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Tsumi Kusa

June 25, 2015

This is another ensemble piece (for you, Lee, since you liked Kurokami), originally written for koto, and which later acquired a shakuhachi part. It was composed during the Meiji period (late 19th century), when Japan replaced the shogunate with a more representative government, and generally attempted to remake the entire society along western, i.e. modern, lines. In koto music this meant composing in a way that had more popular appeal.

The title means cutting grass, and there is some poetry that goes with it, but I have not been able to find a translation. The melodies are unusual in the use of the pentatonic scale, which gives the piece a particularly simple feel, like folk music.

Ensemble music is divided into sections, which are either instruments plus voice (singing sections) or instruments without voice. The singing sections are slow; the instrumental sections are typically fast, and provide an opportunity for the performer to show off how quickly she can move her fingers. Commonly, as in this piece, the singing sections come at the beginning and end, bracketing one or more instrumental sections.

We are returning to the Real World tomorrow, so this will be my last post in Days of Art. I hope you’ve enjoyed the music, and I am grateful for your time and attention.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 25, 2015 2:41 pm

    Just especially for me? How kind of you. Yes I enjoyed this one too, and I thought “how quickly she can move her fingers!” Thanks to both of you for sharing your days of art with us.
    Lee

  2. Sandy Kowalski permalink
    June 25, 2015 2:52 pm

    Tim,
    Thank you for sharing your music and your talent. And I appreciated the historical background. Have a good trip home.
    Sandy

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