Japanese sonorities translated:
I have experimented with the sonic palette of different Western and Eastern instruments which I thought to be useful interpreters of the Japanese instruments. The reasons for using mostly Western instruments are quite mundane: the access to the Japanese instruments and accomplished players is limited. This initial complication encouraged me to look for creative solutions. I wanted to be able to catch the atmosphere of the poem, support it with sounds coming from the culture's own backdrop but still let it evolve in its artistic expression as a whole. Challenging the Western instruments to find their voice through the sensitivities of purely Japanese origin led to the following experiments. The following instruments were recorded:
- soprano saxophone
- modern transverse flute
- grand piano (keys and strings)
- double bass
- various drums and percussion instruments
- voice and electronics
- electronic soundscapes
Those recordings were meant to explore not only the sound of the instruments but to bring us closer to the language of the original Japanese musical communication. In the recordings what I set to explore amongst others were:
The aitake harmonies particular to sho mouth organ. The goal was to imitate the technique of non-vibrato sound production, connecting two chords together on one breath (especially in the instrumental version of the soprano saxophone) and slightly elevating the sharpness (twang) of the upper-mid frequencies.
After the recording was made I compared the instrumental colours to the original sho: their general colour (brightness and darkness/ higher or lower frequencies present) the atmosphere they create (although that judgement is somehow subjective I realise), the instrument’s timbre if played with excessive air by onset or with limited air on the attack (no audible attack).
The surprising conclusion of those experiments was that a modern transverse flute, which is a metal instrument, when played with a lot of air, both by onset and continuing sound resembles a wooden instrument, this adding a soft, whispering, warm and gentle sonic colour dimension to the project. The flute has also sounded less piercing than even a very softly played soprano saxophone.
For both the instruments and the voice (voices) not using vibrato seems to be the determining element in bringing it as close to the sho as possible. Softer volumes such as piano and mezzo piano also contribute to the organic balance of otherwise harmonically tense chords and brings us closer to dreamlike quality of the sho. I have refrained from the use of the sharpened mid frequencies in the voice (and more intense volumes of the SS) as they took over the sound space in an aggressive and unrefined way being therefore not yugen.
For sound samples please refer to Sketches I - Descending.
Colourings of different percussive instruments, their rhythmic and melodic capacities.
Copper, metal and steel sound bowls (mostly Tibetan singing bowls) struck with a hand, using wooden stick, mallet or played on the edge with a cello bow.
Singing bowls; melodic and percussive aspect