Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Shika no tōne 鹿の遠音

Apart from Daha, the other piece I am undertaking to study is Shika no tōne 鹿の遠音, a Koten piece from the Kinko Ryu. This factor differentiates it stylistically from the majority of Watazumido/Yokoyama Honkyoku, likening it to Hifumi Hachigaeshi, ornate with finger slides-off that produce a characteristically sliding pitch upwards portamento. Another of its distinctive features is its inclusion (the only traditional honkyoku piece) in the Japanese ministry of Education's music textbooks. It is the only piece in the Kinko Ryu Honkyoku that is usually played as a duet, although it can also be played solo. It is a call and response dialogue between a deer buck and doe, ostensibly a mating song in a very literal or programmatic representation, in which, at times, guttural deep-throated raspy calls give way to eloquent high register yearning pitch bends. This kind of descriptive scene in deep autumn and picturesque narrative depiction has been used in poetry since the time of Kokin Washu (an ancient poetry anthology) (John Singer's notes). In the duet version, the end of one phrase overlaps with the beginning of the ensuing antiphonal Coro-pregón (call and resonse), in 5 dan (sections). Apparently the original Japanese title was Yobikaesi shika no tone (where yobikaeshi means 'call and response'). The piece integrates the afore-mentioned raspy/breathy muraiki technique and many idiomatic intricacies not notated in the transcription, such as the articulations of individual notes and the typical phrase onsets. The piece was transmitted into the Kinko repertoire by Ikkei-Shi in Nagasaki. Many CD notes acknowledge that, along with the equally programmatic Nesting of the Cranes, it is a very flexible and expressive piece, allowing for considerable freedom of ornamentation and personalisation. Needless to say, its intricate beauty and pitch nuances are very exacting. Yokoyama Sensei's notes cite the famous Tanka poem that encapsulates the lonesomeness and liveliness both embodied in the music:
Far up the mountain side,
While tramping over the scarlet maple leaves,
I hear the mournful cry of the wild deer:
This sad, sad autumn tide.

Although most often translated as Distant Cry of Deer, another amusing translation is Deer's Throat Heard from Afar or The Throating of Distant Deers.