Chidori No Kyoku (千鳥の曲)

Chidori no Kyoku (a song for plover) is a musical composition for koto (a long Japanese zither with thirteen strings) and kokyu (Chinese fiddle) composed by Yoshizawa Kengyo (the highest title of the official ranks within the Todo-za [the traditional guild for the blind]) (the second).

Summary of the song
The song was composed by Yoshizawa Kengyo (second generation; 1800 - 1872), a blind musician who flourished in Nagoya and Kyoto in the end of Edo period. It is widely known as a sokyoku (koto music) along with "Rokudan no shirabe" (believed to have been composed by Yatsuhashi Kengyo) and "Haru no umi" (composed by Michio MIYAGI). It greatly influenced sokyoku in Meiji period and later. At the same time, the song occupies an important place as a Kokyu Honkyoku (Music for the Kokyu).

The song was composed based on two original waka poems about chidori (plover) included in "Kokin Wakashu" (A Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry) and "Kinyo Wakashu" (Kinyo Collection of Japanese poems) and added with instrumental parts of 'maebiki' (introduction) and 'tegoto' (long instrumental intermezzo between songs). It utilizes a new tuning method of koto adopting the tuning and the scale of koto in Japanese court music invented by Yoshizawa, which is called 'kokinchoshi' scale.
"Chidori no Kyoku" is combined with later composed "The Spring Music," "The Summer Music," "The Autumn Music" and "The Winter Music" to be collectively called 'Kokin-gumi.'
Yoshizawa Kengyo later composed four more songs of 'Shinkokin-gumi.'

It was originally an ensemble of kokyu and koto, but an ensemble with kokyu is seldom performed except by 'Kokufu Ongaku Kai' (the Traditional Japanese Music Association), a music association in the direct line of Yoshizawa Kengyo, because there are very few kokyu players. While it is often performed by koto solo, Yoshizawa himself composed a kaede (accompanying melody) of koto resembling a kokyu part, and an ensemble of honte (melody part) and kaede by koto is often performed beyond the border of schools. A part of shakuhachi bamboo flute was composed later, and an ensemble of koto and shakuhachi bamboo flute is rather common these days. Therefore, though the music is so popular, so many people do not know the fact that "Chidori no Kyoku" is originally an ensemble of kokyu and koto even in the scene of sankyoku (instrumental trio).

Kengyo is the highest rank among four court ranks given to blind people who belonged to Todo-za, which was a traditional guild for the blind, from Muromachi period to the end of Edo period. In Edo period, they actively worked as professional musicians of Heikyoku (the music played on Heike biwa as accompaniment for the recitation of Heike monogatari), and sankyoku (jiuta shamisen [traditional Japanese shamisen music], koto, and Kokyu [Chinese fiddle] music) or engaged in acupuncture and massage, under protection by bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). There were also scholars like Hokiichi HANAWA.

Honkyoku (traditional Japanese music) is a musical piece composed for each instrument in sankyoku music. It is also referred to as honte-gumi. Examples are "Kumoi no Kyoku" for koto, "Ryukyu Gumi" for shamisen, "Tsuru no Sugomori" for kokyu, and "Shika no Tone" for Shakuhachi.

Honte is a melody part of the original music. Kaete is an accompanying part composed for an ensemble contrary to honte.

Sankyoku is a collective name for three instruments of jiuta shamisen, koto, and kokyu specialized by the blind musicians belonging to Todo-za, as well as a collective name for jiuta, koto music, and kokyu music played with these instruments. An ensemble of the instruments is called sankyoku gasso. Sankyoku has included shakuhachi since Meiji period.

Background of composition
Shamisen had the initiative of the traditional Japanese music in both Kamigata (Kyoto and Osaka area) and Edo. The blind musicians highly developed especially jiuta, which was shamisen music in Kamigata. They developed a highly instrumental music style called 'tegoto mono' (composition of basically the first vocal section, an instrumental intermezzo, and the second vocal section), and sought for the instrumental technique to the ultimate level. They also composed 'kaede shiki sokyoku' (koto music with accompanying melody composed to be played with an original shamisen music) to play to tegoto mono, thus extremely complicated and delicate music was produced. However, by the beginning of Tempo era (1830), the development of shamisen technique had been accomplished and 'tegoto' had also been thoroughly sought, where the blind musicians sought a new development of composition in various ways. In other words, the music of jiuta was almost completed at the highest level.

