Composed for Lafcadio Hearn Project produced by nothing but music
Satoko Inoue, piano
John McLachlan, narration in English
Keiko Ibaraki, narration in Japanese
World premiere: June 27, 2017, Large Room in the City Hall, Waterford (Ireland)
in association with the “Lafcadio Hearn Gardens” in Tramore
Ubazakura is a short story included in Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1903), a collection of works written by Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) who was also known by the Japanese name Koizumi Yakumo. I chose Ubazakura for the creation of a piano composition to accompany the narration of the story in both an English and a Japanese version. This work is part of the Lafcadio Hearn Project organized by composer Yuji Ito and pianist Satoko Inoue. The story highlights the virtue of profound love and sacrifice by using the old cherry tree as a motif that memorializes the loving devotion of an aging milk-nurse to her charge. The tree, which delivers beautiful light pink colored flowers every spring no matter the span of passing years, becomes a long-lasting reminder of the beautiful spirit of the milk-nurse (uba) who offered her life to save that of her master’s dying daughter whom she loved with a real mother’s love. The folktale was captured in literary form by Hearn and there can be sensed the soul of the natural and spiritual world of folk belief that so inspired him.
Since the word for “milk-nurse” (uba) shares the same reading as the word for “old lady,” the word ubazakura, can literally mean “old lady-sakura.” This is the common name for a type of cherry tree (sakura) that flowers early before its leaves come out. In Japanese, the word for leaves or “ha” is a homonym with the word for teeth, which is also pronounced “ha.” The absence of leaves (ha) during the peak of the blossoms’ flowering is like the missing teeth of an old woman, and this in turn is symbolically associated with the idea of a woman who remains beautiful despite aging. In modern times, the word ubazakura is more frequently understood as a metaphor for women who try to look younger despite their age. How far removed this is from the original folktale that captivated Hearn! I specifically chose Ubazakura for this project to illuminate for a modern audience the original meaning of the motif – the cherry tree of a milk nurse.
The music tightly synchronizes with the text, and I tried to place the notes to deliver the story directly. Since the work was composed for two languages, however, there are spots where the music resonates behind the words and phrases rather than with the words exactly.
In composing the piano part, I aimed for simple expression, keeping in mind the need to balance the sound of the music with the audible narration. I used a Japanese translation of Hearn’s work by Teiichi Hirai.
Ubazakura was premiered in Waterford, Ireland in June 2017 with narration by John McLachlan (a noted composer who is also part of the Hearn project) and Satoko Inoue, pianist. The concert was part of an Irish tour supported by the Japanese Embassy in Ireland, and is a part of the official project “60th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between Japan and Ireland (2017).”
The work will be premiered in Japan in Autumn 2017. Two concerts are scheduled in Tokyo, one in English, narrated by McLachlan and one in Japanese, narrated by Keiko Ibaraki. A second concert in Japanese will be preformed in Matsue, Shimane prefecture where Hearn lived during the years 1890-1894.
Composed for the Ensemble of the Haute Ecole de Musique Vaud-Valais-Fribourg and the Fribourg International Festival of Sacred Music in Switzerland.
World Premiere: November 29, 2013, Saint-Michel Church, Fribourg (Switzerland)
Ensemble of the Haute Ecole de Musique Vaud-Valais-Fribourg
Ancient Echoes from the Val d’Anniviers for Brass Quintet (2 Trumpets, Horn, Trombone and Tuba) is an inner soundscape inspired by the Val d’Anniviers region and an ode to Ella Maillart (1903-1997), the Swiss adventurer, writer, and photographer who lived there for a half of century. It was composed for the Ensemble of the Haute Ecole de Musique Vaud- Valais-Fribourg and the Fribourg International Festival of Sacred Music in Switzerland.
