a twelve tone scale
Shunjin and Seijo Okamoto - 1989

The Junicho - 12 verses - A Description

The Junicho or Twelve Tone is a single sheet poem; it does not separate into sides or movements.

The convention that the major seasons predominate is retained (see The Seasons of Renku). Spring and autumn are therefore each represented by a grouped pair of verses, whereas summer and winter take a single verse each. For sequences begun in winter or summer, the wakiku - verse two - has the option of taking the same season as the hokku in accordance with general practice or moving immediately to a miscellaneous verse (non-season).

A single bloom verse appears in association with any chosen season. The topic is generally treated as flower, i.e. a bloom of any description, but conventional blossom verses are possible when circumstances combine to yield a familiar position. Likewise the single moon verse - though the occasional classic autumn moon will be found - is very often set against a different season and handled experimentally. Love is also approached more liberally than the norm. A grouped pair of verses may appear in any position other than the very beginning or end of the poem. Though still retaining its adult association, love is freed from the last of the lingering renga conventions that governed its passage from joy to despair.

Barring ceremonial conventions, the particular compositional characteristics of hokku and ageku are always respected, but those of wakiku and daisan may well be discarded. The topical and tonal exclusions common to the opening passages of most types of sequence are also lifted, as is the suggestion that the poem should be formally paced according to jo-ha-kyu. Instead participants are enjoined to prioritise variety.

there are no divisions in the Junicho
  autumn autumn spring spring summer winter
hokku au au mn sp sp fl/bl su wi mn
wakiku au au sp sp ns/su ns/wi
daisan ns ns ns lv ns ns ns
4 short ns ns lv ns lv wi/su ns ns lv
5 long su/wi mn ns lv wi/su ns lv sp/au mn ns lv
6 short ns su/wi ns ns lv sp/au au/sp
7 long ns lv ns ns ns ns lv au/sp
8 short sp lv ns au au [mn] wi lv ns
9 long sp wi/su au fl au [mn] ns su fl
10 short ns ns ns ns ns ns
11 long ns sp fl/bl ns su/wi au/sp fl/bl sp/au
ageku wi/su fl sp su/wi mn ns au/sp sp/au

su/wi - whichever is selected first its counterpart is selected after
wi/su - likewise
sp/au - likewise - both verses change together
au/sp - likewise - both verses change together
ns/su - (wakiku only) - where the hokku is summer authors may use summer for the wakiku
- (wakiku only) - winter likewise

ns - non-season (miscellaneous) position
fl - flower position
fl/bl - flower position, a treatment as blossom is possible
mn - moon position

[mn] - alternate moon position -
the choice is either/or
lv - love position, indicative - love verses move as group

The Junicho - 12 verses - An Appraisal

The Junicho is optimised for experimentation and flexibility. Shunjin and Seijo Okamoto were acknowledged renku masters and one suspects that they sought to push the boundaries as far as they dared whilst retaining sufficient connection to their source tradition not to be declared apostate. They succeeded.

As an indicator of their innovative and internationalist outlook, the name Twelve Tone recalls the musical systems of Hauer and Schönberg. Given the formal injunction to seek out variety, it is sometimes taken as an invitation to consider each verse as a distinct pitch or colour.

But i
t would be unfortunate if the inference were drawn that the Junicho is composed of 12 separate stages, each of which seeks to be as distinct as possible. The musical analogy reminds us that in high quality renku there are always elements of coherence to balance those of divergence. Whilst a well written Junicho will be swift moving, the pursuit of diversity at all costs is unlikely to yield anything other than a strident cacophony.

The Junicho loosens very many fixed topic conventions, increases the options surrounding the opening of a poem and offers more scope to decide on the pattern of pacing. But, whilst not exactly peripheral, none of these properties define the Basho style. The core techniques remain the same. As does the aesthetic impetus. It may look very modern. But the Junicho remains Shofu.

The sheer mutability of the structural parameters raises an interesting question though - does this radically enhanced flexibility make the Junicho easier or more difficult to work with for writers new to renku?

Naturally the default response of all freethinkers is to heartily proclaim Easier! But those of us who still salivate when a certain bell rings know that people sometimes feel more safe with boundaries.