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Written over 1,000 years ago by Murasaki Shikibu, the noval, The Tale of Genji, has continuously captured imaginations through different media including movies, plays, dance, Kabuki, opera and manga (comic books). The story is full of musical references. Genji, himself, plays the wagon, a six-stringed koto considered old-fashioned in the story, while the key women in his life play the kin, a seven-stringed, unfretted koto from China. Several modes are mentioned including the richi (ryo) and ritsu modes, to indicate a change of mood. Poems which have constant role in special conversations are described as tanka (short song), waka (long song) or simply uta (song). The novel is also infused with luscious descriptions of the clothes being worn, both colour – in particular greys and many shades of red – and the texture of the fabrics.
Many of these musical and non-musical elements are drawn into Genji (the Shining Prince) and the Koto Player for violin and piano. The work has three parts – "Tuning", "Uta" and "Manga". "Tuning" adopts some characteristics of koto playing and tuning plus distinctive figures from other traditional Japanese musics; "Uta" introduces the old modes of richi and ritsu in a lyrical style; and "Monga" transforms the musical shapes of the previous section info a fast, driving manga style movement using modern Japanese scales. Genji is dedicated to james Cuddeford (violin) and Zubin Kanga (piano) who gave the work its first performance at the Creative Explosion in the West on 22 October, 2009 at the University of Western Sydney.
– Diana Blom
22 Oct 2009: Performed by James Cuddeford (violin) and Zubin Kanga (piano) at the Creative Explosion in the West at University of Western Sydney in Australia