While contemplating the work for brass instruments for this invitation, I had two thoughts in my mind. At first, my idea was to create a pastoral sound world with the brass in a calm tempo with a melodious element. Then secondly, I wanted to have a theme connected to Switzerland. Since the origins of the brass instrument hark back to an ancient era, I also wanted the composition to connect to the roots of Switzerland. I learned about Val d’Anniviers and Ella Maillart, and they became inspirations of the work.
Val d’Anniviers is a deep narrow valley located in the southwestern area of Switzerland near Zermat where the north side of the Matterhorn can be seen. For this reason, the Matterhorn has been worshipped as a mountain of God from ancient times and has been recognized in the past as a magical spot. There remain megaliths (gigantic stones) called Celtic stones from 3000-1000 BCE, which have large or small holes and patterns crafted by humans. The valley’s geographical location made it ideal for astronomy. Ella Maillart, not only roamed far abroad, but was fascinated by the valley and built her home in the Chandolin, one of the highest villages in the Swiss Alps. From the balcony of her home, she had a splendid view of Val d”Anniviers and the Matterhorn, which she held sacred, beyond. Here, she felt close to God and sensed the eternity to be seen over the mountain. I wanted to capture the spirituality of her words in the voice of the brass.
Ancient Echoes from the Val d’Anniviers is in a single movement that consists of five sections. It is structured by a melodious line that navigates through the work from section to section as if to retrace the history of the valley, a symbolic place to hear the echoes from a distant past.
Brass Chimes, 2 Kins/Japanese Temple Bowl alternatively Tibetan Singing Bowl (C#4 and E4 preferably), Crotales: 2 octaves (C4 – C6), Vibraphone, 20 Tuned Thai Chromatic Gongs: C#3, E3, G3, G#3, A3, A#3, B3, C4, C#4, D4, D#4, E4, F4, F#4, G4, G#4, A4, A#4, B4, C#5, Pair of Maracas, Caxixi, 2 Wood Blocks, 2 Bongos, 2 Congas, Bass Drum, Cymbal on Timpani: Large Cymbal on the membrane of the Timpani (29”: E – Bb preferably), 3 Suspended Cymbals: Small, Medium with sizzle effect (attach a coin to cymbal surface with tape), Large, 3 Tam-tams: Medium, Large, very Large.
Commissioned by Mizuki Aita and Gregory Beyer
World Premiere: October 12, 2012, School of Music Recital Hall at Northern Illinois
University, DeKalb, IL
Gregory Beyer, percussion
Japanese Premiere: October 18, 2012, Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Recital Hall, Tokyo
Mizuki Aita, percussion
Publisher: HoneyRock (May 2015)
The Woman in the Dunes for Solo Percussionist, inspired by Kobo Abe’s novel, The Woman in the Dunes (1962), was first created as a multimedia theater piece combining music, video, and theatrical performance, and performed in 2009 at the Flea Theater in NYC and the School of Music Recital Hall at Northern Illinois University (NIU). It represented a collaborative effort of artists and performers. I had been thinking of creating a new concert version focused purely on music, when the young Japanese percussionist, Mizuki Aita, asked me to create a work for an homage to the late Yoshio Hachimura, who was my husband, to be performed at a concert dedicated to his music. There could be no better work than The Woman in the Dunes for such an homage. As I already had an agreement with Greg Beyer, with whom I had collaborated on The Woman in the Dunes, I composed this new version for both percussionists Mizuki and Greg as a joint commission.
The Woman in the Dunes leaves a vivid impression, not only as a novel, but also as a film directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara (1927-2001). The music for the film composed by Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996) led to the creation of “The Dorian Horizon,” a concert work for 17 strings, which had such a strong impact on me that I decided to become a composer. This was my starting point for grasping the enormous possibility of music composition. For this reason, it was especially meaningful to me that Takemitsu wrote in his program note that he had been greatly influenced by Yoshio Hachimura while working on “Dorian Horizon.” For the program note to “Dorian Horizon,” Takemitsu wrote: This work was my first to create a new mode of polyphony based on the idea of ‘harmonic pitch’ rather than melodies and ‘pulsation’ rather than rhythm. I jotted down these concepts in my mind. I was strongly influenced in this connection by my young friend, the composer Yoshio Hachimura. -Toru Takemitsu. For these personal reasons, The Woman in the Dunes was the perfect material to work on for Mizuki’s request. The timing of Mizuki’s request and my plans to work on a new version of The Woman in the Dunes seems quite miraculous.
