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Song of a fox: sumarī pūkosan

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

The tonkori is a string instrument of Ainu. Here, you can listen to the performance of Shirakawa Yaeko, an Ainu woman playing a piece named sumarī pūkosan. It is about a fox.

After listening to this music, I wondered if there are some regularities of musical motifs. I export this into mp3 file and imported it to the music editing software, audacity. Below is the screen catcher of Audacity.

This music is composed of several short motifs. I marked them as "a" to "e", according to their variations. The first mark "x" is only one note at the beginning. I separated it. Once the entire music was marked, I exported this label as a text file, and import it into excel.

To draw a linear graph, I changed all alphabet makers into the numbers; a=1, b=2, c=3, d=4, e=5. (Certainly, it must be easier to number them from the beginning, but I used the alphabet for the future when I will make other labels.)

Here is the linear graph which shows us the musical evolution of this piece. The x-axis shows the time evolution. The y-axis shows the different motifs. This music is consisted of 5 musical motifs.

My first question was if there are some regularities or not.

First of all, I have an impression that this piece can be partly improvisation because two-third of this piece is only made by two musical motifs. I now make a hypothesis that these motifs exist and are transmitted as they are. However, it is possible that players can freely choose the motifs under some strict rules.

Now I consider motif 1 as the theme.

Every time, the musician plays a new variation which are motifs numbered 2 to 5 in the graph above, next, she must play the theme (N°1) again. In this case, motif 4 (at 14 of the x-axis) is an exception. She may mistake or my hypothesis is wrong.

My analysis continues ....

For more tonkori music, there are a record publisehd in 1979 by Sony; Tonkori Horobi no Gogenkin

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