Looking at Kagurazaka from Shinnai Alley (32)
Thoughts about the “I-Ro-Ha” (ABCs) of Shinnai: 3
Translator’s Note: This essay is a continuation of the series started in #30 (see below in this blog, February-March 2018 issue of the Kagurazaka Community Magazine), in which Wakasanojo uses I-Ro-Ha and so on to label the items. The translation of the essays in this series gives the original Japanese heading in English letters (romaji) for each item, followed by the translated heading. For a fuller explanation, see the Translator’s Note in essay #30.
Ta: Takai on’iki wo kushi suru shinnai
(16) Shinnai requires skillful utilization of a high vocal range
Each genre of Japanese traditional music has its own characteristic melodic line, method of vocal production, and method of playing the shamisen. These differences are the basis of the distinction among the genres. Shinnai performers use high tones to express beautiful, sensual, sensational, and mournful moods, which can be heartbreaking to listeners. Shinnai joururi is narrated using a wide vocal range and a variety of timbres, producing a graceful and powerful sound, well suited to the accompanying shamisen.
・れ 礼儀を覚える古典の世界 稽古と練習は違う
Re: Reigi wo oboeru koten no sekai keiko to renshu wa chigau
(17) Courtesy in the Japanese classical world; keiko is not the same as practice.
Complying with etiquette is a Japanese virtue. Manners are no longer taught at home or in schools. It is important to be courteous not only in our relations with those above and below us, but also with those on the same level as we are. In the Japanese traditional performing arts, and in the martial arts, courtesy begins before keiko starts. Keiko is not the same as a “lesson”. In the world of the Japanese classical arts, training, the way of training, underlies the techniques and also the spirit with which the art form is conducted.
So: Sorehodo muzukashikunai kedo muzukashii joururi
(18) Joururi is not so difficult, but it is difficult
This topic is a continuation of several items on this topic in essay #31.
If a teacher is very strict, students tend to avoid keiko; it is essential that they enjoy it. In my opinion, “if you can sing karaoke, you can perform joururi.” However, this has a deep meaning. The secrets of joururi cannot be mastered in a lifetime. So it’s painful, joyful, and tough.
Tsu: Tsuruga Wakasanojo no shodai ga shinnai no so
(19) Tsuruga Wakasanojo I was the founder of shinnai.
Shinnai was founded by Tsuruga Wakasanojo I. He was born 300 years ago in the city of Tsuruga, in what is now called Fukui Prefecture. After various experiences, he went to Edo (present-day Tokyo), and became a student of Miyakoji Bungonojo. After the government forbade the performance of bungo-bushi (bungo-style joururi), the genre disappeared. Tsuruga Wakasanojo I then created tsuruga-bushi, and became the founder of shinnai. In the 250 years since then, shinnai has been passed down in rather unchanged form. Therefore, it continues to be traditional Edo Period shamisen music.
Ne: Neko to inu ni kansha su
(20) Gratitude to cats and dogs
The resonating part of the shamisen is called the “body”. Stretched skin is used to cover both sides of the body. When the shamisen was imported to Japan from the Ryukyu Kingdom (now Okinawa) 400 years ago, the kind of skin that was used changed from snakeskin to cat skin. Dog skin is also used. Recently, because cat skin and dog skin are no longer widely available, alternatives, such as artificial leather or kangaroo skin, are being used, but the quality of the tones made by shamisen covered with these types of skin isn’t as good as that from shamisen covered with cat skin or dog skin.
Na: Narai-goto wa roka wo fusegu
(21) Continuing to learn prevents aging
As life expectancy is increasing, people are living longer both physically and mentally. People want to lead healthy lives, even when they get old. To achieve that, we should continue to be interested and curious, and we should stimulate our brain by happily memorizing new things. Keiko is the best activity for that.
Ra: Ran’cho (Wakagi Adanagusa) wa shinnai no daihyo kyoku de kihon no kyoku
(22) Ran’cho (Wakagi Adanagusa), a typical shinnai piece, is the basic shinnai work.
Shinnai is Ran’cho; Ran’cho is shinnai. Ran’cho is a shinnai masterpiece by Tsuruga Wakasanojo I, who wrote its words and music. The story is simple: a love triangle leads to the lovers’ double suicide. However, the melodic line fully communicates the charm of shinnai. Shinnai nagashi is a shamisen interlude excerpted from a part of Ran’cho that has no lyrics. However, shinnai nagashi is not true shinnai (see essay #33, section fu)
. ・む 無駄は有ってよし 無くてよし
Mu: Muda wa atte yoshi, nakute yoshi
(23) Wastefulness is OK; no wastefulness is also OK
It seems like a huge amount of time is wasted in keiko, struggling, enduring hardships, and so on. The goal of keiko isn’t just to memorize classical works; after the works have been memorized, there must be further practice. Confrontation with nature is often considered useless, but it is actually nourishment of one’s art and spirit. Spending time idly can be a source of later tension, concentration, and creativity. We should live in a way that makes apparently wastefully spent time actually not wasted.
U: Urei gakari
(24) Set melodic patterns
In the music for joururi works, there are many set melodic patterns. These patterns are called yaku’bushi. Each yaku’bushi pattern has a name. These patterns are used at suitable places in the story that is told in each work. The most commonly used pattern in shinnai is called urei’gakari. The urei’gakari pattern is used at the beginning of a scene in order to establish a sad mood. The shamisen player’s movements don’t change, but the feeling of the melody is different.
I: I to hai to tobu ga koe no kyomeiko
(25) Vocalization resonates in the stomach, lungs, and head
The body cavities of the stomach, lungs, and head give resonance to the voice after it emanates from the vocal cords. The pharynx, mouth, and nose also play small parts in the overall production of sound. In addition, the stomach, lungs, and head amplify the sound, with the result that, to describe it in a somewhat exaggerated way, the entire body resonates. That is, the whole body becomes a musical instrument. When the voice is in the head, the tone is high pitched; in the chest, low pitched. The abdomen, back, and diaphragm muscles are also important.
(From Kagurazaka Community Magazine, June-July, 2018, issue #98)