Daisuke Ishida

Radio Gidayū (2014)

Suikinkutsu (water zither cave) at Enkō-ji, Kyoto. Photo © Allen S. Weiss

Radio Gidayū (2014)
A radio piece by Allen S. Weiss & Daisuke Ishida
Length: 44’54”

Commissioned by Deutschlandradio Kultur
Support: Elektronisches Studio der Akademie der Künste Berlin

Radio Gidayū is simultaneously a soundscape of Kyoto, a sonic travel diary, the evocation of a utopian space, a work of musique concrète. In a word, a “symbolic environment.”
It is inspired by the art of gidayū, a type of recitation to shamisen accompaniment named after Takemoto Gidayū, the seventeenth century inventor of the style of chanted narration in Bunraku puppet theater used to this day.
There exists a fascinating derivation of this art. Barred from appearing on stage, female performers perfected a form of gidayū where the entire bunraku play is staged without marionettes. The vocalist – with only shamisen accompaniment – recites all parts, both male and female, as well as all sound effects, in a performance characterized by the most extreme vocal techniques.
Fluctuating between recitation, song and noise, gidayū transforms the world into sound. From cries and whispers to natural catastrophes and wars, a new form of epic arises, a theater without stage or actors, a theater not unlike that of Hörspiel. Gidayū may thus be considered among the forerunners of radiophonic art.
Fascination, agitation, meditation…
Five days in Kyoto. We are transported to a tea ceremony near the Daitoku-ji temple, and to worshippers at the Yasaka Shinto shrine in the geisha district of Gion; we hear the sounding of the great gong at the Hōnen-in temple, and the bustle of the Terimachi shopping mall; and we finally arrive at the famed garden of Ryōan-ji, where the sonic reality is surprisingly different from the spiritual ambiance one might expect.
Apparition, delusion, afterglow…
However, nothing is as it seems, and the listener shall have ample opportunity to take imaginary detours and create private scenarios. For Kyoto is both a real city and a fantasmatic realm.

We would like to thank the Kyoto Bus Company; musicians Troy Reilly, Mark Halpern, Robert Yellin, Robert Mangold; Umeda Minoru for the tea ceremony; Umeda Mitsuko, Ikeba Kumi, Hitomi Shimizu and Michael Lazarin for their generous help; and François Bizet for the inspiration.