- Instrumental/Chamber Ensemble
Taikyoku literally means a large scale work and is a series of moves in karate over which Standford applied the theories of Gagaku or 'refined music', scale structures, rhythmic cycles of 8, 4 and 2 and types of phrasing. This became the 4th Symphony for 2 pianos and percussion.
In Standford's words, 'In the old music of Japan, the title Taikyoku means 'a large, important work'. Original plans to use a typical orchestra soon became inappropriate to the musical ideas which were derived from old Japanese Gagaku and Bugaku rhythmic patterns, and the pentatonic modes; six called Togaku and three 'established' modes called Komagaku.
The shape of this symphony is derived from the Togaku pieces which all had at least three movements, and generally followed a four-part form: Jo, a prelude in free form; Ha, a large middle movement; EI, a vocal movement which was optional; and Kyu, a fast finale.
Before each Gagaku piece, a short slow free-style Prelude was performed. This was to set the mode of the work and was only for kaki percussion. It was called Netori and a larger form of prelude (Choshi) could either follow or replace the Netori.
In my symphony, the first movement could be called Choshi - a large-scale prelude, setting the modes, Boh rhythmic and tonal, and introducing the percussion: first the wooden instruments, then the membranes and finally the metallic instruments. The pianos alone rise to an urgent climax with repeated notes without a break. This section introduces pitched percussion, xylophones, marimba, vibraphone, bells, glockenspiel and crotales which, with the pianos, mix into a wash of colours, before cascading into the third movement, EI. This is not, however, the optional vocal movement of the old Togaku pieces, but a sequence of suspended movement in which time stands still and the persistent sound of distant bells through a misty landscape slowly dissolves. The short finale, Kyu, recalls the prelude, Choshi, but with a more gentle nostalgia.'