Sui kin kutsu, literally ‘water koto cave’, where 水 Sui is equivalent to water, 琴 kin is the Japanese for koto and 琴 kutsu means cave. Basically, a big jar with a small hole on the bottom is set up-side down on the pan with water. Water drips from the hole onto the water in the pan and makes a low sound.
The gardener made a drain using an overturned water pot or barrel. There was water at the bottom of the pot. When someone washed their hands, water dropped slowly, falling to the bottom of the pot, and these sounds were amplified inside the water pot. People enjoyed listening to the subtle and quiet sounds coming from underground. Not only did they appreciate the sound of the suikinkutsu itself, but also the time spent creating the sound. After washing their hands, they had to wait for a moment until the sound from the suikinkutsu emerged. This delay, caused by the structure of the suikinkutsu had the effect of directing people’s listening to other environmental sounds in the garden.
[From: Japanese Sound Culture newsletter, February 2007 >]
These 2 CDs are not in my personal collection, I got them from a music forum. They are part of a 4 CD set released 2003 in Japan, with field recordings of sui-kin-kutsu made in 4 different seasons. The Four Seasons of sui-kin-kutsu, sort of. Today is Spring. It was recorded in the Kyôto Myoshinji Taizoin temple garden. The recording starts with little birds chirping around. Then the dripping begins, with additional sounds of wind, more little birds chirping, crows, dogs in the distance, cars passing faintly away. This is it. You’ll soon notice the dripping is irregular, never repeating the same sound twice. Then, at 10:20, a cut is heard in the recording: it’s obviously an other day, with other birds, less wind, faster water dripping. At 32:00, another cut happens into the mix: it sounds like birds happily sun bathing after a little rain – my own guess, but the sound is unmissable. So we have 3 different springtime moments or 3 different days on this recording. Anyway, this is as radical as music can get.
‘Sui Kin Kutsu – Spring’ (41:23)
Recorded at the Myoshinji Taizoin temple garden in Kyôto
CD 2003 (キング King Records KICG)
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Additionally, don’t miss the ‘Score for a Hole in the Ground’ project, an updated contemporary english version of the Sui Kin Kutsu.