Short introduction to the rhythmic cycles in kangen music

Kangen phrase structures are either of 4 (hayayahyôshi) or 8 measure (nobeyahyôshi) long, with measures of either 4 (hayabyôshi) or 8 (nobebyôshi) beats, although few are made of a combination of two adjacent measures of different length: 2 + 4 (hayatadabyôshi), or 2 + 3 (hayayatarabyôshi) pulsations. Figures 1 and 2 show respectively the possible phrase structures of four and eight measures. The most important downbeat of the cycle is its half-point and it is indicated in Figures 1 and 2 with a ‘>’. This accent is articulated in the music as the only point where the kakko (two sided drum) and shoko (small gong) meet on a downbeat with the taiko’s (large suspended drum) strong accent: obachi.

 

 

Four possible phrase structures of four measures (Hayayahyôshi)

Figure 1

 

 

Five possible phrase structures of eight measures (Nobeyahyôshi)

Figure 2

 

Figure 3 shows the unusual phrase structure of six measures (hayamuhyôshi) that subdivides its measures in an uneven fashion of 4 + 2 measures. 

 

A phrase structure of six measures (4 + 2) (Hayamuhyôshi)

 

Figure 3

 

It must be emphasized that while the obachi is structurally positioned at the cycle's half-point, this is not how the musicians with whom we worked think about it. Rather, some of the musicians conceive of it as the cycle's first downbeat, and they consider the few measures of a piece that precede the very first obachi as a long up-beat. On the other hand, other musicians from the same ensemble told us that they were feeling the obachi as marking the first beat of the last measure of the cycle. These different manners of conceiving of the obachi do not affect at all the music or its interpretation, rather, they reflect the divergences of conception between different schools of interpretation. In the litterature, we have found references to both ways of thinking about the obachi that is why we decided to make a distinction between its structural position and the way some musicians conceive of it. The next three Examples show the different conceptions of the obachi for the same music.

 

Structural centered position of the obachi

Example 1

Conception of the obachi as marking the first measure of the cycle

Example 2

Conception of the obachi as marking the last measure of the cycle

Example 3