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Notes from Japan – Concert Program
April 28, 2013 at 2:30 P.M.
LSWO Clarinet Choir*
NOTES FROM JAPAN – Program Notes
Funa-Uta for Band (1993)
Funa-Uta for Band is a kind of Barcarole and is based on two folk songs from the Setonaikai (the Inland Sea) area in the western part of Japan. The melodic material is contemporary treatment of two Japanese folk songs: Kompira Fune-fune from the Kagawa Prefecture and Ondo no Funa-uta from the Hiroshima Prefecture. Set in a three part form (A-B-A) the piece opens in the style of John Adams while the folk with the folk material being fully developed. Beautifully orchestrated Funa-Uta combines characteristic elements of Japanese and contemporary Western musical elements in such a way that performers and audiences alike can relate to the ancient sound world. Ito successfully treats both musical traditions with respect without sounding trite.
Songs is a lyric, through composed work in which he provides an opportunity for individual performers to explore their own expression through the provided compositional framework. Songs was commissioned by the Hamamatsu Cultural Foundation that commissions new works for wind ensemble from Japanese composers who especially work in the field of orchestra, chorus, jazz, television, and film. This like a number of his other compositions explores the concept of “musical simultaneity” in order to liberate audiences from the restrictions of linear time. Featuring numerous soloists, they are instructed to play simple songs and song fragments at their own tempo. Although each song in the piece is different, they are all derived from a single melody performed by the clarinet at the beginning of the piece. Songs was the recipient of the 2011 American Bandmasters Association Sousa/Ostwald award.
Figuration for Shakuhachi and Band (1994)
Figuration is concerto-like work for Shakuhachi and Band that combines ancient Japanese folk material into an exciting one movement work. The Shakuhachi is a traditional bamboo flute which is played by blowing into the end. It has been popularized in the West through film and TV music and is used here in one of the few works for band to feature this instrument. Kushida seeks to incorporate traditional Japanese music in a westernized manner, appealing to international audiences. He offers the following thoughts on composing:
“I think there is something special about the Japanese conceptionalization of how traditional Japanese music and western forms may be combined. Consider, for example, the sound of the wind, the cries of the birds, and the calls of insects, all of which have been viewed as similar to music since ancient times in Japan. This is within all the arts, and comes out in literature, in the ukiyoe art works, and particularly in the monogatari (tales). Beautiful sounds are considered to be music, therefore the perception of what is defined as music may be different in Japan. I think this unusual sense has also had implications for wind band music. It is great to express this sensibility through Japanese instruments such as koto and shakuhachi, but I thought that composing in this way for wind ensemble would also be worthwhile, as this is the more global medium. Still, I wondered if people from other nations would understand such a Japanese approach. Recently even in Japan there are those who do not grasp this traditional Japanese aesthetic sensibility, but I thought through this way even young people and those outside Japan could understand it. For me it is important to express the true heart of Japan, which is my objective in composition.” (From Wind Bands and Cultural Identity in Japanese Schools by David G. Hebert)
Ode to R.S. (2012)
Ode to R.S., dedicated to Robert Schumann’s 200th birth year, was composed in 2010. Set as a theme and variations, the theme is a chorale in C-major originally composed by 16th-century French composer, Louis Bourgeois. Most well-known by the title Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele, Johann Sebastian Bach used this chorale in the cantatas Es erhub sich ein Streit, BWV 19 and Wachet! betet! betet! wachet!, BWV 70. Known as one of the major composers responsible for the revival of Bach’s music in the nineteenth century, Schumann harmonized the chorale in his Op. 69, No. 4.
Pater Noster (2006)
Pater Noster means “Our Father” in Latin. Not composed from a specifically religious point of view, the intent is to instill a feeling of awe and reverence toward the magnificent power of nature, expressed with a type of ethnical prayer. The work was commissioned by the Takanawadai High School Wind Orchestra’s clarinet section and premiered at the 29th All Japan Ensemble Contest.
Three Notes from Japan (2001)
Three Notes from Japan was composed for the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. This three movement suite captures visions of Japanese environment and life. While Eastern in its motivation, the work is resoundingly modern in style. Each movement depicts scenes familiar to native Japanese. The first movement, “La danse des grues” (Tancho cranes’ mating dance) depicts the unique mating ritual of the red crowned crane. This indigenous bird has come to be a representative symbol of luck, longevity, and fidelity. The pair move together rhythmically, eventually throwing their heads back and fluting in unison. Movement two, “La riviere enneigee” (Snowy River) musically portrays a serene, snow covered river. Under the otherwise quiet outdoor scene, the sense of flowing water is ever-present musically. The final movement “Le fete du feu” (Nebuta festival) musically represents the famous summer festival which takes place in Aamori Prefecture. The festival revolves around a float of a brave warrior figure carried through the streets being accompanied by dancers dressed in a special costume called a “heneto” chanting a “ressera.”