the Sho

I started off doing the Shinto thing, then from that i found the Sho : the instrument.

It’s like sort of a Japanese mouth organ, it looks like a sort of beehive, is that the one ?

Yeah, and it’s basically a set of seventeen pipes from bamboo that can only be picked from a roof that’s been above a kitchen for one hundred years. Something about the type of moisture in the wood. And then they pick seventeen pipes and they place them in the shape of the wings of a phoenix bird.

So the length of the pipes goes purely by aesthetics, so it’s got nothing to with what notes you need. But actually two of them don’t work, because some emperor didn’t like them. So you’ve got actually fifteen notes that cover two octaves, but it’s kind of random which notes are missing. So you’ve sort of got three notes and one note missing, and one note and one note missing.

Did you study this instrument to write for it ?

I did, you know, just what you do : You go on Google and you just order all the CDs you can find in the world, which actually aren’t that many. And found out very quickly that the person that was almost on her own reviving that instrument - it almost wasn’t being used anymore - it’s a Japanese woman who’s sort of my age, called Mayumi Miyata.

BBC Radio 3, Mixing It, 5 august 2005