My observations are that:
The composers, aside from their own creative vocabulary, have used various elements of Japanese culture and nature as their inspiration: the haiku, but also classical instrumentation, or sounds native to Japan. All of those parameters might have been feeding the process consciously, but surely also intuitively. The ingredients that seemed to have been picked up by many were:
- the compactness of the form expressed in the length of the piece; probably coming from the brevity of the poetry encountered or compactness of image in a scroll painting?
- the exoticism of sound; often coming from the inspiration of the gagaku ensemble, expressed in the instrumentation, using wind instruments, percussion instruments, and often string instruments.
- sensitivity for the visual imagination of the listener, possibly coming from the imagery of the poem itself or culture's largely visual orientation, expressed in music by the sense of space and temperament (dynamics, tempo, phrasing). In the instrumental pieces, and in the case of vocal pieces adding the direct communication of the words themselves.
- Japanese instruments’ own voice; their sound and technical range
- on a harmonic level: all colours of pentatonic scales, capturing the culture's inner musical psyche, you could say.
We can see various ways of approaching the compositional challenge resulting in very personal interpretations of what Japanese music channelled through our Western tradition could be. This ongoing process, an experimentation started a hundred years ago does not cease, continuously creating a musical tapestry where new narratives may unravel.
My personal creative path was from the beginning connected to the poetry itself. Let me invite you to take a closer look.