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Composing for Japanese Instruments

Composing for Japanese Instruments

Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 286
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  • Book Info
    Composing for Japanese Instruments
    Book Description:

    The unique sounds of the biwa, shamisen, and other traditional instruments from Japan are heard more and more often in works for the concert hall and opera house. Composing for Japanese Instruments is a practical orchestration/instrumentation manual with contextual and relevant historical information for composers who wish to learn how to compose for traditional Japanese instruments. Widely regarded as the authoritative text on the subject in Japan and China, it contains hundreds of musical examples, diagrams, photographs, and fingering charts, and comes complete with two accompanying compact discs of musical examples. Its author, Minoru Miki, is a composer of international renown and is recognized in Japan as a pioneer in writing for Japanese traditional instruments. The book contains valuable appendices, one of works Miki himself has composed using Japanese traditional instruments, and one of works by other composers -- including Toru Takemitsu and Henry Cowell -- using Japanese traditional instruments. Marty Regan is Assistant Professor of Music at Texas A&M University; Philip Flavin is a Research Fellow in the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University, Australia.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-719-3
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Compact Discs Track Listings
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xix-xxii)
    Bonnie C. Wade

    This is the first English translation of Minoru Miki’s influentialComposing for Japanese Instruments, which is now in its sixth Japanese edition, and is also published in Chinese and Korean. This translation, by composer Marty Regan, who has worked closely with Miki on recent projects, is based on the third edition, published by Ongaku no Tomo sha in Tokyo in 1998. The translation has been edited by Philip Flavin, ethnomusicologist and scholar-performer of Japanese music.

    This volume includes a comprehensive list of Miki’s works for Japanese instruments, the author’s Afterword, a Glossary of Terms, and a track listing of the...

  6. Translator’s Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
    Marty Regan
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    While the people who originally settled these islands had their own instruments, most of the instruments presently considered “Japanese” were imported from China and the Korean kingdoms during the sixth and seventh centuries CE. From the ninth century CE, these instruments were modified according to indigenous tastes. Consequently, Japanese instruments differ greatly in form and function from the present instruments in China and Korea.

    Outside ofgagaku,¹ imported to Japan nearly 2,000 years ago, there was until recently no other ensemble that incorporated various types of Japanese instruments. In 1964 we formed the Pro Musica Nipponia with the purpose of...

  8. Chapter One Wind Instruments
    (pp. 6-70)

    Representative Japanese transverse flutes include thekagurabue, thekomabue, theryūteki, thenōkan, and theshinobue, while representative vertical flutes include theshakuhachi, thehichiriki, and theshō. Thekomabue,ryūteki,hichiriki,shō, and shakuhachi came from the Asian mainland as gagaku instruments. Thekagurabue, however, is said to have existed in Japan before the importation ofgagaku, and is also known as theyamatobue

    The wind chambers of these wind instruments are all made from bamboo. When bamboo dries, however, it cracks easily. To prevent this, and to beautify the appearance, the outside surface of the instrument is wrapped...

  9. Chapter Two String Instruments (Lutes)
    (pp. 71-124)

    When classifying string instruments in the West and in Asian countries other than Japan, the norm is to divide them into bowed instruments and plucked instruments. In this book, I have classified string instruments into the lute family and zither family.¹ This chapter deals with the lute family.

    With lutes, it is necessary to indicate the string number, which left-hand fingers to use, and the fret number (particularly on thebiwa). Therefore, in this book, I have adopted the most common method: Roman numerals indicate the string number, Arabic numbers indicate the fingering of the left hand, and encircled Arabic...

  10. Chapter Three String Instruments (Zithers)
    (pp. 125-155)

    In Japan, there are two Chinese characters that are read “koto,” 箏 and 箏, both of which are classified as zithers in the category of plucked instruments. The difference between the two characters is that 箏¹ indicates instruments with movable bridges while 箏 is used for instruments without bridges. There is, however, one exception to this rule: an ancient six-stringedkotoknown as thewagon, in spite of having movable bridges, uses the characters 琴東.

    With zithers, it is necessary to indicate the number of the string to be plucked as well as the fingers to be used on both...

  11. Chapter Four Percussion Instruments
    (pp. 156-202)

    Unlike Western percussion instruments such as the timpani or the xylophone, Japanese percussion instruments do not have definite pitch.¹ There are, however, many percussion instruments where different, if still undefined, pitches can be produced by striking the instrument in different areas. Instruments such as the shamisen can be considered a type of percussion instrument. Thekotoandbiwa, theshakuhachiandnōkanalso have percussive sounds that are an integral part of their music. This concept has exerted a profound influence on contemporary Western instruments.

    Some Asian cultures, particularly India, have peerless membrane percussion instruments, while others, such as Indonesia,...

  12. Afterword
    (pp. 203-206)
    Minoru Miki

    Over twenty years ago, I was told it was necessary for me to write this book. As time passed, I began to feel guilty about my lack of motivation. This is a feeble excuse, but while I was involved with the Pro Musica Nipponia after its establishment in 1964, I was completely absorbed in expanding the repertory, finding performance opportunities, and I had neither the time nor the energy to write. After composingShunkinshōin 1975, the composition of operas came to occupy half of my output, and the writing of a book on the theoretical use of Japanese instruments...

  13. Appendix I: Works for Japanese Instruments by Minoru Miki
    (pp. 207-227)
  14. Appendix II: Contemporary Works for Traditional Japanese Instruments by Composers Other than Minoru Miki, 1981–2005
    (pp. 228-242)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 243-248)
  16. Glossary
    (pp. 249-252)
  17. Index
    (pp. 253-256)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-263)