Swifter than hail,
Lighter than a feather,
A vague sorrow
Crossed my mind.
“Tangled Hair” Yosano Akiko
tanka, voice, double bass, shakuhachi flute
This poem started as a vocal improvisation lingering over a double bass motif in 7/4. The rhythmical pattern was intentional from the start as I wished to expose the rhythmicity of the tanka, which is almost always using 5 and 7 beat phrases. That steady, dance-like groove that was created has served as a pulse for two pentatonic motifs. The scales used were the koto practised scales of katakumoijoshi and kataiwatojoshi.
In the melodic improvisation I have played with these scales employing some of the shakuchachi techniques, such as:
- bending the tone down and returning to the original pitch furikiri
-accelerating vibrato yuri
-fast broken cries repeated on one note which normally are performed by a finger movement over the hole of shakuhachi covering it abruptly called ren-on, which I have copied by stopping the air flow on the level of my vocal folds
- extensive air attack muraiki
-the stylistic figure of keeping my tone straight (vibrato being a conscious choice in some other moments) was already established by the previous experiments with the sho translations into voice use.
Swifter Than Hail - song fragment
The sparsity of melodic exchange between myself and the flute was also a choice, since I was looking for withheld emotion as conveyed in the poem, the space of wabi and tense understatement.
Choosing to keep the recording neutral in the use of reverb (all musicians enjoy the same length of reverb and delay), keeping us all at almost the same volume levels and restricting the arrangement to only three monodic instruments gave an unexpected colouring and an atmosphere similar to jazz recordings of the 1960’s. You may think of Krzysztof Komeda 9.1 , Jeanne Lee 9.2 or the beforementioned Jack Kerouac with Zoot Sims and their “American Haiku”.
Swifter Than Hail - improvisation fragment