Rhythmic cycles in kangen music

Most Kangen phrase structures are either 4 (hayayahyōshi) or 8 (nobeyahyōshi) measures long, containing either 4 (hayabyōshi) or 8 (nobebyōshi) beats. Occasionally, an unusual phrase structure of 6 measures of 4 beats (hayamuhyōshi) is used. A few rhythmic structures are made as a combination of two adjacent measures of different length: 2 + 4 (hayatadabyōshi), 2 + 3 (hayayatarabyōshi), and 4 + 8 (nobetadabyōshi) pulsations. Figures 1 and 2 show the possible phrase structures of four and eight measures. The most important part of the cycle is a downbeat at the half-point called obachi, and it is indicated in these Figures with a ‘>’. This accent is articulated in the music as the only point where the kakko (two sided drum) and shōkō (small gong) meet together on the downbeat with the taiko’s (large suspended drum) strong accent.

Phrase structure of four beats

Figure 1

Phrase structure of eight beats

Figure 2

It must be emphasized that although the obachi is structurally positioned at the cycle's half-point, this is not how the musicians with whom we worked think about it. Some musicians conceive of it as the cycle's first downbeat, and they consider the few measures of a piece that precede the very first the obachi as a long up-beat. On the other hand, other musicians from the same ensemble describe feeling obachi as marking the first beat of the last measure of the cycle. The different manners of conceiving of the obachi do not affect the music or its interpretation – they reflect the divergences of conception between different schools. In the literature, we have found references to both ways of thinking about the obachi and the way musicians conceive of it. The next three examples show multiple conceptions of the obachi for the same music.

Structural centered position of the obachi

Example 1

Conception of the obachi as marking the first measure of the cycle

Example 2

Conception of the obachi as marking the last measure of the cycle

Example 3