Echoes of Ancient Asia
January 20, 2011
Ensemble of Kugo harp, Guqin and Ryuteki
Kugo Harp Solo
Kugo Harp and Ryuteki Duet
Ensemble of Kugo harp, Guqin and Ryuteki
Introduction of the Instruments
The Kugo (Angular harp) With an L-shaped body, it arose in Mesopotamia around 1900 B.C. It soon spread to other regions of the Near East, eventually becoming a favorite instrument in local Islamic cultures where it survived until 1700 A.D. Meanwhile, it entered the Silk Road and reached China around 500 CE. Korea and Japan came next, but it disappeared from the Far East by 1100. Egypt adopted it 1400 B.C. Wherever it went, artists, poets, and musicians loved its beautiful shape and admired its complex sound. But angular harps hardly penetrated into Europe, which instead launched its own harp –the Frame harp– although at a very late date, 800 A.D. Slowly Frame harps took over the world. -- Bo Lawergren
The Guqin is a Chinese musical instrument, also called a seven-stringed zither. It has existed in Chinese culture for 3000 years, and was the favorite instrument of the literary class. After Confucius, the qin became one of the four important items in a scholar’s life (qin, chess, calligraphy and painting). Guqin has a unique system of notation all its own. Each note is written in abbreviated Chinese characters, so called "Jian-Zi." Guqin culture is deeply influenced by Confucianism and Taoism. Guqin playing is seldom seen in an orchestra and rather is played alone or with a small group of people who understand and appreciate its music.
Guqin notation the "Jian-zi" pu. -->The Ryuteki ( literally "dragon flute") is a Japanese transverse flute made of bamboo. It is used in gagaku, the Shinto classical music associated with Japan's imperial court, and it was originally introduced from ancient China. The sound of the ryuteki is said to represent the dragons which ascend the skies between the heavenly lights and the people of the earth.
The Waves of Kokonor arose in a multi-stage process. First, the tune arose in China during the Tang Dynasty (618–906) and appeared as tablature notation in Japanese manuscripts shortly thereafter. In the 1970s the tablatures were transnotated into Western staff notation by a team of scholars at Cambridge University, UK. They discovered that the tempo has slowed down four to eight times since the Tang dynasty, and suggest that the tune would originally have been repeated, each time with increasingly complex ornaments.
Kokonor is the Turkic name of the largest lake in China, situated in Qinghai (“Blue Sea”) Province. The melody is likely to have been a folk-song during Tang Dynasty (618–906).
Etenraku is one of the most popular melodies in Gagaku, and in Japan is often performed at wedding ceremonies. Etenraku exists in three different modes: hyojo, oshikicho, and banshikicho. The banshikicho version is purported to be the oldest of the melodies, but the hyojo version is the most well known in Japan and is the version that will be played today. It was so popular during the late Heian period (794 -1185) that many folk songs were created set to the melody of hyojo Etenraku.
Qawl by Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi (1236-1311). The melody, recovered by Owen Wright, uses the pitches D, E, F†, G†, A, B, C† – where the sign † raises the pitch a quarter-tone. It survives as a vocal part with percussion, but Persian illustrated books show that singers usually were accompanied by a small ensemble, such as an angular harp, a flute, lute, and drum. Only the first part of the tune is played tonight. Both instrumentalists add improvised elements.
Cantiga de Santa María, No. 60, by Alfonso X of Spain (1221-84)
Fire Water Wind original composition by Yoshiatsu Terakawa was inspired by the Shimanto River on the southern island of Shikoku, the most beautiful and last remaining pristine river in Japan. The music represents a changing day in winter. The first part shows the passing view of the rising sun, moving birds and plants which begin a day on earth. Snow then falls while the sun intermittently bursts through the clouds. It finishes with a violent windstorm in the frosty moonlit night, a force of nature beyond the imagination of human beings.
Sakura-Sakura, also known as Sakura (Cherry Blossom), is a traditional Japanese folk song depicting spring, the season of cherry blossom. It was first composed during the Edo period (1603 - 1868) for children learning to play the Koto. Originally, the lyrics, "Blooming cherry blossoms…," were attached to the melody. The song has been popular since the Meiji period, and the lyrics in their present form were attached then. It is often sung in international settings as a song representative of Japan.
