Congratulations to Visiting Assistant Professor Toru Momii, who was named the winner of the Society for Music Theory’s 2021 Outstanding Publication Award. His article, titled “A Transformational Approach to Gesture in Shō Performance,” was published in Music Theory Online in 2020.
ABSTRACT: Through an analysis of contemporary shō performance practice, this article explores the relationship between instrumental gesture and modal theory in contemporary gagaku. I demonstrate that the idiosyncratic arrangement of the pipes on the shō is closely related to the pitch structure and tonal function of the aitake pitch clusters.
My analysis synthesizes two approaches. First, I adopt David Lewin’s (1987) transformational attitude to conceptualize the aitake not as static musical objects but as processes of motion enacted by the te-utsuri—standardized fingering movements for shifting between two aitake. Second, I treat the aitake as sonic byproducts of a performer’s instrumental gestures to examine how the aitake are related to one another kinesthetically, and whether these relationships correlate with the pitch structures of the aitake.
I argue that relatedness between aitake is determined by the parsimony of te-utsuri. The most parsimonious movements can be enacted between four aitake: bō, kotsu, ichi and otsu. These aitake are identical to the clusters that accompany the fundamental tones of five of the six modes: Ichikotsu-chō, Hyōjō, Taishiki-chō, Oshiki-chō and Banshiki-chō. These findings demonstrate that the pipes of the shō, while seemingly arranged in no discernable order, prioritize parsimonious te-utsuri between each of the aitake accompanying the fundamental modal degrees. An analysis of the pitch structure of aitake through the lens of te-utsuri reveals a striking correlation between gestural parsimony and tonal function.
To read the article, click here.