The four basic styles of gidayū music are instrumental (ai), declamatory (kotoba), lyrical (ji, jiai or fushi) and parlando (iro, ji iro or kakari). These four styles interlock continually, as shown in ex.14, a transcription of an excerpt from the inn scene (Yadoya no dan) of the play Shōutsushi Asagao banashi (‘The tale of Asagao the lookalike’). Instrumental sections vary from short units (e.g. bar 19) to longer solos, the latter often classed as ai-no-te, as in other shamisen and koto genres. Many instrumental passages have names and are used for specific musical or dramatic purposes. For example, there are naki patterns for various kinds of crying, and varieties of iri often precede high vocal cadenzas. The instrumental preludes and postludes to scenes can be equally informative. Theoretically, a type of shamisen music called okuri, played at the end of one scene in a play or, in a different form, at the start of another, indicates that the two scenes are set in the same place, while the use of sanjū patterns means that the second scene is in a new location. The nature of the character on stage or about to enter may also be conveyed by shamisen music.
Table 4 is an abstraction of the general movement and levels of the three styles of vocal music. The general design for a major musical section (sawari) of a play is A – lyric or parlando units, B – a speech section returning to lyric and parlando passages, and C – a full cadence. Ex.14 illustrates an A section.
The opening three bars are the end of a monologue, spoken by the tayū in the voice style of a former court lady who, having cried herself blind over the loss of her lover, is now reduced to a life of performing music for inn guests. In this scene she is telling the story of her sad life to a guest who, unknown to her, is her former lover. The interpretative challenges in such declamatory passages are both dramatic and musical, for one essential point is the silent interval (ma) between phrases and the timing of the words. Thus the hardest moment is the rendition in bars 2 and 3 leading into the word koibito (‘lover’). The passage in bars 4–7 is marked in most textbooks as kakari (‘connection’), for it leads from declamation (kotoba) into lyricism (jiai) as seen on Table 4 and in ex.14. As noted, additional performance instructions can be found beside the text, though not specific melodic notations in the Western sense. For example, the next passage (bars 8–10) is sometimes marked ji naka, implying that the line is becoming lyrical at a lower pitch range. The term haru may be found at the start of the next passage (bar 11), which may imply not only a higher pitch level but also a more taut voice quality. The meaning of such terms is only learnt by lessons with a master. The final shamisen passage (bar 19) does not resolve to the pitch centre E, thus leading the music back to speech in a fluid iro manner and the beginning of section B. If it had cadenced fully it would have been called a tome (ending). From this short excerpt one can sense the combination of conventions and specific interpretations that make full bunraku performances or sawari recitals as dramatic as Western opera, though the idiom is quite different.