Miyama Higurashi

Miyama Higurashi was composed by Fukudo Rando in 1928. The title is sometimes translated Sound of Crickets in the Inner Mountains, but Professor Google tells me that higurashi means cicada, which is not exactly the same. You will definitely hear the cicadas; you will have to imagine the inner mountains.

I first encountered this piece at my second or third shakuhachi lesson. It was well beyond me, but it was a group class, and sometimes in a group class you’re the clueless guy who does the best he can. The piece as notated by the composer is straightforward, but players often pimp it out with improvised ornamentations. Since it was all I could do to play it straight, I practiced it without adding ornaments, and so I have treated it ever since.

This piece is influenced not only by traditional honkyoku, but also by Japanese folk melodies, as well as western music. Consequently it is more easily comprehended by western ears than the usual piece in the repertoire. Honkyoku, by the way, means our music, from the perspective of a shakuhachi player, and refers to the traditional solo music, as distinct from the ensemble music played with koto and samisen, which are sometimes referred to as gaikyoku, or those other guy’s music.

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