Kojo no Tsuki, Japanese pianist and composer Rentaro Taki (1879–1903) composed the music as a music lesson song without instrumental accompaniment in 1901. The song was included in the songbook for Junior High School students. The music of the song was inspired by the ruins of Oka Castle, originally built in 1185. The lyrics were written by poet Bansui Doi (1871 - 1952) and were inspired by the ruins of Aoba Castle and Aizuwakamatsu Castle.
Haru no Umi (The Sea in Spring) is a piece for koto and shakuhachi composed in 1929 by Michio Miyagi (1894 – 1956). It is Miyagi's best known piece and one of the most famous for koto and shakuhachi. Miyagi composed the music from his childhood image of the sea of Tomonoura that he saw before he lost his eyesight.
Flowing Spring on Rocks is a piece said to be written in the Chinese Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 477 BCE) by Yu Boya. The earliest surviving music score is from 1547. This piece presents an image of a mountain stream, as green as jade, frosty cold and clear, flowing over the surface of rocks, which gives an elegant, quiet, and peaceful atmosphere.
Elegant Orchid is the earliest surviving guqin piece in the world, which dates back to the pre Tang Dynasty (6th - 7th century) China. The original score was written in a special old form known as wenzi pu (written character notation) which is now preserved at the National Museum of Japan. Some say that this piece might have been composed by Confucius and refers to an orchid as a person of noble character. An orchid grows in a ravine and will not stop its fragrancy, no matter if there are people there or not. This symbolizes that a noble person will not change his or her will and ambition, even if living in difficult circumstances.
Three Variations on the Plum Blossom made its earliest appearance in 1425. It was originally a flute piece and now has become a very popular guqin piece in China. Called Three Variations because the one melody is repeated in three different harmonics in three different postions on the guqin. Peiyou Chang has arranged the piece specially for Kugo, Guqin and Ryuteki.
Tomoko Sugawara (Kugo Harp) was born in Tokyo, Japan, and began playing the Irish harp at age twelve. She took up the concert harp at sixteen, and it was her main instrument when she graduated from Tokyo University of Fine Arts. Since 1991 she has also played reconstructions of the kugo. She has given numerous solo recitals on the concert harp and the kugo in major international venues, such as the World Harp Congress (in Prague and Amsterdam), Columbia University, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and The British Museum. Her kugo CD “Along the Silk Road” has garnered fine reviews, e.g., T.J. Nelson’s review at WorldMusicCentral.com: “… astonishingly striking… simply stunning, a sophisticated elegance wrapped around a harp.” www.kugoharp.com
Peiyou Chang (Guqin) was born in Taipei, Taiwan. At age 3 her father sat her in front of a piano and there began her musical education. At age 8 she studied the Guzheng. However she gave up both piano and Guzheng while under the pressure of entering college. At age 30, the 3rd year after she moved to New York, she revived her musical life with the love of Guqin music. She has been playing and studying the Guqin since 2000, and is most influenced by Master Wu Zhao-Ji (1908-1997) from Suzhou, China. She was taught initially by Mr. Yuan Jung-Ping. Peiyou has participated in numerous qin performances and activities in New York, Taiwan and China, and now is fully devoted to Guqin music reconstruction, composition, promotion and performance both solo and ensemble. Her CD is called "The Sound of Heaven" www.peiyouqin.com
Sadahiro Kakitani (Ryuteki) was born in Japan and studied western flute as a child. He began his study of ryuteki (dragon flute) and Gagaku (ancient court music of Japan) in high school and continued at Tenri University, Nara, Japan. After graduating from university, he studied ryuteki and zazen meditation with Buddhist priest Yoshiatsu Terakawa. He has performed in Japan, Korea, China, Russia, Ukraine, Singapore, Australia and New York. Sadahiro has been teaching ryuteki in Japan in the traditional style since 2000. While in New York, he wishes to convey the beauty of the natural bamboo sound of the ancient ryuteki, and the order and harmony of the universe through Gagaku music.