RESOUND (2014)

Early Japanese writings were written in a phonetic way, using Chinese characters for their sound, rather than their meaning. From these Chinese characters two Japanese syllabic 'alphabets' evolved. These syllabic alphabets, one called hiragana, the other called katakana, were simplifications of their more complicated Chinese character counterparts. Hiragana were mostly used by women, and katakana were mostly used by men. The modern day Japanese writing system primarily makes use of Chinese characters (kanji), and the two syllabic alphabets hiragana and katakana, of which hiragana is used most often.

For this project I took the modern standardized forms of the hiragana, and paired them with the Chinese characters from which they were derived. Then I researched these Chinese characters to find their semantic value; their original meaning. Consequently I collected sounds in Tokyo that I felt corresponded to the meaning of these original characters. Using these recordings I constructed a new Japanese syllabic alphabet, in which each hiragana is represented by the sound of the meaning of the original Chinese character.


The first work is the famous Japanese poem Iroha. The Iroha is special, not only because of its fame, but also because it is an isogram and pangram at the same time. This means that in this poem every Japanese syllable appears, and is used only once. In other words, with this first track all recorded sounds of my constructed alphabet can be heard.


The second track is a poem by the well-know Japanese classic poetess Ono no Komachi, who lived around the year 850. One could say that this project travels back in time, and given the fact that hiragana were used by women, it seems only fitting to choose a poetess who wrote poems that transcend time and is still relevant today.

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