Shikyō (1970)

Basic Information
Japanese 紫響
German Shikyō
Opus 019a
Year 1970
Category Chamber
Duration 12 min.
Instruments Gagaku-ens
Score information
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About this Work

Maki Ishii

This piece was written during the summer of 1970 in Berlin.

There are a variety of differences between this piece and traditional gagaku as it is performed today, but perhaps the most important of these is its lack of a regular beat. This piece is not performed to a fixed rhythm, but emphasises improvisation in rhythmic terms in that it is built upon the breathing patterns of the performers themselves and their sense of time-interval. The layer of time of the piece is formed by the interaction of the time (or rhythm) that each of the performers possesses. By using this method, I have endeavoured to retain throughout the piece the intensive pulsation of the typical gagaku-like (that is, non-Western) rhythm, which, along with the timbre of the gagaku ensemble, is one of the most fascinating elements of gagaku. I also tried to avoid the danger of turning this unique gagaku rhythmic sense into something resembling Western fixed meter, which is what sometimes happens when traditional Western methods of writing time-signatures gagaku. My method of writing the music has, in other words, been designed to express naturally the traditional rhythmic sense that each of the performers possesses internally, coupled with the progression of new sounds (all of the pitches are stipulated), within a framework that differs from that of traditional gagaku pieces.

SHI-KYO can be performed simultaneously with another of my works written for orchestra, in which case the work as a whole is called SOGU-II . It was commissioned by the Japan Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, and first performed by it and gagaku musicians from the Imperial Palace, Tōkyō, under the direction of Seiji OZAWA, in Tōkyō, June 1971. In the following year it was first performed in the U.S.A. by the Ono Gagaku-kai and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, again under the direction of Seiji OZAWA. It was also performed at the opening concert of the first Hong Kong Festival, 1973.