Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

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(v) Rhythms.

clearly distinguishes between metred rhythmic chant or flute melody (hyōshi-au), and non-metred or ‘free’ rhythmic chant or flute melody (hyōshi-awazu). These rhythms are ‘matched’ in the sense that the rhythm of the chant or flute matches that of the drums, or ‘non-matched’, where there is no exact correspondence between them, whether or not the rhythm of the chant or flute is tied loosely to the drums.

There are three kinds of ‘matched’ rhythmic chant, all of which are based on an eight-beat system (yatsu-byoshi). The first, ōnori (‘large rhythm’), is based on a system of one syllable of text per beat, where the beats are basically of equal time value (with a degree of acceleration or retardation as required by the drama). Variation of this eight syllables to eight beats is common and follows set rules. Ōnori is full and expansive and is often used at the end of a piece to establish a sense of closure. The use of taiko during this section is also quite common.

The second type of ‘matched’ rhythmic chant is chūnori (‘medium rhythm’), which is based on two text syllables per beat, though again variation exists. Another name for this kind of rhythm is shura-nori (‘warrior rhythm’), and it is most commonly used in passages describing battles. This kind of chanted rhythm is accompanied by the hand drums only.

The third and most unique type of ‘matched’ rhythm in is hiranori (‘standard rhythm’), also called konori (‘small rhythm’). It is the most frequently used ‘matched’ rhythm and also the most complex. The text in hiranori is based on poetic phrases of 7+5 syllables (shichi-go chō). These 12 syllables are distributed in a set manner over the eight beats of the musical phrase. This distribution takes two forms, depending on the patterns that the drums play. In the mitsuji (‘three ground’) form, the chanted syllables are sung without elongation as the hand drums play sparse patterns in tandem.

The second form of syllabic distribution in hiranori is the tsuzuke (‘continuous’) form, in which three of the chanted syllables are doubled in length and a rest added. The result is the equivalent of 16 syllables that are evenly divided over eight beats. The drums play interlocking patterns. The straight, even-pulsed quality of this rhythm makes it easier for the listener to count the eight beats. The use of one or the other of these two forms of hiranori depends on the patterns of the drums: if the drums play the sparse patterns of mitsuji, the chant will naturally be in mitsuji as well, and likewise for tsuzuke. Greater complexity occurs due to the many variations of the poetic metre: syllable lines of 7+4, 6+5, 4+6 etc. demand changes in the embellishment and/or elongation of syllables.

There are two types of ‘non-matched’ rhythms, which are defined by the drumming style that accompanies the chant. In nori-byoshi (‘riding rhythm’), the drum rhythms have a clear and relatively even pulse. In sashi-nori (‘inserted rhythm’) the rhythmic pulse of the drums is purposely made uneven or blurred. In both cases, the drums maintain a clear correspondence among themselves.

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