Relating to the Crane Pieces

There are many Crane pieces. Some of their names are Tsuru no Sugomori, Sukaku, Koden Sugomori and Sokaku Reibo.

Koden means “old transmission”; the word in itself has nothing to do with the Crane part of the titles. In other words, one could have ‘Koden Shirabe’ or ‘Koden Takiochi’, etc. “Koden Sugomori” is not necessarily the original’ piece (there is no ‘original’ in oral traditions), but is considered one of the oldest, if not the oldest version of the Crane pieces. Of course, there are a number of versions of “Koden Sugomori”.

Question for you: how can ‘many’ versions be the ‘oldest’ version? “Sukaku”, “Sugomori”, “Tsuru no Sugomori” all basically means Cranes Nesting. There appears to be two main streams of the Crane pieces. One stream or group seems to have been inspired or adapted or arranged from “Sugomori” pieces that already existed in the shamisen and kokyo (stringed instruments) repertoire. This stream or group of pieces seem to be centred around the Kansai (Osaka) area.

Another group of Crane pieces seem to have originated in the Kanto area, and may have been shakuhachi pieces from the beginning. Almost all Crane pieces share some characteristics, for example the use of ‘tama ne’, and certain embellishments and motifs. They all refer to crane couples, who mate for life, and of course the raising of the young; thus the reference to ‘nesting’. No songs for single cranes! The best reference material I have seen about the family of Crane pieces has been written (in Japanese) by Tukitani Tuneko.