Akio Suzuki - Odds And Ends (Horen, 2002)
Toru Takemitsu - Complete Piano Works 1952-1990 (Woodward) (Etcetera, 1991)
Nobuo Yamada – Daydream Of Wok (ABH, 2009)
Toshio Hosokawa - Deep Silence / Gagaku (WERGO, 2004)
Joji Yuasa – Music For Experimental Films (Edition Omega Point, 2008)
Here is an odd grouping of Japanese music of various genres. I’ll include some of the original reviews (by Matt and Danny, respectively), and then wrap it up.
(Matt, re: Toshio, 3/31/10) Well, originally slotted for this post was a collection of Mr. Hosokawa’s string quartets to compliment that wonderful Nancarrow False Bread so kindly posted the other day. However, as the days have become longer and my shirt sleeves shorter, I have found it harder to tolerate this vitamin D deficient music — thus, Deep Silence.
One word frequently comes up in descriptions of these compositions — shimmering. And I agree, though the adjective need apply in two cases. First, as the sun peeks through the window pane while you are enjoying your first cup of coffee (or whatever caffeinated beverage you enjoy in the morning), its glare temporarily blinds you, obfuscating the screen of that laptop you were hiding behind. Ah yes, shimmering! On the other hand, when you become affixed to the dancing of the flames at the first bonfire of the season, whereupon the radiant colors against the dark of night haunts you for what seems like ages. Yup, that kind of shimmering as well!
Let me explain what this has to do with Mr. Hosokawa. Contained in this release from Wergo are seven compositions, three written by Toshio and four Gagaku (Japanese classical music). All seven are performed by Stefan Hussong on accordion and Mayumi Miyata on Shō (a bamboo mouth organ), with Hosokawa and Gagaku pieces alternating. Therein lies the shimmering bifurcation: as one might expect, the Gagaku pieces are dissonant yet still tonal (remember, tonality only just died a century ago), whereas Hosokawa’s compositions are fiercely atonal. Even still, the theme remains constant throughout each piece; extended drones link the room-filling “shimmers” with deep silence. Because without orchestration, without performance, a composition is merely just annotated silence. And here, on Deep Silence, one can almost see the notes being carried from parchment to the aural plane.
(Danny, re: Joji, 7/8/08) It came fast and hit hard. If you’re not familiar with Japan’s experimentators, hearing this and knowing it comes from a classical composer would be quite startling. If you’re a devotee, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Joji Yuasa’s compositions are intensively asseverated pieces; vocal manipulation & sampling, echoes and feedback and, finally, the last & longest piece, “Document of the Thin White Line”, which has entire minutes which resemble those 60s sound library albums we’ve all heard (not that there’s anything wrong with that) intermixed with some kind of mutant electroacoustic big-band-small-chin-chamber-orchestra. Does that sound dated and cartoonish? YES! And it is! And if you don’t like those attributes I assume you cannot enjoy music. Do you know John Zorn’s soundtrack series? Well, this puts it to shame.
Read more about the music and the very films it scores right here.
This album is not compatible with a fondness for the Czech New Wave.
I think the two records above are the best of this bunch, but the remaining records here have a lot to offer. I find Akio Suzuki and Nobuo Yamada to be on the same spectrum, albeit distance ends from one another. Where the former is calm and slowly developing, somewhat like a manually created Radigue record, Yamada is exceptional, to my tastes, but more standard drone. Perhaps there are connections here to Yuasa, but only of the most general type. Clearly the Takemitsu will probably be of interest if you enjoy the Hosokawa, although my affinity for his pieces come from a chance recital by a friend of mine a few years back. It might be “safe” avant classical compared to much of what we cover nowadays, but nonetheless it is a nice collection and worth your time. Indeed, I’ve found that if you stagger the composition records with the other material here, the music stands out more, as if the ear latches onto structure after long drones and silences.