Fū Shi (Shape of the Wind) (1989)

Basic Information
Japanese 風姿
German Fū Shi (Gestalt des Windes)
Opus 084
Year 1989
Category Orchestra/Concerto
Duration 18 min.
Instruments Orch
Score information
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About this Work

Maki Ishii, 1990 (transl. Robin Thompson). Source: CD "Maki Ishii: Works for Orchestra", Denon COCO-6812

In his treatise on Noh performance entitled Fūshikaden (Teachings in Style and the Flower, 1400-02), Zeami states that "The principle of jo-ha-kyū is inherent in all things."

Zeami was of course a celebrated Noh actor, playwright and critic active during the early Muromachi Period (1393-1573) whose critical writings include Fūshikaden and Kakyū (A Mirror of the Flower, 1424) and who laid the foundations of Japanese aesthetic theory. The concept of jo-ha-kyū to which he refers here is a tripartite sequential principle with applications in traditional Japanese music and dance, musical form (rhythm), and performance.

In the context of Gagaku, in which the jo-ha-kyū concept originated, jo (preparation) refers to the opening non-metrical section performed at a slow tempo in a smooth and unobtrusive manner; ha ("breaking", development) refers to a central section at an intermediate tempo and full of variety; and kyū ("rushing", fast finale) is the term for the final section, which is played rhythmically at a fast tempo and is relatively short in duration.

In Kakyō, Zeami states further that "A single dance is structured in such manner as to fit into the formal arrangement of jo-ha-kyū."

According to this treatise on aesthetics dating from some six hundred years ago, the principle of jo-ha-kyū is not restricted merely to form, movement structure, and rhythm: in its basic meaning it is the fundamental principle and philosophy of creation. The slightest movement within a dance is governed by the order of changing of jo-ha-kyū, which thus bears on the very essence of artistic creation.

In composing the orchestral work Fūshi, I felt once again illuminated by this formal concept of Zeami's which has no parallel in Western music, and I attempted to obtain a new sense of harmony and unity by applying the concept to all the musical parameters (sound and rhythm) and reflecting it in the mirror of our own age.

The acoustic events which take place in this work are constantly subjected on the microscopic level to augmentation, diminution and other complex variations, while, on the macroscopic level, the overall blending of sound is intended to result in the emergence of a large sound-space continuum subject to the ordering of the jo-ha-kyū sequence.

Also in Fūshikaden, Zeami alludes to the essence of time-transcendent creation: "The flower appears where secrecy prevails...". I have sought in this work to express the meaning of this phrase, to imbue the work with the surprise and freshness inherent in art.

Fūshi for Orchestra is intended to be a summation of the "third image" music - a music arising from out of the encounter between heterogeneous elements – which I have been pursuing for the last two decades. At the same time, I suspect that it may represent a new step in the development of my music.

Fūshi was commissioned by the Suntory Foundation and first performed at the Suntory Hall in October 1989 by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the composer.