Kishoutenketsu’s Musical “Cousin”

An interesting side effect of researching and searching for examples of kishoutenketsu has been an appreciation for the Western narrative structure. Both have their uses: Western structure is very good at getting through a series of events, moving from point A to point B, while kishoutenketsu, in my opinion, is great at revealing a greater whole in a captivating way.

For example, I feel like Aria and Haikyu, two manga that I pointed to in my examples post, use aspects of both structures to create story arcs where great change occurs while still accomplishing a feeling of wholeness. Definitely not an easy feat!

Another side effect has been thinking about how concepts similar to kishoutenketsu shows up in other mediums. What came to mind recently was the bridge of a song, which is present in many contemporary pop songs. This article from MasterClass describes the bridge as having two primary functions: To provide variety and to connect sections of a song.

This description closely echoes the function of “ten” in kishoutenketsu. In fact, the location of the bridge in a song is similar as well – often times it is the B section in an AABA song format, or the C section in an ABABCB song format.

Some of the advice on how to write a bridge seem transferable to writing as well. For example, this article from Secrets of Songwriting mentions some of the following tips, which seem to echo the methods noted my examples post:

  • Modulate temporarily to a different key (similar to perspective change)
  • Explore an “opposite” chord from the chorus (similar to a new definition of a concept)
  • Introduces a new melody (similar to both a perspective change and new definition)

Additionally, the very existence of the bridge can serve as an interruption of time and a disruption of the expected flow of the song, similar again to the “ten” of kishoutenketsu. And just like “ten,” when the song ends, we can’t imagine the song without the bridge, for without it, the song wouldn’t quite feel whole.

Recognizing kishoutenketsu in popular music has made me wonder about classical music, as well as other art mediums. I’d be curious to see if there’s resonance with something like sculpture. Safe to say that my study is only just beginning!

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