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Ko wo kiku

(Listen to the Incense)
for orchestra
Edition: Matériel d'exécution

Détails du produit


Ko wo kiku was commissioned by the Kyoto Community Bank for performance by the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra in celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. It was hoped that the composition would have something to do with Kyoto and to assist in the inspiration process, I had been invited to spend a week in Kyoto in 1984, hosted by the Bank and filled with visits to shrines, palaces, gardens and excellent restaurants. This was my first visit to Japan and I found it incredibly exotic. Toru Takemitsu had also been invited to write a celebratory piece, and he helped interpret this strange culture to me. (In fact, Toru had recommended my name for the commission.)

One of the activities planned by the Bank was the ancient ceremony known as ‘Ko wo kiku’. Like its companion, the tea ceremony, it is both complex and simple. Small jars of burning incense (Ko) are passed about, each bearing a different name and odor. As the title of the ceremony implies, the incense may also be listened to by moving the jar towards the left ear before it is passed on. The ceremony is truly synesthetic since the various types of incense bear visual titles such as ‘The river in the mist’ or ‘Cherry blossoms falling’...

I resolved to write an impressionistic piece suggesting various kinds of incense and to actually incorporate the incense ceremony in the performance. Beginning with the conductor, incense jars would be passed through the orchestra from player to player and each player would enter according to the inspiration received from the perfume. The four contrasting movements bear the titles Sagano, Nonomiya, Shigure and Higashiyama.

I returned to Kyoto in 1985 for the premiere of Ko wo kiku, conducted by Seiji Ozawa. Having spoken frankly about various conductors’ attitudes to my music, I would like to say what a pleasure it was working with Seiji Ozawa. Before the first rehearsal he said, ‘Let me have this rehearsal to sort out problem areas. Make your notes and we’ll meet after to discuss them.’ After the first rehearsal we went to his dressing room and he listened to all my comments. He also asked questions about tempi or dynamics and was respectfully frank about awkward passages he was finding difficult to comprehend. Of course his respect for the contemporary composer stemmed from his longstanding friendship with Toru Takemitsu, but through that friendship it extended to us all. Seiji Ozawa was also the only conductor who ever invited me out to dinner, both in Kyoto and again in Boston, when he performed the piece with the Boston Symphony. R. Murray Schafer

Orchestral Cast

pic.2.2.ca.2.bcl.2.cbsn-, crot, mar, assortment of temple bells, pitched temple bells [Japanese keisu], 2 sus cyms, gongs, tam-t, b.d, da-daiko drum, tubular chimes, bamboo flutes or nose flutes, mouth organs, balls [4 ping-pong, 3 small hard rubber balls on bats, 2 tennis balls, 2 large India-rubber balls, 6 basket balls or footballs, marbles in tam tam or large gong, large number of golf balls in a wooden box])-hp.pno(cel)-str

Plus d'infos

Ko wo kiku
(Listen to the Incense)
for orchestra
Matériel d'exécution
Maison d'édition:
Arcana Editions
Year of composition:
30 ′
1985 · Kyoto (J)
Musikalische Leitung: Seiji Ozawa

Travaux commandés :
commissioned by the Kyoto Community Bank for Performance by the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra

Détails techniques

Numéro du produit:
Droits de livraison:
Droits de distribution pour tous les pays sauf les États-Unis et le Canada


Par ordre croissant
  • Ko wo kiku
    Chef d'orchestre: Seiji Ozawa
    ~1986 | Boston (États-Unis d'Amérique)
  • Ko wo kiku
    Chef d'orchestre: Seiji Ozawa
    1985 | Kyoto (Japon) — Première mondiale
  • Par ordre croissant


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