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Description by the Composer
«Kokai means sound without sonic qualities. The word comes from the performance vocabulary of the percussion instruments that from the accompaniment in the Buddhist ceremonial music called shōmyō. For example, at a Buddhist memorial service which includes syōmyō, there is one bell-ringing technique according to which monks assume the posture of striking their bells but actually strike them only with their minds. Further, all the monks listen to the "sounds" of these bells with their minds, maintaining the proper intervals (rhythm) and proceeding with the ceremony. This is called kokai. It is a very spiritual, conceptual"sound" in which no sound is actually present. Similar approaches to sound can also be found in the way Buddhist monks chant sutras as well as in ancient court gagaku music. In fact, kokai is one of the distinguishing features of traditional Japanese musical performance.
«In "KOKAI pour CLAVECIN" I have tried to enlarge on this performance concept, which is completely different from those found in Western music, by using it in a work for the clavecin, a quintessentially Western instrument. It is intended to be a work that includes within itself the "sound" of a contemporary encounter.»
Maki Ishii, 1992