Composing for Japanese Instruments

Composing for Japanese Instruments

Minoru Miki

Translated by Marty Regan

Edited by Philip Flavin

eBook for Handhelds

University of Rochester Press



A practical but scholarly guide to Japanese instruments by one of the country's leading composers.
The unique sounds of the biwa, shamisen, and other traditional instruments from Japan are heard more and more often in works for the concert hall and opera house. Composing for Japanese Instruments is a practical orchestration/instrumentation manual with contextual and relevant historical information for composers who wish to learn how to compose for traditional Japanese instruments. Widely regarded as the authoritative text on the subject in Japan and China, it contains hundreds of musical examples, diagrams, photographs, and fingering charts, and comes complete with two accompanying compact discs of musical examples. Its author, Minoru Miki, is a composer of international renown and is recognized in Japan as a pioneer in writing for Japanese traditional instruments. The book contains valuable appendices, one of works Miki himself has composed using Japanese traditional instruments, and one of works by other composers -- including Toru Takemitsu and Henry Cowell -- using Japanese traditional instruments.

Marty Regan is Assistant Professor of Music at Texas A&M University; Philip Flavin is a Research Fellow in the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University, Australia.


57 black and white, 197 line illustrations
286 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
Paperback, 9781580465526, November 2015
eBook for Handhelds, 9781782047193, November 2015
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS007000, MUS023000, HIS021000
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Table of Contents

Wind Instruments
String Instruments (Lutes)
String Instruments (Zithers)
Percussion Instruments
Appendix I: Works for Japanese Instruments by Minoru Miki
Appendix II: Contemporary Works for Traditional Japanese Instruments by Composers Other than Minoru Miki, 1981-2005


The standard reference work on the subject. A fascinating book. Helpful advice on what may bother or help a player of a specific traditional Japanese instrument. (Now that the book has been reprinted without CDs,) we can listen to (the) musical examples on-line. The five and a half page introduction should be required reading for anyone interested in any traditional Japanese art form, as it deals with what makes Japanese music Japanese, and by extension what makes Japanese art and aesthetics Japanese. NOSTALGIA (LUTE & EARLY GUITAR SOCIETY OF JAPAN

An invaluable resource for all composers, scholars, and performers who are interested in Japanese instruments. The aptly chosen examples from both traditional repertoire and Miki's own contemporary pieces, clear charts for ranges and fingerings, and in-depth discussion of idiomatic performance techniques go a long way to help demystify these beautiful instruments. I wish I had this book many, many years ago. --Ken Ueno, Rome Prize-winning composer and Professor at the University of California, Berkeley

Composing for Japanese Instruments is a well-organized and systematic manual on how to approach, listen to, and compose for traditional Japanese instruments. When Minoru Miki first published it in 1996, he brought alive the arcane world of traditional Japanese instruments and music for a new generation of Japanese composers. Now, with the English edition, composers and scholars from around the world will have the same opportunity to discover and utilize the rich musical possibilities inherent in these beautiful instruments. --Christopher Yohmei Blasdel, Shakuhachi performer, Artistic Director, The International House of Japan, Inc.

This is the book I've always wished to have. It is not only complete in teaching about Japanese instruments but also challenging and inspiring for those of us who have an interest in new sounds and ways of making music. --Hyo-shin Na, composer

A most welcome addition to the few items available in English concerning Japanese musical instruments. --Philip Gelb, composer and shakuhachi player

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