I searched for a way to coax symbolism from the progression of extracted material. The work consists of ten sections. I used a group of metallic instruments centered on chromatic gongs to express the woman’s emotion and a group of drum instruments with the bongo and conga at its core to express the turmoil of the man who is trying to escape. Ultimately, however, I wanted to express the sand world that spreads through and beyond such contrasts. The passage from the novel that I believe is at the core of the work and find most stimulating is: A 1/8 mm. flow… a world where existence was a series of states. The beauty of sand, in other words, belonged to death. It was the beauty of the death that ran through the magnificence of its ruins and its great power of destruction.
In photographs by Edward Weston (1886-1958), I encountered fascinating images that seem to me rooted in the same world as The Woman in the Dunes. These images moved in and out of my inner world, and into my sense of the novel – as if to inquire of their roots.
Imagery by Kristine Marx
Written for Satoko Inoue
Premiere: December 4, 2011, Reisinger Concert Hall at Sarah Lawrence College,
Satoko Inoue, piano
Click to view
RYUSUIMON is a characteristic design motif expressing the flow of water. It is found on earthenware from the mid-Yayoi period, and evolved into the Flowing Water pattern of Dotaku (ceremonial bronze bells), circa 1st century B.C. While I was thinking about a new piano piece for Satoko Inoue, I had the idea of also creating a visual work, using images of water as a motif. I was inspired by the pattern of Dotaku, and then the idea of using Ryusuimon as an overarching concept for this work came to me in a flash. These ideas were realized in collaboration with the video artist, Kristine Marx, who kindly agreed to work with me on this project. Encountering Marx’s work was a fortunate accident for me. In her work, I discovered the extreme beauty and endlessly ample possibility of expression in the video arts. It would have been impossible to create this work without such a reliable friend and enthusiastic collaborator.
The composition of the music preceded the creation of the imagery. Although the origins of Dotaku can be found in China and the Korean Peninsula, the Japanese Dotaku originally developed in Japan, and its exact history is veiled in mystery. I was captivated by its symbolic meandering line, which I think of as a visual code, an incantation from ages past. I wanted to capture in my music the flow of water as an ancient people had expressed it.
During the composition in July 2011, my dear friend Phyllis Goldberg passed away. It was Phyllis who took me to Marx’s exhibition, and suggested that we should collaborate on a future piece. This work is dedicated to her spirit.
Poem by Kenichi Kurahashi
Commissioned by ISGM New Music Commissioning Fund
Premiere: October 2, 2011, Kyoto Fumin Hall ALTI, Kyoto (Japan)
Makoto Nakura, marimba; Tsuyako Ohnishi, narrator
In Forest Trilogy, there is an opening part, Prologue, with a new poem written for it by the poet Kenichi Kurahashi. The poem is narrated with a performance of marimba. While I was working on the composition for this poem, the terrible earthquake struck Northern Japan. After the disaster, each word from the poem started to capture my mind differently from what I had heard before. The thoughts and feelings welled up in my heart enabled me to complete the composition in a single stretch as if driven by necessity. Prologue is dedicated to the spirit of the enormous number of lives lost.
Classical Japanese poetry (WAKA) by Saigyõ
Commissioned by ISGM New Music Commissioning Fund
Premiere: May 7, 2011, Church of the Holy Trinity, NYC.
