The composer of Josho no Kanata is Sawai Hikaru, born on 1964 April 11th, son of Sawai Tadao and Sawai Kazue who were also koto players/composers. He is also a Japanese metal guitarist, so his koto works include metal techniques, rhythm and scale. In 1985, he formed a rock band called Mephisto Pheles, and composed and played guitar. He won the 14th Ministry of Cultural Affairs Performing Arts Grand Prix Award for ‘Shaei’ , a solo koto piece.
The music Josho No Kanata was composed in 2003 March
The meaning of the title ‘Josho no Kanata’ is to rise, or go up in the distance. It could also be translated to ‘Beyond the Ascent’. This title has a relation with the actual music, where the music’s tempo/speed builds up throughout the piece and rises, as with the intensity, in the transition from the first movement to the second movement. Josho no Kanata has three main parts which is separated in koto 1, 2 and bass koto (17th string).
As mentioned earlier, Josho no Kanata is separated into two movements. The first movement, which is in 4/4 meter, is a rather slow piece compared to the second movement, starting with the 2 kotos playing alternating notes. The 17th koto joins in afterwards, gradually building up to the part where the kotos have the melody. Here, there is a change from flowing and quiet music to a sudden loud and jumping. This is an example of the melody ascending, just like what the title of this piece describes. The kotos continue the melody, and plays in unison after the alternation. When the kotos harmonize/ come together after alternating for a while, it makes the piece sound more effective because the part is really emphasized by the unison, and makes the whole ensemble united. The dynamics in this piece is very important, since there are many parts that ascend and build up. For example, page 3 line 3, when the 2 kotos play in unison, it is mezzo piano at the beginning but at the end of the line on measure 4, it is fortessimo. From page 4 last line to page 6 second line, there is dynamic change all through, playing the crescendo, then the decrescendo, and playing the crescendo again. By playing each dynamic, it builds up to the next part, making the audience excited to know what is going to happen next, and it really emphasizes the title of the piece. In the first movement, there are many oshi-te (press) for the 2 kotos. The oshi-te allows the note to change half or a whole step higher, and in this case, it allowed the music to have a huge change and emphasize that change between the part when playing quietly with the fingers to playing loud with the tsume and pressing the strings to change notes. There are some keshi (dampening) at the end of the piece for the 17th string when they are playing alone. The dampening makes the music sound more organized, than just letting the sound play on and it makes it sound more sharp. At the very end of the first movement, the second to last measure changes its meter to 5/4. Sawai must of changed it here to leave one beat before the final finishing note for the first movement. It is so much better to have one rest before the finish, than just playing with the same meter and finishing right after the 17 string.
The second movement starts out soon after the first movement. Same as the first movement, the second movement is divided into three parts with two kotos and one 17th string (bass). In this piece, the tempo of this piece is so much faster than the first movement. It starts off with the 17th string, then the 2nd koto joins, followed by the 1st kotos. This building up leads to the chirashi zume part, where all kotos alternate playing one note by sliding the tsume along the string. This part suddenly increases in tempo, making it challenging to play, but the increase in tempo makes the intensity go up, and the different notes played by the different kotos coming together by with chirashi-zume makes the piece very interesting, but also sound good. After the chirashi-zume, it moves onto playing in the same tempo and style, but with the awase (octaves) with normal tsume. This increases the sound of the kotos playing together (Here too is an example of the piece ascending in volume). In the next part, the 17th string plays, and the 1st koto joins right after, followed by the second koto and they add up to playing the same melody with different notes, gradually building up. This technique is seen a lot in this piece, where the 1st, 2nd and bass koto play different notes but the same melody, all joining together at the end and ascending together. It really gives out Sawai’s, message of ascending towards the goal that you have somewhere out in the distance. On page 14, first line, the first measure meter changes to 5/4, where all the building up of the kotos come together. This is the part that is most emphasized in the music. Then, the second measure changes to 6/4, because a keshi is included which extends the measure. The keshi allows everything to stop for a moment, and then move on, which organizes and makes the music more sharp. The measure after that goes back to 5/4 meter, with different melody, using keshi again to emphasize the sharpness. There is a transition from page 14 line 2 to line 3, the meter changes back to 4/4 and it is like the end of the first part of the second movement and the beginning of the next part. Even though there is a transition here, the tempo still stays the same. The 17th string starts off playing, and the 2nd and 1st koto plays alternating. They come together at page 16 line 1 measure 3, building up to page 18 line 1 measure 2. Here, the melody changes entirely, with the 2 kotos playing in pizzicato very quietly. The 17 string joins in to play the melody in the background,and then they gradually build up, the kotos change to playing the same notes with tsume, which produces a bigger volume, increasing in dynamics. The build up leads to the first line of page 21, where all three kotos play the same melody in unison. The melody quickly flows into the chirashi zume part, the tempo always staying the same. The music continues to repeat the part after the chirashi zume, building up to the climax of the music. Again, the meter changes to 5/4, 6/4 on the second last page, which moves on to the very climax on the last page, with the meter changing to 3/4. This transition is big, changing the rhythm of the piece and introducing a completely different melody. The notes go higher up, and then goes back down again, as if it is closing up the song. The last bit slows down, and then after a few rests the final finish is played with a tempo, speeding up the music at the very end to finish with intensity.