various types of scales based on fourths. But, for example, when you make a sound with the shamisen, for the second string, this is the second tsubo (the point on a stringed instrument where a string is depressed to create a sound). (shamisen) T: Then, you can also play the string open. (shamisen) T: When you play the second string open, the sound is five degrees higher. Then when you play it with the second tsubo, that sound is five degrees higher than the first string. Well, if the sound is made using fifths, why is it that the core is supposed to be fourths? When you think about it, the scale is just a surface structure, and you begin to see that this music isn't starting with scales. The shamisen has three tunings, honchoshi (main), niagari (two raised), and sansagari (three lowered). And this is the sansagari tuning, right? Takada(K) : Yes. T: And this tuning is based on fourths. (shamisen) T: This was developed quite a bit later, wasn't it? K: That's right. T: Which is older, honchoshi or niagari? K: Uhh, I think honchoshi is. T: According to KITAZAWA Masakuni's theory, there are two choshi(mode) in Japanese court music, hyojo and taishikicho, and both use the same scale. What's different about them is that different sounds are stressed. The sound of hyojo is close to honchoshi, and taishikicho is close to niagari. After that it becomes like a kind of dualism, like that "Which is front, which is back?" idea in structuralism. This isn't part of Kitazawa's theory, but as sansagari diverged from honchoshi, the sojo choshi was created in court music. In court music, there are six choshi altogether, and there is also meguri, which is said to be a melodic pattern. It is like a progression of the characteristic notes of a choshi. And in the case of sojo, there wasn't any particular meguri, but on the other hand, this meant that any of the meguri could be used freely. This is closer to sansagari I think. I don't know why exactly, but... For example, Tang music started coming in from China between the sixth and eighth centuries, and in about the ninth century, there was a revolution in the institution of music. When this happened, the organization of court music was completely changed, and the scales also changed. More than changing the scales, the scales disappeared, and were replaced by choshi. It is difficult to say exactly what the choshi is, but it does have a certain kind of meguri. At any rate, it wasn't as clear a concept as a scale. So if you think of this as tone-color, it becomes a little bit easier to understand. In Asia, particularly in Southeast Asia, every place has two kinds of musical scales. For example in Indonesia, there is slendro and pelog. Slendro is split into five equal octaves, at least ideally. And since it is divided into equal intervals, it is a balanced scale. Then there is pelog, and in it, any sort of combination is possible. There are big intervals and small intervals, and these are combined. As far as how they are used, slendro expresses things like heaven, order, and nature, and pelog is used to express human beings. In various places in Asia, there is always this kind of opposition, but China is the only place that doesn't have it. China is the only place where everything is in the same pentatonic scale. I'm certain that this was because there was a written history in China. For example, Confucianism talked about reigaku (etiquette and music). There is something written about how when a country becomes disordered, the music becomes disordered, and the choshi become indecent. So there are, after all, things that never appear on the surface of history. Then when times became dangerous, people historically became fond of music from the Western Regions. Western music meant music that came from the other side of the Silk Road, and got mixed in to become what is actually called Chinese music. The instruments are the same way. The Western Regions were connected as far as Persia. And there was a period in which those peoples became the center of Chinese culture. For example, the Tang poet, LI Po, wasn't really Chinese, but is thought to have been from one of these areas. So you could say the same thing about the combination of scales and pitches, and to come back to tone-color, there is an opposition between a combination of equal sounds representing an order that came from a certain kind of government, religion, or heaven, and something combining a variety of diverse sounds. Then there is also a combination of tone-colors. For example, there is meguri in court music, and in No and shamisen, there are shirabe and gin. Gin is the name of a sound tsubo, and it also refers to a kind of scale. Well, if you divide it like that into concepts, it starts to become a bunch of vague words. So you can think of things like choshi or shirabe or gin not as scales, but as a combination of various tone-colors. For example, there's the first part of "Nasuno." K: The first part? T: Yeah. (shamisen) T: With this, things like tetrachords or insenpo (one of the traditional Japanese scales) don't have much meaning. What you're hearing here are the tone-colors changing one-by-one. And this is one of the ways that sansagari begins, and as far as scales go, there are really a lot of changes, and each of these sounds has its own tone-color. And how these are combined is the te (technique). I'm using te in the sense of pattern, and after all, according to the te, there is a certain kind of unity that allows you to remember the music. Well, that was a long preface, but now I'm going to go back to the computer. The computer is basically just a combination of numbers, so it can only do very simple things. So you start thinking about how you can use it in a little more human way. There's the problem of tone-color I've been talking about. For example, here.... (computer sound) T: (while making sounds) This program is a combination of some other programs, and this is the music it makes. A combination of these sounds is.... (sounds) For example, these two. (sound) This sound is the sound that you hear the second the plectrum touches a string on the shamisen. The sound before sound starts. (sound) This is the same thing too. Can you play one sound? (shamisen sound) T: If you actually try to cut the sound according to time, you can divide it into the sound that you hear the second the plectrum touches the string, and the sound that you hear the second it begins to vibrate. (sound) This has become a different unit. (sound) This is the vibrating sound, and (sound) this is the one that isn't vibrating. Then what else is there? (sound) This is the sound the second you touch a piece of paper. (sound) This is the rustle of a piece of a cloth. And there's this one. (sound) Uh, what was that? I think it was a bell cricket. Do bell crickets go "chin-chi-ro-rin?" Oh, maybe that's a pine cricket. I can't remember which it was. Anyway, the second an insect started to chirp. (sound) This is the beginning of another kind of cloth rustling. (sound) This is the same insect the second it started to make another chirp. (sound) What was this one now? I can't remember any more. And there's.... (sound) This is a loop of an owl beginning to hoot. (sound) This is a coyote I think. I wanted a kyubi-no-kitsune (a nine-tailed fox with supernatural powers). But I just happened to have a recording of a coyote, so I used that. So, this program is all of these different things moving in their own time. (sound) They are moving to various positions in the middle of space. These are three of the same sounds piled together. (sound) They are all short sounds. It's fairly important that they be short sounds. If they were long, their pitch would become important. But with short sounds, the instant the sound is emitted, or in other words, time, becomes important. In East and Southeast Asia, when you hit something, the sound disappears soon. Or, if you pluck something like this, there's a reverberation that remains and then disappears. So more than continuing, it is very important that a sound disappear. Then the tone-color of the sound can be expressed. Tone-color is something that leaves a memo about time, or chops time up. So the reason things with various qualities can be combined and become music is that the sounds are short. That's why when you think about Indian music, this is true too, and those long sounds that continue to swell are searching for pitches, and then very quickly the expression becomes abstract. (to be continued next issue.) (Xebec is responsible for the content of this article.)