Campaign of the Month: June 2012
A kaidanese short-necked fretted lute, often used in narrative storytelling.
The general term used for music in Kaidan is 音楽 (ongaku). 音 means sound or tone, and 楽 means music or enjoyment. Both characters together technically refer to all forms of music.
Generally speaking, biwas have four strings. The first string is thickest and the fourth string is thinnest. The varying string thickness creates different timbres when stroked from different directions.
In biwa, tuning is not fixed. General tones and pitches can fluctuate up or down entire steps or microtones. When singing in a chorus, biwa singers often stagger their entry and often sing through non-synchronized, heterophony accompaniment. In solo performances, a biwa performer sings monophonically, with melismatic emphasis throughout the performance. These monophonics do not follow a set harmony. Instead biwa singers tend to sing with a flexible pitch without distinguishing soprano, alto, tenor, or bass roles. This singing style is complemented by the biwa, which biwa players use to produce short glissandi throughout the performance. Biwa singing style tends to be nasal. Also, biwa performers vary the volume of their voice between barely audible to very loud (rarely deafening). Since biwa performances are generally for small groups, singers do not need to project their voices.