On April 19, 2017, the Department of Musicology, UP College of Music held a koto chamber concert entitled Tori no Yōni (Like a Bird). Set on the Abelardo Hall Auditorium platform, it was an intimate gathering of koto majors as well as minors under the Asian Music Program, the koto instructor Dr. Hiroko Nagai, and the audience who had a particular interest in and appreciation of musics in Asia. It was actively organized by Tugtugang Musika Asyatika (TUGMA), the UP Music-based organization of young musicians who specialized in Asian music. In the performance, twelve koto players and a flute major Aubrey Sacop exemplified the sound of contemporary koto music.

Koto is a stringed instrument of Japan. It is said that it came from China to Japan in the 8th century. The repertoire considered as classical iberate westernization and modernization by the prominent koto composers in the early 20th century. Nowadays, koto players are required to be equipped with the skills and sensibility of the tradition, knowledge of western music, and the spirit of continual innovation in the contemporary context.

The koto course of UP College of Music started in 1991 with the donation of instruments by the Sawai Koto Academy, Japan. It managed to continue for twenty years, and formally became a Major in Koto in 2012 as a part of Diploma in Creative and Performing Musical Arts. In 2016, UP TUGMA Koto Ensemble joined in a koto concert held in Singapore with koto players from Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand as well as the world-renown Koto Master Kazue Sawai. To the date, the ensemble continues to expand its members, repertoire, and public reach.

Central to the concert program were the performance of Taka (Hawk) and Tori no Yōni, both composed by Tadao Sawai. Written as a duet piece, Taka, the refined synthesis of the traditional compassion and contemporary aesthetics, became a duedecet performance by the entire group of koto players. Tori no Yōni was played by a sextet. This beautiful and profound solo piece demands for the advanced level of techniques and musicality. The concert was named after it so as to show the aspiration of the ensemble.

The concert capped off the program with a quintet performance of Jōshō no Kanata (Beyond the Ascent). The composer Hikaru Sawai has been creating a new style of koto music since the 1990s, and Jōshō no Kanata is the most popular piece among his works. Ingrained in the up-to-date music theory and aesthetics, the composition attempts to depict the soundscape beyond the tradition and contemporaneity.

Studying particularity and universality of koto music, the koto ensemble of UP College of Music intends to develop its own unique sound, and hold more concerts in the future with the traditional and contemporary koto pieces, the original compositions, and the fusion with instruments of other Asian countries.

Photos taken by:
Photo 1: Grace Ann Fernando Buenaventura
Photo 2: Genevieve Allison
Photo 3: Katz Jakosalem Trangco
Photo 4: Genevieve Allison