Skip to main content

Koto and Taiko

Know what these words mean? No? Well, nor did I till we went to the Japanese Festival last Sunday at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. They're both musical instruments, and we heard them played by some very talented people in a spectacularly beautiful setting.

The koto is a long stringed instrument, which can have 13, 17 or even 22 strings. Fumiko Coburn, a dainty lady with halting English but a great sense of humour, has the 13 string version.


As we watched, she tuned it up by inserting wooden bridges under each string, and adjusting them carefully to give the right pitch for each song. She explained that most of the older tunes for koto included a song, whereas the new ones were mostly for koto solo. It was interesting to hear the difference as she played a piece from 400 years ago and one from 4 years ago. In the older tune, the notes dropped singly into the silence, scattered across time and pitch. Like brush strokes in a Japanese painting, each note had its own place and importance. Fumiko used her right hand, with three plectrums attached to her thumb and first two fingers, to pluck the strings, and her left hand to adjust the pitch of certain notes by pressing down on the string above the bridge.


The newer piece had more of a western influence; it was faster and more harmonic. Fumiko's left hand plucked some of the lower strings to create chords below the tune played by the right hand.

The scales and rhythms still sounded exotic to western ears. She told us that it's impossible to play western-style music on a 13-string koto; it simply doesn't have enough notes. A 22-string instrument is able to produce all the necessary tones and semi-tones.


We ate some sushi and wandered over to see the Dondoko Taiko Drummers. There's your second word: the taiko is a large Japanese drum. The drumming group had about ten, of various sizes and shapes, and when they were all played together the noise thrummed through your body and reverberated around the garden.


It was a feast for the eyes as well as the ears; the drummers wore bright outfits and drummed as if they were dancing. Sometimes three men would rotate around a single drum or a pair of drums, each beating a few strokes before the next took their place.

They crouched, stood tall, and threw their arms up to create strong poses. Some pieces were interspersed with shouts, too.


Well, there's your Japanese lesson for the day. If you ever get the chance to hear the koto or taiko played, go for it - they're well worth hearing!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Advent 2022

It's the first Sunday of Advent coming up, and for once I feel fairly well prepared! Of course, the proof is in the (Christmas) pudding - whether I actually do all this remains to be seen. If you haven't even thought about Advent yet, do grab an idea to join in with. None of them require any advance preparation except for downloading, printing or book ordering - and one of them doesn't even start until 20 December. Something to do I recently went to a Mindful Advent workshop, run by the lovely Stacey and Ella from Create and Connect . We spent a happy couple of hours folding origami envelopes to make our own Advent calendars, with a few mince pies to nibble as the November rain poured down outside. I'm filling my envelopes with a short activity for each day, a Bible verse from the Christmas story, and a tiny treat for each of us. Thinking of 24 different activities was harder than folding 24 origami envelopes! Mine range from "listen to your favourite Christmas car

Catching up

I know some of you appreciate the family news I post on here, so here's a quick summary of what each of us has been up to over the last couple of months. Toby - went to his first Cubs meeting on a night when they were eating hot dogs and marshmallows, loved it, and was very proudly invested as a member just before Christmas. - spends his spare time writing stories, designing vehicles, and playing Super Mario Bros. - has a large collection of beer bottle caps (any donations welcome, as his primary provider was an ex-work-colleague of Graham's). - plucked up courage to go on a zipwire at the playground, and discovered it was great fun. - enjoyed Lego, lots of books, penguin pajamas and a remote control car for Christmas. Theo - likes playing on the bikes and in the home corner at school. - is now right at home with phonics: "I can spell cat!  Cuh, Ah, Tuh."  He's also been telling us about digraphs, at which point Graha

Matcha Green Tea Cake Mix

Some blogs are full of posts which start: Recently, *big company* sent me three pairs of expensive shoes / five bars of delicious chocolate / a free holiday ... This is not one of those blogs. But, recently, a company so small I'm not sure it really exists yet sent me a free cake mix, on the condition that I filled in a survey about it and took a few photos.  Blogging about it was not a condition, but just in case the owner makes it to the big time, you heard it here first! So the Hope Makes It Easy Matcha Cake Mix popped through my letterbox on my birthday (good timing to start) and the rather pretty package sat on my counter for a few days until I'd assembled the ingredients.  Most cake mixes require a few extra ingredients, but this one needed milk, eggs and butter, plus cream and possibly white chocolate for the icing.  Not exactly all-inclusive.  On the plus side, it helpfully provided a cute origami cup for measuring the milk, a line to show you how much butter