Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A minimum of means

Here's a page with some rough but delightful audio examples (click on the characters below the Real Audio player ad) of the ichigenkin, an archaic Japanese silk string monochord used as a solo instrument and to accompany singing. Played with a plectrum and an ivory slide, the ichigenkin represents a highly distilled aesthetic, retaining some playing techniques from its now-distant ancestor, the Chinese q'in with an indigenous melodic style. Although rare today, the ichigenkin has not been neglected by contemporary composers, and recent repertoire includes works by Sukeyasu Shiba and Yuji Takahashi. Although this is one of the most structurally minimal of stringed instruments, the technique and repertoire is far from simple, and I find myself ever more charmed and engaged by details revealed through extended listening.

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