Makoto Nakura, marimba; Cantori New York, mixed chorus
Five WAKA by Saigyõ was composed as part of Forest Trilogy for marimba and mixed chorus, which is a project by Makoto Nakura. When Nakura invited me to join this project, I was thrilled by the opportunity to engage with the classical Japanese poetry (waka) of Saigyõ (1118-1190), the influential Buddhist priest-poet revered in Japan for his moving poetry composed during the turbulent, transitional times of the late Heian and early Kamakura periods when the power of the imperial court was in decline and that of the military elite rising, and Buddhism was believed to have reached a period of decline. He was known for his long poetic journeys and response to the beauty of nature. Nakura chose five poems with the theme of “forest and tree,” and I changed two of them to reflect my point of view. The work starts with the poem written when Saigyõ resolved to become a priest at the age of twenty-three. As it continues with poems featuring the pine tree, deep mountain and moon, and cherry blossoms, the full passion of Saigyõ can be sensed. These motifs symbolize the life of Saigyo. I followed his footsteps and tried to capture the message heard there. The result was this work. Saigyõ’s poems are full of suggestion and it inspire fresh impression even though it has been almost a thousand years since the time they were written. They are like metaphysical signposts, and I cannot help but feel a profound empathy.
Collaboration integrating Performance, Video and Music
Music is scored for Percussion solo with Electronics
Based on the novel by Kobo Abe
Premiere: May 4, 2009, The Flea Theater, NYC.
Midori Kanazawa, actress
Kristine Marx, video artist
Gregory Beyer, percussionist
Kanji Shimizu, Noh choreographer
The Woman in the Dunes, based on the novel by Kobo Abe, is a multi media theater piece created by a collaboration integrating performance, video and music. The origin of the project occurred when my friend, the actress Midori Kanazawa expressed her desire to create a solo performance of The Woman in the Dunes. I was stimulated by an unexpected idea, and proposed the addition of visual images. I asked video artist, Kristine Marx, whose works have inspired me, to participate in the project. Thus, the collaboration by three women began. In the sixties, Hiroshi Teshigahara, with libretto by Kobo Abe himself and music by Toru Takemitsu, made a film version of Abe’s novel, true to the original story. In our collaboration, we intended to recapture the novel from the woman’s point of view and create a work where performance, visual images and music respond equally to each other. This interactive concept informed our working process as well.
After starting the project, I realized that one root of Abe’s novel is the idea of the naked woman figure overlapping the landscape of the desert. This is exactly what the photographer Edward Weston expressed in his work, nude woman as a landscape. More importantly, I imagined that perhaps this is what inspired Kobo Abe in writing his novel. In Weston’s photograph I found many shared motifs with The Woman in the Dunes. It was a surprising discovery. I learned about Weston’s work from photographer Michael Kenna whose work I deeply respect. I also had a feeling that there is a connection between this novel and the work of Ruth Bernhard, who became a photographer, influenced by Weston’s art. These insights led to the realization of our concept in which we rethink the novel from the woman’s side.
The libretto was initially prepared by Kanazawa and we elaborated on it, creating two performance versions, one in English and one in Japanese (thus eliminating the need to use subtitles). The stage direction, also by Kanazawa, included her idea of expressing the climax in Noh dance, which was choreographed by Noh performer Kanji Shimizu, and performed by Kanazawa herself. The music is scored for percussion solo with electronics. The male hero from the novel does not appear on stage, but is expressed through the percussionist. In order to do this, I wanted a male percussionist and I asked Gregory Beyer to join us. The percussion expresses not only the man, but also the woman’s psychological state and the desert landscape, her sand world so to speak. The structure of the percussion tree, on which hang various sized gongs, also, serendipitously, evokes the woman’s house. I used several maracas which came from different countries, including Brazilian Caxixi to express the sounds of sand and insects. Beyer’s inspired playing and special feeling to these charming instruments delivers a special impact of its own. The music for Noh dance was created in collaboration with the choreographer, each of us inspiring the other. In combining electronics, I intended to express the nuance of the Noh world, so called “Yugen” as a woman in the dunes. After completion of the music, Marx created her visual images, adding another dimension and enhancing the work as a whole.
