Basil Athanasiadis – Ko-uta
A work for female voice, sho and violin in four movements.
Shie Shoji (voice), Naomi Sato (sho), Momoko Yamada (violin). Recorded at Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku in August 2013, engineered by Toru Kamekawa.
In 2006 I composed the song cycle ‘Little Songs of the Geisha’ based on four traditional ko’uta Japanese poems. Seven years later, and after becoming a little more familiar with the Japanese language due to my recent fellowship in Japan, I decided to revisit the remaining ko’uta poems and create a new song cycle consisting of four songs. The original ko’uta (literally meaning ‘little songs’) were sung with the accompaniment of shamisen and would not last more than three or four minutes.
The poems selected in this setting are rich in pivot words or otherwise words with double meanings and erotic overtones. This technique summarises the essence of iroke (a term that cannot be easily translated into its English equivalent, but is associated with sensuality, intimacy and subtlety). The current setting attains in a free manner the spirit of elegant simplicity reflected in the poems without being programmatic. The last piece of the cycle, lasting nine minutes, breaks free from the idea of brevity and develops as an autonomous entity creating an intentional imbalance both structurally and stylistically as a means of creating an expressive tension.