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The fascination of Sho

Naoyuki Manabe

October 15, 2020

The Sho is used in Gagaku, which is said to be the oldest orchestra in the world. Although the instrument has been used exclusively in Gagaku for more than a thousand years, in recent years, it has been inspired by Western music and has produced a number of masterpieces. Especially in the last 20 years, it has established itself as a completely solo instrument. Naoyuki Manabe has given solo recitals around the world. For this concert, the program focused on "To the Genesis" and "KOKYU III", two of his most frequent and favorite pieces. The program featured 《Hyojo-Choshi (Hyojo-Tune)》, which conveys the appeal of Gagaku (traditional Japanese court music), and Western music played on traditional instruments as a contrast between different cultures and genres. We hope you will enjoy the contrast between stillness and movement, the East and the West, and their fusion and contrast.

Anonymous - 



W.A.Mozart/Naoyuki Manabe - 

Ave verum corpus


Joji Yuasa - 

To the Genesis


Naoyuki Manabe - 





Maurice Ravel/Naoyuki Manabe - 

Pavane pour une infante défunte




About Gagaku Gagaku is said to be the world's oldest orchestra with a history of 1,300 years. The history of Gagaku can be traced back to 701, when Gagakuryo was established under the Ritsuryo codes. The instruments used include three percussion instruments (percussions: kakko, taiko, and gong), two stringed instruments (percussions: lute, biwa, and koto), and three wind instruments (Sho, Hichiriki, and Fue), as well as singing and dancing. There is a wide variety of instrumental music, dance and song, including kang-string and bugaku imported from China and Korea, ancient Japanese song and dance, and songs composed in the Heian period. About Sho The head, which acts as a bellows with a blowing mouth, is made of wood and coated with lacquer. Seventeen bamboo pipes are arranged in a circle on it. A metal reed is attached to the base of each bamboo pipe and makes a sound whether it is blown or inhaled. The reed is coated with a powdered peacock stone called bluestone. If the reed condenses on the reed by blowing into it, it will interfere with the vibration, so the reed is always warmed with a charcoal fire to prevent condensation. The kane in Thailand and Laos is said to be the prototype of the sho, and the instrument completed in China has been introduced to Japan, and the figure of the sho remains as it was at that time. "Hyojo-Choshi" There are six different tones in Gagaku. The plaintive key is the key that has the base note of E (=mi). The key serves to set the tone for the next piece of music to be played. It is not known when and by whom it was created, but it has probably existed for about a thousand years. It is a very beautiful piece of music with a very unique musical style. We never hear this beautiful melody because it is always played together with other instruments in Gagaku performance. W.A.Mozart "Ave verum corpus" (2005), arranged by Naoyuki Manabe This famous choral piece is a masterpiece from Mozart's last year of life. On the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth, this piece was arranged for the sho on the advice of a composer. While following Gagaku (Japanese traditional court music) performance techniques such as the 《Choshi(Tone)》, this arrangement maximizes the appeal of the original work. Jōji YUASA (1929- ) "To the Genesis" (1988)    Joji Yuasa was born in 1929 in Fukushima Prefecture. He is a self-taught composer. While he was studying at Keio University, he formed a friendship with Kuniharu Akiyama and Toru Takemitsu, and participated in the avant-garde art group "Experimental Studio" which consisted of music, art and literature. Thereafter, he devoted himself to composition. He said the following about this work For example, there is an act to spread and extend the sho while respecting the reason for its existence over time, which has made it a 'Sho'. This is because it is the most attractive point of the traditional instrument. Nevertheless, at the other end of the spectrum, there must be a genuine creative act that leaves such conventions behind and heads for an invention. The title of this song is 'Original Landscape,' but it is also a song of prayer, as it were, to the roots of the universe, to the point of humanity and the beginning of culture. I first encountered this work when I was a student at art college. I first encountered this work when I was a student at the University of the Arts, and at the time I kept my distance from this complicated score. After a while, in 2005, I had the opportunity to perform it, but it had not been performed at all for 17 years until that time. Since its repertory, I have performed "To the Genesis" many times in Europe and other parts of the world, and it is one of the most important pieces in my repertoire. Naoyuki Manabe "KOKYU III" (2003) The most important thing in my music is "KOKYU (breathing)". No matter how much the technology is developed and the machine can produce sound, I believe that music will never leave human hands. The sho is an instrument that plays while breathing. In that sense, it may be the most suitable instrument to express my music. It is not an inorganic mystery. It is not a mechanical sound. It is breathing, which is the source of human beings. Human warmth. I was completed in 1995, and the series of sho solo "KOKYU" has been continued to V composed in 2006. It took 1 year and 2 months to complete "KOKYU III". It took one and two months to complete "Breath III". The main technique used was to pursue flutter and movement. It is also a challenge to the superb technique. He won first prize in the first Tokyo Hogaku Competition in 2005 for his performance of this piece. Ravel's "Pavane pour une infante défunte", arranged by Naoyuki Manabe, (2020) Due to the influence of the new coronavirus, all the concerts have been cancelled since March 2020, and musicians have not only lost the opportunity to perform, but also cannot practice with their friends. Since April 8, when the state of emergency was declared, Japanese nursery rhymes, popular songs, lieder and other famous songs of the world's folk and classics were arranged for the sho and uploaded to YouTube one song per day. The 100th and final piece is "Pavane pour une infante défunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess)". It took a lot of time and effort to complete this beautiful piece, which includes complex chords on a very restrictive instrument. The original is G-dur, but due to the structure of the instrument, I arranged it as D-dur.

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