Taiko Voices Journal: The Framework

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This is the fourth in a series of posts by Heidi Varian, Project Coordinator for Taiko Voices, the 50th Anniversary Song Commission sponsored by TCA.

APRIL: The Framework

Every beat has a story and the sounds we produce are the projection of that story.
Ryan Kimura

Taiko pioneers Donna Ebata, Qris Yamashita, PJ Hirabayashi, and Johnny Mori (photo by Raymond Yuen)

Taiko pioneers Donna Ebata, Qris Yamashita, PJ Hirabayashi, and Johnny Mori (photo by Raymond Yuen)

This month, Taiko Voices added to the framework of the Taiko Voices composition. After each group’s ideology was distilled into choreography that each composer felt personified their ensemble’s contribution to the art of taiko, a synthesized movement/musical phrase was developed from the inspiration of the Pioneer’s Gathering. The piece is comprised of six elements.

Gassho
A beginning rooted in gratitude and honor, a gathering of energy, a self-application of settling in and grounding to the Earth, and Buddhist traditions.

Qris Yamashita and Kate Meigneux perform Yodan Uchi (photo: Michael Thomas)

Qris Yamashita and Kate Meigneux perform Yodan Uchi (photo: Michael Thomas)

Yodan
Pervasive in American taiko, the inspiration for the choreography is inspired by the athletic, the martial arts, the dance movements and energy that reflect the Japanese American taiko style. The original musical interpretation to accompany this choreography, however, is pared-down: a humble basic pattern supporting simplicity and a space to create energy, a space for others.

Ashura
Inspired by Buddhist teachings and chanting, spiced with Reverend Masao Kodani’s love of Indian music. The movement is a visual representation of rhythmic counting and syncopation, teaching and sharing, and ma: the interval of intentional emptiness.

Journey
Represents a journey of the issei, first generation Japanese Americans, paralleled by a journey of the individual artist, a cultural exchange that echoes the diaspora of the Silk Road evolving to contemporary globalism, culminating in “GaZuut” or a connection to something greater than ourselves (a concept coined by PJ Hirabayashi).

Seiichi Tanaka (Photo by Gene Sugano)

Seiichi Tanaka (Photo by Gene Sugano)

Pitch
A baseball metaphor inspired by Tanaka Sensei’s launching taiko in North America (plus, it’s pretty fun choreography to execute).

Gather
A metaphor for the gathering of stories from our pioneers, the energy of our groups and our community, the preparation of what is to come, and our gift of joy thrown into the winds of the future generations.

The choreography and music represent joining together, the time to listen to the heartbeat and the intentional intervals.

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