Location: Atlantis, Golden Tower
Depth: 450

Solution to Check Out This Sticked Asiatic Music

Written and performed by Rassi, Sasen Cain, and Catherine Olsson, at the Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Center. Thanks to Kaoru Watanabe and Rachel Daddino.


The drummers are performing taiko, an ensemble drumming artform that originated in Japan. The metronome accents the first beat of each measure: "ONE two three four". Each measure is a rhythmic code for a letter of the alphabet. Only 12 unique rhythms are played throughout the piece, representing the letters ACDEHIKMOSTU; this also happens to be the letterbank of this puzzle's title, Check Out This Sticked Asiatic Music.

Taiko (or daiko, when preceded by a vowel) is the Japanese word for drum. Each performer plays a different kind of drum, as highlighted in the solo sections. The first soloist plays a large, barrel-shaped low-pitched drum whose heads are affixed with ornamental black tacks: a chu-daiko. The second soloist plays a medium-sized mid-toned instrument whose heads are tensioned by ropes: an okedo-daiko. The final soloist uses a small, high-pitched, rope-tightened drum called a shime-daiko. Several more kinds of taiko are visible in the background of the video.

The piece begins with a 5-measure long unison section. The chu-daiko solo is 8 measures long, and the okedo-daiko and shime-daiko both play for 10 measures. The last 5 measures of each solo are the same, and the unison section differs only in the first measure. Indeed, the union section spells out TAIKO. The soloists, performing left-to-right, play the names of their drums in alphabetical order: CHUDAIKO, OKEDODAIKO, SHIMEDAIKO. The unison and solo sections provide the full dictionary needed to decode what each person plays in the final section.

chu-daiko: USETHISCODE
okedo-daiko: TOMAKEUSSOM
shime-daiko: ETAIKOMUSIC

Solvers must send in a video of one or more teammates playing taiko music - that is, a message of their choice, properly encoded - using whatever materials are available as drums and drumsticks. ("Your own lap and your arms" is fine; that's how taiko players usually learn repertoire.) Once the message in the team's homemade taiko video is verified, they receive one final video clip, depicting the answer HIDEOUT:


Performance: Headbands, called hachimaki, are often part of a taiko group's costume; these depict the rising sun. The performers start with a tradition used to formally begin taiko practices: the respectful greeting "Yoroshiku onegaishimasu" and a bow. They count in, "Ichi... ni... ichi ni so-re!", meaning roughly, "1... 2... 1 2 let's go!" Taiko performances can be quite dynamic, with players aiming to simultaneously engage with each other, with their instruments, and with the audience. Therefore, the players support each other and share energy using their bodies, as well as with vocalizations called kiai. These aspects are meant to draw attention to Japanese language and encourage solvers to learn more about taiko drumming, especially the names of the drums.

Rhythmic code: All consonants hit the first downbeat ("ONE ..."). All vowels are syncopated: they rest on the first downbeat and hit the upbeat ("one AND ... "). All downbeats are played with the right hand and all upbeats with the left: this is conventional in many kinds of drumming, including some styles of taiko. As this puzzle is an original taiko composition, the rhythms for each letter are aesthetically motivated. The musical score below uses simplified kuchi-shoga, the phonetic system used to communicate taiko rhythms. "Do" and "Ko" are respectively right- and left-handed eighth-notes, and syllables indicating rests have been omitted for clarity. [Easter egg: the rhythm for S, which leads off the shime-daiko solo, is the familiar "Ten teke teke teke" that introduces many taiko pieces. The shime-daiko is usually responsible for the backbeat, or ji-uchi, rather than a metronome.]