Glosses on a Japanese Theme
In the Eye of the Cat was composed on a grant from the Toronto Arts Council.
It is constructed around a famous Japanese koto piece called Rokudan No
Shirabe. The premiere performance was given by Jack Sanders, guitar, and
Rachel Rudich, flute, on Sept. 24, 1999 at Balch Auditorium, Scripps College,
Koto music is divided into two distinct types. There is a kind which
accompanies singing and another which is solely instrumental. The oldest
known form of vocal koto music was called Kumiata, which was a group of short
poems set to music to be sung in a given order. In the later koto music that
developed from this, each poem was called a step or dan. Rokudan refers to
six musical steps.
There is reason to believe that Rokudan No Shirabe (meaning six sections of
52 beats) is of very ancient Chinese origin. However, Tatsuhashi Kengyo,
who began the Yatsuhashi school of popular koto music in Kyoto in the
seventeenth century is credited with its composition.
In the Eye of the Cat freely borrows from a number of different versions of
Rokudan. The five sections labeled "Rokudan" should be taken as
re-compositions rather than as transcriptions or arrangements.
Inbetween these will be found four sections, each with a Japanese Haiku as
its title. Quite in the spirit of classical Japanese music, these are meant to be evocative of
the poems. All four Haiku are by Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), the best known writer in Haiku history.