The note of mutability

On the train this morning I was listening to Michel Corrette's Carillon des morts just as I stumbled across a passage in Yamakawa Ensho I (初代 山川園松)'s Sōkyoku yōshū (箏曲要集, "Essentials of koto music") about the musical interlude in "Yuki" after kokoro mo tōki/ yowa no kane ("so distant from my heart, the temple bell at midnight"; starts at about 6:49 in this video).

As any fule kno, the interlude was written as a more or less programmatic representation of a distant temple bell on a snowy night, and ended up being the go-to melody to convey the idea of snow (temple bell or no). Yamakawa points out that the third note is an ōshiki 黄鐘 or A, and refers to chapter 220 of the Tsurezuregusa in support of the claim that ōshiki has long been associated with temple bells. Here's Porter's translation of the relevant chapter:

On the Tone of Temple Bells

Section 220. To the musicians of the Tennō Temple I once said that though all else in the provinces might seem vulgar and stupid the opera at the Tennō Temple would not shame even the Capital itself; and they replied, 'The music at this temple when it is played correctly does indeed harmonize more beautifully in tone than any other. The reason is said to be that we still to-day preserve the pitch of the music written in the time of H.R.H. Prince (Shotoku). It is the bell that hangs in front of the Rokuji Hall, and its tone is the exact ōshiki note (approx. A natural). But, as it rises or falls (slightly) according to the temperature, it can only be accurately taken between the Nirvana Festival and the Festival of the Dead (i.e. between the fifteenth and twenty-second days of the second month). It is a highly valued possession; for having once got this exact tone all other notes will harmonize.'

All bells should sound the ōshiki note. It is the note of mutability; for it is that which is given out by (the bell at) the Temple of Mutability in the Gion Monastery (in India). The bell of the Saion Temple should have sounded the ōshiki note; but though it was re-cast again and again it was still out of tune, and therefore it had to be procured from abroad. The Hōkongō Temple bell also sounds ōshiki.

Okay — but getting back to Yuki, the interlude in question only stays on the A for a couple of notes before moving up into a C-A# alternating thing that makes a much stronger impression (because it lasts longer and is repeated more times). So is it only the A that represents the bell, and the C-A# is falling snow? And if so, is this something that we have to be told verbally (like "the opening of Beethoven's Fifth is fate knocking on the door", and yes I know it isn't really), or is it something we should be able to figure out ourselves (like "the opening of the second string quartet in Haydn's Op. 76 is the same as the chimes of Big Ben, which Haydn surely heard while visiting London")? This is knowledge I do not yet have.

I do know that in Henry Burnett's Voice-Leading Considerations In Edo-Period Jiuta-Tegotomono: A New Analytical Approach we learn as an aside that "Left-hand pizzicatos on one note in the shamisen represent snow". So perhaps the repeated note has to be snow, and the one before it, that rings undisturbed for a while (and is preceded by a leading tone handled similarly), is the bell by process of elimination?

Anyone know a good book about this stuff?

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"All bells should sound the ōshiki note. It is the note of mutability; for it is that which is given out by this really old temple, and thus should be preserved forever. A shame this other temple changed to a different note."


Oh snap! Told like a bell.

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