American Institute of Indian Studies

Senior Performing & Creative Artist Fellowship 2006-2008

Asian Classical Crossover –

Performance of Indian classical music on the Japanese koto

T. M. Hoffman

performing artist and ethnomusicologist

To be carried out in Delhi, Lucknow and other music centers of India between July 2006 and January 2008 in the form of co-operative practical and theoretical studies, and then presented in public performances with established Indian artists, and documented as recordings and publications.

The stringed instrument koto (zither from Japan) is to be used to authentically render North Indian classical music, in an intra-Asian crossover relatively free from other influences. Based upon extensive musicological research and through public performances and workshops in India, the Japanese flute shakuhachi and the zither koto have been deemed fully suitable for raga expression:  determined for the former in 1991, when in Bhatkhande Music College the Visharad degree in performance was conferred on me, and raga was subsequently performed on shakuhachi in major concerts and on nationwide TV in India and Japan; and for the latter in 2003, when koto was used initially in public concerts and in educational institutions of India as accompaniment to Hindustani classical and light classical vocal music, as well as in standard Hindustani classical instrumental style. Intensive studies and collaborations with established Indian musicians and musicologists in Delhi, Lucknow, and elsewhere will aid in development of appropriate technique and expression for raga on koto, and demonstrate the utility of Indian music theory and practice in expanding horizons in coherent creativity on non-Indian instruments with capacity for the microtones and melodic graces that are required for raga exposition. Many other instruments in Asia are latent purveyors of raga-like melody (to a much greater extent than would be possible on most instruments from the West), and demonstration of facility for raga on koto can open up avenues for such instruments. The use of classical Japanese poetry in Indian vocal music together with koto and Indian instruments has also been successfully demonstrated in performance and recordings. In addition to artists and scholars in Japan and USA, accomplished musicians in Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia and other cultures are now observing ongoing Indo-Japanese crossover projects with interest.

1.       This project features Indian musical esoftwaref (raga/tala/theory) applied on Japanese ehardwaref (instrument) by an American performing artist/musicologist having a long-standing relationship with both Asian cultures.

2.        An instrument closely resembling in construction the present koto in Japan (and somewhat resembling counterparts in Korea, China and Vietnam) was known in India as Narayan veena, a replica of which is in Raja Kelkar Museum, Pune. Reintroduction of this type of instrument, as an instrument of classical music, can serve to connect past and future. A similar purpose was served in having the Japanese flute shakuhachi fully accredited for Indian classical music. A vertical flute resembling that instrument is found in ancient cave paintings of Bhimbetkar (MP).   

3.       A series of successful Indo-Japanese musical initiatives involving Indian, Japanese and American artists in India (1992-2006) has established a foundation of understanding, and a network of respected, experienced collaborators. 

Timetable – in three (3) stages  [ (2) – (3) during Fellowship period ]

(1)    Feb-Mar 2005 (completed) - preparatory visit to Delhi and Lucknow to consult with affiliated institutions and collaborating artists and educators; donation of a koto instrument to Bhatkhande Music Institute 

(2)    July-Sep 2006 (completed) - placement of two Japanese koto instruments in other Indian institutions; work with musicians and hold workshops; prepare instrumental and vocal accompaniment items; hold public presentations incorporating Japanese instruments and poetry in Indian forms

(3)    Jan-April 2007 (completed) & Oct 2007-Jan 2008 – continue (2); performances/documentation in India; prepare for Japan and USA performance and workshop tours

{In the interim periods, I will be working on koto technique in Japan while performing, writing and teaching ethnomusicology in university in Japan. I also anticipate studies and presentations during visits to USA, as had been carried out during September 2005 and in earlier years.}

Institutions for project activity include:

  Bhatkhande Music Institute (Lucknow) – primary affiliating institution

  University of Delhi (Delhi) 

  Benares Hindu University (Varanasi)

  Visvabharati University (Santiniketan, West Bengal)

  University of Madras (Chennai)

  Brhaddvani Research and Training Centre for Musics of the World (Chennai)

  Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (New Delhi)

  + cultural institutions, established independent artists, educators & their students

Response and media coverage is good. In India, major newspapers, TV and radio cover Indo-Japanese Music Exchange Association projects with interest. In Japan, our events and projects are presented in TV, radio and other media. In USA, interest generated by performancesCVOA broadcasts, and programs in major universities and other venues extends to this project.