Research question:

 What can be the contemporary musical expressions of tanka poetry from a standpoint of an improvising jazz vocalist?


Research sub questions:

  • What are the cultural elements that constitute tanka’s character?
  • What is the place of Japanese poetry within other artistic disciplines?
  • What is the possible interdisciplinary influence of these arts upon each other?
  • In what way did Japanese expression influence Western composers?
  • Which elements of tanka are translatable into music and how?
  • What is my musical version of tanka, taking into account the Japanese aesthetic?


The method used:

After initial study of the written material and listening to the existing works of both: classical Japanese music and Western contemporary compositions influenced by the Japanese arts, I will proceed with my own vocal- instrumental Sketches in which I will experiment with improvised and written music. As a material I will depart from the tanka of Yosano Akiko.

Improvisations and compositional sketches will be based on chosen elements: the imagery and meaning of the tanka, layered Ukiyo-e printing technique, sound associations derived from the paintings, Japanese language sonority, Japanese scales and harmony used in the gagaku ensemble and other, not yet encountered by me inspirations.


The outcome:

The completed work will create a paper supported by audio examples of the recordings leading to the final presentation and possibly excerpts of the whole pieces. The research presentation document will explain a cultural background of the tanka, and will document the process in which the musical project will be realized.






Why Japanese poetry?


Some years ago, I came across a handsome little volume of poetry entitled One hundred more poems from the Japanese”. A compilation of works of various authors, spanning from as far back as the 7th century, skillfully translated into English by the Beatnik master poet Kenneth Rexroth. And just like that, in an instant, from the first sight, my long-lasting fascination for haiku and tanka took root.

That led me to an almost compulsive behaviour when entering a bookstore anywhere I happen to be, my steps would always lead me (and they still do) in front of either a poetry or an “Eastern“ section shelf. And what a discovery this has been since. Names such as Basho, Ryokan, Issa, Yosano were finding their way into my literary consciousness, the writers becoming my new lyrical companions. I was back to the world of my childhood in a sense, feeling the excitement of discovery, of finding a treasure. An idea of giving that poetry another voice through merging it with music, jazz, improvisation and contemporary sensitivities started to occupy me. And so ‘Entwine’ project was born.

Entwine stands for my musical perspective, my musical imagination, my vocal improvisatory language, wrapping itself, interleaving with the mystery, subtlety and undeniable intricacy of Japanese artistic expression.
Poetry in particular.
Tanka to be more exact.
Personal lyrical diary of a 20th century poetess Yosano Akiko to be even more specific.


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