During the process of the collaboration, the four of us became aware of a symbolic “circle” existing in the center of the work, from the shape of the gongs to the idea of eternal recurrence encompassing a core where spirits gather. Perhaps the spirit of my father, who died in April, is here too. The work was premiered in English as part of the series of The Music With A View at the Flea Theater in NYC in May 2009. This work was funded in part by the Composers Assistance Program of the American Music Center.
Poem by Wallace Stevens
Written for Crazy Jane.
Premiere: April 23, 2010, The Symphony Space, NYC.
Crazy Jane: Patrick Mason, Baritone; David Starobin, guitar; Daniel Druckman, percussion
“The Idea of Order at Key West” (1936) is one of Wallace Stevens’ most powerful poems. I encountered this poem in a small library in my hometown in Japan while I was researching American poetry in Autumn 2006. I was deeply inspired and decided to set the poem to a new composition for baritone, guitar and percussion. My concern was how to express the magnificent scale of the poem in my musical language. It was a great challenge. The work was composed for leading virtuoso musicians – Patrick Mason, baritone, David Starobin, guitar and Daniel Druckman, percussion to be performed at concerts on their national tour. The instrumentation is unique and the size and number percussion instruments limited, since the work for a tour piece. The limitation in the percussion selection gave me a direction for the piece. I carefully chose 12 small instruments and arranged them so they would deeply resonate: thus small kins and crotales are performed on/in water and Tam-tam are played with cut super balls. I wanted to express the core of the poem which I envisioned as Stevens’ direct reflection of his thoughts on creation. This is also a theme in my own work. Capturing Stevens’ inner voice to be sung in a spiritual manner was my intention. The piece was completed in December 2007. “The Idea of Order at Key West”, copyright 1936 by Wallace Stevens and renewed 1964 by Holly Stevens, from THE COLLECTED POEMS OF WALLACE STEVENS by Wallace Stevens. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. This work was funded in part by the Composer Assistance Program of the American Music Center.
Premiere: November 8, 2006 PASIC Austin Texas.
Proper Glue Duo: Melanie Sehman and Steve Sehman
Publisher: Honeyrock (2006)
Diana Herold, marimba I
Alan Zimmerman, marimba II
Sanctuary was originally scored for an accordion solo that I composed in 1998. While preparing for its recording in April 2005, I had the opportunity to rethink the piece. I was captured by an inspiration to transcribe it to a marimba duo. The idea of composition of original version, accordion is following: Because of the similarities of its timbre to that of the sho (mouth organ) and the pipe organ, the sound of the accordion, for me, evokes a certain spirituality, a religious sublimity. I wanted to capture that image in a serene space and time. The longing for the sound is always backed by purity. That is the first step into the sacred precincts. Marimbas simply follow the accordion except for position of the chords, and they are played by tremolo throughout the piece. Marimba I can be played with a 4 & 1/3 octave instrument, and Marimba II requires 5 octave instrument. I would like to express my thankfulness to Alan Zimmerman and Diana Herold who helped me to realize this work.
Premiere: CD album by Bridge Records (BRIDGE 9204) September 2006
Junko Ueda, Satsuma Biwa
Months – Spaceship for Zodiac was composed for a Japanese traditional instrument, the Satsuma Biwa, around the idea of the Zodiac. For the performance, reverberation should be added to the biwa, and the score is accompanied by an electronic tape part. The piece consists of 16 movements; in addition to the 12 zodiac sections, there is an introduction and three poems which I chose from the oldest Japanese poem, Manyousyu.
