Sohgakusha is a school of contemporary KOTO music. Yokohama school (1987~）Sapporo school (1995~) and Kita-Hiroshima school (2007~).
Biography Koh-ichiro TANAKA
Koh-ichiro started performing around Tokyo in 1985. Whilst his main repertory is Jazz and contemporary music, he has also performed with the newly invented twenty-string koto. In addition to recitals at various locations, he has expanded the salon concert series at Yokohama Okurayama Memorial Hall and Hoh-hei Hall in Sapporo. He was invited to the opening reception of the “Japan Year in France” and performed in front of leaders of Japan and France in 1997. Koh-ichiro also gave recitals in France, including at the Information and Culture Center of the Embassy of Japan in Paris. He played “Symphonic Eglog for orchestra and 20-string koto”, composed by Akira Ifukube with the Hokkaido Symphony Orchestra in 2004. Koh-ichiro completed the NHK Japanese music technician training institute in 1986.
Koto is one of the most famous traditional instruments in Japan, a stringed and hollow about six feet (180 cm) long and 14 inches (25 cm) wide, made from paulownia wood, has 13 strings, 13 movable bridges and is played with picks on the right thumb, index finger and middle finger.
The ancestor of the koto was the Chinese zheng and was first introduced to Japan from China in the 7th and 8th century. The first known version had five strings, which eventually increased to seven strings. (It had twelve strings when it was introduced to Japan in the early Nara Period (710–784) and increased to thirteen strings). This particular instrument is known throughout Asia but in different forms: the Japanese koto, which is a distant relative to the Chinese zheng, the Korean gayageum, and the Vietnamese dan tranh. This variety of instrument came in two basic forms, a zither that had bridges and zithers without bridges. The type that was most known in China was the qin, similar in design to many other instruments in Asia.
When the koto was first imported to Japan, the native word koto was a generic term for any and all Japanese stringed instruments. Over time the definition of koto could not describe the wide variety of these stringed instruments and so the meanings changed. The azumagoto or yamatogoto was called the wagon, the kin no koto was called the kin, and the sau no koto (sau being an older pronunciation of 箏) was called the sō or koto.
The modern koto originates from the gakusō used in Japanese court music. It was a popular instrument among the wealthy; the instrument koto was considered a romantic one. Some literary and historical records indicate that solo pieces for koto existed centuries before sōkyoku, the music of the solo koto genre, was established. According to Japanese literature, the koto was used as imagery and other extra music significance. In one part of "The Tales of Genji (Genji monogatari)", Genji falls deeply in love with a mysterious woman, who he has never seen before, after he hears her playing the koto from a distance.
The history of the koto in Japan dates back to the 16th Century. At this time a Buddhist priest by the name of Kenjun (1547–1636), who lived in northern Kyūshū, began to compose for the koto, calling the style "tsukushi goto".
Perhaps the most important influence on the development of koto was Yatsuhashi Kengyo (1614–1685). He was a gifted blind musician from Kyoto who changed the limited selection of six songs to a brand new style of koto music which he called kumi uta. Yatsuhashi changed the Tsukushi goto tunings, which were based on gagaku ways of tuning; and with this change, a new style of koto was born. Yatsuhashi Kengyo is now known as the "Father of Modern Koto".
Rokudan (or Rokudan no shirabe)
A proper style of modern KOTO, composed by Yatsuhashi Kengyo.
You can see how KOTO is typically played.
Futatsuno Den-en-shi (Two Pastorals)
KOTO and Ju-shichi-gen ( KOTO for lower notes with 17 strings ), usually with Shakuhachi (a banboo flute ). A normal Flute plays beautifully in this Video.