On the other hand, the development of koto music, one of sankyoku along with jiuta specialized by the blind musicians, was sluggish in the middle of Edo period unlike its prosperity in the beginning of Edo period, and kept growing until the end of Edo period in the form of accompanying jiuta shamisen music without seeking an independent development.

In Tempo era, Mitsuzaki Kengyo in Kyoto found a way of compositional expression in the late-starting instrument, koto, and composed "Akikaze no kyoku" (a song for the autumn wind) and "Godanginuda" for koto alone, as well as the conventional jiuta shamisen music. They have a reactionary aspect of taking in the styles of 'kumiuta' (koto suites of songs) and 'danmono' (most important type in shirabemono [the koto solo instrumental music]) and also modern aspects of taking in the scale of Ming and Xing-era Chinese music (as popularized in Japan before the First Sino-Japanese war) that was popular at the time and employing a very precise and complicated koto duet at high and low pitches. With Mitsuzaki Kengyo's multifaceted experiments, koto music gradually left jiuta shamisen to start its unique development after one and a half centuries.

His junior fellow influenced by Mitsuzaki was Yoshizawa Kengyo in Nagoya. While he wrote many of conventional jiuta music pieces, he also focused on the remaining possibility of koto after the "Chidori no Kyoku" triggered by the compositions of Mitsuzaki. Yoshizawa was so talented at koto by nature as to have played a complicated tune for a jiuta 'Yashima' at the age of 11. On the other hand, he also found a new possibility of kokyu that was often hidden behind the presence of shamisen though it was also an instrument of sankyoku. Yoshizawa was also good at kokyu, and a legend tells that he composed Chidori no Kyoku for kokyu in Tempo era, and then composed a part for koto later in Kaei and Ansei eras.

In the end of Edo period, the reversionism gained power supported by the study of Japanese classical literature and people were oriented to the culture of Imperial Court. Yoshizawa Kengyo himself also had knowledge of the study and waka poem, and was apparently influenced by the thought of reversionism. Accordingly, he picked words for music from Kokin Wakashu and so on, and he may have wanted to promote the reversionism in an aspect of not only literature but also music. Therefore, like Mitsuzaki Kengyo, he also employed a consistent composition, a simple technique, and a noble and classic atmosphere of kumiuta, which was a form of sokyoku in the early Edo period, and an extreme opposite of jiuta music developed into complication at the time. Further pursuing the classic, Yoshizawa Kengyo may have found an ideal of musical aesthetic in the traditional Japanese music that was a far ancestor of sokyoku. He studied basic theories of the traditional Japanese music and tuning techniques of gakuso (koto for traditional Japanese music) under Shuraku HAZUKA, a gagakuka (musician of old Japanese court music) (another opinion says it was not Shuraku). At first, Hazuka who looked down on lower-ranked Yoshizawa did not want to teach him, but he felt for Yoshizawa's enthusiasm and eventually determined to teach. Combining the tuning techniques of the traditional Japanese music thus learned and his own tuning techniques of modern koto music, Yoshizawa came up with 'kokinchoshi' scale that is a combination of both systems of ritsu scale (anhemitonic pentatonic scale) in the traditional Japanese music and miyako-bushi scale (characteristic Japanese hemitonic pentatonic scale: mi, fa, la, ti, do) in the modern Japanese music. It resembles the tuning technique of 'banshikicho' (banshiki is a high note substantially corresponding to H in the Western music) for gakuso.

In this manner, melodies and techniques of the traditional Japanese music were employed to complete "Chidori no Kyoku."
Composed later over waka poems taken from Kokin Wakashu based on the kokinchoshi scale are 'The Spring Music,' 'The Summer Music,' 'The Autumn Music' and 'The Winter Music.'
Although they are different from "Chidori no Kyoku" for not including an instrumental intermezzo, the five music pieces are collectively referred to as 'Kokin-gumi.'

