Tsuru-no-Sugomori (Nesting of Cranes)
‘Tsuru-no-Sugomori’ (Nesting of Cranes) is a challenging transcription of a traditional Shakuhachi melody and comes complete with instructions and exercises to help with the extended techniques involved in the performance. The piece takes us through the cycle of the life of a crane (highly revered in Japanese culture) from building a nest through to death. Offermans recreates the Shakuhachi timbre by extensive use of lip glissandi, pitch-bending, portamento as well as a great variety of types of vibrato. This results music rich in colour and texture which is both exciting to play and to listen to.
Tsuru-no-Sugomori ("cranes building a nest") is one of the best-known pieces from the shakuhachi solo repertoire (honkyoku), which is available in more than ten different versions representing the various traditions of individual Zan Buddhistic temples. The title refers to the programmatic contents of the piece, depicting the life of the cranes whcih have been revered in Japan from time immemorial as symbols of a long and happy life: A couple builds a nest, lays eggs, hatches out little cranes and raises them until they are independent; finally, the couple dies. Beyond this partly naturalistic description, which also mimcs the cranes' cawing and the beat of their wings, this piece can also be interepreted as the total manifestation of the Buddhistic concept of compassionate love expressed by the care the cranes give their children.
This transcription of Tsuru-no-sugomori is based on an interpretation by the shakuhachi master Katsuya Yokoyama. His superb performance clearly demonstrates the possibilities of the shakuhachi. With its flexible sound (e.g. in dynamic, timbre, intonation and wind-'noise'), the intense use of the breath and its deep-rooted history the shakuhachi has been attracting the interest of many flutists around the world. Some of the sounds in this traditional flute music may be regarded by Western flutists as 'modern' or 'new'. However, the shakuhachi player seems to concentrate on the breathing, accepting the sound itself as a natural consequence. Typically, the shakuhachi player doesn't use any tonguing, but instead starts a sound from the breath and sometimes in combination with the finger (the so-called finger-tonguing!). Especially characteristic are the numerous vibrato techniques (including pitch-bending, glissandi and portamenti). Beside the Western style vibrato, called 'ikiyuri', a vibrato can be performed by shaking the head. Swinging the head to the left and right (like shaking 'no') is called 'yokoyuri'. Shaking the head up and down (like shaking 'yes') is called 'tateyuri'. Shaking the head in circles creates the 'mawashiyuri' vibrato. When the instrument itself is quickly moved up and down we get a 'takeyuri' vibrato. Bending the pitch down by covering the embouchure-hole with the lower-lip (up to a minor third!) creates the characteristic 'meri'. Bending the pitch up by uncovering the embouchure-hole, is called 'kari'.
Difficulty level, roughly compared to ABRSM exam grades. 0 is beginner, 9 is advanced (beyond grade 8).