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About this Work
Maki Ishii, 1990 (trans. Christopher Drake). Source: CD "Works by Maki Ishii I", Fontec FOCD3194
This piece takes its theme from the shamanic dancer Gioh, who appears in The Tale of the Heike, a long medieval narrative describing the rise and fall of the Heike warrior Clan which for a time ruled Japan. The piece is a symphonic poem that is jointly performed by an orchestra and a soloist who uses three different traditional Japanese transverse flutes, the ryūteki ("dragon flute"), the shinobue ("small bamboo flute"), and the nōkan or bamboo Noh drama flute.
"Gioh" has four main parts, which roughly follow a narrative-like line:
1. The opening section begins with music representing The Tale of the Heike as a whole. This is followed by the cadenza-like music of the woman Gioh, while the music of the last half suggests again the larger narrative.
2. Music by the shinobue flute in the style of shirabyōshi, a word denoting a dance popular in the early medieval period and the almost shamanic dancer-courtesans who performed them. Here, in addition to playing the shinobue flute, the flutist sings an ancient imayō song. The beautiful young Gioh is loved by Kiyomori, head of the Heike clan, and she is now at the height of happiness. The melodies of the shinobue flute and the imayō song build upward with the orchestra, flowing over into 3.
3. Music of the scene in which Gioh is injured by her cruel treatment at the hands of Kiyomori, who now loves another woman. The nōkan Noh flute evokes her fall from ecstasy to despair.
4. Then, gradually, Gioh makes up her mind to leave the filthy world behind. She becomes a Buddhist nun.
The piece was commissioned on the theme of "a work that depicts Kyōto" by the Kyōto Cultural Affairs Foundation. It was ftrst performed by flutist Michiko Akao and the Kyōto Municipal Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ken'ichirō Kobayashi on December 25, 1984.