They’re reaped in deep history and culture, and now timeless Japanese Waka poems, dating back from the 13th century, are being revived for a modern day instrument – the digital piano.
The poems, many of which in the thousands year old anthology portray the beauty of nature and romance have been given a revival by London-based pianist Motoki Hirai, who himself is of Japanese origin. The anthology itself has an eclectic range of old and new, Eastern and Western, as well as literature and music.
Hirai states it’s his aim to broadcast the Japaneseian aesthetic of “yugen”, which roughly translates to enormous elegance and sublety. through the mode of music. He is well-known in the London music scene already for promoting Japanese folkore and composing and colloborating with other Eastern performers who do likewise.
Bringing Japanese poetry to life
Hirai is currently on a worldwide tour with his compositions.
“Tone Poems on ‘Hyakunin-Isshu,’” is Hirai’s interpretation of 10 of the original 100 pieces of classical waka, which are quite simply 31 syllable poems.
The selections were made by Kimiko Reizei, who herself is of Eastern heritage and traces her ancestry back to Fujiwara no Teika, the celebrated poet who originally compiled the centuries-old anthology back in the the 13th century.
Hirai also said that he had used the traditional Japanese musical scale as well as the waka’s original syllabic rhythm of 5-7-5-7-7 in the pieces. The poems may be centuries old, but sound just as new and imaginitive on the digital piano now as they ever did.
It is Hiaris wish now that other composers will join him on his quest to bring the Waka poems to life once more, through the medium of music, with a multiple of other instruments, also, such as violin, cello and clarinet, to name but a few.