Especially "Chidori no Kyoku" diffused as a koto music not only in the Nagoya line but also into various groups in Ikuta school, and even into Yamada school to be played in almost all schools in Meiji period and later.

Kumiuta (koto suites of songs)

There are 'shamisen kumiura' and 'koto kumiuta,' each being the oldest music style and the honkyoku (traditional Japanese music) in jiuta and koto music. Contents are different between koto and shamisen, and koto kumiuta includes six sections basically consisting of 128 beats. Each section is further divided into eight phrases. While being noble music with graceful words, kumiuta gradually fell into mannerism, and was not composed anymore in the middle of Edo period.

Danmono (type of koto)

Koto music in an instrumental style regarded as sohonkyoku (traditional Japanese music for koto) along with kumiuta. Each section includes 104 beats, and the number of sections varies from song to song. Many of them take a form like a variation. Although it is honkyoku, danmono is played with other instruments. "Rokudan no Shirabe" is a masterpiece of danmono.

Ritsu scale (anhemitonic pentatonic scale)

One of scales used in Japanese music. The scale was fixed when gagaku (traditional Japanese music) was Japanized in Heian period. Although miyako-bushi scale was later introduced into some instruments for the traditional Japanese music, gakuso still uses ritsu scale in its tuning.

Miyako-bushi scale

One of scales used in Japanese music. It is assumed to be a variation of ritsu scale. Miyako-bushi scale is mainly used in artistic music in modern cities such as koto music and shamisen music. Among popular songs, "Sakura Sakura" and "Oedo Nihonbashi" are based on this scale.
Almost synonymous with 'Insenpo.'

Ikuta school

A school of koto music. Established by Ikuta Kengyo in Kyoto in Genroku era. It is said that shamisen and koto had not been played for ensemble even by the same player until he started it. While separating into many groups, the school spread from Nagoya to Kyushu in Edo period, and even to eastern Japan and northern Japan after the Meiji Restoration.

Yamada school

A school of koto music. Yamada Kengyo in Edo established the school around 1777 against Ikuta school in Kamigata. It spread into eastern Japan. Its music took in the style of Joruri (dramatic narrative chanted to a samisen accompaniment) including Icchubushi melody, and focuses on songs.

Musical composition
It employs a style of jiuta 'tegotomono' consisting of introduction - maeuta (first vocal section) - tegoto (instrumental intermezzo) - atouta (second vocal section).

The introduction is like traditional Japanese music, where koto uses a technique of gakuso and kokyu plays chords like sho (Japanese flute).

The words in the first vocal section is a waka poem 'Shiho no yama sashide no iso ni sumu chidori, kimiga miyo oba yachiyo tozo naku' (しほの山さしでの磯にすむ千鳥 君が御代をば八千代とぞ鳴く) taken from Ga no bu (the Ga [celebration] section) of "Kokin Wakashu." Kimiga miyo oba yachiyo tozo naku...' is repeated, the beginning of the introduction appears, and tegoto starts after a while.

Tegoto being an instrumental part is divided into two, where the former half starts slowly and then gradually becomes faster. It is referred to as 'jo' (prelude) or 'naminobu' (wave section), in which koto expresses waves coming and drawing, and kokyu expresses the sound of the wind through pines with chords. It sounds like an ensemble of gakuso and sho. The latter half is also referred to as 'chidori no bu' (chidori section), in which both koto and kyokyu start an indication of a chirp of a chidori, gradually pick up the tempo, and show a pure musical progress to the climax departing from a depiction of a scene. It is the climax of the song, where koto and kokyu show an excellent chase. The tempo eventually slows down, koto plays 'suri-tsume' playing technique indicative of the wind to give a pause, and the second vocal part starts. Suri-tsume is believed to be employed to imply a storm in Suma no maki of the Tale of Genji in association with 'Suma' to be sung in the second vocal part, thereby creating an atmosphere.

