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Reflections on an Old Japanese Folk Song

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Philip Sparke

Philip Sparke

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General Info

Year: 2015
Duration: c. 8:40
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Hal Leonard
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $145.00  |   Score Only (print) - $33.50


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III-IV-V

(percussion detail desired)


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Based on the traditional Japanese tune Suiryo-Bushi, Reflections on an Old Japanese Folk Song opens with two contrasting statements of the melody, first sparsely presented by the woodwinds and then in a harmonized version played by the full band. This is followed by a lively section with melodies based on the pentatonic scale which characterizes the folk tune. Next is a slower variation, which centers around a plaintive English horn melody made up of sections of the original tune, and presents the opening phrases of Suiryo-Bushi against an intensely florid accompaniment. The final section is in the form of a scherzo, which eventually forms the accompaniment to a final presentation of the folk tune.

- Program Note from publisher

Reflections on an Old Japanese Folk Song (2015) was commissioned by the Tokyo Wind Symphony Orchestra. It is based on the tune Suiryo-Bushi, which comes from the shamisen tradition; the shamisen is a versatile three-stringed, plucked instrument used in a variety of traditional ensembles and to accompany kabuki as well as solo singers, especially geisha. The melody was included in a groundbreaking 1892 publication by Y. Nagai (a military bandmaster) and K. Kobatake (a renowned saxophone player) called Collection of Japanese Popular Music. This included some of the first examples of Japanese traditional music in Western notation, with the aim of increasing its popularity outside Japan, following the country’s resumption of trade with the West in 1853. It is assumed that Puccini used this book when composing Madama Butterfly, as he uses six of its songs (including Suiryo-Bushi) in the opera.

- Program Note from the University of North Texas Wind Symphony concert program, 29 September 2016

Commercial Discography

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of South Florida (Tampa) Wind Ensemble (John Carmichael, conductor) – 1 March 2018
  • Irish Symphonic Wind Orchestra (Dublin) (Liam Daly, conductor) – 19 July 2017 - WASBE Conference (Utrecht, Netherlands)
  • University of North Texas (Denton) Wind Symphony (Eugene Migliaro Corporon, conductor) - 29 September 2016

Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Carmichael, John C. "Reflections on an Old Japanese Folk Song." In Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 11, Compiled and edited by Richard Miles, 776-782. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2018.
  • Perusal score
  • Philip Sparke website Accessed 29 September 2016