When I was contemplating of an idea of this composition, I was inspired by a picture of the fresco at Il Salone dei Mesi(the Solon of the Months) at Il Palazzo di Schifanoia (the Schifanoia Palace) which means literally “keeping annoyance away”, in Ferrara, which is one of the very few existing works by the Italian Renaissance painter, Francesco del Cossa. When I saw the work of Cossa with its use of the Zodiac, it connected me to the distant past, and when I later thought of using the Manyousyu, I realized I could combine the two as a symbol of eternal spirit. Much later, I learned from Junko Ueda that the origin of the biwa instrument comes from the image of the cosmos. As a result, without even planning it, my composition echoed the history of the biwa. With added reverberation I almost imagined the biwa as a spaceship sailing in the cosmos. I wanted to release it from the usual connotations of its use as a traditional Japanese instrument, but wanted to hear it in a new context, almost like watching a starry night or listening to it an Arabian oud. This is the concept of the piece.
Throughout my residencies in late Autumn in Yaddo in Saratoga Springs in 2002, and Bellagio in Lake Como in Italy in 2003, hearing about Junko Ueda’s artistry in August 2004 gave life to this new work, and with her collaboration, it was completed in July 2005.
Commissioned by Composers Collaborative Inc.
Premiere: August 20, 2003, Bowery Poetry Club, NYC.
Edwin Torres, words and poetry reading; Nurse Kaya String Quartet; Cornelius
Dufallo, violin; Jesse Mills, violin; Conway Kuo, guest violist; Rubin Kodheli, cello; Tim
Kiah, bass; Chris Vatalaro, drums, Mike Pride, drums for the 21st performance; Akemi
Naito, piano – pre-recorded
Part I: SOUTH
youthful, wonder, alert, loud, dynamic
Part II: WEST
middle-age, present, thoughtful, contemporary, steady
Part III: EAST
imaginary, jester, subconscious, alter-ego, magic
Part IV: NORTH
wise, future, abandoned, questions, possibility
if South is young, then West is present
if West is now, then East is imaginary, the ego of now
if East is jester, then North is calm, abandoned, quiet
Each title of poem and instrumentation:
1. SOUTH – The Quiet All, The Giant South : Electronics, Full Band
2. SOUTH – Tsunami for Open Mouth : 5 Strings
3. WEST – Skipping Rocks : Piano solo
4. WEST – The Modern Dinosaur : 5 Strings
5. NORTH – Butterfly’s Song : vocal solo
6. EAST – In the Lining of Concrete Clouds : Electronics
7. EAST – In the Heat of the Globe : Electronics, Full Band
8. NORTH – Compass : Piano solo
9. NORTH – Time I : Electronics
10. NORTH – Time II : Violin solo
Commissioned by Chamber Music America
Premiere: April 29, 2002, New York Society for Ethical Culture, NYC.
CYGNUS Ensemble; Gen Shinkai, guest flutist; Jacqueline Leclair, oboe; Jacqui
Carrasco, violin; Susannah Chapman, cello; William Anderson, guitar; Oren Fader,
Mindscape was composed for Cygnus Ensemble, and scored for two guitars, flute, oboe, violin and cello. I begun work on the first movement, “Pilgrimage”, at the MacDowell Colony during a residency in May 2001. I was thinking about “time”, and became captivated by the image of Ruin as a symbolic message from a distant past. This image became an idea for this composition. I followed an imaginary journey to my inner landscape. The second movement, “Wind of Ruin”, was composed at the Millay Colony that summer. While at Millay, I saw a magnificent shooting star in the midnight sky. The experience is reflected in the third movement, “A Starlight Night”. The image and soul I received from the sky is heard in the oboe’s beautiful quiet high tone. The piece concludes with the fourth movement, “Perception”, where the metallic effect of multiphonics and the striking effect of strings are utilized to create non-musical sound. The piece dies away to a static landscape, as if make a circulation.
The work was commissioned for Cygnus by Chamber Music America. Funds for this commission have been provided by Chamber Music America’s Commissioning Program, supported by The National Endowment for the Arts, The Helen F. Whitaker Fund and The Chamber Music America.
Commissioned by Azure Ensemble
Premiere: December 17, 2000, Merkin Concert Hall, NYC.
