THOMAS PIERCY ~ トーマス・ピアシー
HICHIRIKI ~ 篳篥
THOMAS PIERCY ~ HICHIRIKI
トーマス・ピアシー ~ 篳篥
Thomas Piercy, already a prominent figure in the contemporary classical world as a clarinet soloist, decided during a visit to Japan in 2012 to start the study of the hichiriki. The hichiriki, a traditional double-reed instrument used almost exclusively in Gagaku since the 12th century, has only very recently been used in contemporary music. He began his studies in the traditional manner as a student of world-renowned hichiriki player Hitomi Nakamura. Nakamura sensei plays both gagaku traditional music and contemporary classical (one of the few hichiriki players to do so). Under his teacher's guidance in Japan, within four months Piercy started to include pieces for hichiriki in his concerts.
There is very little contemporary repertoire for the contemporary, so he started having composers in Japan and around the world write him pieces. Piercy thought it important that this ancient instrument could be played in contemporary settings and still maintain and respect its rich history. Since 2012, Piercy has composed several of his own pieces for hichiriki, as well as having had over 40 pieces composed for him for hichiriki, including pieces for hichiriki and electronics, hichiriki and kugo (Japanese harp), hichiriki and piano, and pieces for hichiriki and other traditional Japanese instruments (ryuteki, sho, shakuhachi, koto). He continues to compose new pieces and have new pieces composed for him as he continues to increase the repertoire of this historical and unique instrument. He and composer Masatora Goya received a 2020 commission grant from the New York State Council of the Arts for the world's first Concerto for Hichiriki.
A partial list of composers whose hichiriki works have been composed for and premiered by Thomas Piercy.
Piercy has had the opportunity to work with these composers. The composers have ranged from 17 to 70 years of age. They come from all walks of life and experience: from university students to university professors; from self-taught composers to composers with Ph.Ds; from emerging composers to composers that have won such prominent awards as the Takemitsu Prize, the Geneva Composition Prize, and the Grammy Award.
合屋正虎 Masatora Goya (five pieces for hichiriki including the Hichirki Concerto)
平山 智 Tomo Hirayama
松本祐一 Yuichi Matsumoto
見澤ゆかり Yukari Misawa
森田泰之進 Yasunoshin Morita
大羽田 大輔 Daisuke Ohata
清水チャートリー Chatori Shimizu
宇澤とも子 Tomoko Uzawa
International (non-Japanese) composers
Paul Yeon Lee
Joshua Banks Mailman
The hichiriki (篳篥) is a double reed Japanese instrument used as one of two main melodic instruments in Japanese gagaku music, the other being the ryūteki. Pitch and ornamentation (most notably bending tones) are controlled largely with the embouchure. The hichiriki is one of the "sacred" instruments and is often heard being played at Shinto ceremonies in Japan. Its sound is often described as haunting. The hichiriki is the most widely used of all instruments in gagaku. The hichiriki is also used in contemporary classical music and is noted for its highly expressive qualities.
One of the most distinctive sounds of gagaku is the strong nasal tone of the hichiriki. It is said that the sound of the hichiriki expresses the voice of people living close to the earth. Often the main melody of a gagaku piece is carried by the hichiriki, but the range of the instrument is only about one octave, so a very rich range of embellishment techniques developed. The double reed for the hichiriki is very large so that even with the same fingering, just by altering the pressure on the reed a range of three pitches or so can be reached and a kind of portamento can be created.
The body of the instrument is a length of bamboo 18 cm. long 1.5 cm. in diameter and it is relatively elliptical. There are seven finger holes on the front of the instrument and two on the back. The ends of the instrument and sections between the finger holes are wrapped with thin strips of birch or cherry bark. The reed, which is called "shita" or "tongue," is 5.5 cm. long. It is made from ashi reeds with the skin peeled and the two sides brought together. The end that is pushed into the instrument is wrapped with Japanese paper and the two parts of the reed are held together with a length of rattan cane. The reed needs to be moistened when the instrument is played and soaking the reed in hot green tea is considered best. The reed being relatively large it can easily influence the pitch of the pipe. Sliding notes and tonal variation obtained by producing the same pitch on different fingerings is a feature of its style and a characteristic of the beauty of its sound.
Traditional Performance Practices
Articulation: Traditionally, tonguing is not used with the hichiriki. Instead phrases are shaped by the control of the airflow and selected pitches are accentuated by tapping the instrument’s holes with the fingers. It is typical for the starting pitch of a melodic line to be approached with a portamento from below.
Osu: Decrescendo followed by a sudden re-attack of the pitch on a strong beat. The attack is not tongued but produced by an increase of the airflow.
Tataku: This is the coloration of a sustained tone with a rapid insertion of its upper or lower neighbor-tone. The change of fingering between the two pitches usually involves the rapidly closing and re-opening of a single hole, tapping the closing-hole and thereby accentuating the corresponding tone.
Mawasu: This melodic motion usually entails a change of fingerings involving two holes. A pitch slowly slides to its upper-neighbor tone opening one hole, and then rapidly closing two holes to move to its lower-neighbor tone, tapping the holes and thereby accentuating the last tone. On the hichiriki the motion of the reed inside of the performer’s mouth can also produce this effect. In this case, the last tone is not accentuated.
Enbai: Motion of the instrument in the performer’s mouth with the reed held in a shallow position producing a glissando that can alter the pitch by up to a perfect fourth. It is often used to color a sustained tone.
New Performance Practices
Articulation: Tonguing (including staccato) can be used, but best limited to single tonguing. Flutter tonguing is possible.
Tremolo: The hichiriki does not traditionally use tremolo, but it can be utilized in new music. The rule of thumb is to use tremolo between two pitches that do not involve awkward fingerings and for the most part, to limit it within the range of the perfect fourth.
Glissando and trills can be used independently or in combination.
Bisbigliando: An effect produced when slightly transforming the color of a tone. This is traditionally part of the hichiriki modes of performance since sliding notes and tonal variation obtained by producing the same pitch on different fingerings is a feature of its style.
Singing while playing: It is important to take into consideration the singing range of the performer.
Range of the hichirki and modern notation.
Any given fingering can produce a range of pitches with finger manipulation and by varying air and embouchure pressure.
The basic range is: G4 to A5.
Extended range: F4 to B5 are easily produced by embouchure and air pressure.
Notes below F4 and higher than B5 are also able to be produced by embouchure and air pressure but are less easily controlled.
Overblowing can be utilized to go higher than B5, but can be difficult and not easily controlled. You ca hear examples of these higher, overblown notes in the John Cage "Ryoanji" video.
You will find modern hichiriki notation "written as sounding" and also notated an octave below sounding pitch. I prefer the notation to be written "as sounding."
Hichiriki Reed Seminar 篳篥用の舌 with Thomas Piercy
Preparation, care, adjustment, and more information about the hichiriki and the hichiriki reed discussed in this seminar. Presented for the Columbia University Music Performance Program Gagaku Ensemble. November 5, 2020.