Shōmyō Kōkyō (1995)

Basic Information
Japanese 聲明交響
German Shōmyō Kōkyō
Opus 105
Year 1995
Category Orchestra/Concerto
Instruments Shomyo, Ryu, Orch
Score information
Tokyo Concerts
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About this Work

«According to the Todaiji Yōroku chronicle, in the fourth year of Tempyō (752) large-scale Shōmyō chanting was performed, along with Gagaku music and Bugaku dancing, as part of Buddhist services held to commemorate the completion of the Great Buddha statue in the Todaiji temple in Nara. In this ceremony Gagaku music and Bugaku dancing, which at the time represented the very latest "foreign" music, were solemnly performed along with Buddhist Shōmyō chanting, which had already become an integral part of Japanese music. This was truly the meeting of Shōmyō with Gagaku, a brilliant banquet attended by two different musical media, the old and the new, the human voke together with music and dance.

«In "Shō-Myō Kōkyō I", which I conceived while trying to think about this event that took place more than twelve centuries earlier, Shōmyō ceremonies such as Raisan and Shakunembutsu, which had been transmitted through the ages, were represented by Gagaku and solemnly performed by a modern orchestra. Further, in the work important roles - as mediators between Shōmyō chanting and the orchestra - are played both by the sounds inspired by the scroll pajnting "Descent to Earth of Amida Buddha and Twenty-Five Bodhisattvas'" (13th-14th centuries) in the Chion-in temple in Kyōto and by the sounds of the Ryūteki flute, the Shō mouth organ, and percussion instruments such as the Henshō, a row of hanging bells, played by Mr. Sukeyasu Shiba, who, having mastering traditional Gagaku music, plays it in a living, contemporary way. The work aims at reaching an artistic synthesis of Eastern and Western music within a solemn world of religious Sound.

«The piece was commissioned for the Peace Prayer-Meeting in Memory of War Victims Around the World in Ōsaka in 1995 and first performed at Ōsaka Festival Hall on July 4, 1995. The Shōmyō was performed by forty Pure Land Buddhist monks under the direction of Archbishop Kōryū Nakamura Yasuraka Nakamura, Chief Abbot, Jōdo-Shū Buddhist denomination, the Ryūteki flute solo was performed by Sukeyasu Shiba, and the Shō mouth organs were performed by five Pure Land monks, all with the Kansai Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of the composer.

«Finally, I would like to express my profound gratitude to Reverend Takeuchi Nisshō for his great enthusiasm and organizational ability, which he brought to the realization of this large-scale work with difficult contents spanning both religion and art, tradition and modernity. I would also like to take this occasion to offer a prayer for eternal world peace.»

Maki Ishii