Azure Ensemble; Susan Glaser, flute; Junah Chung, viola; Emily Mitchell, harp
Publisher: SNONIC ARTS (upcoming)
Tara Helen O’Connor, flute
Richard O’Neill, viola
June Han, harp
Voyage is scored for Flute, Viola and Harp. The work consists of three movements. Each movement has an organic structure which represnts the breathing stirring of my musical creation. I begun work on the first movement at the Yaddo, an artist colony in Saratoga Springs, during a residency in May to June 2000. The title reflects my desire to connect to the past while holding the future as a symbol of eternity.
Commissioned by New Music Marimba
Premiere: May 31, 2000, William Moersch South American Tour, Urguay
William Moersch, marimba
Publisher: HoneyRock (January 2001)
When I was asked to write a new piece for solo marimba, my thoughts and imagination turned first to the instrument itself. In order to write what I hoped would be a deep and spiritual work for this beautiful instrument – the marimba, I drew upon inspiration from a symbol and image of timelessness, the woods.
It was scored for a 5 octave marimba.
2fl(2nd=alto fl), 2ob(2nd=eh), 2cl(2nd=bass cl), 2bsn(2nd=double bsn), 2hrn,
2trp, 2trb, cel, 2perc. players, str 43321
Commissioned by The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble
Premiere: June 25, 1999, Willow Place Auditorium, Brooklyn, NY.
The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble; Petr Kotik, conductor
An Island in the Moon has two versions. The work was originally begun in a scoring for symphony orchestra. However, the first version to be completed was a chamber orchestra version. This version contains musical identical to that of the original. The chamber orchestra version was prepared for the workshop of the S.E.M. Ensemble. It received its premiere in June 1999. After the performance, I returned to my original idea to score the work for symphony orchestra. It was completed while I was in residence at the Aaron Copland House, as a recipient of the 1998 first Aaron Copland Award.
The title is taken from the prose of William Blake.
Premiere: August 2, 1998, Tenri Gallery, NYC.
William Schimmel, accordion
Publisher: AUGEMUS (March 2006)
Claudio Jacomucci, accordion
Because of the similarities of its timbre to that of the sho (mouth organ) and the pipe organ, the sound of the accordion, for me, evokes a certain spirituality, a religious sublimity. I wanted to capture that image in a serene space and time. The longing for the sound is always backed by purity. That is the first step into the sacred precincts.
The piece was composed between December of 1997 and March of 1998, and was first performed at the Tenri Gallery in New York City in August 1998 by William Schimmel with standard accordion. Claudio Jacomucci gave European premiere at Gaudeamus New Music Week in Amsterdam in September 1999. Mr. Jacomucci gave technical advise to make changing from standard accordion version to free-bass accordion version.
commissioned by Mis en Loge String Orchestra
Premiere: February 4, 1997, Tokyo.
Mis en Loge String Orchestra; Yoichi Sugiyama, conductor
Strings and Time is comprised of three movements. The first movement was composed in 1992, the second in 1993, and the third in 1996. I did not have a plan to write three movements at the beginning of composition. However, in the process of composition, after the finishing the first piece I felt the need for a second, and finishing the second, I again felt the need for a third.
There is a certain soothing quality that is characteristic of strings, and thus it fills me with a sense of possibility, to express the eternity from the distant past into the unknown future.
A query from myself, here and now, to an infinite.
commissioned by Yohei Asaoka & Tomomi Ohrui
Premiere: March 9, 1996, Carnegie Weill Hall, NYC.
Yohei Asaoka, cello; Tomomi Ohrui, piano
John Whitfield, cello
Martin Christ, piano
Trying to let my imagination flow with the orthodox instrumentation of cello and piano was a difficult task. Since I am always interested in fresh approaches to an instrument’s capacities, I almost felt a sense of constraint hindering me from the very beginning in writing for a duo of these two instruments. It was as though tradition were weighing heavily on the possibilities for new approaches. After much trial and error, I had a desire to compose a work which would resonate deep within the spirit. I hoped to make the essence of my music surface spontaneously. Thus, the title “Interlude” is intended to imply that this composition is an intimate sketch of my spirit.