The words in the second vocal section is a waka poem 'Awaji shima, kayou chidori no naku koe ni, ikuyo nesamenu suma no sekimori' (淡路島 通ふ千鳥の鳴く声に 幾夜寝覚めぬ須磨の関守) by MINAMOTO no Kanemasa included in Kinyo wakashu. First, a unique melody that is not seen other jiuta koto music in the past is sung to 'Awaji shima, kayou chidori no...' in a modulated high range. It is believe to have resembled roei recitation, one way of vocal music in the field of the traditional Japanese music. In the section of 'naku koe ni,' the song gradually returns to a song based on the koto music leading to a short but beautiful intermezzo of a delicate tremolo played by kokyu.
Gradually picking up the tempo in the section of 'ikuyo nesamenu suma no sekimori,' the final climax is played at an intermezzo, 'ikuyo nesamenu' appears again on a melody different from the first time, and then the sound gradually becomes in 'suma no sekimori.'
When the song is over, a short instrumental phrase full of loneliness and stillness is played to the termination with an allusive feeling.

Roei is a genre of the traditional Japanese music, or a vocal music singing a Chinese-style poem to a melody. Accompanied by hichiriki (Japanese shawm), ryuteki flute, and sho. More than ten songs are still played.

As the music in the period for separating koto in the end of Edo period, while "Akikaze no kyoku" by his senior, Mitsuzaki Kengyo, is exotic and romantic and "Godanginuda" by the same is modern and complicated, Yoshizawa's "Chidori no Kyoku" may be traditional and simple. Among Yoshizawa Kengyo's works, Chidori no Kyoku is positioned in a period of transiting glamorous works like 'Kyoto-style tegotomono music' (jiuta songs of tegotomono composed by blind musicians in Kyoto from the beginning to the end of the 19th century) to 'Kokin-gumi' and 'Shinkokin-gumi' of the simple and traditional aesthetic.

That is, it still takes a form of 'tegotomono' as a style, and the composition changed.

It was composed by a composition technique impressively describing nature and has a certain gorgeousness.

Words are waka poems as they are taken from Kokinshu, and the music also shows revivalistic intentions to kumiuta and the traditional Japanese music.

The composition technique that directly covers the traditional Japanese music may have been the first one in the line of Ikuta school.

An ensemble of kokyu and koto alone without shamisen had seldom been seen in the past.

The originalities and the revivalistic intentions are mixed in many ways as described above, the song has many interesting points.

In a perspective view of the history of koto music, "Chidori no Kyoku" must have been one of big turning points to new koto music. However, it should be noted that the historical background of the composition followed by the revolutionary period of the Meiji Restoration is also important. Many pieces of koto music called 'Meiji shinkyoku piece' (literally, "new song of Meiji") were produced in Meiji period. The songs, "Meiji Shochikubai" by Kikuzuka Kengyo, "Kaede no Hana" by Shunei MATSUZAKA, "Hototogisu no Kyoku" by Noboru TATEYAMA, and "Aki no Kotonoha" by Tokumoichi NISHIYAMA, are popular.
Most of these songs have many common points with "Chidori no Kyoku" other than the poetical imagination (in addition, frequent use of duet in high and low tones is similar to "Godanginuta") as follows:

The composition of the musical instruments focused on koto without using shamisen. The tuning technique based on a mixed scale. The musical form of introduction - first vocal section - instrumental intermezzo - second vocal section. The clear and noble words. In that context, we can generally say that most of koto music pieces composed since Meiji period to the emergence of Michio MIYAGI are on the line of "Chidori no Kyoku." Furthermore, Michio MIYAGI also composed not a few works with elements of "Chidori no Kyoku" while making a new departure. Examples include his first work 'Mizu no Hentai' (Water Transformation), the second work 'Haru no yoru' (a spring night), as well as 'Hatsu Uguisu' (The First Call of a Bush Warbler). The description of nature in tegoto of Chidori no Kyoku is freer and rather impressive than abstract ones in older ages. This also implies a description of "Haru no Umi" by Michio MIYAGI in some way.

There is a part of kokyu resembling chords of sho that is an instrument for the traditional Japanese music and describing the winds through pines with a technique of kokyu, which got to be used often in later times to show an atmosphere of the traditional Japanese music.

