Kyō-Ō (1968)

Basic Information
Japanese 響応
German Kyō-Ō
Opus 013
Year 1968
Category Orchestra/Concerto
Duration 14 min.
Instruments Pf (multipiano), Orch, Elec-Sounds
Score information
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About this Work

Maki Ishii, 1994 (trans. Robin Thompson). Source: CD "Works by Maki Ishii V", Fontec FOCD3194

I composed this work during the late 1960s at a time when the postwar avant-garde movement in music had reached a major impasse. This was also a time when more and more composers were beginning to feel dubious about the intrinsic value of inorganic sound textures in electronic music. Two years before composing Kyō-Ō, I had had my first opportunity to hear shōmyō (Japanese Buddhist ceremonial music) at the Hōryu-ji temple in Nara. This contact with what was for me a new type of music based on a vision totally different in character from that pertaining in the art music circles of western Europe rocked the musical convictions I had held as a composer until then. This was a time of creative torment for me.

My encounter with Japanese traditional music had earlier been reflected on the levels of tone colour and structure in Expressionen for String Orchestra, op. 10 (1967). In Kyō-Ō, however, it is the rhythmic aspect of the work that most clearly betrays my debt to Japanese traditional music. The other parameters are all dominated by avant-garde techniques and sound concepts. The way in which the electronic sounds are used does, however, reflect the mood of the times in that I studiously avoided incorporating purely electronic, inorganic sounds. The electronic element of the work thus involves the electronic modulation of instrumental sounds. The "multi-piano" used in Kyō-Ō was developed at the NHK electronic music studios. The principle of this instrument is that 88 special microphones are attached to all the piano strings; the vibrations of the strings are picked up not as waves of varying densities passing through the air but directly in the form of electrical signals. The tonal quality can be modulated at will in the course of performance. The sounds produced by the multi-piano are not purely electronic sounds but instrumental sounds and their extensions.

Kyō-Ō is an important work for me in that it marks a turning point in my creative development: it presages the new world of sound which I was about to enter, a world generated by the encounter between the avant-garde musical style which I had studied and practised until then and the concepts and techniques of Japanese traditional music.

The work is scored for orchestra without woodwinds, four percussionists, and multi-piano. The electronic sounds were prepared at the NHK electronic music studios in Tōkyō.

First broadcast performance: March 1968 (NHK-FM). Performers: Pro Corde Chamber Orchestra, Shigenobu Yamaoka (conductor), Aki Takahashi (piano).

First concert performance: February 1969, "Deutsch-Japanisches Festival für Neue Musik" Tokyo. Performers: DJFM Ensemble, Maki Ishii (conductor), Aki Takahashi, (piano).