荒城の月 Kōjō no Tsuki The Moon over the Ruined Castle

 

荒城の月
Kōjō no Tsuki
The Moon over the Ruined Castle

As a six year old child I used to wait for the rare moments when my parents were not around so that I could play with the old wireless set which was kept in a cupboard, the use of which was forbidden to me. It normally only emitted the rounded tones of Mantovani or Jimmy Shand as an accompaniment for my mothers chores around the house. That is what I thought music was. One day my mother had popped out to the shop for some overlooked necessities and I took my chance to play with the old set. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that by turning the dial I could get all kinds of white noise and strange sounds in general and eventually…lo and behold! ….different music stations with different kinds of music. What a moment of discovery. Mozart, rhythm and blues, Spanish guitar music, marching bands, spoken word pieces, surf music, all manner of things to corrupt my young enthusiastic ears. It soon became a daily obsession of mine to snatch a little bit of alien sound at every chance I got. One day, having encouraged my mother to take a ‘very long’ bath, I was twiddling away at the controls when I came upon a breathtakingly beautiful melody. It was Japanese. Although it was a famous old piece I never knew what it was called and only ever heard it once but it imprinted itself on my memory right through my childhood. I never forgot the melody.

Decades later, when my colleagues and I were constructing Forgotten Fish Memory Orchestra, we were searching for a wide range of styles and tunes which we could apply our evil techniques to. The Japanese tune embedded in my childhood nostalgia soon presented itself to the band. We dressed it as post-modern minimalist astronaut music and with the accompaniment of some barely in tune flutes, a wonky box harp and some short wave radios, called it ‘First Japanese Landing on the Moon’. It became a staple of the live repertoire of the orchestra.

 

Over time, as the orchestra played the tune, we learned more about it. It is indeed a very well known melody. I once performed it in south China and the audience were singing along. There have been hundreds of cheesy versions by Japanese orchestras, in a kind of Japanese cheese Mantovani stylee, and Thelonious Monk even did his own strange take on it. Eventually we realised it was nothing to do with lunar landings but it was actually about the moon, it’s title ‘Moon Over the Ruined Castle’.

Here is the full text with translation…

荒城の月
Kōjō no Tsuki
(The Moon over the Ruined Castle)

春高楼の花の宴
Haru kouro no hana no en
(In a spring evening a feast of blossoms was held on the tower,)

巡る盃影さして
Meguru sakazuki kagesashite
(and cups of wine were passed around.)

千代の松が枝分け出でし
Chiyo no matsu ga e wakeideshi
(Then up from the old pine the Moon rose.)

昔の光今いずこ
Mukashi no hikari Ima izuko
(But now, where is the brightness of bygone days?)

秋陣営の霜の色
Aki jinei no shimo no iro
(It was a frosty night of autumn. Up above the camp)

鳴きゆく雁の数見せて
Nakiyuku kari no kazu misete
(many a wild goose passed, calling.)

植うる剣に照り沿いし
Uuru tsurugi ni terisoishi
(And the Moon shone on the unsheathed swords.)

昔の光今いずこ
Mukashi no hikari ima izuko
(But now, where is the brightness of bygone days?)

天上影は変わらねど
Tenjokage wa kawaranedo
(The shadow of the sky doesn’t change, but)

栄枯は移る世の姿
Eiko wa utsuru yo no sugata
(the Moon is reflecting it as before,)

映さんとてか今も尚
Utsusan toteka ima mo nao
(changing for better to worse?)

ああ荒城の夜半の月
Aa Kojo no yowa no tsuki
(Ah, the Moon over the ruined castle!)

And here is a more recent version of it from The Fish Tank

 

 

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About makmedthemiller

multidiscipline artist
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