Contrary to "Chidori no Kyoku" still retaining the form of tegotomono, other pieces of Kokin-gumi composed later are more simplified and includes no tegoto to be more like kumiuta. Although simple and beautiful, they were not gorgeous enough at the time, and were not popular until Shunei MATSUZAKA in Kyoto complemented gorgeous tegoto in Meiji period. In that context, too, "Chidori no Kyoku" may have especially served as the turning point in the history of koto music. The songs in Shinkokin-gumi that followed Kokin-gumi were musically simplified even more. For this or another reason, Shinkokin-gumi is seldom played by musicians out of the direct line of Yoshizawa, but there was Kyogoku school of koto music that followed this style.

In Meiji period and later, shakuhachi was fully included in sankyoku music, and "Chidori no Khyoku" was also arranged by each school of shakuhachi for an ensemble, in which context it can be a song for shakuhachi. As shakuhachi grew popular until the present days, an ensemble of shakuhachi and koto is now played more commonly than an original ensemble of kokyu and koto. However, the tune of shakuhachi is rather similar to that of koto to be played rather in unison and totally different from the original tune of kokyu, which may not be different from the sound intended by the composer.

Some schools play the kokyu part added later and different from the original one composed by Yoshizawa Kengyo. This was also added resembling the tune of koto to sound like a unison, which is hardly called kokyu honkyoku (traditional Japanese music for kokyu).

Utashito NAKASHIMA (1896 - 1979, a koto musician and founder of Seiha Hogaku Kai) later composed "Yomo no Umi" (the sea all around) which can be played ensemble with Chidori no Kyoku. Some composers also arranged Chidori no Kyoku for an ensemble with Japanese instruments or Western instruments.

The utamakura (a place famed in classical Japanese poetry) 'Shiho no yama' sung in the first vocal part is located in Koshu City (former Enzan City), Yamanashi Prefecture, and 'Sashide no iso' is located in Yamanashi City, Yamanashi Prefecture.

Kimiga miyo oba yachiyo tozo naku'" in the first vocal section is a double meaning of 'chiyo' which means eternity and the sound made by a chidori (plover).

A waka poem of 'Awaji-shima kayou chidori no naku koe ni' is also included in Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (the Ogura Anthology of One Hundred Tanka-poems by One Hundred Poets).

The utamakura, the bay of 'Suma,' sung in the second vocal section is a beach with green pines and white sand located in Suma Ward, Kobe City in the present days. Awaji-shima Iland is seen beyond the Akashi Strait. There was a sekisho (checking station) as a west gate of Kinai region (provinces surrounding Kyoto and Nara). It is known for Suma no maki of "The Tale of Genji."

A part of the introduction is used in some scenes of "TORA! TORA! TORA!," a movie featuring Attack on Pearl Harbor.

A koto kumiuta "Umegae" allegedly composed by Yatsuhashi Kengyo is also occasionally called 'Chidori no Kyoku.'

In addition to Chidori no Kyoku, there are many songs with a title including 'chidori' such as "Tomochidori" (a flocking plover) (composed by Hisamura Kengyo, koto kumiuta), "Iso Chidori" (beach plover) (composed by Kikuoka Kengyo, arranged by Yazaki Kengyo, tegotomono jiuta, koto music), and "Kawa Chidori" (river plover) (composed by Ikuyama Kengyo, tegotomono jiuta, koto music). There are some other jiuta and koto music that partially includes the word of chidori. There are also children's songs such as "Hama Chidori" (plovers on the beach) (written by Meishu KASHIMA, composed by Ryutaro HIROTA) and "Chin Chin Chidori" (written by Hakushu KITAHARA, composed by Hidemaro KONOE).

Chidori is a collective name of birds of Charadriiformes, Charadriidae, including Mongolian plover, little ringed plover, and snowy plover. They live on the coast, riverbank, or wetland, having been popular as a special feature on the beach and riverbank since ancient ages and known as a pattern of 'Nami ni Chidori' (plover on the wave). Tama-gawa River in Noda of Mutsu Province (present Shiogama City, Miyagi Prefecture) and Gyotoku in Shimosa Province (present Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture) as well as Suma no ura and Sashide no iso in Chidori no Kyoku were famous for plovers.

Iwachidori (Amitostigma keiskei) is a perennial plant in Orchidaceae family.

[Original Japanese]