James Yu Music 104 Paper #3 Kodo is an amazing group of performers that uses traditional taiko drumming techniques combined

with contemporary techniques that brings a fresh new look on an old tradition. They are a big reason why taiko drumming has now become a performance art as well as a traditional art practiced in villages. As one can guess, most of Kodo drumming is based on beats and rhythm. I will now be looking at a piece called “Lion”, from the Best of Kodo I CD. Since Lion is a drum piece, most of it cannot be classified under categories such as polyphonic or monophonic, but rather, one can use an analogy and say that is has a “polyphony” of rhythms. In this case, polyphony of rhythms, or layering of rhythms appears to be the driving musical device in Lion. The rhythms that are layered are playing different rhythms; that is why I would consider it a polyphony of rhythms. On top of that there is also a voice part, mostly like a shouting chant that is repeated (also rhythmically), which adds yet another layer of contrast. The piece is very structured, and has clear lines of organization dividing the parts from the whole. There seems to be two different groups of drums: low, rich sounding drums providing the main beat, and high pitched drums that play a more syncopated rhythm in contrast to the foundational sound of the low drum. Other forces in the piece include a xylophone-like instrument, and two distinct groups of voices: one that shouts in a very regular fashion and one that is more virtuousic and fast that plays a role nearing the end of the piece.

The piece starts off with just the low drums and regular voices. The low drums play a rhythm that will carry out through most of the rest of the piece, and this I will deem Bass Rhythm 1. At the same time, the voices shout “Hoo!! Haa!!” in a regular intervals over the low drums. After about four repetitions of this, both low drums and voices rest while the high drums come in solo and play a nice syncopated rhythm (High Rhythm 1). After a few repetitions, the low drums come back in, and both Bass Rhythm 1 and High Rhythm 1 are interpolated. The voices come back in after this with the regular “Hoo!! Haa!!” Then, High Rhythm 1 returns but this time somewhat altered. Now, the high drums seem to play around with that rhythm, changing it little by little over the constant low drums. After this “improvisational” section, the voices come back in as the high drums rest. Then the voices rest, while the high drums come back in with another rhythm. At this point both voices and high drums syncopate against each other (where one would rest and the other would play a beat, and vice versa). The next section introduces the use of a xylophone. The playing of it is virtuousic, but I cannot tell if it is more than one player. The nature of the melodies is polyphonic, where there would be different melody lines moving at once. Also, the high drums are present with a simple static accompaniment marking each new measure. Next, the bass drum plays a new rhythm beneath the High Rhythm 1; also a new voice part appears that is like a quick chant with many syllables per beat (sounding like “Daga, daga, da!”) This now transitions into the final section with a faster bass drum rhythm with a new voice line that shouts “Haa Haa!” The piece ends with a cadence-like beat in the low drums.

Simplified Structure of “Lion” (in minutes)

Overall, I found this to be an intense piece full of superimposed rhythms and voices. Most of the music I listen to are polyphonic, and include complex tones and melodic lines, so I did not expect to find much in this piece. However, after listening closely to this piece, I found it to be quite structured and more interesting than I thought it would be. Even though my daily music has strong melodic movements, its rhythmic movements are usually quite simple, having only one repetitious line combined with a few drum breaks. Kodo makes up for its lack of melodic movements by generating interesting rhythmic movements that can be just as stimulating as melodies. Many pieces by Kodo are very intense, and reflect Kodo’s strong “heartbeat” philosophy in music. Their way of life also reflects their music. They train not only their minds, but also their bodies. Everyday, they get up to a hardcore routine that they adhere to even on their world tours. Through these disciplined procedures, their music shines through all boundaries and captures many people with their strong beat.

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