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Yoshitaka Nakajima, Fukuoka
on Thu, 2 Dec 93 01:23:06 -0500
         Jasba C. Simpson wrote:

Dear Colleagues,
Please, allow me to use this network to reach Jasba C. Simpson,
whom I could not reach directly.  I hope our discussion is
interesting for some of you.
Dear Jasba,

Thank you for your nice replies.  I just could not reach you with
a "repl" command, and this is my fourth trial.  (I am a typical
layman about computers, workstations and unix.)
>we do seem to need more scales which have corresponding Western
>pitches to verify the predictions.

I am very much interested in your project because I would like to know
something about my own culture.  It may be helpful to give you the names
of two important people who investigated the nature of Japanese scales,
Minao Shibata (a composer) and Fumio Koizumi.  I hope some of their books
have been translated in English.  I don't have these books now, but I try
to give you a general idea according to my poor memory.  Shibata's
theory was a trial to describe the structures of Japanese scales making a
kind of Markov chain model of tones.  Koizumi's theory is, according to the
musicologist who actually answered your question (his name is Masato Yako),
one of the most powerful ones in the chaotic situation of Japanese musicology.
He borrowed the idea of core tones from the Greek tetrachord system, where
perfect fourth plays an important role.  You get an octave combining two
tetrachords.  But the relationship of one octave is not as important as in
western music when describing Japanese scales.
>On another line of thought, would there be any computer encoded
>'Ritsu scale' music?  Krumhansl's work would lead us to expect that
>the frequency distribution of different notes indicates their
>'comfort' and even predicts the tonic!  That is, the note we hear
>most often is considered the tonic.   Has there been an analysis
>of the frequency of notes in Japanese traditional music?
I'm rather sure that most Japanese musicologists are having difficulty in
using computers.  Even I could be an expert among them.  But, if I find
a related database, I will inform you.  There are two things you have to
keep in mind when dealing with Japanese music:

  1) They usually avoid too precise pitches (like when Afro-Americans play
  blue notes.).  It may be difficult to apply Carol Krumhansl's method
  to Japanese music directly.  But I think her way of thinking would be
  the only one psychologists have now to deal with this kind of problem.

  2) Japanese music doesn't have harmony, although we sometimes perceive
 something like harmony.  In a typical case, a melody is played simultaneously
  by several instruments (often including a voice) in different rhythms and
  manners.  As a result, "dissonant" notes appear rather often.

The Japanese quite often dislike too rigid ways of thinking (although their
behavior can be very rigid when you are unlucky.).  Their traditional music
is an example showing how they can make a complicated system without any
clear theory.  That may be the reason it is difficult to investigate Japanese
music.  On the other hand, Japanese music can be a convenient material to
examine the generality of a theory.
                                            Best regards,