Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ownership of Honkyoku

At a temple,

The monk: Is it yamato choshi?
We: No. This is shingetsu.

Later, we realized that shingetsu is Watazumi’s rendering of yamato choshi. It is one of the many pieces that Watazumi “composed” by adding his own personal flavor to the existing honkyoku pieces. In so doing, he changed the titles of the original pieces.

We often come across honkyoku pieces that sound identical but have different titles (and different pieces with the same title).

Change of the title and ownership was loosely defined. Tomimori Kyozan (1899–1975), a well-respected shakuhachi player and scholar, clearly stated that changing the title is acceptable:

Today, the piece ajikan is played quite differently compared to how Miyagawa Nyozan [the composer] played the piece. Although the shape is the same, the level of spirit is different. Nyozan’s verve is no longer carried by today’s players…. The reason why many people today play ajikan in such a way is that many people learned ajikan from Tani Kyochiku who used 2.5 long shakuhachi. That’s how it became a dull, dark song. Miyagawa Nyozan played it on 1.8…. Miyagawa’s playing of ajikan actually sounded quite rough. But he had subtle expressions. Nobody could imitate his level of frantic playing…. This is what is missing in today’s performance. Only the shape is imitated. People simply drag the song and extend the form…. Tani Kyochiku’s playing of ajikan also carries some sort of taste and import. However, Miyagawa Nyozan kept saying, “I wonder where he [Tani] learned it [ajikan] from? If it is Miyagawa Nyozan’s ajikan, it would be troublesome.” I think it would be fine to have Tani Kyochiku’s ajikan. But in order to do so, he should have changed the title of the piece.

Tomimori suggests that playing a piece in a different way without changing the title is rather problematic.

1 comment:

  1. I wondered about this a lot! I love Ajikan. I heard Nyozan version and I am taught the Kyochiku version in Jin Nyodo lineage. I learned to imitate some of Nyozan but it is so unique. That is an interesting way of looking at pieces. It is a tough area. When does it turn into a new piece? Hmm...!