It was composed for pianist Tomomi Ohrui and cellist Yohei Asaoka for their recital at the Carnegie Weil Hall. Prior to this recital, I returned to Japan to attend the Japanese premiere of “Rain, Calling Autumn”, performed by Aki Takahashi in Yokohama. On that same day I learned of Toru Takemitsu’s passing. It was when I was inspired deeply by his work “The Dorian Horizon” in my late teens, that I was convinced to make a composition my life work, and since, this has always been a souse, a point of origin, for me. In deep sorrow, I completed the final segment of this piece there in Tokyo. This work is dedicated to the memory of Takemitus’s spirit.
Realized at the Electronic Music Center of Columbia University
Premiere: May 5, 1995, Miller Theatre, NYC.
commissioned by Music from Japan
Premiere: March 20, 1994, Asia Society, NYC.
William Anderson, guitar; Oren Fader, guitar
Winter Shadow for two guitars consists of two movements; a melodious first, and a technically free second. In the first movement, I attempted to effectively portray the beauty of harmonics. I was made aware of the melodic nature within my music when I came to New York City in the fall of 1991. Currently, my interest lies in composing melodies which are simple, and yet of depth. The second movement incorporates graphic notation in order to form a sound-space unobtainable through fixed notation. Many valuable suggestions from William Anderson helped to realize this piece.
Premiere: February 22, 1996, The Kanagawa Prefecture Concert Hall, Kanagawa
Aki Takahashi, piano
Publisher: SONIC ARTS (February 2, 2016)
Martin Christ, piano
Written for solo piano, “Rain Calling Autumn”, consists of three pieces. The title is taken from a poem by Nakaya Nakahara. Each of the three pieces develops an acoustical idea as an important compositional concept. This idea in effect defines the direction of each piece. The first piece uses no special sound effects and relies on traditional piano performance. Confronted with a piano as an instrument, one of my challenges was how to express the self in a language of one who lives in this modern era. In the second piece, the combination of the use of the sostenuto pedal and the silent depression of tone clusters in the low register brings out a deeply sonorous reverberation. I wanted to draw effectively with this sound world in hand as the main subject. In the third piece, the gong-like sound, which is achieved by inserting a dime (US 10 cents coin) between the C-sharp strings inside the piano, permeates the whole. There is no direct correlation to the title poem itself, but the beauty of the title and the feeling of my inner world overlap with the poet’s world and lead to the quotation of the title to this music. The first piece was composed in September 1991, the second in August 1992, and the third in October 1994. It is dedicated to Aki Takahashi.
Premiere: November 14, 1992, Roulette, NYC.
Ulrich Krieger, alto saxophone
By processing the saxophone electronically, the breath sound and key click can be effectively utilized. This is one of the attraction of the instrument. The tone is achieved by playing softly also expand with unexpected beauty. I wanted to compose a piece that is maximized the effect of these elements. From the sensitive tones of soft notes to dynamic breath sound, it was thrilling for me to observe the expansion of such richly changing tones. The piece was composed between the fall of 1991 through winter of 1992. It was written for Ulrich Krieger and was first performed at Roulette in New York City, an evening of my works on November 14, 1992.
commissioned by Aki Takahashi and EMI
Premiere: April 2-4, 1991, Yamanashi (Japan).
Aki Takahashi, piano
Premiere: 1979, Toho Seimei Hall, Tokyo.
Norio Sato, guitar
This is one of my early compositions. At the time I composed this, I was very much influenced by the guitar playing of Derek Baily. Overlapping the sonority of the guitar with my own inner being, I wanted to search for all possible means of expression with that instrument. Guitarist Norio Sato made this possible for me. Many years have passed since this work was first premiered, but the same approach still seems to me to be my basic working rhythm in composition.