The Treatment of Japanese Traditional Music in the Choral Works of Ko Matsushita



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Ko Matsushita (b. 1962) is one of the most prominent figures in current Japanese choral music. With musical training both in Japan and in Hungary, he is known for his ability to write in multiple styles and genres. Some of his Latin sacred works such as Jubilate Deo and O Lux Beata Trinitas have become popular in international choral competitions which has fostered his popularity abroad; what remains relatively underperformed in Western ensembles, however, are his compositions based on minyō, traditional folk music of Japan. The purpose of this study is to understand how Matsushita balances his own compositional style with Japanese folk elements within his choral works based on minyō through the study of five pieces based in Japanese folk traditions: “Aizu Bandaisan,” “Itsuki no Komori Uta,” “Tsugaru Jongara-bushi”, “Kotoba-asobi Uta,” and “Yukamuli Uta.” Each work is first contextualized with relevant background information that will pertain to points made in the analysis. Then, I analyze the pieces to determine what compositional techniques are being used and how they correspond with factors such as regional dialects, traditional scales, imitations of instruments or settings, and folk song type. Finally, I provide conducting and rehearsal considerations to encourage the programming of these pieces for Western choral ensembles.



Japanese Choral Music, Japanese Folk Music, Ko Matsushita, Minyō